Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Remember When . . . The Town Was a Jail?

Okay, not really. But one of the interesting things from wars of centuries gone by is that officers captured in battle were often sent, not to a prisoner-of-war camp or any other detention center as we think of them, but to a parole town.

A what, you ask? (Or I did, anyway, when I first heard of them, LOL.) A parole town. A town authorized to hold these higher-ranking enemies in semi-freedom until such a time as they were brought to trial, traded for officers held by the other side, or released. Interesting, eh?

The prisoners in these parole towns would have enjoyed a far better life than ones kept in prisons or camps. They were men who were either very high profile, respected, wealthy, or otherwise trustworthy. (Keep in mind this was back in the day when war, on some levels at least, was gentlemanly.) But if they left the town . . . well, then things got bad for them, and they were sent straight to prison.

And what did the townspeople think of all this, you ask? Well, let's just say that there are quite a number of tales of young folk putting pretty girls up to luring the prisoners to a meeting place just past the border they were supposed to honor, and then having the authorities waiting for them. Poor saps. Thought they were getting a kiss and instead got sent straight to jail without collecting their $200. ;-)

Down near Annapolis, there's a portion of town (once its own town) called Parole. I never understood it until some research I did for a college brochure explained the idea of a parole town and that Parole was formed for just this purpose during the Civil War.

It came up again when I was researching where to set a Regency idea I had, and I realized that the town I liked best was in fact a parole town during the war then going on with France. Pretty nifty. =) I fully intend to make my hero tell horror stories of the French soldiers to my heroine, just to make her jumpy. Oh yes. He's that type, LOL.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!


  1. Were they given houses? How did that work?

  2. Hmm, I don't recall it saying in the articles I read, though it may have. My brain is a bit foggy still, LOL. The impression I have is that they'd be in supervised housing like a boarding house, though the really high-ranking guys might have their own digs. But don't quote me on that. Totally my logic talking, not my research.