Mennonites in the World War/IX

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Mennonites in the World War by Jonas Smucker Hartzler
Chapter IX. Our Brethren in the Draft

OUR BRETHREN IN THE DRAFT (Continued)[edit]

Courts-Martial[edit]

Very few, if any, Mennonites would have been court-martialed if the war department would have been allowed time enough to get the farm furlough plan worked out; but some of the camp officials be came very much dissatisfied, took advantage of a certain ruling of the department, and determined that the C. O.'s would work or get out of the camp. There was but one way to accomplish this. They must give ground for a charge of disobeying orders. Where this was planned, a noncommissioned officer would give a command (at Camp Taylor, Ky., that was usually to rake the ground preparatory to sow ing grass seed), then the young man would explain that he could not conscientiously do that, giving his reasons, but the officer would not take that for an answer. He would repeat the command and then say, "Will you do it?" If the young man continued to explain, he was stopped and told to answer, "Yes," or "No." Yes meant that he would promise to do what he believed to be wrong, and would be violating his conscience. To say, No, meant that he would wilfully disobey orders. Another officer (a commissioned officer) came and went through the same process. Now there would be two witnesses and two violations. A court-martial was the natural result. That meant a sentence of from five to thirty years at hard labor in one of the three disciplinary barracks in the United States: Fort Jay, Governor's Island, N. Y., Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay, Calif., or Fort Leavenworth, Kans.

Practically every one has heard of some of their friends being court-martialed, but do not have much idea of the process. For their benefit parts of one trial will be given. It is that of Bro. Allen Christop hel, Camp Taylor, Ky. There were eleven jurymen (all except one were captains), the Judge Advocate and his assistant, and the prosecuting at torney. (To save space the following abbreviations will be used: P., prosecution; A., accused (which of course means Bro. Christophel); C, court; W., witness.)

P. "You have been given a copy of the charges?"

A. "Yes, sir."

P. "You have been informed that you have a right to have counsel?"

A. "Yes, sir."

P. "And that you have a right to testify in your own behalf?"

A. "Yes, sir."

P. "Do you desire to introduce counsel?"

A. "No, sir."

A reporter was then sworn in and Bro. C. was asked whether he wanted a carbon copy of the trial. He said that he did. He was asked whether he ob jected to being tried before any of these men. He answered in the negative. The two charges were then read. Notice that they are alike except that officers of different rank are named.

  • CHARGE I: Violation of the 64th Article of War. Specification: In that Private Allen Christophel, 159th Conscientious Objector Detachment, having received a lawful command from 2nd Lt. Robert L. Maddox, Inf. N. A., his superior officer, to take a rake and rake the ground, in preparation for sowing grass seed, within the area occupied by the Base Hospital, Camp Zachary Taylor, Ky., on or about the 2nd day of May, 1918, wilfully disobeyed the same.
  • Charge II: Violation of the 65th Article of War. Specification I

In that Allen Christophel, 159th Conscientious Objector Detachment having received a lawful order from Corp. Alexander Morrison, 14th Co. 4 Bn. 159 Depot Brigade, who was then in the execution of his office, to take a rake and rake the ground, in preparation for sowing grass seed, within the area occupied by the Base Hospital, Camp Taylor, Ky., on or about the 2nd day of May, 1918, wilfully disobeyed the same.

P. "How do you plead to the specification of Charge

A. "I admit that I did not obey the order, but I plead not guilty of wilfully disobeying a lawful command."

P. "How do you plead to charge I?"

A. "I plead not guilty of disobeying a lawful command .

P. "How do you plead as to specification of charge

A. "Read the specification, please. (The judge advocate here read the specification of charge II). I admit that I disobeyed the order, but I plead not guilty of disobeying a lawful order."

P. "How do you plead to charge II?"

A. "Not guilty."

The paragraphs of the Courts-martial that set forth the gist of the several offenses, namely Paragraph 415 and Paragraph 416. were read to the court by the Judge Advocate.

2nd Lieutenant, Robert Maddox, Inf. N. A., 15th Company, 4th Bn., 159th Depot Brigade, was first witness. After being sworn and answering to a few preliminary questions he was asked:

P. "Do you know the accused, if so, state his name."

W. "His name is Allen Christophel."

P. "How long have you known him?"

W. "I have known him since April 21, 1918. At that time he reported at the Conscientious Objector Detachment from the 14th Company, 4th Bn., 159 Depot Brigade."

P. "Did you have any relations with him on or about the 2nd day of May, 1918; if so, state to the court what they were."

W. "I did. I directed Alexander Morrison to take a detail of men over to the Base Hospital, and there wait for me. I got there and met the detail and found out the work that was to be done by them, and the work that was to be required, see that they were to rake some ground there in the forepart of the ground of the Hospital, in the rear of the Base Hospital, rake the ground to receive grass seed. This accused was in the detail. First, we gave them rakes and told them to get busy raking the ground; about half of the number of the detail went to raking, and obeyed the order. This accused was among the number that refused to obey the order. I ordered Corp. Morrison to line them up and give each one of them the order individually, which he did, and this accused was one of those that refused to obey the order. I then took the rake myself and told the accused to take the rake and rake the ground. He said that he could not conscientiously do it. I told him that I did not care whether he could conscientiously do it or not, to take the rake and rake the ground. He insisted that he could not conscientiously do it. I told him either to tell me whether he would or would not, and he never would tell me whether he would or would not; but he refused to do the work."

P. "Pursuant to whose command did you send them over there?

W. "It was pursuant to Col. Cloman's order. He was then commanding officer of the 159th Depot Brigade, and we were under his command."

P. "Did you have any conversation with the accused prior to this time?"

W. "I had. It was on or about April 24, 1918, I called the accused into the orderly room, and there I explained to him the executive order of President Wilson, dated March 20, 1918, and I insisted that he accept some service, which he refused to accept. The accused was also present at the assembly he was in a group that was present in the mess hall of the Conscientious Objectors on about well, it was just a short time, I think it was about April 24, 1918, prob ably it was later than that. Any way it was subsequent to the time that we went to he Base Hospial. At that meeting Judge Rutherford, I believe he was from New York, made a talk to the men, insisting that they take some non-combatant work. He was followed by Col. Cloman, who told them that if they did not do this work he would have them put into the guard-house and tried by Court-Martial, and he told them that it would be an offense, and explained to them what the offense would be. I did not read the Articles of War, but at the same time he refused to obey the order I told him what the Articles were, and what the circumstance was. When I got within about 25 yards of where I gave the order, I stopped the detail and said to them, Probably some of you do not understand the magnitude of your of fense, and I want you to understand that the refusal to obey an order of an officer may be punished by death, or by such other punishment as the court-martial may direct. "

P. "What was your rank on this 2nd of May, 1918?"

W. "2nd Lieut, Infantry, N. A."

P "Were you in command of that detachment on that day?"

W. "Yes, sir."

P. (To the accused) "Do you desire to ask him any questions, do you want to ask him any thing?"

A. "No, sir."

P. "Do you want me to ask him anything for you?"

A. "No, sir. There may be a few faulty dates but I suppose those will be cleared up."

P. "You can ask him any question you want to or later on you will be given an opportunity to make any statement that you want to."

A. "I do not think the question of dates will have any bearing on the case."

Corp. Alexander Morrison was sworn and answered a few preliminary questions then proceeded as follows:

P. "Do you know the accused; if so state who he is?"

W. "Yes, sir, Allen Christophel."

P. "How long have you known him?"

W. "Oh, it has been about better than a month."

P. "What was your rank on or about the 2nd day of May, 1918?"

W. "Corporal."

P. "Did you have any relations with the accused? If so, state to the court, in substance, what they were?"

W. "About taking him to work?"

P. "Yes."

W. "Why, we got a detail to march over to the Base Hospital, and march them over there to do some work, to sow grass seed. We got them lined up, and a lot of them went to work; and this man stood out and did not go to work, and I asked him why he didn t do it, and he said he could not conscientiously work, it was against his conscience."

P. "Were you in command of the detachment on that date?"

W. "Yes, sir."

P. "By whom were you giver, orders?"

W. "By Lieut. Maddox."

P. "What organization were you with at that time?"

W. "Conscientious Objectors."

P. "What organization was the accused with at that time?"

W. "Conscientious Objectors."

P. "State to the court what order you gave to the accused."

W. "I got him a rake and offered it to him, and told him to go out there and rake up the ground, loosen up the ground so as to sow grass seed."

P. "What did he say?"

W "He said that he could not conscientiously do it.

P. "Did he do it?"

W. "No, sir."

P. (To the accused) "Do you desire to ask him any questions?"

A. "No, sir."

P. "Do you want me to ask him any for you?"

A. "No, sir."

P. "The prosecution rests."

The Court. "It becomes my duty to inform you of your rights and your privileges in this case. You can take the stand if you want to, and make a statement not under oath; in such case you will not be subject to cross examination by the judge advocate or the court. You can make a state ment under oath; by so doing you will be subject to the same cross examination both by the judge advocate and by the court, and you are entitled to the same privileges, and have to share the same responsibilities as any other witness. You can call any amount of witnesses you want in your own behalf. You have heard what your rights are in this case; you can elect which course you desire to take. What do you desire to do?"

A. "I desire no witnesses. My creed "

Court. "You do not have to take an oath, if you do not want to."

A. "I desire to make a statement not under oath."

"Court. "Now you can explain your side of the case to the court, any thing you want."

P. "State your name, your rank, and the organization to which you belong, and your location."

A. "My name is Allen Christophel; rank, private; I belong to the Conscientious Objectors Detachment of the 159th Depot Brigade; Camp Zachary Taylor, Kentucky."

P. "You may now state anything that you desire, in your own defense."

A. "When I was taken to the hospital I was asked to rake preparatory to sowing grass seed, and I refused to do so, with no criminal intent, and with no intention to wilfully disobey a lawful order. I, at that time, considered the order unlawful, for a few reasons; but that was not the only purpose that guided me in refusing to work. In the first place, in conversation with Lieut. Maddox, he told me that this work was of a military nature. Furthermore, in reading concerning Assignment of Work under the Quartermaster's Department, I noticed that there was a clause called Working Gang; and while I hadn t technically accepted service, I knew from it that I would be rendering military service; and according to one clause in the President's ruling, which says, but not to allow their objections to be made the basis of any favor or consideration, beyond exemption from actualmilitary service, I concluded that in harmony with that ruling I would not be required by that ruling to do that service. "But that was not the main thing that guided me in refusing. There is nothing in my belief nor my creed that forbids me to rake grass seed. There is nothing in my creed and my belief that forbids me to do a number of other kinds of work in camp, but the thing that I objected to is, because this work and all other work under the military arm of the government has for its sole intent one purpose, that of taking vengeance and that of destroying life which thing has been taught against by our Church since it was founded in 1525. In 1632 their Confession of Faith was drawn up, and they made the following statement:" The accused then read the whole of Article XIV from the Mennonite Confession of Faith which is as follows:

Article XIV.
Defense by Force.

"Regarding revenge, whereby we resist our enemies with the sword, we believe and confess that the Lord Jesus has forbidden his disciples and followers all revenge and re sistance, and has thereby commanded them not to "return evil for evil , nor railing for railing; but to put up the sword into the sheath, or, as the prophets foretold,- beat them into plough-shares.

"From this we see, that, according to the example, life, and doctrine of Christ, we are not to do wrong, or cause offense or vexation to any one; but to seek the welfare and salvation of all men; also, if necessity should require it, to flee, for the Lord's sake, from one city or country to anoth er, and suffer the spoiling of our goods, rather than give occasion of offense to any one; and if we are struck on our right cheek, rather to turn the other also, than revenge ourselves, or return the blow.

" And that we are, besides this, also to pray for our enemies, comfort and feed them, when they are hungry or thirsty, and thus by well-doing convince them and overcome the evil with good. Rom. 12:20,21.

" Finally, that we are to do good in all respects, com mending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of Go d, and according to the law of Christ, do nothing to others that we would not wish them to do unto us.

"I also wish to quote a very few scriptures." Here the accused read Matt. 5:43-45, Rom. 12:19, Matt. 10:16, also Gal. 5:19-23.

"In regard to the position that I hold toward Civil Government, I wish to read from the Confession of Faith:

Article XIII.
The Office of Civil Government

" We also believe and confess, that God has instituted civil government, for the punishment of the wicked and the protection of the pious; and also further, for the purpose of governing the world governing countries and cities; and also to preserve its subjects in good order and under good regulations. Wherefore we are not permitted to despise, blaspheme, or resist the same; but are to acknowledge it as a minister of God and be subject and obedient to it, in all things that do not militate against the law, will, and com mandments of God; yea, to be ready to every good work; also faithfully to pay it custom, tax, and tribute; thus giv ing it what is its due; as Jesus Christ taught, did Himself, and commanded His followers to do. That we are also to pray to the Lord earnestly for the government and its wel fare, and in behalf of our county, so that we may live under its protection, maintain ourselves, and lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. And further, that the Lord would recompense them (our rulers), here and in eternity, for all the benefits, liberties, and favors which we enjoy under their laudable administration.

"The position that I take towards the government and the officers of this camp is one of obedience do what I possibly can for them, and hesitate to obey when they com mand something that I can not do in accordance with the teachings of my Church, and the New Testament, as I understand them. We ought to obey God rather than man.

"I also wish to state that while at this time we are spoken of as not in favor of our country, rather, in many instances, as opposing it the reason we take this position is not because we are favoring the enemy. It is rather be cause we are standing for a principle of not participating in war, that we are opposed to war as a moral issue, and as a New Testament teaching, and that the same position has been held by the Church ever since its foundation, and while we are holding aloof at this time (personally I think I speak in behalf of the entire group of our people) we are sincerely grateful to the authorities that they have given us the consideration that they have thus far. We are only hoping and longing for the time to soon come that we can do something helpful to our country, beneficial to mankind, and yet in accordance with our Church and the New Testament, and for these principles I am willing to make any sacrifice in order to do something for humanity, and my country that is in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ."

Court. "Anything further?"

A. "That is all I have to say."

Court. "Any reply?"

P. "No."

The defense having no testimony to offer and no further statement to make the judge advocate submitted the case without remarks. The court closed and finds the accused. The findings were not specified in the copy of the court martial trial, but the sentence was ten years hard labor at Ft. Leavenworth disciplinary barracks or such place as the reviewing board may designate followed by a dishonorable discharge from the United States army.

It would be interesting to read many more of the noble defenses made in behalf of the Gospel principle of nonresistance by others. It should be understood that others were just as conscientious as Mennonites and stood by their convictions with equal fortitude. The defense of one such made be fore the court-martial which sentenced him to hard labor in the disciplinary barracks of the United States is given here :

"To the best of my knowledge and belief, no order of the President or Secretary of War requires or expects me to do that which I regard as an act of sin. I did not regard the order (given me) as a lawful order, because I could not obey it without violating the dictates of my conscience and the plain teachings of God's higher law. I did not disobey the order in a wilful and obstinate manner but as quiet ly and respectfully as possible. Guilt signifies the doing of wrong. In declining to do the military work (given me) I did no more than to act in accordance with my conscience and deep religious conviction, and hence I did no wrong. For that reason I am not guilty as charged.

"I do not believe that I am seeking martyrdom. As a young man, life and its hopes and freedom and opportunities for service are sweet to me. I want to go out into the world and do my work and make use of what little talent I may have acquired by long and laborious study. But I know that I dare not purchase those things at the price of eternal condemnation. I know the teachings of Christ my Savior. He taught us to resist not evil, to love our enemies, to do good to them that hate us. Not only did He teach this but He practiced it in Gethsemane, before Pilate, and on Calvary. We would, indeed, be hypocrites and base traitors to our profession if we would be unwilling to endure the taunts and jeers of a sinful world, and imprisonment, and the tortures of death, rather than to participate in war and military service. We know that obedience to Christ will gain for us the prize of eternal life. We cannot yield, we can not compromise, we must suffer.

"Two centuries ago our people were driven out of Germany by religious persecutors, and they accepted the invitation of [w:William Penn|[William Penn]] to come to his colony where they might enjoy the blessings of religious liberty which he promised them. This religious liberty was later confirmed to us by the Constitution of Pennsylvania and by the Constitution of the United States. If those in authority now see fit to change those fundamental documents, and take away our privileges of living in accordance with the teachings of the Scriptures of God, then we have no course but to endure persecution as true soldiers of Christ. If I have committed anything worthy of bonds or of death, I do not refuse to suffer or to die. I pray to God for strength to remain faithful." Signed: