This essay examines British plans to recover prisoners of war following the loss of Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne’s army near Saratoga, New York. In October of 1777, Burgoyne signed the Convention of Saratoga with American Major-General Horatio Gates. In the convention, the two generals agreed that Burgoyne’s troops would receive a free passage to Britain after arriving in Boston, Massachusetts. The Continental Congress discarded Gates’s passage pledge, voided the convention, and ordered Burgoyne’s troops incarcerated. This article argues that in planning and attempting to rescue Burgoyne’s soldiers as an army, British Generals Sir William Howe and Henry Clinton modified European methods of warfare. For a year following Saratoga, the two generals covertly worked to recover the prisoners. British officers had never before attempted to rescue thousands of prisoners by force A close reading of senior British and American officers’ wartime correspondence underlines the importance of recovering Convention Army prisoners into active service. Howe and Clinton’s plans are crucial to understanding senior British officers’ efforts to adapt to local conditions and increase their army’s capacity to wage war in North America.


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pp. 769-814
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