Sunday, July 28, 2013

First Avenger

   In Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), an American interrogator, played by Tommy Lee Jones, offers a steak dinner to a captured Nazi.  The incident is based on true stories. 
   In a report carried by The Seattle Times and The Washington Post, Petula Dvorak reported of American World War II interrogators, “They took prisoners out for steak dinners to soften them up.”
   For an account of the Continental Congress paying for a dinner to welcome Hessian prisoners, please visit the post “Parties for Prisoners.”  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Savage Barbarity

In a July 9, 1777 letter to his cousin John Adams, Samuel Adams wrote, "The Progress of the Enemy thro' the Jerseys has chagrind me beyond Measure, but I think we shall reap the Advantage in the End."

Like other Patriots, Samuel Adams believed that every British victory could mean their defeat.  In New Jersey, for instance, British forces committed such criminal outrageous that the people turned against the occupier and helped the Continental Army drive the British from the state.

Adams wrote of the people of New Jersey, "They have been treated with savage Barbarity by the Hessians, but, I believe, more so by Britains. After they have been most inhumanly used in their Persons, without Regard to Sex or Age, and plundered of all they had without the least Compensation, Lord Howe and his Brother (now Sir William Knight of the Bath) have condescended to offer them Protections for the free Enjoyment of their Effects."

For more on Lieutenant-General Sir William Howe and his brother Admiral Richard Lord Howe, please consult the post here.  For the July 9, 1777 letter of Samuel Adams to John Adams, please consult Paul H. Smith, editor, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789: Volume 7: May 1, 1777-September 18, 1777 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1981), page 64.  For Rev. John Witherspoon's prediction that Providence would make even "the inhumanity of brutal sodliers" work to some purpose, please check the post here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A "New Generation"

In a video posted June 16, 2013, Liz Cheney announced her intention to challenge incumbent U. S. Senator Mike Enzi (Republican—Wyoming).  Appealing to “heritage” and “values,” Cheney claimed the mantle of previous generations.  Nevertheless, Cheney claimed to represent a “new generation” whom she thinks should displace candidates like Enzi. 

Sadly, on the issue of how to treat captured terrorists, Cheney and her generation distance themselves from traditional values.  Showing kindness to prisoners from even the most vicious enemies is an American tradition.  Unfortunately, Liz Cheney co-founded “Keep America Safe” in 2009.  The organization defended harsh treatment of people in American custody. 

In 2004, a survey by Pew Research Center found that the younger the respondents, the weaker their rejection of torture.  While 44% of those 65 and over said torturing a terrorism suspect is “never justified,” that figure steadily dropped in younger age groups. Only 34% of those 50-64 chose “never justified.”  In 2004, the age group 50-64 included Liz Cheney’s father, former US Vice President Dick Cheney (born 1941), who still defends waterboarding and other techniques while denying they are torture.  Only 31% of respondents 30 to 49 chose “never justified;” that was and still is Liz Cheney's age group.  In 2004, only 26% of adults “Under 30” said
“never” to torture.

World War II veterans like General John W. “Jack” Vessey and World War II interrogator Henry Kolm understood that respectful treatment of enemies is an American tradition worth defending.  Sadly, Liz Cheny does not understand this.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Looked Upon As Regulars

     In a letter to Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, member of the Second Continental Congress Thomas McKean relayed news from South Carolina: “A general exchange of prisoners has taken place to the Southward, and our good old friend General Gadsden is expected here in a few days.  All the Refugees and Tories taken on our part have been given up for all our Militia taken by the enemy; this was agreed to without reference to numbers or rank on either side.”  The letter was dated July 8, 1781, in Philadelphia.
     The agreement for an exchange was negotiated on May 3, 1781 between Captain Frederick Cornwallis, who negotiated on behalf his cousin Lieutenant General Sir Charles Cornwallis, and Lieutenant Colonel Carrington, who negotiated on behalf of Continental Army Major General Nathanael Greene.  The May 3 agreement or cartel made several important stipulations.  For instance, article 2 conceded, “That men enlisted for six months and upwards in continental or State service be looked upon as regulars.”  In other words, men who formed militia units in defense of their country were not illegal combatants or “irregulars” excluded from exchange.   
     Edmund Massingbred Hyrne, the American Deputy Commissary General for Prisoners, and James Frazer, Commissary of Prisoners for the British, announced the release on June 22, 1781. 
     The agreement pertained to all British militia in American custody and all American militia in British custody captured from the state of the war to June 15, 1781.  All officers and militia members on parole were also released from that commitment on June 22.  The agreement covered only “prisoners of war, taken in the Southern department.”  The “Refugees” McKean mentioned were American Loyalists who fled their home towns and enlisted in the British service, but sometimes included American prisoners forced to enlisted with the British.  John Almon and George Pownall, The Remembrancer, or, Impartial Repository of Public Events: From the Year 1781, Part 2 (London: J. Debrett, 1781), page 186.  For McKean’s letter to Samuel Adams, please consult Paul H. Smith and Ronald M. Gephart, editors, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789: Volume 17: March 1, 1781-August 31, 1781 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1990), pages 387-388.  For the coercive enlistment of American prisoners, please consult Philip Ranlet, “British Recruitment of Americans in New York during the American Revolution,” Military Affairs volume 48 (January 1984): 26-28; and Philip Ranlet, “In the Hands of the British: The Treatment of American POWs During the War of Independence,” The Historian volume 62 (June2000): 731-758. 
     To read “Agreement between Nathanael Greene and Charles Cornwallis, Earl Cornwallis concerning an exchange of prisoners” (May 3, 1781), please visit, a page of Documenting the American South, from the University of North Carolina Library, last update March 28, 2010 (accessed July 8, 2013).