This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 These volunteers captured the prisoners and for the most part had charge of them. They interpreted the rules for their care and treatment in the light of their temperaments and their previous environment. The lot of captives taken in war always has been hard. Once their lives were at the disposal of their captors, who did not hesitate to slay. A struggling humanitarianism, combined with self-interest, next made them bond-slaves of the conquerors, who nevertheless retained the power of life and death. As the centuries passed, prisoners of war were placed in a class, and only the right to hold them until the end of the conflict remained. The purpose of holding prisoners is, of course, to weaken the military strength of the adversary by keeping fighting men from his ranks. Possession of a large number of prisoners may, however, prove a source of weakness rather that of strength, since prisoners must be guarded and fed. Therefore, the custom of paroling—that is, releasing under an oath not to take up arms until exchanged—developed. The first prisoners were taken very soon after the organization of the Confederate Government, before a battle had been fought. On February 18, 1861, General David E. Twiggs, commanding the Department of Texas, surrendered without resistance the military posts and public property of the department to a committee appointed by the State of Texas, stipulating, however, that the troops, 2684 in all, were to retire unmolested. Because of this act, General Twiggs was dismissed on March 1st from the Federal service. A few transports were sent for the troops, but before all of them had succeeded in reaching the coast, the attempt to relieve Fort Sumter put a new face upon the situation. President Davis had been disposed to allow the fulfilment of the original agreement, but soon it was announced that at the time the promise was given a state of war did not exist, and that a subsequent state of war made it proper for
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.