Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kind Treatment

On February 20, 1776, the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety wrote to the President of Congress, John Hancock, about the prisoners in the town of Lancaster, "From the information given to this Committee, we learn that the kind treatment given them meets with very improper and indecent return; that they often express themselves in most disrespectful and offensive terms, and openly threaten revenge whenever opportunity shall present."

Given the proximity of Lancaster to escape routes by water, the Committee of Safety recommended not only that Congress separate the officers from the men but separate the officers from each other, "either dispersed of in different towns, or dispersed among the farmers in the country, where their opportunities of doing mischief will less correspond with their inclinations."

Many factors contributed to the distribution of prisoners in America. In a letter to British General Sir William Howe, dated April 9, 1777, General George Washington referred to "the dispersed situation" of British and Hessian prisoners "taken at a more early period of the War, thro' the different States, arising from the circumstances of their captivity and a regard to their better accomodation...."

You can read the Committee of Safety's letter at the American Archives web site courtesy of the Northern Illinois University Libraries.  Please find George Washington's April 9, 1777 letter to Howe regarding prisoners by searching the web site dedicated to The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799.
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