Battlefield chivalry in West Chester and Iraq
I am in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and have just discovered that the code of chivalry we wrote about in the Knight was displayed here in the town during the American Revolution.
The chivalric code, which is a precursor of the Geneva Conventions, called for the treatment of wounded opponents. After the Battle of the Brandywine on 11 September 1777, British soldiers accompanied wounded American soldiers from the country battlefield to the settlement of Turk’s Head (West Chester’s original name) where they could be treated.
Douglas Harper explains,
“It was customary courtesy, after a battle, to deposit the enemy’s wounded in some safe, dry public building (or private one) where they could be cared for, and no doubt some British officer down around the battlefield had questioned local residents and learned that there was a small log school in Turk’s Head that would serve as a temporary hospital.”
Then British General William Howe asked General George Washington to send doctors to tend the wounded rebels who had been captured in the battle,
“The American doctors who were sent behind enemy lines by an arragement between Washington and Howe included Benjamin Rush, a leading Philadelphia surgeon but also one of the ringleaders of the rebellion. As a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Rush took a bold risk in riding unarmed into the British camp, and he was apparently detained briefly once his identity was learned. But since Rush was a doctor, and had come under a truce flag, Howe respected the rules of war and let him do his job” (West Chester to 1865, Douglas R. Harper).
I cannot resist observing that Americans and British troops are providing the same courtesy to their wounded opponents in Iraq, among them terrorists who have been creating hell for the Iraqi people. No one calls for the doctors of the terrorists, since their “doctors” are preoccupied with making bombs. Instead, American and British doctors try to save their lives.