March 4, 1862
HEADQUARTERS DEP’T OF WEST VA.,
WHEELING, VA., Feb. 17, ‘62
General Orders No. 12.]
In consequence of the want of proper information, officers and troops in capturing or using private property, may injure the good name of our army, trample on private rights and expose themselves and the Government to legal claims for damages.
The following general principles are therefore laid down for the guidance of all concerned in this Department:
I – All property capture from rebels in arms, by our troops, belongs to the United States and must be promptly turned over by the officer capturing it to the nearest Regimental, Brigade or Post Quartermaster, who must give to him duplicated receipted invoices therefor, one of which he must forward to these Headquarters without delay.
II – All property in transition between loyal and disloyal districts, for trade; all that belongs to rebels in arms or in active hostility to the Government of the United States, or that is designed to be used in aid of men in rebellion, is subject to prize and capture, but whoever undertakes to capture it does so at his peril, and he must bring it into the United States District Court, where the right of capture will be examined and decided.
III – Should the decision be against the captor, he would become individually responsible for wrongs done to private property, without authority or necessity.
IV – Absolute necessity alone will justify taking private property without the consent of the owner thereof, and the officer commanding will see that the proper compensation is made for the property taken, or that duplicate invoices thereof are made and receipted, one of which goes to the owner or claimant, should there be one, the other to be promptly forwarded to Department Headquarters, and the commanding officer will be held accountable for such property, in the same way as if it had been regularly issued by the Government.
V – The ownership of all private property coming into the possession of our troops, and not necessary for the service, is subject to the judgment of the United States District Court, and yield obedience to them, unless in their judgment it would be highly injurious to the public service, in which case they must return a respectful answer to that effect, and report the same with reasons, through the proper channel, to these Headquarters.
VI – Any officer failing to account for property as required by this order, will be tried for disobedience of orders and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. Any officer taking private property without lawful authority, will moreover be liable to be proceeded against by the owner thereof in the civil courts.
By command of
BRIG. GEN. ROSECRANS.
GEO. L. HARTSUFF, Ass’t Adj’t Gen’l.
NOTE. – Should property, mentioned in paragraph II. of this order, be condemned by the Court, the law gives half the nett [sic] proceeds of the sales thereof to the informant or captor.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: February 1862