PRISONERS-OF-WAR IN THE AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE (1775-1783) (Jency wojenni w amerykanskiej wojnie o niepodleglosc (1775-1783))
The first shots between the rebellious colonies and Great Britain were fired on April 19,1775 at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. They started an internal conflict, which lasted until the signing of peace by the both sides in September 1983. British authorities ordered to treat American prisoners-of-war as criminals acting of ultimate treachery. However, representatives of the Continental Congress and the offcers of the Continental Army believed that the common law guaranteed humanitarian treatment of prisoners-of-war, their exchange and release on trust. During the War of Independence the British gathered the majority of American prisoners-of-war in New York, and then placed them under the decks ofwarships. Release of prisoners-of-war on trust (to a great extent based on the war customs) was also widely practiced. However, Americans used prisoners-of-war mainly as workforce, also in their arms manufactures. In this way they added to the military potential of the country, and the prisoners-of-war, thanks to their work, lived in better conditions. Yet, during the war the rules pertaining to the exchange of prisoners-of-war were not established, thus, thousands of prisoners-of-war died in bondage. During the conflict Americans took 15 to 30 thousand people prisoner; among them - British soldiers, sailors, mercenary soldiers from European coun- tries, loyalists, Indians and black men drafted to serve in the British army. There are no data pertaining to the number of prisoners-of-war who died in American bondage. The exact number of prisoners-of-war captured by the British is not known, either. During the war from 10 to 15 thousand patriots from land forces and anywhere from ten to twenty thousand privateers and sailors were taken prisoner. There are also various estimations - from 11.5 to 18 thousand - as to the number of American prisoners-of-war who died in British bondage.
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