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[32]

According to the laws of war, prisoners taken in an armed contest between two belligerents must be protected, are entitled to quarters, to proper food and clothing, to medical attendance, and to a reasonable amount of fuel, bedding, and Camp equipage. They may be required to labor, except upon military works, and in attempting to escape they commit no crime. In fact, it is the duty of a prisoner to escape if he can, and he should not be punished therefor, though he may be confined with greater strictness. Prisoners may be exchanged as the captor wills, though no obligation rests upon him to enter into such an agreement. A captor also may allow his prisoner, if he so wills, to sign a written parole, or may accept a parole in an oral form. Generally, only an officer is given the privilege of a parole, while an oath is administered to an enlisted man. If a prisoner's government refuses to recognize the instrument, the prisoner is bound in honor to return to captivity.

Some of these provisions are the ordinary dictates of humanity. Others are conventions which have been accepted by the common consent of nations. In previous wars they had been generally violated, and the same thing happened during the Civil War. Sometimes the violation was unintentional; at other times, because some apparent advantage was gained. Some officers in charge of prisoners looked upon them as felons and acted as the warden of a penitentiary might. Others seemed to feel that ‘ all is fair in war.’

If the contest had been between two independent nations, the captives upon each side would naturally have been exchanged, but it was the theory of the United States that the contest was an insurrection, not a war, and therefore the authorities were at first inclined to treat their prisoners as civil delinquents, guilty of treason. It was feared that an agreement to exchange prisoners would be regarded as a recognition of the Confederacy as a nation, and it was determined to avoid such action. After the battles of Bull Run and Ball's Bluff,

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