US Army rewrites history, throws out convictions of black soldiers who shot unarmed white civilians at random
The military has finally found a war it can win
On November 14, 2023, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth announced that she planned to set aside the convictions of 110 black soldiers who participated in the Camp Logan Mutiny.
On August 23, 1917, Houston police beat up and arrested a black soldier who attempted to intervene in the arrest of a black woman. When another soldier attempted to intervene in this arrest, he was beaten up too. At nearby Camp Logan, soldiers of the all-black 3rd Battalion, U.S. 24th Infantry Regiment, worked themselves into a frenzy over (false) rumors that the soldiers in Houston had been killed by police. Later, equally false rumors of a white mob marching on the base to attack it were allegedly (I’m not sure I believe this claim and I’ve never seen the evidence for it) spread around by the soldiers as well.
In response to this totally imagined threat, the soldiers stormed the base armory, seized the weapons there, and marched on the City of Houston to get their revenge. On their march, the black soldiers shot white people they encountered without provocation. They also fired into the homes they passed. It was overtly racial riot, they were only targeting white people. They stopped passing cars, pulled out white occupants, and killed them.
American Conservative magazine editor Helen Andrews has assembled a set of quotes from the book “A Night of Violence,” which uses the trial transcript to detail the murders. The murder that most stuck out to me was that of Freddie Winkler, a local teenager who was unlucky enough to turn on a light in his home to see what was going on. The black soldiers shot into the home and killed him, and seriously wounded one of his friends. They blew that kid’s arm off. These were random attacks on civilians committed by armed American soldiers.
The murders were entirely one-sided. The only casualties the mutineers suffered were from “friendly-fire” as the black soldiers shot wildly at their victims, accidentally hitting other black soldiers. In total, 11 civilians and 5 police officers were killed by the rampaging soldiers. 4 of the mutineers were killed by friendly-fire. The ringleader of the mutiny shot himself.
The Army’s response was swift. The mutineers were placed on trial for charges that ranged from murder to assault. The trial lasted for nearly a month and 169 witnesses testified. The trial transcript ran well over 2000 pages. The trial was overseen by high ranking officers: three brigadier generals, 7 full colonels, and 3 lieutenant colonels. This was not a lynching, despite the extraordinary situation. By the end of the trial, 110 soldiers were convicted for their roles in the mutiny. 19 of the men, who were accused of particularly brutal behavior, were sentenced to death and executed several days later.
Despite these convictions, all of the participants in this mutiny have now been granted “Honorable Discharges” nearly 100 years after the fact. In fact, Army PR representative Bryce Dubee stated (in a now unavailable post, he locked his account after receiving pushback) that the trials shouldn’t have even occurred to begin with. The black soldiers’ actions were apparently A-OK. The Army seems to be adopting the policy that mutiny and murder are honorable and lawful, as long as you say you’re doing it to fight (perhaps entirely imagined) systemic racism.
Of course, the Army can’t say that out loud (yet), so instead they’re citing dubious “procedural errors” and non-falsifiable claims that an “atmosphere of racism” permeated the trial. Every announcement, at least that I’ve seen, mentions that the big issue with the trial that led to the Army setting aside their convictions was that the military lawyer representing the mutineers was not an actual attorney. As far as I can tell (I’m not a lawyer), having a military lawyer who was not a formally-licensed civilian attorney was perfectly legal and acceptable during that period. It might have been normal. It doesn’t mean that the mutineers’ legal representation wasn’t qualified. The military justice system has always been different than the civilian justice system.
In fact, according to the geniuses at Wikipedia (there’s a dead link to a law review article on this that I’m not going to bother to find because I genuinely don’t care about procedural errors 100 years ago) Military jurist Frederick Bernays Wiener observed that [Army Southern Department commanding general] Ruckman's approval and execution of the death sentences were "entirely legal" and "in complete conformity" with the 1916 Articles of War. It seems the only problem with the trial from a legal perspective was that it didn’t conform with arbitrary standards made up on the fly by activist officials decades later, standards which of course will only be applied to this particular case and no other historical cases.
I haven’t seen any specific instances where the trial was unfair enough to overturn the 100+ year old convictions of people whose substantive guilt does not seem to be in dispute. All of the soldiers were unambiguously guilty of mutiny. This mutiny killed more than a dozen innocent civilians. There is no attempt in the articles or press releases on this story to discriminate between the black soldiers who were merely passive participants in the mutiny and the black soldiers who pulled white drivers out of cars and beat them to death. The Army makes no attempt to discriminate between those groups either, the soldiers were all exonerated at once.
The announcement even stated that their descendants would be eligible for “benefits.” I guess they’re going to find the way to give the grandchildren of murderers money now. They’ll probably end up giving the families backpay for 40 years of “honorable service” and the equivalent of full-retirement benefits. If your grandfather killed someone in a black race riot 100 years ago, you might win the lottery in America.
Everyone should know the game being played right now. Liberal historians, activists, and lawyers make dubious claims that are accepted at face value and without scrutiny by liberal government officials. These people make an agreement with themselves and then policy gets made and money gets handed out. Apparently there was an entire free legal team at the South Texas College of Law Houston dedicated to “exonerating” these unambiguously guilty people. They probably dedicated hundreds of hours of their lives to this. It will be their greatest accomplishment.
No one was advocating for the victims. They are totally unremembered. If they’re acknowledged at all it’s implied that they died in “clashes” with the mutineers, who in reality shot them unprovoked. No one at the Army thought that it would be bad to send the message that mutiny was an acceptable response to false rumors as long as you can sprinkle on claims of racism. In what is now a ubiquitous style, the Army’s press release uses entirely passive voice to describe the brutal murders committed by the now-legally exonerated mutineers:
[A]mid rumors of additional threats to Soldiers, a group of more than 100 Black Soldiers seized weapons and marched into the city where clashes erupted. The violence left 19 people dead.
They don’t care. They wouldn’t even think to care. All these people are useless. Army PR Representative Bryce Dubee said that writing the press release announcing that the convictions would be set aside was one of the proudest moments of his life. I believe him. The incentive structure for the thousands of people in those positions has been crazy for decades. He can throw this on a resume. There’s an entire class of people like this now and all they’ll ever “contribute” is this kind of Soviet revisionism.
The only way to deal with this problem is just to fire everyone involved. Go down a list of the people in the Army involved in this decision and fire them. Look at the law professors and “historians” and foundations/museums/institutions that advocated for this and make sure they don’t receive any federal or state government resources (if you’re reading this and work for the State of Texas, please make a list of these people and cut them off). If they’re on government land, cancel the lease. Dump their personal effects in the parking lot. None of these people/groups should be anywhere near official support.
And the good news is that this probably wouldn’t affect military readiness at all. Who is Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, the woman who ordered that the convictions be set aside? It turns out that she is just an Obama appointee with no military or combat experience. She’s worked in series of civil service, think tank, and defense contractor positions. In America, someone like that can become one of the most important figures in the military. The results of this system speak for themselves.
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