Thursday, June 21, 2012

Well Used & Reconciled to the Country

On 22 June 1776, Dudley Digges of the Virginia Committee of Safety informed the Virginia Convention “that the Committee had taken into their consideration how the Prisoners lately taken by the Captains James and Richard Barron…might be best disposed of….”

The Virginia Convention reported that the Committee of Safety “were of opinion that the noncommissioned officers and Cadets should be sent to some secure place in the frontiers, and there kept as prisoners of war….”  The seamen could enlist with a cruiser or galley
, “if they shall be willing....”  If the mariners did not wish to enlist, the Committee of Safety recommended the crewmen should go to the frontier settlements with the privates.  

For the Scottish privates and any mariners who joined them, the Committee of Safety thought it “most prudent” to disperse them “over the middle Counties, where, one in a family, they being well used and employed on such wages as they may be willing to take, may be secured, and probably reconciled to the country, at the same time considering them as prisoners of war….”

The Committee thought anyone entrusted with the care of a prisoner should understand the primary intentions of the Committee—that the prisoners be well treated, fairly employed and “reconciled to the country.” 

The Committee of Safety wanted the privates and seamen sent in equal numbers to fourteen different counties, deciding that “it be recommended to the Committees of the said several Counties to distribute their number among the inhabitants respectively who may be willing to take them, and to be careful that the above purpose of the Committee respecting the said men may be complied with…..”  If the soldiers brought their families with them, as was not uncommon, then the wives of the privates “may be sent with them, together with their respective children.” 

The Virginia Convention “Resolved, That this Convention doth approve of the disposition of the Prisoners aforesaid, as made by the Committee of Safety.”

My thanks to the Northern Illinois University Libraries for making available the American Archives, edited by Peter Force.  For on the significance of local, county and provincial committees and for the importance of Peter Force's compilation of American Archives, please consult T. H. Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People (New York: Hill and Wang, 2010).

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