Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/April/Federal Orders Revoking Paroles

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Southern Historical Society Papers: Volume 1, Number 4  (1876)  by Edward Davis Townsend
Federal Orders Revoking Paroles
Southern Historical Society Papers, April 1876

States. Any officer or soldier who gives such parole will be returned to duty without exchange, and, moreover, will be punished for disobedience of orders. It is the duty of the captor to guard his prisoners, and if through necessity or choice he fails to do this, it is the duty of the prisoner to return to the service of his Government. He cannot avoid this duty by giving an unauthorized military parole.
3. A military parole not to serve until exchanged must not be confounded with a parole of honor to do or not to do a particular thing not inconsistent with the duty of a soldier; thus a prisoner of war actually held by the enemy may, in order to obtain exemption from a close guard or confinement, pledge his parole of honor that he will make no attempt at escape. Such pledges are binding upon the individuals giving them; but they should seldom be given or received, for it is the duty of a prisoner to escape if able to do so. Any pledge or parole extorted from a prisoner by ill usage is not binding.
4. The obligations imposed by the general, laws and usages of war upon the combatant inhabitants of a section of country passed over by an invading army closes when the military occupation ceases, and any pledge or parole given by such persons, in regard to future service, is null and of no effect.
By order of the Secretary of war.

 [Signed]

E. D. Townsend, A. A. G.

 

Upon this order General J. A. Early, in a recent communication, makes the following eminently just comments:

It is very manifest that that order was issued for the purpose of embarrassing General Lee's army with the guarding and feeding of the prisoners, amounting to several thousand, then in our hands; and in consequence of the order, information of which reached us immediately, General Lee sent a flag of truce to Meade on the 4th of July, after the close of the battle, with a proposition to exchange prisoners. The latter declined the proposition, alleging a want of authority to make the exchange, or, from his own views of policy, he positively declined to entertain the proposition; I am not certain which.

According to the laws of war in the earliest ages a captive in war forfeited his life. Subsequently, in the cause of humanity, the penalty of death was commuted to slavery for life; and this continued to be a law of war for more than one-half of the Christian era, notwithstanding it has been so often said that slavery disappeared in Europe before the spirit of Christianity; in fact, it was the vast number of captives in war reduced to slavery from among the Sclavi or Sclavonians, in the eighth century, under that bulwark of the Church, Charlemagne, that caused the distinctive and modern appellation of "slaves" to be applied to all those held to involuntary servitude. In the age of chivalry, when