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Starr Center for the

Study of the American Experience

The Problem of Prisoners of War in the American Revolution

Date: 4:30pm EST March 5

A talk with T. Cole Jones, Assistant Professor of History, Purdue University

This lecture will examine how the founding generation of Americans grappled with the problems of prisoner treatment. During the eight-year conflict, American forces captured over seventeen thousand British and allied Germanic soldiers, as well as thousands more loyalist civilians and British mariners. The number of enemy prisoners in American custody often exceeded that of American soldiers in the Continental army. These prisoners proved increasingly burdensome for the new nation as the war progressed.  What was to become of these men? How should they be confined? Who would pay to house and feed them? When and how should they be released?  A series of thorny political issues compounded these logistical difficulties.  This talk will take the audience from the meeting rooms of the Continental Congress to the prison camps of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, revealing the factors that coalesced to transform the conflict into a war for vengeance, escalating its violence precipitously.

Dr. T. Cole Jones joined Purdue University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of History. He received his Ph.D. in early American history from the Johns Hopkins University in 2014 and a B.A. in history from Duke University in 2006. His scholarship focuses on the role of violence in the social and political transformations of the revolutionary era. He is the author of the book “Captives of Liberty: Prisoners of War and the Politics of Vengeance in the American Revolution,” and has published articles in the New England Quarterly, the Journal of the Early Republic, and Common-Place.