Court-Martial: How Military Justice Has Shaped America from the Revolution to 9/11 and Beyond

Court-Martial: How Military Justice Has Shaped America from the Revolution to 9/11 and Beyond

Chris Bray

Language: English

Pages: 416

ISBN: 0393243400

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A timely, provocative account of how military justice has shaped American society since the nation’s beginnings.

With a great eye for narrative, historian Chris Bray (himself a former soldier) tells the sweeping story of military justice from the institution of the court martial in the earliest days of the Republic to contemporary arguments over how to use military courts to try foreign terrorists or soldiers accused of sexual assault. Bray recounts the stories of famous American court martials, including those involving President Andrew Jackson, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, Lt. Jackie Robinson, and Pvt. Eddie Slovik; he explores how encounters of freed slaves with the military justice system during the Civil War anticipated the Civil Rights movement; and he explains how the Uniform Code of Military Justice came about after World War II. Throughout, he shows that the separate justice system of the armed forces has often served as a proxy for America’s ongoing arguments over equality, privacy, discrimination, security, and liberty.

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information to arrest the remaining saboteurs. All eight were in federal custody by June 27, ending a campaign of military sabotage before it actually resulted in any military sabotage. The men were held and interrogated by the FBI; the matter was, initially, a civilian effort during wartime, a criminal investigation against enemies who hadn’t been caught in military uniforms and weren’t regarded as prisoners of war. President Franklin Roosevelt changed the government’s course with a pair of

the women and children, may be removed before the bombardment commences,” Article 19 reads. “But it is no infraction of the common law of war to omit thus to inform the enemy. Surprise may be a necessity.” As legal historian John Fabian Witt has written, the idea of military necessity offered an exception to most of the limits the nation had decided to impose on its military; it offered “both a broad limit on war’s violence and a robust license to destroy.” You shouldn’t fire artillery at women

soldiers marching to defend the capital. Commanders on the ground in Maryland began to use military arrests as a political weapon, taking a secessionist state legislator into military custody and contemplating further arrests of state officials. Lincoln reacted with dismay, but his response was probably centered on practical considerations rather than principle—since the heavy-handed military arrests of state officials threatened to inflame secessionist sentiment in a critical border state.

result of an emerging conception of privacy—as the historian Ruth Bloch puts it, “the revolutionary delegitimation of government intervention in what was increasingly conceived as the ‘private’ family.” It took time for this new idea to turn into our contemporary conception of personal privacy, but the white men of the early republic found more and more space as heads of households to keep their family conflicts to themselves and out of their local courts. In the new republic, what happened in a

found guilty of manslaughter, despite the inability of most witnesses to identify any of the defendants. Decades later, the journalists Jack and Leslie Hamann revisited the trial in a years-long investigation, writing a book that cast serious doubt on the convictions. Pressured by members of Congress, the army revisited the court-martial—and overturned every conviction. One of the convicted soldiers, Samuel Snow, got a check from the army in 2007, back pay for the time he had spent in a military

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