Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February 7: Parole for Officers Made POWs

   After receiving a letter from the New Jersey Committee of Safety regarding Prisoners of War (POWs), the Continental Congress commissioned several of its members as a committee to discuss the issues raised by the Committee of Safety.  On February 7, 1776, the Continental Congress "took into consideration" the report of its committee on the letter and resolved a second committee, "to take an account of the prisoners," be added to the committee studying the issue of POWs.
     In a February 7 resolution, the Continental Congress commissioned the committee on these POWs "to examine the capitulations entered into with the prisoners at the time of their surrender, to have the paroles of the officers taken, to order them to their respective places of residence, and to see that the capitulations be duly observed, and the orders of Congress, respecting the prisoners, punctually carried into execution, and, finally, make a return to Congress of the paroles of the officers, their names, and places of residence, and also the number of the privates, and where placed."
   By the customs of eighteenth-century warfare, a nation at war granted captured gentlemen-officers freedom of movement provided the officers gave their word not to rejoin the war until notified of their official exchange as prisoners.  The nation that took them prisoner might permit the officers to return to their homeland or, as in this case, enjoy private accommodations and liberty of movement within a specified area of the nation detaining them.  The oath the captured officers took was their parole.
   For the 
February 7, 1776 resolution by Congress, please visit Journals of the Continental Congress,1774-1789, 34 volumes (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904-1937), Volume 4: Pages 115-116.  For a discussion of parole by officers taken Prisoners of War, please consult the posts here and here.  
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