Ritual Performance: Surrender during the American War of Independence

Daniel Krebs

in How Fighting Ends

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693627
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741258 | DOI:
Ritual Performance: Surrender during the American War of Independence

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This case study on German subsidy troops fighting in the American War of Independence understands surrender as a ritual performance, turning defeated soldiers into symbolic capital. If the ritual was staged as a rite of passage, as at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781, it provided the vanquished with a safe and respectable transition from the state of armed soldiers to that of unarmed prisoners of war. The victors, in turn, gained an opportunity to demonstrate and communicate their success within their own ranks and a wider public. The observance of rigidly structured rituals guaranteed that the surrender, this dangerous bargain between victors and vanquished, actually succeeded. When rites of passage were missing, as happened at Trenton and many other battles and skirmishes, defeated soldiers were nervous about their future in enemy hands and violence toward prisoners became a distinct possibility.

Keywords: American War of Independence; German subsidy troops; ritual; rite of passage; symbolic capital; surrender; prisoners of war; trenton; Saratoga; Yorktown

Chapter.  9112 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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