Neely says torture was used during Lincoln era

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A nationally recognized scholar and author on Abraham Lincoln tackled the difficult subject of civil liberties during wartime Sunday during the Town and Gown program at Schomburg Auditorium.

"There was torture under the administration of Abraham Lincoln," said Dr. Mark Neely Jr., professor of history at Penn State University. "At the time of the Civil War there was a loose idea of the laws and customs of war, so it's unclear if the torture was illegal."

Neely described the process of "shower baths," an enhanced interrogation technique used to extract confessions. The process involved stripping the subject naked and shooting a stream of cold water for as long as two hours. Other forms of torture included various stress positions, such as handcuffing the subjects and hanging them from their thumbs.

"Desertion was rampant for both the Union and Confederate armies," said Neely. "Deserters who divulged secrets to the other side for money were called 'bounty jumpers.' It was very common for people in uniform carrying large sums of money to be stopped at train stations and taken into custody."

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