Monday, July 23, 2012

July 24

     In a 24 July 1776 letter, President of the Continental Congress John Hancock informed General Phillip Schuyler, “In consequence of a flag from Lord Howe, with a letter directed ‘To George Washington, Esq.,’ which he declined receiving, as an improper direction, considering his rank and station, the Congress came to a resolution, not only expressing their approbation of his conduct, but ordering for the future that no Commander-in-Chief, or other…commanders of the American Army, should receive any letters from the enemy but such as are directed to them in the characters they sustain.”   
     British generals often referred to American officers as “Mister,” instead of acknowledging their military rank.  In their 14 July 1776 letter, the Howe brothers—Admiral Richard Lord Howe and General Sir William Howe—addressed their correspondence to “George Washington, Esq., etc, etc.”  As explained in this timeline of the Revolution by the Library of Congress, the Howe brothers chose a form of address appropriate for a private citizen rather than a general at the head of an army.  
     British refusal to acknowledge the status of Americans—particularly the status of American captives as prisoners of war—contributed to the poor treatment of captured Americans in most of the North American locales occupied by the British.  Consult, for instance, William R. Lindsey, “Treatment of American Prisoners of War during the Revolution,” Emporia State Research Studies vol. 22, no. 1 (
Summer 1973): 2-32. 
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