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The Convention Army (1777–1783) was an army of
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...

British
and allied troops captured after the
Battles of Saratoga The Battles of Saratoga (September 19 and October 7, 1777) marked the climax of the Saratoga campaign, giving a decisive victory to the Americans over the British in the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1 ...
in the
American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was initiated by delegates from Thirteen Colonies, thirteen American colonies of British America in Continental Congress ...
.


Convention of Saratoga

On 17 October 1777, British General
John Burgoyne General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral ...

John Burgoyne
surrendered his army according to terms negotiated with American general
Horatio Gates Horatio Lloyd Gates (July 26, 1727April 10, 1806) was a British-born soldier who served as a leading American general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines ...

Horatio Gates
following the 7 October
Battle of Bemis Heights The Battles of Saratoga (September 19 and October 7, 1777) marked the climax of the Saratoga campaign The Saratoga campaign in 1777 was an attempt by the British high command for North America to gain military control of the strategically impor ...
. The terms were titled the ''Convention of Saratoga'', and specified that the troops would be sent back to
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

Europe
after giving a
parole Parole is the early release of a prisoner who agrees to abide by certain conditions, originating from the French word ''parole'' ("speech, spoken words" but also "promise"). The term became associated during the Middle Ages with the release of ...
that they would not fight again in the conflict. Morrissey (2000), p. 87 The British army was accorded the
honours of war The honours of war are a set of privileges that are granted to a defeated army during the surrender Surrender may refer to: * Surrender (law)In common law, surrender is the term describing a situation where a leasehold estate, tenant gives up poss ...
, and Burgoyne had his sword returned to him by Gates. Baroness Frederika Riedesel, wife of
General Riedesel
General Riedesel
, just emerged from her shelter in the cellar of the Marshall House, attended the surrender ceremony which she vividly describes in her ''Journal'': "On the 17th of October the capitulation was consummated. The generals waited upon the American general-in-chief, Gates, and the troops laid down their arms, and surrendered themselves prisoners of war".


Cambridge

A total of about 5,900
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...
,
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...
, and Canadian troops surrendered at Saratoga. Morrissey (2000), p. 86 Under guard by
John GloverJohn Glover may refer to: Artists *John Glover (actor) (born 1944), American actor *John Glover (artist) (1767–1849), English-Australian painter *John William Glover (1815–1899), Irish composer Politicians *John Glover (MP), cloth merchant and ...
's troops, they were marched to
Cambridge, Massachusetts Cambridge ( ) is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and part of the Greater Boston, Boston metropolitan area as a major suburb of Boston. , it was the fifth most populous city in the state, behind Boston, ...
, where they arrived on 8 November. The rank and file were quartered in crude barracks that had been constructed during the 1775
siege of Boston The siege of Boston (April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776) was the opening phase of the . militiamen prevented the movement by land of the , which was ed in what was then the peninsular city of , . Both sides had to deal with resource, supply, and ...
, while most of the officers were billeted in houses. The army ended up spending about one year in Cambridge, while negotiations concerning its status took place in military and diplomatic channels. During this year, about 1,300 prisoners escaped, often because they became involved with local women while working on farms in the area. Ferling (2007), p. 432 The
Continental Congress The Continental Congress was a series of legislative bodies A legislature is a deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who use parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure is ...
ordered Burgoyne to provide a list and description of all officers to ensure that they would not return. When he refused, Congress revoked the terms of the convention, resolving in January 1778 to hold the army until
King George III George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 173829 January 1820) was King of Great Britain and of Monarchy of Ireland, Ireland from 25 October 1760 until Acts of Union 1800, the union of the two kingdoms on 1 January 1801, after which he wa ...

King George III
ratified the convention, an act they believed unlikely to happen, as it represented an acknowledgment of American independence.


Virginia

In November 1778, the Convention Army began marching south 700 miles (1,100 km) to
Charlottesville, Virginia Charlottesville, colloquially known as C'ville, is an in the of . It is the of , which surrounds the city, though the two are separate legal entities. It is named after . In 2019, an estimated 47,266 people lived within the city limits. The ...
, arriving in uncharacteristically snowy weather in January 1779. Approximately 600 men escaped during the march. They were held at the hastily and poorly constructed Albemarle Barracks until late 1780, under the guard of Lt. Col Joseph Crockett's Western Battalion. During the army's years in Virginia it had an important economic impact on the Blue Ridge area of
Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...

Virginia
. The Virginia troops assigned to guard duty were generally better fed and equipped than any other forces, so that prisoner letters would reflect a strong
Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the Thirteen Colonies and the Revolutionary-era United States. It was formed by the Second Continental Congress after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, and was established by a resolution of ...
. Money sent by the prisoner's families in Britain and
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...

Germany
provided a lot of
hard currency In macroeconomics Macroeconomics (from the Greek prefix ''makro-'' meaning "large" + ''economics'') is a branch of economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devote ...
and coin for the back-country area. The presence of the POWs created new demands for food and other goods – items for which they had to pay steep prices.
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were cr ...

Thomas Jefferson
estimated that the presence of the prisoners increased the area's circulating currency by at least $30,000 a week. High-ranking officers, and sometimes their wives, such as the Major General Riedesel and
his wife ''His Wife'' is a 1915 American silent Silent may mean any of the following: People with the name * Silent George, George Stone (outfielder) (1876–1945), American Major League Baseball outfielder and batting champion * Brandon Silent (born 19 ...
and Major General William Phillips were sought as guests on the social scene. The rank-and-file, however, dealt with miserable living conditions as the small amount of money appropriated to build the barracks proved inadequate. "Each barrack," observed Lieutenant August Wilhelm Du Roi, "is 24 feet long, and 14 feet wide, big enough to shelter 18 men. The construction is so miserable that it surpasses all that you can imagine in Germany of a very poorly built log house. It is something like the following: Each side is put up of 8 to 9 round fir trees, which are laid one on top the other, but so far apart that it is almost possible for a man to crawl through ... The roof is made of round trees covered with split fir trees..." And then, "a great number of our men preferred to camp out in the woods, where they could protect themselves better against the cold than in the barracks." Chase (1983), p. 12 For some officers, their time in Virginia, however, was not entirely uneventful. An excerpt from the Orderly Book of Crockett's Western Battalion elaborates: "The commanding officer has been informed that an officer of the Convention Army who is residing in a different part of the county makes a practice of going to Negrew quarters in the night and associating with slaves, to the disatisdaction of the inhabitants. This practice is positively forbid in future..." In late 1780, when British forces became active in Virginia, the army was again moved, this time being marched north by the Western Battalion to
Frederick, Maryland Frederick is a city in and the county seat A county seat is an administrative center, seat of government, or capital city of a county or Parish (administrative division), civil parish. The term is used in Canada, China, Romania, Hungary and the ...

Frederick, Maryland
. Except for specific officer exchanges, they were held there until 1783. When the war formally ended, those who survived the forced marches and camp
fever Fever, also referred to as pyrexia, is defined as having a temperature Temperature ( ) is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy Thermal radiation in visible light can be seen on th ...

fever
s were sent home.


See also

* Prisoners of war in the American Revolutionary War


Notes


References

* * * *


External links


The Marshall House, Schuylerville, New York
{{Authority control * Virginia in the American Revolution Pennsylvania in the American Revolution