Convention Army

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The British army that surrendered at Saratoga (American War of Independence). Under the terms of the original document of surrender, the Convention of Saratoga, the American general Horatio Gates, had agreed that the British troops should be allowed to return to Europe. In return General Burgoyne agreed that those troops would not return to American until after the current war had finished. Similar agreements of parole were not unusual in European warfare, an environment that both Gates and Burgoyne were familiar with.

Congress was less willing to release nearly six thousand British soldiers, on the entirely reasonable grounds that their release would simply free up other troops to come out and replace them. On their arrival in Boston, the British and German prisoners found themselves held in very primitive camps on Winter and Prospect Hills overlooking Boston Harbour. During the summer of 1778 they were moved fifth miles further south and told to build their own camp. Eventually, they were moved to the backcountry of Virginia. With the American states unwilling to properly pay or provision their own armies, it is not surprising that the prisoners suffered appalling conditions in captivity. Faced with poor conditions and no apparent prospect of an early release, many of the captured soldiers decided to switch sides and settle in America, amongst them the entire band of the 62nd Regiment of Foot and many of the German soldiers. In contrast, their officers were quickly paroled and in most cases returned to Europe.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (4 September 2003), Convention Army, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/concepts_conventionarmy.html


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