Regulations for the government of the United States Navy (1865)

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Section 2.

Flags of Truce.

751 A flag of truce is, in its nature, of a sacred character, and is ever to be so regarded by all persons in the Navy of the United States.

752 To use it to obtain surreptitiously naval knowledge or information against the interests or withes of an enemy, is to abuse it, and to subject the bearer of it to the punishment of a spy.

753 The senior officer present is alone authorized to despatch, or to admit communication with, a flag of truce ; but a vessel in a position to discover the approach of a ting of truce earlier than the rest, is, whenever one appears, to communicate promptly the fact by signal.

754 A flag of truce is always to be admitted with great circumspection, and should never be allowed to approach so as to be a means of acquiring useful information. The firing of a gun, with a blank charge, by the flag or senior officer's ship, is generally understood as a warning to a flag of truce not to approach any nearer.

755 Unnecessary frequency in the use of a flag of truce is to be carefully avoided.

756 A flag of truce on the water should be met at a suitable distance off, or at the point previously agreed upon, by a boat or vessel from the senior officer's ship, in charge of a commissioned and discreet officer, and having a white flag kept plainly displayed forward from the time of leaving until that of return.

757 And in despatching a flag of truce the same precaution as to a suitable officer to be placed in charge, and as to keeping the white flag displayed, is to be observed.

758 Whenever the white flag is used, the ensign is also to be exhibited.

759 No flag of truce can insist on being admitted ; and as a rare exception only should a flag of truce be admitted during an engagement. If then admitted, it is no breach of faith to retain it. Firing is not necessarily to cease at the appeal of a flag of truce in battle, and if any one connected with it be killed, no complaint can be made. If, however, the white flag be exhibited evidently as a token of submission, then, of course, firing should cease.

760 An attacking force should avoid firing on hospitals whenever they are designated by flags or other symbols distinctly underderstood ; but it is an act of bad faith, accounting to infamy, to hoist the hospital protective flag over any other building than a hospital unless the attacking force should request or consent that it might be used in order to spare edifices dedicated to science or literature, or containing works of art.

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