The losing general proposes to effect a "cease fire" by giving his soldiers discharge papers (or absent papers, a "token") that the enemy agrees to honor, signifying that the soldiers will no longer fight. The soldiers will hand in their "army" weapons to be turned over to the enemy, but will be allowed to keep personal weapons (e.g. hunting knives) for food-gathering. The officers will remain to effect the transfer.

I noted with interest, that one of a unit's options in the computer game Braveheart was for the commander to "surrender self." That would effectively disband his unit and stop the fighting. The winning side would be spared 1) further fighting and 2) the necessity of "looking after" a large number of prisoners of war.

So has this kind of disbandment ever been effected at any time in (recorded) real life history? I believe this arrangement to be "intermediate" between outright surrender, and withdrawing with "honors of war." In the latter case, the losing side forfeits its ammunition, bayonets and heavy weapons, but is allowed to march out of a surrendered position such as a fortress with say, its muskets (perhaps with their firing mechanisms disabled, and banners. Unlike my "disbandment" case, the losing army remains a cohesive fighting unit, or will be, once rearmed and refitted.

This question was inspired by this one.

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    Isn't that what more or less happened at Appomattox? Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 16:03
  • @JohnColeman: That was the final result. I'm not sure that's how the negotiation started. If you like, you can post an answer, which I would find enlightening.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 16:41
  • @JohnColeman Johnston did the same thing a month later.
    – Spencer
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 17:20
  • that is not the concept of parole?
    – Luiz
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 18:00
  • 1
    Please distinguish your scenario from "requesting the honours of war" when surrendering after fortress defense has been breached? This was a regular occurrence during the mid-18th century War of Austrian Succession and Seven Years War. Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 22:44

1 Answer 1


During the US Civil War, for example, at first most prisoners would be offered a chance to give their parole, a promise to not fight again until they were formally exchanged in a prisoner exchange program.

Later in the war the prisoner exchange program broke down, and prisoners were kept in many prison camps.

The commander of a defeated military unit in recent centuries didn't have the authority to disband his unit. But in some times and places commanders of victorious units did have the authority to parole prisoners and set them free after they promished not to fight again until exchanged.

  • 1
    Not to mention that's essentially how the war ended.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 22:00

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