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Resolutions by the Continental Congress concerning prisoners of war
United States. Continental Congress
January 13, 1780
Volume 14, Pages 793-796

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MISCELLANEOUS PETITIONS, LETTERS, ETC., 1780.


In Congress, Jan. the 13th, 1780.

A Letter of the 4th from Genl. Washington was read, accompanied with sundry papers relative to a proposed Exchange of prisoners of War, whereupon,

Resolved, that it be recommended to the Executive Authorities of the several States to transmit with all possible expedition to Gen. Washington the names & rank of all officers & the number of Privates belonging to the Enemy held as prisoners of war, within their respective States, & the places they are at, in order that they may be included in the general exchange should a Cartel be agreed to between the Commanders in chief of the American & British Armies. Congress took into consideration the report of the board of war relative to prisoners, & thereupon came to the following resolutions:

Many inconveniences attending the present management of the prisoners of war, & great dissatisfaction having arisen from the mode of exchanging them heretofore used, from the partialities inevitably attending the same while conducted under various directions by divers Commissaries independent of each other & sufficient provision not being made for their Security in many cases frequently occurring,

Resolved, that all prisoners of war, whether Captivated by the Army or Navy of the United States, or by the Subjects, troops or ships of any particular State, shall be delivered into the care & custody of the Commissary General of Prisoners, his deputies or assistants, & be deemed & treated in all respects as prisoners of war to the United States.

That it be earnestly recommended to the Governments of the respective States that they make no exchanges of prisoners to the intent that all exchanges may be made through the Commissary General of Prisoners, by direction of Congress, or the Commander in Chief, or the board of Admiralty; & when prisoners are taken by the particular Subjects, troops or vessels of any State not in the Service of the United States, or by private Ships or Vessels of

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war fitted out in any particular State, these shall be first Exchanged, so far as it is necessary, for the Subjects or inhabitants of the same State taken by the Subjects, adherents, ships or vessels of the enemy, & the overplus, if any, shall go towards redeeming the prisoners in the hands of the Enemy, without regard to their being subjects or inhabitants of any particular State; that all Masters or Commanders of private Ships or Vessels of war shall take the utmost care to bring into port all prisoners Captivated by them, & if from necessity they shall be obliged to dismiss any prisoner at sea, they shall, on return from their cruise, make report thereof on oath to the Judge of the Admiralty of the State to which they belong or in which they arrived, within twenty days after their Arrival, with their reasons for such dismission. And if the Judge shall not be satisfied with the reasons assigned, or if it shall appear that the prisoners were discharged to avoid the trouble or expense of bringing them into port & delivering them into custody, or in any wise unnecessarily, then the Judge shall transmit an account thereof to the executive of the State, who are requested to examine into the matter and vacate the Commission granted to the said delinquents, Master or Commander of the Ship or Vessel, if they are of opinion that such dismission was improper.

That all prisoners of war captivated by private ships or vessels of war be delivered by & at the expense of the Masters or owners of such Ships or Vessels to a Commissary of prisoners nearest the place of their landing, or into the nearest County Gaol, on pain of forfeiture of the commission granted to such private ships or vessels.

That on such delivery of prisoners into the Gaol the Gaoler shall be obliged to inform the Government of the State wherein the said prisoners are landed, or in case of their residence at too great a distance, the Lieutenant or Commanding officer of the Militia of the County wherein the Said prisoners are landed, the Commis. Gen. of prisoners or his Deputy, that if the said prisoners are not deemed by the executive of the State, or the said Commanding Officer of the Militia, in a place of sufficient Security they may be removed under proper guards to a place or places of greater security, at the expense of the United States, & the executive powers of the respective States are requested to give

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the necessary orders to the Commanding Officer of the Militia on this Subject, & to pay the expences of Escorting & transporting the prisoners, charging the same to the United States. The said Executives are also requested to give orders to the officers of their Militia to take immediate charge of all prisoners of war Captivated by the Ships and Vessels of war belonging to the United States or to any particular state, & to convey them at the expence of the United States to the nearest Commis. of prisoners or County Gaol, and also to direct the like steps to be taken in regard to the removal to places of greater safety, as is provided in the case of prisoners Captured by private Vessels.

That it be recommended to the Legislatures of the respective States effectually to provide, at the expence of the United States, for the delivery and safe keeping of all prisoners Captivated by their respective Subjects out of Vessels stranded or cast on shore on their coast, obliging the parties taking prisoners to deliver them to the nearest Commis. of prisoners, or into the nearest Gaol, in case no Commis. of prisoners is stationed within convenient distance of the place of Capture, & in case of Neglect or Misconduct in the persons so taking the prisoners, that they forfeit all right to the Vessel or tackle, apparel & furniture so cast on shore, or the property they may save or be other wise entitled to out of such Vessel, or imposing such other penalty as the said Legislatures shall respectively think proper.

That it be recommended to the said Legislatures to provide & direct that all Gaolers receive & deliver prisoners of war without charging any fee or reward to the persons delivering them into or taking them by proper authority out of their Custody, the reasonable expences of supporting such prisoners in Gaol to be paid by the Government of the State wherein they shall be confined, & charged to the United States, except where they can & shall be otherwise provided for by the proper officer in the service of the United States, & the Gaoler shall transmit a Copy of his charges against the United States for account of Prisoners of War to the Commis. Genl. of Prisoners or his nearest Deputy, when any prisoners leave the Gaol either for Removal to places of Greater Security or for exchange.

That prisoners of war, either on their march or in confinment be furnished with only two thirds of a Soldier's Rations.

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That none but sick or wounded prisoners be allowed carriages at public Expence.

That all prisoners on Parole pay their own expences, & such expences shall be paid before they shall be exchanged.

That all Officers, prisoners of war to the United States, unless in hospitals, pay their physicians, Surgeons and attendants.

That the Commis. Genl. of prisoners & his deputies make regular monthly returns to the board of war, of the Numbers, Situations & exchanges of all prisoners under their charge, & that they also give the said board such occasional information of all material transactions in their department as circumstances from time to time render necessary, or when they shall be required by the board so to do, under pain of being Suspended or dismissed by the said board.

That all Exchanges of prisoners made in consequence of the foregoing resolutions shall be Soldier for Soldier & Sailor for Sailor.

Signed,
CHAS. THOMSON, Sect.

Extract from the Minutes.