"The Burthen Now Upon Our Hands": The Treatment of British Prisoners of War in the Revolutionary South, 1780-1781
1 online resource (112 pages) : PDF
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Casualties represent the human element destroyed by war. As such, historians use their numbers to describe the scale or aftermath of a given conflict in terms of dead and wounded. Yet, there exists a third group of casualties often not included in these traditional statistics: prisoners of war (POWs). Historically, American military planners have failed to properly prepare for the adequate care and management of POWs. Evidence of this trend stretches back as far as the Revolutionary War. Soon after hostilities broke out, American leadership faced the dilemma of what to do with their British captives. As students of Enlightenment thought, or veterans of the British Army, many of the American leaders sought to adhere to the rules and customs associated with traditional European warfare. However, separation from Europe and frequent conflicts with Native Americans introduced changes in American thought about the practicality of these traditions. When the war shifted to the South, the two sets of ideals clashed, influencing the treatment British prisoners received at the hands of their American captors. The war in the South also raised questions for historians. Did British POWs receive the same treatment as their compatriots in the North? Were they exchanged and/or paroled? Where were they kept and how were they cared for? If there were differences, what were they and how can they be explained? This paper sets out to answer these and other questions about British POWs in the Revolutionary South. The first portion analyzes the basis of American POW policy, how it developed, and the difficulties implementing it. The second portion consists of a case study of the prisoners taken at King’s Mountain, the treatment they received, and how that treatment reflected the dysfunctional attempts to carry out national policies. The evidence suggests that the identity of British prisoners in the South not only determined their political value and the treatment they received, it also hindered Congressional efforts to implement an effective POW policy that governed these very aspects.
American RevolutionAmerican SouthKing's MountainPrisoners of War
Dupre, DanielMcKinley, Shepherd
Thesis (M.A.)--University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2019.
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