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January 3, 2013

Imprisonment of seamen

(Continued)

“I beg you, Sir, to be assured, that it is the sincere desire of the President to see and promote, as far as depends on the United States, that the War which exists between our countries, be conducted with the utmost regard to humanity.

“I have the honor, &c., (Signed) JAMES MONROE

(B.)

“Washington City, Dec. 17, 1812.

“The Hon. Paul Hamilton, Sec’ry of the Navy

“SIR – I have the honor to annex a list of 12 of the crew of the late U. States sloop of War Wasp, detained by Capt. John Berresford, of the British ship Poictiers under the pretence of their being British subjects.

“I have the honor to be, respectfully, Sir, your obedient servant

GEORGE S.WISE, Purser.”

(C.)

Extract of a letter from Major-General Pinckney to the Secretary of War.

“Head-Quarters, Charleston, 4th November 1812.

“Information having been on oath, to Lieut. Grandison, who at present commands in the Naval District here, that six American seamen who had been taken prisoner on one of our privateers, had been sent to Jamaica, to be tried as British subjects for Treason; he called upon the Marshal, to retake double that number of British seamen as hostages – The Marshal, in consequence of instruction from the department of state, asked my advice on the subject and I have given my opinion that they ought to be detained until the pleasure of the President be known….”

COMMENT: This marked an important turning point in the War of 1812. Instead of the mutual release of prisoners of war, this and similar incidents led to their being confined until the end of the war, often under very poor circumstances. A “Cartel” was a ship used for such prisoner exchanges, and hence was not subject to capture by the enemy.

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