Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 20: Prisoners in Lancaster PA

   On February 20, 1776, the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety wrote to the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, to suggest the necessity of “making some alteration in the condition of the prisoners” detained at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 
   The Committee of Safety explained that “the kind treatment” shown to the prisoners meets with ungrateful, even “improper and indecent” return.  Based on information from Lancaster, the Committee remarked that the prisoners “often express themselves in most disrespectful and offensive terms, and openly threaten revenge whenever opportunity shall present.”  An additional danger arising from the town of Lancaster “being but a day’s march from navigable water,” the prisoners would daringly attempt to support any British landing just South in the Chesapeake Bay
   The message was signed by Committee of Safety Chairman John Nixon.  For the heritage of the surname Nixon as a name on the Anglo-Scottish Borders, a lawless land of endemic cattle rustling, please consult David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989) and George MacDonald Fraser, The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2008 [1971]). 
   For more on American suspicions that many Tory and British prisoners were ungrateful for kind treatment, please consult the post 
A Prisoner's Gratitude.
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