Grateful American® Foundation

Why did Lincoln give the “eye for an eye” order today?

July 31st

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July 31, 1863 — Although the concept of eye-for-an-eye punishment seems medieval now, it was in practice during the Civil War. In fact, black and white POWs were often punished or killed to even a score.

Upset by this, President Lincoln issued the historic “eye for an eye” order today, warning the Confederacy that the Union would shoot a rebel prisoner for every black prisoner shot — and would condemn a rebel prisoner to a life of hard labor for every black prisoner sold into slavery.

Lincoln’s General Order No. 252 had a restraining influence on Confederate government; however, individual commanders and soldiers continued to murder captured black soldiers.

Words of Wisdom

That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.