Civil War Rule Of Engagement Protected Urinating With ‘Pants Down, Don’t Shoot’ Principle

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

Soldiers in the Civil War had one very interesting rule of engagement: do not shoot at an enemy while they are in the act of relieving themselves.

Like all military campaigns, soldiers fighting in the Civil War were met with constant obstacles. Whether it was finding adequate food rations or narrowly escaping enemy fire, both Confederate and Union soldiers were no strangers to the hell of war. Confederate soldiers found themselves in a perennial state of starvation, while Union troops developed specific, life-threatening nutritional deficiency syndromes.

While gunfire and violence played a large role in the most deadly war in American history, disease actually caused an equal number of deaths to battlefield injuries during the Civil War, according to the Journal of the History of Medicine and Applied Sciences. The most common diseases plaguing soldiers were acute diarrhea and dysentery. The diseases were spread from microorganisms that festered both on the battlefield and in barracks due to “abysmal sanitary practices.”

So many soldiers were suffering from dysentery and non-stop diarrhea that both Confederate and Union troops came to an agreement about acts of aggression towards an infected solider. The code among soldiers in the Civil War “forbade the shooting of men while attending to the imperative calls of nature.”

When a soldier is taking aim (at a nearby tree), the enemy does not shoot.

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