Articles of War
(Abridged - August 1996)

Article 1. Every officer now in the army or appointed hereafter shall subscribe to these rules and regulations.

Article 2. It is earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers diligently to attend divine service; and all officers who shall behave indecently or irreverently at any place of divine worship shall, if commissioned officers, be brought before a general court martial, there to be publicly and severely reprimanded by the president; if non-commissioned officers or soldiers, every person shall, for his first offense, forfeit one-sixth of a dollar, to be deducted out of his next pay; for the second offense, he shall not only forfeit a like sum, but be confined twenty-four hours; and for every like offense, shall suffer and pay in like manner; which money, so forfeited, shall be applied by the captain or senior officer of the troop or company to the use of the sick soldiers of the company or troop to which the offender belongs.

Article 3. Any non-commissioned officer or soldier who shall use any profane oath or execration shall incur the penalties expressed in the foregoing article; and a commissioned officer shall forfeit and pay, for every such offense, one dollar, to be applied as in the preceding article.

Article 4. Any officer or soldier who shall use contemptuous or disrespectful words against the President, Vice-President, or Legislature of any of the States in which he may be quartered shall be cashiered or otherwise punished as a court martial shall direct. If a non-commissioned officer or soldier, he shall suffer such punishment as shall be inflicted on him by the sentence of a court martial.

Article 5. Any officer or soldier who shall behave himself with contempt or disrespect towards his commanding officer shall be punished according to the nature of his offense by the judgment of a court martial.

Article 6. Any officer or soldier who shall strike his superior officer, or draw or lift up any weapon, or offer any violence against him, being in the execution of his office or on any pretense whatsoever, or shall disobey any lawful command of his superior officer, shall suffer death or other such punishment as shall, according to the nature of his offense, be inflicted upon him by the sentence of a court martial.

Article 7. After a non-commissioned officer or soldier shall have been duly enlisted and sworn, he shall not be dismissed the service without a discharge in writing. No discharge granted to him shall be sufficient which is not signed by a field officer of the regiment to which he belongs, or commanding officer where no field officer of the regiment is present. Nor shall a commissioned officer be discharged the service but by order of the President, or by sentence of a general court martial.

Article 8. All officers and soldiers who have received pay, or have been duly enlisted in the service, and shall have been convicted of having deserted the same shall suffer death or such other punishment as, by sentence of a court martial, shall be inflicted.

Article 9. All officers of what condition soever have power to part and quell all quarrels, frays, and disorders, though the persons concerned should belong to another regiment, troop, or company; and either to order officers into arrest, or non-commissioned officers or soldiers into confinement until their proper superior officers shall be acquainted therewith.

Article 10. No sutler shall be permitted to sell any kind of liquors or victuals, or to keep their houses or shops open for the entertainment of soldiers after nine at night, or before the beating of reveille, or upon Sundays during divine service or sermon, on the penalty of being dismissed from all sutling.

Article 11. Every non-commissioned officer or soldier shall retire to his quarters or tent at the beating of the retreat.

Article 12. Any sentinel who shall be found sleeping upon his post, or shall leave it before he shall be regularly relieved, shall suffer death or such other punishment as shall be inflicted by the sentence of a court martial.

Article 13. Any officer or soldier who shall misbehave himself before the enemy, run away, or shamefully abandon any fort, post or guard which he or they may be commanded to defend; or speak words inducing others to do the like; or shall cast away his arms and ammunition; or who shall quit his post or colors to plunder and pillage; every such offender, being duly convicted thereof, shall suffer death or other such punishment as shall be ordered by the sentence of a general court martial.

Article 14. All officers and soldiers are to behave themselves orderly in quarters and on their march. Whoever shall commit any waste or spoil, either in walks of trees, parks, warrens, fish-ponds, houses, or gardens, corn-fields, enclosures of meadows, or shall maliciously destroy any property whatsoever belonging to the inhabitants, unless by order of the then commander-in-chief of the armies and the said states, shall be punished according to the nature and degree of the offense by the judgment of a regimental or general court martial.

Article 15. No person shall be sentenced to suffer death but by the concurrence of two-thirds of the members of a general court martial; nor shall more than fifty lashes be inflicted on any offender, at the discretion of a court martial. No officer, non-commissioned officer, soldier, or follower of the army shall be tried a second time for the same offense.

Article 16. The foregoing articles are to be read and published once in every six months to every garrison, troop, or company, mustered or to be mustered, in the service of the states. Foregoing articles are to be duly observed and obeyed by all officers and soldiers who are, or shall be, in said service.

Article 17. In time of war, all persons not citizens of or owing allegiance to the states of our nation who shall be found lurking as spies in or about the fortifications or encampments of our armies shall suffer death, according to the law and usage of nations, by sentence of a general court martial.

The Articles of War as published and used during the War Between the States included some 101 articles. We have taken liberty in making the Articles of War equally applicable to the United States of America and the Confederate States of America, and have freely re-numbered the abridged articles for our own use and purposes.

Reading the complete and unabridged Articles of War is most instructive, but their scope is far greater than what we hope to accomplish herein, so they have been edited for re-enacting purposes. For instance, many of the Articles of War deal with the composition of court martials and their conduct, as well as those that deal with the conduct of the men of the army. We have also taken the liberty of making textual alterations without benefit of ellipses to make for smoother reading, and abbreviated some parts of the individual articles cited herein to make them less cumbersome reading without losing their intended meaning.

Of particular interest is Article 2 in which the government strongly urges the men of the army to attend religious services. Apparently they did not subscribe to our current and faultily developed doctrine of "separation of church and state". The people of the Victorian era were a far more religious people than we are today, and their society reflected the effects and benefits of piety and good moral character so sadly lacking in our own. We would urge all re-enactors to attend divine services when in camp in order to aid in presenting a more accurate impression of the period. Preachers’ sermons of that day were more widely read than most popular authors, and the company Funk and Wagnalls (known today for its encyclopedia sold one volume per week in grocery stores) made its mark in those days by growing from a minor publishing concern to a giant by publishing the sermons of the English Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, whose Calvinistic "Penny Pulpit" sermons were popular ten years before the War and thirty years after.

Obeying the spirit and the letter of Article 2 would appear to have been more normative among the Confederate army officers and men than those of the Federal army. Men of true religion seem to be more prevalent among the men of the South than the North. No one would dispute the great and evident piety of Robert E. Lee, a prominent Episcopalian Calvinist, nor that of Thomas J. Jackson, the pious Presbyterian Calvinist. Jackson had as a member of his staff the brilliant Presbyterian theologian and author R. L. Dabney, author of The Life and Campaigns of Lt. General T.J. "Stonewall" Jackson and A Defense of Virginia and the South (and after whom Robert Louis Stevenson was named), and Lee’s Chief of Artillery was William Nelson Pendleton, rector of Grace Church in Lexington, Virginia and father of Alexander H. "Sandie" Pendleton, Jackson’s Chief of Staff. Perhaps the most poignant, intimate biography of Lee was written by J. Williams Jones, Lee’s chaplain.

Even a casual reading of Christ in the Camp by J. Williams Jones or The Great Revival in the Southern Armies by W.W. Bennett would compel at least Confederate re-enactors to admit that their impression could be improved by their attendance at divine services during events. The strong and historical influence of religion in the lives of the Victorians may only be denied by a one-eyed examination of history. Those who would seek to improve their impression could start here.

On balance, those who bring the divine services would do well to read messages of the period and to purge their own services of the 20th century trappings and traditions which have polluted orthodoxy. They would do well to study the theology and methodology of the majority of pastors of that era, as well, and see that the messages were less often the ignorant bleating of too many well-meaning but unread Kentucky circuit preachers, and were far more often well-studied and well-delivered messages prepared for informed minds that loved language.