Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 24: Prisoners in Baltimore

On Dec. 24, 1776, President of the Continental Congress John Hancock received information about prisoners held by Americans in Baltimore.

The Baltimore Committee reported, "Our Committee have been informed by Mr. Benjamin Griffith, that the room in the gaol for the reception of the prisoners is now repaired, and made comfortable; that he has procured provisions and fire-wood, but that blankets cannot be obtained, and therefore hope the honourable Congress will furnish them from the publick stores."

Baltimore authorities were trying to find accommodations for the prisoners: "The  The Committee are looking for proper houses to accommodate the prisoners, if they can be procured that are sufficient, which they much doubt."

Donald McCloud, Alexander McCloud and Kenneth McDonald petitioned the President of Congress to ask that American authorities distinguish them as military prisoners from Loyalists captured in North Carolina.  The petitioners opened their address with an acknowledgement of the Congressional resolution to investigate the condition of prisoners in Baltimore: "We are sensible of the obligation your Carolina prisoners are under, by your passing a late resolve in their favour, in consequence of which they are to be supplied with the necessaries of life and to be removed to a more comfortable habitation; and being of the number of said prisoners, we beg leave to offer you our hearty thanks for your good and humane intentions...."

Remarking they were "on a different footing with the other prisoners from North-Carolina," the three petitioners wrote they "are appointed officers in the King's Regular Army, consequently cannot come under any restrictions or engagements but such as are usual among people in that character. We, therefore, expect a parole on the same terms that has been granted by you to others of the King's officers, and a chance of exchanging for officers of the same rank, which we doubt not will be sent for us if applied for."

For an account of Loyalism to among Scottish Highlanders, despite the suppression of a Highland rebellion in 1745, please consult Duane Meyer, The Highland Scots of North Carolina, 1732-1776 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987 [1987]).   For more on the role of local and provincial committees in the American Revolution, please consult T. H. Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People (New York: Hill and Wang, 2010) and Breen's article for The Daily Beast. For more on the custom of parole for captured enemy officers, please consult the second paragraph on the post about June 4, 1776.
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