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Title: American Prisoners of the Revolution
Author: Dandridge, Danske, 1858-1914
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "American Prisoners of the Revolution" ***


By Danske Dandridge



Lieutenant Daniel Bedinger, of Bedford, Virginia




The writer of this book has been interested for many years in the
subject of the sufferings of the American prisoners of the Revolution.
Finding the information she sought widely scattered, she has, for her
own use, and for that of all students of the subject, gathered all the
facts she could obtain within the covers of this volume. There is little
that is original in the compilation. The reader will find that extensive
use has been made of such narratives as that Captain Dring has left us.
The accounts could have been given in the compiler's own words, but they
would only, thereby, have lost in strength. The original narratives are
all out of print, very scarce and hard to obtain, and the writer feels
justified in reprinting them in this collection, for the sake of the
general reader interested in the subject, and not able to search for
himself through the mass of original material, some of which she has
only discovered after months of research. Her work has mainly consisted
in abridging these records, collected from so many different sources.

The writer desires to express her thanks to the courteous librarians
of the Library of Congress and of the War and Navy Departments; to Dr.
Langworthy for permission to publish his able and interesting paper
on the subject of the prisons in New York, and to many others who have
helped her in her task.


_December 6th, 1910._
























































It is with no desire to excite animosity against a people whose blood
is in our veins that we publish this volume of facts about some of the
Americans, seamen and soldiers, who were so unfortunate as to fall into
the hands of the enemy during the period of the Revolution. We have
concealed nothing of the truth, but we have set nothing down in malice,
or with undue recrimination.

It is for the sake of the martyrs of the prisons themselves that this
work has been executed. It is because we, as a people, ought to know
what was endured; what wretchedness, what relentless torture, even unto
death, was nobly borne by the men who perished by thousands in British
prisons and prison ships of the Revolution; it is because we are in
danger of forgetting the sacrifice they made of their fresh young
lives in the service of their country; because the story has never been
adequately told, that we, however unfit we may feel ourselves for the
task, have made an effort to give the people of America some account of
the manner in which these young heroes, the flower of the land, in the
prime of their vigorous manhood, met their terrible fate.

Too long have they lain in the ditches where they were thrown, a
cart-full at a time, like dead dogs, by their heartless murderers,
unknown, unwept, unhonored, and unremembered. Who can tell us their
names? What monument has been raised to their memories?

It is true that a beautiful shaft has lately been erected to the martyrs
of the Jersey prison ship, about whom we will have very much to say.
But it is improbable that even the place of interment of the hundreds of
prisoners who perished in the churches, sugar houses, and other places
used as prisons in New York in the early years of the Revolution, can
now be discovered. We know that they were, for the most part, dumped
into ditches dug on the outskirts of the little city, the New York
of 1776. These ditches were dug by American soldiers, as part of the
entrenchments, during Washington's occupation of Manhattan in the spring
of 1776. Little did these young men think that they were, in some cases,
literally digging a grave for themselves.

More than a hundred and thirty years have passed since the victims of
Cunningham's cruelty and rapacity were starved to death in churches
consecrated to the praise and worship of a God of love. It is a tardy
recognition that we are giving them, and one that is most imperfect, yet
it is all that we can now do. The ditches where they were interred have
long ago been filled up, built over, and intersected by streets. Who of
the multitude that daily pass to and fro over the ground that should be
sacred ever give a thought to the remains of the brave men beneath their
feet, who perished that they might enjoy the blessings of liberty?

Republics are ungrateful; they have short memories; but it is due to the
martyrs of the Revolution that some attempt should be made to tell to
the generations that succeed them who they were, what they did, and why
they suffered so terribly and died so grimly, without weakening, and
without betraying the cause of that country which was dearer to them
than their lives.

We have, for the most part, limited ourselves to the prisons and prison
ships in the city and on the waters of New York. This is because such
information as we have been able to obtain concerning the treatment
of American prisoners by the British relates, almost entirely, to that

It is a terrible story that we are about to narrate, and we warn the
lover of pleasant books to lay down our volume at the first page.
We shall see Cunningham, that burly, red-faced ruffian, the Provost
Marshal, wreaking his vengeance upon the defenceless prisoners in his
keeping, for the assault made upon him at the outbreak of the war, when
he and a companion who had made themselves obnoxious to the republicans
were mobbed and beaten in the streets of New York. He was rescued by
some friends of law and order, and locked up in one of the jails
which was soon to be the theatre of his revenge. We shall narrate the
sufferings of the American prisoners taken at the time of the battle of
Long Island, and after the surrender of Fort Washington, which events
occurred, the first in August, the second in November of the year 1776.

What we have been able to glean from many sources, none of which
contradict each other in any important point, about the prisons and
prison ships in New York, with a few narratives written by those who
were imprisoned in other places, shall fill this volume. Perhaps others,
far better fitted for the task, will make the necessary researches, in
order to lay before the American people a statement of what took place
in the British prisons at Halifax, Charleston, Philadelphia, the waters
off the coast of Florida, and other places, during the eight years of
the war. It is a solemn and affecting duty that we owe to the dead, and
it is in no light spirit that we, for our part, begin our portion of the



We will first endeavor to give the reader some idea of the men who were
imprisoned in New York in the fall and winter of 1776, It was in the
summer of that year that Congress ordered a regiment of riflemen to be
raised in Maryland and Virginia. These, with the so-called "Flying Camp"
of Pennsylvania, made the bulk of the soldiers taken prisoners at Fort
Washington on the fatal 16th of November. Washington had already proved
to his own satisfaction the value of such soldiers; not only by his
experience with them in the French and Indian wars, but also during the
siege of Boston in 1775-6.

These hardy young riflemen were at first called by the British
"regulars," "a rabble in calico petticoats," as a term of contempt.
Their uniform consisted of tow linen or homespun hunting shirts,
buckskin breeches, leggings and moccasins. They wore round felt hats,
looped on one side and ornamented with a buck tail. They carried long
rifles, shot pouches, tomahawks, and scalping knives.

They soon proved themselves of great value for their superior
marksmanship, and the British, who began by scoffing at them, ended by
fearing and hating them as they feared and hated no other troops. The
many accounts of the skill of these riflemen are interesting, and some
of them shall be given here.

One of the first companies that marched to the aid of Washington when he
was at Cambridge in 1775 was that of Captain Michael Cresap, which was
raised partly in Maryland and partly in the western part of Virginia.
This gallant young officer died in New York in the fall of 1775, a year
before the surrender of Fort Washington, yet his company may be taken as
a fair sample of what the riflemen of the frontiers of our country
were, and of what they could do. We will therefore give the words of
an eyewitness of their performances. This account is taken from the
_Pennsylvania Journal_ of August 23rd, 1775.

"On Friday evening last arrived at Lancaster, Pa., on their way to the
American camp, Captain Cresap's Company of Riflemen, consisting of one
hundred and thirty active, brave young fellows, many of whom have been
in the late expedition under Lord Dunmore against the Indians. They
bear in their bodies visible marks of their prowess, and show scars and
wounds which would do honour to Homer's Iliad. They show you, to use the
poet's words:

  "'Where the gor'd battle bled at ev'ry vein!'

"One of these warriors in particular shows the cicatrices of four bullet
holes through his body.

"These men have been bred in the woods to hardships and dangers since
their infancy. They appear as if they were entirely unacquainted with,
and had never felt the passion of fear. With their rifles in their
hands, they assume a kind of omnipotence over their enemies. One cannot
much wonder at this when we mention a fact which can be fully attested
by several of the reputable persons who were eye-witnesses of it. Two
brothers in the company took a piece of board five inches broad, and
seven inches long, with a bit of white paper, the size of a dollar,
nailed in the centre, and while one of them supported this board
perpendicularly between his knees, the other at the distance of upwards
of sixty yards, and without any kind of rest, shot eight bullets through
it successively, and spared a brother's thigh!

"Another of the company held a barrel stave perpendicularly in his
hands, with one edge close to his side, while one of his comrades, at
the same distance, and in the manner before mentioned, shot several
bullets through it, without any apprehension of danger on either side.

"The spectators appearing to be amazed at these feats, were told that
there were upwards of fifty persons in the same company who could do the
same thing; that there was not one who could not 'plug nineteen bullets
out of twenty,' as they termed it, within an inch of the head of a
ten-penny nail.

"In short, to evince the confidence they possessed in these kind of
arms, some of them proposed to stand with apples on their heads, while
others at the same distance undertook to shoot them off, but the people
who saw the other experiments declined to be witnesses of this.

"At night a great fire was kindled around a pole planted in the Court
House Square, where the company with the Captain at their head, all
naked to the waist and painted like savages (except the Captain, who was
in an Indian shirt), indulged a vast concourse of people with a perfect
exhibition of a war-dance and all the manoeuvres of Indians; holding
council, going to war; circumventing their enemies by defiles;
ambuscades; attacking; scalping, etc. It is said by those who are judges
that no representation could possibly come nearer the original. The
Captain's expertness and agility, in particular, in these experiments,
astonished every beholder. This morning they will set out on their march
for Cambridge."

From the _Virginia Gazette_ of July 22nd, 1775, we make the following
extract: "A correspondent informs us that one of the gentlemen appointed
to command a company of riflemen to be raised in one of the frontier
counties of Pennsylvania had so many applications from the people in
his neighborhood, to be enrolled in the service, that a greater number
presented themselves than his instructions permitted him to engage,
and being unwilling to give offence to any he thought of the following
expedient: He, with a piece of chalk, drew on a board the figure of a
nose of the common size, which he placed at the distance of 150 yards,
declaring that those who came nearest the mark should be enlisted. Sixty
odd hit the object.--General Gage, take care of your nose!"

From the _Pennsylvania Journal_, July 25th, 1775: "Captain Dowdle with
his company of riflemen from Yorktown, Pa., arrived at Cambridge about
one o'clock today, and since has made proposals to General Washington to
attack the transport stationed at Charles River. He will engage to take
her with thirty men. The General thinks it best to decline at present,
but at the same time commends the spirit of Captain Dowdle and his brave
men, who, though they just came a very long march, offered to execute
the plan immediately."

In the third volume of American Archives, is an extract from a letter to
a gentleman in Philadelphia, dated Frederick Town, Maryland, August
1st, 1775, which speaks of the same company of riflemen whose wonderful
marksmanship we have already noted. The writer says:

"Notwithstanding the urgency of my business I have been detained here
three days by a circumstance truly agreeable. I have had the happiness
of seeing Captain Michael Cresap marching at the head of a formidable
company of upwards of one hundred and thirty men from the mountains
and backwoods; painted like Indians; armed with tomahawks and rifles;
dressed in hunting shirts and moccasins; and, tho' some of them had
travelled hundreds of miles from the banks of the Ohio, they seemed to
walk light and easy, and not with less spirit than at the first hour of
their march.

"I was favored by being constantly in Captain Cresap's company, and
watched the behavior of his men and the manner in which he treated them,
for is seems that all who go out to war under him do not only pay the
most willing obedience to him as their commander, but in every instance
of distress look up to him as their friend and father. A great part of
his time was spent in listening to and relieving their wants, without
any apparent sense of fatigue and trouble. When complaints were before
him he determined with kindness and spirit, and on every occasion
condescended to please without losing dignity.

"Yesterday, July 31st, the company were supplied with a small quantity
of powder, from the magazine, which wanted airing, and was not in good
order for rifles: in the evening, however, they were drawn out to show
the gentlemen of the town their dexterity in shooting. A clap board with
a mark the size of a dollar was put up; they began to fire offhand, and
the bystanders were surprised. Few shots were made that were not close
to, or into, the paper. When they had shot some time in this way, some
lay on their backs, some on their breasts or sides, others ran twenty or
thirty steps, and, firing as they ran, appeared to be equally certain
of the mark. With this performance the company were more than satisfied,
when a young man took up the board in his hand, and not by the end, but
by the side, and, holding it up, his brother walked to the distance, and
coolly shot into the white. Laying down his rifle he took the board, and
holding it as it was held before, the second brother shot as the former
had done.

"By this exhibition I was more astonished than pleased, but will you
believe me when I tell you that one of the men took the board, and
placing it between his legs, stood with his back to a tree, while
another drove the centre?

"What would a regular army of considerable strength in the forests of
America do with one thousand of these men, who want nothing to preserve
their health but water from the spring; with a little parched corn (with
what they can easily procure by hunting); and who, wrapped in their
blankets in the dead of night, would choose the shade of a tree for
their covering, and the earth for their bed?"

The descriptions we have quoted apply to the rifle companies of 1775,
but they are a good general description of the abilities of the riflemen
raised in the succeeding years of the war, many indeed being the same
men who first volunteered in 1775. In the possession of one of his
descendants is a letter from one of these men written many years after
the Revolution to the son of an old comrade in arms, giving an account
of that comrade's experiences during a part of the war. The letter was
written by Major Henry Bedinger of Berkeley County, Virginia, to a son
of General Samuel Finley.

Henry Bedinger was descended from an old German family. His grandfather
had emigrated to America from Alsace in 1737 to escape persecution for
his religious beliefs. The highest rank that Bedinger attained in the
War of the Revolution was that of captain. He was a Knight of the Order
of the Cincinnati, and he was, after the war, a major of the militia of
Berkeley County. The document in possession of one of his descendants
is undated, and appears to have been a rough copy or draught of the
original, which may now be in the keeping of some one of the descendants
of General Finley. We will give it almost entire. Such family letters
are, we need scarcely say, of great value to all who are interested in
historical research, supplying, as they do, the necessary details which
fill out and amplify the bare facts of history, giving us a living
picture of the times and events that they describe.


"Some time in 1774 the late Gen'l Sam'l Finley Came to Martinsburg,
Berkeley County, Virginia, and engaged with the late Col'o John Morrow
to assist his brother, Charles Morrow, in the business of a retail

"Mr. Finley continued in that employment until the spring of 1775, when
Congress called on the State of Virginia for two Complete Independent
Volunteer Companies of Riflemen of l00 Men each, to assist Gen'l
Washington in the Siege of Boston & to serve one year. Captains Hugh
Stephenson of Berkeley, & Daniel Morgan of Frederick were selected to
raise and command those companies, they being the first Regular troops
required to be raised in the State of Virginia for Continental service.

"Captain Hugh Stephenson's rendezvous was Shepherd's Town (not
Martinsburg) and Captain Morgan's was Winchester. Great exertions were
made by each Captain to complete his company first, that merit might
be claimed on that account. Volunteers presented themselves in every
direction in the Vicinity of these Towns, none were received but young
men of Character, and of sufficient property to Clothe themselves
completely, find their own arms, and accoutrements, that is, an approved
Rifle, handsome shot pouch, and powder horn, blanket, knapsack, with
such decent clothing as should be prescribed, but which was at first
ordered to be only a Hunting shirt and pantaloons, fringed on every edge
and in Various ways.

"Our Company was raised in less than a week. Morgan had equal
success.--It was never decided which Company was first filled--

"These Companies being thus unexpectedly called for it was a difficult
task to obtain rifles of the quality required & we were detained at
Shepherds Town nearly six weeks before we could obtain such. Your Father
and some of his Bosom Companions were among the first enrolled. My
Brother, G. M. B., and myself, with many of our Companions, soon joined
to the amount of 100--no more could be received. The Committee of Safety
had appointed Wm Henshaw as 1st Lieut., George Scott 2nd, and Thomas
Hite as 3rd Lieut to this Company, this latter however, declined
accepting, and Abraham Shepherd succeeded as 3d Lieut--all the rest
Stood on an equal footing as _Volunteers_--We remained at Shepherds
Town untill the 16th July before we could be Completely armed,
notwithstanding the utmost exertions. In the mean time your Father
obtained from the gunsmith a remarkable neat light rifle, the stock
inlaid and ornamented with silver, which he held, untill Compelled, as
were all of us--to ground our arms and surrender to the enemy on the
evening of the 16th day of November 1776.

"In our Company were many young men of Considerable fortune, & who
generally entered from patriotic motives ... Our time of service being
about to expire Captain Hugh Stephenson was commissioned a Colonel;
Moses Rawlings a Lieutenant Colonel, and Otho Williams Major, to raise a
Rifle Regiment for three years: four companies to be raised in Virginia
and four in Maryland.

"Henshaw and Scott chose to return home. Abraham Shepherd was
commissioned Captain, Sam'l Finley First Lieutenant, William Kelly
Second Lieutenant, and myself 3rd Lieutenant. The Commissions of the
Field Officers were dated the 8th July, 1776, & those of our Company the
9th of the same month. Shepherd, Finley and myself were dispatched to
Berkeley to recruit and refill the old Company, which we performed
in about five weeks. Col'o Stephenson also returned to Virginia to
facilitate the raising the additional Companies. While actively employed
in August, 1776, he was taken sick, and in four days died. The command
of the Regiment devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Moses Rawlings, a Very
worthy and brave officer.

"Our Company being filled we Marched early in September to our
Rendezvous at Bergen. So soon as the Regiment was formed it was ordered
up the North River to the English Neighborhood, & in a short time
ordered to cross the River and assist in the defence of Fort Washington,
where were about three thousand men under the command of Col'o Magaw, on
New York Island. The enemy in the mean time possessed New York, and
had followed General Washington to the White Plains, from whence, after
several partial actions, he returned, and approached us by the way of
King's bridge, with a force of from 8 to 12000 Men. Several frigates ran
up the Hudson from New York to cut off our intercourse with Fort Lee, a
fort on the opposite bank of the North River: and by regular approaches
invested us on all sides.

"On the 15th November, 1776, the British General Pattison appeared with
a flag near our Guards, demanding a surrender of Fort Washington and the
Garrison. Col'o Magaw replied he should defend it to the last extremity.
Pattison declared all was ready to storm the lines and fort, we of
course prepared for the Pending contest.

"At break of day the next morning, the enemy commenced a tremendous
Cannonade on every side, while their troops advanced. Our Regt. tho
weak, was most advantageously posted by Rawlings and Williams, on a
Small Ridge, about half a mile above Fort Washington. The Ridge ran from
the North River, in which lay three frigates, towards the East River. A
deep Valley divided us from the enemy, their frigates enfiladed, & their
Cannon on the heights behind the advancing troops played incessantly on
our party (consisting of Rawling's Regiment, say 250 men, and one other
company from Maryland, and four companies of Pennsylvania Flying Camp,
also for the present commanded by Rawlings and Williams).

"The Artillery were endeavoring to clear the hill while their troops
crossing the Valley were ascending it, but without much effect. A few of
our men were killed with Cannon and Grape Shott. Not a Shott was fired
on our side untill the Enemy had nearly gained the Sumit. Though at
least five times our numbers our rifles brought down so many that they
gave way several times, but by their overwhelming numbers they at last
succeeded in possessing the summit. Here, however, was great carnage,
each making every effort to possess and hold so advantageous a position.
This obstinacy continued for more than an hour, when the enemy brought
up some field pieces, as well as reinforcements. Finding all resistance
useless, our Regiment gradually gave way, tho' not before Col'o
Rawlings, Major Williams, Peter Hanson, Nin Tannehill, and myself
were wounded. Lt. Harrison [Footnote: Lieutenant Battaille Harrison
of Berkeley County, Va.] was the only officer of our Regiment Killed.
Hanson and Tannehill were mortally wounded. The latter died the same
night in the Fort, & Hanson died in New York a short time after. Capt.
A. Shepherd, Lieut. Daniel Cresap and myself, with fifty men, were
detailed the day before the action and placed in the van to receive the
enemy as they came up the hill.

"The Regiment was paraded in line about fifty yards in our rear, ready
to support us. Your Father of course on that day, and in the whole
of the action commanded Shepherd's Company, which performed its
duty admirably. About two o'clock P. M. the Enemy obtained complete
possession of the hill, and former battle-ground. Our troops retreated
gradually from redoubt to redoubt, contesting every inch of ground,
still making dreadful Havoc in the ranks of the enemy. We laboured too
under disadvantages, the wind blew the smoke full in our faces. About
two o'clock A. Shepherd, being the senior Captain, took command of the
Regiment, [Footnote: After Rawlings and Williams were disabled.] and by
the advice of Col'o Rawlings & Major Williams, gradually retreated from
redoubt to redoubt, to & into the fort with the surviving part of the
Regiment. Col'o Rawlings, Major Williams, and Lt Hanson and myself
quitted the field together, and retreated to the fort. I was slightly
wounded, tho my right hand was rendered entirely useless. Your Father
continued with the regiment until all had arrived in the fort. It was
admitted by all the surviving officers that he had conducted himself
with great gallantry and the utmost propriety.

"While we were thus engaged the enemy succeeded much better in every
other quarter, & with little comparative loss. All were driven into the
fort and the enemy began by sundown to break ground within 100 yards of
the fort.

"Finding our situation desperate Col'o Magaw dispatched a flag to
Gen. Howe who Commanded in person, proposing to surrender on certain
conditions, which not being agreed to, other terms were proposed and
accepted. The garrison, consisting of 2673 privates, & 210 officers,
marched out, grounded arms, and were guarded to the White House that
same night, but instead of being treated as agreed on, and allowed to
retain baggage, clothes, and Side Arms, every valuable article was torn
away from both officers and soldiers: every sword, pistol, every good
hat was seized, even in presence of Brittish officers, & the prisoners
were considered and treated as _Rebels_, to the king and country. On
the third day after our surrender we were guarded to New York, fourteen
miles from Fort Washington, where in the evening we received some
barrels of raw pork and musty spoiled biscuit, being the first Morsel of
provision we had seen for more than three days. The officers were then
separated from the soldiers, had articles of parole presented to
us which we signed, placed into deserted houses without Clothing,
provisions, or fire. No officer was permitted to have a servant, but we
acted in rotation, carried our Cole and Provisions about half a mile on
our backs, Cooked as well as we could, and tried to keep from Starving.

"Our poor Soldiers fared most wretchedly different. They were crowded
into sugar houses and Jails without blankets or covering; had Very
little given to them to eat, and that little of the Very worst quality.
So that in two months and four days about 1900 of the Fort Washington
troops had died. The survivors were sent out and receipted for by
General Washington, and we the officers were sent to Long Island on
parole, and billetted, two in a house, on the families residing in the
little townships of Flatbush, New Utrecht, Newlots, and Gravesend, who
were compelled to board and lodge us at the rate of two dollars per
week, a small compensation indeed in the exhausted state of that section
of country. The people were kind, being mostly conquered Whigs, but
sometimes hard run to provide sustenance for their own families, with
the addition, generally, of two men who must have a share of what
could be obtained. These people could not have furnished us but for the
advantage of the fisheries, and access at all times to the water. Fish,
oysters, clams, Eels, and wild fowl could always be obtained in their

"We were thus fixed on the inhabitants, but without money, or clothing.
Sometimes a companion would receive a few hard dollars from a friend
through a flag of truce, which was often shared by others to purchase a
pair of shoes or a shirt.

"While in New York Major Williams received from a friend about forty
silver dollars. He was still down with his wound, but requested Captain
Shepherd, your Father and myself to come to his room, and there lent
each of us ten Dollars, which enabled each of us to purchase a pair
shoes, a shirt, and some other small matters: this liberality however,
gave some offence. Major Williams was a Marylander, and to assist
a Virginian, in preference to a Marylander, was a Crime almost
unpardonable. It however passed off, as it so happened there were some
refugees in New York from Maryland who had generosity enough to relieve
the pressing wants of a few of their former acquaintances.

"We thus lived in want and perfect idleness for years: tho sometimes
if Books could be obtained we made out to read: if paper, pen, and ink
could be had we wrote. Also to prevent becoming too feeble we exercised
our bodies by playing fives, throwing long bullets, wrestling, running,
jumping, and other athletick exercises, in all of which your Father
fully participated. Being all nearly on the same footing as to Clothing
and pocket money (that is we seldom had any of the latter) we lived on
an equality.

"In the fall of 1777 the Brittish Commander was informed a plan was
forming by a party of Americans to pass over to Long Island and sweep
us off, release us from captivity. There were then on the Island about
three hundred American officers prisoners. We were of course ordered off
immediately, and placed on board of two large transports in the North
River, as prison ships, where we remained but about 18 days, but it
being Very Cold, and we Confined between decks, the Steam and breath of
150 men soon gave us Coughs, then fevers, and had we not been removed
back to our billets I believe One half would have died in six weeks.
This is all the imprisonment your----"

The rest of this valuable letter has been, most unfortunately lost, or
possibly it was never completed.

We have given a great deal of it because of its graphic description of
the men who were captured at Fort Washington, and of the battle itself.
Major Bedinger was a dignified, well-to-do, country gentleman; honored
and respected by all who knew him, and of unimpeachable veracity.



As we have seen, the officers fared well in comparison with the wretched
privates. Paroled and allowed the freedom of the city, they had far
better opportunities to obtain the necessities of life. "Our poor
soldiers fared most wretchedly different," says Major Bedinger.

Before we begin, however, to speak of the treatment they received, we
must make some attempt to tell the reader who they were. We wish it were
possible to give the name of every private who died, or rather who was
murdered, in the prisons of New York at this time. But that, we fear, is
now an impossibility. As this account is designed as a memorial to those
martyred privates, we have made many efforts to obtain their names.
But if the muster rolls of the different companies who formed the Rifle
Regiment, the Pennsylvania Flying Camp, and the other troops captured by
the British in the summer and fall of 1776 are in existence, we have not
been able to find them.

The records of the Revolution kept in the War Department in England
have been searched in vain by American historians. It is said that the
Provost Marshal, William Cunningham, destroyed his books, in order to
leave no written record of his crimes. The names of 8,000 prisoners,
mostly seamen, who were confined on the prison ship Jersey, alone,
have been obtained by the Society of Old Brooklynites, from the British
Archives, and, by the kind permission of this Society, we re-publish
them in the Appendix to this volume.

Here and there, also, we have obtained a name of one of the brave young
riflemen who died in torment a hundred times worse, because so much less
swift, than that endured on a memorable occasion in India, when British
soldiers were placed, during a single night, into one of their own
"Black Holes." But the names of almost all of these our tortured
countrymen are forgotten as completely as their places of interment are

In the hands of the writer, however, at this time [Footnote: This
muster roll was lent to the writer by Henry Bedinger Davenport, Esq, a
descendant of Major Bedinger] is the pay-roll of one of these companies
of riflemen,--that of Captain Abraham Shepherd of Shepherdstown,
Virginia. It is in the handwriting of Henry Bedinger, one of the
lieutenants of the company.

We propose to take this list, or pay roll, as a sample, and to follow,
as well as we can, at this late day, the misfortunes of the men named
therein. For this purpose we will first give the list of names, and
afterwards attempt to indicate how many of the men died in confinement,
and how many lived to be exchanged.


The paper in question, falling to pieces with age, and almost illegible
in places, is headed, "An ABSTRACT of the Pay due the Officers and
Privates of the Company of Riflemen belonging to Captain Abraham
Shepherd, being part of a Battalion raised by Colonel Hugh Stevenson,
deceased, and afterwards commanded by Lieut Colonel Moses Rawlings, in
the Continental Service from July 1st, 1776, to October 1st, 1778." The
paper gives the dates of enlistment; those who were killed; those who
died; those who deserted; those who were discharged; drafted; made
prisoners; "dates until when pay is charged;" "pay per month;" "amount
in Dollars," and "amount in lawful Money, Pounds, Shillings and pence."
From this account much information can be gleaned concerning the members
of the company, but we will, for the present, content ourselves with
giving the muster roll of the company.

JULY, 1776

Captain Abraham Shepherd. First Lieutenant, Samuel Finley. Second
Lieutenant, William Kelly. Third Lieutenant, Henry Bedinger. First
Sergeant, John Crawford. Second Sergeant, John Kerney. Third Sergeant,
Robert Howard. Fourth Sergeant, Dennis Bush. First Corporal, John
Seaburn. Second Corporal, Evert Hoglant. Third Corporal, Thomas Knox.
Fourth Corporal, Jonathan Gibbons. Drummer, Stephen Vardine. Fifer,
Thomas Cook. Armourer, James Roberts.

Privates, William Anderson, Jacob Wine, Richard Neal, Peter Hill,
William Waller, Adam Sheetz, James Hamilton, George Taylor, Adam
Rider, Patrick Vaughan, Peter Hanes, John Malcher, Peter Snyder, Daniel
Bedinger, John Barger, William Hickman, Thomas Pollock, Bryan Timmons,
Thomas Mitchell, Conrad Rush, David Harman, James Aitken, William
Wilson, John Wilson, Moses McComesky, Thomas Beatty, John Gray,
Valentine Fritz, Zechariah Bull, William Moredock, Charles Collins,
Samuel Davis, Conrad Cabbage, John Cummins, Gabriel Stevens, Michael
Wolf, John Lewis, William Donnelly, David Gilmore, John Cassody, Samuel
Blount, Peter Good, George Helm, William Bogle (or Boyle), John Nixon,
Anthony Blackhead, Christian Peninger, Charles Jones, William Case,
Casper Myre, George Brown, Benjamin McKnight, Anthony Larkin, William
Seaman, Charles Snowden, John Boulden, John Blake, Nicholas Russell,
Benjamin Hughes, James Brown, James Fox, William Hicks, Patrick Connell,
John Holmes, John McSwaine, James Griffith, Patrick Murphy, James

Besides the names of this company we can give a few privates of the
Pennsylvania Flying Camp who are mentioned by Saffel. He adds that, as
far as is known, all of these perished in prison, after inscribing their
names high up upon the walls.


"Charles Fleming, John Wright, James McKinney, Ebenezer Stille, Jacob
Leinhart, Abraham Van Gordon, Peter D'Aubert, William Carbury, John
McDowell, Wm. McKague, Henry Parker, James Burns, Henry Yepler, Baltus
Weigh, Charles Beason, Leonard Huber, John McCarroll, Jacob Guiger, John
May, Daniel Adams, George McCormick, Jacob Kettle, Jacob Miller, George
Mason, James Kearney, David Sutor, Adam Bridel, Christian Mull, Daniel
McKnight, Cornelius Westbrook, Luke Murphy, Joseph Conklin, Adam Dennis,
Edward Ogden, Wm. Scoonover, James Rosencrants."

The names of the officers who were prisoners in New York after the
battle of Long Island and the surrender of Fort Washington, can easily
be obtained. But it is not with these, at present, that we have to
do. We have already seen how much better was their treatment than that
accorded to the hapless privates. It is chiefly to commemmorate the
sufferings of the private soldier and seaman in the British prisons that
this account has been written.



We will now endeavor to describe the principal places of confinement
used by the British in New York during the early years of the war.
Lossing, in his Field Book of the Revolution, thus speaks of these dens
of misery: "At the fight around Fort Washington," he says, "only one
hundred Americans were killed, while the British loss was one thousand,
chiefly Hessians, But the British took a most cruel revenge. Out of over
2600 prisoners taken on that day, in two months & four days 1900 were
killed in the infamous sugar houses and other prisons in the city.

"Association of intense horror are linked with the records of the
prisons and prison ships of New York. Thousands of captives perished
miserably of hunger, cold, infection, and in some cases, actual poison.

"All the prisoners taken in the battle near Brooklyn in August, 1776 and
at Fort Washington in November of the same year, were confined in New
York, nearly 4000 in all. The New Jail and the New Bridewell were the
only prisons. The former is the present Hall of Records. Three sugar
houses, some dissenting churches, Columbia College, and the Hospital
were all used as prisons. The great fire in September; the scarcity of
provisions; and the cruel conduct of the Provost Marshal all combined
to produce intense sufferings among the men, most of whom entered
into captivity, strong, healthy, young, able-bodied, the flower of the
American youth of the day.

"Van Cortlandt's Sugar House was a famous (or infamous) prison. It stood
on the northwest corner of Trinity church-yard.

"Rhinelander's Sugar House was on the corner of William and Duane
Streets. Perhaps the worst of all the New York prisons was the third
Sugar House, which occupied the space on Liberty Street where two
buildings, numbers 34 and 36, now stand.

"The North Dutch Church on William Street contained 800 prisoners, and
there were perhaps as many in the Middle Dutch Church. The Friends'
Meeting House on Liberty and several other buildings erected for the
worship of a God of love were used as prisons.

"The New Jail was made a Provost Prison, and here officers and men of
note were confined. At one time they were so crowded into this building,
that when they lay down upon the floor to sleep all in the row were
obliged to turn over at the same time at the call, 'Turn over! Left!

"The sufferings of these brave men were largely due to the criminal
indifference of Loring, Sproat, Lennox, and other Commissaries of the

"Many of the captives were hanged in the gloom of night without trial
and without a semblance of justice.

"Liberty Street Sugar House was a tall, narrow building five stories in
height, and with dismal underground dungeons. In this gloomy abode jail
fever was ever present. In the hot weather of July, 1777, companies of
twenty at a time would be sent out for half an hour's outing, in the
court yard. Inside groups of six stood for ten minutes at a time at the
windows for a breath of air.

"There were no seats; the filthy straw bedding was never changed. Every
day at least a dozen corpses were dragged out and pitched like dead
dogs into the ditches and morasses beyond the city. Escapes, deaths, and
exchange at last thinned the ranks. Hundreds left names and records on
the walls."

"In 1778 the hulks of decaying ships were moored in the Wallabout. These
prison ships were intended for sailors and seaman taken on the ocean,
mostly the crews of privateersmen, but some soldiers were also sent to
languish in their holds.

"The first vessels used were transports in which cattle and other stores
had been brought over by the British in 1776. These lay in Gravesend Bay
and there many of the prisoners taken in battle near Brooklyn in August,
1776, were confined, until the British took possession of New York, when
they were moved to that city. In 1778 the hulks of ships were moored in
the Wallabout, a sheltered bay on the Long Island shore, where the Navy
Yard now is."

The sufferings of the prisoners can be better understood by giving
individual instances, and wherever this is possible it shall be done. We
will commence by an abstract of


This man with seven others was captured on Long Island on the 27th of
August, 1776, before they could take to their boats. He was at first
confined in a prison ship, but a Masonic brother named John Archer
procured him the liberty of the city on parole. His rank, we believe,
was that of a lieutenant. He was a prisoner two years, then was allowed
to go home to die. He exhibited every symptom of poison as well as

When he was dying he said to his son, Jonathan Gillett, Junior, "Should
you enlist and be taken prisoner as I was, inquire for Mr. John Archer,
a man with whom I boarded. He will assist you."

In course of time his son enlisted, was taken prisoner, and confined
in the Old Sugar House on Liberty Street. Here he was nearly starved to
death. The prisoners ate mice, rats, and insects. He one day found
in the prison yard the dry parings of a turnip which seemed to him
a delicious banquet. It is recorded that Jonathan Gillett, Jr., was
finally freed from captivity through the efforts of the same gentleman,
Mr. John Archer, who had aided his father.

In 1852 Jacob Barker offered to present survivors who had been confined
in the Old Sugar House with canes made from the lumber used in its
construction. Four of these survivors were found. Their names were
William Clark, Samuel Moulton, Levi Hanford, and Jonathan Gillett, Jr.
The latter's father during his confinement wrote a letter to his friends
which has been preserved, and is as follows:

My Friends,

No doubt my misfortunes have reached your ears. Sad as it is, it is
true as sad. I was made prisoner the 27th day of August past by a people
called heshens, and by a party called Yagers the most Inhuman of all
Mortals. I can't give Room to picture them here but thus much--I at
first Resolved not to be taken, but by the Impertunity of the Seven
taken with me, and being surrounded on all sides I unhapily surendered;
would to God I never had--then I should never (have) known there
unmerciful cruelties; they first disarmed me, then plundered me of all I
had, watch, Buckles, money, and sum Clothing, after which they abused
me by bruising my flesh with the butts of there (guns). They knocked me
down; I got up and they (kept on) beating me almost all the way to
there (camp) where I got shot of them--the next thing was I was allmost
starved to death by them. I was keept here 8 days and then sent on board
a ship, where I continued 39 days and by (them was treated) much worse
than when on shore--after I was set on (shore) at New York (I was)
confined (under) a strong guard till the 20th day of November, after
which I have had my liberty to walk part over the City between sun and
sun, notwithstanding there generous allowance of food I must inevitably
have perished with hunger had not sum friends in this (city) Relieved my
extreme necessity, but I cant expect they can always do it--what I
shall do next I know not, being naked for clothes and void of money, and
winter present, and provisions very skerce; fresh meat one shilling per
pound, Butter three shillings per pound, Cheese two shillings, Turnips
and potatoes at a shilling a half peck, milk 15 Coppers per quart, bread
equally as dear; and the General says he cant find us fuel thro' the
winter, tho' at present we receive sum cole. [Footnote: I have made no
changes in this letter except to fill up some blanks and to add a few
marks of punctuation.]

"I was after put on board siezed violently with the disentarry--it
followed me hard upwards of six weeks--after that a slow fever, but now
am vastly better * * * my sincere love to you and my children. May God
keep and preserve you at all times from sin, sickness, and death * * *
I will Endeavor to faintly lead you into the poor cituation the soldiers
are in, espechally those taken at Long Island where I was; in fact these
cases are deplorable and they are Real objects of pitty--they are still
confined and in houses where there is no fire--poor mortals, with little
or no clothes--perishing with hunger, offering eight dollars in paper
for one in silver to Relieve there distressing hunger; occasioned for
want of food--there natures are broke and gone, some almost loose there
voices and some there hearing--they are crouded into churches & there
guarded night and day. I cant paint the horable appearance they make--it
is shocking to human nature to behold them. Could I draw the curtain
from before you; there expose to your view a lean Jawd mortal, hunger
laid his skinny hand (upon him) and whet to keenest Edge his stomach
cravings, sorounded with tattred garments, Rotten Rags, close beset
with unwelcome vermin. Could I do this, I say, possable I might in some
(small) manner fix your idea with what appearance sum hundreds of these
poor creatures make in houses where once people attempted to Implore
God's Blessings, &c, but I must say no more of there calamities. God be
merciful to them--I cant afford them no Relief. If I had money I soon
would do it, but I have none for myself.--I wrote to you by Mr. Wells to
see if some one would help me to hard money under my present necessity
I write no more, if I had the General would not allow it to go out, & if
ever you write to me write very short or else I will never see it--what
the heshens robbed me of that day amounted to the value of seventy two
dollars at least. * * * I will give you as near an exact account of how
many prisoners the enemy have taken as I can. They took on Long Island
of the Huntingon Regiment 64, and of officers 40, of other Regiments
about 60. On Moulogin Island 14, Stratton Island (Staten) 7, at Fort
Washington 2200 officers and men. On the Jersey side about 28 officers
and men. In all 3135 and how many killed I do not know. Many died of
there wounds. Of those that went out with me of sickness occasioned by
hunger eight and more lie at the point of death.

"Roger Filer hath lost one of his legs and part of a Thigh, it was his
left. John Moody died here a prisoner.

"So now to conclude my little Ragged History * * * I as you know did
ever impress on your mind to look to God, for so still I continue to do
the same--think less of me but more of your Creator, * * * So in this
I wish you well and bid you farewell and subscribe myself your nearest
friend and well wisher for Ever

John'a Gillett

New York, Dec. 2nd, 1776. To Eliza Gillett at West Harford

The figures given in this pathetic letter may be inaccurate, but the
description of the sufferings of the prisoners is unexaggerated. Of all
the places of torment provided for these poor men the churches seem
to have been the worst, and they were probably the scenes of the most
brutal cruelty that was inflicted upon these unfortunate beings by the
wicked and heartless men, in whose power they found themselves. Whether
it was because the knowledge that they were thus desecrating buildings
dedicated to the worship of God and instruction in the Christian duties
of mercy and charity, had a peculiarly hardening effect upon the jailers
and guards employed by the British, or whether it was merely because
of their unfitness for human habitation, the men confined in these
buildings perished fast and miserably. We cannot assert that no
prisoners shut up in the churches in New York lived to tell the awful
tale of their sufferings, but we do assert that in all our researches
we have never yet happened upon any record of a single instance of a
survivor living to reach his home. All the information we have gained
on this subject we shall lay before the reader, and then he may form his
own opinion of the justice of these remarks.



We will condense all that we have to say of this man, whose cruelty and
wickedness are almost inconceivable, into one chapter, and have done
with the dreadful subject. As far as we have been able to learn, the
facts about his life are the following.

William Cunningham was an Irishman, born in Dublin Barracks in 1738.
His father was a trumpeter in the Blue Dragoons. When he was sixteen he
became an assistant to the riding-master of the troop. In 1761 he
was made a sergeant of dragoons, but peace having been proclaimed the
following year, the company to which he belonged was disbanded. He
afterwards commenced the business of a scaw-banker, which means that
he went about the country enticing mechanics and rustics to ship to
America, on promise of having their fortunes made in that country; and
then by artful practices, produced their indentures as servants, in
consequence of which on their arrival in America they were sold, or at
least obliged to serve a term of years to pay for their passage. This
business, no doubt, proved a fit apprenticeship for the career of
villainy before him.

About the year 1774 he appears to have embarked from Newry in the ship
Needham for New York, with some indentured servants he had kidnapped in
Ireland. He is said to have treated these poor creatures so cruelly on
the passage that they were set free by the authorities in New York upon
their arrival.

When Cunningham first appeared in New York he offered himself as a
horse-breaker, and insinuated himself into the favor of the British
officers by blatant toryism. He soon became obnoxious to the Whigs of
that city, was mobbed, and fled to the Asia man-of-war for protection.
From thence he went to Boston, where General Gage appointed him Provost
Marshal. When the British took possession of New York he followed them
to that city, burning with desire to be revenged upon the Whigs.

He is said to have compassed the death of thousands of prisoners by
selling their provisions, exchanging good for spoiled food, and even by
poisoning them. Many also fell victims to his murderous violence. About
two hundred and fifty of these poor creatures were taken out of their
places of confinement at midnight and hung, without trial, simply to
gratify his bloodthirsty instincts. Private execution was conducted in
the following manner. A guard was first dispatched from the Provost,
about midnight, to the upper barracks, to order the people on the
line of march to shut their window shutters and put out their lights,
forbidding them at the same time to presume to look out of their windows
on pain of death. After this the prisoners were gagged, and conducted
to the gallows just behind the upper barracks and hung without ceremony
there. Afterwards they were buried by his assistant, who was a mulatto.

This practice is said to have been stopped by the women along the line
of march from the Provost to the barracks. They appealed to General
Howe to prevent further executions, as the noise made by the sufferers
praying for mercy, and appealing to Heaven for justice was dreadful to
their ears.

It would seem from this account that, although the wretched men were
gagged as they were conveyed along the streets, their ferocious murderer
could not deny himself the pleasure of hearing their shrieks of agony at
the gallows.

Watson, in his "Annals of New York," says that Cunningham glutted his
vengence by hanging five or six of his prisoners every night, until the
women who lived in the neighborhood petitioned Howe to have the practice

A pamphlet called "The Old Martyrs' Prison," says of Cunningham: "His
hatred of the Americans found vent in torture by searing irons and
secret scourges to those who fell under the ban of his displeasure.
The prisoners were crowded together so closely that many fell ill from
partial asphyxiation, and starved to death for want of the food which he
sold to enrich himself."

They were given muddy and impure water to drink, and that not in
sufficient quantities to sustain life. Their allowance was, nominally,
two pounds of hard tack and two of pork _per week_, and this was often
uncooked, while either the pork, or the biscuit, or both, were usually
spoiled and most unwholesome.

Cunningham's quarters were in the Provost Prison, and on the right hand
of the main door of entry. On the left of the hall was the guard room.
Within the first barricade was the apartment of his assistant, Sergeant
O'Keefe. Two sentinels guarded the entrance day and night; two more were
stationed at the first and second barricades, which were grated, barred,
and chained.

"When a prisoner was led into the hall the whole guard was paraded,
and he was delivered over to Captain Cunningham or his deputy, and
questioned as to his name, age, size, rank, etc., all of which was
entered in a record book. These records appear to have been discreetly
destroyed by the British authorities.

"At the bristling of arms, unbolting of locks and bars, clanking of
enormous iron chains in a vestibule dark as Erebus, the unfortunate
captive might well sink under this infernal sight and parade of
tyrannical power, as he crossed the threshold of that door which
probably closed on him for life.

"The north east chamber, turning to the left on the second floor, was
appropriated to officers of superior rank, and was called Congress Hall.
* * * In the day time the packs and blankets used by the prisoners to
cover them were suspended around the walls, and every precaution was
taken to keep the rooms clean and well ventilated.

"In this gloomy abode were incarcerated at different periods many
American officers and citizens of distinction, awaiting with sickening
hope the protracted period of their liberation. Could these dumb walls
speak what scenes of anguish might they not disclose!

"Cunningham and his deputy were enabled to fare sumptuously by dint
of curtailing the prisoners' rations, selling good for bad provisions,
etc., in order to provide for the drunken orgies that usually terminated
his dinners. Cunningham would order the rebel prisoners to turn out
and parade for the amusement of his guests, pointing them out with such
characterizations as 'This is the d----d rebel, Ethan Allen. This is a
rebel judge, etc.'"

Cunningham destroyed Nathan Hale's last letters containing messages to
his loved ones, in order, as he said, that "the rebels should not know
that they had a man in their army who could die with such firmness."

From Elias Boudinot's "Journal of Events" during the Revolution we
extract the following account of his interview with Cunningham in
New York. "In the spring of 1777 General Washington wrote me a letter
requesting me to accept of a Commission as Commissary General of
Prisoners in the Army of America. I waited on him and politely declined
the task, urging the wants of the Prisoners and having nothing to supply

Washington, however, urged him not to refuse, saying that if no one in
whom he could trust would accept the office, the lot of the prisoners
would be doubly hard. At last Boudinot consented to fill the position as
best he could, and Washington declared that he should be supplied with
funds by the Secret Committee of Congress. "I own," he says, "that after
I had entered on my department, the applications of the Prisoners were
so numerous, and their distress so urgent, that I exerted every nerve
to obtain supplies, but in vain--Excepting £600 I had received from the
Secret Committee in Bills of exchange, at my first entrance into
the Office--I could not by any means get a farthing more, except in
Continental Money, which was of no avail in New York. I applied to the
General describing my delicate Situation and the continual application
of the Officers, painting their extreme distress and urging the
assurance they had received that on my appointment I was to be furnished
with adequate means for their full relief. The General appeared greatly
distressed and assured me that it was out of his power to afford me any
supplies. I proposed draining Clothing from the public stores, but to
this he objected as not having anything like a sufficient supply for the
Army. He urged my considering and adopting the best means in my power to
satisfy the necessities of the Prisoners, and he would confirm them. I
told him I knew of no means in my Power but to take what Monies I had
of my own, and to borrow from my friends in New York, to accomplish the
desirable purpose. He greatly encouraged me to the attempt, promising me
that if I finally met with any loss, he would divide it with me. On this
I began to afford them some supplies of Provisions over and above what
the Enemy afforded them, which was very small and very indifferent.

"The complaints of the very cruel treatment our Prisoners met with in
the Enemy's lines rose to such a Heighth that in the Fall of this
Year, 1777 the General wrote to General Howe or Clinton reciting their
complaints and proposing to send an Officer into New York to examine
into the truth of them. This was agreed to, and a regular pass-port
returned accordingly. The General ordered me on this service. I
accordingly went over on the 3rd of Feb. 1778, in my own Sloop."

The Commandant at this time was General Robertson, by whom Boudinot was
very well treated, and allowed, in company with a British officer, to
visit the prisons. He continues: "Accordingly I went to the Provost
with the Officer, where we found near thirty Officers from Colonels
downwards, in close confinement in the Gaol in New York. After some
conversation with the late Ethan Allen, I told him my errand, on which
he was very free in his abuse of the British. *** We then proceeded
upstairs to the Room of their Confinement. I had the Officers drawn up
in a Ring and informed them of my mission, that I was determined to hear
nothing in secret. That I therefore hoped they would each of them in
their turn report to me faithfully and candidly the Treatment they
severally had received,--that my design was to obtain them the proper
redress, but if they kept back anything from an improper fear of their
keepers, they would have themselves only to blame for their want of
immediate redress. That for the purpose of their deliverance the British
officer attended. That the British General should be also well informed
of the Facts. On this, after some little hesitation from a dread of
their keeper, the Provost Martial, one of them began and informed us
that * * * some had been confined in the Dungeon for a night to await
the leisure of the General to examine them and forgot for months; for
being Committee men, &c, &c. That they had received the most cruel
Treatment from the Provost Martial, being locked up in the Dungeon on
the most trifling pretences, such as asking for more water to drink on
a hot day than usual--for sitting up a little longer in the Evening
than orders allowed--for writing a letter to the General making their
Complaints of ill-usage and throwing (it) out of the Windows. That some
of them were kept ten, twelve, and fourteen weeks in the Dungeon on
these trifling Pretenses. A Captain Vandyke had been confined eighteen
months for being concerned in setting fire to the City, When, on
my calling for the Provost Books, it appeared that he had been made
Prisoner and closely confined in the Provost four days before the fire
happened. A Major Paine had been confined eleven months for killing a
Captain Campbell in the Engagement when he was taken Prisoner, when on
examination it appeared that the Captain had been killed in another
part of the Action. The charge was that Major Paine when taken had no
commission, though acknowledged by us as a Major.

"Most of the cases examined into turned out wholly false or too trifling
to be regarded. It also appeared by the Declaration of some of the
Gentlemen that their water would be sometimes, as the Caprice of the
Provost Martial led him, brought up to them in the tubs they used in
their Rooms, and when the weather was so hot that they must drink or
perish. On hearing a number of these instances of Cruelty, I asked who
was the Author of them--they answered the provost keeper--I desired
the Officer to call him up that we might have him face to face. He
accordingly came in, and on being informed of what had passed, he was
asked if the complaints were true. He, with great Insolence answered
that every word was true--on which the British Officer, abusing him very
much, asked him how he dared to treat Gentlemen in that cruel Manner.
He, insolently putting his hands to his side, swore that he was as
absolute there as General Howe was at the head of his Army. I observed
to the Officer that now there could be no dispute about Facts, as the
fellow had acknowledged every word to be true. I stated all the Facts in
substance and waited again on General Robertson, who hoped I was quite
satisfied with the falsity of the reports I had heard. I then stated to
him the Facts and assured him that they turned out worse than anything
we had heard. On his hesitating as to the truth of this assertion--I
observed to him the propriety of having an Officer with me, to whom
I now appealed for the truth of the Facts. He being present confirmed
them--on which the General expressed great dissatisfaction, and promised
that the Author of them should be punished. I insisted that the Officers
should be discharged from his Power on Parole on Long Island, as other
Officers were--To this after receiving from me a copy of the Facts I had
taken down, he assented, & all were discharged except seven, who were
detained some time before I could obtain their release. I forgot to
mention that one Officer, Lieutenant--was taken Prisoner and brought in
with a wound through the leg. He was sent to the Provost to be examined,
next night he was put into the Dungeon and remained there ten weeks,
totally forgotten by the General, and never had his wound dressed
except as he washed it with a little Rum and Water given to him by the
Centinels, through the--hole out of their own rations. Captain--and a
Captain Chatham were confined with them and their allowance was four
pounds hard spoiled Biscuit, and two pounds Pork per week, which they
were obliged to eat raw. While they were thus confined for the
slightest Complaints, the Provost Martial would come down and beat them
unmercifully with a Rattan, and Knock them down with his fist. After
this I visited two Hospitals of our Sick Prisoners, and the Sugar
House:--in the two first were 211 Prisoners, and in the last about 190.
They acknowledged that for about two months past they fared pretty well,
being allowed two pounds of good Beef and a proportion of flour or Bread
per week, by Mr. Lewis, My Agent, over and above the allowance received
from the British, which was professed to be two thirds allowance;
but before they had suffered much from the small allowance they had
received, and and that their Bread was very bad, being mostly biscuit,
but that the British soldiers made the same complaint as to the bread.
From every account I received I found that their treatment had been
greatly changed for the better within a few months past, except at
the Provost. They all agreed that previous to the capture of General
Burgoyne, and for some time after, Their treatment had been cruel
beyond measure. That the Prisoners in the French church, amounting on an
average to three or four hundred, could not all lay down at once, that
from the 15th October to the first January they never received a single
stick of wood, and that for the most part they eat their Pork Raw, when
the Pews and Door, and Wood on Facings failed them for fuel.

"But as to my own personal knowledge I found General Robertson very
ready to agree to every measure for alleviating the miseries of War and
very candidly admitted many faults committed by the inferior Officers,
and even the mistakes of the General himself, by hearkening to the
representations of those around him. He showed me a letter from General
Howe who was in Philadelphia, giving orders that we should not be at
liberty to purchase blankets within their lines, and containing a copy
of an order I had issued that they should not purchase provisions within
ours, by way of retaliation, but he represented it as if my order was
first. I stated the facts to General Robertson, who assured me that
General Howe had been imposed upon, and requested me to state the facts
by way of letter, when he immediately wrote to General Howe, urging the
propriety of reversing his orders, which afterwards he did in a very
hypocritical manner as will appear hereafter."

It does not seem that Cunningham was very seriously punished. It is
probable that he was sent away from New York to Philadelphia, then in
the hands of General Howe. Cunningham was Provost Marshal in that city
during the British occupancy, where his cruelties were, if possible,
more astrocious than ever before.

Dr. Albigense Waldo was a surgeon in the American army at Valley Forge,
and he declares in his Journal concerning the prisoners in Philadelphia
that "the British did not knock the prisoners in the head, or burn them
with torches, or flay them alive, or dismember them as savages do, but
they starved them slowly in a large and prosperous city. One of these
unhappy men, driven to the last extreme of hunger, is said to have
gnawed his own fingers to the first joint from the hand, before he
expired. Others ate the mortar and stone which they chipped from the
prison walls, while some were found with bits of wood and clay in
their mouths, which in their death agonies they had sucked to find
nourishment." [Footnote: This account is quoted by Mr. Bolton in a
recent book called "The Private Soldier under Washington," a valuable
contribution to American history.]

Boudinot has something to say about these wretched sufferers in the
City of Brotherly Love during the months of January and February, 1778.
"Various Reports having reached us with regard to the Extreme
Sufferings of our Prisoners in Philadelphia, I was directed by the
Commander-in-Chief to make particular inquiry into the truth. After some
time I obtained full Information of their Sufferings. It was proved by
some Militia of good Character that on being taken they were put under
the care of the General's Guard, and kept four or five days without
the least food. That on the fifth day they were taken into the Provost,
where a small quantity of Raw Pork was given to them. One of their
number seized and devoured it with so much eagerness that he dropped
down dead:--that the Provost Martial used to sell their provisions and
leave them to starve, as he did their Allowance of Wood. I received
information from a British Officer who confided in my integrity, that he
happened in the Provost just at the time the Provost Martial was locking
up the Prisoners. He had ordered them from the Yard into the House. Some
of them being ill with the Dysentery could scarcely walk, and for not
coming faster he would beat them with his Rattan. One being delayed
longer than the rest. On his coming up Cunningham gave him a blow with
one of the large Keys of the Goal which killed him on the Spot. The
Officer, exceedingly affected with the sight, went next day and lodged
a formal Complaint of the Murder with General Howe's Aid. After waiting
some days, and not discovering any measures taken for the tryal of
Cunningham, he again went to head quarters and requested to see the
General, but was refused. He repeated his Complaint to his Aid, and told
him if this passed unpunished it would become disreputable to wear a
British uniform. No notice being taken the Officer determined to furnish
me privately with the means of proof of the Facts, so that General
Washington might remonstrate to General Howe on the subject:--I reported
them with the other testimony I had collected to General Washington.
He accordingly wrote in pretty strong Terms to General Howe and fixed
a day, when if he did not receive a satisfactory answer, he would
retaliate on the prisoners in his Custody. On the day he received an
answer from General Howe, acknowledging that, on Examination he found
that Cunningham had sold the Prisoners' rations publicly in the Market.
That he had therefor removed him from the Charge of the Prisoners
and appointed Mr. Henry H. Ferguson in his place. This gave us great
pleasure as we knew Mr. Ferguson to be a Gentleman of Character and
great Humanity, and the issue justified our expectations. But to our
great surprise Mr. Cunningham was only removed from the Charge of the
Prisons in Philadelphia, and sent to that of New York. Soon after this
great complaints being made of our Prisoners being likely to perish for
want of Cloathing and Blankets, having been mostly stripped and robbed
of their Cloaths when taken, application was made for permission to
purchase (with the provisions which the British wanted,) Blankets
and cloathing, which should be used only by the Prisoners while in
Confinement. This was agreed to, as we were informed by our own Agent
as well as by the British Commissioner. Provisions were accordingly
attempted to be sent in, when General Howe pretending to ignorance in
the business, forbid the provisions to be admitted, or the Blankets to
be purchased. On this I gave notice to the British Commissary that after
a certain day they must provide food for their prisoners south west of
New Jersey, and to be sent in from their lines, as they should no longer
be allowed to purchase provisions with us. The line drawn arose from our
being at liberty to purchase in New York. This made a great noise,
when General Howe on receiving General Robertson's letter from New York
before mentioned, urging the propriety of the measures, issued an order
that every Person in Philadelphia, who had a Blanket to sell or to spare
should bring them into the King's Stores. When this was done he then
gave my Agent permission to purchase Blankets and Cloathing, in the City
of Philadelphia. On my Agent attempting it he found every Blanket in the
City purchased by the Agents for the Army, so that not a Blanket could
be had. My Agent knowing the necessities of our Prisoners, immediately
employed persons in every part of the city and before General Howe could
discover his own omission, purchased up every piece of flannel he could
meet with, and made it up into a kind of Blanket, which answered our

Wherever General Howe and Cunningham were together, either in New York
or in Philadelphia, the most atrocious cruelties were inflicted upon
the American prisoners in their power, and yet some have endeavoured to
excuse General Howe, on what grounds it is difficult to determine. It
has been said that Cunningham _acted on higher authority than any in
America_, and that Howe in vain endeavored to mitigate the sufferings of
the prisoners. This, however, is not easy of belief. Howe must at least
have wilfully blinded himself to the wicked and murderous violence of
his subordinate. It was his duty to know how the prisoners at his mercy
fared, and not to employ murderers to destroy them by the thousands as
they were destroyed in the prisons of New York and Philadelphia.

Oliver Bunce, in His "Romance of the Revolution," thus speaks of the
inhumanity of Cunningham.

"But of all atrocities those committed in the prisons and prison ships
of New York are the most execrable, and indeed there is nothing in
history to excel the barbarities there inflicted. Twelve thousand
suffered death by their inhuman, cruel, savage, and barbarous usage on
board the filthy and malignant prison ships--adding those who died and
were poisoned in the infected prisons in the city a much larger number
would be necessary to include all those who suffered by command of
British Generals in New York. The scenes enacted in these prisons
almost exceed belief. * * * Cunningham, the like of whom, for unpitying,
relentless cruelty, the world has not produced, * * * thirsted for
blood, and took an eager delight in murder."

He remained in New York until November, 1783, when he embarked on board
a British man-of-war and America was no longer cursed with his presence.
He is said to have been hung for the crime of forgery on the tenth of
August, 1791. The newspapers of the day contained the accounts of his
death, and his dying confession. These accounts have, however, been
discredited by historians who have in vain sought the English records
for the date of his death. It is said that no man of the name of
Cunningham was hung in England in the year 1791. It is not possible
to find any official British record of his transactions while Provost
Marshal, and there seems a mystery about the disappearance of his books
kept while in charge of the Provost, quite as great as the mystery which
envelopes his death. But whether or no he confessed his many crimes;
whether or no he received in this world a portion of the punishment
he deserved, it is certain that the crimes were committed, and duly
recorded in the judgment book of God, before whose awful bar he has been
called to account for every one of them.



In presenting our gleanings from the books, papers, letters, pamphlets,
and other documents that have been written on the subject of our
prisoners during the Revolution, we will endeavor to follow some
chronological order, so that we may carry the story on month by month
and year by year until that last day of the British possession of New
York when Sergeant O'Keefe threw down upon the pavement of the Provost
the keys of that prison, and made his escape on board a British

One of the prisoners taken on Long Island in the summer of 1776 was
Captain Jabez Fitch, who was captured on the 27th of August, of that
year. While a prisoner he contracted a scorbutic affection which
rendered miserable thirty years of his life.

On the 29th of August he was taken to the transport Pacific. It was a
very rainy day. The officers, of whom there were about twenty-five,
were in one boat, and the men "being between three and four hundred
in several other Boats, and had their hands tied behind them. In this
Situation we were carried by several Ships, where there appeared great
numbers of Women on Deck, who were very liberal of their Curses and
Execrations: they were also not a little Noisy in their Insults, but
clap'd their hands and used other peculiar gestures in so Extraordinary
a Manner yet they were in some Danger of leaping overboard in this
surprising Extacy." On arriving at the Pacific, a very large transport
ship, they were told that all officers and men together were to be
shut down below deck. The master of the ship was a brute named Dunn. At
sundown all were driven down the hatches, with curses and execrations.
"Both ye lower Decks were very full of Durt," and the rains had leaked
in and made a dreadful sloppy mess of the floor, so that the mud was
half over their shoes. At the same time they were so crowded that only
half their number could lie down at a time.

"Some time in the Evening a number of the Infernal Savages came down
with a lanthorn and loaded two small pieces or Cannon with Grape shot,
which were pointed through two Ports in such a manner as to Rake ye deck
where our people lay, telling us at ye same time with many Curses yt in
Case of any Disturbance or the least noise in ye Night, they were to be
Imediately fired on ye Damned Rebels." When allowed to come on deck
"we were insulted by those Blackguard Villians in the most vulgar
manner....We were allowed no water that was fit for a Beast to Drink,
although they had plenty of good Water on board, which was used
plentifully by the Seamen, etc.

"Lieutenant Dowdswell, with a party of Marines sent on board for our
Guard; this Mr. Dowdswell treated us with considerable humanity, and
appeared to be a Gentleman, nor were the Marines in General so Insolent
as the Ships Crew....On the 31st the Commissary of Prisoners came on
Board and took down the names, etc, of the prisoners....he told us
Colonel Clark and many other Officers were confined at Flatbush. On
Sunday, September 1st, we were removed to the ship Lord Rochford,
commanded by one Lambert. This ship was much crowded. Most of
the Officers were lodged on the quarter deck. Some nights we were
considerably wet with rain."

The Lord Rochford lay off New Utrecht. On the third of September the
officers that had been confined at Flatbush were brought on board the
snow called the Mentor. "On the fifth," says Fitch, in his written
account, of which this is an abstract, "we were removed on board this
Snow, which was our prison for a long time. * * * We were about 90 in
number, and ye Field Officers had Liberty of ye Cabbin, etc. * * * This
Snow was commanded by one Davis, a very worthless, low-lived fellow. * *
* When we first met on board the Mentor we spent a considerable time in
Relating to each other ye particular Circumstances of our first being
Taken, and also ye various Treatment with which we met on yt occasion,
nor was this a disagreeable Entertainment in our Melancholy Situation.
* * * Many of the officers and men were almost Destitute of Clothes,
several having neither Britches, Stockings or Shoes, many of them when
first taken were stripped entirely naked. Corporal Raymond of the 17th
Regiment after being taken and Stripped was shamefully insulted and
Abused by Gen'l Dehightler, seized by ye Hair of his head, thrown on
the ground, etc. Some present, who had some small degree of humanity in
their Composition, were so good as to favor them (the prisoners) with
some old durty worn Garments, just sufficient to cover their nakedness,
and in this Situation (they) were made Objects of Ridicule for ye
Diversion of those Foreign Butchers.

"One Sam Talman (an Indian fellow belonging to the 17th Regiment) was
Stripped and set up as a mark for them to Shoot at for Diversion or
Practice, by which he Received two severe wounds, in the neck and arm
* * * afterwards they destroyed him with many hundreds others by
starvation in the prisons of New York.

"On October first orders came to land the prisoners in New York. This
was not done until the seventh. On Monday about four o'clock Mr. Loring
conducted us to a very large house on the West side of Broadway in the
corner south of Warren Street near Bridewell, where we were assigned a
small yard back of the house, and a Stoop in ye Front for our Walk. We
were also Indulged with Liberty to pass and Repass to an adjacent pump
in Ye Street."

Although paroled the officers were closely confined in this place for
six weeks. Their provisions, he says: "were insufficient to preserve ye
Connection between Soul and Body, yet ye Charitable People of this City
were so good as to afford us very considerable Relief on this account,
but it was ye poor and those who were in low circumstances only who were
thoughtful of our Necessities, and provisions were now grown scarce and
Excessive dear. * * * Their unparalleled generosity was undoubtedly ye
happy means of saving many Lives, notwithstanding such great numbers
perished with hunger.

"Here we found a number of Officers made prisoners since we were,
Colonel Selden, Colonel Moulton, etc. They were first confined in Ye
City Hall. Colonel Selden died the Fryday after we arrived. He was
Buried in the New Brick Churchyard, and most of the Officers were
allowed to attend his Funeral. Dr. Thatcher of the British army attended
him, a man of great humanity."

Captain Fitch declares that there were two thousand wounded British
and Hessians in the hospitals in New York after the battle of Fort
Washington, which is a much larger estimate than we have found in other
accounts. He says that the day of the battle was Saturday, November
16th, and that the prisoners were not brought to New York until the
Monday following. They were then confined in the Bridewell, as the City
Jail was then called, and in several churches. Some of them were soon
afterwards sent on board a prison ship, which was probably the Whitby.
"A number of the officers were sent to our place of confinement; Colonel
Rawlings, Colonel Hobby, Major (Otho) Williams, etc. Rawlings and
Williams were wounded, others were also wounded, among them Lieutenant
Hanson (a young Gent'n from Va.) who was Shot through ye Shoulder with a
Musq't Ball of which wound he Died ye end of Dec'r.

"Many of ye charitable Inhabitants were denied admittance when they came
to Visit us."

On the twentieth of November most of the officers were set at liberty on
parole. "Ye first Objects of our attention were ye poor men who had been
unhappily Captivated with us. They had been landed about ye same time yt
we were, and confined in several Churches and other large Buildings
and although we had often Received Intelligence from them with ye most
Deplorable Representation of their Miserable Situation, yet when we came
to visit them we found their sufferings vastly superior to what we had
been able to conceive. Nor are words sufficient to convey an Adequate
Idea of their Unparalled Calamity. Well might ye Prophet say, 'They yt
be slain with ye sword are better than they yt be slain with hunger, for
these pine away, etc.'

"Their appearance in general Rather Resembled dead Corpses than living
men. Indeed great numbers had already arrived at their long home, and ye
Remainder appeared far advanced on ye same Journey: their accommodations
were in all respects vastly Inferior to what a New England Farmer would
have provided for his Cattle, and although ye Commissary pretended to
furnish them with two thirds of ye allowance of ye King's Troops, yet
they were cheated out of one half of that. They were many times entirely
neglected from Day to Day, and received no Provision at all; they were
also frequently Imposed upon in Regard to ye Quality as well as Quantity
of their provision. Especially in the Necessary article of Bread of
which they often received such Rotten and mouldy stuff, as was entirely
unfit for use.

"* * * A large number of ye most feeble were Removed down to ye Quaker
Meeting House on Queen Street, where many hundreds of them perished in
a much more miserable Situation than ye dumb Beasts, while those whose
particular business it was to provide them relief, paid very little or
no attention to their unparalleled sufferings. This house I understand
was under ye Superintendence of one Dr. Dibuke * * * who had been
at least once convicted of stealing (in Europe) and had fled to this
country for protection: It was said he often made application of his
Cane among ye Sick instead of other medicines. * * * I have often been
in danger of being stabbed for attempting to speak to a prisoner in ye
yard. * * *

"About the 24th December a large number of prisoners were embarked on
a ship to be sent to New England. What privates of the 17th Regiment
remained living were Included in this number, but about one half had
already perished in Prison. I was afterwards informed that the Winds
being unfavourable and their accommodations and provisions on board ye
Ship being very similar to what they had been provided with before, a
large proportion of them perished before they could reach New England,
so that it is to be feared very few of them lived to see their native

"Soon after there was large numbers of the prisoners sent off by land
both to the Southward and Eastward so yt when ye Officers were Removed
over into Long Island in the latter part of January there remained but
very few of the privates in that City except those released by Death
which number was supposed to be about 1800.

"General Robertson, so famous for Politeness and Humanity was commanding
Officer at New York during the aforesaid treatment of the prisoners.
Governor Scheene was said to have visited the prisoners at the Churches
and manifested great dissatisfaction at their ill Usage, yet I was never
able to learn that ye poor Sufferers Rec'd any Advantage thereby."

Captain Jabez Fitch was a prisoner eighteen months. After the Revolution
he lived in Vermont, where he died in 1812.



The doctor spoken of by Jabez Fitch as Dr. Dibuke is perhaps the
notorious character described by Mr. Elias Boudinot in the Journal from
which we have already quoted. On page 35 of this book he gives us the


"When the British Army took possession of New York they found a
Frenchman in Goal, under Condemnation for Burglery and Robbery. He was
liberated. He was a very loos, ignorant man. Had been a Servant. This
fellow was set over our Prisoners in the Hospital, as a Surgeon, though
he knew not the least principle of the Art. Dr. McHenry, a Physician
of note in the American Army, and then a Prisoner, finding the extreme
ignorance of this man, and that he was really murdering our people,
remonstrated to the British Director of the Hospital, and refused
visiting our sick Prisoners if this man was not dismissed. A British
Officer, convinced that he had killed several of our People, lodged
a complaint against him, when he was ordered to be tryed by a Court
Martial, but the morning before the Court were to set, this Officer was
ordered off to St Johns, and the Criminal was discharged for want of
Evidence. During this man having the Charge of our Prisoners in the
Hospital, two of our Men deserted from the Hospital and came into our
Army when they were ordered to me for Examination. They Joined in this
story. That they were sick in the Hospital under the care of the above
Frenchman. That he came and examined them, and gave to each of them a
dose of Physick to be taken immediately. A Young Woman, their Nurse,
made them some private signs not to take the Physick immediately. After
the Doctor was gone, she told them she suspected the Powder was poison.
That she had several times heard this Frenchman say that he would have
ten Rebels dead in such a Room and five dead in such a Room the next
morning, and it always so happened. They asked her what they should do:
She told them their only chance was to get off, sick as they were,
that she would help them out and they must shift for themselves. They
accordingly got off safe, and brought the Physick with them. This was
given to a Surgeon's Mate, who afterwards reported that he gave it to a
Dog, and that he died in a very short time. I afterwards saw an account
in a London Paper of this same Frenchman being taken up in England for
some Crime and condemned to dye. At his Execution he acknowledged the
fact of his having murdered a great number of Rebels in the Hospitals at
New York by poyson. That on his reporting to General Howe the number
of the Prisoners dead, he raised his pay. He further confessed that he
poisoned the wells used by the American Flying Camp, which caused such
an uncommon Mortality among them in the year 1776."

Jabez Fitch seems to have been mistaken in thinking that General
Robertson instead of Lord Howe was commanding in New York at this time.

We will now give the account written by a Tory gentleman, who lived in
New York during a part of the Revolution, of Loring, the Commissary of
Prisons, appointed by General Howe in 1776. Judge Thomas Jones was a
noted loyalist of the day. Finding it inconvenient to remain in this
country after the war, he removed to England, where he died in 1792,
having first completed his "History of New York during the Revolution."
He gives a much larger number of prisoners in that city in the year
1776 than do any of the other authorities. We will, however, give his
statements just as they were written.

"Upon the close of the campaign in 1776 there were not less than 10,000
prisoners (Sailors included) within the British lines in New York. A
Commissary of Prisoners was therefore appointed, and one Joshua Loring,
a Bostonian, was commissioned to the office with a guinea a day, and
rations of all kinds for himself and family. In this appointment there
was reciprocity. Loring had a handsome wife. The General, Sir William
Howe, was fond of her. Joshua made no objections. He fingered the cash:
the General enjoyed Madam. Everybody supposing the next campaign (should
the rebels ever risk another) would put a final period to the rebellion.
Loring was determined to make the most of his commission and by
appropriating to his own use nearly two thirds of the rations allowed
the prisoners, he actually starved to death about three hundred of the
poor wretches before an exchange took place, and which was not until
February, 1777, and hundreds that were alive at the time were so
emaciated and enfeebled for the want of provisions, that numbers died on
the road on their way home, and many lived but a few days after reaching
their habitations. The war continuing, the Commissaryship of Prisoners
grew so lucrative that in 1778 the Admiral thought proper to appoint one
for naval prisoners. Upon the French War a Commissary was appointed for
France. When Spain joined France another was appointed for Spain. When
Great Britain made war upon Holland a Commissary was appointed for
Dutch prisoners. Each had his guinea a day, and rations for himself and
family. Besides, the prisoners were half starved, as the Commissaries
filched their provisions, and disposed of them for their own use. It
is a known fact, also, that whenever an exchange was to take place the
preference was given to those who had, or could procure, the most money
to present to the Commissaries who conducted the exchange, by which
means large sums of money were unjustly extorted and demanded from the
prisoners at every exchange, to the scandal and disgrace of Britons.
We had five Commissaries of Prisoners, when one could have done all the
business. Each Commissary had a Deputy, a Clerk, a Messenger in full
pay, with rations of every kind."

As Judge Jones was an ardent Tory we would scarcely imagine that he
would exaggerate in describing the corruptions of the commissaries.
He greatly deplored the cruelties with which he taxed General Howe and
other officials, and declared that these enormities prevented all hopes
of reconciliation with Great Britain.

We will next quote from the "Life of Ethan Allen," written by himself,
as he describes the condition of the prisoners in the churches in New
York, more graphically than any of his contemporaries.


"Our number, about thirty-four, were all locked up in one common large
room, without regard to rank, education, or any other accomplishment,
where we continued from the setting to the rising sun, and as sundry of
them were infected with the gaol and other distempers, the furniture
of this spacious room consisted principally of excrement tubs. We
petitioned for a removal of the sick into hospitals, but were denied.
We remonstrated against the ungenerous usage of being confined with
the privates, as being contrary to the laws and customs of nations, and
particularly ungrateful in them, in consequence of the gentleman-like
usage which the British imprisoned officers met with in America; and
thus we wearied ourselves petitioning and remonstrating, but o no
purpose at all; for General Massey, who commanded at Halifax, was as
inflexible as the d---l himself. * * * Among the prisoners were five
who had a legal claim to a parole, James Lovel, Esq; Captain Francis
Proctor; a Mr. Rowland, Master of a Continental armed vessel; a Mr.
Taylor, his mate, and myself. * * * The prisoners were ordered to go
on board of a man-of-war, which was bound for New York, but two of them
were not able to go on board and were left in Halifax: one died and
the other recovered. This was about the 12th of October, 1776. * * * We
arrived before New York and cast an anchor the latter part of October,
where we remained several days, and where Captain Smith informed me that
he had recommended me to Admiral Howe, and General Sir Wm. Howe, as a
gentleman of honor and veracity, and desired that I might be treated
as such. Captain Burk was then ordered on board a prison ship in the
harbor. I took my leave of Captain Smith, and with the other prisoners
was sent on board a transport ship. * * * Some of the last days of
November the prisoners were landed at New York, and I was admitted to
parole with the other officers, viz: Proctor, Rowland, and Taylor.
The privates were put into the filthy churches in New York, with the
distressed prisoners that were taken at Fort Washington, and the second
night Sergeant Roger Moore, who was bold and enterprising, found means
to make his escape, with every of the remaining prisoners that were
taken with me, except three who were soon after exchanged: so that out
of thirty-one prisoners who went with me the round exhibited in these
sheets, two only died with the enemy, and three only were exchanged, one
of whom died after he came within our lines. All the rest at different
times made their escape from the enemy.

"I now found myself on parole, and restricted to the limits of the
city of New York, where I soon projected means to live in some measure
agreeable to my rank, though I was destitute of cash. My constitution
was almost worn out by such a long and barbarous captivity. * * * In
consequence of a regular diet and exercise my blood recruited, and
my nerves in a great measure recovered their former tone * * * in the
course of six months.

"* * * Those who had the misfortune to fall into the enemy's hands at
Fort Washington * * * were reserved from immediate death to famish
and die with hunger: in fine the word rebel' was thought by the enemy
sufficient to sanctify whatever cruelties they were pleased to inflict,
death itself not excepted. * * *

"The prisoners who were brought to New York were crowded into churches,
and environed with slavish Hessian guards, a people of a strange
language * * * and at other times by merciless Britons, whose mode of
communicating ideas being unintelligible in this country served only
to tantalize and insult the helpless and perishing; but above all the
hellish delight and triumph of the tories over them, as they were dying
by hundreds. This was too much for me to bear as a spectator; for I saw
the tories exulting over the dead bodies of their countrymen. I have
gone into the churches and seen sundry of the prisoners in the agonies
of death, in consequence of very hunger; and others speechless and
near death, biting pieces of chips; others pleading, for God's sake for
something to eat, and at the same time shivering with the cold. Hollow
groans saluted my ears, and despair seemed to be imprinted on every of
their countenances. The filth in these churches, in consequence of the
fluxes, was almost beyond description. I have carefully sought to direct
my steps so as to avoid it, but could not. They would beg for God's sake
for one copper or morsel of bread. I have seen in one of the churches
seven dead, at the same time, lying among the excrements of their

"It was a common practice with the enemy to convey the dead from these
filthy places in carts, to be slightly buried, and I have seen whole
gangs of tories making derision, and exulting over the dead, saying
'There goes another load of d----d rebels!' I have observed the British
soldiers to be full of their blackguard jokes and vaunting on those
occasions, but they seemed to me to be less malignant than the Tories.

"The provision dealt out to the prisoners was by no means sufficient for
the support of life. It was deficient in Quantity, and much more so in
Quality. The prisoners often presented me with a sample of their bread,
which I certify was damaged to such a degree that it was loathsome and
unfit to be eaten, and I am bold to aver it as my opinion, that it had
been condemned and was of the very worst sort. I have seen and been
fed upon damaged bread, in the course of my captivity, and observed the
quality of such bread as has been condemned by the enemy, among which
was very little so effectually spoiled as what was dealt out to these
prisoners. Their allowance of meat, as they told me, was quite trifling
and of the basest sort. I never saw any of it, but was informed, bad as
it was, it was swallowed almost as quick as they got hold of it. I saw
some of them sucking bones after they were speechless; others who could
yet speak and had the use of their reason, urged me in the strongest
and most pathetic manner, to use my interest in their behalf: 'For you
plainly see,' said they,'that we are devoted to death and destruction,'
and after I had examined more particularly into their truly deplorable
condition and had become more fully apprized of the essential facts, I
was persuaded that it was a premeditated and systematized plan of the
British council to destroy the youths of our land, with a view thereby
to deter the country and make it submit to their despotism: but as I
could not do them any material service, and by any public attempt for
that purpose I might endanger myself by frequenting places the most
nauseous and contagious that could be conceived of, I refrained going
into the churches, but frequently conversed with such of the prisoners
as were admitted to come out into the yard, and found that the
systematical usage still continued. The guard would often drive me away
with their fixed bayonets. A Hessian one day followed me five or six
rods, but by making use of my legs, I got rid of the lubber.

"Sometimes I could obtain a little conversation notwithstanding their

"I was in one of the yards and it was rumoured among those in the
church, and sundry of the prisoners came with their usual complaints to
me, and among the rest a large-boned, tall young man, as he told me from
Pennsylvania, who was reduced to a mere skeleton. He said he was glad
to see me before he died, which he had expected to have done last night,
but was a little revived. He further informed me that he and his brother
had been urged to enlist into the British army, but had both resolved to
die first; that his brother had died last night, in consequence of that
resolve, and that he expected shortly to follow him; but I made the
other prisoners stand a little off and told him with a low voice to
enlist; he then asked whether it was right in the sight of God? I
assured him that it was, and that duty to himself obliged him to deceive
the British by enlisting and deserting the first opportunity; upon which
he answered with transport that he would enlist. I charged him not to
mention my name as his adviser, lest it should get air and I should be
closely confined, in consequence of it.

"The integrity of these suffering prisoners is incredible. Many hundreds
of them, I am confident, submitted to death rather than enlist in the
British service, which, I am informed, they most generally were
pressed to do. I was astonished at the resolution of the two brothers,
particularly; it seems that they could not be stimulated to such
exertions of heroism from ambition, as they were but obscure soldiers.
Strong indeed must the internal principle of virtue be which supported
them to brave death, and one of them went through the operation, as did
many hundreds others * * * These things will have their proper effect
upon the generous and brave.

"The officers on parole were most of them zealous, if possible, to
afford the miserable soldiers relief, and often consulted with one
another on the subject, but to no effect, being destitute of the means
of subsistence which they needed, nor could they project any measure
which they thought would alter their fate, or so much as be a mean of
getting them out of those filthy places to the privilege of fresh air.
Some projected that all the officers should go in procession to General
Howe and plead the cause of the perishing soldiers, but this proposal
was negatived for the following reasons: viz: because that General Howe
must needs be well acquainted and have a thorough knowledge of the state
and condition of the prisoners in every of their wretched apartments,
and that much more particular and exact than any officer on parole could
be supposed to have, as the General had a return of the circumstances of
the prisoners by his own officers every morning, of the number who
were alive, as also of the number who died every twenty-four hours: and
consequently the bill of mortality, as collected from the daily returns,
lay before him with all the material situations and circumstances of the
prisoners, and provided the officers should go in procession to General
Howe, according to the projection, it would give him the greatest
affront, and that he would either retort upon them, that it was no part
of their parole to instruct him in his conduct to prisoners; that
they were mutinying against his authority, and, by affronting him, had
forfeited their parole, or that, more probably, instead of saying one
word to them, would order them all into as wretched a confinement as the
soldiers whom they sought to relieve, for at that time the British, from
the General to the private centinel, were in full confidence, nor did
they so much as hesitate, but that they should conquer the country.

"Thus the consultation of the officers was confounded and broken to
pieces, in consequence of the dread which at the time lay on their minds
of offending General Howe; for they conceived so murderous a tryant
would not be too good to destroy even the officers on the least pretence
of an affront, as they were equally in his power with the soldiers;
and as General Howe perfectly understood the condition of the private
soldiers, it was argued that it was exactly such as he and his council
had devised, and as he meant to destroy them it would be to no purpose
for them to try to dissuade him from it, as they were helpless and
liable to the same fate, on giving the least affront. Indeed anxious
apprehensions disturbed them in their then circumstances.

"Meantime mortality raged to such an intolerable degree among the
prisoners that the very school boys in the street knew the mental design
of it in some measure; at least they knew that they were starved
to death. Some poor women contributed to their necessity till their
children were almost starved; and all persons of common understanding
knew that they were devoted to the cruellest and worst of deaths.

"It was also proposed by some to make a written representation of the
condition of the soldiery, and the officers to sign it, and that it
should be couched in such terms, as though they were apprehensive that
the General was imposed upon by his officers, in their daily returns to
him of the state and condition of the prisoners, and that therefor the
officers moved with compassion, were constrained to communicate to him
the facts relative to them, nothing doubting but that they would meet
with a speedy redress; but this proposal was most generally negatived
also, and for much the same reason offered in the other case; for it was
conjectured that General Howe's indignation would be moved against such
officers as should attempt to whip him over his officers' backs; that he
would discern that he himself was really struck at, and not the officers
who made the daily returns; and therefor self preservation deterred
the officers from either petitioning or remonstrating to General Howe,
either verbally or in writing; as also they considered that no valuable
purpose to the distressed would be obtained.

"I made several rough drafts on the subject, one of which I exhibited
to the Colonels Magaw, Miles, and Atlee; and they said that they would
consider the matter. Soon after I called on them, and some of the
gentlemen informed me that they had written to the General on the
subject, and I concluded that the gentlemen thought it best that they
should write without me, as there was such spirited aversion subsisting
between the British and me."

Ethan Allen goes on to say: "Our little army was retreating in New
Jersey and our young men murdered by hundreds in New York." He then
speaks of Washington's success at Trenton in the following terms: "This
success had a mighty effect on General Howe and his council, and
roused them to a sense of their own weakness. * * * Their obduracy and
death-designing malevolence in some measure abated or was suspended.
The prisoners, who were condemned to the most wretched and cruellest
of deaths, and who survived to this period, _though most of them died
before,_ were immediately ordered to be sent within General Washington's
lines, for an exchange, and in consequence of it were taken out of their
filthy and poisonous places of confinement, and sent out of New York to
their friends in haste. Several of them fell dead in the streets of New
York, as they attempted to walk to the vessels in the harbor, for their
intended embarkation. What number lived to reach the lines I cannot
ascertain, but, from concurrent representations which I have since
received from numbers of people who lived in and adjacent to such parts
of the country, where they were received from the enemy, _I apprehend
that most of them died in consequence of the vile usage of the enemy._
Some who were eye witnesses of the scene of mortality, more especially
in that part which continued after the exchange took place, are of
opinion that it was partly in consequence of a slow poison; but this
I refer to the doctors who attended them, who are certainly the best

"Upon the best calculation I have been able to make from personal
knowledge, and the many evidences I have collected in support of the
facts, I learn that, of the prisoners taken on Long Island and Fort
Washington and some few others, at different times and places, about
two thousand perished with hunger, cold, and sickness, occasioned by the
filth of their prisons, at New York; and a number more on their passage
to the continental lines; most of the residue who reached their
friends having received their death wound, could not be restored by
the assistance of their physicians and friends: but like their brother
prisoners, fell a sacrifice to the relentless and scientific barbarity
of the British. I took as much pains as the circumstances would admit of
to inform myself not only of matters of fact, but likewise of the very
design and aims of General Howe and his council, the latter of which I
predicated on the former, and submit it to the candid public."



One of the most interesting and best memoirs of revolutionary times is
that written by Alexander Graydon, and as he was taken prisoner at Fort
Washington, and closely connected with the events in New York during the
winter of 1776-7, we will quote here his account of his captivity.

He describes the building of Fort Washington in July of 1776 by the men
of Magaw's and Hand's regiments. General Putnam was the engineer. It was
poorly built for defence, and not adapted for a siege.

Graydon was a captain in Colonel Shee's Regiment, but, for some reason
or other, Shee went home just before the battle was fought, and his
troops were commanded by Cadwallader in his stead. Graydon puts the
number of privates taken prisoner at 2706 and the officers at about 210.
Bedinger, as we have already seen, states that there were 2673 privates
and 210 officers. He was a man of painstaking accuracy, and it is
quite probable that his account is the most trustworthy. As one of the
privates was Bedinger's own young brother, a boy of fifteen, whom he
undoubtedly visited as often as possible, while Graydon only went
once to the prisons, perhaps Bedinger had the best opportunities for
computing the number of captives.

Graydon says that Colonel Rawlings was, some time late in the morning
of the 16th of November, attacked by the Hessians, when he fought with
great gallantry and effect as they were climbing the heights, until the
arms of the riflemen became useless from the foulness they contracted
from the frequent repetition of their fire.

Graydon, himself, becoming separated from his own men, mistook a party
of Highlanders for them, and was obliged to surrender to them. He
was put under charge of a Scotch sergeant, who said to him and his
companion, Forrest: "Young men, ye should never fight against your

Just then a British officer rode up at full gallop exclaiming, "What!
taking prisoners! Kill them, Kill every man of them!"

"My back was towards him when he spoke," says Graydon, "and although
by this time there was none of that appearance of ferocity in the guard
which would induce much fear that they would execute his command, I yet
thought it well enough to parry it, and turning to him, I took off my
hat, saying, 'Sir, I put myself under your protection!'

"No man was ever more effectually rebuked. His manner was instantly
softened; he met my salutation with an inclination of his body, and
after a civil question or two, as if to make amends for his sanguinary
mandate, rode off towards the fort, to which he had enquired the way.

"Though I had delivered up my arms I had not adverted to a cartouche
box which I wore about my waist, and which, having once belonged to
his British Majesty, presented in front the gilded letters, G. R.
Exasperated at this trophy on the body of a rebel, one of the soldiers
seized the belt with great violence, and in the act to unbuckle it, had
nearly jerked me off my legs. To appease the offended loyalty of the
honest Scot I submissively took it off and handed it to him, being
conscious that I had no longer any right to it. At this moment a Hessian
came up. He was not a private, neither did he look like a regular
officer. He was some retainer, however, to the German troops, and as
much of a brute as any one I have ever seen in human form. The wretch
came near enough to elbow us, and, half unsheathing his sword, with a
countenance that bespoke a most vehement desire to use it against us, he
grunted out in broken English, 'Eh! you rebel! you damn rebel!'

"I had by this time entire confidence in our Scotchmen, and therefore
regarded the caitiff with the same indifference that I should have
viewed a caged wild beast, though with much greater abhorrence. * * *

"We were marched to an old stable, where we found about forty or fifty
prisoners already collected, principally officers, of whom I only
particularly recollect Lieutenant Brodhead of our battalion. We remained
on the outside of the building; and, for nearly an hour, sustained a
series of the most intolerable abuse. This was chiefly from the officers
of the light infantry, for the most part young and insolent puppies,
whose worthlessness was apparently their recommendation to a service,
which placed them in the post of danger, and in the way of becoming
food for powder, their most appropriate destination next to that of the
gallows. The term 'rebel,' with the epithet 'damned' before it, was
the mildest we received. We were twenty times told, sometimes with
a taunting affectation of concern, that we should every man of us be
hanged. * * * The indignity of being ordered about by such contemptible
whipsters, for a moment unmanned me, and I was obliged to apply my
handkerchief to my eyes. This was the first time in my life that I had
been the victim of brutal, cowardly oppression, and I was unequal to the
shock; but my elasticity of mind was soon restored, and I viewed it with
the indignant contempt it deserved.

"For the greater convenience of guarding us we were now removed to the
barn of Colonel Morris's house, which had been the head-quarters of our
army. * * * It was a good, new building. * * * There were from a hundred
and fifty to two hundred, comprising a motley group, to be sure. Men and
officers of all descriptions, regulars and militia, troops continental
and state, and some in hunting shirts, the mortal aversion of a red
coat. Some of the officers had been plundered of their hats, and some
of their coats, and upon the new society into which we were introduced,
with whom a showy exterior was all in all, we were certainly not
calculated to make a very favorable impression. I found Captain Tudor
here, of our regiment, who, if I mistake not, had lost his hat. * * * It
was announced, by an huzza, that the fort had surrendered.

"The officer who commanded the guard in whose custody we now were, was
an ill-looking, low-bred fellow of this dashing corps of light infantry.
* * * As I stood as near as possible to the door for the sake of air,
the enclosure in which we were being extremely crowded and unpleasant,
I was particularly exposed to his brutality; and repelling with some
severity one of his attacks, for I was becoming desperate and careless
of safety, the ruffian exclaimed, 'Not a word, sir, or damme, I'll give
you my butt!' at the same time clubbing his fusee, and drawing it back
as if to give the blow, I fully expected it, but he contented himself
with the threat. I observed to him that I was in his power, and disposed
to submit to it, though not proof against every provocation. * * * There
were several British officers present, when a Serjeant-Major came to
take an account of us, and particularly a list of such of us as were
officers. This Serjeant, though not uncivil, had all that animated,
degagè impudence of air, which belongs to a self complacent,
non-commissioned officer of the most arrogant army in the world; and
with his pen in his hand and his paper on his knee applied to each of
us in his turn for his rank. * * * The sentinels were withdrawn to the
distance of about ten or twelve feet, and we were told that such of us
as were officers might walk before the door. This was a great relief to

The officers were lodged in the barn loft quite comfortably. A young
Lieutenant Beckwith had them in charge, and was a humane gentleman. In
the evening he told them he would send them, if possible, a bottle of
wine, but at any rate, a bottle of spirits. He kept his word as to the
spirits, which was all the supper the party in the loft had. "In the
morning a soldier brought me Mr. B.'s compliments, and an invitation
to come down and breakfast with him. * * * I thankfully accepted his
invitation, and took with me Forrest and Tudor. * * * He gave us a dish
of excellent coffee, with plenty of very good toast, which was the only
morsel we had eaten for the last twenty-four hours. * * * Our fellow
sufferers got nothing until next morning. * * *

"All the glory that was going (in the battle of Fort Washington) had, in
my idea of what had passed, been engrossed by the regiment of Rawlings,
which had been actively engaged, killed a number of the enemy, and lost
many themselves.

"About two o'clock Mr. B. sent me a plate amply supplied with corned
beef, cabbage, and the leg and wing of a turkey, with bread in

Though Mr. Graydon calls this gentleman Mr. Becket, it seems that there
was no young officer of that name at the battle of Fort Washington.
Becket appears to be a mistake for Lieutenant Onslow Beckwith. The
prisoners were now marched within six miles of New York and Graydon's
party of officers were well quartered in a house. "Here," he continues,
"for the first time we drew provisions for the famished soldiers. * *
* Previously to entering the city we were drawn up for about an hour on
the high ground near the East River. Here, the officers being separated
from the men, we were conducted into a church, where we signed a

At this place a non-commissioned British officer, who had seen him at
the ordinary kept by his widowed mother in Philadelphia, when he was a
boy, insisted on giving him a dollar.

"Quarters were assigned for us in the upper part of the town, in what
was called 'The holy ground.' * * * I ventured to take board at four
dollars per week with a Mrs. Carroll. * * * Colonel Magaw, Major West,
and others, boarded with me."

He was fortunate in obtaining his trunk and mattress. Speaking of the
prisons in which the privates were confined he says: "I once and
once only ventured to penetrate into these abodes of human misery and
despair. But to what purpose repeat my visit, when I had neither relief
to administer nor comfort to bestow? * * * I endeavoured to comfort them
with the hope of exchange, but humanity forbade me to counsel them to
rush on sure destruction. * * * Our own condition was a paradise to
theirs. * * * Thousands of my unhappy countrymen were consigned to slow,
consuming tortures, equally fatal and potent to destruction."

The American officers on parole in New York prepared a memorial to Sir
William Howe on the condition of these wretched sufferers, and it was
signed by Colonels Magaw, Miles, and Atlee. This is, no doubt, the paper
of which Colonel Ethan Allen writes. Captain Graydon was commissioned to
deliver this document to Sir William Howe. He says: "The representation
which had been submitted to General Howe in behalf of the suffering
prisoners was more successful than had been expected. * * * The
propositions had been considered by Sir William Howe, and he was
disposed to accede to them. These were that the men should be sent
within our lines, where they should be receipted for, and an equal
number of the prisoners in our hands returned in exchange. * * * Our
men, no longer soldiers (their terms for which they had enlisted having
expired) and too debilitated for service, gave a claim to sound men,
immediately fit to take the field, and there was moreover great danger
that if they remained in New York the disease with which they were
infected might be spread throughout the city. At any rate hope was
admitted into the mansions of despair, the prison doors were thrown
open, and the soldiers who were yet alive and capable of being moved
were conveyed to our nearest posts, under the care of our regimental
surgeons, to them a fortunate circumstance, since it enabled them to
exchange the land of bondage for that of liberty. * * * Immediately
after the release of our men a new location was assigned to us. On the
22nd of January, 1777, we were removed to Long Island."



We will not follow Mr. Graydon now to Long Island. It was then late in
January, 1777. The survivors of the American prisoners were, many
of them, exchanged for healthy British soldiers. The crime had been
committed, one of the blackest which stains the annals of English
history. By the most accurate computation at least two thousand helpless
American prisoners had been slowly starved, frozen, or poisoned to death
in the churches and other prisons in New York.

No excuse for this monstrous crime can be found, even by those who are
anxiously in search of an adequate one.

We have endeavored to give some faint idea of the horrors of that
hopeless captivity. As we have already said scarcely any one who endured
imprisonment for any length of time in the churches lived to tell the
tale. One of these churches was standing not many years ago, and the
marks of bayonet thrusts might plainly be seen upon its pillars. What
terrible deeds were enacted there we can only conjecture. We _know_ that
two thousand, healthy, high-spirited young men, many of them sons of
gentlemen, and all patriotic, brave, and long enduring, even unto death,
were foully murdered in these places of torment, compared to which
ordinary captivity is described by one who endured it as paradise. We
know, we say, that these young men perished awfully, rather than enlist
in the British army; that posterity has almost forgotten them, and
that their dreadful sufferings ought to be remembered wherever American
history is read.

We have already said that it is impossible now to obtain the names of
all who suffered death at the hands of their inhuman jailors during the
fall and winter of 1776-7. But we have taken Captain Abraham Shepherd's
company of riflemen as a sample of the prisoners, and are able, thanks
to the pay roll now in our care, to indicate the fate of each man upon
the list.

It is a mistake to say that no prisoners deserted to the British. After
the account we have quoted from Ethan Allen's book we feel sure that
no one can find the heart to blame the poor starving creatures who
endeavored to preserve their remains of life in this manner.

Henry Bedinger gives the names of seven men of this company who
deserted. They are Thomas Knox, a corporal; William Anderson, Richard
Neal, George Taylor, Moses McComesky, Anthony Blackhead and Anthony
Larkin. Thomas Knox did not join the British forces until the 17th of
January, 1777; William Anderson on the 20th of January, 1777. Richard
Neal left the American army on the tenth of August, 1776. He, therefore,
was not with the regiment at Fort Washington. George Taylor deserted
on the 9th of July, 1776, which was nine days after he enlisted. Moses
McComesky did not desert until the 14th of June, 1777. Anthony Blackhead
deserted November 15th, 1776, the day before the battle was fought;
Anthony Larkin, September 15th, 1776. We cannot tell what became of any
of these men. Those who died of the prisoners are no less than fifty-two
in this one company of seventy-nine privates and non-commissioned
officers. This may and probably does include a few who lived to be
exchanged. The date of death of each man is given, but not the place in
which he died.

A very singular fact about this record is that no less than _seventeen_
of the prisoners of this company died on the same day, which was the
fifteenth of February, 1777. Why this was so we cannot tell. We can
only leave the cause of their death to the imagination of our readers.
Whether they were poisoned by wholesale; whether they were murdered in
attempting to escape; whether the night being extraordinarily severe,
they froze to death; whether they were butchered by British bayonets, we
are totally unable to tell. The record gives their names and the date of
death and says that all seventeen were prisoners. That is all.

The names of these men are Jacob Wine, William Waller, Peter Snyder,
Conrad Rush, David Harmon, William Moredock, William Wilson, James
Wilson, Thomas Beatty, Samuel Davis, John Cassody, Peter Good, John
Nixon, Christopher Peninger, Benjamin McKnight, John McSwaine, James
Griffith, and Patrick Murphy.

Two or three others are mentioned as dying the day after. Is it possible
that these men were on board one of the prison ships which was set on
fire? If so we have been able to discover no account of such a disaster
on that date.

Many of the papers of Major Henry Bedinger were destroyed. It is
possible that he may have left some clue to the fate of these men, but
if so it is probably not now in existence. But among the letters and
memoranda written by him which have been submitted to us for inspection,
is a list, written on a scrap of paper, of the men that he recruited for
Captain Shepherd's Company in the summer of 1776. This paper gives the
names of the men and the date on which each one died in prison. It is as


Dennis Bush, Fourth Sergeant. (He was taken prisoner at Fort Washington,
but lived to be exchanged, and was paid up to October 1st, 1778, at the
end of the term for which the company enlisted.)

Conrad Cabbage, Prisoner, Died, Jan. 7th, 1777. John Cummins, Prisoner,
Died, Jan. 27th, 1777. Gabriel Stevens, Prisoner, Died, March 1st,
1777. William Donally, Prisoner, Died, Jan. 10th, 1777. David Gilmer,
Prisoner, Died, Jan. 26th, 1777. John Cassady, Prisoner, Died, Feb.
15th, 1777. Samuel Brown, Prisoner, Died, Feb. 26th, 1777. Peter Good,
Prisoner, Died, Feb. 13th, 1777. William Boyle, Prisoner, Died, Feb.
25th, 1777. John Nixon, Prisoner, Died, Feb. 18th, 1777. Anthony
Blackhead, deserted, Nov. 15th, 1776. William Case, Prisoner, Died,
March 15th, 1777. Caspar Myres, Prisoner, Died, Feb. 16th, 1777. William
Seaman, Prisoner, Died, July 8th, 1777. Isaac Price, Prisoner, Died,
Feb. 5th, 1777. Samuel Davis, Prisoner, Died, Feb. 15th, 1777.

William Seaman was the son of Jonah Seaman, living near Darkesville.
Isaac Price was an orphan, living with James' Campbell's father. Samuel
Davis came from near Charlestown.

Henry Bedinger.

This is all, but it is eloquent with what it does not say. All but two
of this list of seventeen young, vigorous riflemen died in prison or
from the effects of confinement. One, alone had sufficient vitality to
endure until the 8th of July, 1777. Perhaps he was more to be pitied
than his comrades.

We now begin to understand how it happened that, out of more than 2,600
privates taken prisoner at Fort Washington, 1,900 were dead in the space
of two months and four days, when the exchange of some of the survivors
took place. Surely this is a lasting disgrace to one of the greatest
nations of the world. If, as seems undoubtedly true, more men perished
in prison than on the battle fields of the Revolution, it is difficult
to see why so little is made of this fact in the many histories of that
struggle that have been written. We find that the accounts of British
prisons are usually dismissed in a few words, sometimes in an appendix,
or a casual note. But history was ever written thus. Great victories are
elaborately described; and all the pomp and circumstance of war is set
down for our pleasure and instruction. But it is due to the grand solemn
muse of history, who carries the torch of truth, that the other side,
the horrors of war, should be as faithfully delineated. Wars will not
cease until the lessons of their cruelty, their barbarity, and the dark
trail of suffering they leave behind them are deeply impressed upon
the mind. It is our painful task to go over the picture, putting in the
shadows as we see them, however gloomy may be the effect.



In the winter of 1761 a boy was born in a German settlement near
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the third son of Henry Bedinger and his wife,
whose maiden name was Magdalene von Schlegel. These Germans, whom we
have already mentioned, moved, in 1762, to the neighborhood of the
little hamlet, then called Mecklenburg, Berkeley County, Virginia.
Afterwards the name of the town was changed to Shepherdstown, in honor
of its chief proprietor, Thomas Shepherd.

Daniel was a boy of fourteen when the first company of riflemen was
raised at Shepherdstown by the gallant young officer, Captain Hugh
Stephenson, in 1775.

The rendezvous of this company was the spring on his mother's farm, then
called Bedinger's Spring, where the clear water gushes out of a great
rock at the foot of an ancient oak. The son of Daniel Bedinger, Hon.
Henry Bedinger, Minister to the Court of Denmark in 1853, left a short
account of his father's early history, which we will quote in this
place. He says: "When the war of the Revolution commenced my father's
eldest brother Henry was about twenty-two years of age. His next
brother, Michael, about nineteen, and he himself only in his fifteenth
year. Upon the first news of hostilities his two brothers joined a
volunteer company under the command of Captain Hugh Stephenson, and set
off immediately to join the army at Cambridge.

"My father himself was extremely anxious to accompany them, but they and
his mother, who was a widow, forbade his doing so, telling him he was
entirely too young, and that he must stay at home and take care of his
younger brothers and sisters. And he was thus very reluctantly compelled
to remain at home. At the expiration of about twelve months his brothers
returned home, and when the time for their second departure had arrived,
the wonderful tales they had narrated of their life in camp had wrought
so upon my father's youthful and ardent imagination that he besought
them and his mother with tears in his eyes, to suffer him to accompany
them. But they, regarding his youth, would not give their consent, but
took their departure without him.

"However, the second night after their arrival in camp (which was at
Bergen, New Jersey), they were astonished by the arrival of my father,
he having run off from home and followed them all the way on foot, and
now appeared before them, haggard and weary and half starved by the
lengths of his march. * * * My father was taken prisoner at the battle
of Fort Washington, and the privations and cruel treatment which he then
underwent gave a blow to his constitution from which he never recovered.
After the close of the Revolution he returned home with a constitution
much shattered. * * *"

Many years after the Revolution Dr. Draper, who died in Madison,
Wisconsin, and left his valuable manuscripts to the Historical Society
of that State, interviewed an old veteran of the war, in Kentucky. This
venerable relic of the Revolution was Major George Michael Bedinger, a
brother of Daniel. Dr. Draper took down from his lips a short account
of the battle of Fort Washington, where his two brothers were captured.
Major G. M. Bedinger was not in service at that time, but must have
received the account from one or both of his brothers. Dr. Draper
says: "In the action of Fort Washington Henry Bedinger heard a Hessian
captain, having been repulsed, speak to his riflemen in his own
language, telling them to follow his example and reserve their fire
until they were close. Bedinger, recognizing his mother tongue, watched
the approach of the Hessian officer, and each levelled his unerring
rifle at the other. Both fired, Bedinger was wounded in the finger: the
ball passing, cut off a lock of his hair. The Hessian was shot through
the head, and instantly expired. Captain Bedinger's young brother
Daniel, in his company, then but a little past fifteen, shot
twenty-seven rounds, and was often heard to say, after discharging his
piece, 'There! take that, you----!'

"His youthful intrepidity, and gallant conduct, so particularly
attracted the attention of the officers, that, though taken prisoner, he
was promoted to an ensigncy, his commission dating back six months that
he might take precedence of the other ensigns of his company.

"These two brothers remained prisoners, the youngest but a few months,
and the elder nearly four years, both on prison ships, with the most
cruel treatment, in filthy holds, impure atmosphere, and stinted
allowance of food. With such treatment it was no wonder that but eight
hundred out of the 2800 prisoners taken at Fort Washington survived.

"During the captivity of his brother Henry, Major Bedinger would
by labor, loans at different times, and the property sold which he
inherited from his father, procure money to convey to the British
Commissary of Prisoners to pay his brother Henry's board. Then he was
released from the filthy prison ship, limited on his parole of honor to
certain limits at Flatbush, and decently provisioned and better treated,
and it is pleasant to add that the British officers having charge of
these matters were faithful in the proper application of funds thus
placed in their hands. Major Bedinger made many trips on this labor of
fraternal affection. This, with his attention to his mother and family,
kept him from regularly serving in the army. But he, never the less,
would make short tours of service."

So far we have quoted Dr. Draper's recollections of an interview with
George Michael Bedinger in his extreme old age. We have already given
Henry Bedinger's own acount of his captivity. What we know of Daniel's
far severer treatment we will give in our own words.

It was four days before the privates taken at Fort Washington had one
morsel to eat. They were then given a little mouldy biscuit and raw
pork. They were marched to New York, and Daniel was lodged with many
others, perhaps with the whole company, in the Old Sugar House on
Liberty Street. Here he very nearly died of exposure and starvation.
There was no glass in the windows and scarce one of the prisoners was
properly clothed. When it snowed they were drifted over as they slept.

One day Daniel discovered in some vats a deposit of sugar which he was
glad to scrape to sustain life. A gentleman, confined with him in the
Old Sugar House, used to tell his descendants that the most terrible
fight he ever engaged in was a struggle with a comrade in prison for the
carcass of a decayed rat.

It is possible that Henry Bedinger, an officer on parole in New York,
may have found some means of communicating with his young brother, and
even of supplying him, sometimes, with food. Daniel, however, was soon
put on board a prison ship, probably the Whitby, in New York harbor.

Before the first exchange was effected the poor boy had yielded to
despair, and had turned his face to the wall, to die. How bitterly he
must have regretted the home he had been so ready to leave a few months
before! And now the iron had eaten into his soul, and he longed for
death, as the only means of release from his terrible sufferings.

Daniel's father was born in Alsace, and he himself had been brought up
in a family where German was the familiar language of the household.
It seems that, in some way, probably by using his mother tongue, he had
touched the heart of one of the Hessian guards. When the officers
in charge went among the prisoners, selecting those who were to be
exchanged, they twice passed the poor boy as too far gone to be moved.
But he, with a sudden revival of hope and the desire to live, begged and
entreated the Hessian so pitifully not to leave him behind, that that
young man, who is said to have been an officer, declared that he would
be responsible for him, had him lifted and laid down in the bottom of
a boat, as he was too feeble to sit or stand. In this condition he
accompanied the other prisoners to a church in New York where the
exchange was effected. One or more of the American surgeons accompanied
the prisoners. In some way Daniel was conveyed to Philadelphia, where he
completely collapsed, and was taken to one of the military hospitals.

Here, about the first of January, 1777, his devoted brother, George
Michael Bedinger, found him. Major Bedinger's son, Dr. B. F. Bedinger,
wrote an account of the meeting of these two brothers for Mrs. H. B.
Lee, one of Daniel's daughters, which tells the rest of the story. He

"My father went to the hospital in search of his brother, but did not
recognize him. On inquiry if there were any (that had been) prisoners
there a feeble voice responded, from a little pile of straw and rags in
a corner, 'Yes, Michael, there is one.'

"Overcome by his feelings my father knelt by the side of the poor
emaciated boy, and took him in his arms. He then bore him to a house
where he could procure some comforts in the way of food and clothing.
After this he got an armchair, two pillows, and some leather straps.

"He placed his suffering and beloved charge in the chair, supported him
by the pillows, swung him by the leather straps to his back, and carried
him some miles into the country, where he found a friendly asylum for
him in the house of some good Quakers. There he nursed him, and by the
aid of the kind owners, who were farmers, gave him nourishing food,
until he partially recovered strength.

"But your father was very impatient to get home, and wished to proceed
before he was well able to walk, and did so leave, while my father
walked by his side, with his arm around him to support him. Thus they
travelled from the neighborhood of Philadelphia, to Shepherdstown
(Virginia) of course by short stages, when my father restored him safe
to his mother and family.

"Your father related some of the incidents of that trip to me when I
last saw him at Bedford (his home) in the spring of 1817, not more
than one year before his death. Our uncle, Henry Bedinger, was also a
prisoner for a long time, and although he suffered greatly his suffering
was not to be compared to your father's.

"After your father recovered his health he again entered the service
and continued in it to the end of the war. He was made Lieutenant, and
I have heard my father speak of many battles he was in, but I have
forgotten the names and places." [Footnote: Letter of Dr B. F. Bedinger
to Mrs H. B. Lee, written in 1871.]

After Daniel Bedinger returned home he had a relapse, and lay, for a
long time, at the point of death. He, however, recovered, and re-entered
the service, where the first duty assigned him was that of acting as one
of the guards over the prisoners near Winchester. He afterwards fought
with Morgan in the southern campaigns, was in the battle of the Cowpens,
and several other engagements, serving until the army was disbanded.
He was a Knight of the Order of the Cincinnati. His grandson, the Rev.
Henry Bedinger, has the original parchment signed by General Washington,
in his possession. This grandson is now the chaplain of the Virginia
branch of the Society.

In 1791 Daniel Bedinger married Miss Sarah Rutherford, a daughter of
Hon. Robert Rutherford, of Flowing Springs, in what is now Jefferson
County, West Virginia, but was then part of Berkeley County, Virginia.

Lieutenant Bedinger lived in Norfolk for many years. He was first
engaged in the Custom House in that city. In 1802 he accepted the
position of navy agent of the Gosport Navy Yard. He died in 1818 at his
home near Shepherdstown, of a malady which troubled him ever after
his confinement as a prisoner in New York. He hated the British with
a bitter hatred, which is not to be wondered at. He was an ardent
supporter of Thomas Jefferson, and wrote much for the periodicals of
the time. Withal he was a scholarly gentleman, and a warm and generous
friend. He built a beautiful residence on the site of his mother's old
home near Sheperdstown; where, when he died in 1818, he left a large
family of children, and a wide circle of friends and admirers.



What we have been able to glean from the periodicals of the day about
the state of the prisons in New York during the years 1776 and 1777 we
will condense into one short chapter.

We will also give an abstract taken from a note book written by General
Jeremiah Johnson, who as a boy, lived near Wallabout Bay during the
Revolution and who thus describes one of the first prison ships used by
the British at New York. He says: "The subject of the naval prisoners,
and of the British prisons-ships, stationed at the Wallabout during the
Revolution, is one which cannot be passed by in silence. From printed
journals, published in New York at the close of the war, it appeared
that 11,500 American prisoners had died on board the prison ships.
Although this number is very great, yet if the numbers who perished had
been less, the Commissary of Naval Prisoners, David Sproat, Esq., and
his Deputy, had it in their power, by an official Return, to give the
true number taken, exchanged, escaped, and _dead_. Such a Return has
never appeared in the United States.

"David Sproat returned to America after the war, and resided in
Philadelphia, where he died. [Footnote: This is, we believe, a mistake.
Another account says he died at Kirkcudbright, Scotland, in 1792.] The
Commissary could not have been ignorant of the statement published here
on this interesting subject. We may, therefore, infer that about that
number, 11,500, perished in the Prison ships.

"A large transport called the Whitby, was the first prison ship anchored
in the Wallabout. She was moored near Remsen's Mill about the 20th of
October, 1776, and was then crowded with prisoners. Many landsmen were
prisoners on board this vessel: she was said to be the most sickly of
all the prison ships. Bad provisions, bad water, and scanted rations
were dealt to the prisoners. No medical men attended the sick. Disease
reigned unrelieved, and hundreds died from pestilence, or were starved
on board this floating Prison. I saw the sand beach, between a ravine in
the hill and Mr. Remsen's dock, become filled with graves in the course
of two months: and before the first of May, 1777, the ravine alluded to
was itself occupied in the same way.

"In the month of May, 1777, two large ships were anchored in the
Wallabout, when the prisoners were transferred from the Whitby to them.
These vessels were also very sickly from the causes before stated.
Although many prisoners were sent on board of them, and none exchanged,
death made room for all.

"On a Sunday afternoon about the middle of October, 1777, one of these
prison ships was burnt. The prisoners, except a few, who, it was said,
were burnt in the vessel, were removed to the remaining ship. It was
reported at the time, that the prisoners had fired their prison,
which, if true, proves that they preferred death, even by fire, to
the lingering sufferings of pestilence and starvation. In the month of
February, 1778, the remaining prison ship was burnt, when the prisoners
were removed from her to the ships then wintering in the Wallabout."

One of the first notices we have in the newspapers of the day of
American prisoners is to the following effect: "London, August 5th,
1775. As every rebel, who is taken prisoner, has incurred the pain
of death by the law martial, it is said that Government will charter
several transports, after their arrival at Boston to carry the culprits
to the East Indies for the Company's service. As it is the intention of
Government only to punish the ringleaders and commanders _capitally_,
and to suffer the inferior Rebels to redeem their lives by entering into
the East India Company's service. This translation will only render them
more useful subjects than in their native country."

This notice, copied from London papers, appeared in Holt's _New York
Journal_, for October 19th, 1775. It proved to be no idle threat. How
many of our brave soldiers were sent to languish out their lives in the
British possessions in India, and on the coast of Africa, we have no
means of knowing. Few, indeed, ever saw their homes again, but we
will give, in a future chapter, the narrative of one who escaped from
captivity worse than death on the island of Sumatra.

An account of the mobbing of William Cunningham and John Hill is given
in both the Tory and Whig papers of the day. It occurred in March, 1775.
"William Cunningham and John Hill were mobbed by 200 men in New York,
dragged through the green, Cunningham was robbed of his watch and the
clothes torn off his back, etc., for being a Tory, and having made
himself obnoxious to the Americans. He has often been heard blustering
in behalf of the ministry, and his behavior has recommended him to
the favor of several men of eminence, both in the military and civil
departments. He has often been seen, on a footing of familiarity, at
their houses, and parading the streets on a horse belonging to one of
the gentlemen, etc., etc."

The _Virginia Gazette_ in its issue for the first of July, 1775, says:
"On June 6th, 1775, the prisoners taken at Lexington were exchanged.
The wounded privates were soon sent on board the Levity. * * * At about
three a signal was made by the Levity that they were ready to deliver up
our prisoners, upon which General Putnam and Major Moncrief went to
the ferry, where they received nine prisoners. The regular officers
expressed themselves as highly pleased, those who had been prisoners
politely acknowledged the genteel kindness they had received from
their captors; the privates, who were all wounded men, expressed in the
strongest terms their grateful sense of the tenderness which had been
shown them in their miserable situation; some of them could do it only
by their tears. It would have been to the honor of the British arms
if the prisoners taken from us could with justice have made the same
acknowledgement. It cannot be supposed that any officers of rank or
common humanity were knowing to the repeated cruel insults that were
offered them; but it may not be amiss to hint to the upstarts concerned,
two truths of which they appear to be wholly ignorant, viz: That
compassion is as essential a part of the character of a truly brave man
as daring, and that insult offered to the person completely in the power
of the insulters smells as strong of cowardice as it does of cruelty."
[Footnote: The first American prisoners were taken on the 17th of June,
1775. These were thrown indiscriminately into the jail at Boston without
any consideration of their rank. General Washington wrote to General
Gage on this subject, to which the latter replied by asserting that
the prisoners had been treated with care and kindness, though
indiscriminately, as he acknowledged no rank that was not derived from
the King. General Carleton during his command conducted towards the
American prisoners with a degree of humanity that reflected the
greatest honor on his character." From Ramsay's "History of the American

At the battle of the Great Bridge "the Virginia militia showed the
greatest humanity and tenderness to the wounded prisoners. Several
of them ran through a hot fire to lift up and bring in some that were
bleeding, and whom they feared would die if not speedily assisted by the
surgeon. The prisoners had been told by Lord Dunmore that the Americans
would scalp them, and they cried out, 'For God's sake do not murder us!'
One of them who was unable to walk calling out in this manner to one of
our men, was answered by him: 'Put your arm about my neck and I'll show
you what I intend to do.' Then taking him, with his arm over his
neck, he walked slowly along, bearing him with great tenderness to the
breastwork." _Pennsylvania Evening Post_, January 6th, 1776.

The Great Bridge was built over the southern branch of the Elizabeth
River, twelve miles above Norfolk. Colonel William Woodford commanded
the Virginia militia on this occasion.

"The scene closed with as much humanity as it had been conducted
with bravery. The work of death being over, every one's attention was
directed to the succor of the unhappy sufferers, and it is an undoubted
fact that Captain Leslie was so affected with the tenderness of our
troops towards those who were yet capable of assistance that he gave
signs from the fort of his thankfulness for it." _Pennsylvania Evening
Post_, Jan. 6th, 1776.

The first mention we can find of a British prison ship is in the _New
York Packet_ for the 11th of April, 1776: "Captain Hammond * * * Ordered
Captain Forrester, his prisoner, who was on board the Roebuck, up to the
prison ship at Norfolk in a pilot boat."

_The Constitutional Gazette_ for the 19th of April, 1776, has this
announcement, and though it does not bear directly on the subject of
prisoners, it describes a set of men who were most active in taking
them, and were considered by the Americans as more cruel and vindictive
than even the British themselves.

"Government have sent over to Germany to engage 1,000 men called Jagers,
people brought up to the use of the rifle barrel guns in boar-hunting.
They are amazingly expert. Every petty prince who hath forests keeps a
number of them, and they are allowed to take apprentices, by which means
they are a numerous body of people. These men are intended to act in the
next campaign in America, and our ministry plume themselves much in the
thought of their being a complete match for the American riflemen."

From Gaine's _Mercury_, a notorious Tory paper published in New York
during the British occupancy, we take the following: "November 25th,
1776. There are now 5,000 prisoners in town, many of them half naked.
Congress deserts the poor wretches,--have sent them neither provisions
nor clothing, nor paid attention to their distress nor that of their
families. Their situation must have been doubly deplorable, but for
the humanity of the King's officers. Every possible attention has been
given, considering their great numbers and necessary confinement, to
alleviate their distress arising from guilt, sickness, and poverty."

This needs no comment. It is too unspeakably false to be worth

"New London, Conn., November 8th, 1776. Yesterday arrived E. Thomas, who
was captured September 1st, carried to New York, and put on board the
Chatham. He escaped Wednesday sennight."

"New London, Nov. 20th, 1776. American officers, prisoners on parole,
are walking about the streets of New York, but soldiers are closely
confined, have but half allowance, are sickly, and die fast."

"New London, Nov. 29th, 1776. A cartel arrived here for exchange of
seamen only. Prisoners had miserable confinement on board of store ships
and transports, where they suffered for want of the common necessaries
of life."

"Exact from a letter written on board the Whitby Prison Ship. New York,
Dec. 9th, 1776. Our present situation is most wretched; more than 250
prisoners, some sick and without the least assistance from physician,
drug, or medicine, and fed on two-thirds allowance of salt provisions,
and crowded promiscuously together without regard, to color, person or
office, in the small room of a ship's between decks, allowed to walk the
main deck only between sunrise and sunset. Only two at a time allowed to
come on deck to do what nature requires, and sometimes denied even that,
and use tubs and buckets between decks, to the great offence of every
delicate, cleanly person, and prejudice of all our healths. Lord Howe
has liberated all in the merchant service, but refuses to exchange those
taken in arms but for like prisoners." (This is an extract from the
Trumbull Papers.)

From a Connecticut paper: "This may inform those who have friends in New
York, prisoners of war, that Major Wells, a prisoner, has come thence to
Connecticut on parole, to collect money for the much distressed officers
and soldiers there, and desires the money may be left at Landlord Betts,
Norwalk; Captain Benjamin's, Stratford; Landlord Beers, New Haven;
Hezekiah Wylly's, Hartford; and at said Well's, Colchester, with proper
accounts from whom received, and to whom to be delivered. N. B. The
letters must not be sealed, or contain anything of a political nature."
Conn. Papers, Dec. 6th, 1776.

"Conn. _Gazette_, Feb. 8th, 1777. William Gamble deposes that the
prisoners were huddled together with negroes, had weak grog; no swab
to clean the ship; bad oil; raw pork; seamen refused them water; called
them d----d rebels; the dead not buried, etc."

"Lieut. Wm. Sterrett, taken August 27, 1776, deposes that his clothing
was stolen, that he was abused by the soldiers; stinted in food; etc.,
those who had slight wounds were allowed to perish from neglect. The
recruiting officers seduced the prisoners to enlist, etc."

"March 7th, 1777. Forty-six prisoners from the Glasgow, transport ship,
were landed in New Haven, where one of them, Captain Craigie, died and
was buried." (Their names are published in the Connecticut _Courant_.)

Connecticut _Gazette_ of April 30th, 1777, says: "The Connecticut
Assembly sent to New York a sufficient supply of tow shirts and trousers
for her prisoners, also £35 to Col. Ethan Allen, by his brother Levi."

"Lt. Thos. Fanning, now on parole from Long Island at Norwich, a
prisoner to General Howe, will be at Hartford on his return to New
York about September 8th, whence he proposes to keep the public road to
King's Bridge. Letters and money left at the most noted public houses
in the different towns, will be conveyed safe to the prisoners.
Extraordinaries excepted." Connecticut _Gazette_, Aug. 15th, 1777.

"Jan. 8th, '77. A flag of truce vessel arrived at Milford after
a tedious passage of eleven days, from New York, having above 200
prisoners, whose rueful countenances too well discovered the ill
treatment they received in New York. Twenty died on the passage, and
twenty since they landed." New Haven, Conn.



We will now quote from the Trumbull Papers and other productions, what
is revealed to the public of the state of the prisoners in New York
in 1776 and 1777. Some of our information we have obtained from a book
published in 1866 called "Documents and Letters Intended to Illustrate
the Revolutionary Incidents of Long Island, by Henry Onderdonk, Jr." He
gives an affecting account of the wounding of General Woodhull, after
his surrender, and when he had given up his sword. The British
ruffians who held him insisted that he should cry, "God save the King!"
whereupon, taking off his hat, he replied, reverently, "God save all
of us!" At this the cruel men ran him through, giving him wounds that
proved mortal, though had they been properly dressed his life might have
been spared. He was mounted behind a trooper and carried to Hinchman's
Tavern, Jamaica, where permission was refused to Dr. Ogden to dress
his wounds. This was on the 28th of August, 1776. Next day he was taken
westward and put on board an old vessel off New Utrecht. This had been a
cattle ship. He was next removed to the house of Wilhelmus Van Brunt at
New Utrecht. His arm mortified from neglect and it was decided to take
it off. He sent express to his wife that he had no hope of recovery, and
begged her to gather up what provisions she could, for he had a large
farm, and hasten to his bedside. She accordingly loaded a wagon with
bread, ham, crackers, butter, etc., and barely reached her husband
in time to see him alive. With his dying breath he requested her to
distribute the provisions she had brought to the suffering and starving
American prisoners.

Elias Baylis, who was old and blind, was chairman of the Jamaica
Committee of Safety. He was captured and first imprisoned in the church
at New Utrecht. Afterwards he was sent to the provost prison in New
York. He had a very sweet voice, and was an earnest Christian. In
the prison he used to console himself and his companions in misery by
singing hymns and psalms. Through the intervention of his friends, his
release was obtained after two months confinement, but the rigor of
prison life had been too much for his feeble frame. He died, in the arms
of his daughter, as he was in a boat crossing the ferry to his home.

While in the Presbyterian church in New Utrecht used as a prison by the
British, he had for companions, Daniel Duryee, William Furman, William
Creed, and two others, all put into one pew. Baylis asked them to get
the Bible out of the pulpit and read it to him. They feared to do this,
but consented to lead the blind man to the pulpit steps. As he returned
with the Bible in his hands a British guard met him, beat him violently
and took away the book. They were three weeks in the church at New
Utrecht. When a sufficient number of Whig prisoners were collected there
they would be marched under guard to a prison ship. One old Whig
named Smith, while being conducted to his destination, appealed to an
onlooker, a Tory of his acquaintance, to intercede for him. The cold
reply of his neighbor was, "Ah, John, you've been a great rebel!" Smith
turned to another of his acquaintances named McEvers, and said to him,
"McEvers, its hard for an old man like me to have to go to a prison!
Can't you do something for me?"

"What have you been doing, John?"

"Why, I've had opinions of my own!"

"Well, I'll see what I can do for you."

McEvers then went to see the officers in charge and made such
representations to them that Smith was immediately released.

Adrian Onderdonk was taken to Flushing and shut up in the old Friends'
Meeting House there, which is one of the oldest places of worship in
America. Next day he was taken to New York. He, with other prisoners,
was paraded through the streets to the provost, with a gang of loose
women marching before them, to add insult to suffering.

Onderdonk says: "After awhile the rigor of the prison rules was somewhat
abated." He was allowed to write home, which he did in Dutch, for
provisions, such as smoked beef, butter, etc. * * * His friends procured
a woman to do his washing, prepare food and bring it to him. * * *
One day as he was walking through the rooms followed by his constant
attendant, a negro with coils of rope around his neck, this man asked
Onderdonk what he was imprisoned for.

"'I've been a Committee man,'" said he.

"'Well,' with an oath and a great deal of abuse, 'You shall be hung

This mulatto was named Richmond, and was the common hangman. He used
to parade the provost with coils of ropes, requesting the prisoners to
choose their own halters. He it was who hung the gallant Nathan Hale,
and was Cunningham's accessory in all his brutal midnight murders. In
Gaine's paper for August 4th, 1781, appears the following advertisement:
"One Guinea Reward, ran away a black man named Richmond, being the
common hangman, formerly the property of the rebel Colonel Patterson of

"Wm. Cunningham."

After nearly four weeks imprisonment the friends of Adrian Onderdonk
procured his release. He was brought home in a wagon in the night, so
pale, thin, and feeble from bodily suffering that his family scarcely
recognized him. His constitution was shattered and he never recovered
his former strength.

Onderdonk says that women often brought food for the prisoners in little
baskets, which, after examination, were handed in. Now and then the
guard might intercept what was sent, or Cunningham, if the humor took
him, as he passed through the hall, might kick over vessels of soup,
placed there by the charitable for the poor and friendless prisoners.


"The wounded prisoners taken at the battle of Brooklyn were put in the
churches of Flatbush and New Utrecht, but being neglected and unattended
were wallowing in their own filth, and breathed an infected and impure
air. Ten days after the battle Dr. Richard Bailey was appointed to
superintend the sick. He was humane, and dressed the wounded daily; got
a sack bed, sheet, and blanket for each prisoner; and distributed the
prisoners into the adjacent barns. When Mrs. Woodhull offered to pay Dr.
Bailey for his care and attention to her husband, he said he had done no
more than his duty, and if there was anything due it was to me."

Woodhull's wounds were neglected nine days before Dr. Bailey was allowed
to attend them.

How long the churches were used as prisons cannot be ascertained, but
we have no account of prisoners confined in any of them after the year
1777. In the North Dutch Church in New York there were, at one time,
eight hundred prisoners huddled together. It was in this church that
bayonet marks were discernible on its pillars, many years after the war.

The provost and old City Hall were used as prisons until Evacuation Day,
when O'Keefe threw his ponderous bunch of keys on the floor and retired.
The prisoners are said to have asked him where they were to go.

"To hell, for what I care," he replied.

"In the Middle Dutch Church," says Mr. John Pintard, who was a nephew
of Commissary Pintard, "the prisoners taken on Long Island and at Fort
Washington, sick, wounded, and well, were all indiscriminately huddled
together, by hundreds and thousands, large numbers of whom died by
disease, and many undoubtedly poisoned by inhuman attendants for the
sake of their watches, or silver buckles."

"What was called the Brick Church was at first used as a prison, but
soon it and the Presbyterian Church in Wall Street, the Scotch Church
in Cedar Street, and the Friends' Meeting House were converted into

Oliver Woodruff, who died at the age of ninety, was taken prisoner at
Fort Washington, and left the following record: "We were marched to New
York and went into different prisons. Eight hundred and sixteen went
into the New Bridewell (between the City Hall and Broadway); some into
the Sugar House; others into the Dutch Church. On Thursday morning they
brought us a little provision, which was the first morsel we got to eat
or drink after eating our breakfast on Saturday morning. * * * I was
there (in New Bridewell) three months. In the dungeons of the old City
Hall which stood on the site of what was afterwards the Custom House at
first civil offenders were confined, but afterwards whale-boatmen and

Robert Troup, a young lieutenant in Colonel Lasher's battalion,
testified that he and Lieut. Edward Dunscomb, Adjutant Hoogland, and
two volunteers were made prisoners by a detachment of British troops at
three o'clock a m. on the 27th of August, 1776. They were carried before
the generals and interrogated, with threats of hanging. Thence they were
led to a house near Flatbush. At 9 a. m. they were led, in the rear
of the army, to Bedford. Eighteen officers captured that morning were
confined in a small soldier's tent for two nights and nearly three days.
It was raining nearly all the time. Sixty privates, also, had but one
tent, while at Bedford the provost marshal, Cunningham, brought with him
a negro with a halter, telling them the negro had already hung several,
and he imagined he would hang some more. The negro and Cunningham also
heaped abuse upon the prisoners, showing them the halter, and calling
them rebels, scoundrels, robbers, murderers, etc.

From Bedford they were led to Flatbush, and confined a week in a house
belonging to a Mr. Leffert, on short allowance of biscuit and salt pork.
Several Hessians took pity on them and gave them apples, and once some
fresh beef.

From Flatbush after a week, he, with seventy or eighty other officers,
were put on board a snow, lying between Gravesend and the Hook, without
bedding or blankets; afflicted with vermin; soap and fresh water for
washing purposes being denied them. They drank and cooked with filthy
water brought from England. The captain charged a very large commission
for purchasing necessaries for them with the money they procured from
their friends.

After six weeks spent on the snow they were taken on the 17th of October
to New York and confined in a house near Bridewell. At first they were
not allowed any fuel, and afterwards only a little coal for three days
in the week. Provisions were dealt out very negligently, were scanty,
and of bad quality. Many were ill and most of them would have died had
their wants not been supplied by poor people and loose women of the
town, who took pity on them.

"Shortly after the capture of Fort Washington these officers were
paroled and allowed the freedom of the town. Nearly half the prisoners
taken on Long Island died. The privates were treated with great
inhumanity, without fuel, or the common necessaries of life, and were
obliged to obey the calls of nature in places of their confinement."
It is said that the British did not hang any of the prisoners taken in
August on Long Island, but "played the fool by making them ride with a
rope around their necks, seated on coffins, to the gallows. Major Otho
Williams was so treated."

"Adolph Myer, late of Colonel Lasher's battalion, says he was taken by
the British at Montresor's Island. They threatened twice to hang him,
and had a rope fixed to a tree. He was led to General Howe's quarters
near Turtle Bay, who ordered him to be bound hand and foot. He was
confined four days on bread and water, in the 'condemned hole' of the
New Jail, without straw or bedding. He was next put into the
College, and then into the New Dutch Church, whence he escaped on the
twenty-fourth of January, 1777. He was treated with great inhumanity,
and would have died had he not been supported by his friends. * * * Many
prisoners died from want, and others were reduced to such wretchedness
as to attract the attention of the loose women of the town, from whom
they received considerable assistance. No care was taken of the sick,
and if any died they were thrown at the door of the prison and lay there
until the next day, when they were put in a cart and drawn out to the
intrenchments beyond the Jews' burial ground, when they were interred
by their fellow prisoners, conducted thither for that purpose. The
dead were thrown into a hole promiscuously, without the usual rites of
sepulchre. Myer was frequently enticed to enlist." This is one of the
few accounts we have from a prisoner who was confined in one of the
churches in New York, and he was so fortunate as to escape before it
was too late. We wish he had given the details of his escape. In such a
gloomy picture as we are obliged to present to our readers the only high
lights are occasional acts of humanity, and such incidents as fortunate

It would appear, from many proofs, that the Hessian soldier was
naturally a good-natured being, and he seems to have been the most
humane of the prison guards. We will see, as we go on, instances of the
kindness of these poor exiled mercenaries, to many of whom the war
was almost as great a scene of calamity and suffering as it was to the
wretched prisoners under their care.

"Lieutenant Catlin, taken September 15th, '76, was confined in prison
with no sustenance for forty-eight hours; for eleven days he had only
two days allowance of pork offensive to the smell, bread hard, mouldy
and wormy, made of canail and dregs of flax-seed; water brackish. 'I
have seen $1.50 given for a common pail full. Three or four pounds of
poor Irish pork were given to three men for three days. In one church
were 850 prisoners for near three months.'"

"About the 25th of December he with 225 men were put on board the
Glasgow at New York to be carried to Connecticut for exchange. They were
aboard eleven days, and kept on coarse broken bread, and less pork than
before, and had no fire for sick or well; crowded between decks, where
twenty-eight died through ill-usage and cold." (This is taken from the
"History of Litchfield," page 39.)


"The distress of the prisoners cannot be communicated in words. Twenty
or thirty die every day; they lie in heaps unburied; what numbers of my
countrymen have died by cold and hunger, perished for want of the common
necessaries of life! I have seen it! This, sir, is the boasted British
clemency! I myself had well nigh perished under it. The New England
people can have no idea of such barbarous policy. Nothing can stop such
treatment but retaliation. I ever despised private revenge, but that of
the public must be in this case, both just and necessary; it is due to
the manes of our murdered countrymen, and that alone can protect the
survivors in the like situation. Rather than experience again their
barbarity and insults, may I fall by the sword of the Hessians."

Onderdonk, who quotes this fragment, gives us no clue to the writer. A
man named S. Young testifies that, "he was taken at Fort Washington
and, with 500 prisoners, was kept in a barn, and had no provisions
until Monday night, when the enemy threw into the stable, in a confused
manner, as if to so many hogs, a quantity of biscuits in crumbs, mostly
mouldy, and some crawling with maggots, which the prisoners were obliged
to scramble for without any division. Next day they had a little pork
which they were obliged to eat raw. Afterwards they got sometimes a bit
of pork, at other times biscuits, peas, and rice. They were confined
two weeks in a church, where they suffered greatly from cold, not being
allowed any fire. Insulted by soldiers, women, and even negroes. Great
numbers died, three, four, or more, sometimes, a day. Afterwards they
were carried on board a ship, where 500 were confined below decks."

The date of this testimony is given as Dec. 15th, 1776: "W. D. says the
prisoners were roughly used at Harlem on their way from Fort Washington
to New York, where 800 men were stored in the New Bridewell, which was a
cold, open house, the windows not glazed. They had not one mouthful from
early Saturday morning until Monday. Rations per man for three days were
half a pound of biscuit, half a pound of pork, half a gill of rice, half
a pint of peas, and half an ounce of butter, the whole not enough for
one good meal, and they were defrauded in this petty allowance. They had
no straw to lie on, no fuel but one cart load per week for 800 men. At
nine o'clock the Hessian guards would come and put out the fire, and lay
on the poor prisoners with heavy clubs, for sitting around the fire.

"The water was very bad, as well as the bread. Prisoners died like
rotten sheep, with cold, hunger, and dirt; and those who had good
apparel, such as buckskin breeches, or good coats, were necessitated to
sell them to purchase bread to keep them alive." Hinman, page 277.

"Mrs. White left New York Jan. 20th, 1777. She says Bridewell, the
College, the New Jail, the Baptist Meeting House, and the tavern lately
occupied by Mr. De la Montaigne and several other houses are filled with
sick and wounded of the enemy. General Lee was under guard in a small
mean house at the foot of King Street. Wm. Slade says 800 prisoners
taken at Fort Washington were put into the North church. On the first
of December 300 were taken from the church to the prison ship. December
second he, with others, was marched to the Grosvenor transport in the
North River; five hundred were crowded on board. He had to lie down
before sunset to secure a place." Trumbull Papers.

"Henry Franklin affirms that about two days after the taking of Fort
Washington he was in New York, and went to the North Church, in which
were about 800 prisoners taken in said Fort. He inquired into their
treatment, and they told him they fared hard on account both of
provisions and lodging, for they were not allowed any bedding, or
blankets, and the provisions had not been regularly dealt out, so that
the modest or backward could get little or none, nor had they been
allowed any fuel to dress their victuals. The prisoners in New York were
very sickly, and died in considerable numbers."

"Feb. 11, 1777. Joshua Loring, Commissary of Prisoners, says that but
little provisions had been sent in by the rebels for their prisoners."
Gaine's Mercury.

_Jan. 4th_. 1777. "Seventy-seven prisoners went into the Sugar House. N.
Murray says 800 men were in Bridewell. The doctor gave poison powders to
the prisoners, who soon died. Some were sent to Honduras to cut logwood;
women came to the prison-gate to sell gingerbread." Trumbull Papers.

The _New York Gazette_ of May 6th, 1777, states that "of 3000 prisoners
taken at Fort Washington, only 800 are living."

Mr. Onderdonk says: "There seems to have been no systematic plan adopted
by the citizens of New York for the relief of the starving prisoners.
We have scattering notices of a few charitable individuals, such as the
following:--'Mrs. Deborah Franklin was banished from New York Nov. 21st,
1780, by the British commandant, for her unbounded liberality to the
American prisoners. Mrs. Ann Mott was associated with Mrs. Todd and Mrs.
Whitten in relieving the sufferings of American prisoners in New York,
during the Revolution. John Fillis died at Halifax, 1792, aged 68. He
was kind to American prisoners in New York. Jacob Watson, Penelope Hull,
etc., are also mentioned.'"


"P. Dobbyn, master of a transport, thus writes from New York, Jan. 15th,
1777. 'We had four or five hundred prisoners on board our ships, but
they had such bad distempers that each ship buried ten or twelve a day.'
Another writer, under date of Jan. 14th, '77, says, 'The Churches are
full of American prisoners, who die so fast that 25 or 30 are buried
at a time, in New York City. General Howe gave all who could walk
their liberty, after taking their oath not to take up arms against his
Majesty.'" (From a London Journal.)



An old man named John Fell was taken up by the British, and confined
for some months in the Provost prison. He managed to secrete writing
materials and made notes of his treatment. He was imprisoned for being
a Whig and one of the councilmen of Bergen, New Jersey. We will give his
journal entire, as it is quoted by Mr. Onderdonk.

April 23rd, 1777. Last night I was taken prisoner from my house by 25
armed men (he lived in Bergen) who brought me down to Colonel Buskirk's
at Bergen Point, and from him I was sent to Gen. Pigot, at N. Y., who
sent me with Captain Van Allen to the Provost Jail.

24th. Received from Mrs. Curzon, by the hands of Mr. Amiel, $16, two
shirts, two stocks, some tea, sugar, pepper, towels, tobacco, pipes,
paper, and a bed and bedding.

May 1st. Dr. Lewis Antle and Capt. Thomas Golden at the door, refused

May 2nd. 6 10 P. M. died John Thomas, of smallpox, aged 70 & inoculated.

5th. Capt. Colden has brought from Mr. Curson $16.00.

11. Dr. Antle came to visit me. Nero at the door. (A dog?)

13. Cold weather.

20. Lewis Pintard came per order of Elias Boudinot to offer me money.
Refused admittance. Capt. Colden came to visit me.

21. Capt and Mrs Corne came to visit me, and I was called downstairs to
see them.

23. Lewis Pintard came as Commissary to take account of officers, in
order to assist them with money.

24. Every person refused admittance to the Provost.

25. All prisoners paraded in the hall: supposed to look for deserters.

27. Rev. Mr. Hart and Col. Smith brought to the Provost from Long

29. Stormy in Provost.

30. Not allowed to fetch good water.

31. Bad water; proposing buying tea-water, but refused. This night ten
prisoners from opposite room ordered into ours, in all twenty.

June 1. Continued the same today.

2. The people ordered back to their own room.

3. Captain Van Zandt sent to the dungeon for resenting Captain
Cunningham's insulting and abusing me.

4. Capt. Adams brought into our room. At 9 P.M. candles ordered out.

7. Captain Van Zandt returned from the dungeon.

8. All prisoners paraded and called over and delivered to care of Sergt.
Keath. (O'Keefe, probably.) And told we are all alike, no distinction to
be made.

10. Prisoners very sickly.

11. Mr Richards from Connecticut exchanged.

12. Exceeding strict and severe. "Out Lights!"

13. Melancholy scene, women refused speaking to their sick husbands, and
treated cruelly by sentries.

14. Mr. James Ferris released on parole. People in jail very sickly and
not allowed a doctor.

17. Capt. Corne came to speak to me; not allowed.

18. Letter from prisoners to Sergeant Keath, requesting more privileges.

19. Received six bottles claret and sundry small articles, but the note
not allowed to come up.

20. Memorandum sent to Gen. Pigot with list of grievances.

21. Answered. "Grant no requests made by prisoners."

22. Mrs. Banta refused speaking to her son.

23. Mr Haight died.

24. Nineteen prisoners from Brunswick. Eighteen sent to the Sugar House.

25. Dr Bard came to visit Justice Moore, but his wife was refused, tho'
her husband was dying.

26. Justice Moore died and was carried out.

27. Several sick people removed below.

30. Provost very sickly and some die.

July 3. Received from Mrs Curson per Mrs. Marriner, two half Joes.

6. Received of E. Boudinot, per Pintard, ten half Joes.

7. Capt. Thomas Golden came to the grates to see me.

9. Two men carried out to be hung for desertion, reprieved.

11. Mr Langdon brought into our room.

13. The Sergeant removed a number of prisoners from below.

14. Messrs Demarests exchanged. Dr. Romaine ordered to visit the sick.

15. A declaration of more privileges, and prisoners allowed to speak at
the windows.

17. Peter Zabriskie had an order to speak with me, and let me know that
all was well at home

19. Sergt. from Sugar House came to take account of officers in the
Provost. Capt. Cunningham in town.

21. Sergt. took account of officers. Capt. Jas. Lowry died.

22. Mr. Miller died. Capt. Lowry buried.

Aug. 1. Very sick. Weather very hot.

5. Barry sent to the dungeon for bringing rum for Mr Phillips without
leave of the Sergt. Everything looks stormy.

6. Warm weather. Growing better. Mr. Pintard came to supply prisoners of
war with clothes.

10. Two prisoners from Long Island and four Lawrences from Tappan.

11. John Coven Cromwell from White Plains. Freeland from Polly (?) Fly
whipped about salt.

12. Sergt. Keath took all pens and ink out of each room, and forbid the
use of any on pain of the dungeon.

13. Abraham Miller discharged.

14. Jacobus Blauvelt died in the morning, buried at noon.

16. Capt. Ed. Travis brought into our room from the dungeon, where he
had long been confined and cruelly treated.

17. Mr. Keath refused me liberty to send a card to Mr Amiel for a lb of

21. Capt. Hyer discharged from the Provost.

25. Barry brought up from the dungeon, and Capt. Travis sent down again
without any provocation.

26. Badcock sent to dungeon for cutting wood in the evening. Locks
put on all the doors, and threatened to be locked up. Col. Ethan Allen
brought to the Provost from Long Island and confined below.

27. Badcock discharged from below.

30. 5 P.M. all rooms locked up close.

31. A.M. Col Allen brought into our room.

Sep. 1. Pleasant weather. Bad water.

4. Horrid scenes of whipping.

6. Lewis Pintard brought some money for the officers. P.M. Major Otho H.
Williams brought from Long Island and confined in our room. Major Wells
from same place confined below. A. M. William Lawrence of Tappan died.

8. Campbell, Taylor, John Cromwell, and Buchanan from Philadelphia

10. Provisions exceedingly ordinary,--pork very rusty, biscuit bad.

12. Capt. Travis, Capt. Chatham and others brought out of dungeon.

14. Two prisoners from Jersey, viz: Thomas Campbell of Newark and
Joralemon. (Jos. Lemon?)

16. Troops returned from Jersey. Several prisoners brought to Provost
viz:--Capt. Varick, Wm. Prevost Brower, etc. Seventeen prisoners from
Long Island.

22. Nothing material. Major Wells brought from below upstairs.

24. Received from Mr. Curson per Mr. Amiel four guineas, six bottles of
wine, and one lb tobacco.

26. Mr. Pintard carried list of prisoners and account of grievances to
the General Capt. Chatham and others carried to dungeon.

28. Yesterday a number of soldiers were sent below, and several
prisoners brought out of dungeon. Statement of grievances presented to
General Jones which much displeased Sergt. Keath who threatened to lock
up the rooms.

29. Last night Sergt. K. locked up all the rooms. Rev. Mr. Jas. Sears
was admitted upstairs.

30. Sent Mr. Pintard a list of clothing wanted for continental and state
prisoners in the Provost. Sergt. locks up all the rooms.

Oct. 2. Candles ordered out at eight.--Not locked up.

4. Locked up. Great numbers of ships went up North River. Received
sundries from Grove Bend. Three pair ribbed hose, three towels.

5. Garret Miller, of Smith's Cove, signed his will in prison, in
presence of Benjamin Goldsmith, Abr. Skinner, and myself. C. G. Miller
died of small-pox--P. M. Buried.

7. Wm. Prevost discharged from Provost.

8. Capt. Chatham and Lewis Thatcher brought out of dungeon.

10. Mr. Pintard sent up blankets, shoes, and stockings for the

12. Lt. Col. Livingstone and upwards of twenty officers from Fort
Montgomery and Clinton, all below.

13. Received from Mr. Pintard a letter by flag from Peter R. Fell, A. M.
Mr. Noble came to the grates to speak to me.

14. Sergt. Keath sent Lt. Mercer and Mr. Nath. Fitzrandolph to the
dungeon for complaining that their room had not water sufficient.

15. Mr. Pintard brought sundry articles for the prisoners.

17. Mr. Antonio and other prisoners brought here from up North River.

19. Ben Goldsmith ill of smallpox, made his will and gave it to me. Died
two A. M. Oct. 20.

21. Glorious news from the Northward.

22. Confirmation strong as Holy Writ. Beef, loaf bread, and butter drawn

23. Weather continues very cold. Ice in the tub in the hall. A number
of vessels came down North River. Mr. Wm. Bayard at the door to take out
old Mr. Morris.

24. Prisoners from the Sugar House sent on board ships.

25. Rev. Mr. Hart admitted on parole in the city. Sergt. Woolley from
the Sugar House came to take names of officers, and says an exchange is

28. Last night and today storm continues very severe. Provost in a
terrible condition. Lt. Col. Livingston admitted upstairs a few minutes.

Nov. 1. Lt. Callender of the train ordered back on Long Island; also
several officers taken at Fort Montgomery sent on parole to Long Island.

3. In the evening my daughter, Elizabeth Colden, came to see me,
accompained by Mayor Matthews.

5. Elizabeth Colden came to let me know she was going out of town.
Yesterday Sergt refused her the liberty of speaking to me. Gen.
Robertson's Aid-decamp came to inquire into grievances of prisoners.

16. Jail exceedingly disagreeable.--many miserable and shocking objects,
nearly starved with cold and hunger,--miserable prospect before me.

18. The Town Major and Town Adjutant came with a pretence of viewing the

19. Peter and Cor. Van Tassel, two prisoners from Tarrytown, in our

20 Mr. Pintard sent three barrels of flour to be distributed among the

21. Mr. Pintard came for an account of what clothing the prisoners

24. Six tailors brought here from prison ship to work in making clothes
for prisoners. They say the people on board are very sickly. Three
hundred sent on board reduced to one hundred.

25. Mr. Dean and others brought to jail from the town.

26. Dean locked up by himself, and Mr. Forman brought upstairs attended
by Rev. Mr. Inglis, and afterwards ordered downstairs. New order--one of
the prisoners ordered to go to the Commissary's and see the provisions
dealt out for the prisoners. Vast numbers of people assembled at the
Provost in expectation of seeing an execution.

27. John, one of the milkmen, locked upstairs with a sentry at his
door. A report by Mr. Webb that a prisoner, Herring, was come down to be
exchanged for Mr Van Zandt or me.

30. Captain Cunningham came to the Provost.

Dec. 1. Capt. Money came down with Mr Webb to be exchanged for Major

2. Col. Butler visited the Provost and promised a doctor should attend.
Received from Mr Bend cloth for a great coat, etc. Mr. Pmtard took a
list of clothing wanted for the prisoners.

3. Several prisoners of war sent from here on board the prison shop, &
some of the sick sent to the hospital, Dr Romaine being ordered by Sir
H. Clinton to examine the sick Prisoners sickly: cause, cold. Prisoners
in upper room (have) scanty clothing and only two bushels of coal for
room of twenty men per week.

5. Mr. Blanch ordered out; said to be to go to Morristown to get
prisoners exchanged. Cold.

7. Mr. Webb came to acquaint Major Wells his exchange was agreed to with
Capt. Money.

8. Major Gen. Robertson, with Mayor came to Provost to examine
prisoners. I was called and examined, and requested my parole. The
General said I had made bad use of indulgence granted me, in letting my
daughter come to see me. * * *

9. Major Wells exchanged.

10. Mr. Pintard sent 100 loaves for the prisoners. A. M. Walter Thurston
died. Prisoners very sickly and die very fast from the hospitals and
prison ships.

11. Some flags from North River.

12. Abel Wells died, a tailor from the prison ship. Mr. Pintard brought
letters for sundry people.

14. Sunday. Guards more severe than ever notwithstanding General
Robertson's promise of more indulgence. Capt. Van Zandt brought from
Long Island.

16. Sent message to Mr Pintard for wood. Cold and entirely out of wood.

17. Commissary Winslow came and released Major Winslow on his parole on
Long Island.

18. Mr Pintard sent four cords of wood for the prisoners.

19. Capt. John Paul Schoot released on parole. Mr Pintard with clothing
for the people.

21. A paper found at the door of the Provost, intimating that three
prisoners had a rope concealed in a bag in one of the rooms in order to
make their escape. The Sergt. examined all the rooms, and at night we
were all locked up.

22. Received from Mr Pintard 100 loaves and a quarter of beef.

24. Distributed clothing, etc., to the prisoners.

28. Gen. Robertson sent a doctor to examine me in consequence of the
petition sent by Col. Allen for my releasement. The doctor reported to
Dr. Mallet.

29. Gen. Robertson sent me word I should be liberated in town, provided
I procured a gentleman in town to be responsible for my appearance.
Accordingly I wrote to Hon. H. White, Esq.

30. Dr Romaine, with whom I sent the letter, said Mr White had a number
of objections, but the doctor hoped to succeed in the afternoon. Mr.
Winslow came and told the same story I heard the day before.

31. Sergt. Keath brought a message from the General to the same purpose
as yesterday. N. B. I lost the memoranda from this date to the time of
my being liberated from the Provost on Jan. 7, 1778.

New York Feb. 11. '78. Received a letter from Joshua Loring, Esq,
Commissary of Prisoners, with leave from Gen. Robertson for my having
the bounds of the city allowed me.

March. 23. Wrote to Major Gen. Robertson and told him this was the
eleventh month of my imprisonment.

Fell's note to the general follows, in which he begs to be liberated to
the house of Mrs. Marriner, who kept an ordinary in the town. A card in
reply from the general states that it is impossible to comply with his
request until Mr. Fell's friends give him sufficient security that he
will not attempt to escape. A Mr. Langdon having broken his faith in
like circumstances has given rise to a rule, which it is out of the
general's power to dispense with, etc, etc.

"Feb. 4, 1778. I delivered to Mr. Pintard the wills of Garret Miller
and Benjamin Goldsmith, to be forwarded to their respective families.
Present E. Boudinot.

"May 20 '78, I had my parole extended by order of Gen. Daniel Jones, to
my own house in Bergen County, for thirty days.

"July 2. I left town, and next day arrived safe home.

"Nov. 15, 1778 I received a certificate from A. Skinner, Deputy Com. of
Prisoners of my being exchanged for Gov. Skene. Signed by Joshua Loring,
Commissary General of Prisoners, dated New York, Oct 26 1778."



Mr. Fell's notes on his imprisonment present the best picture we
can find of the condition of the Provost Jail during the term of
his captivity. We have already seen how Mr Elias Boudinot, American
Commissary of Prisoners, came to that place of confinement, and what
he found there. This was in February, 1778. Boudinot also describes
the sufferings of the American prisoners in the early part of 1778 in
Philadelphia, and Mr. Fell speaks of Cunningham's return to New York.
He had, it appears, been occupied in starving prisoners in Philadelphia
during his absence from the Provost, to which General Howe sent him
back, after he had murdered one of his victims in Philadelphia with the
great key.

It appears that the prisoners in the Provost sent an account of their
treatment to General Jones, by Mr. Pintard, in September, 1777, several
months before the visit of Mr. Elias Boudinot. They complained that
they were closely confined in the jail without distinction of rank
or character, amongst felons, a number of whom were under sentence
of death: that their friends were not allowed to speak to them, even
through the grates: that they were put on the scanty allowance of two
pounds hard biscuit, and two pounds of raw pork per week, without fuel
to dress it. That they were frequently supplied with water from a pump
where all kinds of filth was thrown, by which it was rendered obnoxious
and unwholesome, the effects of which were to cause much sickness. That
good water could have been as easily obtained. That they were denied the
benefit of a hospital; not permitted to send for medicine, nor to have
the services of a doctor, even when in the greatest distress. That
married men and others who lay at the point of death were refused
permission to have their wives or other relations admitted to see them.
And that these poor women, for attempting to gain admittance, were often
beaten from the prison door. That commissioned officers, and others,
persons of character and reputation, were frequently, without a cause,
thrown into a loathsome dungeon, insulted in a gross manner, and vilely
abused by a Provost Marshal, who was allowed to be one of the basest
characters in the British Army, and whose power was so unlimited, that
he had caned an officer, on a trivial occasion; and frequently beaten
the sick privates when unable to stand, "many of whom are daily
obliged to enlist in the New Corps to prevent perishing for want of the
necessaries of life.

"Neither pen, ink, or paper allowed (to prevent their treatment being
made public) the consequence of which indeed, the prisoners themselves
dread, knowing the malignant disposition of their keeper."

The Board of War reported on the 21 of January, 1778, that there were
900 privates and 300 officers in New York, prisoners, and that "the
privates have been crowded all summer in sugar houses, and the officers
boarded on Long Island, except about thirty, who have been confined in
the Provost-Guard, and in most loathsome jails, and that since Oct. 1st,
all those prisoners, both officers and privates, have been confined
in prisons, prison ships, or the Provost." Lists of prisoners in the
Provost; those taken by the Falcon, Dec. 1777, and those belonging to
Connecticut who were in the Quaker and Brick Meeting House hospitals in
Jan. 1778, may be found in the Trumbull Papers, VII, 62.

It seems that General Lee, while a prisoner in New York, in 1778, drew
a prize of $500 in the New York Lottery, and immediately distributed
it among the prisoners in that city. A New London, Connecticut,
paper, dated Feb. 20, 1778, states that "it is said that the American
prisoners, since we have had a Commissary in New York, are well served
with good provisions, which are furnished at the expense of the States,
and they are in general very healthy."

We fear this was a rose-colored view of the matter, though there is
no doubt that our commissaries did what they could to alleviate the
miseries of captivity.

Onderdonk quotes from Gaine's _Mercury_ an advertisement for nurses in
the hospital, but it is undated. "Nurses wanted immediately to attend
the prison hospitals in this city. Good recommendations required, signed
by two respectable inhabitants. Lewis Pintard."

From the New York _Gazette_, May 6, 1778, we take the following:
"Colonel Miles, Irvin, and fifty more exchanged."

"Conn. _Gazette_. July 10, '78. About three weeks ago Robert Shefield,
of Stonington, made his escape from New York after confinement in a
prison ship. After he was taken he, with his crew of ten, were thrust
into the fore-peak, and put in irons. On their arrival at New York they
were carried on board a prison ship, and to the hatchways, on opening
which, tell not of Pandora's box, for that must be an alabaster box in
comparison to the opening of these hatches. True there were gratings (to
let in air) but they kept their boats upon them. The steam of the hold
was enough to scald the skin, and take away the breath, the stench
enough to poison the air all around.

"On his descending these dreary mansions of woe, and beholding the
numerous spectacles of wretchedness and despair, his soul fainted within
him. A little epitome of hell,--about 300 men confined between decks,
half Frenchmen. He was informed there were three more of these vehicles
of contagion, which contained a like number of miserable Frenchmen also,
who were treated worse, if possible, than Americans.

"The heat was so intense that (the hot sun shining all day on deck) they
were all naked, which also served the well to get rid of vermin, but the
sick were eaten up alive. Their sickly countenances, and ghastly looks
were truly horrible; some swearing and blaspheming; others crying,
praying, and wringing their hands; and stalking about like ghosts;
others delirious, raving and storming,--all panting for breath; some
dead, and corrupting. The air was so foul that at times a lamp could
not be kept burning, by reason of which the bodies were not missed until
they had been dead ten days.

"One person alone was admitted on deck at a time, after sunset, which
occasioned much filth to run into the hold, and mingle with the bilge
water, which was not pumped out while he was aboard, notwithstanding the
decks were leaky, and the prisoners begged permission to let in water
and pump it out again.

"While Mr. Sheffield was on board, which was six days, five or six died
daily, and three of his people. He was sent for on shore as evidence in
a Court of Admiralty for condemning his own vessel, and happily escaped.

"He was informed in New York that the fresh meat sent in to our
prisoners by our Commissary was taken by the men-of-war for their own
use. This he can say: he did not see any aboard the ship he was in, but
they were well supplied with soft bread from our Commissaries on shore.
But the provision (be it what it will) is not the complaint. Fresh air
and fresh water, God's free gift, is all their cry."

"New London, Conn. July 31. 78. Last week 500 or 600 prisoners were
released from confinement at New York and sent out chiefly by way of New
Jersey, being exchanged."

"New London Conn. Sep. 26, 78. All American prisoners are nearly sent
out of New York, but there are 615 French prisoners still there."

"Oct 18, 78. The Ship, Good Hope, lies in the North River."

"New London Dec. 18, 78. A Flag with 70 men from the horrible prison
ships of New York arrived: 30 very sickly, 2 died since they arrived."

"N. London. Dec. 25, 78. A cartel arived here from New York with 172
American prisoners. They were landed here and in Groton, the greater
part are sickly and in most deplorable condition, owing chiefly to the
ill usage in the prison ships, where numbers had their feet and legs



We will now take our readers with us to the Sugar House on Liberty
Street, long called the Old Sugar House, and the only one of the three
Sugar Houses which appear to have been used as a place of confinement
for American prisoners of war after the year 1777.

We have already mentioned this dreary abode of wretchedness, but it
deserves a more elaborate description.

From Valentine's Manual of the Common Council of New York for 1844 we
will copy the following brief sketch of the British Prisons in New York
during the Revolution.

"The British took possession of New York Sep. 15, '76, and the capture
of Ft. Washington, Nov. 16, threw 2700 prisoners into their power.
To these must be added 1000 taken at the battle of Brooklyn, and such
private citizens as were arrested for their political principles, in
New York City and on Long Island, and we may safely conclude that Sir
William Howe had at least 5000 prisoners to provide for.

"The sudden influx of so many prisoners; the recent capture of the city,
and the unlooked-for conflagration of a fourth part of it, threw his
affairs into such confusion that, from these circumstances alone, the
prisoners must have suffered much, from want of food and other bodily
comforts, but there was superadded the studied cruelty of Captain
Cunningham, the Provost Marshal, and his deputies, and the criminal
negligence of Sir Wm. Howe.

"To contain such a vast number of prisoners the ordinary places of
confinement were insufficient. Accordingly the Brick Church, the Middle
Church, the North Church, and the French Church were appropriated to
their use. Beside these, Columbia College, the Sugar House, the New
Gaol, the new Bridewell, and the old City Hall were filled to their
utmost capacity.

"Till within a few years there stood on Liberty Street, south of the
Middle Dutch Church, a dark, stone building, with small, deep porthole
looking windows, rising tier above tier; exhibiting a dungeon-like
aspect. It was five stories high, and each story was divided into two
dreary apartments.

"On the stones and bricks in the wall were to be seen names and dates,
as if done with a prisoner's penknife, or nail. There was a strong,
gaol-like door opening on Liberty St., and another on the southeast,
descending into a dismal cellar, also used as a prison. There was a walk
nearly broad enough for a cart to travel around it, where night and day,
two British or Hessian guards walked their weary rounds. The yard was
surrounded by a close board fence, nine feet high. 'In the suffocating
heat of summer,' says Wm. Dunlap, 'I saw every narrow aperture of these
stone walls filled with human heads, face above face, seeking a portion
of the external air.'

"While the gaol fever was raging in the summer of 1777, the prisoners
were let out in companies of twenty, for half an hour at a time, to
breathe fresh air, and inside they were so crowded, that they divided
their numbers into squads of six each. No. 1 stood for ten minutes as
close to the windows as they could, and then No. 2 took their places,
and so on.

"Seats there were none, and their beds were but straw, intermixed with

"For many days the dead-cart visited the prison every morning, into
which eight or ten corpses were flung or piled up, like sticks of wood,
and dumped into ditches in the outskirts of the city."

Silas Talbot says: "A New York gentleman keeps a window shutter that was
used as a checkerboard in the Sugar House. The prisoners daily unhinged
it, and played on it."

Many years ago a small pamphlet was printed in New York to prove that
some of the American prisoners who died in the Old Sugar House were
buried in Trinity church-yard. Andrew S. Norwood, who was a boy during
the Revolution, deposed that he used to carry food to John Van Dyke, in
this prison. The other prisoners would try to wrest away the food, as
they were driven mad by hunger. They were frequently fed with bread made
from old, worm-eaten ship biscuits, reground into meal and offensive
to the smell. Many of the prisoners died, and some were put into oblong
boxes, sometimes two in a box, and buried in Trinity church-yard, and
the boy, himself, witnessed some of the interments. A part of Trinity
church-yard was used as a common burying-ground,--as was also the yard
of St. George's Church, and what was called the Swamp Burying-Ground.

This boy also deposed that his uncle Clifford was murdered during the
Revolution, it was supposed by foreign soldiers, and he was buried in
Trinity church-yard.

Jacob Freeman, also a boy during the Revolution, deposed that his father
and several other inhabitants of Woodbridge were arrested and sent to
New York. His grandfather was sixty years old, and when he was arrested,
his son, who was concealed and could have escaped, came out of his
hiding-place and surrendered himself for the purpose of accompanying his
father to prison. The son was a Lieutenant. They were confined in the
Sugar House several months. Every day some of the prisoners died and
were buried in Old Trinity church-yard. Ensign Jacob Barnitz was wounded
in both legs at the battle of Fort Washington. He was conveyed to New
York and there thrown into the Sugar House, and suffered to lie on
the damp ground. A kind friend had him conveyed to more comfortable
quarters. Barnitz came from York, or Lancaster, Pa.

Little John Pennell was a cabin boy, bound to Captain White of the sloop
of war, Nancy, in 1776. He testified that the prisoners of the Sugar
House, which was very damp, were buried on the hill called "The Holy
Ground." "I saw where they were buried. The graves were long and six
feet wide. Five or six were buried in one grave." It was Trinity Church

We will now give an account of Levi Hanford, who was imprisoned in the
Sugar House in 1777. Levi Hanford was a son of Levi Hanford, and was
born in Connecticut, in the town of Norwalk, on the 19th of Feb., 1759.
In 1775 he enlisted in a militia company. In 1776 he was in service in
New York. In March 1777, being then a member of a company commanded by
Captain Seth Seymour, he was captured with twelve others under Lieut. J.
B. Eels, at the "Old Well" in South Norwalk, Conn. While a prisoner in
the Old Sugar House he sent the following letter to his father. A friend
wrote the first part for him, and he appears to have finished it in his
own handwriting.

New York June 7. 1777

Loving Father:--

I take the opportunity to let you know I am alive, and in reasonable
health, since I had the small-pox.--thanks be to the Lord for it. * * *
I received the things you sent me. * * * I wish you would go and see if
you can't get us exchanged--if you please. Matthias Comstock is dead.
Sam. Hasted, Ebenezer Hoyt, Jonathan Kellog has gone to the hospital to
be inoculated today. We want money very much. I have been sick but hope
I am better. There is a doctor here that has helpt me. * * * I would not
go to the Hospital, for all manner of disease prevail there. * * * If
you can possibly help us send to the Governor and try to help us. * * *
Remember my kind love to all my friends. I am

Your Obedient son, Levi Hanford.

Poor Levi Hanford was sent to the prison ship, Good Intent, and was not
exchanged until the 8th of May, 1778.

In the "Journal of American History," the third number of the second
volume, on page 527, are the recollections of Thomas Stone, a soldier
of the Revolution, who was born in Guilford, Conn., in 1755. In April,
1777, he enlisted under Capt. James Watson in Colonel Samuel Webb's
Regiment, Connecticut line. He spent the following campaign near the
Hudson. The 9th of December following Stone and his comrades under Gen.
Parsons, embarked on board some small vessel at Norwalk, Conn, with a
view to take a small fort on Long Island. "We left the shore," he says,
"about six o'clock, P. M. The night was very dark, the sloop which I was
aboard of parted from the other vessels, and at daybreak found
ourselves alongside a British frigate. Our sloop grounded, we struck
our colors-fatal hour! We were conducted to New York, introduced to the
Jersey Prison Ship. We were all destitute of any clothing except what we
had on; we now began to taste the vials of Monarchial tender mercy.

"About the 25th of Jan. 1778, we were taken from the ships to the Sugar
House, which during the inclement season was more intolerable than the

"We left the floating Hell with joy, but alas, our joy was of short
duration. Cold and famine were now our destiny. Not a pane of glass, nor
even a board to a single window in the house, and no fire but once in
three days to cook our small allowance of provision. There was a scene
that truly tried body and soul. Old shoes were bought and eaten with as
much relish as a pig or a turkey; a beef bone of four or five ounces,
after it was picked clean, was sold by the British guard for as many

"In the spring our misery increased; frozen feet began to mortify; by
the first of April, death took from our numbers, and, I hope, from
their misery, from seven to ten a day; and by the first of May out of
sixty-nine taken with me only fifteen were alive, and eight out of that
number unable to work.

"Death stared the living in the face: we were now attacked by a fever
which threatened to clear our walls of its miserable inhabitants.

"About the 20th of July I made my escape from the prison-yard. Just
before the lamps were lighted. I got safely out of the city, passed all
the guards, was often fired at, but still safe as to any injury done me;
arrived at Harlem River eastward of King's Bridge.

"Hope and fear were now in full exercise. The alarm was struck by the
sentinels keeping firing at me. I arrived at the banks of Harlem,--five
men met me with their bayonets at my heart; to resist was instant death,
and to give up, little better.

"I was conducted to the main guard, kept there until morning then
started for New York with waiters with bayonets at my back, arrived at
my old habitation about 1 o'clock, P. M.; was introduced to the Prison
keeper who threatened me with instant death, gave me two heavy blows
with his cane; I caught his arm and the guard interfered. Was driven to
the provost, thrust into a dungeon, a stone floor, not a blanket, not
a board, not a straw to rest on. Next day was visited by a Refugee
Lieutenant, offered to enlist me, offered a bounty, I declined. Next
day renewed the visit, made further offers, told me the General was
determined I should starve to death where I was unless I would enter
their service. I told him his General dare not do it. (I shall here omit
the imprecations I gave him in charge.)

"The third day I was visited by two British officers, offered me a
sergeant's post, threatened me with death as before, in case I refused.
I replied, 'Death if they dare!'

"In about ten minutes the door was opened, a guard took me to my old
habitation the Sugar House, it being about the same time of day I left
my cell that I entered it, being three days and nights without a morsel
of food or a drop of water,--all this for the crime of getting out of
prison. When in the dungeon reflecting upon my situation I thought if
ever mortal could be justified in praying for the destruction of his
enemies, I am the man.

"After my escape the guard was augmented, and about this time a new
prison keeper was appointed, our situation became more tolerable.

"The 16th of July was exchanged. Language would fail me to describe the
joy of that hour; but it was transitory. On the morning of the 16th,
some friends, or what is still more odious, some Refugees, cast into
the Prison yard a quantity of warm bread, and it was devoured with
greediness. The prison gate was opened, we marched out about the number
of 250. Those belonging to the North and Eastern States were conducted
to the North River and driven on board the flag ship, and landed at
Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Those who ate of the bread soon sickened;
there was death in the bread they had eaten. Some began to complain
in about half an hour after eating the bread, one was taken sick after
another in quick succession and the cry was, 'Poison, poison!' I was
taken sick about an hour after eating. When we landed, some could walk,
and some could not. I walked to town about two miles, being led most
of the way by two men. About one half of our number did not eat of the
bread, as a report had been brought into the prison _that the prisoners
taken at Fort Washington had been poisoned in the same way_.

"The sick were conveyed in wagons to White Plains, where I expected
to meet my regiment, but they had been on the march to Rhode Island
I believe, about a week. I was now in a real dilemma; I had not the
vestige of a shirt to my body, was moneyless and friendless. What to
do I knew not. Unable to walk, a gentleman, I think his name was Allen,
offered to carry me to New Haven, which he did. The next day I was
conveyed to Guilford, the place of my birth, but no near relative to
help me. Here I learned that my father had died in the service the
Spring before. I was taken in by a hospitable uncle, but in moderate
circumstances. Dr. Readfield attended me for about four months I was
salivated twice, but it had no good effect. They sent me 30 miles to
Dr Little of East Haddam, who under kind Providence restored me to such
state of health that I joined my Regiment in the Spring following.

"In the year 1780, I think in the month of June, General Green met the
enemy at Springfield, New Jersey, and in the engagement I had my left
elbow dislocated in the afternoon. The British fired the village and
retreated. We pursued until dark. The next morning my arm was so swollen
that it _could_ not, or at least was not put right, and it has been ever
since a weak, feeble joint, which has disabled me from most kinds of
manual labor."

To this account the grandson of Thomas Stone, the Rev. Hiram Stone, adds
some notes, in one of which he says, speaking of the Sugar House: "I
have repeatedly heard my grandfather relate that there were no windows
left in the building, and that during the winter season the snow would
be driven entirely across the great rooms in the different stories,
and in the morning lie in drifts upon our poor, hungry, unprotected
prisoners. Of a morning several frozen corpses would be dragged out,
thrown into wagons like logs, then driven away and pitched into a large
hole or trench, and covered up like dead brutes."

Speaking of the custom of sending the exchanged prisoners as far as
possible from their own homes, he says: "I well remember hearing my
grandfather explain this strange conduct of the enemy in the following
way. Alter the poison was thus perfidiously administered, the prisoners
belonging at the North were sent across to the Jersey side, while those
of the South were sent in an opposite direction, the intention of the
enemy evidently being to send the exchanged prisoners as far from home
as possible, that most of them might die of the effect of the poison
before reaching their friends. Grandfather used to speak of the
treatment of our prisoners as most cruel and murderous, though charging
it more to the Tories or Refugees than to the British.

"The effects of the poison taken into his system were never eradicated
in the life-time of my grandfather, a 'breaking out,' or rash, appearing
every spring, greatly to his annoyance and discomfort."



In our attempt to describe the sufferings of American prisoners taken
during the Revolution, we have, for the most part, confined ourselves
to New York, only because we have been unable to make extensive research
into the records of the British prisons in other places. But what little
we have been able to gather on the subject of the prisoners sent out of
America we will also lay before our readers.

We have already stated the fact that some of our prisoners were sent to
India and some to Africa. They seem to have been sold into slavery, and
purchased by the East India Company, and the African Company as well.

It is doubtful if any of the poor prisoners sent to the unwholesome
climate of Africa ever returned to tell the story of British cruelties
inflicted upon them there,--where hard work in the burning sun,--scanty
fare,--and jungle fever soon ended their miseries. But one American
prisoner escaped from the Island of Sumatra, where he had been employed
in the pepperfields belonging to the East India Company. His story is
eventful, and we will give the reader an abridgement of it, as it was
told by himself, in his narrative, first published in a New England

John Blatchford was born at Cape Ann, Mass., in the year 1762. In June,
1777, he went as a cabin boy on board the Hancock, a continental ship
commanded by Capt. John Manly. On the 8th of July the Hancock was
captured by the Rainbow, under Sir George Collier, and her crew was
taken to Halifax.

John Blatchford was, at this time, in his sixteenth year. He was of
medium height, with broad shoulders, full chest, and well proportioned
figure. His complexion was sallow, his eyes dark, and his hair black and
curly. He united great strength with remarkable endurance, else he could
not have survived the rough treatment he experienced at the hands of
fate. It is said that as a man he was temperate, grave, and dignified,
and although his strength was so great, and his courage most undaunted,
yet he was peaceable and slow to anger. His narrative appears to have
been dictated by himself to some better educated person. It was first
published in New London, Conn., in the year 1788. In the year 1797
an abstract of it appeared in Philip Freneau's _Time Piece_, a paper
published in New York. In July, 1860, the entire production was
published in the _Cape Ann Gazette_. We will now continue the narrative
in Blatchford's own words:

"On our arrival at Halifax we were taken on shore and confined in a
prison which had formerly been a sugar-house.

"The large number of prisoners confined in this house, near 300,
together with a scanty allowance of provisions, occasioned it to be very
sickly. * * * George Barnard, who had been a midshipman on the Hancock,
and who was confined in the same room as myself, concerted a plan to
release us, which was to be effected by digging a small passage under
ground, to extend to a garden that was behind the prison, and without
the prison wall, where we might make a breach in the night with safety,
and probably all obtain our liberty. This plan greatly elated our
spirits, and we were anxious to proceed immediately in executing it.

"Our cabins were built one above another, from the floor to the height
of a man's head; and mine was pitched upon to be taken up; and six of us
agreed to do the work, whose names were George Barnard, William Atkins,
late midshipmen in the Hancock; Lemuel Towle of Cape Ann, Isaiah
Churchill of Plymouth; Asa Cole of Weathersfield, and myself.

"We took up the cabin and cut a hole in the plank underneath. The sugar
house stood on a foundation of stone which raised the floor four feet
above the ground, and gave us sufficient room to work, and to convey
away the dirt that we dug up.

"The instruments that we had to work with were one scraper, one long
spike, and some sharp sticks; with these we proceeded in our difficult
undertaking. As the hole was too small to admit of more than one person
to work at a time we dug by turns during ten or twelve days, and carried
the dirt in our bosoms to another part of the cellar. By this time
we supposed we had dug far enough, and word was given out among the
prisoners to prepare themselves for flight.

"But while we were in the midst of our gayety, congratulating
ourselves upon our prospects, we were basely betrayed by one of our own
countrymen, whose name was Knowles. He had been a midshipman on board
the Boston frigate, and was put on board the Fox when she was taken by
the Hancock and Boston. What could have induced him to commit so vile an
action cannot be conceived, as no advantage could accrue to him from
our detection, and death was the certain consequence to many of his
miserable countrymen. That it was so is all that I can say. A few
hours before we were to have attempted our escape Knowles informed
the Sergeant of the guard of our design, and by his treachery cost his
country the lives of more than one hundred valuable citizens,--fathers,
and husbands, whose return would have rejoiced the hearts of now
weeping, fatherless children, and called forth tears of joy from wives,
now helpless and disconsolate widows.

"When we were discovered the whole guard were ordered into the room and
being informed by Knowles who it was that performed the work we were all
six confined in irons; the hole was filled up and a sentinel constantly
placed in the room, to prevent any further attempt.

"We were all placed in close confinement, until two of my
fellow-sufferers, Barnard and Cole, died; one of which was put into the
ground with his irons on his hands.

"I was afterwards permitted to walk the yard. But as my irons were too
small, and caused my hands to swell, and made them very sore, I asked
the Sergeant to take them off and give me larger ones. He being a person
of humanity, and compassionating my sufferings, changed my irons for
others that were larger, and more easy to my hands.

"Knowles, who was also permitted to walk the yard, for his perfidy,
would take every opportunity to insult and mortify me, by asking me
whether I wanted to run away again, and when I was going home, etc?

"His daily affronts, together with his conduct in betraying, his
countrymen, so exasperated me that I wished for nothing more than an
opportunity to convince him that I did not love him.

"One day as he was tantalizing over me as usual, I suddenly drew my one
hand out of my irons, flew at him and struck him in the face, knocked
out two or three of his teeth, and bruised his mouth very much. He cried
out that the prisoner had got loose, but before any assistance came, I
had put my hand again into the hand-cuff, and was walking about the
yard as usual. When the guard came they demanded of me in what manner I
struck him. I replied with both my hands.

"They then tried to pull my hands out, but could not, and concluded it
must be as I said. Some laughed and some were angry, but in the end I
was ordered again into prison.

"The next day I was sent on board the Greyhound, frigate, Capt. Dickson,
bound on a cruise in Boston Bay.

"After being out a few days we met with a severe gale of wind, in which
we sprung our main-mast, and received considerable other damage. We were
then obliged to bear away for the West Indies, and on our passage fell
in with and took a brig from Norwich, laden with stock.

"The Captain and hands were put on board a Danish vessel the same day.
We carried the brig into Antigua, where we immediately repaired, and
were ordered in company of the Vulture, sloop of war, to convoy a sloop
of merchantmen into New York.

"We left the fleet off Sandy Hook, and sailed for Philadelphia, where
we lay until we were made a packet, and ordered for Halifax with
dispatches. We had a quick passage, and arrived safe.

"While we lay in the road Admiral Byron arrived, in the Princess Royal
from England, who, being short of men, and we having a surplusage for
a packet, many of our men were ordered on board the Princess Royal, and
among them most of our boat's crew.

"Soon after, some of the officers going on shore, I was ordered into the
boat. We landed at the Governor's slip--it being then near night. This
was the first time since I had been on board the Greyhound that I
had had an opportunity to escape from her, as they were before this
particularly careful of me; therefore I was determined to get away if
possible, and to effect it I waded round a wharf and went up a byway,
fearing I should meet the officers. I soon got into the street, and made
the best of my way towards Irishtown (the southern suburbs of Halifax)
where I expected to be safe, but unfortunately while running I was met
and stopped by an emissary, who demanded of me my business, and where I
was going? I tried to deceive him, that he might let me pass, but it was
in vain, he ordered me to follow him.

"I offered him what money I had, about seven shillings, sixpence, to let
me go, this too was in vain. I then told him I was an American, making
my escape, from a long confinement, and was determined to pass, and took
up a stone. He immediately drew his bayonet, and ordered me to go back
with him. I refused and told him to keep his distance. He then run upon
me and pushed his bayonet into my side. It come out near my navel;
but the wound was not very deep; he then made a second pass at me, and
stabbed me through my arm; he was about to stab me a third time, when
I struck him with the stone and knocked him down. I then run, but the
guard who had been alarmed, immediately took me and carried me before
the Governor, where I understood the man was dead.

"I was threatened with every kind of death, and ordered out of the
Governor's presence. * * * Next day I was sent on board the Greyhound,
the ship I had run from, and we sailed for England. Our captain being
a humane man ordered my irons off, a few days after we sailed, and
permitted me to do duty as formerly. Being out thirteen days we spoke
the Hazard sloop of war, who informed that the French fleet was then
cruising in the English Channel. For this reason we put into Cork, and
the dispatches were forwarded to England.

"While we lay in the Cove of Cork I jumped overboard with the intention
of getting away; unfortunately I was discovered and fired at by the
marines; the boat was immediately sent after me, took me up, and carried
me on board again. At this time almost all the officers were on shore,
and the ship was left in charge of the sailing-master, one Drummond, who
beat me most cruelly. To get out of his way I run forward, he followed
me, and as I was running back he came up with me and threw me down the
main-hold. The fall, together with the beating was so severe that I was
deprived of my senses for a considerable time. When I recovered them
I found myself in the carpenter's berth, placed upon some old canvas
between two chests, having my right thigh, leg and arm broken, and
several parts of my body severely bruised. In this situation I lay
eighteen days till our officers, who had been on business to Dublin,
came on board. The captain inquired for the prisoners, and on being
informed of my situation came down with the doctor to set my bones, but
finding them callussed they concluded not to meddle with me.

"The ship lay at Cork until the French fleet left the Channel, and then
sailed for Spithead. On our arrival there I was sent in irons on
board the Princess Amelia, and the next day was carried on board the
Brittania, in Portsmouth Harbor, to be tried before Sir Thomas Pye, lord
high admiral of England, and President of the court martial.

"Before the officers had collected I was put under the care of a
sentinel, and the seamen and women who came on board compassionated my
sufferings, which rather heightened than diminished my distress.

"I was sitting under the awning, almost overpowered by the reflection
of my unhappy situation, every morning expecting to be summoned for my
trial, when I heard somebody enquire for the prisoner, and supposing it
to be an officer I rose up and answered that I was there.

"The gentleman came to me, told me to be of good chear, and taking out a
bottle of cordial, bade me drink, which I did. He then enquired where I
belonged. I informed him. He asked me if I had parents living, and if I
had any friends in England? I answered I had neither. He then assured me
he was my friend, and would render me all the assistance in his power.
He then enquired of me every circumstance relative to my fray with the
man at Halifax, for whose death I was now to be tried and instructed me
what to say on my trial, etc."

Whether this man was a philanthropist, or an agent for the East India
Company, we do not know. He instructed Blatchford to plead guilty, and
then defended him from the charge of murder, no doubt on the plea
of self-defence. Blatchford was therefore acquitted of murder, but
apparently sold to the East India Company as a slave. How this was
condoned we do not know, but will let the poor sailor continue his
narrative in his own words.

"I was carried on board an Indiaman, and immediately put down into the
run, where I was confined ten days. * * * On the seventh day I heard the
boatswain pipe all hands, and about noon I was called up on board, where
I found myself on board the Princess Royal, Captain Robert Kerr, bound
to the East Indies, with six others, all large ships belonging to the
East India Company." He had been told that he was to be sent back to
America to be exchanged, and his disappointment amounted almost to

"Our captain told me if I behaved well and did my duty I should receive
as good usage as any man on board; this gave me great encouragement. I
now found my destiny fixed, that whatever I could do would not in the
least alter my situation, and therefor was determined to do the best I
could, and make myself as contented as my unfortunate situation would

"After being on board seven days I found there were in the Princess
Royal 82 Americans, all destined to the East Indies, for being what they
called 'Rebels.'

"We had a passage of seventeen weeks to St Helena, where we put in and
landed part of our cargo, which consisted wholly of provisions. * * *
The ship lay here about three weeks. We then sailed for Batavia, and on
the passage touched at the Cape of Good Hope, where we found the
whole of the fleet that sailed with us from England. We took in some
provisions and necessaries, and set sail for Batavia, where we arrived
in ten weeks. Here we purchased a large quantity of arrack, and remained
a considerable time.

"We then sailed for Bencoulen in the Island of Sumatria, and after a
passage of about six weeks arrived there. This was in June, 1780.

"At this place the Americans were all carried on shore, and I found that
I was no longer to remain on board the ship, but condemned to serve as a
soldier for five years. I offered to bind myself to the captain for five
years, or any longer term if I might serve on board the ship. He told me
it was impossible for me to be released from acting as a soldier, unless
I could pay £50, sterling. As I was unable to do this I was obliged to
go through the manual exercise with the other prisoners; among whom was
Wm. Randall of Boston, and Josiah Folgier of Nantucket, both young men,
and one of them an old ship-mate of mine.

"These two and myself agreed to behave as ignorant and awkward as
possible, and what motions we learned one day we were to forget the
next. We pursued this conduct nearly a fortnight, and were beaten every
day by the drill-sergeant who exercised us, and when he found we were
determined, in our obstinacy, and that it was not possible for him
to learn us anything, we were all three sent into the pepper gardens
belonging to the East India Company; and continued picking peppers
from morning till night, and allowed but two scanty meals a day. This,
together with the amazing heat of the sun, the island lying under the
equator, was too much for an American constitution, unused to a hot
climate, and we expected that we should soon end our misery and our
lives; but Providence still preserved us for greater hardships.

"The Americans died daily with heat and hard fare, which determined my
two comrades and myself in an endeavor to make our escape. We had been
in the pepper-gardens four months when an opportunity offered, and we
resolved upon trying our fortune. Folgier, Randall and myself sat out
with an intention of reaching Croy (a small harbor where the Dutch often
touched at to water, on the opposite side of the island). Folgier had by
some means got a bayonet, which he fixed in the end of a stick. Randall
and myself had nothing but staves, which were all the weapons we carried
with us. We provided ourselves with fireworks [he means flints to strike
fire] for our journey, which we pursued unmolested till the fourth day
just at night, when we heard a rustle in the bushes and discovered nine
sepoys, who rushed out upon us.

"Folgier being the most resolute of us run at one of them, and pushed
his bayonet through his body into a tree. Randall knocked down another;
but they overpowered us, bound us, and carried us back to the fort,
which we reached in a day and a half, though we had been four days
travelling from it, owing to the circle we made by going round the
shore, and they came across the woods being acquainted with the way.

"Immediately on our arrival at the fort the Governor called a court
martial, to have us tried. We were soon all condemned to be shot next
morning at seven o'clock, and ordered to be sent into the dungeon and
confined in irons, where we were attended by an adjutant who brought a
priest with him to pray and converse with us, but Folgier, who hated the
sight of an Englishman, desired that we might be left alone. * * *
the clergyman reprimanded him, and told him he made very light of his
situation on the supposition that he would be reprieved; but if
he expected it he deceived himself. Folgier still persisted in the
clergyman's leaving us, if he would have us make our peace with God,
'for,' said he, 'the sight of Englishmen, from whom we have received
such treatment, is more disagreeable than the evil spirits of which you
have spoken;' that, if he could have his choice, he would choose death
in preference to life, if he must have it on the condition of such
barbarous usage as he had received from their hands; and the thoughts of
death did not seem so hideous to him as his past sufferings.

"He visited us again about midnight, but finding his company was not
acceptable, he soon left us to our melancholy reflections.

"Before sunrise we heard the drums beat, and soon after heard the
direful noise of the door grating on its iron hinges. We were all taken
out, our irons taken off, and we conducted by a strong guard of soldiers
to the parade, surrounded by a circle of armed men, and led into
the midst of them, where three white officers were placed by our
side;--silence was then commanded, and the adjutant taking a paper out
of his pocket read our sentence;--and now I cannot describe my feelings
upon this occasion, nor can it be felt by any one but those who have
experienced some remarkable deliverance from the grim hand of death,
when surrounded on all sides, and nothing but death expected from
every quarter, and by Divine Providence there is some way found out for
escape--so it seemed to me when the adjutant pulled out another
paper from his pocket and read: 'That the Governor and Council, in
consideration of the youth of Randall and myself, supposing us to be
led on by Folgier, who was the oldest, thought proper to pardon us from
death, and that instead we were to receive 800 lashes each.'

"Although this last sentence seemed terrible to me, yet in comparison
with death, it seemed to be light. Poor Folgier was shot in our
presence,--previous to which we were told we might go and converse with
him. Randall went and talked with him first, and after him I went up to
take my leave, but my feelings were such at the time I had not power to
utter a single word to my departing friend, who seemed as undaunted and
seemingly as willing to die as I was to be released, and told me not
to forget the promises we had formerly made to each other, which was to
embrace the first opportunity to escape.

"We parted, and he was immediately after shot dead. We were next taken
and tied, and the adjutant brought a small whip made of cotton, which
consisted of a number of strands and knotted at the ends; but these
knots were all cut off by the adjutant before the drummer took it, which
made it not worse than to have been whipped with cotton yarn.

"After being whipped 800 lashes we were sent to the Company's hospital,
where we had been about three weeks when Randall told me he intended
very soon to make his escape:--This somewhat surprised me, as I had lost
all hopes of regaining my liberty, and supposed he had. I told him I
had hoped he would never mention it again; but however, if that was his
design, I would accompany him. He advised me, if I was fearful, to tarry
behind; but finding he was determined on going, I resolved to run
the risque once more; and as we were then in a hospital we were not
suspected of such a design.

"Having provided ourselves with fire-works, and knives, about the
first of December, 1780, we sat out, with the intent to reach the Dutch
settlement of Croy, which is about two or three hundred miles distance
upon a direct line, but as we were obliged to travel along the coast
(fearing to risque the nearest way), it was a journey of 800 miles.

"We took each a stick and hung it around our neck, and every day cut a
notch, which was the method we took to keep time.

"In this manner we travelled, living upon fruit, turtle eggs, and
sometimes turtle, which we cooked every night with the fire we built
to secure us from wild beasts, they being in great plenty,--such as
buffaloes, tigers, jackanapes, leopards, lions, and baboons and monkies.

"On the 30th day of our traveling we met with nothing we could eat and
found no water. At night we found some fruit which appeared to the eyes
to be very delicious, different from any we had seen in our travels. It
resembled a fruit which grows in the West Indies, called a Jack, about
the size of an orange. We being very dry and hungry immediately gathered
some of this fruit, but finding it of a sweet, sickish taste, I eat but
two. Randall eat freely. In the evening we found we were poisoned: I
was sick and puked considerably, Randall was sick and began to swell
all round his body. He grew worse all night, but continued to have his
senses till the next day, when he died, and left me to mourn my greater
wretchedness,--more than 400 miles from any settlement, no companion,
the wide ocean on one side, and a prowling wilderness on the other,
liable to many kinds of death, more terrible than being shot.

"I laid down by Randall's body, wishing, if possible, that he might
return and tell me what course to take. My thoughts almost distracted
me, so that I was unable to do anything untill the next day, during all
which time I continued by the side of Randall. I then got up and made a
hole in the sand and buried him.

"I now continued my journey as well as the weak state of my body would
permit,--the weather being at the time extremely hot and rainy.
I frequently lay down and would wish that I might never rise
again;--despair had almost wholly possessed me; and sometimes in a
kind of delirium I would fancy I heard my mother's voice, and my father
calling me, and I would answer them. At other times my wild imagination
would paint to my view scenes which I was acquainted with. Then
supposing myself near home I would run as fast as my legs could carry
me. Frequently I fancied that I heard dogs bark, men cutting wood, and
every noise which I have heard in my native country.

"One day as I was travelling a small dog, as I thought it to be, came
fawning round me and followed me, but I soon discovered it to be a
young lion. I supposed that its dam must be nigh, and therefore run. It
followed me some time and then left me. I proceeded on, but had not got
far from it before it began to cry. I looked round and saw a lioness
making towards it. She yelled most frightfully, which greatly terrified
me; but she laid down something from her mouth for her young one, and
then with another yell turned and went off from me.

"Some days after I was travelling by the edge of a woods, which from its
appearance had felt severely the effects of a tornado or hurricane, the
trees being all torn up by the roots, and I heard a crackling noise in
the bushes. Looking about I saw a monstrous large tiger making slowly
towards me, which frightened me exceedingly. When he had approached
within a few rods of me, in my surprise I lifted up my hands and
hollowed very loud. The sudden noise frightened him, seemingly as much
as I had been, and he immediately turned and run into the woods, and I
saw him no more.

"After this I continued to travel on without molestation, only from the
monkies who were here so plentiful that oftentimes I saw them in large
droves; sometimes I run from them, as if afraid of them, they would then
follow, grin, and chatter at me, and when they got near I would turn,
and they would run from me back into the woods, and climb the trees to
get out of my way.

"It was now 15 weeks since I had left the hospital. I had travelled most
all of the day without any water and began to be very thirsty, when I
heard the sound of running water, as it were down a fall of rocks. I
had heard it a considerable time and at last began to suspect it was
nothing, but imaginary, as many other noises I had before thought
to have heard. I however went on as fast as I could, and at length
discovered a brook. On approaching it I was not a little surprised and
rejoiced by the sight of a Female Indian, who was fishing at the
brook. She had no other dress on than that which mother nature affords
impartially to all her children, except a small cloth which she wore
round her waist.

"I knew not how to address myself to her. I was afraid if I spoke she
would run, and therefore I made a small noise; upon which she looked
round, and seeing me, run across the brook, seemingly much frightened,
leaving her fishing line. I went up to her basket which contained five
or six fish which looked much like our trout. I took up the basket and
attempted to wade across where she had passed, but was too weak to wade
across in that place, and went further up the stream, where I passed
over, and then looking for the Indian woman I saw her at some distance
behind a large cocoa-nut tree. I walked towards her but dared not keep
my eyes steadily upon her lest she would run as she did before. I called
to her in English, and she answered in her own tongue, which I could not
understand. I then called to her in the Malaysian, which I understood
a little of; she answered me in a kind of surprise and asked me in the
name of Okrum Footee (the name of their God) from whence I came, and
where I was going. I answered her as well as I could in the Melais, that
I was from Fort Marlborough, and going to Croy--that I was making my
escape from the English, by whom I had been taken in war. She told me
that she had been taken by the Malays some years before, for that the
two nations were always at war, and that she had been kept as a slave
among them three years and was then retaken by her countrymen. While we
were talking together she appeared to be very shy, and I durst not come
nearer than a rod to her, lest she should run from me. She said that
Croy, the place I was bound to, was about three miles distant: That if I
would follow her she would conduct me to her countrymen, who were but a
small distance off. I begged her to plead with her countrymen to spare
my life. She said she would, and assured me that if I behaved well I
should not be hurt. She then conducted me to a small village, consisting
of huts or wigwams. When we arrived at the village the children that saw
me were frightened and run away from me, and the women exhibited a great
deal of fear and kept at a distance. But my guide called to them and
told them not to be afraid, for that I was not come to hurt them, and
then informed them from whence I came, and that I was going to Croy.

"I told my guide I was very hungry, and she sent the children for
something for me to eat. They came and brought me little round balls
of rice, and they, not daring to come nigh, threw them at me. These I
picked up and eat. Afterwards a woman brought some rice and goat's milk
in a copper bason, and setting it on the ground made signs for me to
take it up and eat it, which I did, and then put the bason down again.
They then poked away the bason with a stick, battered it with stones,
and making a hole in the ground, buried it.

"After that they conducted me to a small hut, and told me to tarry there
until the morning, when they would conduct me to the harbor. I had but
little sleep that night, and was up several time to look out, and saw
two or three Indians at a little distance from the hut, who I supposed
were placed there to watch me.

"Early in the morning numbers came around the hut, and the female
who was my guide asked me where my country was? I could not make her
understand, only that it was at a great distance. She then asked me if
my countrymen eat men? I told her, no, and seeing some goats pointed at
them, and told her we eat such as them. She then asked me what made me
white, and if it was not the white rain that come upon us when we were
small * * * as I wished to please them I told her that I supposed it
was, for it was only in certain seasons of the year that it fell, and
in hot weather when it did not fall the people grew darker until it
returned, and then the people all grew white again. This seemed to
please them very much.

"My protectress then brought a young man to me who she said was her
brother, and who would show me the way to the harbour. She then cut a
stick about eight feet long, and he took hold of one end and gave me the
other. She told me that she had instructed her brother what to say at
the harbour. He then led off, and I followed. During our walk I put
out my hand to him several times, and made signs of friendship, but he
seemed to be afraid of me, and would look upwards and then fall flat on
the ground and kiss it: this he repeated as often as I made any sign or
token of friendship to him.

"When we had got near the harbor he made a sign for me to sit down upon
a rock, which I did. He then left me and went, as I supposed, to talk to
the people at the water concerning me; but I had not sat long before I
saw a vessel coming round the point into the harbor.

"They soon came on shore in the boat. I went down to them and made my
case known and when the boat returned on board they took me with them.
It was a Dutch snow bound from China to Batavia. After they had wooded
and watered they set sail for Batavia:--being out about three weeks we
arrived there: I tarried on board her about three weeks longer, and
then got on board a Spanish ship which was from Rio de la Plate bound to
Spain, but by stress of weather was obliged to put into this port. After
the vessel had repaired we sailed for Spain. When we made the Cape of
Good Hope we fell in with two British cruisers of twenty guns each, who
engaged us and did the vessel considerable damage, but at length we beat
them off, and then run for the coast of Brazil, where we arrived safe,
and began to work at repairing our ship, but upon examination she
was found to be not fit to proceed on her voyage. She was therefore
condemned. I then left her and got on board a Portuguese snow bound up
to St. Helena, and we arrived safe at that place.

"I then went on shore and quitted her and engaged in the garrison there
to do duty as a soldier for my provisions till some ship should arrive
there bound for England. After serving there a month I entered on board
a ship called the Stormont, but orders were soon after received that no
Indiaman should sail without convoy; and we lay here six months, during
which time the Captain died.

"While I was in St. Helena the vessel in which I came out from England
arrived here, homeward bound; she being on the return from her second
voyage since I came from England. And now I made known my case to
Captain Kerr, who readily took me on board the Princess Royal, and used
me kindly and those of my old ship-mates on board were glad to see me
again. Captain Kerr on first seeing me asked me if I was not afraid to
let him know who I was, and endeavored to frighten me; yet his conduct
towards me was humane and kind.

"It had been very sickly on board the Princess Royal, and the greater
part of the hands who came out of England in her had died, and she
was now manned chiefly with lascars. Among those who had died was the
boatswain, and boatswain's mate, and Captain Kerr made me boatswain of
the ship, in which office I continued until we arrived in London, and it
protected me from being impressed upon our arrival in England.

"We sailed from St. Helena about the first of November, 1781, under
convoy of the Experiment of fifty guns, commanded by Captain Henry, and
the Shark sloop of war of 18 guns, and we arrived in London about the
first of March, 1782, it having been about two years and a half from the
time I had left it.

"In about a fortnight after our arrival in London I entered on board the
King George, a store-ship bound to Antigua, and after four weeks passage
arrived there.

"The second night after we came to anchor in Antigua I took the ship's
boat and escaped in her to Montserrat (in the West Indies) which place
had but just before been taken by the French.

"Here I did not meet with the treatment which I expected; for on my
arrival at Montserrat I was immediately taken up and put in prison,
where I continued twenty-four hours, and my boat taken from me. I was
then sent to Guadaloupe, and examined by the Governor. I made known my
case to him, by acquainting him with the misfortunes I had gone through
in my captivity, and in making my escape. He seemed to commiserate
me, gave me ten dollars for the boat that I escaped in, and provided
a passage for me on board a French brigantine that was bound from
Gaudaloupe to Philadelphia.

"The vessel sailed in a few days, and now my prospects were favorable,
but my misfortunes were not to end here, for after being out twenty-one
days we fell in with the Anphitrite and Amphene, two British cruizers,
off the Capes of Delaware, by which we were taken, carried in to New
York and put on board the Jersey prison ship. After being on board about
a week a cartel was fitted out for France, and I was sent on board as
a French prisoner. The cartel was ordered for St. Maloes, and after a
passage of thirty-two days we arrived safe at that place.

"Finding no American vessel at St. Male's, I went to the Commandant, and
procured a pass to go by land to Port l'Orient. On my arrival there
I found three American privateers belonging to Beverley in the
Massachusetts. I was much elated at seeing so many of my countrymen,
some of whom I was well acquainted with. I immediately entered on board
the Buccaneer, Captain Pheirson. We sailed on a cruise, and after being
out eighteen days we returned to L'Orient with six prizes. Three days
after our arrival in port we heard the joyful news of peace; on which
the privateer was dismantled, the people discharged, and Captain P
sailed on a merchant voyage to Norway.

"I then entered on board a brig bound to Lisbon (Captain Ellenwood of
Beverley) and arrived at Lisbon in eight days. We took in a cargo of
salt, and sailed for Beverley, where we arrived the ninth of May, 1783.
Being now only fifteen miles from home, I immediately set out for Cape
Ann, went to my father's house, and had an agreeable meeting with my
friends, after an absence of almost six years.

"John Blatchford

"New London, May 10th, 1788.

"N. B. Those who are acquainted with the narrator will not scruple to
give full credence to the foregoing account, and others may satisfy
themselves by conversing with him. The scars he carries are a proof of
his narrative, and a gentleman of New London who was several months with
him, was acquainted with part of his sufferings, though it was out of
his power to relieve him. He is a poor man with a wife and two children.
His employment is fishing and coasting. _Editor_."

Our readers may be interested to know what became of John Blatchford,
who wrote, or dictated, the narrative we have given, in the year 1788.
He was, at that time, a married man. He had married a young woman named
Ann Grover. He entered the merchant marine, and died at Port au Prince
about the year 1794, when nearly thirty-three years of age. Thus early
closed the career of a brave man, who had experienced much hardship, and
had suffered greatly from man's inhumanity to man, and who is, as far
as we know, the only American prisoner sent to the East Indies who ever
returned to tell the story of the barbarities inflicted upon him.



When Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane were in Paris they wrote the
following letter to Lord Stormont, the English Ambassador to France.

Paris, April 2nd, 1777.

My Lord:--

We did ourselves the honor of writing some time since to your Lordship
on the subject of exchanging prisoners: you did not condescend to give
us any answer, and therefore we expect none to this. We, however, take
the liberty of sending you copies of certain depositions which we shall
transmit to Congress, whereby it will be known to your Court, that the
United States are not unacquainted with the barbarous treatment their
people receive when they have the misfortune to be your prisoners here
in Europe, and that if your conduct towards us is not altered, it is
not unlikely that severe reprisals may be thought justifiable from a
necessity of putting some check to such abominable practices. For the
sake of humanity it is to be wished that men would endeavor to alleviate
the unavoidable miseries attending a state of war. It has been said that
among the civilized nations of Europe the ancient horrors of that state
are much diminished; but the compelling men by chains, stripes, and
famine to fight against their friends and relatives, is a new mode of
barbarity, which your nation alone has the honor of inventing, and the
sending American prisoners of war to Africa and Asia, remote from all
probability of exchange, and where they can scarce hope ever to hear
from their families, even if the unwholesomeness of the climate does not
put a speedy end to their lives, is a manner of treating captives that
you can justify by no other precedent or custom except that of the
black savages of Guinea. We are your Lordship's most obedient, humble
servants, Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane.

The reply to this letter was laconic.

"The King's Ambassador recognizes no letters from Rebels, except when
they come to ask mercy."

Inclosed in the letter from our representatives were the following


Eliphalet Downer, Surgeon, taken in the Yankee privateer, testifies
that after he was made prisoner by Captains Ross and Hodge, who took
advantage of the generous conduct of Captain Johnson of the Yankee
to them his prisoners, and of the confidence he placed in them in
consequence of that conduct and their assurances; he and his countrymen
were closely confined, yet assured that on their arrival in port they
should be set at liberty, and these assurances were repeated in the most
solemn manner, instead of which they were, on their approach to land,
in the hot weather of August, shut up in a small cabin; the windows of
which were spiked down and no air admitted, insomuch that they were all
in danger of suffocation from the excessive heat.

Three or four days after their arrival in the river Thames they were
relieved from this situation in the middle of the night, hurried on
board a tender and sent down to Sheerness, where the deponent was
put into the Ardent, and there falling sick of a violent fever in
consequence of such treatment, and languishing in that situation for
some time, he was removed, still sick, to the Mars, and notwithstanding
repeated petitions to be suffered to be sent to prison on shore, he was
detained until having the appearance of a mortification in his legs, he
was sent to Haslar hospital, from whence after recovering his health, he
had the good fortune to make his escape.

While on board those ships and in the hospital he was informed and
believes that many of his countrymen, after experiencing even worse
treatment than he, were sent to the East Indies, and many of those taken
at Quebec were sent to the coast of Africa, as soldiers.


"This deponent saith that on his return from Cape Nichola Mole to
Newbury Port, he was taken on the 17th of September last by an armed
schooner in his British Majesty's service, ---- Coats, Esquire,
Commander, and carried down to Jamaica, on his arrival at which place
he was sent on board the Squirrel, another armed vessel, ---- Douglas,
Esquire, Commander, where, although master and half owner of the vessel
in which he was taken, he was returned as a common sailor before the
mast, and in that situation sailed for England in the month of November,
on the twenty-fifth of which month they took a schooner from Port a Pie
to Charlestown, S. C., to which place she belonged, when the owner, Mr.
Burt, and the master, Mr. Bean, were brought on board. On the latter's
denying he had any ship papers Captain Douglas ordered him to be
stripped and tied up and then whipped with a wire cat of nine tails that
drew blood every stroke and then on his saying that he had thrown his
papers overboard he was untied and ordered to his duty as a common
sailor, with no place for himself or his people to lay on but the decks.
On their arrival at Spithead, the deponent was removed to the Monarch,
and there ordered to do duty as a fore-mast-man, and on his refusing on
account of inability to do it, he was threatened by the Lieutenant,
a Mr. Stoney, that if he spoke one word to the contrary he should be
brought to the gangway, and there severely flogged.

"After this he was again removed and put on board the Bar-fleur, where
he remained until the tenth of February. On board this ship the deponent
saw several American prisoners, who were closely confined and ironed,
with only four men's allowance to six. These prisoners and others
informed this deponent that a number of American prisoners had been
taken out of the ship and sent to the East Indies and the coast of
Africa, which he has told would have been his fate, had he arrived

"This deponent further saith, That in Haslar hospital, to which place on
account of sickness he was removed from the Bar-fleur, he saw a Captain
Chase of Providence, New England, who told him he had been taken in
a sloop of which he was half owner and master, on his passage from
Providence to South Carolina, by an English transport, and turned
over to a ship of war, where he was confined in irons thirteen weeks,
insulted, beat, and abused by the petty officers and common sailors, and
on being released from irons was ordered to do duty as a foremost man
until his arrival in England, when being dangerously ill he was sent to
said hospital."

Paris March 30th. 1777.

Benjamin Franklin, in a letter written in 1780, to a Mr. Hartley, an
English gentleman who was opposed to the war, said that Congress
had investigated the cruelties perpetrated by the English upon their
defenceless prisoners, and had instructed him to prepare a _school book_
for the use of American children, to be illustrated by thirty-five
good engravings, each to picture some scene of horror, some enormity of
suffering, such as should indelibly impress upon the minds of the school
children a dread of British rule, and a hatred of British malice and

The old philosopher did not accomplish this task: had he done so it is
improbable that we would have so long remained in ignorance of some of
the facts which we are now endeavoring to collect. It will be pleasant
to glance, for a moment, on the other side the subject. It is well known
that there was a large party in England, who, like Benjamin Franklin's
correspondent, were opposed to the war; men of humanity, fair-minded
enough to sympathize with the struggles of an oppressed people, of the
same blood as themselves.

"The Prisoners of 1776, A Relic of the Revolution," is a little book
edited by the Rev. R. Livesey, and published in Boston, in 1854. The
facts in this volume were complied from the journal of Charles Herbert
of Newburyport, Mass. This young man was taken prisoner in December,
1776. He was a sailor on board the brigantine Dolton. He and his
companions were confined in the Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England.

Herbert, who was in his nineteenth year, was a prisoner more than two
years. He managed to keep a journal during his captivity, and has left
us an account of his treatment by the English which is a pleasant
relief in its contrast to the dark pictures that we have drawn of the
wretchedness of American prisoners elsewhere. A collection of upwards of
$30,000 was taken up in England for the relief of our prisoners confined
in English jails.

Herbert secreted his journal in a chest which had a false bottom. It is
too long to give in its entirety, but we have made a few extracts which
will describe the treatment the men received in England, where all
that was done was open to public inspection, and where no such inhuman
monsters as Cunningham were suffered to work their evil will upon their

"Dec. 24th, 1776. We were taken by the Reasonable, man-of-war of 64
guns. I put on two shirts, pair of drawers and breeches, and trousers
over them, two or three jackets, and a pair of new shoes, and then
filled my bosom and pockets as full as I could carry. Nothing but a few
old rags and twelve old blankets were sent to us. Ordered down to the
cable tier. Almost suffocated. Nothing but the bare cable to lie on, and
that very uneven.

"Jan. 15, 1777. We hear that the British forces have taken Fort
Washington with a loss of 800."

After several changes Herbert was put on board the Tarbay, a ship of 74
guns, and confined between decks, with not room for all to lie down at

"Very cold. Have to lie on a wet deck without blankets. Some obliged to
sit up all night."

On the 18th of February they received flock beds and pillows, rugs, and
blankets. "Ours are a great comfort to us after laying fifty-five nights
without any, all the time since we were taken. * * *

"We are told that the Captain of this ship, whose name is Royer, gave us
these clothes and beds out of his own pocket."

On the twelfth of April he was carried on shore to the hospital, where
his daily allowance was a pound of beef, a pound of potatoes, and three
pints of beer.

On the 7th of May he writes: "I now have a pound of bread, half a pound
of mutton and a quart of beer daily. The doctor is very kind. Three of
our company have died."

On the fifth of June he was committed to the Old Mill Prison at
Plymouth. Many entries in his journal record the escapes of his
companions. "Captain Brown made his escape." "William Woodward of the
charming Sallie escaped, etc., etc."

June 6th he records: "Our allowance here in prison is a pound of beef,
a pound of greens, and a quart of beer, and a little pot liquor that
the greens and beef were boiled in, without any thickening." Still he
declares that he has "a continued gnawing in his stomach." The people of
the neighborhood came to see them daily when they were exercising in the
prison yard, and sometimes gave them money and provisions through the
pickets of the high fence that surrounded the prison grounds. Herbert
had a mechanical turn, and made boxes which he sold to these visitors,
procuring himself many comforts in this manner.

About ten prisoners were brought in daily. They were constantly digging
their way out and were sometimes recaptured, but a great number made
their escape. On the twentieth of July he records that they begin to
make a breach in the prison wall. "Their intention is to dig eighteen
feet underground to get into a field on the other side of the wall.

"We put all the dirt in our chests."

August third he says: "There are 173 prisoners in the wards. On the
fifth thirty-two escaped, but three were brought back. These were
confined in the Black Hole forty days on half allowance, and obliged to
lie on the bare floor.

"September 12th. We had a paper wherein was a melancholy account of the
barbarous treatment of American prisoners, taken at Ticonderoga.

"Sept. 16th. Today about twenty old countrymen petitioned the Board for
permission to go on board His Majesty's ships.

"Jan. 7th. 1778. 289 prisoners here in Plymouth. In Portsmouth there
are 140 prisoners. Today the prison was smoked with charcoal and

He records the gift of clothes, blankets, and all sorts of provisions.
They were allowed to wash at the pump in relays of six. Tobacco and
everything necessary was freely given them.

"Jan. 27th. The officers in a separate prison are allowed to burn
candles in the evening until gun-fire, which is eight o'clock.

"28th. Today some new washing troughs were brought up for us to wash our
clothes in; and now we have plenty of clothes, soap, water, and tubs to
wash in. In general we are tolerably clean.

"Feb. 1st. Sunday. Last evening between 7 and 9 o'clock five of the
officers in a separate prison, who had agreed with the sentry to let
them go, made their escape and took two sentries with them. The five
officers were Captain Henry Johnston, Captain Eleazar Johnston, Offin
Boardman, Samuel Treadwell, and one Mr. Deal.

"Feb. 8th. Sunday. We have the paper wherein is an account of a letter
from Dr. Franklin, Dean, and Lee, to Lord North, and to the ministry,
putting them in mind of the abuse which the prisoners have had from
time to time, and giving them to know that it is in the power of the
Americans to make ample retaliation. * * * We learn that their answer
was that in America there was an exchange."

On the 9th of March he writes: "We are all strong, fat and hearty.

"March 12th. Today our two fathers came to see us as they generally do
once or twice a week. They are Mr. Heath, and Mr. Sorry, the former a
Presbyterian minister, in Dock, the latter a merchant in Plymouth. They
are the two agents appointed by the Committee in London to supply us
with necessaries. A smile from them seems like a smile from a father.
They tell us that everything goes well on our side.

"April 7th. Today the latter (Mr. Sorry) came to see us, and we desired
him, for the future, to send us a four penny white loaf instead of a
six-penny one to each mess, per day, for we have more provision than
many of us want to eat, and any person can easily conjecture that
prisoners, in our situation, who have suffered so much for the want of
provisions would abhor such an act as to waste what we have suffered so
much for the want of."

Herbert was liberated at the end of two years. Enough has been quoted to
prove the humanity with which the prisoners at Plymouth were treated. He
gives a valuable list of crews in Old Mill Prison, Plymouth, during
the time of his incarceration, with the names of captains, number that
escaped, those who died, and those who joined the English.

   NAMES OF SHIPS AND CAPTAINS     No. of                   British
                                      Men     Escaped  Died   Ships
   Brig Dolton, Capt. Johnston        120        21      8        7
   Sloop Charming Sally, Capt. Brown.  52         6      7       16
   Brig Fancy, Capt. Lee               56        11      2        0
   Brig Lexington, Capt. Johnston      51         6      1       26
   Schooner Warren, Capt. Ravel        40         2      0        6


   Brig Freedom, Capt. Euston          11         3       1       0
   Ship Reprisal, Capt. Weeks          10         2       0       3
   Sloop Hawk                           6         0       0       0
   Schooner Hawk, Capt. Hibbert         6         0       0       0
   Schooner Black Snake, Capt. Lucran   3         1       0       0
   Ship Oliver Cromwell                 7         1       0       4
   Letter of Marque Janey, Capt. Rollo  2         1       0       0
   Brig Cabot                           3         0       0       0
   True Blue, Capt. Furlong             1         0       0       0
   Ranger                               1         0       0       0
   Sloop Lucretia                       2         0       0       0
   Musquito Tender                      1         0       0       1
   Schooner, Capt. Burnell              2         1       0       1
   Sturdy Beggar                        3         0       0       0
   Revenge, Capt Cunningham             3         0       0       0

            Total                     380        55      19      62
      Remained in Prison until exchanged, 244

Before we leave the subject of Plymouth we must record the fact that
some time in the year 1779 a prize was brought into the harbor captured
from the French with 80 French prisoners. The English crew put in charge
of the prize procured liquor, and, in company of some of the loose women
of the town, went below to make a night of it. In the dead of night the
Frenchmen seized the ship, secured the hatches, cut the cable, took her
out of port, homeward bound, and escaped.

A writer in the London _Gazette_ in a letter to the Lord Mayor, dated
August 6th, 1776, says: "I was last week on board the American privateer
called the Yankee, commanded by Captain Johnson, and lately brought into
this port by Captain Ross, who commanded one of the West India sugar
ships, taken by the privateer in July last: and as an Englishman I
earnestly wish your Lordship, who is so happily placed at the head
of this great city (justly famed for its great humanity even to its
enemies), would be pleased to go likewise, or send proper persons, to
see the truly shocking and I may say barbarous and miserable condition
of the unfortunate American prisoners, who, however criminal they may
be thought to have been, are deserving of pity, and entitled to common

"They are twenty-five in number, and all inhumanly shut close down,
like wild beasts, in a small stinking apartment, in the hold of a sloop,
about seventy tons burden, without a breath of air, in this sultry
season, but what they receive from a small grating overhead, the
openings in which are not more than two inches square in any part, and
through which the sun beats intensely hot all day, only two or three
being permitted to come on deck at a time; and then they are exposed in
the open sun, which is reflected from the decks like a burning glass.

"I do not at all exaggerate, my lord, I speak the truth, and the
resemblance that this barbarity bears to the memorable Black Hole at
Calcutta, as a gentleman present on Saturday observed, strikes every eye
at the sight. All England ought to know that the same game is now acting
upon the Thames on board this privateer, that all the world cried out
against, and shuddered at the mention of in India, some years ago, as
practised on Captain Hollowell and other of the King's good subjects.
The putrid steams issuing from the hold are so hot and offensive that
one cannot, without the utmost danger, breathe over it, and I should not
be at all surprised if it should cause a plague to spread.

"The miserable wretches below look like persons in a hot bath, panting,
sweating, and fainting, for want of air; and the surgeon declares that
they must all soon perish in this situation, especially as they are
almost all in a sickly state from bilious disorders.

"The captain and surgeon, it is true, have the liberty of the cabin (if
it deserves the name of a cabin), and make no complaints on their own
account. They are both sensible and well behaved young men, and can give
a very good account of themselves, having no signs of fear, and being
supported by a consciousness of the justice of their cause.

"They are men of character, of good families in New England, and highly
respected in their different occupations; but being stripped of their
all by the burning of towns, and other destructive measures of the
present unnatural war, were forced to take the disagreeable method of
making reprisals to maintain themselves and their children rather than
starve. * * * English prisoners taken by the Americans have been treated
with the most remarkable tenderness and generosity, as numbers who are
safely returned to England most freely confess, to the honor of our
brethern in the colonies, and it is a fact, which can be well attested
in London, that this very surgeon on board the privateer, after the
battle of Lexington, April 19th, 1775, for many days voluntarily and
generously without fee or reward employed himself in dressing the King's
wounded soldiers, who but an hour before would have shot him if
they could have come at him, and in making a collection for their
refreshment, of wine, linen, money, etc., in the town where he lived.
* * * The capture of the privateer was, solely owing to the ill-judged
lenity and brotherly kindness of Captain Johnson, who not considering
his English prisoners in the same light that he would French or Spanish,
put them under no sort of confinement, but permitted them to walk the
decks as freely as his own people at all times. Taking advantage of this
indulgence the prisoners one day watched their opportunity when most of
the privateer's people were below, and asleep, shut down the hatches,
and making all fast, had immediate possession of the vessel without
using any force."

What the effect of this generous letter was we have no means of
discovering. It displays the sentiments of a large party in England, who
bitterly condemned the "unnatural war against the Colonies."



While we are on the subject of the treatment of American prisoners
in England, which forms a most grateful contrast to that which they
received in New York, Philadelphia, and other parts of America, we will
give an abstract of the adventures of another young man who was confined
in the Old Mill Prison at Plymouth, England. This young man was named
Andrew Sherburne. He was born at Rye, New Hampshire, on the 3oth of
September, 1765.

He first served on the continental ship of war, Ranger, which shipped
a crew at Portsmouth, N. H. His father consented that he should go with
her, and his two half uncles, Timothy and James Weymouth, were on
board. There were about forty boys in the crew. Andrew was then in his
fourteenth year, and was employed as waiter to the boatswain. The vessel
sailed in the month of June, 1779. She took ten prizes and sailed for
home, where she arrived in August, 1779. Next year she sailed again on
another cruise, but was taken prisoner by the British at Charleston, S.
C., on the 12th of May, 1780.

"Our officers," says Sherburne, "were paroled and allowed to retain
their waiters. We were for several days entirely destitute of provisions
except muscles, which we gathered from the muscle beds. I was at this
time waiter to Captain Pierce Powers, master's mate of the Ranger. He
treated me with the kindness of a father."

"At this time," he continues, "Captain Simpson and the other officers
procured a small vessel which was employed as a cartel, to transport
the officers, their boys and baggage, agreeably to the terms of
capitulation, to Newport, R. I. It being difficult to obtain suitable
casks for water they procured such as they could. These proved to be
foul, and after we got to sea our water became filthy and extremely
noxious. Very few if any on board escaped an attack of the diarrhoea."

After his return he next shipped under Captain Wilds on the Greyhound,
from Portsmouth, N. H., and at last, after many adventures, was taken
prisoner by Newfoundlanders, off Newfoundland. He was then put on board
the Fairy, a British sloop of war, commanded by Captain Yeo, "a complete
tyrant" "Wilds and myself," he continues, "were called to the quarter
deck, and after having been asked a few questions by Captain Yeo, he
turned to his officers and said: 'They are a couple of fine lads for his
Majesty's service. Mr. Gray, see that they do their duty.'"

When the sloop arrived in England the boys complained that they were
prisoners of war, in consequence of which they were sent to the Old Mill
Prison at Plymouth, accused of "rebellion, piracy, and high treason."

Here they found acquaintances from Portsmouth, N. H. The other prisoners
were very kind to young Sherburne, gave him clothing and sent him to a
school which was kept in the prison. Ship building and other arts were
carried on in this place, and he learned navigation, which was of great
service to him in after life.

The fare, he declared, was tolerably good, but there was not enough
of it. He amused himself by making little toy ships. He became ill and
delirious, but recovered in time to be sent to America when a general
exchange of prisoners was effected in 1781. The rest of his adventures
has nothing to do with prisons, in England, and shall not now be

Although the accounts of the English prisons left by Herbert, Sherburne
and others are so favorable, yet it seems that, after the year 1780,
there was some cause of complaint even there. We will quote a passage
from the British Annual Register to prove this statement. This passage
we take from the Register for 1781, page 152.

"A petition was presented to the House the same day (June 20th) by Mr.
Fox, from the American prisoners in Mill Prison, Plymouth, setting forth
that they were treated with less humanity than the French and Spanish,
though by reason that they had no Agent established in this country
for their protection, they were entitled to expect a larger share of
indulgence than others. They had not a sufficient allowance of _bread_,
and were very scantily furnished with clothing.

"A similar petition was presented to the House of Peers by the Duke of
Richmond, and these petitions occasioned considerable debate in both
Houses. Several motions were grounded on these petitions, but to those
proposed by the Lords and gentlemen in the opposition, were determined
in the negative, and others to _exculpate_ the Government in this
business were resolved in the affirmative. It appeared upon inquiry,
that the American prisoners were allowed a half pound of bread less
per day than the French and Spanish prisoners. But the petitions of the
Americans produced no alterations in their favor, and the conduct of
the Administration was equally unpolitic and illiberal. The additional
allowance, which was solicited on behalf of the prisoners, could be
no object, either to Government or to the Nation, and it was certainly
unwise, by treating American prisoners worse than those of France or
Spain, to increase the fatal animosity which had unhappily taken place
between the mother country and the Colonies, and this, too, at a period
when the subjugation of the latter had become hopeless."



Eli Bickford, who was born on the 29th of September, 1754, in the town
of Durham, N. H., and enlisted on a privateer, was taken prisoner by
the British, confined at first on the Old Jersey, and afterwards sent
to England with many others, in a vessel commanded by Captain Smallcorn,
whom he called "a sample of the smallest corn he had ever met." While
on board this vessel he was taken down with the smallpox. No beds or
bedding were provided for the prisoners and a plank on deck was his only
pillow. He and his fellow sufferers were treated with great severity,
and insulted at every turn. When they reached England they were sent to
prison, where he remained in close confinement for four years and six

Finding a piece of a door hinge, he and some of the others endeavored
to make their escape by digging a passage under the walls. A report of
their proceedings reached the jailer, but, secure in the strength of
the walls he did not believe it. This jailor would frequently jest with
Bickford on the subject, asking him when he intended to make his escape.
His answers were so truthful and accurate that they served to blind the
jailor still further. One morning as this official entered the prison he
said: "Well, Bickford, how soon will you be ready to go out?"

"Tomorrow night!" answered Bickford.

"O, that's only some of your nonsense," he replied.

However, it was true.

After digging a passage for some days underground, the prisoners found
themselves under an adjoining house. They proceeded to take up the brick
floor, unlocked the door and passed out, without disturbing the inmates,
who were all asleep. Unable to escape they concealed themselves for
awhile, and then tamely gave themselves up. Such a vigilant watch was
kept upon the house after they were missed from the prison, that they
had no other choice. So they made a contract with a man who was to
return them to the prison, and then give them half of the reward of
forty shillings which was offered for their re-capture. So successful
was this expedient that it was often put into operation when they needed

As a punishment for endeavoring to escape they were confined in the
Black Hole for a week on bread and water.

Bickford describes the prison regulations for preserving order which
were made and carried out by the prisoners themselves. If a difficulty
arose between two of them it was settled in the following manner. The
prisoners formed a circle in the centre of which the disputants took
their stand, and exchanged a few rounds of well-directed blows, after
which they shook hands, and were better friends than before.

Bickford was not released until peace was declared. He then returned to
his family, who had long thought him dead. It was on Sunday morning
that he reached his native town. As he passed the meeting house he was
recognized, and the whole congregation ran out to see and greet him.

He had but seven dollars as his whole capital when he married. He moved
to Vermont, where he farmed a small place, and succeeded in making a
comfortable livelihood. He attained the great age of 101, and was one of
the last surviving prisoners of the Revolution.


In the year 1806 a little book with this title was published in New
York, by Captain Nathaniel Fanning. It was dedicated to John Jackson,
Esquire, the man who did so much to interest the public in the
preservation and interment of the remains of the martyrs of the
prisonships in the Wallabout.

Fanning was born in Connecticut, in the year 1755. On the 26th of May,
1778, he went on board the brig Angelica, commanded by Captain William
Dennis, which was about to sail on a six months cruise. There were 98
men and boys in the crew, and Fanning was prize-master on board the
privateer. She was captured by the Andromeda, a frigate of 28 guns, five
days from Philadelphia, with General Howe on board on his way back to

All the prisoners were paraded on deck and asked if they were willing
to engage in his British Majesty's service. Nearly all answered in the
negative. They were then told that they were "a set of rebels," and that
it was more than probable that they would all be hung at Portsmouth.

Their baggage was then taken away, and they were confined in the hold
of the ship. Their clothes were stolen by the sailors, and a frock and
cheap trousers dealt out to each man in their place.

The heat was intolerable in the hold, although they went naked. In this
condition they plotted to seize the vessel, and procured some weapons
through the agency of their surgeon. Spencer, the captain's clerk,
betrayed them to the captain of the Andromeda, and, after that, the
hatches were barred down, and they began to think that they would all
die of suffocation. The sentence pronounced upon them was that they
should be allowed only half a pint of water a day for each man, and
barely food enough to sustain life.

Their condition would have been terrible, but, fortunately for them,
they were lodged upon the water casks, over which was constructed a
temporary deck. By boring holes in the planks they managed, by means of
a proof glass, to obtain all the water they needed.

Between them and the general's store room was nothing but a partition of
plank. They went to work to make an aperture through which a man could
pass into this store room. A young man named Howard from Rhode Island
was their instigator in all these operations. They discovered that one
of the shifting boards abaft the pump room was loose, and that they
could ship and unship it as they pleased. When it was unshipped there
was just room for a man to crawl into the store room. "Howard first went
in," writes Captain Fanning, "and presently desired me to hand him a
mug or can with a proof glass. A few minutes after he handed me back the
same full, saying 'My friends, as good Madeira wine as ever was drank at
the table of an Emperor!'

"I took it from his hands and drank about half a pint.

"Thus we lived like hearty fellows, taking care every night to secure
provisions, dried fruit, and wines for the day following * * * and all
without our enemies' knowledge."

Scurvy broke out among the crew, and some of the British sailors died,
but the Americans were all "brave and hearty."

"The Captain would say, 'What! are none of them damned Yankees sick?
Damn them, there's nothing but thunder and lightning will kill 'em.'"
On the thirtieth of June the vessel arrived at Portsmouth. The prisoners
were sent to Hazel hospital, to be examined by the Commissioners of the
Admiralty, and then marched to Forton prison, where they were committed
under the charges of piracy and high treason. This prison was about two
miles from Portsmouth harbor, and consisted of two commodious buildings,
with a yard between them large enough to parade a guard of 100 men,
which was the number required to maintain law and order at the station.

They also had a spacious lot of about three quarters of an acre in
extent, adjoining the houses, in which they took their daily exercise.
In the middle of this lot was a shed with seats. It was open on all
sides. The lot was surrounded by a wall of iron pickets, eight feet in
height. The agent for American prisoners was nicknamed by them "the old
crab." He was very old and ugly.

Only three-fourths of the usual allowance to prisoners of war was dealt
out to them, and they seem to have fared much worse than the inmates of
the Old Mill Prison at Plymouth.

Captain Fanning declares that they were half starved, and would
sometimes beg bones from the people who came to look at them. When they
obtained bones they would dig out the marrow, and devour it. The guard
was cruel and spiteful. One day they heated some pokers red hot and
began to burn the prisoners' shirts that were hung up to dry. These men
begged the guard, in a very civil manner, not to burn all their shirts,
as they had only one apiece. This remonstrance producing no effect they
then ran to the pickets and snatched away their shirts. At this the
officer on command ordered a sentinel to fire on them. This he did,
killing one prisoner, and wounding several. There were three hundred
American prisoners in the yard at this time.

These prisons appear to have been very imperfectly guarded, and the
regular occupation of the captives, whenever their guards were asleep
or absent, was to make excavations for the purpose of escaping. A
great many regained their freedom in this manner, though some were
occasionally brought back and punished by being shut up for forty days
in the Black Hole on bread and water. Some, less fortunate, remained
three or four years in the prison.

There was always digging going on in some part of the prison and as soon
as one hole was discovered and plastered up, another would be begun.
For a long time they concealed the dirt that they took out of these
excavations in an old stack of disused chimneys. The hours for
performing the work were between eleven and three o'clock at night.
Early in the morning they ceased from their labors, concealing the hole
they had made by pasting white paper over it.

There was a school kept constantly in the prison, where many of them had
the first opportunity that had ever been granted them of receiving an
education. Many learned to read and write, and became proficient in

At one time there were 367 officers confined in this place. In the
course of twelve months 138 of them escaped and got safely to France.
While some of the men were digging at night, others would be dancing
to drown the noise. They had several violins, and seem to have been a
reckless and jovial set.

The officers bunked on the second floor over the guard room of the
English officers. At times they would make so much noise that the guard
would rush up the stairs, only to find all lights out and every man
_asleep and snoring_ in his hammock. They would relieve their feelings
by a volley of abusive language and go down stairs again, when instantly
the whole company would be on their feet, the violins would strike up,
and the fun be more fast and furious than ever. These rushes of the
guard would sometimes be repeated several times a night, when they would
always find the prisoners in their hammocks. Each hammock had what was
called a "king's rug," a straw bed, and pillow.

At one time several men were suddenly taken sick, with strong symptoms
of poison. They were removed to the hospital, and for a time, there was
great alarm. The prisoners feared that "the same game was playing here
as had been done on the Old Jersey, where we had heard that thousands of
our countrymen had died." The poison employed in this instance was glass
pounded fine and cooked with their bread.

An English clergyman named Wren sympathized strongly with the prisoners
and assisted them to escape. He lived at Gosport, and if any of the
captives were so fortunate as to dig themselves out and succeed in
reaching his house, they were safe. This good man begged money and food
for "his children," as he called them.

On the second of June, 1779, 120 of them were exchanged. There were then
600 confined in that prison. On the 6th of June they sailed for Nantes
in France. The French treated them with great kindness, made up a purse
for them, and gave them decent clothing.

Fanning next went to L'Orient, and there met John Paul Jones, who
invited him to go on board the Bon Homme Richard as a midshipman. They
sailed on the 14th of August on the memorable expedition to the British

After being with Jones for some time Fanning, on the 23rd of March,
1781, sailed for home in a privateer from Morlaix, France. This
privateer was captured by the English frigate, Aurora.

"Captain Anthon and myself and crew," writes Mr. Fanning, "were all
ordered to a prison at about two miles from Falmouth. The very dirtiest
and most loathsome building I ever saw. Swarms of lice, remarkably fat
and full grown; bed bugs, and fleas. I believe the former were of Dutch
extraction, as there were confined here a number of Dutch prisoners of
war, and such a company of dirty fellows I never saw before or since."

Yet these same poor fellows ceded to Captain Anthon and Mr. Fanning a
corner of the prison for their private use. This they managed to get
thoroughly cleansed, screened themselves off with some sheets, provided
themselves with large swinging cots, and were tolerably comfortable.
They were paroled and allowed full liberty within bounds, which were a
mile and a half from the prison. In about six weeks Fanning was again
exchanged, and went to Cherbourg in France, where he met Captain Manly,
who had just escaped from the Mill prison after three years confinment.



Very little is known of the State navies of the south during the
Revolution. Each State had her own small navy, and many were the
interesting adventures, some successful, and others unfortunate, that
the hardy sailors encountered. The story of each one of these little
vessels would be as interesting as a romance, but we are here only
concerned with the meagre accounts that have reached us of the
sufferings of some of the crews of the privateers who were so unlucky as
to fall into the hands of the enemy.

In the infant navy of Virginia were many small, extremely fleet
vessels. The names of some of the Virginia ships, built at Gosport,
Fredericksburg, and other Virginia towns, were the Tartar, Oxford,
Thetis, Virginia, Industry, Cormorant, Loyalist (which appears to
have been captured from the British), Pocohontas, Dragon, Washington,
Tempest, Defiance, Oliver Cromwell, Renown, Apollo, and the Marquis
Lafayette. Virginia also owned a prisonship called the Gloucester. Brigs
and brigantines owned by the State were called the Raleigh, Jefferson,
Sallie Norton, Northampton, Hampton, Greyhound, Dolphin, Liberty,
Mosquito, Rochester, Willing Lass, Wilkes, American Fabius, Morning
Star, and Mars. Schooners were the Adventure, Hornet, Speedwell, Lewis,
Nicholson, Experiment, Harrison, Mayflower, Revenge, Peace and Plenty,
Patriot, Liberty, and the Betsy. Sloops were the Virginia, Rattlesnake,
Scorpion, Congress, Liberty, Eminence, Game-Cock, and the American
Congress. Some of the galleys were the Accomac, Diligence, Hero,
Gloucester, Safeguard, Manly, Henry, Norfolk, Revenge, Caswell,
Protector, Washington, Page, Lewis, Dragon, and Dasher. There were
two armed pilot boats named Molly and Fly. Barges were the York and
Richmond. The Oxford, Cormorant, and Loyalist were prizes. The two
latter were taken from the English by the French and sold to Virginia.

What an interesting book might be written about this little navy! Nearly
all were destined to fall at last into the hands of the enemy; their
crews to languish out the remainder of their days in foul dungeons,
where famine and disease made short work of them. Little remains to us
now except the names of these vessels.

The Virginia was built at Gosport. The Dragon and some others were built
at Fredericksburg. Many were built at Norfolk.

The Hermit was early captured by the British. The gallant little
Mosquito was taken by the Ariadne. Her crew was confined in a loathsome
jail at Barbadoes. But her officers were sent to England, and confined
in Fortune jail at Gosport. They succeeded in escaping and made their
way to France. The names of these officers were Captain John Harris;
Lieutenant Chamberlayne; Midshipman Alexander Moore; Alexander Dock,
Captain of Marines; and George Catlett, Lieutenant of Marines.

The Raleigh was captured by the British frigate Thames. Her crew was so
shamefully maltreated that upon representations made to the Council
of State upon their condition, it was recommended that by way of
retaliation the crew of the Solebay, a sloop of war which had fallen
into the hands of the Americans, should be visited with the like severe
treatment. To what extent this was carried out we cannot discover.

The Scorpion was taken by the British in the year 1781, a fatal year for
the navy of Virginia.

In the year 1857 an unsigned article on the subject of the Virginia Navy
was published in the _Southern Literary Messenger_, which goes on to
say: "But of all the sufferings in these troublous times none endured
such horrors as did those Americans who were so unfortunate as to become
prisoners of war to the British. They were treated more as felons than
as honorable enemies. It can scarcely be credited that an enlightened
people would thus have been so lost to the common instincts of humanity,
as were they in their conduct towards men of the same blood, and
speaking the same language with themselves. True it is they sometimes
excused the cruelty of their procedures by avowing in many instances
their prisoners were deserters from the English flag, and were to be
dealt with accordingly. Be this as it may, no instance is on record
where a Tory whom the Americans had good cause to regard as a traitor,
was visited with the severities which characterized the treatment of the
ordinary military captives, on the part of the English authorities. *
* * The patriotic seamen of the Virginia navy were no exceptions to the
rule when they fell into the hands of the more powerful lords of the
ocean. They were carried in numbers to Bermuda, and to the West Indies,
and cast into loathsome and pestilential prisons, from which a few
sometimes managed to escape, at the peril of their lives. Respect
of position and rank found no favor in the eyes of their ungenerous
captors, and no appeal could reach their hearts except through the
promises of bribes. Many languished and died in those places, away from
country and friends, whose fate was not known until long after they had
passed away. But it was not altogether abroad that they were so cruelly
maltreated. The record of their sufferings in the prisons of the
enemy, in our own country, is left to testify against these relentless

"In New York and Halifax many of the Virginian officers and seamen were
relieved of their pains, alone by the hand of death; and in their own
State, at Portsmouth, the like fate overtook many more, who had endured
horrors rivalled only by the terrors of the Black Hole of Calcutta. *
* * The reader will agree that we do not exaggerate when he shall have
seen the case as given under oath by one who was in every respect a
competent witness.

"It will be remembered that, in another part of this narrative, mention
was made of the loss in Lynhaven Bay of the galley Dasher, and the
capture of the officers and the crew. Captain Willis Wilson was her
unfortunate commander on that occasion. He and his men were confined in
the Provost Jail at Portsmouth, Virginia, and after his release he
made public the 'secrets' of that 'Prison House,' by the following
deposition, which is copied from the original document.

"'The deposition of Willis Wilson, being first sworn deposes and sayeth:
That about the 23rd July last the deponent was taken a prisoner of war;
was conducted to Portsmouth (Virginia) after having been plundered of
all his clothing, etc., and there lodged with about 190 other prisoners,
in the Provost. This deponent during twenty odd days was a spectator to
the most savage cruelty with which the unhappy prisoners were treated
by the English. The deponent has every reason to believe there was
a premeditated scheme to infect all the prisoners who had not been
infected with the smallpox. There were upwards of 100 prisoners
who never had the disorder, notwithstanding which negroes, with the
infection upon them, were lodged under the same roof of the Provost.
Others were sent in to attend upon the prisoners, with the scabs of that
disorder upon them.

"'Some of the prisoners soon caught the disorder, others were down with
the flux, and some from fevers. From such a complication of disorders
'twas thought expedient to petition General O'Hara who was then
commanding officer, for a removal of the sick, or those who were not, as
yet, infected with the smallpox. Accordingly a petition was sent by Dr.
Smith who shortly returned with a verbal answer, as he said, from the
General. He said the General desired him to inform the prisoners that
the _law of nations was annihilated_, that he had nothing then to bind
them but bolts and bars, and they were to continue where they were, but
that they were free agents to inoculate if they chose.

"'About thirty agreed with the same Smith to inoculate them at a guinea
a man; he performed the operation, received his guinea from many, and
then left them to shift for themselves, though he had agreed to attend
them through the disorder. Many of them, as well as those who took it
in the natural way, died. Colonel Gee, with many respectable characters,
fell victims to the unrelenting cruelty of O'Hara, who would admit of no
discrimination between the officers, privates, negroes, and felons; but
promiscuously confined the whole in one house. * * * They also suffered
often from want of water, and such as they got was very muddy and unfit
to drink.

"'Willis Wilson.

"'This day came before me Captain Willis Wilson and made oath that the
above is true.

"'Samuel Thorogood.'"

There is much of great interest in this article on the Virginia Navy
which is not to our present purpose. The writer goes on to tell how, on
one occasion, the ship Favorite, bearing a flag of truce, was returning
to Virginia, with a number of Americans who had just been liberated or
exchanged in Bermuda, when she was overhauled by a British man-of-war,
and both her crew and passengers robbed of all they had. The British
ships which committed this dastardly deed were the Tiger, of 14 guns,
and the schooner Surprise, of 10 guns.

Captain James Barron, afterwards Commodore Barren, was the master
spirit of the service in Virginia. One of the Virginian vessels, very
appropriately named the Victory, was commanded by him, and was never

In 1781 Joseph Galloway wrote a letter to Lord Howe in which he says:
"The rebel navy has been in a great measure destroyed by the small
British force remaining in America, and the privateers sent out from
New York. Their navy, which consisted, at the time of your departure,
of about thirty vessels, is now reduced to eight, and the number of
privateers fitted out in New England amounting to an hundred and upwards
is now less than forty."



At the risk of repetition of some facts that have already been given, we
must again refer the reader to some extracts from the newspapers of the
day. In this instance the truth can best be established by the mouths of
many witnesses, and we do not hesitate to give the English side whenever
we have been able to discover anything bearing on the subject in the
so-called loyal periodicals of the time.

From Freeman's _Journal,_ date of Jan. 19th, 1777, we take the

"General Howe has discharged all the privates who were prisoners in New
York. Half he sent to the world of spirits for want of food: the others
he hath sent to warn their countrymen of the danger of falling into
his hands, and to convince them by ocular demonstration, that it is
infinitely better to be slain in battle, than to be taken prisoner by
British brutes, whose tender mercies are cruelties."

In the _Connecticut Journal_ of Jan. 30th, 1777, is the following:

"This account of the sufferings of these unfortunate men was obtained
from the prisoners themselves. As soon as they were taken they were
robbed of all their baggage; of whatever money they had, though it were
of paper; of their silver shoe buckles and knee buckles, etc.; and many
were stripped almost of their clothes. Especially those who had good
clothes were stripped at once, being told that such were 'too good for

"Thus deprived of their clothes and baggage, they were unable to shift
even their linen, and were obliged to wear the same shirts for even
three or four months together, whereby they became extremely nasty; and
this of itself was sufficient to bring on them many mortal diseases.

"After they were taken they were in the first place put on board the
ships, and thrust down into the hold, where not a breath of fresh air
could be obtained, and they were nearly suffocated for want of air.

"Some who were taken at Fort Washington were first in this manner thrust
down into the holds of vessels in such numbers that even in the cold
season of November they could scarcely bear any clothes on them, being
kept in a constant sweat. Yet these same persons, after lying in this
situation awhile, till the pores of their bodies were as perfectly
open as possible, were of a sudden taken out and put into some of the
churches of New York, without covering, or a spark of fire, where they
suffered as much by the cold as they did by the sweating stagnation of
the air in the other situation; and the consequence was that they took
such colds as brought on the most fatal diseases, and swept them off
almost beyond conception.

"Besides these things they suffered severely for want of provisions.
The commissioners pretended to allow a half a pound of bread, and four
ounces of pork per day; but of this pittance they were much cut short.
What was given them for three days was not enough for one day and, in
some instances, they went for three days without a single mouthful of
food of any kind. They were pinched to such an extent that some on board
the ships would pick up and eat the salt that happened to be scattered
there; others gathered up the bran which the light horse wasted, and eat
it, mixed with dirt and filth as it was.

"Nor was this all, both the bread and pork which they did allow them was
extremely bad. For the bread, some of it was made out of the bran which
they brought over to feed their light horse, and the rest of it was so
muddy, and the pork so damnified, being so soaked in bilge water during
the transportation from Europe, that they were not fit to be eaten by
human creatures, and when they were eaten were very unwholesome. Such
bread and pork as they would not pretend to give to their own countrymen
they gave to our poor sick dying prisoners.

"Nor were they in this doleful condition allowed a sufficiency of water.
One would have thought that water was so cheap and plentiful an element,
that they would not have grudged them that. But there are, it seems,
no bounds to their cruelty. The water allowed them was so brackish, and
withal nasty, that they could not drink it until reduced to extremity.
Nor did they let them have a sufficiency of even such water as this.

"When winter came on, our people suffered extremely for want of fire and
clothes to keep them warm. They were confined in churches where there
were no fireplaces that they could make fires, even if they had wood.
But wood was only allowed them for cooking their pittance of victuals;
and for that purpose very sparingly. They had none to keep them warm
even in the extremest of weather, although they were almost naked,
and the few clothes they had were their summer clothes. Nor had they
a single blanket, nor any bedding, not even straw allowed them until a
little before Christmas.

"At the time those were taken on Long Island a considerable part of them
were sick of the dysentery; and with this distemper on them were first
crowded on board the ships, afterwards in the churches in New York,
three, four or five hundred together, without any blankets, or anything
for even the sick to lie upon, but the bare floors or pavements.

"In this situation that contagious distemper soon communicated from the
sick to the well, who would probably have remained so, had they not in
this manner been thrust in together without regard to sick or well, or
to the sultry, unwholesome season, it being then the heat of summer. Of
this distemper numbers died daily, and many others by their confinement
and the sultry season contracted fevers and died of them. During their
sickness, with these and other diseases, they had no medicines, nothing
soothing or comfortable for sick people, and were not so much as visited
by the physician for months together.

"Nor ought we to omit the insults which the humane Britons offered to
our people, nor the artifices which they used to enlist them in their
service to fight against their country. It seems that one end of their
starving our people was to bring them, by dint of necessity, to turn
rebels to their own country, their own consciences, and their God. For
while thus famishing they would come and say to them: 'This is the just
punishment of your rebellion. Nay, you are treated too well for rebels;
you have not received half you deserve or half you shall receive. But if
you will enlist into his Majesty's service, you shall have victuals and
clothes enough.'

"As to insults, the British officers, besides continually cursing and
swearing at them as rebels, often threatened to hang them all; and, on a
particular time, ordered a number, each man to choose his halter out
of a parcel offered, wherewith to be hanged; and even went so far as to
cause a gallows to be erected before the prison, as if they were to be
immediately executed.

"They further threatened to send them all into the East Indies, and sell
them there for slaves.

"In these and numberless other ways did the British officers seem to
rack their inventions to insult, terrify, and vex the poor prisoners.
The meanest, upstart officers among them would insult and abuse our
colonels and chief officers.

"In this situation, without clothes, without victuals or drink, or even
water, or with those which were base and unwholesome; without fire, a
number of them sick, first with a contagious and nauseous distemper;
these, with others, crowded by hundreds into close confinement, at the
most unwholesome season of the year, and continued there for four months
without blankets, bedding, or straw; without linen to shift or clothes
to cover their bodies;--No wonder they all became sickly, and having at
the same time no medicine, no help of physicians, nothing to refresh
or support nature, died by scores in a night, and those who were so far
gone as to be unable to help themselves lay uncared for, till death,
more kind than Britons, put an end to their misery.

"By these means, and in this way, 1,500 brave Americans, who had nobly
gone forth in defence of their injured, oppressed country, but whom the
chance at war had cast into the hands of our enemies, died in New York,
many of whom were very amiable, promising youths, of good families, the
very flower of our land; and of those who lived to come out of prison,
the greater part, as far as I can learn, are dead or dying. Their
constitutions are broken; the stamina of nature worn out; they cannot
recover--they die. Even the few that might have survived are dying of
the smallpox. For it seems that our enemies determining that even these,
whom a good constitution and a kind Providence had carried through
unexampled sufferings, should not at last escape death, just before
their release from imprisonment infected them with that fatal distemper.

"To these circumstances we subjoin the manner in which they buried those
of our people who died. They dragged them out of the prison by one leg
or one arm, piled them up without doors, there let them lie until a
sufficient number were dead to make a cart load, then loaded them up in
a cart, drove the cart thus loaded out to the ditches made by our people
when fortifying New York; there they would tip the cart, tumble the
corpses together into the ditch, and afterwards slightly cover them
with earth. * * * While our poor prisoners have been thus treated by our
foes, the prisoners we have taken have enjoyed the liberty of walking
and riding about within large limits at their pleasure; have been freely
supplied with every necessary, and have even lived on the fat of the
land. None have been so well fed, so plump, and so merry as they; and
this generous treatment, it is said, they could not but remember.
For when they were returned in the exchange of prisoners, and saw the
miserable, famished, dying state of our prisoners, conscious of the
treatment they had received, they could not refrain from tears."
_Connecticut Journal,_ Jan. 30th, 1777.

In April of the year 1777 a committee that was appointed by Congress
to inquire into the doings of the British on their different marches
through New York and New Jersey reported that "The prisoners, instead
of that humane treatment which those taken by the United States
experienced, were in general treated with the greatest barbarity. Many
of them were kept near four days without food altogether. * * * Freemen
and men of substance suffered all that generous minds could suffer from
the contempt and mockery of British and foreign mercenaries. Multitudes
died in prison. When they were sent out several died in being carried
from the boats on shore, or upon the road attempting to go home. The
committee, in the course of their inquiry, learned that sometimes
the common soldiers expressed sympathy with the prisoners, and the
foreigners (did this) more than the English. But this was seldom or
never the case with the officers, nor have they been able to hear of any
charitable assistance given them by the inhabitants who remained in,
or resorted to the city of New York, which neglect, if universal, they
believe was never known to happen in any similar case in a Christian

We have already shown that some of the citizens of New York, even a
number of the profligate women of the town, did their best to relieve
the wants of the perishing prisoners. But the guards were very strict,
and what they could do was inadequate to remove the distresses under
which these victims of cruelty and oppression died. As we are attempting
to make this work a compendium of all the facts that can be gathered
upon the subject, we must beg the reader's indulgence if we continue to
give corroborating testimony of the same character, from the periodicals
of the day. We will next quote from the _New Hampshire Gazette,_ date of
February 4th, 1779.

"It is painful to repeat the indubitable accounts we are constantly
receiving, of the cruel and inhuman treatment of the subjects of these
States from the British in New York and other places. They who hear our
countrymen who have been so unfortunate as to fall into the hands of
those unrelenting tyrants, relate the sad story of their captivity, the
insults they have received, and the slow, cool, systematic manner in
which great numbers of those who could not be prevailed on to enter
their service have been murdered, must have hearts of stone not to
melt with pity for the sufferers, and burn with indignation at their
tormentors. As we have daily fresh instances to prove the truth of such
a representation, public justice requires that repeated public mention
should be made of them. A cartel vessel lately arrived at New London in
Connecticut, carrying about 130 American prisoners from the prison ships
in New York. Such was the condition in which these poor creatures
were put on board the cartel, that in the short run, 16 died on board;
upwards of sixty when they were landed, were scarcely able to move, and
the remainder greatly emaciated and enfeebled; and many who continue
alive are never likely to recover their former health. The greatest
inhumanity was experienced by the prisoners in a ship of which one
Nelson, a Scotchman, had the superintendence. Upwards of 300 American
prisoners were confined at a time, on board this ship. There was but
one small fire-place allowed to cook the food of such a number. The
allowance of the prisoners was, moreover, frequently delayed, insomuch
that, in the short days of November and December, it was not begun to be
delivered out until 11 o'clock in the forenoon so that the whole
could not be served until three. At sunset the fire was ordered to be
quenched; no plea from the many sick, from their absolute necessity,
the shortness of the time or the smallness of the hearth, was allowed to
avail. The known consequence was that some had not their food dressed at
all; many were obliged to eat it half raw. On board the ship no flour,
oatmeal, and things of like nature, suited to the condition of infirm
people, were allowed to the many sick, nothing but ship-bread, beef,
and pork. This is the account given by a number of prisoners, who are
credible persons, and this is but a part of their sufferings; so that
the excuse made by the enemy that the prisoners were emaciated and
died by contagious sickness, which no one could prevent, is futile. It
requires no great sagacity to know that crowding people together without
fresh air, and feeding, or rather starving them in such a manner as the
prisoners have been, must unavoidably produce a contagion. Nor is it
a want of candor to suppose that many of our enemies saw with pleasure
this contagion, which might have been so easily prevented, among the
prisoners who could not be persuaded to enter the service."


Soon after the battle of Long Island Captain Birdsall, a Whig officer,
made a successful attempt to release an American vessel laden with
flour for the army, which had been captured in the Sound by the British.
Captain Birdsall offered, if the undertaking was approved of by his
superior officer, to superintend the enterprise himself. The proposal
was accepted, when Birdsall, with a few picked men, made the experiment,
and succeeded in sending the vessel to her original destination. But he
and one of his men fell into the hands of the enemy. He was sent to the
Provost Jail under surveillance of "that monster in human shape, the
infamous Cunningham." He requested the use of pen, ink, and paper, for
the purpose of acquainting his family of his situation. On being refused
he made a reply which drew from the keeper some opprobious epithets,
accompanied by a thrust from his sword, which penetrated the shoulder of
his victim, and caused the blood to flow freely. Being locked up alone
in a filthy apartment, and denied any assistance whatever, he was
obliged to dress the wound with his own linen, and then to endure, in
solitude and misery, every indignity which the malice of the Provost
Master urged him to inflict upon a _damned rebel_, who, he declared,
ought to be hung. "After several months of confinement and starvation he
was exchanged."

Two Whig gentlemen of Long Island were imprisoned in the Provost Prison
some time in the year 1777. Two English Quakers named Jacob Watson and
Robert Murray at last procured their release. Their names were George
Townsend and John Kirk. Kirk caught the smallpox while in prison. He was
sent home in a covered wagon. His wife met him at the door, and tenderly
nursed him through the disorder. He recovered in due time, but she and
her infant daughter died of the malady. There were hundreds of such
cases: indeed throughout the war contagion was carried into every part
of the country by soldiers and former prisoners. In some instances the
British were accused of selling inoculated clothing to the prisoners.
Let us hope that some, at least, of these reports are unfounded.

The North Dutch Church was the last of the churches used as prisons
to be torn down. As late as 1850 it was still standing, and marks of
bayonet thrusts were plainly to be discerned upon its pillars. How many
of the wretched sufferers were in this manner done to death we have no
means of discovering, but it must have been easier to die in that manner
than to have endured the protracted agonies of death by starvation.

John Pintard, who assisted his uncle, Lewis Pintard, Commissioner for
American prisoners in New York, thus wrote of their sufferings. It must
be remembered that the prisoners taken in 1776 died, for the most
part, before our struggling nation was able to protect them, before
Commissioners had been appointed, and when, in her feeble infancy, the
Republic was powerless to aid them.

"The prisoners taken on Long Island and at Fort Washington, sick,
wounded, and well, were all indiscriminately huddled together, by
hundreds and thousands, large numbers of whom died by disease, and
many undoubtedly poisoned by inhuman attendants, for the sake of their
watches or silver buckles."

It was on the 20th of January, 1777, that Washington proposed to
Mr. Lewis Pintard, a merchant of New York, that he should accept the
position as resident agent for American prisoners. In May of that year
General Parsons sent to Washington a plan for making a raid upon Long
Island, and bringing off the American officers, prisoners of war on
parole. Washington, however, disapproved of the plan, and it was not

No one sympathized with the unfortunate victims of British cruelty more
deeply than the Commander-in-chief. But he keenly felt the injustice
of exchanging sound, healthy, British soldiers, for starved and dying
wretches, for the most part unable even to reach their homes. In a
letter written by him on the 28th of May, 1777, to General Howe, he
declared that a great proportion of prisoners sent out by the British
were not fit subjects for exchange, and that, being made so unfit by the
severity of their treatment, a deduction should be made. It is needless
to say that the British General refused this proposition.

On the 10th of June, 1777, Washington, in a long letter to General Howe,
states that he gave clothing to the British prisoners in his care.
He also declares that he was not informed of the sufferings of the
Americans in New York until too late, and that he was refused permission
to establish an agency in that city to purchase what was necessary to
supply the wants of the prisoners.

It was not until after the battle of Trenton that anything could be done
to relieve these poor men. Washington, by his heroism, when he led his
little band across the half frozen Delaware, saved the lives of the
small remnant of prisoners in New York. After the battle he had so many
British and Hessian prisoners in his power, that he was able to impress
upon the British general the fact that American prisoners were too
valuable to be murdered outright, and that it was more expedient to keep
them alive for purposes of exchange.

Rivington's _Gazette_ of Jan. 15th, 1779, contains this notice:
"Privateers arriving in New York Harbor are to put their prisoners on
board the Good Hope or Prince of Wales prison ships.

"James Dick."

If the Jersey were in use at that time it must have been too crowded
for further occupancy. But although there is frequent mention in the
periodicals of the day of the prison ships of New York the Jersey did
not become notorious until later.

On the 29th of June, 1779, Sir George Collier, in a notice in
Rivington's _Gazette_, forbids "privateers landing prisoners on Long
Island to the damage and annoyance of His Majesty's faithful servants."

This order was no doubt issued, in fear of contagion, which fear led
the British to remove their prison ships out of New York Harbor to the
retired waters of Wallabout Bay, where the work of destruction could go
on with less fear of producing a general pestilence.

In the issue for the 23rd of August, 1779, we read: "To be sold, The
sails and rigging of the ship Good Hope. Masts, spars, and yards as good
as new."

Among the accounts of cruelty to the prisoners it is refreshing to come
upon such a paragraph as this, from a New London, Conn. paper, dated
August 18th, 1779. "Last week five or six hundred American prisoners
were exchanged. A flag returned here with 47 American prisoners, and
though taken out of the Good Hope prison ship, it must (for once) be
acknowledged that all were very well and healthy. Only 150 left."

The next quotation that we will give contains one of the first mentions
of the Jersey as a prison ship, that we have been able to find.

"New London, Sept. 1st, 1779. D. Stanton testifies that he was taken
June 5th and put in the Jersey prison ship. An allowance from Congress
was sent on board. About three or four weeks past we were removed on
board the Good Hope, where we found many sick. There is now a hospital
ship provided, to which they are removed, and good attention paid."

A Boston paper dated September 2nd, 1779, has the following: "Returned
to this port Alexander Dickey, Commissary of Prisoners, from New
York, with a cartel, having on board 180 American prisoners. Their
countenances indicate that they have undergone every conceivable

"New London, Sep. 29th 1779. A Flag arrived here from New York with 117
prisoners, chiefly from New England."

From Rivington's _Gazette,_ March lst, 1780. "Last Saturday afternoon
the Good Hope prison ship, lying in the Wallebocht Bay was entirely
consumed after having been wilfully set on fire by a Connecticut
man named Woodbury, who confessed to the fact. He with others of the
incendiaries are removed to the Provost. The prisoners let each other
down from the port holes and decks into the water."

So that was the end of the Good Hope. She seems to have been burned
by some of the prisoners in utter desperation, probably with some hope
that, in the confusion, they might be enabled to escape, though we do
not learn that any of them were so fortunate, and the only consequence
of the deed appears to have been that the remaining ships were crowded
to suffocation.

A writer in the Connecticut _Gazette,_ whose name is not given, says:
"May 25th, 1780. I am now a prisoner on board the Falmouth, a place the
most dreadful; we are confined so that we have not room even to lie down
all at once to sleep. It is the most horrible, cursed, hole that can
be thought of. I was sick and longed for some small beer, while I lay
unpitied at death's door, with a putrid fever, and though I had money I
was not permitted to send for it. I offered repeatedly a hard dollar for
a pint. The wretch who went forward and backward would not oblige me. I
am just able to creep about. Four prisoners have escaped from this ship.
One having, as by accident, thrown his hat overboard, begged leave to
go after it in a small boat, which lay alongside. Having reached the hat
they secured the sentinel and made for the Jersey shore, though several
armed boats pursued, and shot was fired from the shipping."

The New Jersey _Gazette_ of June 4th, 1780, says: "Thirty-five
Americans, including five officers, made their escape from the prison
ship at New York and got safely off."

"For Sale. The remains of the hospital ship Kitty, as they now lie at
the Wallebocht, with launch, anchors, and cables." Gaine's _Mercury_,
July 1st, 1780.

New Jersey _Gazette_, August 23, 1780. "Captain Grumet, who made his
escape from the Scorpion prison ship, at New York, on the evening of
the 15th, says more lenity is shown the prisoners. There are 200 in the
Strombolo, and 120 in the Scorpion."

It was in 1780 that the poet Freneau was a prisoner on the Scorpion,
which, at that time, was anchored in the East River. In Rivington's
_Gazette_, at the end of that year, the "hulks of his Majesty's sloops
Scorpion and Hunter" are advertised for sale. Also "the Strombolo
fire-ship, now lying in North River." It appears, however, that there
were no purchasers, and they remained unsold. They were still in use
until the end of the year 1781. Gaine's _Mercury_ declares that "the
Strombolo, from August 21st to December 10th, 1781, had never less than
150 prisoners on board, oftener over 200."

"Captain Cahoon with four others escaped from a prison ship to Long
Island in a boat, March 8, notwithstanding they were fired on from the
prison and hospital ships, and pursued by guard boats from three in the
afternoon to seven in the evening. He left 200 prisoners in New York."
_Connecticut Journal_, March 22, 1781.

The _Connecticut Gazette_, in May, 1781, stated that 1100 French and
American prisoners had died during the winter in the prison ships. "New
London, November 17th, 1781. A Flag of truce returned here from New York
with 132 prisoners, with the rest of those carried off by Arnold. They
are chiefly from the prison ships, and some from the Sugar House, and
are mostly sick."

"New London, Jan. 4th, 1782. 130 prisoners landed here from New York
December third, in most deplorable condition. A great part are since
dead, and the survivors so debilitated that they will drag out a
miserable existence. It is enough to melt the most obdurate heart to see
these miserable objects landed at our wharves sick and dying, and the
few rags they have on covered with vermin and their own excrements."



We must now conduct our readers back to the Provost Prison in New York,
where, for some time, Colonel Ethan Allen was incarcerated. Dr. Elias
Cornelius, a surgeon's mate, was taken prisoner by the British on the
22nd of August, 1777. On that day he had ridden to the enemy's advanced
post to make observations, voluntarily accompanying a scouting party. On
his way back he was surprised, over-powered, and captured by a party of
British soldiers.

This was at East Chester. He seems to have lagged behind the rest of
the party, and thus describes the occurrence: "On riding into town (East
Chester) four men started from behind a shed and took me prisoner. They
immediately began robbing me of everything I had, horse and harness,
pistols, Great Coat, shoe-buckles, pocket book, which contained over
thirty pounds, and other things. The leader of the guard abused me very
much. * * * When we arrived at King's Bridge I was put under the Provost
Guard, with a man named Prichard and several other prisoners." They were
kept at the guard house there for some time, and regaled with mouldy
bread, rum and water, and sour apples, which were thrown down for them
to scramble for, as if they were so many pigs. They were at last marched
to New York. Just before reaching that city they were carried before a
Hessian general to be "made a show of." The Hessians mocked them, told
them they were all to be hung, and even went so far as to draw their
swords across their throats. But a Hessian surgeon's mate took pity on
Cornelius, and gave him a glass of wine.

On the march to New York in the hot summer afternoon they were not
allowed to stop even for a drink of water. Cornelius was in a fainting
condition, when a poor woman, compassionating his sad plight, asked to
be allowed to give them some water. They were then about four miles from
New York. She ran into her house and brought out several pails of
beer, three or four loaves of bread, two or three pounds of cheese, and
besides all this, she gave money to some of the prisoners. Her name was
Mrs. Clemons. She was from Boston and kept a small store along the road
to New York.

Cornelius says: "We marched till we come to the Bowery, three quarters
of a mile from New York. * * * As we come into town, Hessians, Negroes,
and children insulted, stoned, and abused us. * * * In this way we were
led through half the streets as a show. * * * At last we were ordered to
the Sugar House, which formerly went by the name of Livingstone's
Sugar House. Here one Walley, a Sergeant of the 20th Regiment of Irish
traitors in the British service, had the charge of the prisoners. This
man was the most barbarous, cruel man that ever I saw. He drove us into
the yard like so many hogs. From there he ordered us into the Sugar
House, which was the dirtiest and most disagreeable place that I ever
saw, and the water in the pump was not better than that in the docks.
The top of the house was open * * * to the weather, so that when it
rained the water ran through every floor, and it was impossible for us
to keep dry. Mr. Walley gave thirteen of us four pounds of mouldy bread
and four pounds of poor Irish pork for four days. I asked Mr Walley if
I was not to have my parole. He answered 'No!' When I asked for pen and
ink to write a few lines to my father, he struck me across the face with
a staff which I have seen him beat the prisoners." (with)

On the next morning Cornelius was conveyed to the Provost Guard. "I was
then taken down to a Dungeon. The provost marshal was Sergeant
Keith" (Cunningham appears to have been, at this time, murdering the
unfortunate prisoners in his power at Philadelphia).

"There was in this place a Captain Travis of Virginia, and Captain of
a sloop of war. There were also in this dismal place nine thieves,
murderers, etc. A Captain Chatham was taken sick with nervous fever.
I requested the Sergeant to suffer me to send for some medicine, or I
believed he might die, to which he replied he might die, and if he did
he would bury him.

"All the provisions each man had was but two pounds meat and two pounds
bread for a week, always one and sometimes both was not fit to eat. *
* * I had no change of linen from the 25th of August to the 12th of

It seems that the father of Cornelius, who lived on Long Island, was an
ardent Tory. Cornelius asked Sergeant O'Keefe to be allowed to send
to his father for money and clothing. But this was refused. "In this
hideous place," he continues, "I was kept until the 20th of September;
when Sergeant Keath took Captains C., and Travis, and myself, and led us
to the upper part of the prison, where were Ethan Allen, Major Williams,
Paine and Wells and others. Major Williams belonged at Maryland and was
taken prisoner at Fort Washington. * * *

"While at this place we were not allowed to speak to any friend, not
even out of the window. I have frequently seen women beaten with canes
and ram-rods who have come to the prisons' windows to speak to their
Husbands, Sons, or Brothers, and officers put in the dungeon just for
asking for cold water."

Dried peas were given out to the prisoners, without the means of cooking

When Fort Montgomery was taken by the British the American officers who
had been in command at that post were brought to the Provost and
put into two small rooms on the lower floor. Some of them were badly
wounded, but no surgeon was allowed to dress their wounds. Cornelius
asked permission to do so, but this was refused. "All of us in the
upper prison," he continues, "were sometimes allowed to go on top of the
house. I took this opportunity to throw some Ointment and Lint down the
chimney to the wounded in the lower rooms with directions how to use it.
I knew only one of them--Lt. Col. Livingstone."

At the time of Burgoyne's surrender a rumor of the event reached the
prisoners, and women passing along the street made signs to assure them
that that general was really a captive. Colonel Livingstone received a
letter from his father giving an account of Burgoyne's surrender. "Soon
we heard hollooing and other expressions of joy from him and others in
the (lower) rooms. * * * He put the letter up through a crack in
the floor for us to read. * * * The whole prison was filled with joy
inexpressible. * * * From this time we were better treated, although
the provision was bad, but we drew rather larger quantities of it. Some
butter, and about a gill of rice and some cole were dealt out to us,
which we never drew before.

"About this time my father came to see me. I was called down to the
grates. My heart at first was troubled within me; I burst into tears,
and did not speak for some minutes. I put my hand through the grates,
and took my father's and held it fast. The poor old gentleman shed many
tears, and seemed much troubled to see me in so woeful a place. * * *
He asked me what I thought of myself now, and why I could not have been
ruled by him. * * * Soon the Provost Marshal came and said he could not
allow my father to stay longer.

"* * * Toward the latter part of December we had Continental bread and
beef sent us, and as much wood as we wished to burn. A friend gave me
some money which was very useful.

"Jan. 9th, 1778. This day Mr. Walley came and took from the prison
myself and six others under guard to the Sugar House. * * * At this time
my health was bad, being troubled with the scurvy, and my prospects for
the winter were dark."

He describes the Sugar House as a dreadful place of torment, and
says that thirty disorderly men were allowed to steal from the other
prisoners the few comforts they possessed. They would even take the sick
out of their beds, steal their bedding, and beat and kick the wretched
sufferers. The articles thus procured they would sell to Mr. Walley (or
Woolley) for rum.

On the 13th of January Cornelius was sent to the hospital. The Brick
Meeting House was used for the sick among the prisoners.

"Here," he continues, "I stayed until the 16th. I was not much better
than I was in the Sugar House, no medicine was given me, though I had a
cough and a fever. The Surgeon wished me as soon as I got better to take
the care of the sick, provided I could get my parole.

"Jan. 16th. On coming next morning he (the surgeon) said he could get
my parole. I was now determined to make my escape, though hardly able to
undertake it. Just at dusk, having made the Sentinel intoxicated, I with
others, went out into the backyard to endeavor to escape over the fence.
The others being backward about going first, I climbed upon a tombstone
and gave a spring, and went over safe, and then gave orders for the
others to do so also. A little Irish lad undertook to leap over, and
caught his clothes in the spikes on the wall, and made something of a
noise. The sentinel being aroused called out 'Rouse!' which is the same
as to command the guards to turn out. They were soon out and surrounded
the prison. In the mean time I had made my way to St. Paul's Church,
which was the wrong way to get out of town.

"The guards, expecting that I had gone towards North River, went in that
direction. On arriving at the Church I turned into the street to go by
the College and thus go out of town by the side of the river. Soon after
I was out of town I heard the eight o'clock gun, which * * * was the
signal for the sentinels to hail every man that came by. I wished much
to cross the river, but could not find any boat suitable. While going
along up the side of the river at 9 P.M., I was challenged by a sentinel
with the usual word (Burdon), upon which I answered nothing, and on
being challenged the second time I answered 'Friend.' He bade me advance
and give the countersign, upon which I fancied (pretended) I was drunk,
and advanced in a staggering manner, and after falling to the ground he
asked me where I was going. I told him 'Home,' but that I had got lost,
and having been to New York had taken rather too much liquor, and become
somewhat intoxicated. He then asked me my name which I told him was
Matthew Hoppen. Mr. Hoppen lived not far distant. I solicited him to
put me in the right direction, but he told me I must not go until the
Sergeant of the guard dismissed me from him, unless I could give him the
countersign. I still entreated him to let me go. Soon he consented and
directed my course, which I thanked him for. Soon the moon arose and
made it very light, and there being snow on the ground, crusted over,
and no wind, therefore a person walking could be heard a great distance.

"At this time the tumor in my lungs broke, and being afraid to cough for
fear of being heard, prevented me from relieving myself of the pus that
was lodged there.

"I had now to cross lots that were cleared and covered with snow, the
houses being thick on the road which I was to cross, and for fear of
being heard I lay myself flat on my stomach and crept along on the
frozen snow. When I come to the fence I climbed over, and walked down
the road, near a house where there was music and dancing. At this time
one of the guards came out. I immediately fell down upon my face. Soon
the man went into the house. I rose again, and crossed the fence into
the field, and proceeded towards the river. There being no trees or
rocks to prevent my being seen, and not being able to walk without being
heard, and the dogs beginning to bark, I lay myself down flat again, and
crept across the field, which took me half an hour. I at length reached
the river and walked by the side of it some distance, and saw a small
creek which ran up into the island, and by the side of it a small house,
and two Sentinels one on each side of it. Not knowing what to do I crept
into a hole in the bank which led in between two rocks. Here I heard
them talk. I concluded to endeavor to go around the head of the creek,
which was about half a mile, but on getting out of the hole I took
hold of the limb of a tree which gave way, and made a great noise. The
sentinel, on hearing it said, 'Did you not hear a person on the creek?'

"I waited some minutes and then went around the head of the creek and
came down the river on the other side to see if I could not find a boat
to cross to Long Island. But on finding sentinels near by I retreated
a short distance back, and went up the river. I had not gone more than
thirty rods when I saw another sentinel posted on the bank of the river
where I must pass. * * * I stood some time thinking what course to
pursue, but on looking at the man found he did not move and was leaning
on his gun. I succeeded in passing by without waking him up. After this
I found a Sentinel every fifteen or twenty rods until I came within two
miles of Hell Gate. Here I stayed until my feet began to freeze, and
having nothing to eat I went a mile further up the river. It now being
late I crept into the bushes and lay down to think what to do next.
I concluded to remain where I was during the night, and early in the
morning to go down to New York and endeavor to find some house to
conceal myself in.

"In the morning as soon as the Revelry Beating commenced I went on my
way to New York which was eight miles from this place. After proceeding
awhile I heard the morning guns fired from New York, though I was four
miles from it. I passed the sentinels unmolested down the middle of
the road, and arrived there before many were up. I met many British and
Hessian soldiers whom I knew very well, but they did not know me.

"I went to a house, and found them friends of America, and was kindly
received of them, and (they) promised to keep me a few days.

"I had not been here but three quarters of an hour when I was obliged to
call for a bed. After being in bed two or three hours I was taken with
a stoppage in my breast, and made my resperation difficult, and still
being afraid to cough loud for fear of being heard. The good lady of the
house gave me some medicine of my own prescribing, which soon gave
me relief. Soon after a rumor spread about town among the friends of
America of my confinement, and expecting soon to be retaken, they took
measures to have me conveyed to Long Island, which was accordingly done.

"Feb. 18th, 1778. The same day I was landed I walked nine miles, and put
up at a friend's house, during my walk I passed my Grandfather's house,
and dare not go in for fear he would deliver me up to the British. Next
morning I started on my journey again, and reached the place I intended
at 12 o'clock, and put up with two friends. The next morning I and
two companions started from our friends with four days provisions, and
shovels and axes to build us a hut in the woods. We each of us had a
musket, powder, and balls. After going two miles in the woods we dug
away the snow and made us a fire. After warming ourselves we set to work
to build ourselves a hut; and got one side of it done the first day,
and the next we finished it. It was tolerably comfortable. We kept large
fires, and cooked our meat on the coals. In eight or ten days we had
some provisions brought us by our friends. At this time we heard that
Captain Rogers was cast away on Long Island, and concealed by some of
his friends. We went to see him, and found him. We attempted to stay in
the house in a back room. At about ten A. M. there came in a Tory, he
knowing some of us seemed much troubled. We made him promise that he
would not make known our escape. The next day our two comrades went back
to their old quarters, and Captain Rogers and myself and a friend
went into the woods and built us a hut, about ten miles from my former
companions, with whom we kept up a constant correspondence. Soon a man
was brought to us by our friends, whom we found to be John Rolston, a
man who was confined in the Provost Jail with us, and was carried to
the Hospital about three weeks after I was, and made his escape the same
way, and by friends was brought to Long Island.

"March 19th, 1778. About 5 o'clock a friend came to us and and said we
had an opportunity to go over to New England in a boat that had just
landed with four Tories, that had stolen the boat at Fairfield, Conn.
We immediately sent word to our two friends with whom I first helped to
build a hut, but they could not be found. At sunset those that came in
the boat went off, and some of our friends guided us through the woods
to the boat, taking two oars with us, for fear we should not find any
in the boat. On arrival at the place our kind friends helped us off. We
rowed very fast till we were a great distance from land. The moon rose
soon, and the wind being fair we arrived we knew not where, about a half
hour before day. We went on shore, and soon found it was Norwalk, Conn.
We had bade farewell to Long Island, for the present, upon which I
composed the following lines:--

  "O fair you well, once happy land,
    Where peace and plenty dwelt,
  But now oppressed by tyrants' hands,
    Where naught but fury's felt

  "Behold I leave you for awhile,
    To mourn for all your sons,
  Who daily bleed that you may smile
    When we've your freedom won

"After being rested, just as the day began to dawn, we walked to a place
called the Old Mill, where we found a guard (American) who hailed us at
a distance, and on coming up to him kindly received us, and invited
us to his house to warm us. This being done we went home with Captain
Rodgers, for he lived in Norwalk. Here we went to bed at sunrise, and
stayed till 10 o'clock. After dinner we took leave of Captain Rodgers
and started for head-quarters in Pennsylvania, where the grand Army was
at that time. In seven days we arrived at Valley Forge.

"Elias Cornelius."

This portion of the journal of Dr. Cornelius was published in the
_Putnam County Republican_, in 1895, with a short account of the author.

Dr. Cornelius was born on Long Island in 1758, and was just twenty at
the time of his capture. His ancestors came from Holland. They were
of good birth, and brought a seal bearing their coat of arms to this
country. On the 15th of April, 1777, he was appointed surgeon's mate to
the Second Regiment of Rhode Island troops under Colonel Israel Angell.

The article in the _Republican_ gives a description of Cunningham and
the Provost which we do not quote in full, as it contains little that
is new. It says, however that "While Cunningham's victims were dying
off from cold and starvation like cattle, he is said to have actually
mingled an arsenical preparation with the food to make them die the
quicker. It is recorded that he boasted that he had killed more rebels
with his own hand than had been slain by all the King's forces in

Cornelius continued in the Continental service until January 1st,
1781, and received an honorable discharge. After the war he settled
at Yorktown, Westchester County, and came to be known as the "beloved
physician." He was very gentle and kind, and a great Presbyterian. He
died in 1823, and left descendants, one of whom is Judge C. M. Tompkins,
of Washington, D. C.

As we have seen, Cunningham was not always in charge of the Provost. It
appears that, during his absence in Philadelphia and other places, where
he spread death and destruction, he left Sergeant O'Keefe, almost as
great a villian as himself, in charge of the hapless prisoners in New
York. It is to be hoped that his boast that he had killed more Americans
than all the King's forces is an exaggeration. It may, however, be true
that in the years 1776 and 1777 he destroyed more American soldiers than
had, at that time, fallen on the field of battle.

When an old building that had been used as a prison near the City Hall
was torn down a few years ago to make way for the Subway Station of
the Brooklyn Bridge, a great number of skeletons were found _in its
cellars_. That these men starved to death or came to their end by
violence cannot be doubted. New York, at the time of the Revolution,
extended to about three-quarters of a mile from the Battery, its suburbs
lying around what is now Fulton Street. Cornelius speaks of the Bowery
as about three-quarters of a mile from New York! "St. Paul's Church,"
says Mr. Haltigan, in his very readable book called "The Irish in the
American Revolution," "where Washington attended divine service, is now
the only building standing that existed in those days, and that is a
veritable monument to Irish and American patriotism. * * * On the Boston
Post Road, where it crossed a brook in the vicinity of Fifty-Second
street and Second avenue, then called Beekman's Hill, William Beekman
had an extensive country house. During the Revolution this house was the
British headquarters, and residence of Sir William Howe, where Nathan
Hale was condemned to death, and where Major Andrè received his last
instructions before going on his ill-fated mission to the traitor

Lossing tells us of the imprisonment of one of the signers of the
Declaration of Independence, in the following language: "Suffering and
woe held terrible sway after Cornwallis and his army swept over
the plains of New Jersey. Like others of the signers of the great
Declaration, Richard Stockton was marked for peculiar vengeance by the
enemy. So suddenly did the flying Americans pass by in the autumn of
1776, and so soon were the Hessian vultures and their British companions
on the trail, that he had barely time to remove his family to a place of
safety before his beautiful mansion was filled with rude soldiery. The
house was pillaged, the horses and stock were driven away, the furniture
was converted into fuel, the choice old wines in the cellar were drunk,
the valuable library, and all the papers of Mr. Stockton were committed
to the flames, and the estate was laid waste. Mr. Stockton's place of
concealment was discovered by a party of loyalists, who entered the
house at night, dragged him from his bed, and treating him with every
indignity that malice could invent, hurried him to New York, where he
was confined in the loathsome Provost Jail and treated with the utmost
cruelty. When, through the interposition of Congress he was released,
his constitution was hopelessly shattered, and he did not live to
see the independence of his country achieved. He died at his home at
Princeton, in February, 1781, blessed to the last with the tender and
affectionate attentions of his noble wife."

We have gathered very little information about the British prisons in
the south, but that little shall be laid before the reader. It repeats
the same sad story of suffering and death of hundreds of martyrs to the
cause of liberty, and of terrible cruelty on the part of the English as
long as they were victorious.

Mr. Haltigan tells of the "tender mercies" of Cornwallis at the south in
the following words: "Cornwallis was even more cruel than Clinton, and
more flagrant in his violations of the conditions of capitulation. After
the fall of Charleston the real misery of the inhabitants began. Every
stipulation made by Sir Henry Clinton for their welfare was not only
grossly violated, but he sent out expeditions in various sections to
plunder and kill the inhabitants, and scourge the country generally.
One of these under Tarleton surprised Colonel Buford and his Virginia
regiment at Waxhaw, N. C., and while negotiations were pending for a
surrender, the Americans, without notice, were suddenly attacked and
massacred in cold blood. Colonel Buford and one hundred of his men saved
themselves only by flight. Though the rest sued for quarter, one hundred
and thirteen of them were killed on the spot, and one hundred and fifty
more were so badly hacked by Tarleton's dragoons that they could not
be removed. Only fifty-three out of the entire regiment were spared and
taken prisoners. 'Tarleton's quarter' thereafter became the synonym for
barbarity. * * * Feeling the silent influence of the eminent citizens
under parole in Charleston, Cornwallis resolved to expatriate them to

"Lieutenant Governor Gadsden and seventy-seven other public and
influential men were taken from their beds by armed parties, before
dawn on the morning of the 27th of August, 1780, hurried on board
the Sandwich prison ship, without being allowed to bid adieu to their
families, and were conveyed to St. Augustine.

"The pretence for this measure, by which the British authorities
attempted to justify it, was the false accusation that these men were
concerting a scheme for burning the town and massacring the loyal
inhabitants. Nobody believed the tale, and the act was made more
flagrant by this wicked calumny. Arrived at St. Augustine the prisoners
were offered paroles to enjoy liberty within the precincts of the town.
Gadsden, the sturdy patriot, refused acquiescence, for he disdained
making further terms with a power that did not regard the sanctity of a
solemn treaty. He was determined not to be deceived the second time.

"'Had the British commanders,' he said, 'regarded the terms of
capitulation at Charleston I might now, although a prisoner, enjoy the
smiles and consolations of my family under my own roof; but even without
a shadow of accusation preferred against me, for any act inconsistent
with my plighted faith, I am torn from them, and here, in a distant
land, invited to enter into new engagements. I will give no parole.'

"'Think better of it,' said Governor Tonyn, who was in command, 'a
second refusal of it will fix your destiny,--a dungeon will be your
future habitation.'

"'Prepare it then,' replied the inflexible patriot, 'I will give no
parole, so help me God!'

"And the petty tyrant did prepare it, and for forty-two weeks that
patriot, of almost threescore years of age, never saw the light of the
blessed sun, but lay incarcerated in the dungeon of the castle of St
Augustine. All the other prisoners accepted paroles, but they were
exposed to indignities more harrowing to the sensitive soul than close
confinement. When they were exchanged, in June, 1781, they were not
allowed even to touch at Charleston, but were sent to Philadelphia,
whither their families had been banished when the prisoners were taken
to the Sandwich. More than a thousand persons were thus exiled, and
husbands and wives, fathers and children, first met in a distant State
after a separation of ten months.

"Nearly all the soldiers taken prisoners at Charleston were confined in
prison ships in the harbor, where foul air, bad food, filth, and
disease killed hundreds of them. Those confined at Haddrell's Point also
suffered terribly. Many of them had been nurtured in affluence; now
far from friends and entirely without means, they were reduced to the
greatest straits. They were not even allowed to fish for their support,
but were obliged to perform the most menial services. After thirteen
months captivity, Cornwallis ordered them to be sent to the West Indies,
and this cruel order would have been carried out, but for the general
exchange of prisoners which took place soon afterwards.

"Governor Rutledge, in speaking before the South Carolina Assembly at
Jacksonboro, thus eloquently referred to the rigorous and unjustifiable
conduct of the British authorities:

"'Regardless of the sacred ties of honor, destitute of the feelings
of humanity, and determined to extinguish, if possible, every spark
of freedom in this country, the enemy, with the insolent pride of
conquerors, gave unbounded scope to the exercise of their tyrannical
disposition, infringed their public engagements, and violated their most
solemn treaties. Many of our worthiest citizens, without cause, were
long and closely confined, some on board prison ships, and others in the
town and castle of St. Augustine. Their properties were disposed of
at the will and caprice of the enemy, and their families sent to
a different and distant part of the continent without the means of
support. Many who had surrendered prisoners of war were killed in cold
blood. Several suffered death in the most ignominious manner, and others
were delivered up to savages and put to tortures, under which they
expired. Thus the lives, liberties, and properties of the people were
dependent solely on the pleasure of the British officers, who deprived
them of either or all on the most frivolous pretenses. Indians, slaves,
and a desperate banditti of the most profligate characters were
caressed and employed by the enemy to execute their infamous purposes.
Devastation and ruin marked their progress and that of their adherents;
nor were their violences restrained by the charms or influence of beauty
and innocence; even the fair sex, whom it is the duty of all, and
the pleasure and pride of the brave to protect, they and their tender
offspring, were victims to the inveterate malice of an unrelenting foe.
Neither the tears of mothers, nor the cries of infants could excite pity
or compassion. Not only the peaceful habitation of the widow, the aged
and the infirm, but the holy temples of the Most High were consumed in
flames, kindled by their sacrilegious hands. They have tarnished
the glory of the British army, disgraced the profession of a British
soldiery, and fixed indelible stigmas of rapine, cruelty and peridy, and
profaneness on the British name.'"

When in 1808 the Tammany Society of New York laid the cornerstone of a
vault in which the bones of many of the prison ship martyrs were laid
Joseph D. Fay, Esq., made an oration in which he said:

"But the suffering of those unfortunate Americans whom the dreadful
chances of war had destined for the prison-ships, were far greater than
any which have been told. In that deadly season of the year, when the
dog-star rages with relentless fury, when a pure air is especially
necessary to health, the British locked their prisoner, after long
marches, in the dungeons of ships affected with contagion, and reeking
with the filth of crowded captives, dead and dying. * * * No reasoning,
no praying could obtain from his stern tyrants the smallest alleviation
of his fate.

"In South Carolina the British officer called Fraser, after trying in
every manner to induce the prisoners to enlist, said to them: 'Go to
your dungeons in the prison ships, where you shall perish and rot, but
first let me tell you that the rations which have been hitherto allowed
for your wives and children shall, from this moment, cease forever; and
you shall die assured that they are starving in the public streets, and
that _you_ are the authors of their fate.'

"A sentence so terribly awful appalled the firm soul of every listening
hero. A solemn silence followed the declaration; they cast their
wondering eyes one upon the other, and valor, for a moment, hung
suspended between love of family, and love of country. Love of country
at length rose superior to every other consideration, and moved by one
impulse, this glorious band of patriots thundered into the astonished
ears of their persecutors, 'The prison-ships and Death, or Washington
and our country!'

"Meagre famine shook hands with haggard pestilence, joining a league to
appall, conquer, and destroy the glorious spirit of liberty."



Philip Freneau, the poet of the Revolution, as he has been called, was
of French Huguenot ancestry. The Freneaus came to New York in 1685. His
mother was Agnes Watson, a resident of New York, and the poet was born
on the second of January, 1752.

In the year 1780 a vessel of which he was the owner, called the Aurora,
was taken by the British. Freneau was on board, though he was not the
captain of the ship. The British man-of-war, Iris, made the Aurora her
prize, after a fight in which the sailing master and many of the crew
were killed. This was in May, 1780. The survivors were brought to New
York, and confined on board the prison ship, Scorpion. Freneau has left
a poem describing the horrors of his captivity in very strong language,
and it is easy to conceive that his suffering must have been intense
to have aroused such bitter feelings. We give a part of his poem, as
it contains the best description of the indignities inflicted upon the
prisoners, and their mental and physical sufferings that we have found
in any work on the subject.


  Conveyed to York we found, at length, too late,
  That Death was better than the prisoner's fate
  There doomed to famine, shackles, and despair,
  Condemned to breathe a foul, infected air,
  In sickly hulks, devoted while we lay,--
  Successive funerals gloomed each dismal day

  The various horrors of these hulks to tell--
  These prison ships where Pain and Penance dwell,
  Where Death in ten-fold vengeance holds his reign,
  And injured ghosts, yet unavenged, complain:
  This be my task--ungenerous Britons, you
  Conspire to murder whom you can't subdue

       *       *       *       *       *

  So much we suffered from the tribe I hate,
  So near they shoved us to the brink of fate,
  When two long months in these dark hulks we lay,
  Barred down by night, and fainting all the day,
  In the fierce fervors of the solar beam
  Cooled by no breeze on Hudson's mountain stream,
  That not unsung these threescore days shall fall
  To black oblivion that would cover all.

  No masts or sails these crowded ships adorn,
  Dismal to view, neglected and forlorn;
  Here mighty ills oppressed the imprisoned throng;
  Dull were our slumbers, and our nights were long.
  From morn to eve along the decks we lay,
  Scorched into fevers by the solar ray;
  No friendly awning cast a welcome shade,
  Once was it promised, and was never made;
  No favors could these sons of Death bestow,
  'Twas endless vengeance, and unceasing woe.
  Immortal hatred doth their breasts engage,
  And this lost empire swells their souls with rage.

  Two hulks on Hudson's stormy bosom lie,
  Two, on the east, alarm the pitying eye,
  There, the black Scorpion at her mooring rides,
  And there Strombolo, swinging, yields the tides;
  Here bulky Jersey fills a larger space,
  And Hunter, to all hospitals disgrace.
  Thou Scorpion, fatal to thy crowded throng,
  Dire theme of horror to Plutonian song,
  Requir'st my lay,--thy sultry decks I know,
  And all the torments that exist below!
  The briny wave that Hudson's bosom fills
  Drained through her bottom in a thousand rills;
  Rotten and old, replete with sighs and groans,
  Scarce on the water she sustained her bones:

  Here, doomed to toil, or founder in the tide,
  At the moist pumps incessantly we plied;
  Here, doomed to starve, like famished dogs we tore
  The scant allowance that our tyrants bore.
  Remembrance shudders at this scene of fears,
  Still in my view, some tyrant chief appears,
  Some base-born Hessian slave walks threatening by,
  Some servile Scot with murder in his eye,
  Still haunts my sight, as vainly they bemoan
  Rebellions managed so unlike their own.
  O may I never feel the poignant pain
  To live subjected to such fiends again!
  Stewards and mates that hostile Britain bore,
  Cut from the gallows on their native shore;
  Their ghastly looks and vengeance beaming eyes
  Still to my view in dismal visions rise,--
  O may I ne'er review these dire abodes,
  These piles for slaughter floating on the floods!
  And you that o'er the troubled ocean go
  Strike not your standards to this venomed foe,
  Better the greedy wave should swallow all,
  Better to meet the death-conducting ball,
  Better to sleep on ocean's oozy bed,
  At once destroyed and numbered with the dead,
  Than thus to perish in the face of day
  Where twice ten thousand deaths one death delay.
  When to the ocean sinks the western sun,
  And the scorched tories fire their evening gun,
  "Down, rebels, down!" the angry Scotchmen cry,
  "Base dogs, descend, or by our broadswords die!"

  Hail, dark abode! What can with thee compare?
  Heat, sickness, famine, death, and stagnant air,--

       *       *       *       *       *

  Swift from the guarded decks we rushed along,
  And vainly sought repose, so vast our throng.
  Three hundred wretches here, denied all light,
  In crowded quarters pass the infernal night.
  Some for a bed their tattered vestments join,
  And some on chest, and some on floors recline;
  Shut from the blessings of the evening air
  Pensive we lay with mingled corpses there:
  Meagre and wan, and scorched with heat below,
  We looked like ghosts ere death had made us so:
  How could we else, where heat and hunger joined
  Thus to debase the body and the mind?
  Where cruel thirst the parching throat invades,
  Dries up the man and fits him for the shades?
  No waters laded from the bubbling spring
  To these dire ships these little tyrants bring--
  By plank and ponderous beams completely walled
  In vain for water, still in vain we called.
  No drop was granted to the midnight prayer
  To rebels in these regions of despair!
  The loathsome cask a deadly dose contains,
  Its poison circles through the languid veins.
  "Here, generous Briton, generous, as you say,
  To my parched tongue one cooling drop convey--
  Hell has no mischief like a thirsty throat,
  Nor one tormentor like your David Sproat!"

  Dull flew the hours till, from the East displayed,
  Sweet morn dispelled the horrors of the shade:
  On every side dire objects met the sight,
  And pallid forms, and murders of the night:
  The dead were past their pains, the living groan,
  Nor dare to hope another morn their own.

       *       *       *       *       *

  O'er distant streams appears the living green,
  And leafy trees on mountain tops are seen:
  But they no grove or grassy mountain tread,
  Marked for a longer journey to the dead.

  Black as the clouds that shade St. Kilda's shore,
  Wild as the winds that round her mountains roar,
  At every post some surly vagrant stands,
  Culled from the English, or the Scottish bands.
  Dispensing death triumphantly they stand,
  Their musquets ready to obey command;
  Wounds are their sport, and ruin is their aim;
  On their dark souls compassion has no claim,
  And discord only can their spirits please,
  Such were our tyrants here, such foes as these.

       *       *       *       *       *

  But such a train of endless woes abound
  So many mischiefs in these hulks are found
  That on them all a poem to prolong
  Would swell too high the horrors of our song.
  Hunger and thirst to work our woe combine,
  And mouldy bread, and flesh of rotten swine;
  The mangled carcase and the battered brain;
  The doctor's poison, and the captain's cane;
  The soldier's musquet, and the steward's debt:
  The evening shackle, and the noonday threat.

       *       *       *       *       *

  That charm whose virtue warms the world beside,
  Was by these tyrants to our use denied.
  While yet they deigned that healthsome balm to lade,
  The putrid water felt its powerful aid;
  But when refused, to aggravate our pains,
  Then fevers raged and revelled through our veins;
  Throughout my frame I felt its deadly heat;
  I felt my pulse with quicker motions beat;
  A pallid hue o'er every face was spread,
  Unusual pains attacked the fainting head:
  No physic here, no doctor to assist,
  With oaths they placed me on the sick man's list:
  Twelve wretches more the same dark symptoms took,
  And these were entered on the doctor's book.
  The loathsome Hunter was our destined place,
  The Hunter, to all hospitals disgrace.
  With soldiers sent to guard us on the road,
  Joyful we left the Scorpion's dire abode:
  Some tears we shed for the remaining crew,
  Then cursed the hulk, and from her sides withdrew.


  Now towards the Hunter's gloomy decks we came,
  A slaughter house, yet hospital in name;
  For none came there till ruined with their fees,
  And half consumed, and dying of disease:--

  But when too near, with laboring oar, we plied,
  The Mate, with curses, drove us from the side:--
  That wretch, who banished from the navy crew,
  Grown old in blood did here his trade renew.
  His rancorous tongue, when on his charge let loose,
  Uttered reproaches, scandal, and abuse;
  Gave all to hell who dared his king disown,
  And swore mankind were made for George alone.
  A thousand times, to irritate our woe,
  He wished us foundered in the gulph below:
  A thousand times he brandished high his stick,
  And swore as often, that we were not sick:--
  And yet so pale! that we were thought by some
  A freight of ghosts from Death's dominions come.
  But, calmed at length, for who can always rage?
  Or the fierce war of boundless passion wage?
  He pointed to the stairs that led below
  To damps, disease, and varied forms of woe:--
  Down to the gloom I took my pensive way,
  Along the decks the dying captives lay,
  Some struck with madness, some with scurvy pained,
  But still of putrid fevers most complained.
  On the hard floors the wasted objects laid
  There tossed and tumbled in the dismal shade:
  There no soft voice their bitter fate bemoaned,
  But Death strode stately, while his victims groaned.
  Of leaky decks I heard them long complain,
  Drowned as they were in deluges of rain:
  Denied the comforts of a dying bed,
  And not a pillow to support the head:
  How could they else but pine, and grieve and sigh,
  Detest a wretched life, and wish to die?

  Scarce had I mingled with this wretched band,
  When a thin victim seized me by the hand:--
  "And art thou come?"--death heavy on his eyes--
  "And art thou come to these abodes?" he cries,
  "Why didst thou leave the Scorpion's dark retreat?
  And hither haste, a surer death to meet?
  Why didst thou leave thy damp, infected cell?
  If that was purgatory, this is hell.
  We too, grown weary of that horrid shade,
  Petitioned early for the Doctor's aid;
  His aid denied, more deadly symptoms came,
  Weak and yet weaker, glowed the vital flame;
  And when disease had worn us down so low
  That few could tell if we were ghosts or no,
  And all asserted death would be our fate,
  Then to the Doctor we were sent, too late"

  Ah! rest in peace, each injured, parted shade,
  By cruel hands in death's dark weeds arrayed,
  The days to come shall to your memory raise
  Piles on these shores, to spread through earth your praise.


  From Brooklyn heights a Hessian doctor came,
  Nor great his skill, nor greater much his fame:
  Fair Science never called the wretch her son,
  And Art disdained the stupid man to own.

  He on his charge the healing work begun
  With antmomial mixtures by the tun:
  Ten minutes was the time he deigned to stay,
  The time of grace allotted once a day:
  He drenched us well with bitter draughts, tis true,
  Nostrums from hell, and cortex from Peru:
  Some with his pills he sent to Pluto's reign,
  And some he blistered with his flies of Spain.
  His Tartar doses walked their deadly round,
  Till the lean patient at the potion frowned,
  And swore that hemlock, death, or what you will,
  Were nonsense to the drugs that stuffed his bill.
  On those refusing he bestowed a kick,
  Or menaced vengeance with his walking stick:
  Here uncontrolled he exercised his trade,
  And grew experienced by the deaths he made.

  Knave though he was, yet candor must confess
  Not chief physician was this man of Hesse:
  One master o'er the murdering tribe was placed,
  By him the rest were honored or disgraced
  Once, and but once, by some strange fortune led,
  He came to see the dying and the dead.
  He came, but anger so inflamed his eye,
  And such a faulchion glittered on his thigh,
  And such a gloom his visage darkened o'er,
  And two such pistols in his hands he bore,
  That, by the gods, with such a load of steel,
  We thought he came to murder, not to heal.
  Rage in his heart, and mischief in his head,
  He gloomed destruction, and had smote us dead
  Had he so dared, but fear withheld his hand,
  He came, blasphemed, and turned again to land


  From this poor vessel, and her sickly crew
  A british seaman all his titles drew,
  Captain, Esquire, Commander, too, in chief,
  And hence he gained his bread and hence his beef:
  But sir, you might have searched creation round,
  And such another ruffian not have found
  Though unprovoked an angry face he bore,--
  All were astonished at the oaths he swore
  He swore, till every prisoner stood aghast,
  And thought him Satan in a brimstone blast
  He wished us banished from the public light;
  He wished us shrouded in perpetual night;

       *       *       *       *       *

  He swore, besides, that should the ship take fire
  We, too, must in the pitchy flames expire--
  That if we wretches did not scrub the decks
  His staff should break our base, rebellious necks;

       *       *       *       *       *

  If, where he walked, a murdered carcase lay,
  Still dreadful was the language of the day;
  He called us dogs, and would have held us so,
  But terror checked the meditated blow
  Of vengeance, from our injured nation due,
  To him, and all the base, unmanly crew
  Such food they sent to make complete our woes
  It looked like carrion torn from hungry crows
  Such vermin vile on every joint were seen,
  So black, corrupted, mortified, and lean,
  That once we tried to move our flinty chief,
  And thus addressed him, holding up the beef--
  "See, Captain, see, what rotten bones we pick,
  What kills the healthy cannot cure the sick,
  Not dogs on such by Christian men are fed,
  And see, good master, see, what lousy bread!"
  "Your meat or bread," this man of death replied,
  "Tis not my care to manage or provide
  But this, base rebel dogs I'd have you know,
  That better than you merit we bestow--
  Out of my sight!" nor more he deigned to say,
  But whisked about, and frowning, strode away


  Each day at least six carcases we bore
  And scratched them graves along the sandy shore
  By feeble hands the shallow graves were made,
  No stone memorial o'er the corpses laid
  In barren sands and far from home they lie,
  No friend to shed a tear when passing by
  O'er the mean tombs insulting Britons tread,
  Spurn at the sand, and curse the rebel dead.
  When to your arms these fatal islands fall--
  For first or last, they must be conquered, all,
  Americans! to rites sepulchral just
  With gentlest footstep press this kindred dust,
  And o'er the tombs, if tombs can then be found,
  Place the green turf, and plant the myrtle round

This poem was written in 1780, the year that Freneau was captured. He
was on board the Scorpion and Hunter about two months, and was then
exchanged. We fear that he has not in the least exaggerated the horrors
of his situation. In fact there seem to have been many bloody pages torn
from the book of history, that can never be perused. Many dark deeds
were done in these foul prisons, of which we can only give hints, and
the details of many crimes committed against the helpless prisoners are
left to our imaginations. But enough and more than enough is known to
make us fear that _inhumanity_, a species of cruelty unknown to the
lower animals, is really one of the most prominent characteristics of
men. History is a long and bloody record of battles, massacres, torture
chambers; greed and violence; bigotry and sin. The root of all crimes
is selfishness. What we call inhumanity is we fear not _inhuman_, but
_human nature unrestrained_. It is true that some progress is made,
and it is no longer the custom to kill all captives, at least not in
civilized countries. But war will always be "_horrida bella_," chiefly
because war means license, when the unrestrained, wolfish passions of
man get for the time the upper hand. Our task, however, is not that of
a moralist, but of a narrator of facts, from which all who read can draw
the obvious moral for themselves.



Of all the ships that were ever launched the "Old Jersey" is the
most notorious. Never before or since, in the dark annals of human
sufferings, has so small a space enclosed such a heavy weight of misery.
No other prison has destroyed so many human beings in so short a space
of time. And yet the Jersey was once as staunch and beautiful a vessel
as ever formed a part of the Royal Navy of one of the proudest nations
of the world. How little did her builders imagine that she would go down
to history accompanied by the execrations of all who are acquainted with
her terrible record!

It is said that it was in the late spring of 1780 that the Old Jersey,
as she was then called, was first moored in Wallabout Bay, off the coast
of Long Island. We can find no record to prove that she was used as a
prison ship until the winter of that year. She was, at first, a hospital
ship for British soldiers.

The reason for the removal of the unfortunate prisoners from the ships
in New York Harbor was that pestilential sickness was fast destroying
them, and it was feared that the inhabitants of New York would suffer
from the prevailing epidemics. They were therefore placed in rotten
hulks off the quiet shores of Long Island, where, secluded from the
public eye, they were allowed to perish by the thousands from cruel and
criminal neglect.

"The Old Jersey and the two hospital ships," says General J. Johnson,
"remained in the Wallabout until New York was evacuated by the British.
The Jersey was the receiving ship: the others, truly, the ships of

"It has been generally thought that all the prisoners died on board the
Jersey. This is not true. Many may have died on board of her who were
not reported as sick, but all who were placed on the sick list were
removed to the hospital ships, from which they were usually taken, sewed
up in a blanket, to their graves.

"After the hospital ships were brought into the Wallabout, it was
reported that the sick were attended by physicians. Few indeed were
those who recovered, or came back to tell the tale of their sufferings
in those horrible places. It was no uncommon sight to see five or
six dead bodies brought on shore in a single morning, when a small
excavation would be dug at the foot of the hill, the bodies cast into
it, and then a man with a shovel would quickly cover them by shovelling
sand down the hill upon them.

"Many were buried in a ravine of this hill and many on Mr. Remsen's
farm. The whole shore, from Rennie's Point, to Mr. Remsen's dooryard,
was a place of graves; as were also the slope of the hill near the
house; the shore, from Mr. Remsen's barn along the mill-pond to
Rappelye's farm; and the sandy island between the flood-gates and the
mill-dam, while a few were buried on the shore on the east side of the

"Thus did Death reign here, from 1776 (when the Whitby prison ship was
first moored in the Wallabout) until the peace. The whole Wallabout was
a sickly place during the war. The atmosphere seemed to be charged with
foul air: from the prison ships; and with the effluvia of dead bodies
washed out of their graves by the tides. * * * More than half of the
dead buried on the outer side of the mill-pond, were washed out by the
waves at high tide, during northeasterly winds.

"The bodies of the dead lay exposed along the beach, drying and
bleaching in the sun, and whitening the shores, till reached by the
power of a succeeding storm, as the agitated waves receded, the bones
receded with them into the deep, where they remain, unseen by man,
awaiting the resurrection morn, when, again joined to the spirits to
which they belong, they will meet their persecuting murderers at the bar
of the Supreme Judge of the quick and the dead.

"We have ourselves," General Johnson continues, "examined many of
the skulls lying on the shore. From the teeth they appeared to be the
remains of men in the prime of life."

We will quote more of this interesting account written by an eyewitness
of the horrors he records, in a later chapter. At present we will
endeavor to give the reader a short history of the Jersey, from the day
of her launching to her degradation, when she was devoted to the foul
usages of a prison ship.

She was a fourth rate ship of the line, mounting sixty guns, and
carrying a crew of four hundred men. She was built in 1736, having
succeeded to the name of a celebrated 50-gun ship, which was then
withdrawn from the service, and with which she must not be confounded.
In 1737 she was fitted for sea as one of the Channel Fleet, commanded by
Sir John Norris.

In the fall of 1738 the command of the Jersey was given to Captain
Edmund Williams, and in July, 1739, she was one of the vessels which
were sent to the Mediterranean under Rear Admiral Chaloner Ogle, when
a threatened rupture with Spain rendered it necessary to strengthen the
naval force in that quarter.

The trouble in the Mediterranean having been quieted by the appearance
of so strong a fleet, in 1740 the Jersey returned home; but she was
again sent out, under the command of Captain Peter Lawrence, and was one
of the vessels forming the fleet of Sir John Norris, when, in the
fall of that year and in the spring of 1741, that gentleman made his
fruitless demonstrations against the Spanish coast. Soon afterwards the
Jersey, still forming one of the fleet commanded by Sir Chaloner Ogle,
was sent to the West Indies, to strengthen the forces at that station,
commanded by Vice-Admiral Vernon, and she was with that distinguished
officer when he made his well-known, unsuccessful attack on Carthagena,
and the Spanish dominions in America in that year.

In March, 1743, Captain Lawrence was succeeded m the command of the
Jersey by Captain Harry Norris, youngest son of Admiral Sir John Norris:
and the Jersey formed one of the fleet commanded by Sir John Norris,
which was designed to watch the enemy's Brest fleet; but having suffered
severely from a storm while on that station, she was obliged to return
to the Downs.

Captain Harry Norris having been promoted to a heavier ship, the
command of the Jersey was given soon afterwards to Captain Charles Hardy
subsequently well known as Governor of the Colony of New York; and in
June, 1744, that officer having been appointed to the command of the
Newfoundland Station, she sailed for North America, and bore his flag in
those waters during the remainder of the year. In 1745, still under
the immediate command of Captain Hardy, the Jersey was one of the ships
which, under Vice-Admiral Medley, were sent to the Mediterranean, where
Vice-Admiral Sir William Rowley then commanded; and as she continued
on that station during the following year there is little doubt that
Captain Hardy remained there, during the remainder of his term of
service on that vessel.

It was while under the command of Captain Hardy in July, 1745, that the
Jersey was engaged with the French ship, St. Esprit, of 74 guns, in one
of the most desperate engagements on record. The action continued during
two hours and a half, when the St. Esprit was compelled to bear away for
Cadiz, where she was repaired and refitted for sea. At the close of
Sir Charles Hardy's term of service in 1747, the Jersey was laid up,
evidently unfit for active service; and in October, 1748, she was
reported among the "hulks" in port.

On the renewal of hostilities with France in 1756 the Jersey was
refitted for service, and the command given to Captain John Barker, and
in May, 1757, she was sent to the Mediterranean, where, under the orders
of Admiral Henry Osbourne, she continued upwards of two years, having
been present, on the 28th of February, 1758, when M. du Quesne made his
ineffectual attempt to reinforce M. De la Clue, who was then closely
confined, with the fleet under his command, in the harbor of Carthagena.

On the 18th of August, 1759, while commanded by Captain Barker, the
Jersey, with the Culloden and the Conqueror, were ordered by Admiral
Boscowan, the commander of the fleet, to proceed to the mouth of the
harbor of Toulon, for the purpose of cutting out or destroying two
French ships which were moored there under cover of the batteries with
the hope of forcing the French Admiral, De la Clue, to an engagement.
The three ships approached the harbour, as directed, with great
firmness; but they were assailed by so heavy a fire, not only from the
enemy's ships and fortifications, but from several masked batteries,
that, after an unequal but desperate contest of upwards of three hours,
they were compelled to retire without having succeeded in their object;
and to repair to Gibraltar to be refitted.

In the course of the year 1759 Captain Barker was succeeded in the
command of the Jersey by Captain Andrew Wilkinson, under whom, forming
one of the Mediterranean fleet, commanded by Sir Charles Saunders, she
continued in active service until 1763.

In 1763 peace was established, and the Jersey returned to England and
was laid up; but in May, 1766, she was again commissioned, and under
the command of Captain William Dickson, and bearing the flag of Admiral
Spry, she was ordered to her former station in the Mediterranean, where
she remained three years.

In the spring of 1769, bearing the flag of Commodore Sir John Byron, the
Jersey sailed for America. She seems to have returned home at the close
of the summer, and her active duties appear to have been brought to an

She remained out of commission until 1776, when, without armament, and
under the command of Captain Anthony Halstead, she was ordered to New
York as a hospital ship.

Captain Halstead died on the 17th of May, 1778, and, in July following,
he was succeeded by Commander David Laird, under whom, either as a
hospital, or a prison ship, she remained in Wallabout bay, until she was
abandoned at the close of the war, to her fate, which was to rot in the
mud at her moorings, until, at last, she sank, and for many years her
wretched worm-eaten old hulk could be seen at low tide, shunned by all,
a sorry spectacle, the ghost of what had once been a gallant man-of-war.

This short history of the Jersey has been condensed from the account
written in 1865 by Mr. Henry B. Dawson and published at Morrisania, New
York, in that year.

In an oration delivered by Mr. Jonathan Russel, in Providence, R. I., on
the 4th of July 1800, he thus speaks of this ill-fated vessel and of her
victims: "But it was not in the ardent conflicts of the field only, that
our countrymen fell; it was not the ordinary chances of war alone
which they had to encounter. Happy indeed, thrice happy were Warren,
Montgomery, and Mercer; happy those other gallant spirits who fell with
glory in the heat of the battle, distinguished by their country and
covered with her applause. Every soul sensible to honor, envies rather
than compassionates their fate. It was in the dungeons of our inhuman
invaders; it was in the loathsome and pestiferous prisons, that the
wretchedness of our countrymen still makes the heart bleed. It was
there that hunger, and thirst, and disease, and all the contumely that
cold-hearted cruelty could bestow, sharpened every pang of death. Misery
there wrung every fibre that could feel, before she gave the Blow of
Grace which sent the sufferer to eternity. It is said that poison was
employed. No, there was no such mercy there. There, nothing was employed
which could blunt the susceptibility to anguish, or which, by hastening
death, could rob its agonies of a single pang. On board one only of
these Prison ships above 11,000 of our brave countrymen are said to have
perished. She was called the Jersey. Her wreck still remains, and at low
ebb, presents to the world its accursed and blighted fragments. Twice
in twenty-four hours the winds of Heaven sigh through it, and repeat
the groans of our expiring countrymen; and twice the ocean hides in
her bosom those deadly and polluted ruins, which all her waters cannot
purify. Every rain that descends washes from the unconsecrated bank
the bones of those intrepid sufferers. They lie, naked on the shore,
accusing the neglect of their countrymen. How long shall gratitude,
and even piety deny them burial? They ought to be collected in one vast
ossory, which shall stand a monument to future ages, of the two extremes
of human character: of that depravity which, trampling on the rights of
misfortune, perpetrated cold and calculating murder on a wretched and
defenceless prisoner; and that virtue which animated this prisoner to
die a willing martyr to his country. Or rather, were it possible, there
ought to be raised a Colossal Column whose base sinking to Hell, should
let the murderers read their infamy inscribed upon it; and whose capital
of Corinthian laurel ascending to Heaven, should show the sainted
Patriots that they have triumphed.

"Deep and dreadful as the coloring of this picture may appear, it is
but a taint and imperfect sketch of the original. You must remember a
thousand unutterable calamities; a thousand instances of domestic as
well as national anxiety and distress; which mock description. You
ought to remember them; you ought to hand them down in tradition to your
posterity, that they may know the awful price their fathers paid for






  O Sea! in whose unfathomable gloom
  A world forlorn of wreck and ruin lies,
  In thy avenging majesty arise,
  And with a sound as of the trump of doom
  Whelm from all eyes for aye yon living tomb,
  Wherein the martyr patriots groaned for years,
  A prey to hunger and the bitter jeers
  Of foes in whose relentless breasts no room
  Was ever found for pity or remorse;
  But haunting anger and a savage hate,
  That spared not e'en their victim's very corse,
  But left it, outcast, to its carrion fate
  Wherefore, arise, O Sea! and sternly sweep
  This floating dungeon to thy lowest deep

It was stated in the portion of the eloquent oration given in our last
chapter that more than 11,000 prisoners perished on board the Jersey
alone, during the space of three years and a half that she was moored in
the waters of Wallabout Bay. This statement has never been contradicted,
as far as we know, by British authority. Yet we trust that it is
exaggerated. It would give an average of more than three thousand deaths
a year. The whole number of names copied from the English War Records
of prisoners on board the Jersey is about 8,000. This, however, is an
incomplete list. You will in vain search through its pages to find the
recorded names of many prisoners who have left well attested accounts of
their captivity on board that fatal vessel. All that we can say now is
that the number who perished there is very great.

As late as 1841 the bones of many of these victims were still to be
found on the shores of Walabout Bay, in and around the Navy Yard. On the
4th of February of that year some workmen, while engaged in digging
away an embankment in Jackson Street, Brooklyn, near the Navy Yard,
accidentally uncovered a quantity of human bones, among which was a
skeleton having a pair of iron manacles still upon the wrists. (See
Thompson's History of Long Island, Vol. 1, page 247.)

In a paper published at Fishkill on the 18th of May, 1783, is the
following card: "To All Printers, of Public Newspapers:--Tell it to the
world, and let it be published in every Newspaper throughout America,
Europe, Asia, and Africa, to the everlasting disgrace and infamy of the
British King's commanders at New York: That during the late war it
is said that 11,644 American prisoners have suffered death by their
inhuman, cruel, savage, and barbarous usage on board the filthy and
malignant British prison ship called the Jersey, lying at New York.
Britons tremble, lest the vengeance of Heaven fall on your isle, for the
blood of these unfortunate victims!

  "An American"

  "They died, the young, the loved, the brave,
    The death barge came for them,
  And where the seas yon black rocks lave
    Is heard their requiem
  They buried them and threw the sand
  Unhallowed o'er that patriot band

  The black ship like a demon sate
    Upon the prowling deep,
  From her came fearful sounds of hate,
    Till pain stilled all in sleep
  It was the sleep that victims take,
  Tied, tortured, dying, at the stake.

  Yet some the deep has now updug,
    Their bones are in the sun,
  Whether by sword or deadly drug
    They perished, one by one,
  Was it not dread for mortal eye
  To see them all so strangely die?

  Are there those murdered men who died
    For freedom and for me?
  They seem to point, in martyred pride
    To that spot upon the sea
  From whence came once the frenzied yell,
  From out that wreck, that prison hell"

This rough but strong old poem was written many years ago by a Mr.
Whitman We have taken the liberty of retouching it to a slight degree.

It is well known that _twenty hogsheads_ of bones were collected in 1808
from the shores of the Wallabout, and buried under the auspices of the
Tammany Society in a vault prepared for the purpose. These were but a
small part of the remains of the victims of the prison ships. Many were,
as we have seen, washed into the sea, and many more were interred on the
shores of New York Harbor, before the prison ships were removed to the
Wallabout. It will be better that we should give the accounts left to us
by eye witnesses of the sufferings on board these prison ships, and
we will therefore quote from the narrative of John Van Dyke, who was
confined on board the Jersey before her removal to the Wallabout.

Captain John Van Dyke was taken prisoner in May, 1780, at which time
he says: "We were put on board the prison ship Jersey, anchored off Fly
Market. (New York City) This ship had been a hospital ship. When I came
on board her stench was so great, and my breathing this putrid air--I
thought it would kill me, but after being on board some days I got used
to it, and as though all was a common smell. * * *

"On board the Jersey prison ship it was short allowance, so short
a person would think it was not possible for a man to live on. They
starved the American prisoners to make them enlist in their service. I
will now relate a fact. Every man in a mess of six took his daily turn
to get the mess's provisions. One day I went to the galley and drew a
piece of salt, boiled pork. I went to our mess to divide it. * * * I cut
each one his share, and each one eat our day's allowance in one mouthful
of this salt pork and nothing else. One day called peaday I took the
drawer of our doctor's chest (Dr. Hodges of Philadelphia) and went to
the galley, which was the cooking place, with my drawer for a soup dish.
I held it under a large brass cock, the cook turned it. I received the
allowance of my mess, and behold! Brown water, and fifteen floating
peas--no peas on the bottom of my drawer, and this for six men's
allowance for 24 hours. The peas were all in the bottom of the kettle.
Those left would be taken to New York and, I suppose, sold.

"One day in the week, called pudding day, we would receive three pounds
of damaged flour, in it would be green lumps such as their men would
not eat, and one pound of very bad raisins, one third raisin sticks. We
would pick out the sticks, mash the lumps of flour, put all with some
water into our drawer, mix our pudding and put it into a bag and boil
it with a tally tied to it with the number of our mess. This was a day's
allowance. We, for some time, drew a half pint of rum for each man. One
day Captain Lard (Laird) who commanded the ship Jersey, came on board.
As soon as he was on the main deck of the ship he cried out for the
boatswain. The boatswain arrived and in a very quick motion, took off
his hat. There being on deck two half hogshead tubs where our allowance
of rum was mixed into grog, Captain L., said, 'Have the prisoners had
their allowance of rum today?' 'No, sir' answered the boatswain. Captain
L. replied, 'Damn your soul, you rascal, heave it overboard.'

"The boatswain, with help, upset the tubs of rum on the middle deck. The
grog rum run out of the scuppers of the ship into the river. I saw no
more grog on board. * * * Every fair day a number of British officers
and sergeants would come on board, form in two ranks on the quarter
deck, facing inwards, the prisoners in the after part of the quarter
deck. As the boatswain would call a name, the word would be 'Pass!' As
the prisoners passed between the ranks officers and sergeants stared
them in the face. This was done to catch deserters, and if they caught
nothing the sergeants would come on the middle deck and cry out 'Five
guineas bounty to any man that will enter his Majesty's service!'

"Shortly after this party left the ship a Hessian party would come on
board, and the prisoners had to go through the same routine of duty

"From the Jersey prison ship eighty of us were taken to the pink stern
sloop-of-war Hunter, Captain Thomas Henderson, Commander. We were taken
there in a large ship's long boat, towed by a ten-oar barge, and one
other barge with a guard of soldiers in the rear.

"On board the ship Hunter we drew one third allowance, and every Monday
we received a loaf of wet bread, weighing seven pounds for each mess.
This loaf was from Mr. John Pintard's father, of New York, the American
Commissary, and this bread, with the allowance of provisions, we found
sufficient to live on.

"After we had been on board some time Mr. David Sproat, the British
Commissary of prisoners, came on board; all the prisoners were ordered
aft; the roll was called and as each man passed him Mr. Sproat would
ask, 'Are you a seaman?' The answer was 'Landsman, landsman.' There were
ten landsmen to one answer of half seaman. When the roll was finished
Mr. Sproat said to our sea officers, 'Gentlemen, how do you make out at
sea, for the most part of you are landsmen?'

"Our officers answered: 'You hear often how we make out. When we meet
our force, or rather more than our force we give a good account of

"Mr. Sproat asked, 'And are not your vessels better manned than these.
Our officers replied, 'Mr Sproat, we are the best manned out of the port
of Philadelphia.' Mr. Sproat shrugged his shoulders saying, 'I cannot
see how you do it.'"

We do not understand what John Van Dyke meant by his expression "half
seaman." It is probable that the sailors among the prisoners pretended
to be soldiers in order to be exchanged. There was much more difficulty
in exchanging sailors than soldiers, as we shall see. David Sproat was
the British Commissary for Naval Prisoners alone. In a paper published
in New York in April 28th, 1780, appears the following notice:--"I do
hereby direct all Captains, Commanders, Masters, and Prize Masters
of ships and other vessels, who bring naval prisoners into this port,
immediately to send a list of their names to this office, No. 33 Maiden
Lane, where they will receive an order how to dispose of them.

"(Signed) David Sproat."

The Jersey and some of the other prison ships often had landsmen among
their prisoners, at least until the last years of the war, when they
were so overcrowded with sailors, that there must have been scant room
for any one else.

The next prisoner whose recollections we will consider is Captain Silas
Talbot, who was confined on board the Jersey in the fall of 1780. He
says: "All her port holes were closed. * * * There were about 1,100
prisoners on board. There were no berths or seats, to lie down on, not a
bench to sit on. Many were almost without cloaths. The dysentery, fever,
phrenzy and despair prevailed among them, and filled the place with
filth, disgust and horror. The scantiness of the allowance, the bad
quality of the provisions, the brutality of the guards, and the
sick, pining for comforts they could not obtain, altogether furnished
continually one of the greatest scenes of human distress and misery
ever beheld. It was now the middle of October, the weather was cool
and clear, with frosty nights, so that the number of deaths per day was
_reduced to an average of ten_, and this number was considered by the
survivors a small one, when compared with the terrible mortality that
had prevailed for three months before. The human bones and skulls, yet
bleaching on the shore of Long Island, and daily exposed, by the falling
down of the high bank on which the prisoners were buried, is a shocking
sight, and manifestly demonstrates that the Jersey prison ship had been
as destructive as a field of battle."



Ebenezer Fox, a prisoner on board the Jersey, wrote a little book
about his dreadful experiences when he was a very old man. The book
was written in 1838, and published by Charles Fox in Boston in 1848.
Ebenezer Fox was born in the East Parish of Roxbury, Mass., in 1763. In
the spring of 1775 he and another boy named Kelly ran away to sea.
Fox shipped as a cabin boy in a vessel commanded by Captain Joseph

He made several cruises and returned home. In 1779 he enlisted, going as
a substitute for the barber to whom he was apprenticed. His company was
commanded by Captain William Bird of Boston in a regiment under Colonel
Proctor. Afterwards he signed ship's papers and entered the naval
service on a twenty gun ship called the Protector, Captain John F.
Williams of Massachusetts. On the lst of April, 1780, they sailed for
a six months cruise, and on the ninth of June, 1780, fought the Admiral
Duff until she took fire and blew up. A short time afterwards the
Protector was captured by two English ships called the Roebuck and

Fox concealed fifteen dollars in the crown of his hat, and fifteen more
in the soles of his shoes.

All the prisoners were sent into the hold. One third of the crew of the
Protector were pressed into the British service. The others were sent to
the Jersey. Evidently this prison ship had already become notorious, for
Fox writes: "The idea of being incarcerated in this floating pandemonium
filled us with horror, but the ideas we had formed of its horror fell
far short of the reality. * * * The Jersey was removed from the East
River, and moored with chain cables at the Wallabout in consequence
of the fears entertained that the sickness which prevailed among the
prisoners might spread to the shore. * * * I now found myself in a
loathsome prison, among a collection of the most wretched and disgusting
looking objects that I ever beheld in human form.

"Here was a motley crew, covered with rags and filth; visages pallid
with disease; emaciated with hunger and anxiety; and hardly retaining a
trace of their original appearance. Here were men, who had once enjoyed
life while riding over the mountain wave or roaming through pleasant
fields, full of health and vigor, now shrivelled by a scanty and
unwholesome diet, ghastly with inhaling an impure atmosphere, exposed to
contagion; in contact with disease, and surrounded with the horrors of
sickness, and death. Here, thought I, must I linger out the morning
of my life" (he was seventeen) "in tedious days and sleepless nights,
enduring a weary and degrading captivity, till death should terminate my
sufferings, and no friend will know of my departure.

"A prisoner on board the 'Old Jersey!' The very thought was appalling. I
could hardly realize my situation.

"The first thing we found it necessary to do after our capture was to
form ourselves into small parties called messes, consisting of six
in each, as previous to doing this, we could obtain no food. All the
prisoners were obliged to fast on the first day of their arrival, and
seldom on the second could they obtain any food in season for cooking
it. * * * All the prisoners fared alike; officers and sailors received
the same treatment on board of this old hulk. * * * We were all
'rebels.' The only distinction known among us was made by the prisoners
themselves, which was shown in allowing those who had been officers
previous to their captivity, to congregate in the extreme afterpart of
the ship, and to keep it exclusively to themselves as their place of
abode. * * * The prisoners were confined in the two main decks below.
The lowest dungeon was inhabited by those prisoners who were foreigners,
and whose treatment was more severe than that of the Americans.

"The inhabitants of this lower region were the most miserable and
disgusting looking objects that can be conceived. Daily washing in salt
water, together with their extreme emaciation, caused the skin to appear
like dried parchment. Many of them remained unwashed for weeks; their
hair long, and matted, and filled with vermin; their beards never cut
except occasionally with a pair of shears, which did not improve their
comeliness, though it might add to their comfort. Their clothes were
mere rags, secured to their bodies in every way that ingenuity could

"Many of these men had been in this lamentable condition for two years,
part of the time on board other prison ships; and having given up all
hope of ever being exchanged, had become resigned to their situation.
These men were foreigners whose whole lives had been one continual scene
of toil, hardship, and suffering. Their feelings were blunted; their
dispositions soured; they had no sympathies for the world; no home to
mourn for; no friends to lament for their fate. But far different was
the condition of the most numerous class of prisoners, composed mostly
of young men from New England, fresh from home.

"They had reason to deplore the sudden change in their condition. * * *
The thoughts of home, of parents, brothers, sisters, and friends, would
crowd upon their minds, and brooding on what they had been, and what
they were, their desire for home became a madness. The dismal and
disgusting scene around; the wretched objects continually in sight;
and 'hope deferred which maketh the heart sick', produced a state of
melancholy that often ended in death,--the death of a broken heart."

Fox describes the food and drink, the prison regulations, deaths, and
burials, just as they were described by Captain Dring, who wrote the
fullest account of the Jersey, and from whose memoirs we shall
quote further on. He says of their shallow graves in the sand of
the Wallabout: "This was the last resting place of many a son and a
brother,--young and noble-spirited men, who had left their happy homes
and kind friends to offer their lives in the service of their country.
* * * Poor fellows! They suffered more than their older companions
in misery. They could not endure their hopeless and wearisome
captivity:--to live on from day to day, denied the power of doing
anything; condemned to that most irksome and heart-sickening of all
situations, utter inactivity; their restless and impetuous spirits,
like caged lions, panted to be free, and the conflict was too much
for endurance, enfeebled and worn out as they were with suffering and
confinement. * * * The fate of many of these unhappy victims must have
remained forever unknown to their friends; for in so large a number,
no exact account could be kept of those who died, and they rested in
a nameless grave; while those who performed the last sad rites were
hurried away before their task was half completed, and forbid to express
their horror and indignation at this insulting negligence towards the
dead. * * *

"The regular crew of the Jersey consisted of a Captain, two Mates, a
steward, a cook, and about twelve sailors. There was likewise on board
a guard of about thirty soldiers, from the different regiments quartered
on Long Island, who were relieved by a fresh party every week.

"The physical force of the prisoners was sufficient at any time to take
possession of the ship, but the difficulty was to dispose of themselves
after a successful attempt. Long Island was in possession of the
British, and the inhabitants were favorable to the British cause. To
leave the ship and land on the island, would be followed by almost
certain detection; and the miseries of our captivity would be increased
by additional cruelties heaped upon us from the vindictive feelings of
our oppressors.

"Yet, small as was the chance for succeeding in the undertaking, the
attempt to escape was often made, and in not a few instances with

"Our sufferings were so intolerable, that we felt it to be our duty to
expose ourselves to almost any risk to obtain our liberty. To remain
on board of the prison ship seemed to be certain death, and in its most
horrid form; to be killed, while endeavoring to get away, could be no

"American prisoners are proverbial for their ingenuity in devising ways
and means to accomplish their plans, whether they be devised for their
own comfort and benefit, or for the purpose of annoying and tormenting
their keepers.

"Although we were guarded with vigilance yet there did not appear much
system in the management of the prisoners; for we frequently missed a
whole mess from our number, while their disappearance was not noticed by
our keepers. Occasionally a few would be brought back who had been found
in the woods upon Long Island, and taken up by the Tories.

"Our mess one day noticed that the mess that occupied the place next to
them were among the missing. This circumstance led to much conjecture
and inquiry respecting the manner in which they had effected their
escape. By watching the movements of our neighbors we soon found out the
process necessary to be adopted.

"Any plan which a mess had formed they kept a secret among their
number, in order to insure a greater prospect of success. * * * For
the convenience of the officers of the ship a closet, called the "round
house", had been constructed under the forecastle, the door of which was
kept locked. This room was seldom used, there being other conveniences
in the ship preferable to it.

"Some of the prisoners had contrived to pick the lock of the door; and
as it was not discovered the door remained unfastened.

"After we had missed our neighbor prisoners, and had ascertained to our
satisfaction their mode of operation, the members of our mess determined
to seize the first opportunity that offered to attempt our escape. We
selected a day, about the 15th of August, and made all the preparations
in our power for ensuring us success in our undertaking. At sunset, when
the usual cry from the officer of the guard, 'Down, rebels, down!' was
heard, instead of following the multitude down the hatchways, our mess,
consisting of six, all Americans, succeeded in getting into the 'round
house', except one. The round house was found too small to contain more
than five; and the sixth man, whose name, I think, was Putnam of Boston,
concealed himself under a large tub, which happened to be lying near the
place of our confinement. The situation of the five, as closely packed
in the round house as we could stand and breathe, was so uncomfortable
as to make us very desirous of vacating it as soon as possible.

"We remained thus cooped up, hardly daring to breathe, for fear we
should be heard by the guard. The prisoners were all below, and no noise
was heard above, saving the tramp of the guard as he paced the deck. It
was customary, after the prisoners were secured below, for the ship's
mate every night to search above; this, however, was considered a mere
formality, and the duty was very imperfectly executed. While we were
anxiously awaiting the completion of this service, an event transpired,
that we little anticipated, and which led to our detection.

"One of the prisoners, an Irishman, had made his arrangements to escape
the same evening, and had not communicated with any one on the subject
except a countryman of his, whom he persuaded to bury him up in the coal
hole, near the forecastle.

"Whether his friend covered him faithfully or not, or whether the
Irishman thought that if he could not see anybody, nobody could see him,
or whether, feeling uncomfortable in his position, he turned over to
relieve himself, I know not; but when the mate looked in the coal
hole he espied something rather whiter than the coal, which he soon
ascertained to be the Irishman's shoulder. This discovery made the
officer suspicious, and induced him to make a more thorough search than

"We heard the uproar that followed the discovery, and the threats of the
mate that he would search every damned corner. He soon arrived at the
round house, and we heard him ask a soldier for the key. Our hopes
and expectations were a little raised when we heard the soldier
reply, 'There is no need of searching this place, for the door is kept
constantly locked.'

"But the mate was not to be diverted from his purpose, and ordered the
soldier to get the key.

"During the absence of the soldier, we had a little time to reflect upon
the dangers of our situation; crowded together in a space so small as
not to admit of motion; with no other protection than the thickness of
a board; guarded on the outside by about twelve soldiers, armed with
cutlasses, and the mate, considerably drunk, with a pistol in each hand,
threatening every moment to fire through;--our feelings may be
more easily conceived than described. There was but little time for
deliberation; something must be immediately done. * * * In a whispered
consultation of some moments, we conceived that the safest course
we could pursue would be to break out with all the violence we could
exercise, overcome every obstacle, and reach the quarter-deck. By this
time the soldier had arrived with the key, and upon applying it, the
door was found to be unlocked. We now heard our last summons from the
mate, with imprecations too horrible to be repeated, and threatening us
with instant destruction if we did not immediately come out.

"To remain any longer where we were would have been certain death to
some of us; we therefore carried our hastily formed plan into execution.
The door opened outwards, and forming ourselves into a solid body, we
burst open the door, rushed out pellmell, and making a brisk use of our
fists, knocked the guard heels over head in all directions, at the same
time running with all possible speed for the quarter-deck. As I rushed
out, being in the rear, I received a wound from a cutlass on my side,
the scar of which remains to this day.

"As nearly all the guards were prostrated by our unexpected sally, we
arrived at our destined place, without being pursued by anything but
curses and threats.

"The mate exercised his authority to protect us from the rage of the
soldiers, who were in pursuit of us, as soon as they had recovered
from the prostration into which they had been thrown; and, with the
assistance of the Captain's mistress, whom the noise had brought upon
deck, and whose sympathy was excited when she saw we were about to be
murdered: she placed herself between us and the enraged guard, and made
such an outcry as to bring the Captain" (Laird) "up, who ordered
the guard to take their station at a little distance and to watch us
narrowly. We were all put in irons, our feet being fastened to a long
bar, a guard placed over us, and in this situation we were left to pass
the night.

"During the time of the transactions related, our fellow prisoner,
Putnam, remained quietly under the tub, and heard the noise from his
hiding place. He was not suffered to remain long in suspense. A soldier
lifted up the tub, and seeing the poor prisoner, thrust his bayonet into
his body, just above his hip, and then drove him to the quarter-deck,
to take his place in irons among us. The blood flowed profusely from
his wound, and he was soon after sent on board the hospital ship, and we
never heard anything respecting him afterwards.

"With disappointed expectations we passed a dreary night. A cold
fog, followed by rain, came on; to which we were exposed, without any
blankets or covering to protect us from the inclemency of the weather.
Our sufferings of mind and body during that horrible night, exceeded any
that I have ever experienced.

"We were chilled almost to death, and the only way we could preserve
heat enough in our bodies to prevent our perishing, was to lie upon each
other by turns.

"Morning at last came, and we were released from our fetters. Our limbs
were so stiff that we could hardly stand. Our fellow prisoners assisted
us below, and wrapping us in blankets, we were at last restored to a
state of comparative comfort.

"For attempting to escape we were punished by having our miserable
allowance reduced one third in quantity for a month; and we had found
the whole of it hardly sufficient to sustain life. * * *

"One day a boat came alongside containing about sixty firkins of grease,
which they called butter. The prisoners were always ready to assist in
the performance of any labor necessary to be done on board of the ship,
as it afforded some little relief to the tedious monotony of their
lives. On this occasion they were ready to assist in hoisting the butter
on board. The firkins were first deposited upon the deck, and then
lowered down the main hatchway. Some of the prisoners, who were the most
officious in giving their assistance, contrived to secrete a firkin,
by rolling it forward under the forecastle, and afterwards carrying it
below in their bedding.

"This was considered as quite a windfall; and being divided among a few
of us, proved a considerable luxury. It helped to fill up the pores
in our mouldy bread, when the worms were dislodged, and gave to the
crumbling particles a little more consistency.

"Several weeks after our unsuccessful attempt to escape, another one
attended with better success, was made by a number of the prisoners.
At sunset the prisoners were driven below, and the main hatchway was
closed. In this there was a trap-door, large enough for a man to pass
through, and a sentinel was placed over it with orders to permit one
prisoner at a time to come up during the night.

"The plan that had been formed was this:--one of the prisoners should
ascend, and dispose of the sentinel in such a manner that he should be
no obstacle in the way of those who were to follow.

"Among the soldiers was an Irishman who, in consequence of having a head
of hair remarkable for its curly appearance, and withal a very crabbed
disposition, had been nicknamed 'Billy the Ram'. He was the sentinel on
duty this night, for one was deemed sufficient, as the prisoners were
considered secure when they were below, having no other place of egress
saving the trap-door, over which the sentinel was stationed.

"Late in the night one of the prisoners, a bold, athletic fellow,
ascended upon deck, and in an artful manner engaged the attention of
Billy the Ram, in conversation respecting the war; lamenting that he had
engaged in so unnatural a contest, expressing his intention of enlisting
in the British service, and requesting Billy's advice respecting the
course necessary to be pursued to obtain the confidence of the officers.

"Billy happened to be in a mood to take some interest in his views,
and showed an inclination, quite uncommon for him, to prolong the
conversation. Unsuspicious of any evil design on the part of the
prisoner, and while leaning carelessly on his gun, Billy received a
tremendous blow from the fist of his entertainer on the back of his
head, which brought him to the deck in a state of insensibility.

"As soon as he was heard to fall by those below, who were anxiously
awaiting the result of the friendly conversation of their pioneer with
Billy, and were satisfied that the final knock-out argument had been
given, they began to ascend, and, one after another, to jump overboard,
to the number of about thirty.

"The noise aroused the guard, who came upon deck, where they found Billy
not sufficiently recovered from the stunning effects of the blow he had
received to give any account of the transaction. A noise was heard in
the water; but it was so dark that no object could be distinguished.
The attention of the guard, however, was directed to certain spots which
exhibited a luminous appearance, which salt water is known to assume in
the night when it is agitated, and to these appearances they directed
their fire, and getting out the boats, picked out about half the number
that attempted to escape, many of whom were wounded, though not one was
killed. The rest escaped.

"During the uproar overhead the prisoners below encouraged the
fugitives, and expressed their approbation of their proceedings in
three hearty cheers; for which gratification we suffered our usual
punishment--a short allowance of our already short and miserable fare.

"For about a fortnight after this transaction it would have been a
hazardous experiment to approach near to 'Billy the Ram', and it was a
long time before we ventured to speak to him, and finally to obtain from
him an account of the events of the evening.

"Not long after this another successful attempt to escape was made,
which for its boldness is perhaps unparalleled in the history of such

"One pleasant morning about ten o'clock a boat came alongside,
containing a number of gentlemen from New York, who came for the purpose
of gratifying themselves with a sight of the miserable tenants of the
prison-ship, influenced by the same kind of curiosity that induces some
people to travel a great distance to witness an execution.

"The boat, which was a beautiful yawl, and sat like a swan upon the
water, was manned by four oarsmen, with a man at the helm. Considerable
attention and respect was shown the visitors, the ship's side being
manned when they showed their intention of coming on board, and the
usual naval courtesies extended. The gentlemen were soon on board;
and the crew of the yawl, having secured her to the forechains on the
larboard side of the ship, were permitted to ascend the deck.

"A soldier as usual was pacing with a slow and measured tread the whole
length of the deck, wheeling round with measured precision, when he
arrived at the end of his walk; and whether upon this occasion, any one
interested in his movements had secretly slipped a guinea into his hand,
not to quicken but to retard his progress, was never known; but it was
evident to the prisoners that he had never occupied so much time before
in measuring the distance with his back to the place where the yawl was

"At this time there were sitting in the forecastle, apparently admiring
the beautiful appearance of the yawl, four mates and a captain, who had
been brought on board as prisoners a few days previous, taken in some
vessel from a southern port.

"As soon as the sentry had passed these men, in his straightforward
march, they, in a very quiet manner, lowered themselves down into the
yawl, cut the rope, and the four mates taking in hand the oars, while
the captain managed the helm, in less time than I have taken to describe
it, they were under full sweep from the ship. They plied the oars with
such vigor that every stroke they took seemed to take the boat out of
the water. In the meantime the sentry heard nothing and saw nothing of
this transaction, till he had arrived at the end of his march, when,
in wheeling slowly round, he could no longer affect ignorance, or avoid
seeing that the boat was several times its length from the ship.
He immediately fired; but, whether he exercised his best skill as a
marksman, or whether it was on account of the boat's going ahead
its whole length at every pull of the rowers, I could never exactly
ascertain, but the ball fell harmlessly into the water. The report of
the gun brought the whole guard out, who blazed away at the fugitives,
without producing any dimunition in the rapidity of their progress.

"By this time the officers of the ship were on deck with their visitors;
and while all were gazing with astonishment at the boldness and
effrontery of the achievement, the guard were firing as fast as they
could load their guns. When the prisoners gave three cheers to the
yawl's crew, as an expression of their joy at their success, the Captain
ordered all of us to be driven below at the point of the bayonet, and
there we were confined the remainder of the day.

"These five men escaped, greatly to the mortification of the captain
and officers of the prison-ship. After this, as long as I remained a
prisoner, whenever any visitors came on board, all the prisoners were
driven below, where they were obliged to remain till the company had



The miseries of our condition were continually increasing. The
pestilence on board spread rapidly; and every day added to our bill of
mortality. The young were its most frequent victims. The number of the
prisoners was constantly augmenting, notwithstanding the frequent and
successful attempts to escape. When we were mustered and called upon to
answer to our names, and it was ascertained that nearly two hundred
had mysteriously disappeared, without leaving any information of their
departure, the officers of the ship endeavored to make amends for
their past remissness by increasing the rigor of our confinement, and
depriving us of all hope of adopting any of the means for liberating
ourselves from our cruel thralldom, so successfully practiced by many of
our comrades.

"With the hope that some relief might be obtained to meliorate the
wretchedness of our situation, the prisoners petitioned General Clinton,
commanding the British forces in New York, for permission to send a
memorial to General Washington, describing our condition, and requesting
his influence in our behalf, that some exchange of prisoners might be

"Permission was obtained, and the memorial was sent. * * * General
Washington wrote to Congress, and also to the British Commissary of
Naval prisoners, remonstrating with him, deprecating the cruel treatment
of the Americans, and threatening retaliation.

"The long detention of American sailors on board of British prison-ships
was to be attributed to the little pains taken by our countrymen to
retain British subjects who were taken prisoner on the ocean during the
war. Our privateers captured many British seamen, who, when willing to
enlist in our service, as was generally the case, were received on board
of our ships. Those who were brought into port were suffered to go at
large; for in the impoverished condition of the country, no state
or town was willing to subject itself to the expence of maintaining
prisoners in a state of confinement; they were permitted to provide for
themselves. In this way the number of British seamen was too small for
a regular and equal exchange. Thus the British seamen, after their
capture, enjoyed the blessings of liberty, the light of the sun, and the
purity of the atmosphere, while the poor American sailors were compelled
to drag out a miserable existence amid want and distress, famine and
pestilence. As every principle of justice and humanity was disregarded
by the British in their treatment of the prisoners, so likewise was
every moral and legal right violated in compelling them to enter into
their service.

"We had obtained some information in relation to an expected draught
that would soon be made upon the prisoners to fill up a complement of
men that were wanted for the service of his Majesty's fleet.

"One day in the last part of August our fears for the dreaded event were
realized. A British officer with a number of soldiers came on board. The
prisoners were all ordered on deck, placed on the larboard gangway, and
marched in single file round to the quarter-deck, where the officers
stood to inspect them, and select such ones as suited their fancies
without any reference to the rights of the prisoners. * * * We continued
to march round in solemn and melancholy processsion, till they had
selected from among our number about three hundred of the ablest, nearly
all of whom were Americans, and they were directed to go below under a
guard, to collect together whatever things they wished to take belonging
to them. They were then driven into the boats, waiting alongside, and
left the prison ship, not to enjoy their freedom, but to be subjected
to the iron despotism, and galling slavery of a British man-of-war; to
waste their lives in a foreign service; and toil for masters whom they
hated. Such, however, were the horrors of our situation as prisoners,
and so small was the prospect of relief, that we almost envied the lot
of those who left the ship to go into the service of the enemy.

"That the reader may not think I have given an exaggerated account of
our sufferings on board the Jersey, I will here introduce some facts
related in the histories of the Revolutionary War. I introduce them as
an apology for the course that I and many of my fellow citizens adopted
to obtain temporary relief from our sufferings.

"The prisoners captured by Sir William Howe in 1776 amounted to several
thousands. * * * The privates were confined in prisons, deserted
churches, and other large open buildings, entirely unfit for the
habitations of human beings, in severe winter weather, without any of
the most ordinary comforts of life.

"To the indelible and everlasting disgrace of the British name, these
unfortunate victims of a barbarity more befitting savages than gentlemen
belonging to a nation boasting itself to be the most enlightened and
civilized of the world,--many hundreds of them, perished from want of
proper food and attention.

"The cruelty of their inhuman jailors was not terminated by the death
of these wretched men, as so little care was taken to remove the corpses
that seven dead bodies have been seen at one time lying in one of
the buildings in the midst of their living fellow-prisoners, who were
perhaps envying them their release from misery. Their food * * * was
generally that which was rejected by the British ships as unfit to be
eaten by the sailors, and unwholesome in the highest degree, as well as
disgusting in taste and appearance.

"In December, 1776, the American board of war, after procuring such
evidence as convinced them of the truth of their statements, reported
that: 'There were 900 privates and 300 officers of the American army,
prisoners in the city of New York, and 500 privates and 50 officers in
Philadelphia. That since the beginning of October, all these officers
and privates had been confined in prisons or in the provost. That, from
the best evidence the subject could admit of, the general allowance of
the prisoners did not exceed four ounces of meat a day, and that often
so damaged as to be uneatable. That it had been a common practice of the
British to keep their prisoners four or five days without a morsel of
meat and thus tempt them to enlist to save their lives.'

"Many were actually starved to death, in hope of making them enroll
themselves in the British army. The American sailors when captured
suffered even more than the soldiers, for they were confined on board
prison ships in great numbers, and in a manner which showed that the
British officers were willing to treat fellow beings, whose only crime
was love of liberty, worse than the vilest animals; and indeed in every
respect, with as much cruelty as is endured by the miserable inhabitants
of the worst class of slave ships. * * * In the course of the war it has
been asserted on good evidence, that 11,000 prisoners died on board the
Jersey. * * * These unfortunate beings died in agony in the midst of
their fellow sufferers, who were obliged to witness their tortures,
without the power of relieving their dying countrymen, even by cooling
their parched lips with a drop of cold water, or a breath of fresh air;
and, when the last breath had left the emaciated body, they sometimes
remained for hours in close contact with the corpse, without room to
shrink from companions that Death had made so horrible, and when at
last the dead were removed, they were sent in boats to the shore, and
so imperfectly buried that long after the war was ended, their bones lay
whitening in the sun on the beach of Long Island, a lasting memorial of
British cruelty, so entirely unwarranted by all the laws of war or even
common humanity.

"They could not even pretend that they were retaliating, for the
Americans invariably treated their prisoners with kindness, and as
though they were fellow men. All the time that these cruelties were
performed those who were deprived of every comfort and necessary were
constantly entreated to leave the American service, and induced to
believe, while kept from all knowledge of public affairs, that the
republican cause was hopeless; that all engaged in it would meet the
punishment of traitors to the king, and that all their prospect of
saving their lives, or escaping from an imprisonment worse than death to
young and high-spirited men, as most of them were, would be in joining
the British army, where they would be sure of good pay and quick

"These were the means employed by our enemies to increase their own
forces, and discourage the patriots, and it is not strange they were
successful in many instances. High sentiments of honor could not well
exist in the poor, half-famished prisoners, who were denied even water
to quench their thirst, or the privilege of breathing fresh, pure air,
and cramped, day after day, in a space too small to admit of exercising
their weary limbs, with the fear of wasting their lives in a captivity,
which could not serve their country, nor gain honor to themselves.

"But worse than all was the mortifying consideration that, after they
had suffered for the love of their country, more than sailors in active
service, they might die in these horrible places, and be laid with their
countrymen on the shores of Long Island, or some equally exposed spot,
without the rites of burial, and their names never be heard of by those
who, in future ages, would look back to the roll of patriots, who
died in defence of liberty, with admiration and respect, while, on the
contrary, by dissembling for a time, they might be able to regain a
place in the service so dear to them, and in which they were ready to
endure any hardship or encounter any danger.

"Of all the prisons, on land or water, for the confinement of the
Americans, during the Revolutionary War, the Old Jersey was acknowledged
to be the worst; such an accumulation of horrors was not to be found in
any other one, or perhaps in all collectively.

"The very name of it struck terror into the sailor's heart, and caused
him to fight more desperately, to avoid being made a captive. Suffering
as we did, day after day, with no prospect of relief, our numbers
continually augmenting, * * * can it be thought strange that the younger
part of the prisoners, to whom confinement seemed worse than death,
should be tempted to enlist into the British service; especially when,
by so doing, it was probable that some opportunity would be offered
to desert? We were satisfied that death would soon put an end to our
sufferings if we remained prisoners much longer, yet when we discussed
the expediency of seeking a change in our condition, which we were
satisfied could not be worse under any circumstances, and it was
proposed that we should enter the service of King George, our minds
revolted at the idea, and we abandoned the intention.

"In the midst of our distresses, perplexities, and troubles of this
period, we were not a little puzzled to know how to dispose of the
vermin that would accumulate upon our persons, notwithstanding all our
attempts at cleanliness. To catch them was a very easy task, but to
undertake to deprive each individual captive of life, as rapidly as they
could have been taken, would have been a more herculean task for each
individual daily, than the destruction of 3000 Philistines by Sampson of
old. To throw them overboard would have been but a small relief, as they
would probably add to the impurities of the boiler, by being deposited
in it the first time it was filled up for cooking our unsavory mess.
What then was to be done with them? A general consultation was held, and
it was determined to deprive them of their liberty. This being agreed
upon, the prisoners immediately went to work, for their comfort and
amusement, to make a liberal contribution of those migratory creatures,
who were compelled to colonize for a time within the boundaries of a
large snuff box appropriated for the purpose. There they lay, snugly
ensconced, of all colors, ages, and sizes, to the amount of some
hundreds, waiting for orders.

"British recruiting officers frequently came on board, and held out to
the prisoners tempting offers to enlist in his Majesty's service; not
to fight against their own country, but to perform garrison duty in the
island of Jamaica.

"One day an Irish officer came on board for this purpose, and not
meeting with much success among the prisoners who happened to be on
deck, he descended below to repeat his offers. He was a remarkably tall
man, and was obliged to stoop as he passed along between decks. The
prisoners were disposed for a frolic, and kept the officer in their
company for some time, flattering him with expectations, till he
discovered their insincerity, and left them in no very pleasant humor.
As he passed along, bending his body and bringing his broad shoulders to
nearly a horizontal position, the idea occurred to our minds to furnish
him with some recruits from the colony in the snuff box. A favorable
opportunity presented, the cover of the box was removed, and the whole
contents discharged upon the red-coated back of the officer. Three
cheers from the prisoners followed the migration, and the officer
ascended to the deck, unconscious of the number and variety of the
recruits he had obtained without the formality of an enlistment. The
captain of the ship, suspecting that some joke had been practised, or
some mischief perpetrated, from the noise below, met the officer at the
head of the gangway, and seeing the vermin crawling up his shoulders,
and aiming at his head, with the instinct peculiar to them, exclaimed,
'Hoot mon! what's the maitter wi' your back!' * * * By this time many of
them in their wanderings, had travelled from the rear to the front, and
showed themselves, to the astonishment of the officer. He flung off his
coat, in a paroxysm of rage, which was not allayed by three cheers from
the prisoners on deck. Confinement below, with a short allowance, was
our punishment for this gratification.

"From some information we had obtained we were in daily expectation of a
visit from the British recruiting officers, and from the summary method
of their procedure, no one felt safe from the danger of being forced
into their service. Many of the prisoners thought it would be better
to enlist voluntarily, as it was probable that afterwards they would be
permitted to remain on Long Island, preparatory to their departure to
the West Indies, and during that time some opportunity would be offered
for their escape to the Jersey shore. * * * Soon after we had formed
this desperate resolve a recruiting officer came on board to enlist
men for the 88th Regiment to be stationed at Kingston, in the island
of Jamaica. * * * The recruiting officer presented his papers for our
signature. We hesitated, we stared at each other, and felt we were about
to do a deed of which we were ashamed, and which we might regret. Again
we heard the tempting offers, and again the assurance that we should not
be called upon to fight against our government or country, and with the
hope that we should find an opportunity to desert, of which it was
our firm intention to avail ourselves when offered,--with such hopes,
expectations, and motives, we signed the papers, and became soldiers in
his Majesty's service,

"How often did we afterwards lament that we had ever lived to see this
hour? How often did we regret that we were not in our wretched prison
ship again, or buried in the sand at the Wallabout!"

There were twelve of the prisoners who left the Jersey with Ebenezer
Fox. They were at first taken to Long Island and lodged in barns, but
so vigilantly were they guarded that they found it impossible to escape.
They were all sent to Kingston, and Fox was allowed to resume his
occupation as a barber, much patronized by the officers stationed at
that post. He was soon allowed the freedom of the city, and furnished
with a pass to go about it as much as he wished. At last, in company
with four other Americans, he escaped, and after many adventures the
party succeeded in reaching Cuba, by means of a small sailing boat which
they pressed into service for that purpose. From Cuba they took passage
in a small vessel for St. Domingo, and dropped anchor at Cape Francois,
afterwards called Cape Henri. There they went on board the American
frigate, Flora, of 32 guns, commanded by Captain Henry Johnson, of

The vessel soon sailed for France and took several prizes. It finally
went up the Garonne to Bordeaux, where it remained nine months. In the
harbor of Bordeaux were about six hundred vessels bearing the flags of
various nations. Here they remained until peace was proclaimed, when Fox
procured service on board an American brig lying at Nantes, and set sail
for home in April, 1783.

At length he again reached his mother's house at Roxbury, after an
absence of about three years. His mother, at first, did not recognize
him. She entertained him as a stranger, until he made himself known, and
then her joy was great, for she had long mourned him as lost.



Christopher Hawkins was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1764. When
he was in his thirteenth year he sailed on board an American privateer
as a cabin boy. The privateer was a schooner, called the Eagle,
commanded by Captain Potter. Taken prisoner by the British, Hawkins was
sent on board the Asia, an old transport ship, but was soon taken off
this vessel, then used for the confinement of American prisoners, and
sent on board a frigate, the Maidstone, to serve as a waiter to the
British officers on board. He remained on board the Maidstone a year.
At the end of that time he was allowed a good deal of liberty. He and
another boy were sent on shore to New York with a message, managed to
elude the sentinels, and escaped first to Long Island, and afterwards
returned home to Providence.

About 1781 he again went on board a privateer under Captain Whipple, was
again captured, and this time he was sent to the Jersey. He describes
the condition of the prisoners on their way in a transport to this
fearful prison ship. They were so crowded together that they could
scarcely move, yet they all joined in singing a patriotic song every
stanza of which ended with the words:

"For America and all her sons forever will shine!"

They were on board this transport three or four days unable to sit or
lie down for want of room. When at last they reached the Jersey they
found 800 prisoners on board. Many of these poor wretches would become
sick in the night and die before day. Hawkins was obliged to lie down to
rest only twenty feet from the gangway, and in the path of the prisoners
who would run over him to get on the upper deck. He describes the
condition of these men as appalling.

"Near us," he writes, "was a guard ship and hospital ship, and along the
shore a line of sentinels at regular intervals."

Yet he determined to escape. Many did so; and many were murdered in the
attempt. A mess of six had just met a dreadful fate. One of them became
terrified and exclaimed as soon as he touched the water, "O Lord, I
shall be drowned!" The guard turned out, and murdered five of the poor
wretches. The sixth managed to hide, and held on by the flukes of the
anchor with nothing but his nose above water. Early in the morning he
climbed up the anchor over the bow of the ship to the forecastle, and
fled below. A boy named Waterman and Hawkins determined to drop through
a port-hole, and endeavor to reach Long Island by swimming. He thus
describes the adventure:

"The thunder-storm was opportune to our design, for having previously
obtained from the cook's room an old axe and crow-bar from the upper
deck for the purpose, we concealed them till an opportunity should offer
for their use. We took advantage of the peals of thunder in a storm that
came over us in the afternoon to break one of the gun ports on the lower
deck, which was strongly barred with iron and bolts. * * * When a peal
of thunder roared we worked with all our might with the axe and crow-bar
against the bars and bolts. When the peals subsided we ceased, without
our blows being heard by the British, until another peal commenced. We
then went to work again, and so on, until our work was completed to
our liking. The bars and bolts, after we had knocked them loose, were
replaced so as not to draw the attention of our British gentry if they
should happen to visit the lower deck before our departure. We also hung
some old apparel over and around the shattered gunport to conceal any

"Being thus and otherwise prepared for our escape, the ship was visited
by our Captain Whipple the next day after we had broken the gun-port. To
him we communicated our intention and contemplated means of escape. He
strongly remonstrated against the design. We told him we should start
the ensuing evening. Captain Whipple answered:

"'How do you think of escaping?'

"I answered, 'By swimming to that point,' at the same time pointing to a
place then in our view on Long Island, in a northeasterly direction
from the prison ship. We must do this to avoid the sentinels who were
stationed in the neighborhood of the ship.

"'What!' said Captain Whipple, 'Do you think of swimming to that point?'

"'Yes, we must, to avoid the sentinels,' I answered.

"'Well,' said Captain Whipple, 'Give it up, It is only throwing your
lives away, for there is not a man on earth who can swim from this ship
to that point as cold as the water is now. Why, how far do you think it

"'Why,' I answered, 'Waterman and myself have estimated the distance at
a mile and a half.'

"'Yes,' said he, 'It's all of two and a half miles. You cannot measure
across as well as I can. So you had better give it up, for I have
encouragement of getting home next week, and if I do, I will make it my
whole business to get you all exchanged immediately.'

"Altho' Waterman was several years my senior in age, the conversation
was carried on between Captain Whipple and myself for the reason that
Captain W. was more acquainted with me than with Waterman, but Waterman
was present." (Captain Whipple was captured five times during the
Revolution, each time on his own vessel.)

"His advice had great weight on our minds, but did not shake our
purpose. We had not been on board the Old Jersey more than one hour
before we began to plot our escape. We had been only three days on board
when we left it forever. We had been on board long enough to discover
the awful scenes which took place daily in this 'floating hell.'

"Our preparations for leaving were completed by procuring a piece of
rope from an old cable that was stretched under the fo'castle of the
ship, * * * and wound around the cable to preserve it. We had each of us
packed our wearing apparel in a knapsack for each, made on board the
Old Jersey. I gave some of my apparel to the two Smiths. I stowed in
my knapsack a thick woolen sailor jacket, well lined, a pair of thick
pantaloons, one vest, a pair of heavy silver shoe buckles, two silk
handkerchiefs, four silver dollars, not forgetting a junk bottle of rum,
which we had purchased on board at a dear rate. Waterman had stowed his
apparel and other articles in his knapsack. Mine was very heavy. It
was fastened to my back with two very strong garters, passing over my
shoulders, and under each arm, and fastened with a string to my breast,
bringing my right and left garter in contact near the centre.

"Thus equipt we were ready to commit ourselves to the watery element,
and to our graves, as many of our hardy fellow prisoners predicted.
The evening was as good an one as we could desire at that season of the
year, the weather was mild and hazy, and the night extremely dark.

"It was arranged between Waterman and myself that after leaving the ship
we should be governed in our course by the lights on board the ships and
the responses of the sentinels on shore, and after arriving on shore to
repair near a dwelling house which we could see from the Old Jersey in
the day time, and spend the balance of the night in a barn, but a few
rods from the dwelling.

"Waterman was the first to leave the ship through the broken-open
gun-port, and suspended to the rope by his hands, and at the end behind
him (it was held) by several of our fellow prisoners whom we were
leaving behind us, and with whom we affectionately parted with
reciprocal good wishes. He succeeded in gaining the water and in leaving
the ship without discovery from the British. It had been agreed, if
detection was about to take place, that he should be received again into
the ship. I had agreed to follow him in one minute in the same manner.
I left and followed in half that time, and succeeded in leaving the ship
without giving the least alarm to those who had held us in captivity.

"I kept along close to the side of the ship until I gained the stern,
and then left the ship. This was all done very slowly, sinking my body
as deep in the water as possible, without stopping my course, until I
was at such a distance from her that my motions in the water would not
create attention from those on board. After gaining a suitable distance
from the ship, I hailed Waterman three times. He did not answer me. *
* * I have never seen him since he left the Old Jersey to this day. His
fate and success I have since learned from James Waterman, one of his

"In the meantime I kept on my course without thinking that any accident
would befall him, as I knew him to be an excellent swimmer, and no
fainthearted or timid fellow.

"I could take my course very well from the light reflected from the
stern lanthorns of the prison, guards, and hospital ships, and also from
the responses of the sentinels on shore; in the words, 'All's well.'
These responses were repeated every half hour on board the guard ship,
and by the sentinels. * * * These repetitions served me to keep the time
I was employed in reaching the shore;--no object occupied my mind during
this time so much as my friend Waterman, if I may except my own success
in getting to land in safety.

"I flattered myself I should find him on shore or at the barn we had
agreed to occupy after we might gain it. After I had been swimming
nearly or quite two hours my knapsack had broken loose from my back,
from the wearing off of the garters under my arms, in consequence of the
friction in swimming. * * * This occurrence did not please me much. I
endeavored to retain my knapsack by putting it under one arm, * * *
but soon found that this impeded my progress, and led me from my true
course. * * * By this time I had become much chilled, and benumbed from
cold, but could swim tolerably well. * * * I hesitated whether or not to
retain my knapsack longer in my possession, or part from it forever,
I soon determined on the latter, and sent it adrift. In this balancing
state of mind and subsequent decision I was cool and self collected as
perhaps at any time in my life. * * * I now soon found I was close in
with the shore. * * * I swam within twelve feet of the shore before I
could touch bottom, and in so doing I found I could not stand, I was
so cold * * * but I moved around in shoal water until I found I could
stand, then stept on shore. * * * I had not sent my clothes adrift
more than twenty-five minutes or so before striking the shore. I was
completely naked except for a small hat on my head which I had brought
from the Old Jersey. What a situation was this, without covering to hide
my naked body, in an enemy's country, without food or means to obtain
any, and among Tories more unrelenting than the devil,--more perils to
encounter and nothing to aid me but the interposition of heaven! Yet
I had gained an important portion of my enterprise: I had got on land,
after swimming in the water two hours and a half, and a distance of
perhaps two miles and a half."

Hawkins at last found the barn and slept in it the rest of the night,
but not before falling over a rock in the darkness, and bruising his
naked body severely. Next morning a black girl came into the barn,
apparently hunting for eggs, but he did not dare reveal himself to her.
He remained there all day, and endeavored to milk the cows, but they
were afraid of a naked stranger. He left the place in the night and
travelled east. In a field he found some overripe water melons, but they
were neither wholesome nor palatable. After wandering a long time in the
rain he came to another barn, and in it he slept soundly until late the
next day. Nearly famished he again wandered on and found in an orchard
a few half rotten pears. Near by was a potato patch which he entered
hoping to get some of them. Here a young woman, who had been stooping
down digging potatoes, started up. "I was, of course," he continues,
"naked, my head excepted. She was, or appeared to be, excessively
frightened, and ran towards a house, screeching and screaming at every
step." Hawkins ran in the other direction, and got safely away. At last
the poor boy found another barn, and lay, that night, upon a heap of
flax. After sunrise next morning he concluded to go on his way. "I could
see the farmers at their labor in the fields. I then concluded to still
keep on my course, and go to some of these people then in sight. I was,
by this time, almost worn out with hunger. I slowly approached two tall
young men who were gathering garden sauce. They soon discovered me and
appeared astonished at my appearance, and began to draw away from me,
but I spoke to them in the following words:--'Don't be afraid of me: I
am a human being!' They then made a halt and inquired of me, 'Are
you scared?' 'No,' said I. They then advanced slowly towards me, and
inquired, 'How came you here naked?'

"I seated myself on the ground and told them the truth."

One of the young men told him to conceal himself from the sight of the
neighbors, and he would go and consult with his mother what had best be
done. He soon returned, bringing two large pieces of bread and butter
and a decent pair of pantaloons. He then told him to go to the side of
the barn and wait there for his mother, but not to allow himself to be
seen. The boys' mother came out to speak to him with a shirt on her arm.
As he incautiously moved around the side of the barn to meet her, she
exclaimed, "For God's sake don't let that black woman see you!" A slave
was washing clothes near the back door of the farm house. The poor woman
explained to Hawkins that this negress would betray him, "For she is as
big a devil as any of the king's folks, and she will bring me out, and
then we should all be put in the provost and die there, for my husband
was put there more than two years ago, and rotted and died there not
more than two weeks since."

The poor woman wept as she told her story, and the escaped prisoner wept
with her. This woman and her two sons were Dutch, and their house was
only nine miles from Brooklyn ferry. She now directed the boy to a house
at Oyster Bay where she said there was a man who would assist him to

After running many risks he found the house at last, but the woman
who answered his knock told him that her husband was away and when he
explained who he was she became very angry, and said that it was her
duty to give him up. So he ran away from her, and at last fell into the
hands of a party of British, who recaptured him, and declared that they
would send him immediately back to the prison ship. They were quartered
in a house near Oyster Bay, and here they locked him in a room, and he
was told to lie down on some straw to sleep, as it was now night. In
the night the fleas troubled him so much that he was very restless. A
sentinel had been placed to guard him, and when this wretch heard him
moving in the dark he exclaimed, "Lie still, G--d---you," and pricked
him several times with his bayonet, so that the poor boy felt the fresh
blood running down his body. He begged the sentinel to spare his life,
declaring that it was hard he should be killed merely because the fleas
had made him restless. He now did not dare to move, and was obliged to
endure the attacks the fleas and the stiffness of his wounds in perfect
silence until the sentinel was relieved. The next sentinel was kind and
humane and seemed to compassionate his sufferings. He said that some
men were natural brutes, and seemed to take an interest in the boy, but
could do little for him. At daylight he was sent to the quarters of a
Tory colonel a mile from the guard room. The colonel was a tall man of
fine appearance, who examined him, and then said he must be sent back to
the Jersey. The poor lad was now left in an unlocked room on the ground
floor of the colonel's house. He was given his breakfast, and a mulatto
man was set to guard him. Now there was a pantry opening into this room,
and a negro girl, who appeared very friendly with the mulatto, called
him to eat his breakfast in this pantry. The mulatto, while eating,
would look out every few minutes. Just after one of these inspections
the boy got up softly, with his shoes in his hands, stepped across the
room, out at the back door, and concealed himself in a patch of standing
hemp. From thence he made his way into an orchard, and out into a wood
lot. Here he hid himself and remained quiet for several hours, and
although he heard several persons talking near him, he was not pursued.
At last he stole out, walked about six miles, and at night fall entered
a barn and slept there. He was in rather better case than before his
recapture, for a doctor belonging to the British service had taken pity
on him the night before, and had furnished him with warm clothes, shoes,
and a little money.

Next morning a woman who lived in a small house near the road gave him
some bread and milk. The time of the year was autumn, it was a day or
two before Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown. He now very fortunately
met an acquaintance named Captain Daniel Havens. He was an uncle of a
boy named John Sawyer, with whom young Hawkins had run away from New
York some years before. Through the agency of this old friend Hawkins
got on board a smuggler in the night and finally reached home in safety.

Christopher Hawkins's account of the Old Jersey is not so reliable as
that of some others who were among her inmates. He was only on board
that vessel three days, but in that time he saw enough to decide him
to risk death in the attempt to escape rather than remain any longer on
board of her. He declares that: "The cruel and unjustifiable treatment
of the prisoners by the British soon produced the most demoralizing
effects upon them. Boxing was tolerated without stint.... After I left
the ship an American vessel came into the port of New York as a cartel
for the exchange of prisoners.... A ship's mate was so fortunate as
to be one of the exchanged. He had a large chest on board, and, as
privately as he could, he put the cabin boy into the chest, locked him
in, and carried him on board the cartel. A prisoner named Spicer had
seen the boy put into the chest, and after he had been conveyed on board
the cartel, Spicer communicated the affair to the commanding officer on
board the Jersey. The cartel was immediately boarded, as she had not yet
left the port, and the boy was found and brought back. Spicer paid
for his treachery with his life. The prisoners knocked him down the
hatchway, when they were going down for the night; they then fell upon
him, cut off his ears, and mangled him in a shocking manner, so that he
died in a day or two."

This event occured after he left the ship, according to his own
narrative. The same story is told in a different way by an eye witness
of undoubted veracity. He says that the prisoners were so incensed
against Spicer that they determined to kill him. For this purpose some
of them held him, while another was about to cut his throat, when the
guards, hearing the uproar, rushed down the hatchway, and rescued him.

Hawkins also says: "I one day observed a prisoner on the forecastle of
the ship, with his shirt in his hands, having stripped it from his body,
deliberately picking the vermin from the pleats and putting them in his
mouth. * * * I stepped very near the man and commenced a conversation
with him. He said he had been on board two years and a half, or eighteen
months. He had completely lost count of time, was a skeleton and nearly
naked. This was only one case from perhaps a hundred similar. This man
appeared in tolerable health as to body, his emaciation excepted. * * *
The discipline of the prisoners by the British was in many respects of
the most shocking and appalling character. The roll of the prisoners, as
I was informed, was called every three months, unless a large acquisiton
of prisoners should render it necessary more often. The next day
after our crew were put on board the roll was called, and the police
regulations of the ship were read. I heard this. One of the new
regulations was to the effect that every captive trying to get away
should suffer instant death, and should not even be taken on board

It appears that David Laird commanded the Old Jersey from 1778 until
early in the year 1781. He was then relieved of the command, and this
office was given to a man named John Sporne, or Spohn, until the 9th of
April, 1783, when all the prisoners remaining in her were released, and
she was abandoned. The dread of contagion kept visitors aloof. She was
still moored in the mud of the Wallabout by chain cables, and gradually
sank lower and lower. There is a beam of her preserved as a curiosity at
the Naval Museum at Brooklyn.

David Laird, the Scotchman who commanded her until the early part of
1781, returned to New York after the peace of 1783 as captain of a
merchant ship, and moored his vessel at or near Peck's Slip. A number of
persons who had been prisoners on board the Jersey, and had suffered
by his cruelty, assembled on the wharf to receive him, but he deemed
it prudent to remain on ship-board during the short time his vessel was

It is in the recollections of Ebenezer Fox that we have the only mention
ever made of a woman on board that dreadful place, the Old Jersey, and
although she may have been and probably was an abandoned character, yet
she seems to have been merciful, and unwilling to see the prisoners who
were attempting to escape, butchered before her eyes. It is indeed to be
hoped that no other woman ever set foot in that terrible place to suffer
with the prisoners, and yet there are a few women's names in the list of
these wretched creatures given in the appendix to this book. It is
most likely, however, that these were men, and that their feminine
appellations were nicknames. [Footnote: One is named Nancy and one
Bella, etc.]



We must again quote from Ebenezer Fox, whose description of the
provisions dealt out to the prisoners on board the prison ships shall
now be given.

"The prisoners received their mess rations at nine in the morning. * *
* All our food appeared to be damaged. The bread was mostly mouldy,
and filled with worms. It required considerable rapping upon the deck,
before these worms could be dislodged from their lurking places in a
biscuit. As for the pork, we were cheated out of it more than half the
time, and when it was obtained one would have judged from its motley
hues, exhibiting the consistence and appearance of variegated soap, that
it was the flesh of the porpoise or sea hog, and had been an inhabitant
of the ocean, rather than a sty. * * * The flavor was so unsavory that
it would have been rejected as unfit for the stuffing of even Bologna
sausages. The provisions were generally damaged, and from the imperfect
manner in which they were cooked were about as indigestible as grape
shot. The flour and oatmeal was often sour, and when the suet was mixed
with the flour it might be nosed half the length of the ship. The first
view of the beef would excite an idea of veneration for its antiquity,
* * * its color was a dark mahagony, and its solidity would have set the
keenest edge of a broad axe at defiance to cut across the grain, though
like oakum it could be pulled to pieces, one way, in strings, like rope
yarn. * * * It was so completely saturated with salt that after having
been boiled in water taken from the sea, it was found to be considerably
freshened by the process. * * * Such was our food, but the quality was
not all of which we had to complain. * * * The cooking was done in a
great copper vessel. * * * The Jersey, from her size, and lying near the
shore, was embedded in the mud, and I don't recollect seeing her afloat
the whole time I was a prisoner. All the filth that accumulated among
upwards of a thousand men was daily thrown overboard, and would remain
there until carried away by the tide. The impurity of the water may
be easily conceived, and in that water our meat was boiled. It will be
recollected, too, that the water was salt, which caused the inside of
the copper to be corroded to such a degree that it was lined with a coat
of verdigris. Meat thus cooked must, in some degree, be poisoned, and
the effects of it were manifest in the cadaverous countenances of the
emaciated beings who had remained on board for any length of time.

"* * * We passed the night amid the accumulated horrors of sighs and
groans; of foul vapor; a nauseous and putrid atmosphere, in a stifling
and almost suffocating heat. * * * Little sleep could be enjoyed, for
the vermin were so horribly abundant that all the personal cleanliness
we could practice would not protect us from their attacks."

The public papers of the day often contained accounts of the cruelties
practiced upon the prisoners on the ships. In the _Pennsylvania Packet_
of Sept. 4th, 1781, there is an extract from a letter written by a
prisoner whose name is not given.


"New York August 10th 1781

"There is nothing but death or entering into the British service before
me. Our ship's company is reduced by death and entering into the British
service to the small number of 19. * * * I am not able to give you even
the outlines of my exile; but this much I will inform you, that we bury
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 in a day. We have 200 more sick and falling sick
every day; the sickness is the yellow fever, small pox, and in short
everything else that can be mentioned."

"New London. Conn. March 3rd. 1782. Sunday last a flag ship returned
from New York which brought twenty Americans who had been a long time on
board a prison ship. About 1,000 of our countrymen remain in the prison
ships at New York, great part of whom have been in close confinement for
more than six months, and in the most deplorable condition: many of them
seeing no prospect of release are entering into the British service to
elude the contagion with which the ships are fraught."


"I am sorry to write you from this miserable place. I can assure you
that since I have been here we have had only twenty men exchanged,
although we are in number upwards of 700, exclusive of the sick in
the Hospital ships, who died like sheep; therefore my intention is, if
possible, to enter on board some merchant or transport vessel, as it is
impossible for so many men to keep alive in one vessel."

"Providence. May 25th 1782. Sunday last a flag of truce returned here
from New York and brought a few prisoners. We learn that 1100 Americans
were on board the prison and hospital ships at New York, when the flag
sailed from thence, and that from six to seven were generally buried
every day."

"Salem. Mass. Extract from a letter of an officer on board the
Jersey.--'The deplorable situation I am in cannot be expressed. The
captains, lieutenants, and sailing masters have gone to the Provost,
but they have only gotten out of the frying pan into the fire. I am
left here with about 700 miserable objects, eaten up by lice, and daily
taking fevers, which carry them off fast. Nov 9th 1782."

By repeated acts of cruelty on the part of the British the Americans
were, at last, stung to attempt something like retaliation. In 1782 a
prison ship, given that name, was fitted up and stationed in the Thames
near New London, as we learn from the following extract:

"New London, Conn. May 24th 1782. Last Saturday the Retaliation prison
ship was safely moored in the river Thames, about a mile from the ferry,
for the receipt of such British prisoners as may fall into our hands,
since which about 100 prisoners have been put on board."

It is said that this ship was in use but a short time, and we have been
unable to learn anything further of her history.

Thomas Philbrook, who was a prisoner on board the Jersey for several
months was one of the "working-party," whose duty it was to scrub the
decks, attend to the sick, and bring up the dead. He says: "As the
morning dawned there would be heard the loud, unfeeling, and horrid cry,
'Rebels! Bring up your dead!'

"Staggering under the weight of some stark, still form, I would at
length gain the upper deck, when I would be met with the salutation:
'What! _you alive yet?_ Well, you are a tough one!'"



Andrew Sherburne, a lad of seventeen, shipped on the Scorpion, Captain
R. Salter, a small vessel, with a crew of eighteen men. This vessel was
captured by the Amphion, about the middle of November, 1782. Sherburne
says that the sailors plundered them of everything they possessed, and
that thirteen of them were put on board the Amphion, and sent down to
the cable tiers between the two decks, where they found nearly a hundred
of their countrymen, who were prisoners of war.

"We were very much crowded, and having nothing but the cables to lay on,
our beds were as hard and unpleasant as though they were made of cord
wood, and indeed we had not sufficient room for each to stretch himself
at the same time.

"After about two weeks we arrived at New York, and were put on board
that wretched ship the Jersey. The New York prison ships had been the
terror of American tars for years. The Old Jersey had become notorious
in consequence of the unparallelled mortality on board her. * * *

"I entered the Jersey towards the last of November, I had just entered
the eighteenth year of my age, and had now to commence a scene of
suffering almost without a parallel. * * * A large proportion of the
prisoners had been robbed of their clothing. * * * Early in the winter
the British took the Chesapeake frigate of about thirty guns, and 300
hands. All were sent on board the Jersey, which so overcrowded her,
that she was very sickly. This crew died exceedingly fast, for a large
proportion were fresh hands, unused to the sea."

Sherburne says that boats from the city brought provisions to sell to
such of the prisoners as were so fortunate as to be possessed of money,
and that most of them were able to make purchases from them. A piece of
sausage from seven to nine inches long sold for sixpence.

In January, 1783, Sherburne became ill and was sent to the Frederick,
a hospital ship. In this two men shared every bunk, and the conditions
were wretchedly unsanitary. He was placed in a bunk with a man named
Wills from Massachusetts, a very gentle and patient sufferer, who soon

"I have seen seven men drawn out and piled together on the lower
hatchway, who had died in one night on board the Frederick.

"There were ten or twelve nurses, and about a hundred sick. Some, if not
all of the nurses, were prisoners. * * * They would indulge in playing
cards and drinking, while their fellows were thirsting for water and
some dying. At night the hatches were shut down and locked, and the
nurses lived in the steerage, and there was not the least attention paid
to the sick except by the convalescent, who were so frequently called
upon that, in many cases, they overdid themselves, relapsed, and died."

Sherburne suffered extremely from the cold. "I have often," he says
"toiled the greatest part of the night, in rubbing my feet and legs to
keep them from freezing. * * * In consequence of these chills I have
been obliged to wear a laced stocking upon my left leg for nearly thirty
years past. My bunk was directly against the ballast-port; and the port
not being caulked, when there came a snow-storm the snow would blow
through the seams in my bed, but in those cases there was one advantage
to me, when I could not otherwise procure water to quench my thirst.
The provision allowed the sick was a gill of wine, and twelve ounces of
bread per day. The wine was of an ordinary quality, and the bread made
of sour or musty flour, and sometimes poorly baked. There was a small
sheet iron stove between decks, but the fuel was green, and not plenty,
and there were some peevish and surly fellows generally about it. I
never got an opportunity to sit by it, but I could generally get the
favor of some one near it to lay a slice of bread upon it, to warm or
toast it a little, to put into my wine and water. We sometimes failed
in getting our wine for several days together; we had the promise of its
being made up to us, but this promise was seldom performed. * * * Water
was brought on board in casks by the working party, and when it was very
cold it would freeze in the casks, and it would be difficult to get it
out. * * * I was frequently under the necessity of pleading hard to
get my cup filled. I could not eat my bread, but gave it to those who
brought me water. I have given three days allowance to have a tin cup
of water brought me. * * * A company of the good citizens of New York
supplied all the sick with a pint of good Bohea tea, well sweetened with
molasses a day; and this was constant. I believe this tea saved my life,
and the lives of hundreds of others. * * * The physicians used to
visit the sick once in several days: their stay was short, nor did they
administer much medicine. Were I able to give a full description of our
wretched and filthy condition I should almost question whether it would
be credited. * * * It was God's good pleasure to raise me up once more
so that I could just make out to walk, and I was again returned to the
Jersey prison ship."

Here he received sad news. One of his uncles was a prisoner on board the
Jersey, and had been very kind to him, giving him a share of his money
with which to purchase necessaries. Now he found his uncle about to
take his place in the hospital ship. A boy named Stephen Nichols also
informed him of the death in his absence of the gunner of their ship,
whose name was Daniel Davis. This poor man had his feet and legs frozen,
from which he died.

"Nichols and myself were quite attached to each other. * * * We stalked
about the decks together, lamenting our forlorn condition. In a few days
there came orders to remove all the prisoners from the Jersey in
order to cleanse the ship. We were removed on board of transports,
and directly there came on a heavy storm. The ship on which I was was
exceedingly crowded, so that there was not room enough for each man to
lay down under deck, and the passing and repassing by day had made the
lower deck entirely wet. Our condition was distressing. After a few
days we were all put on board the Jersey again. A large number had
taken violent colds, myself among the rest. The hospital ships were soon
crowded, and even the Jersey herself shortly became about as much of a
hospital ship as the others."

Sherburne was again sent to a hospital ship, where he was rejoiced to
find his uncle convalescing. A man who lay next him had been a nurse,
but had had his feet and legs frozen, the toes and bottom of his feet
fell off.

Two brothers shared a bunk near him. Their names were John and Abraham
Falls. John was twenty-three, and Abraham only sixteen. Both were very
sick. One night Abraham was heard imploring John not to lie on him, and
the other invalids reproached him for his cruelty in thus treating his
young brother. But John was deaf to their reproaches, for he was dead.
Abraham was too ill to move from under him. Next day the dead brother
was removed from the living one, but it was too late to save him, and
the poor boy died that morning.

Sherburne says that only five of his crew of thirteen survived, and that
in many instances a much larger proportion died.

"At length came news of peace. It was exceedingly trying to our feelings
to see our ship mates daily leaving us, until our ship was almost
deserted. We were, however, convalescent, but we gained exceedingly
slowly. * * * I think there were but seven or eight left on board the
hospital ship when we left it, in a small schooner sent from R. I.,
for the purpose of taking home some who belonged to that place, and the
commander of the hospital ship had the humanity to use his influence
with the master of the cartel to take us on board, and to our
unspeakable joy he consented."

When at last he reached home he says: "My brother Sam took me into
another room to divest me of my filthy garments and to wash and dress
me. He having taken off my clothes and seen my bones projecting here and
there, was so astonished that his strength left him. He sat down on the
point of fainting, and could render me no further service. I was able to
wash myself and put on my clothes."

After this he was obliged to spend twenty days in bed. Poor Mrs. Falls,
the mother of the two young men who had died on the hospital ship,
called on him and heard the fate of her sons. She was in an agony, and
almost fainted, and kept asking if it was not a mistake that _both_ were



In the year 1865 a son of Captain Roswell Palmer, of Connecticut, wrote
a letter to Mr. Henry Drowne, in which he narrates the story of his
father's captivity, which we will condense in these pages. He says that
his father was born in Stonington, Conn., in August, 1764, and was about
seventeen at the time of his capture by the British, which must have
been in 1781.

Palmer had several relations in the army, and was anxious to enlist,
but was rejected as too young. His uncle, however, received him as an
assistant in the Commissary Department, and when the brig Pilgrim,
of Stonington, was commissioned to make war on the public enemy, the
rejected volunteer was warmly welcomed on board by his kinsman, Captain
Humphrey Crary.

The first night after putting to sea, the Pilgrim encountered a British
fleet just entering the Vineyard Sound. A chase and running fight
of several hours ensued, but at length the vessel was crippled and
compelled to surrender. The prize was taken into Holmes' Hole, and the
crew subsequently brought to New York. Mr. Henry Palmer thus describes
the Jersey, which was his father's destination.

"The Jersey never left her anchorage at the Wallabout, whether from
decrepitude, or the intolerable burden of woes and wrongs accumulated
in her wretched hulk,--but sank slowly down at last into the subjacent
ooze, as if to hide her shame from human sight, and more than forty
years after my father pointed out to me at low tide huge remnants of her
unburied skeleton.

"On board of this dread Bastile were crowded year after year, some 1,400
prisoners, mostly Americans. The discipline was very strict, while the
smallest possible attention was paid by their warders to the sufferings
of the captives. Cleanliness was simply an impossibility, where
the quarters were so narrow, the occupants so numerous, and little
opportunity afforded for washing the person or the tatters that sought
to hide its nakedness. Fortunate was the wretch who possessed a clean
linen rag, for this, placed in his bosom, seemed to attract to it crowds
of his crawling tormentors, whose squatter sovereignty could be disposed
of by the wholesale at his pleasure.

"The food of the prisoners consisted mainly of spoiled sea biscuit,
and of navy beef, which had become worthless from long voyaging in many
climes years before. These biscuits were so worm-eaten that a slight
pressure of the hand reduced them to dust, which rose up in little
clouds of insubstantial aliment, as if in mockery of the half famished
expectants. For variety a ration called 'Burgoo,' was prepared several
times a week, consisting of mouldy oatmeal and water, boiled in two
great Coppers, and served out in tubs, like swill to swine.

"By degrees they grew callous to each other's miseries, and alert to
seize any advantage over their fellow sufferers. Many played cards day
and night, regardless of the scenes of woe and despair around them. *
* * The remains (of those who died) were huddled into blankets, and so
slightly interred on the neighboring slope that scores of them, bared by
the rains, were always visible to their less fortunate comrades left to
pine in hopeless captivity. * * * After having been imprisoned about a
year and a half my father, one night, during a paroxysm of fever, rushed
on board, and jumped overboard.

"The shock restored him to consciousness, he was soon rescued, and the
next morning was taken by the Surgeon-General's orders to his quarters
in Cherry St., near Pearl, where he remained until the close of the war.
The kind doctor had taken a fancy to the handsome Yankee patient, whom
he treated with fatherly kindness; giving him books to read; and having
him present at his operations and dissections; and finally urged him
to seek his fortune in Europe, where he should receive a good surgical
education free of charge.

"The temptation was very great, but the rememberance of a nearer home
and dearer friends, unseen for years, was greater, and to them the long
lost returned at last, as one from the dead."

Captain Palmer commanded a merchant ship after the war, retired and
bought a farm near Stockbridge, Mass. He followed the sea over forty
years. In appearance he was very tall, erect, robust, and of rare
physical power and endurance. He had remarkably small hands and feet, a
high and fair forehead, his hair was very black, a tangle of luxuriant
curls, and his eyes were clear hazel. He died in his 79th year, in 1844,
leaving a large family of children. In his own memoranda he writes:
"Four or five hundred Frenchmen were transferred as prisoners to
the orlop deck of the Jersey. They were much better treated than we
Americans on the deck above them. All, however, suffered very much for
the want of water, crowding around two half hogsheads when they were
brought on board, and often fighting for the first drink. On one of
these occasions a Virginian near me was elbowed by a Spaniard and thrust
him back. The Spaniard drew a sheath knife, when the Virginian knocked
him headlong backwards, down two hatches, which had just been opened for
heaving up a hogshead of stale water from the hold, for the prisoners'
drink. This water had probably been there for years, and was as ropy as

"There was a deal of trouble between the American and the French and
Spanish prisoners. The latter slept in hammocks, we, on the _floor_ of
the deck next above them. One night our boys went down * * * and, at
a given signal, cut the hammock lashings of the French and Spanish
prisoners at the head, and let them all down by the run on the dirty
floor. In the midst of the row that followed this deed of darkness, the
Americans stole back to their quarters, and were all fast asleep when
the English guard came down.

"No lights were permitted after ten o'clock. We used, however, to hide
our candles occasionally under our hats, when the order came to
'Douse the glim!' One night the officer of the guard discovered our
disobedience, and came storming down the hatchway with a file of
soldiers. Our lights were all extinguished in a moment, and we on the
alert for our tyrants, whom we seized with a will, and hustled to and
fro in the darkness, till their cries aroused the whole ship."

An uncle of Roswell Palmer's named Eliakim Palmer, a man named Thomas
Hitchcock, and John Searles were prisoners on board the Scorpion, a
British 74, anchored off the Battery, New York. They were about to be
transferred to the Old Jersey, when Hitchcock went into the chains and
dropped his hat into the water. On his return he begged for a boat
to recover it, and being earnestly seconded by Lieutenant Palmer, the
officer of the deck finally consented, ordering a guard to accompany the
"damned rebels." They were a long time in getting the boat off. The hat,
in the mean time, floated away from the ship. They rowed very awkardly,
of course got jeered at uproariously for "Yankee land lubbers," and
were presently ordered to return. Being then nearly out of musket range,
Lieutenant Palmer suddenly seized and disarmed the astonished guard,
while his comrades were not slow in manifesting their latent adroitness
in the use of the oar, to the no less astonishment of their deriders. In
a moment the Bay was alive with excitement; many shots, big and little,
were fired at the audacious fugitives from all the fleet; boats put
off in hot pursuit; but the Stonington boys reached the Jersey shore in
safety, and escaped with their prisoner to Washington's headquarters,
where the tact and bravery they had displayed received the approval of
the great commander.

Lieutenant Eliakim Palmer was again taken prisoner later in the war and
again escaped. This time he was on board the Jersey. He cut away three
iron bars let into an aperture on the side of the ship on the orlop
deck, formerly a part of her hold. He swam ashore with his shirt and
trousers tied to his head. Having lost his trousers he was obliged to
make his way down Long Island for nearly its whole length, in his shirt
only. He hid in ditches during the day, subsisting on berries, and
the bounty of cows, milked directly into his mouth. He crawled by the
sentries stationed at different parts of the island, and at length,
after many days, reached Oyster Pond Point, whence he was smuggled by
friends to his home in Stonington, Conn.



In 1807 Dr. Mitchell, of New York published a small volume entitled:
"The Destructive Operation of Foul Air, Tainted Provisions, Bad Water,
and Personal Filthiness, Upon Human Constitutions, Exemplified in the
Unparallelled Cruelty of the British to the American Captives at New
York During the Revolutionary War, on Board their Prison and Hospital
ships. By Captain Alexander Coffin, Junior, One of the Surviving
Sufferers. In a Communication to Dr. Mitchell, dated September 4th,

Truly our ancestors were long-winded! A part of this narrative is as
follows: "I shall furnish you with an account of the treatment that I,
with other of my fellow citizens, received on board the Jersey and John
prison ships, those monuments of British barbarity and infamy. I shall
give you nothing but a plain simple statement of facts that cannot be
controverted. And I begin my narrative from the time of my leaving the
South Carolina frigate.

"In June, 1782, I left the above-mentioned frigate in the Havana, on
board of which I had long served as a mid-ship-man, and made several
trading voyages. I sailed early in September, from Baltimore, for the
Havana, in a fleet of about forty sail, most of which were captured, and
we among the rest, by the British frigate, Ceres, Captain Hawkins, a man
in every sense of the word a perfect brute.

"Though our commander, Captain Hughes, was a very gentlemanly man, he
was treated in the most shameful and abusive manner by said Hawkins,
and ordered below to mess with the petty officers. Our officers were put
into the cable tier, with the crew, and a guard placed at the hatchway
to prevent more than two going on deck at a time. The provisions were
of the very worst kind, and very short allowance even of them. They
frequently gave us pea-soup, that is pea-water, for the pease and the
soup, all but about a gallon or two, were taken for the ship's company,
and the coppers filled up with water, and brought down to us in a
strap-tub. And Sir, I might have defied any person on earth, possessing
the most acute olfactory powers and the most refined taste to decide,
either by one or the other or both of these senses, whether it was pease
and water, slush and water, or swill.

"After living and being treated in this way, subject to every insult and
abuse for ten or twelve days, we fell in with the Champion, a British
twenty gun ship, which was bound to New York to refit, and were all sent
on board of her The Captain was a true seaman and a gentleman, and our
treatment was so different from what we had experienced on board the
Ceres, that it was like being removed from Purgatory to Paradise. His
name, I think, was Edwards.

"We arrived about the beginning of October in New York and were
immediately sent on board the prison-ship in a small schooner, called,
ironically enough, the Relief, commanded by one Gardner, an Irishman.

"This schooner Relief plied between the prison ship and New York, and
carried the water and provisions from that city to the ship. In fact the
said schooner might emphatically be called the Relief, for the
execrable water and provisions she carried relieved many of my brave but
unfortunate countrymen by death, from the misery and savage treatment
they daily endured.

"Before I go on to relate the treatment we experienced on board the
Jersey, I will make one remark, and that is if you were to rake the
infernal regions, I doubt whether you could find such another set
of demons as the officers and men who had charge of the Old Jersey
Prison-ship, and, Sir, I shall not be surprised if you, possessing the
finer feelings which I believe to be interwoven in the composition of
men, and which are not totally torn from the _piece_, till by a long and
obstinate perseverance in the meanest, the basest, and cruellest of all
human acts, a man becomes lost to every sense of honor, of justice, of
humanity, and common honesty; I shall not be surprised, I say, if you,
possessing these finer feelings, should doubt whether men could be so
lost to their sacred obligations to their God; and the moral ties which
ought to bind them to their duty toward their fellow men, as those men
were, who had the charge, and also who had any agency in the affairs of
the Jersey prison-ship.

"On my arrival on board the Old Jersey, I found there about 1,100
prisoners; many of them had been there from three to six months, but few
lived over that time if they did not get away by some means or other.
They were generally in the most deplorable situation, mere walking
skeletons, without money, and scarcely clothes to cover their nakedness,
and overrun with lice from head to feet.

"The provisions, Sir, that were served out to us, was not more than
four or five ounces of meat, and about as much bread, all condemned
provisions from the ships of war, which, no doubt, were supplied with
new in their stead, and the new, in all probability, charged by the
commissaries to the Jersey. They, however, know best about that; and
however secure they may now feel, they will have to render an account of
that business to a Judge who cannot be deceived. This fact, however, I
can safely aver, that both the times I was confined on board the prison
ships, there never were provisions served out to the prisoners that
would have been eatable by men that were not literally in a starving

"The water that we were forced to use was carried from the city, and
I postively assert that I never after having followed the sea thirty
years, had on board of any ship, (and I have been three years on some
of my voyages,) water so bad as that we were obliged to use on board the
Old Jersey; when there was, as it were to tantalize us, as pure water,
not more than three cables length from us, at the Mill in the Wallabout,
as was perhaps ever drank.

"There were hogs kept in pens on the Gun-deck for their own use; and I
have seen the prisoners watch an opportunity, and with a tin pot steal
the bran from the hogs' trough, and go into the Galley and when they
could get an opportunity, boil it over the fire, and eat it, as you,
Sir, would eat of good soup when hungry. This I have seen more than
once, and there are now living besides me, who can bear testimony to the
same fact. There are many other facts equally abominable that I could
mention, but the very thought of those things brings to my recollection
scenes the most distressing.

"When I reflect how many hundreds of my brave and intrepid countrymen
I have seen, in all the bloom of health, brought on board of that ship,
and in a few days numbered with the dead, in consequence of the savage
treatment they there received, I can but adore my Creator that He
suffered me to escape; but I did not escape, Sir, without being brought
to the very verge of the grave.

"This was the second time I was on board, which I shall mention more
particularly hereafter. Those of us who had money fared much better than
those who had none. I had made out to save, when taken, about twenty
dollars, and with that I could buy from the bumboats, that were
permitted to come alongside, bread, fruit, etc.; but, Sir, the
bumboatmen were of the same kidney as the officers of the Jersey and we
got nothing from them without paying through the nose for it, and I soon
found the bottom of my purse; after which I fared no better than the
rest. I was, however, fortunate in one respect; for after having been
there about six weeks, two of my countrymen, (I am a Nantucket man)
happened to come to New York to endeavor to recover a whaling sloop that
had been captured, with a whaling license from Admiral Digby; and they
found means to procure my release, passing me for a Quaker, to which I
confess I had no pretensions further than my mother being a member of
that respectable society. Thus, Sir, I returned to my friends, fit for
the newest fashion, after an absence of three years.

"For my whole wardrobe I carried on my back, which consisted of a
jacket, shirt, and trousers, a pair of old shoes and a handkerchief,
which served me for a hat, and had more than two months, for I lost my
hat the day we were taken, from the maintop-gallant yard, furling the
top-gallant sail.

"My clothing, I forgot to mention, was completed laced with locomotive
tinsel, and moved as by instinct, in all directions; but as my mother
was not fond of such company, she furnished me with a suit of my
father's, who was absent at sea, and condemned my laced suit for the
benefit of all concerned.

"Being then in the prime of youth, about eighteen years of age, and
naturally of a roving disposition; I could not bear the idea of being
idle at home. I therefore proceeded to Providence, R. I., and shipped
on board the brig Betsy and Polly, Captain Robert Folger, bound for
Virginia and Amsterdam. We sailed from Newport early in February, 1783;
and were taken five days after, off the capes of Virginia, by the Fair
American privateer, of those parts, mounting sixteen six-pounders,
and having 85 men, commanded by one Burton, a refugee, most of whose
officers were of the same stamp. We were immediately handcuffed two and
two, and ordered into the hold in the cable-tier. Having been plundered
of our beds and bedding, the softest bed we had was the soft side of a
water cask, and the coils of a cable.

"The Fair American, after having been handsomely dressed by an United
States vessel of half of her force, was obliged to put into New York,
then in possession of the British army, to refit, and we arrived within
the Hook about the beginning of March, and were put on board a pilot
boat, and brought up to this city. The boat hauled up alongside the
Crane-wharf, where we had our irons knocked off, the mark of which I
carry to this day; and were put on board the same schooner, Relief,
mentioned in a former part of this narrative, and sent up once more to
the prison-ship.

"It was just three months from my leaving the Old Jersey to my being
again a prisoner on board of her, and on my return I found but very few
of the men I had left three months before. Some had made their escape;
some had been exchanged; but the greater part had taken up their abode
under the surface of the hill, which you can see from your windows,
where their bones are mouldering to dust, mingled with mother earth;
a lesson to Americans, written _in capitals, on British cruelty and

"I found, on my return on board the Jersey, more prisoners than when I
left her; and she being so crowded, they were obliged to send about 200
of us on board the John, a transport-ship of about 300 tons.

"There we were treated worse, if possible, than on board the Jersey, and
our accommodations were infinitely worse, for the Jersey, being an old,
condemned 64 gun ship had two tiers of ports fore and aft, air-ports,
and large hatchways, which gave a pretty free circulation of air through
the ship; whereas the John, being a merchant-ship, and with small
hatchways, and the hatchways being laid down every night, and no man
being allowed to go on deck * * * the effluvia arising from these,
together with the already contaminated air, occasioned by the breath
of so many people so pent up together, was enough to destroy men of the
most healthy and robust constitutions. All the time I was on board this
ship, not a prisoner eat his allowance, bad as it was, cooked, more than
three or four times; but eat it raw as it came out of the barrel. * *
* In the middle of the ship, between decks, was raised a platform of
boards about two and a half feet high, for those prisoners to sleep on
who had no hammocks. On this they used frequently to sit and play at
cards to pass the time. One night in particular, several of us sat to
see them play until about ten o'clock, and then retired to our hammocks.
About one A. M, we were called and told that one Bird was dying; we
turned out and went to where he lay, and found him just expiring. Thus,
at 10 P. M, the young man was apparently as well as any of us, and at
one A. M. had paid the debt to nature. Many others went off in the same
way. It will perhaps be said that men die suddenly anywhere. True,
but do they die suddenly anywhere from the same cause? After all
these things it is, I think, impossible for the mind to form any other
conclusion than that there was a premeditated design to destroy as many
Americans as they could on board the prison-ships; the treatment of the
prisoners warrants the conclusion; but it is mean, base, and cowardly,
to endeavor to conquer an enemy by such infamous means, and truly
characteristic of base and cowardly wretches. The truly brave will
always treat their prisoners well.

"There were two or three hospital-ships near the prison-ships; and so
soon as any of the prisoners complained of being sick, they were sent on
board of one of them; and I verily believe that not one out of a hundred
ever returned or recovered. I am sure I never knew but one to recover.
Almost, and in fact I believe I may say every morning, a large boat from
each of the hospital ships went loaded with dead bodies, which were all
tumbled together into a hole dug for the purpose, on the hill where the
national navy-yard now is.

"A singular affair happened on board of one of the hospital-ships, and
no less true than singular. All the prisoners that died after the boat
with the load had gone ashore were sewed up in hammocks, and left on
deck till next morning. As usual, a great number had thus been disposed
of. In the morning, while employed in loading the boat, one of the
seamen perceived motion in one of the hammocks, just as they were about
launching it down the board placel for that purpose from the gunwale of
the ship into the boat, and exclaimed, 'Damn my eyes! That fellow isn't
dead!' and if I have been rightly informed, and I believe I have, there
was quite a dispute between the man and the others about it. They swore
he was dead enough, and should go into the boat; he swore he should not
be launched, as they termed it, and took his knife and ripped open the
hammock, and behold, the man was really alive. There had been a heavy
rain during the night; and as the vital functions had not totally
ceased, but were merely suspended in consequence of the main-spring
being out of order, this seasonable moistening must have given tone
and elasticity to the great spring, which must have communicated to the
lesser ones, and put the whole machinery again into motion. You know
better about this than I do, and can better judge of the cause of the
re-animation of the man. * * * He was a native of Rhode Island; his name
was Gavot. He went to Rhode Island in the same flag of truce as myself,
about a month afterwards. I felt extremely ill, but made out to
keep about until I got home. My parents then lived on the island of
Nantucket. I was then taken down, and lay in my bed six weeks in the
most deplorable situation; my body was swelled to a great degree, and
my legs were as big round as my body now is, and affected with the most
excruciating pains. What my disorder was I will not pretend to say; but
Dr. Tupper, quite an eminent physician, and a noted tory, who attended
me, declared to my mother that he knew of nothing that would operate
in the manner that my disorder did, but poison. For the truth of that
I refer to my father and brothers, and to Mr. Henry Coffin, father to
Captain Peter Coffin, of the Manchester Packet of this point.

"Thus, Sir, in some haste, without much attention to order or diction,
I have given you part of the history of my life and sufferings, but I
endeavored to bear them as became an American. And I must mention before
I close, to the everlasting honor of those unfortunate Americans who
were on board the Jersey, that notwithstanding the savage treatment they
received, and death staring them in the face, every attempt which was
made by the British to persuade them to enter their ships of war or in
their army, was treated with the utmost contempt; and I saw only one
instance of defection while I was on board, and that person was hooted
at and abused by the prisoners till the boat was out of hearing. Their
patriotism in preferring such treatment, and even death in its most
frightful shapes, to the service of the British, and fighting against
their own country has seldom been equalled, certainly never excelled,
and if there be no monument raised with hands to commemorate the virtue
of those men, it is stamped in capitals on the heart of every American
acquainted with their merit and sufferings, and will there remain as
long as the blood flows from its fountains."

We have already seen that many of the prisoners on board the Jersey
were impressed into the service of British men-of-war, and that others
voluntarily enlisted for garrison duty in the West Indies. It seems
probable, however, that, as Captain Coffin asserts, few enlisted in
the service to fight against their own countrymen, and those few were
probably actuated by the hope of deserting. It is certain that thousands
preferred death to such a method of escaping from prison, as is proved
by the multitudes of corpses interred in the sand of the Wallabout, all
of whom could, in this way, have saved their lives. Conditions changed
on board the Jersey, from time to time. Thus, the water supply that was
at one time brought by the schooner Relief from New York, was, at other
times, procured from a beautiful spring on Long Island, as we will see
in our next chapter.

Some of the prisoners speak of the foul air on board the prison ship
caused by the fact that all her port holes were closed, and a few
openings cut in her sides, which were insufficient to ventilate her.
Coffin says there was a good passage of air through the vessel from
her port holes. It is probable that the Jersey became so notorious as a
death trap that at last, for very shame, some attempt was made to secure
more sanitary conditions. Thus, just before peace was established, she
was, for the first time, overhauled and cleaned, the wretched occupants
being sent away for the purpose. The port holes were very probably
opened, and this is the more likely as we read of some of the prisoners
freezing to death during the last year of the war. From that calamity,
at least, they were safe as long as they were deprived of outer air.



There are few records of religious feeling on board the "Jersey,
vulgarly called 'Hell.'" No clergyman was ever known to set foot on
board of her, although a city of churches was so near. The fear of
contagion may have kept ministers of the gospel away. Visitors came, as
we have seen, but not to soothe the sufferings of the prisoners, or
to comfort those who were dying. It is said that a young doctor, named
George Vandewater attended the sick, until he took a fatal disease and
died. He was a resident of Brooklyn, and seems to have been actuated
by motives of humanity, and therefore his name deserves a place in this

But although the rough seamen who left narratives of their experiences
in that fearful place have told us little or nothing about the inner
feelings of those poor sufferers, yet it must be presumed that many
a silent prayer went up to the Judge and Father of all men, from the
depths of that foul prison ship. There was one boy on board the Jersey,
one at least, and we hope that there were many more, who trusted in God
that He could deliver him, even "from the nethermost hell."

A large proportion of the prisoners were young men in their teens, who
had been attracted by the mysterious fascination of the sea; many of
them had run away from good homes, and had left sorrowing parents and
friends to mourn their loss. The feelings of these young men, full of
eager hopes, and as yet unsoured by too rough handling in their wrestle
with the world, suddenly transferred to the deck of the Jersey, has
been well described by Fox and other captives, whose adventures we have
transcribed in these pages.

We have now to tell the experience of a youth on the Jersey who lived to
be a minister, and for many years was in charge of a church at Berkeley.
This youth was sensitive, delicate, and far from strong. His faith in
human nature received a shock, and his disposition was warped at the
most receptive and formative period of his life, by the terrible scenes
of suffering on the one hand, and relentless cruelty on the other, that
he witnessed in that fatal place. He wrote, in his memoir many years
after: _"I have since found that the whole world is but one great
prison-house of guilty, sorrowful, and dying men, who live in pride,
envy, and malice, hateful, and hating one another."_

This is one of the most terrible indictments of the human race that was
ever written. Let us hope that it is not wholly true.

In 1833 the Rev. Thomas Andros published his recollections under the
title, "The Old Jersey Captive." We will give an abstract of them. He
begins by saying: "I was but in my seventeenth year when the struggle
commenced. In the summer of 1781 the ship Hannah, a very rich prize, was
captured and brought into the port of New London. It infatuated great
numbers of our young men who flocked on board our private armed ships
in hopes of as great a prize. * * * I entered on board a new Brig called
the 'Fair American.' She carried sixteen guns. * * * We were captured
on the 27th of August, by the Solebay frigate, and safely stowed away in
the Old Jersey prison ship at New York, an old, unsightly, rotten hulk.

"Her dark and filthy appearance perfectly corresponded with the death
and despair that reigned within. She was moored three quarters of a mile
to the eastward of Brooklyn ferry, near a tide-mill on the Long Island
shore. The nearest distance to land was about twenty rods. No other
British ship ever proved the means of the destruction of so many human

Andros puts the number of men who perished on board the Jersey as
11,000, and continues: "After it was known that it was next to certain
death to confine a prisoner here, the inhumanity and wickedness of
doing it was about the same as if he had been taken into the city and
deliberately shot on some public square. * * * Never did any Howard
or angel of pity appear to inquire into or alleviate our woes. Once
or twice a bag of apples was hurled into the midst of hundreds of
prisoners, crowded together as thick as they could stand, and life and
limbs were endangered by the scramble. This was a cruel sport. When I
saw it about to commence I fled to the most distant part of the ship."

At night, he says, the prisoners were driven down to darkness between
decks, secured by iron gratings and an armed soldiery. He thus speaks
of the tasks imposed upon the prisoners: "Around the well-room an armed
guard were forcing up the prisoners to the winches to clear the ship of
water, and prevent her sinking; and little could be heard but a roar of
mutual execrations, reproaches and insults.

  "Sights of woe, regions of sorrow, doleful shades;
  Where peace and rest can never dwell

"When I became an inmate of this abode of suffering, despair, and death,
there were about 400 on board, but in a short time they were increased
to 1,200.

"All the most deadly diseases were pressed into the service of the
king of terrors, but his prime ministers were dysentery, small pox, and
yellow fever. The healthy and the diseased were mingled together in the
main ship."

He says that the two hospital ships were soon overcrowded, and that two
hundred or more of the prisoners, who soon became sick in consequence
of the want of room, were lodged in the fore-part of the lower gun-deck,
where all the prisoners were confined at night.

"Utter derangement was a common sympton of yellow fever, and to increase
the horror of darkness which enshrouded us, for we were allowed no
light, the voice of warning would be heard, 'Take care! There's a madman
stalking through the ship with a knife in his hand!'"

Andros says that he sometimes found the man by whose side he had lain
all night a corpse in the morning. There were many sick with raging
fever, and their loud cries for water, which could only be obtained
on the upper deck, mingled with the groans of the dying, and the
execrations of the tormented sufferers. If they attempted to get water
from the upper deck, the sentry would push them back with his bayonet.
Andros, at one time, had a narrow escape with his life, from one of
these bayonet thrusts.

"In the morning the hatches were thrown open and we were allowed to
ascend. The first object we saw was a boat loaded with dead bodies
conveying them to the Long Island shore, where they were very slightly
covered with sand. * * * Let our disease be what it would we were
abandoned to our fate. No English physician ever came near us."

Thirteen of the crew to which Andros belonged were on the Jersey. In a
short time all but three or four were dead. The healthiest died first.
They were seized vith yellow fever, which was an epidemic on the ship,
and died in a few hours. Andros escaped contagion longer than any of
his companions, with one exception. He says that the prisoners were
furnished with buckets and brushes to cleanse the ship, and vinegar to
sprinkle the floors, but that most of them had fallen into a condition
of apathy and despair, and that they seldom exerted themselves to
improve their condition.

"The encouragement to do so was small. The whole ship was equally
affected, and contained pestilence enough to desolate a world; disease
and death were wrought into her very timbers. At the time I left it is
to be supposed a more filthy, contagious, and deadly abode never existed
among a Christianized people.

"The lower hold and the orlop deck were such a terror that no man would
venture down into them. * * * Our water was good could we have had
enough of it: the bread was superlatively bad. I do not recollect seeing
any which was not full of living vermin, but eat it, worms and all, we
must, or starve. * * * A secret, prejudicial to a prisoner, revealed
to the guard, was death. Captain Young of Boston concealed himself in a
large chest belonging to a sailor going to be exchanged, and was carried
on board the cartel, and we considered his escape as certain, but the
secret leaked out, and he was brought back and one Spicer of Providence
being suspected as the traitor the enraged prisoners were about to cut
his throat. The guard rushed down and rescued him.

"I knew no one to be seduced into the British service. They tried to
force one of our crew into the navy, but he chose rather to die than
perform any duty, and he was again restored to the prison-ship."

Andros declares that there was no trace of religion exhibited on board
the Jersey. He also says that the prisoners made a set of rules for
themselves by which they regulated their conduct towards each other. No
one was allowed to tyrannize over the weak, and morality was enforced by
rules, and any infraction of these regulations was severely punished.

He speaks of scenes of dreadful suffering which he witnessed:

  "Which things, most worthy of pity, I myself saw,
  And of them was a part."

"The prison ship is a blot which a thousand ages cannot eradicate from
the name of Britian. * * * While on board almost every thought was
occupied to invent some plan of escape. The time now came when I must
be delivered from the ship or die. I was seized with yellow fever, and
should certainly take the small-pox with it, and who does not know that
I could not survive the operation of both of these diseases at once. * *
* I assisted in nursing those who had the pox most violently.

"The arrival of a cartel and my being exchanged would but render my
death the more sure."

Yet he endeavored to promote his exchange by stepping up and giving in
his name among the first, when a list of the prisoners was taken. Andros
was not strong, and as he himself says, disease often seemed to pass
over the weak and sickly, and to attack, with deadly result, the
prisoners who were the healthiest and most vigorous.

"It was the policy of the English to return for sound and healthy men
sent from our prisons, such Americans as had but just the breath of life
in them, sure to die before they reached home. The guard would tell a
man while in health, 'You haven't been here long enough, you are too
well to be exchanged.'

"There was one more method of getting from the ship," Andros continues,
"and that was at night to steal down through a gun-port which we had
managed to open unbeknown to the guard, and swim ashore." This, he
declared, was for him a forlorn hope. Already under the influence of
yellow fever, and barely able to walk, he was, even when well, unable
to swim ten rods. Discovery was almost certain, for the guards now kept
vigilant watch to prevent any one escaping in this manner, and they shot
all whom they detected in the act of escaping. Yet this poor young man
trusted in God. He writes: "God, who had something more for me to do,
undertook for me." Mr. Emery, the sailing master, was going ashore for
water. Andros stepped up to him and asked: "Mr. Emery, may I go on shore
with you after water?"

No such favor had ever been granted a prisoner, and Andros scarcely knew
what prompted him to prefer such a request. To his immense surprise, the
sailing master, who must have had a heart after all, replied, "Yes, with
all my heart." He was evidently struck with compassion for the poor,
apparently dying, young man.

Andros, to the astonishment of his companions, immediately descended
into the boat. Some of them asked: "What is that sick man going on shore

The British sailors endeavored to dissuade him, thinking that he would
probably die on the excursion.

"'So, to put them all to silence, I again ascended on board, for I had
neglected to take my great-coat. But I put it on, and waited for the
sailing-master. The boat was pushed off, I attempted to row, but an
English sailor said, very kindly, 'Give me the oar. You are too unwell.'
* * * I looked back to the black and unsightly old ship as to an object
of the greatest horror. * * * We ascended the creek and arrived at the
spring, and I proposed to the sailors to go in quest of apples."

The sailing-master said to him, "This fresh air will be of service to
you." This emboldened him to ask leave to ascend a bank about
thirty feet high, and to call at a house near the spring to ask for
refreshment. "Go," said Mr. Emery, "but take care not to be out of the
way." He replied that his state of health was such that nothing was
to be feared from him on that account. He managed to get into a small
orchard that belonged to the farmhouse. There he saw a sentinel, who was
placed on guard over a pile of apples. He soon convinced himself
that this man was indifferent to his movements, and, watching his
opportunity, when the man's back was turned, he slipped beyond the
orchard, into a dense swamp, covered with a thick undergrowth of
saplings and bushes. Here there was a huge prostrate log twenty feet in
length, curtained with a dense tangle of green briar.

"Lifting up this covering I crept in, close by the log, and rested
comfortably, defended from the northeast storm which soon commenced."

He heard the boat's crew making inquiries for him but no one discovered
his hiding-place. One of them declared that he was safe enough, and
would never live to go a mile. In the middle of the night he left his
hiding place, and fell into a road which he pursued some distance. When
he heard approaching footsteps he would creep off the path, roll himself
up into a ball to look like a bush, and remain perfectly still until the
coast was clear. He now felt that a wonderful Providence was watching
over him. His forethought in returning for his overcoat was the means
of saving his life, as he would undoubtedly have perished from exposure
without it. Next night he hid in a high stack of hay, suffering greatly.
When the storm was over he left this hiding place, and entered a deep
hollow in the woods near by, where he felt secure from observation. Here
he took off his clothes and spread them in the sun to dry.

Returning to the road he was proceeding on his way, when at a bend in
the road, he came upon two light dragoons, evidently looking for him.
What was he to do? His mind acted quickly, and, as they approached, he
leisurely got over a fence into a small corn field, near a cottage by
the way-side. Here he busied himself as if he were the owner of the
cottage, going about the field; deliberately picking up ears of corn;
righting up the cap sheaf of a stack of stalks, and examining each
one. He had lost his hat, and had a handkerchief around his head, which
helped to deceive the dragoons, who supposed that he had just come out
of the cottage. They eyed him sharply, but passed on.

After this he dared not show himself, and wandered about, living on
apples and water. He would lie concealed all day, in barns or hollows of
the woods. At night he travelled as far as his weakened condition
would allow He often found unfermented cider at the presses, for it was
cider-making time.

After several days of this wandering life he sought refuge in a barn,
where he was found by a cross old man, who refused to do anything for
him. He says that in the course of his wanderings he uniformly found
women kind and helpful. They gave him food and kept his secret. One
night, feeling utterly spent, he came to the poor dwelling of an old
man and his wife, on the east side of Long Island. These good people
assisted him by every means in their power, as if he were their own son.
They took off his clothes, giving him another suit until they had baked
all his garments in the oven to destroy the vermin which tormented him
day and night. They insisted upon his occupying a clean bed. That night
he slept sweetly, rid of the intolerable torture of being eaten up
alive. He managed to reach Sag Harbor, where he found two other escaped
prisoners. Soon he was smuggled to Connecticut in a whale-boat, and
restored to his mother. It was late in October when he reached home.
He was very ill and delirious for a long time, but finally recovered,
taught school for some time, and finally became a minister of the



By far the most complete account of life on board the Old Jersey is
contained in Captain Dring's Recollections. His nature was hopeful, and
his constitution strong and enduring. He attempted to make the best of
his situation, and succeeded in leading as nearly a tolerable life
on board the prison-ship as was possible. His book is too long for
insertion in these pages, but we will endeavor to give the reader an
abstract of it.

This book was published in 1865, having been prepared for the press and
annotated by Mr. Albert G. Greene, who speaks of Captain Dring as "a
frank, outspoken, and honest seaman." His original manuscript was first
published in 1829.

Dring describes the prison ships as leaky old hulks, condemned as unfit
for hospitals or store ships, but considered good enough for prisoners
doomed to speedy annihilation. He says:

"There is little doubt that the superior officers of the Royal Navy
under whose exclusive jurisdiction were these ships, intended to insure,
as far as possible, the good health of those who were confined on board
of them; there is just as little doubt, however, that the inferior
officers, under whose control those prisoners were more immediately
placed, * * * too often frustrated the purposes of their superior
officers, and too often disgraced humanity, by their wilful disregard of
the policy of their Government, and of the orders of their superiors, by
the uncalled-for severity of their treatment of those who were placed in
their custody, and by their shameless malappropriation of the means
of support which were placed in their hands for the sustenance of the

However that may be, the superior officers must have known that the
prison ships were unfit for human habitation; that they were fearfully
overcrowded; and that the mortality on board of them was unprecedented
in the annals of prison life.

The introduction to Captain Drings's recollections declares, what is
well known, that General Washington possessed but limited authority; he
was the Commander-in-Chief of the army, but had nothing to do with the
American Navy, and still less with the crews of privateers, who made up
a very large portion of the men on board the Jersey. Yet he did all he
could, actuated, as he always was, by the purest motives of benevolence
and humanity.

"The authority to exchange naval prisoners," to quote from this
introduction, "was not invested in Washington, but in the Financier, and
as the prisoners on the Jersey freely set forth in their petition, the
former was comparatively helpless in the premises, although he earnestly
desired to relieve them from their sufferings.

"It will be seen from these circumstances that no blame could properly
attach to General Washington, or the Continental Congress, or the
Commissary of Prisoners; the blame belonged to those who were engaged
in privateering, all of whom had been accustomed to release, without
parole, the crews of the vessels which they captured, or enlist them on
other privateers; in both cases removing the very means by which alone
the release of their captive fellow seamen could be properly and safely

"From the careful perusal of all the information we possess on this
interesting subject, the reader will arise with the conviction that,
by unwarrantable abuses of authority; and unprincipled disregard of the
purposes of the British Government in some of its agents, great numbers
of helpless American prisoners were wantonly plunged into the deepest
distress; exposed to the most severe sufferings, and carried to
unhonored graves. * * * Enough will remain uncontradicted by competent
testimony to brand with everlasting infamy all who were immediately
concerned in the business; and to bring a blush of shame on the cheek of
every one who feels the least interest in the memory of any one who,
no matter how remotely, was a party to so mean and yet so horrible
an outrage. * * * The authors and abettors of the outrages to which
reference has been made will stand convicted not only of the most
heartless criminality against the laws of humanity and the laws of God,
but of the most flagrant violation of the Laws of Nations, and the Law
of the Land."

These extracts are all taken from the Introduction to Captain Dring's
Recollections, written by Mr. H. B. Dawson, in June, 1865.

Captain Dring was born in Newport, R. I., on the third of August, 1758.
He died in August, 1825, in Providence, R. I., and was about 67 years of
age at the time of his death. He was many years in the merchant service,
and wrote his recollections in 1824.

"I was first confined on the Good Hope, in the year 1779, then lying in
the North River opposite the city of New York, but after a confinement
of more than four months, I succeeded in making my escape to the Jersey

Captain Dring is said to have been one of the party who escaped from
the Good Hope in October, 1779. The New Jersey papers thus described the

"Chatham, N. J. Last Wednesday morning about one o'clock made their
escape from the Good Hope prison ship in the North River, nine Captains
and two privates. Among the number was Captain James Prince, who has
been confined four months, and having no prospect of being exchanged,
concerted a plan in conjunction with the other gentlemen to make their
escape, which they effected in the following manner: They confined the
Mate, disarmed the sentinels, and hoisted out the boat which was on
deck; they brought off nine stands of arms, one pair of pistols, and
a sufficient quantity of ammunition, being determined not to be taken
alive. They had scarce got clear of the ship before the alarm was given,
when they were fired on by three different ships, but fortunately no
person was hurt. Captain Prince speaks in the highest terms of Captain
Charles Nelson, who commanded the prison-ship, using the prisoners with
a great deal of humanity, particularly himself.

"I was again captured in 1782," Dring continues, "and conveyed on board
the Jersey, where * * * I was a witness and partaker of the unspeakable
sufferings of that wretched class of American prisoners who were there
taught the utmost extreme of human misery. I am now far advanced in
years, and am the only survivor, with the exception of two, of a crew
of 65 men. I often pass the descendant of one of my old companions in
captivity, and the recollection comes fresh to my mind that his father
was my comrade and fellow sufferer in prison; that I saw him breathe his
last upon the deck of the Jersey, and assisted at his interment at the
Waleboght; * * *

"In May, 1782, I sailed from Providence, R. I., as Master's-mate, on
board a privateer called the Chance, commanded by Captain Daniel Aborn,
mounting 12 six-pound cannon, and having a crew of 65 men."

This vessel was captured in a few days by the Belisarius, of 26 guns,
commanded by Captain Graves. The prisoners were brought to New York and
the Belisarius dropped her anchor abreast of the city. A large gondola
soon came alongside, in which was seated David Sproat, the much-hated
British Commissary of Naval Prisoners. He was an American refugee,
universally detested for the insolence of his manners, and the cruelty
of his conduct. The prisoners were ordered into the boats, and told to
apply themselves to the oars, but declined to exert themselves in that
manner, whereupon he scowled at them and remarked, "I'll soon fix you,
my lads!"

David Sproat found America too hot for him after the war and died at
Kirkcudbright, Scotland, in 1799.

Dring says: "My station in the boat as we hauled alongside, was exactly
opposite one of the air-ports in the side of the ship. From this
aperture proceeded a strong current of foul vapor of a kind to which I
had been before accustomed while confined on board the Good Hope, the
peculiar disgusting smell of which I then recollected, after a lapse
of three years. This was, however, far more foul and loathsome than
anything which I had ever met with on board that ship, and it produced a
sensation of nausea far beyond my powers of description.

"Here, while waiting for orders to ascend on board, we were addressed
by some of the prisoners from the air-ports * * * after some questions
whence we came, and respecting the manner of our capture, one of the
prisoners said that it was a lamentable thing to see so many young men
in the prime of health and vigor condemned to a living grave." He went
on to say that Death passed over such human skeletons as himself as
unworthy of his powers, but that he delighted in making the strong, the
youthful, and the vigorous, his prey.

After the prisoners had been made to descend the hatchways, these were
then fastened down for the night. Dring says it was impossible for him
to find one of his companions in the darkness.

"Surrounded by I knew not whom, except that they were beings as wretched
as myself; with dismal sounds meeting my ears from every direction; a
nauseous and putrid atmosphere filling my lungs at every breath; and a
stifling and suffocating heat which almost deprived me of sense, even
of life. Previous to leaving the boat I had put on several articles
of clothing, for the purpose of security, but I was soon compelled to
disencumber myself of these. * * * Thoughts of sleep did not enter into
my mind."

He discovered a gleam of light from one of the port-holes and keeping
hold of his bag endeavored to make his way to it, but was greeted by
curses and imprecations from those who were lying on the deck, and whom
he disturbed. At length he arrived at the desired spot, but found it
occupied. In the morning he saw himself surrounded by a crowd of forms,
with the hues of death and famine upon their faces. At eight o'clock
they were permitted to ascend on deck, and he found some of his friends.

"Pale and meagre, the throng came on deck, to view for a few moments the
morning sun, and then to descend again, to pass another day of misery
and wretchedness. I found myself surrounded by a motley crew of
wretches, with tattered garments and pallid visages. * * * Among them I
saw one ruddy and heathful countenance, and recognized the features of
one of my late companions on the Belisarius. But how different did
he appear from the group around him * * * men who, now shrunken and
decayed, had but a short time before been as strong, as healthful, and
as vigorous as himself. * * * During the night I had, in addition to my
other sufferings, been tormented with what I supposed to be vermin, and
on coming upon deck, I found that a black silk handkerchief, which I
wore around my neck, was completely spotted with them. Although this had
often been mentioned as one of the nuisances of the place, yet as I had
never before been in a situation to witness anything of the kind, the
sight made me shudder, as I knew at once that as long as I should remain
on board, these loathsome creatures would be my constant companions and
unceasing tormentors.

"The next disgusting object which met my sight was a man suffering from
small-pox, and in a few minutes I found myself surrounded by many others
laboring under the same disease in every stage of its progress."

Dring was obliged to inoculate himself, as that was thought to be
the safest way of taking the disease. He borrowed some virus from a
sufferer, and scarified the skin of his hand with a pin. He then bound
up his hand. Next morning he found that it had festered. He took the
disease lightly, and soon recovered, while a very large proportion of
those who contracted smallpox in the natural manner died of it.

All the prisoners from the Belisarius were obliged to fast for
twenty-four hours. Dring had some ship biscuit with him, in his bag.
These he distributed to his companions. They then formed themselves into
messes of six each, and next morning drew their scanty pittance of food.

We have said that Dring and the other officers on board solved the
problem of living with _comparative_ comfort on board the Jersey. As
they were officers, the gun-room was given up to their use, and they
were not so terribly crowded as the common sailors. Also the officers
had money to supply many of their wants, but all this will appear in the
course of the narrative.

He says that, even on the second day of their confinement, they could
not obtain their allowance of food in time to cook it. No distinction of
rank was made by the jailors on the Jersey, but the prisoners themselves
agreed to allow the officers to occupy the extreme afterpart of the
ship, between decks, called the gun-room. Dring soon became an inmate
of this place, in company with the other officers who were already in
possession, and these tendered him all the little services in their

The different messes were all numbered. At nine o'clock the steward and
his assistants would take their places at the window in the bulk head in
the steward's room, and ring a bell. A man from each mess stood ready
to be in time to answer when his number was called. The rations were all
prepared ready for delivery. They were on two-thirds allowance. This is
the full allowance for a British seaman:

  Sunday--1 lb. biscuit, 1 lb. pork, and half a pint of peas.
  Monday--1 lb. biscuit, 1 pint oatmeal, 2 oz. butter.
  Tuesday-1 lb. biscuit, and 2 lbs. beef.
  Wednesday--1-1/2 lbs. flour, and 2 ounces suet.
  Thursday--Same as Sunday.
  Friday--Same as Monday.
  Saturday--Same as Tuesday.

Two thirds of this allowance for each man would have been sufficient
to sustain life, had it been of moderately good quality. They never
received butter, but a rancid and ill-smelling substance called sweet
oil. "The smell of it, accustomed as we were to everything foul and
nauseous, was more than we could endure. We, however, always received
it, and gave it to the poor, half-starved Frenchmen who were on board,
who took it gratefully, and swallowed it with a little salt and their
wormy bread."

Oil had been dealt out to the prisoners on the Good Hope, but there it
was hoarded carefully, for they were allowed lights until nine P.M.,
so they used it in their lamps. But on the Jersey, Dring declares that
neither light nor fire was ever allowed.

Often their provisions were not dealt out in time to be cooked that day,
and then they had to fast or eat them raw. The cooking was done in
the "Great Copper" under the forecastle. This was a boiler enclosed in
brick-work about eight feet square. It was large enough to contain
two or three hogsheads of water. It was square, and divided into two
portions. In one side peas and oatmeal were boiled in fresh water. On
the other side the meat was boiled in salt water, and as we have already
stated the food was poisoned by copperas. This was the cause, it is
believed, of many deaths, especially as the water was obtained from
alongside the ship, and was extremely unwholesome.

The portion of each mess was designated by a tally fastened to it by a
string. Hundreds of tallies were to be seen hanging over the sides of
the brick-work by their strings, each eagerly watched by some member of
the mess, who waited to receive it.

The meat was suffered to remain in the boiler a certain time, then
the cook's bell was rung, and the pittance of food must be immediately
removed, whether sufficiently cooked or not. The proportion of peas and
oatmeal belonging to each mess was measured out of the copper after it
was boiled.

The cook alone seemed to have much flesh on his bones. He had been a
prisoner, but seeing no prospect of ever being liberated he had offered
his services, and his mates and scullions were also prisoners who had
followed his example. The cook was not ill-natured, and although
often cursed by the prisoners when out of hearing, he really displayed
fortitude and forbearance far beyond what most men would have been
capable of showing. "At times, when his patience was exhausted, he
did, indeed, make the hot water fly among us, but a reconciliation was
usually effected with little difficulty.

"Many of the different messes had obtained leave from His Majesty the
Cook to prepare their own rations, separate from the general mess in the
great boiler. For this purpose a great many spikes and hooks had been
driven into the brick-work by which the boiler was enclosed, on which to
suspend their tin kettles. As soon as we were permitted to go on deck in
the morning, some one took the tin kettle belonging to the mess, with as
much water and as many splinters of wood as we had been able to procure
during the previous day, and carried them to the Galley; and there
having suspended his kettle on one of the hooks or spikes stood ready to
kindle his little fire as soon as the Cook or his mates would permit.
It required but little fire to boil our food in these kettles, for their
bottoms were made concave, and the fire was applied directly in the
centre, and let the remaining brands be ever so small they were all
carefully quenched; and having been conveyed below were kept for use on
a future occasion.

"Much contention often arose through our endeavors to obtain places
around the brick-work, but these disputes were always promptly decided
by the Cook, from whose mandate there was no appeal. No sooner had one
prisoner completed the cooking for his mess, than another supplicant
stood ready to take his place; and they thus continued to throng the
galley, during the whole time that the fire was allowed to remain under
the Great Copper, unless it happened to be the pleasure of the Cook to
drive them away. *[...] Each man in the mess procured and saved as much
water as possible during the previous day; as no person was ever allowed
to take more than a pint at a time from the scuttle-cask in which it was
kept. Every individual was therefor obliged each day to save a little
for the common use of the mess on the next morning. By this arrangement
the mess to which I belonged had always a small quantity of fresh water
in store, which we carefully kept, with a few other necessaries, in a
chest which we used in common.

"During the whole period of my confinement I never partook of any food
which had been prepared in the Great Copper. It is to this fact that I
have always attributed, under Divine Providence, the degree of health
which I preserved on board. I was thereby also, at times, enabled to
procure several necessary and comfortable things, such as tea, sugar,
etc. so that, wretchedly as I was situated, my condition was far
preferable to that of most of my fellow sufferers, which has ever been
to me a theme of sincere and lasting gratitude to Heaven.

"But terrible indeed was the condition of most of my fellow captives.
Memory still brings before me those emaciated beings, moving from the
Galley with their wretched pittance of meat; each creeping to the spot
where his mess was assembled, to divide it with a group of haggard and
sickly creatures, their garments hanging in tatters round their meagre
limbs, and the hue of death upon their careworn faces. By these it was
consumed with the scanty remnants of bread, which was often mouldy and
filled with worms. And even from this vile fare they would rise up in
torments from the cravings of unsatisfied hunger and thirst.

"No vegetables of any description were ever afforded us by our inhuman
keepers. Good Heaven! what a luxury to us would then have been even a
few potatoes!--if but the very leavings of swine. * * *

  "Oh my heart sinks, my pitying eyes o'erflow,
  When memory paints the picture of their woe
  Where my poor countrymen in bondage wait
  The slow enfranchisement of lingering fate,
  Greeting with groans the unwelcome night's return,
  While rage and shame their gloomy bosoms burn,
  And chiding, every hour, the slow-paced sun,
  Endure their woes till all his race was run
  No one to mark the sufferers with a tear
  No friend to comfort, and no hope to cheer,
  And like the dull, unpitied brutes repair
  To stalls as wretched, and as coarse a fare;
  Thank Heaven one day of misery was o'er,
  And sink to sleep, and wish to wake no more."



"The quarter-deck of the Jersey covered about one-fourth of the upper
deck, and the forecastle extended from the stern, about one-eighth
part of the length of the upper deck. Sentinels were stationed on the
gangways on each side of the upper deck, leading from the quarter-deck
to the forecastle. These gangways were about five feet wide; and here
the prisoners were allowed to pass and repass. The intermediate space
from the bulkhead of the quarter-deck to the forecastle was filled with
long spars and booms, and called the spar-deck. The temporary covering
afforded by the spar-deck was of the greatest benefit to the prisoners,
as it served to shield us from the rain and the scorching rays of the
sun. It was here, therefore, that our movables were placed when we were
engaged in cleaning the lower decks. The spar-deck was also the only
place where we were allowed to walk, and was crowded through the day by
the prisoners on deck. Owing to the great number of prisoners, and the
small space allowed us by the spar-deck, it was our custom to walk in
platoons, each facing the same way, and turning at the same time. The
Derrick for taking in wood, water, etc., stood on the starboard side
of the spar-deck. On the larboard side of the ship was placed the
accommodation ladder, leading from the gangway to the water. At the head
of the ladder a sentinel was also stationed.

"The head of the accommodation ladder was near the door of the
barricade, which extended across the front of the quarter-deck, and
projected a few feet beyond the sides of the ship. The barricade was
about ten feet high, and was pierced with loop-holes for musketry in
order that the prisoners might be fired on from behind it, if occasion
should require.

"The regular crew of the ship consisted of a Captain, two Mates, a
Steward, a Corporal, and about 12 sailors. The crew of the ship had no
communication whatever with the prisoners. No person was ever permitted
to pass through the barricade door, except when it was required that the
messes should be examined and regulated, in which case each man had
to pass through, and go between decks, and there remain until the
examination was completed. None of the guard or of the ship's crew ever
came among the prisoners while I was on board. I never saw one of her
officers or men except when there were passengers going in the boat, to
or from the stern-ladder.

"On the two decks below, where we were confined at night, our chests,
boxes, and bags were arranged in two lines along the decks, about ten
feet distant from the sides of the ship; thus leaving as wide a space
unencumbered in the middle of each deck, fore and aft, as our crowded
situation would admit. Between these tiers of chests, etc., and the
sides of the ship, was the place where the different messes assembled;
and some of the messes were also separated from their neighbors by a
temporary partition of chests, etc. Some individuals of the different
messes usually slept on the chests, in order to preserve their contents
from being plundered in the night.

"At night the spaces in the middle of the decks were much encumbered
with hammocks, but these were always removed in the morning. * * *
My usual place of abode being in the Gunroom, I was never under the
necessity of descending to the lower dungeon; and during my confinement
I had no disposition to visit it. It was inhabited by the most wretched
in appearance of all our miserable company. From the disgusting and
squalid appearance of the groups which I saw ascending the stairs which
led to it, it must have been more dismal, if possible, than that part
of the hulk where I resided. Its occupants appeared to be mostly
foreigners, who had seen and survived every variety of human suffering.
The faces of many of them were covered with dirt and filth; their long
hair and beards matted and foul; clothed in rags, and with scarcely a
sufficient supply of these to cover their disgusting bodies. Many among
them possessed no clothing except the remnant of those garments which
they wore when first brought on board; and were unable to procure even
any material for patching these together, when they had been worn to
tatters by constant use. * * * Some, and indeed many of them, had not
the means of procuring a razor, or an ounce of soap.

"Their beards were occasionally reduced by each other with a pair of
shears or scissors. * * * Their skins were discoloured by continual
washing in salt water, added to the circumstance that it was impossible
for them to wash their linen in any other manner than by laying it on
the deck and stamping on it with their feet, after it had been immersed
in salt water, their bodies remaining naked during the process.

"To men in this situation everything like ordinary cleanliness was
impossible. Much that was disgusting in their appearance undoubtedly
originated from neglect, which long confinement had rendered habitual,
until it created a confirmed indifference to personal appearance.

"As soon as the gratings had been fastened over the hatchways for the
night, we usually went to our sleeping places. It was, of course, always
desirable to obtain a station as near as possible to the side of the
ship, and, if practicable, in the immediate vicinity of one of the
air-ports, as this not only afforded us a better air, but also rendered
us less liable to be trodden upon by those who were moving about the
decks during the night.

"But silence was a stranger to our dark abode. There were continual
noises during the night. The groans of the sick and the dying; the
curses poured out by the weary and exhausted upon our inhuman keepers;
the restlessness caused by the suffocating heat, and the confined and
poisonous air, mingled with the wild and incoherent ravings of delirium,
were the sounds which every night were raised around us in every
direction. Such was our ordinary situation, but at times the
consequences of our crowded condition were still more terrible, and
proved fatal to many of our number in a single night.

"But, strange as it may appear, notwithstanding all the * * * suffering
which was there endured I knew many who had been inmates of that abode
for two years, who were apparently perfectly well. They had, as they
expressed it, 'been through the furnace and become seasoned.' Most of
these, however, were foreigners, who appeared to have abandoned all hope
of ever being exchanged, and had become quite indifferent with regard to
the place of their abode.

"But far different was the condition of that portion of our number who
were natives of the United States. These formed by far the most numerous
class of the prisoners. Most of these were young men, * * * who had been
captured soon after leaving their homes, and during their first voyage.
After they had been here immured the sudden change in their situation
was like a sentence of death. Many a one was crushed down beneath the
sickness of the heart, so well described by the poet:--

          "'Night and day,
  Brooding on what he had been, what he was,
  'Twas more than he could bear, his longing fits
  Thickened upon him. _His desire for Home
  Became a madness_'

"These poor creatures had, in many instances, been plundered of their
wearing apparel by their captors, and here, the dismal and disgusting
objects by which they were surrounded, the vermin which infested them,
the vile and loathsome food, and what with _them_ was far from being the
lightest of their trials, their ceaseless longing after their _homes_, *
* * all combined, had a wonderful effect on them. Dejection and anguish
were soon visible on their countenances. They became dismayed and
terror-stricken; and many of them absolutely died that most awful of all
human deaths, the effects of a _broken heart_.

"A custom had long been established that certain labor which it was
necessary should be performed daily, should be done by a company,
usually called the 'Working party.' This consisted of about twenty
able-bodied men chosen from among the prisoners, and was commanded, in
daily rotation, by those of our number who had formerly been officers
of vessels. The commander of the party for the day bore the title of
Boatswain. The members of the Working-party received, as a compensation
for their services, a full allowance of provisions, and half a pint of
rum each, with the privilege of going on deck early in the morning, to
breathe the pure air.

"This privilege alone was a sufficient compensation for all the duty
which was required of them.

"Their routine of service was to wash down that part of the upper deck
and gangways where the prisoners were permitted to walk; to spread the
awning, or to hoist on board the wood, water, and other supplies, from
the boats in which the same were brought alongside the ship.

"When the prisoners ascended to the upper deck in the morning, if the
day was fair, each carried up his hammock and bedding, which were all
placed upon the spar-deck, or booms. The Working-party then took the
sick and disabled who remained below, and placed them in the bunks
prepared for them upon the centre-deck; they then, if any of the
prisoners had died during the night, carried up the dead bodies, and
laid them upon the booms; after which it was their duty to wash down the
main decks below; during which operation the prisoners remained on
the upper deck, except such as chose to go below and volunteer their
services in the performance of this duty.

"Around the railing of the hatchway leading from the centre to the lower
decks, were placed a number of large tubs for the occasional use of
the prisoners during the night, and as general receptacles of filth.
Although these were indispensably necessary to us, yet they were highly
offensive. It was a part of the duty of the Working-party to carry these
on deck, at the time when the prisoners ascended in the morning, and to
return them between decks in the afternoon.

"Our beds and clothing were kept on deck until nearly the hour when we
were to be ordered below for the night. During this interval * * * the
decks washed and cleared of all incumbrance, except the poor wretches
who lay in the bunks, it was quite refreshing after the suffocating heat
and foul vapors of the night to walk between decks. There was then some
circulation of air through the ship, and, for a few hours, our existence
was, in some degree, tolerable.

"About two hours before sunset the order was usually issued for the
prisoners to carry their hammocks, etc., below. After this had been done
we were all either to retire between decks, or to remain above until
sunset according to our own pleasure. Everything which we could do
conducive to cleanliness having then been performed, if we ever felt
anything like enjoyment in this wretched abode, it was during this brief
interval, when we breathed the cool air of the approaching night, and
felt the luxury of our evening pipe. But short indeed was this interval
of repose. The Working-party was soon ordered to carry the tubs below,
and we prepared to descend to our gloomy and crowded dungeons. This was
no sooner done than the gratings were closed over the hatchways,
the sentinels stationed, and we left to sicken and pine beneath our
accumulated torments; with our guards above crying aloud, through the
long night, 'All's well!"'

Captain Dring says that at that time the Jersey was used for seamen
alone. The average number on board was one thousand. It consisted of the
crews of vessels of all the nations with which the English were at war.
But the greater number had been captured on board American vessels.

There were three hospital ships in the Wallabout; the Stromboli, the
Hunter, and the Scorpion. [Footnote: At one time as we have seen, the
Scorpion was a prison ship, from which Freneau was sent to the Hunter
hospital ship.] There was not room enough on board these ships for
all the sick, and a part of the upper deck of the Jersey was therefore
prepared for their accommodation. These were on the after part of the
upper deck, on the larboard side, where those who felt the symptoms of
approaching sickness could lie down, in order to be found by the nurses
as soon as possible.

Few ever returned from the hospital ships to the Jersey. Dring knew but
three such instances during his imprisonment. He says that "the outward
appearance of these hospitals was disgusting in the highest degree.
The sight of them was terrible to us. Their appearance was even more
shocking than that of our own miserable hulk.

"On board the Jersey among the prisoners were about half a dozen men
known by the appellation of nurses. I never learned by whom they were
appointed, or whether they had any regular appointment at all. But one
fact I knew well; they were all thieves. They were, however, sometimes
useful in assisting the sick to ascend from below to the gangway on the
upper deck, to be examined by the visiting Surgeon who attended from
the Hunter every day, when the weather was good. If a sick man was
pronounced by the Surgeon to be a proper subject for one of the hospital
ships, he was put into the boat waiting alongside; but not without the
loss or detention of his effects, if he had any, as these were at once
taken by the nurses, as their own property. * * * I had found Mr. Robert
Carver, our Gunner while on board the Chance, sick in one of the bunks
where those retired who wished to be removed. He was without a bed
or pillow, and had put on all the wearing apparel which he possessed,
wishing to preserve it, and being sensible of his situation. I found him
sitting upright in the bunk, with his great-coat on over the rest of
his garments, and his hat between his knees. The weather was excessively
hot, and, in the place where he lay, the heat was overpowering. I at
once saw that he was delirious, a sure presage that the end was near. I
took off his great-coat, and having folded and placed it under his head
for a pillow, I laid him upon it, and went immediately to prepare him
some tea. I was absent but a few minutes, and, on returning, met one of
the thievish Nurses with Carver's great-coat in his hand. On ordering
him to return it his reply was that it was a perquisite of the Nurses,
and the only one they had; that the man was dying, and the great-coat
could be of no further use to him. I however, took possession of the
coat, and on my liberation, returned it to the family of the owner. Mr
Carver soon after expired where he lay. We procured a blanket in which
to wrap his body, which was thus prepared for interment. Others of the
crew of the Chance had died before that time. Mr Carver was a man
of strong and robust constitution. Such men were subject to the most
violent attacks of the fever, and were also its most certain victims."



Captain Dring continues his narrative by describing the manner in which
the dead were interred in the sand of the Wallabout. Every morning, he
says, the dead bodies were carried to the upper deck and there laid
upon the gratings. Any person who could procure, and chose to furnish,
a blanket, was allowed to sew it around the remains of his departed

"The signal being made, a boat was soon seen approaching from the
Hunter, and if there were any dead on board the other ships, the boat
received them, on her way to the Jersey.

"The corpse was laid upon a board, to which some ropes were attached
as straps; as it was often the case that bodies were sent on shore for
interment before they had become sufficiently stiff to be lowered into
the boat by a single strap. Thus prepared a tackle was attached to the
board, and the remains * * * were hoisted over the side of the ship into
the boat, without further ceremony. If several bodies were waiting for
interment, but one of them was lowered into the boat at a time, for the
sake of decency. The prisoners were always very anxious to be engaged in
the duty of interment, not so much from a feeling of humanity, or from
a wish to pay respect to the remains of the dead, for to these feelings
they had almost become strangers, as from the desire of once more
placing their feet on the land, if but for a few minutes. A sufficient
number of prisoners having received permission to assist in this duty,
they entered the boat accompanied by a guard of soldiers, and put off
from the ship.

"I obtained leave to assist in the burial of the body of Mr. Carver, * *
* and after landing at a low wharf which had been built from the shore,
we first went to a small hut, which stood near the wharf, and was used
as a place of deposit for the handbarrows and shovels provided for these
occasions. Having placed the corpses on the barrows, and received
our hoes and shovels, we proceeded to the side of the bank near the
Waleboght. Here a vacant space having been selected, we were directed
to dig a trench in the sand, of a proper length for the reception of
the bodies. We continued our labor until the guards considered that a
sufficient space had been excavated. The corpses were then laid in the
trench without ceremony, and we threw the sand over them. The whole
appeared to produce no more effect upon our guards than if they were
burying the bodies of dead animals, instead of men. They scarcely
allowed us time to look about us; for no sooner had we heaped the earth
upon the trench, than we were ordered to march. But a single glance was
sufficient to show us parts of many bodies which were exposed to view,
although they had probably been placed there with the same mockery of
interment but a few days before.

"Having thus performed, as well as we were permitted to do it, the last
duty to the dead, and the guards having stationed themselves on each
side of us, we began reluctantly to retrace our steps to the boat. We
had enjoyed the pleasure of breathing for a few minutes the air of our
native soil; and the thought of return to the crowded prison-ship was
terrible in the extreme. As we passed by the waterside we implored
our guards to allow us to bathe, or even to wash ourselves for a few
minutes, but this was refused us.

"I was the only person of our party who wore a pair of shoes, and well
recollect that I took them off for the pleasure of feeling the earth,
or rather the sand, as we went along. * * * We went by a small patch
of turf, some pieces of which we tore up from the earth, and obtained
permission to carry them on board for our comrades to smell them.
Circumstances like these may appear trifling to the careless reader; but
let him be assured that they were far from being trifles to men situated
as we had been. The inflictions which we had endured; the duty which we
had just performed; the feeling that we must, in a few minutes, re-enter
the place of suffering, from which, in all probability, we should never
return alive; all tended to render everything connected with the firm
land beneath, and the sweet air above us, objects of deep and thrilling

"Having arrived at the hut we there deposited our implements, and
walked to the landing-place, where we prevailed on our guards, who were
Hessians, to allow us the gratification of remaining nearly half an hour
before we returned to the boat.

"Near us stood a house occupied by a miller, and we had been told that
a tide-mill which he attended was in the immediate vicinity, as a
landing-place for which the wharf where we stood had been erected. * *
* It was designated by the prisoners by the appellation of the 'Old
Dutchman's,' and its very walls were viewed by us with feelings of
veneration, as we had been told that the amiable daughter of its owner
had kept an accurate account of the number of bodies that had been
brought on shore for interment from the Jersey and hospital ships. This
could easily be done in the house, as its windows commanded a fair view
of the landing place. We were not, however, gratified by a sight of
herself, or of any other inmate of the house.

"Sadly did we approach and re-enter our foul and disgusting place of
confinement. The pieces of turf which we carried on board were sought
for by our fellow prisoners, with the greatest avidity, every fragment
being passed by them from hand to hand, and its smell inhaled as if it
had been a fragrant rose. * * * The first of the crew of the Chance to
die was a lad named Palmer, about twelve years of age, and the youngest
of our crew. When on board the Chance he was a waiter to the officers,
and he continued in this duty after we were placed on board the Jersey.
He had, with many others of our crew, been inoculated for the small-pox,
immediately after our arrival on board. The usual symptoms appeared
at the proper time, and we supposed the appearance of his disorder
favorable, but these soon changed, and the yellow hue of his features
declared the approach of death. * * * The night he died was truly a
wretched one for me. I spent most of it in total darkness, holding him
during his convulsions. * * * I had done everything in my power for this
poor boy, during his sickness, and could render him but one more kind
office (after his death). I assisted to sew a blanket around his body,
which was, with others who had died, during the night, conveyed upon
deck in the morning, to be at the usual hour hurried to the bank at the
Walebocht. I regretted that I could not assist at his interment, as I
was then suffering with the small-pox myself, neither am I certain that
permission would have been granted me, if I had sought it. Our keepers
appeared to have no idea that the prisoners could feel any regard for
each other, but appeared to think us as cold-hearted as themselves. If
anything like sympathy was ever shown us by any of them it was done
by the Hessians. * * * The next deaths among our company were those of
Thomas Mitchell and his son-in-law, Thomas Sturmey. It is a singular
fact that both of these men died at the same time."


"In addition to the regular officers and seamen of the Jersey, there
were stationed on board about a dozen old invalid Marines, but our
actual guard was composed of soldiers from the different regiments
quartered on Long Island. The number usually on duty on board was
about thirty. Each week they were relieved by a fresh party. They were
English, Hessian, and Refugees. We always preferred the Hessians,
from whom we received better treatment than from the others. As to the
English, we did not complain, being aware that they merely obeyed their
orders, in regard to us; but the Refugees * * * were viewed by us with
scorn and hatred. I do not recollect, however, that a guard of these
miscreants was placed over us more than three times, during which their
presence occasioned much tumult and confusion; for the prisoners could
not endure the sight of these men, and occasionally assailed them with
abusive language, while they, in turn, treated us with all the severity
in their power. We dared not approach near them, for fear of their
bayonets, and of course could not pass along the gangways where they
were stationed; but were obliged to crawl along upon the booms, in order
to get fore and aft, or to go up and down the hatchways. They never
answered any of our remarks respecting them, but would merely point to
their uniforms, as much as to say, 'We are clothed by our Sovereign,
while you are naked.' They were as much gratified by the idea of leaving
us as we were at seeing them depart.

"Many provoking gestures were made by the prisoners as they left the
ship, and our curses followed them as far as we could make ourselves

"A regiment of Refugees, with a green uniform, were then quartered at
Brooklyn. We were invited to join this Royal band, and to partake of his
Majesty's pardon and bounty. But the prisoners, in the midst of their
unbounded sufferings, of their dreadful privations, and consuming
anguish, spurned the insulting offer. They preferred to linger and to
die rather than desert their country's cause. During the whole period
of my confinement I never knew a single instance of enlistment among the
prisoners of the Jersey.

"The only duty, to my knowledge, ever performed by the old Marines was
to guard the water-butt, near which one of them was stationed with a
drawn cutlass. They were ordered to allow no prisoner to carry away more
than one pint at once, but we were allowed to drink at the butt as much
as we pleased, for which purpose two or three copper ladles were chained
to the cask. Having been long on board and regular in performance of
this duty, they had become familiar with the faces of the prisoners, and
could, in many instances, detect the frauds which we practiced upon them
in order to obtain more fresh water for our cooking than was allowed
us by the regulations of the ship. Over the water the sailors had no
control. The daily consumption of water on board was at least equal to
700 gallons. I know not whence it was brought, but presume it was from
Brooklyn. One large gondola, or boat, was kept in constant employment to
furnish the necessary supply.

"So much of the water as was not required on deck for immediate use was
conducted into butts, placed in the lower hold of the hulk, through a
leather hose, passing through her side, near the bends. To this water we
had recourse, when we could procure no other.

"When water in any degree fit for use was brought on board, it is
impossible to describe the struggle which ensued, in consequence of our
haste and exertions to procure a draught of it. The best which was
ever afforded us was very brackish, but that from the ship's hold was
nauseous in the highest degree. This must be evident when the fact is
stated that the butts for receiving it had never been cleaned since they
were put in the hold. The quantity of foul sediment which they contained
was therefore very great, and was disturbed and mixed with the water
as often as a new supply was poured into them, thereby rendering their
whole contents a substance of the most disgusting and poisonous nature.
I have not the least doubt that the use of this vile compound caused
the death of hundreds of the prisoners, when, to allay their tormenting
thirst, they were driven by desperation to drink this liquid poison, and
to abide the consequences."



"One indulgence was allowed us by our keepers, if indulgence it can be
called. They had given permission for a boat to come alongside the ship,
with a supply of a few necessary articles, to be sold to such of the
prisoners as possessed the means of paying for them. This trade was
carried on by a very corpulent old woman, known among us by the name of
Dame Grant. Her visits, which were made every other day, were of much
benefit to us, and, I presume, a source of profit to herself. She
brought us soft bread and fruit, with various other articles, such as
tea, sugar, etc., all of which she previously put up into small paper
parcels, from one ounce to a pound in weight, with the price affixed
to each, from which she would never deviate. The bulk of the old lady
completely filled the stern sheets of the boat, where she sat, with her
box of goods before her, from which she supplied us very expeditiously.
Her boat was rowed by two boys, who delivered to us the articles we had
purchased, the price of which we were required first to put into their

"When our guard was not composed of Refugees, we were usually permitted
to descend to the foot of the Accommodation-ladder, in order to select
from the boat such articles as we wished. While standing there it was
distressing to see the faces of hundreds of half-famished wretches,
looking over the side of the ship into the boat, without the means of
purchasing the most trifling article before their sight, not even so
much as a morsel of wholesome bread. None of us possessed the means of
generosity, nor had any power to afford them relief. Whenever I bought
any articles from the boat I never enjoyed them; for it was impossible
to do so in the presence of so many needy wretches, eagerly gazing at my
purchase, and almost dying for want of it.

"We frequently furnished Dame Grant with a memorandum of such articles
as we wished her to procure for us, such as pipes, tobacco, needles,
thread, and combs. These she always faithfully procured and brought to
us, never omitting the assurance that she afforded them exactly at cost.

"Her arrival was always a subject of interest to us; but at length she
did not make her appearance for several days, and her appearance was
awaited in extreme anxiety. But, alas! we were no longer to enjoy this
little gratification. Her traffic was ended. She had taken the fever
from the hulk, and died * * * leaving a void which was never afterwards
filled up."



"After the death of Dame Grant, we were under the necessity of puchasing
from the Sutler such small supplies as we needed. This man was one of
the Mates of the ship, and occupied one of the apartments under the
quarter-deck, through the bulkhead of which an opening had been cut,
from which he delivered his goods. He here kept for sale a variety of
articles, among which was usually a supply of ardent spirits, which
was not allowed to be brought alongside the ship, for sale. It could,
therefore, only be procured from the Sutler, whose price was two dollars
per gallon. Except in relation to this article, no regular price was
fixed for what he sold us. We were first obliged to hand him the money,
and he then gave us such a quantity as he pleased of the article which
we needed; there was on our part no bargain to be made, but to be
supplied even in this manner was, to those of us who had means of
payment, a great convenience. * * *

"Our own people afforded us no relief. O my country! Why were we thus
neglected in this hour of our misery, why was not a little food and
raiment given to the dying martyrs of thy cause?

"Although the supplies which some of us were enabled to procure from
the Sutler were highly conducive to our comfort, yet one most necessary
article neither himself nor any other person could furnish. This was
wood for our daily cooking, to procure a sufficient quantity of which
was to us a source of continual trouble and anxiety. The Cooks would
indeed steal small quantities, and sell them to us at the hazard
of certain punishment if detected; but it was not in their power to
embezzle a sufficient quantity to meet our daily necessities. As the
disgust at swallowing any food which had been cooked in the Great Copper
was universal, each person used every exertion to procure as much wood
as possible, for the private cooking of his own mess.

"During my excursion to the shore to assist in the interment of Mr.
Carver, it was my good fortune to find a hogshead stave floating in the
water. This was truly a prize I conveyed the treasure on board, and in
the economical manner in which it was used, it furnished the mess to
which I belonged with a supply of fuel for a considerable time.

"I was also truly fortunate on another occasion. I had, one day,
commanded the Working-party, which was then employed in taking on board
a sloop-load of wood for the sailors' use. This was carefully conveyed
below, under a guard, to prevent embezzlement. I nevertheless found
means, with the assistance of my associates, to convey a cleft of
it into the Gunroom, where it was immediately secreted. Our mess was
thereby supplied with a sufficient quantity for a long time, and its
members were considered by far the most wealthy persons in all this
republic of misery. We had enough for our own use, and were enabled,
occasionally, to supply our neighbors with a few splinters.

"Our mode of preparing the wood was to cut it with a jack-knife into
pieces about four inches long. This labor occupied much of our time, and
was performed by the different members of our mess in rotation, which
employment was to us a source of no little pleasure.

"After a sufficient quantity had been thus prepared for the next day's
use, it was deposited in the chest. The main stock was guarded by day
and night, with the most scrupulous and anxious care. We kept it at
night within our enclosure, and by day it was always watched by some
one of its proprietors. So highly did we value it that we went into
mathematical calculation to ascertain how long it would supply us, if a
given quantity was each day consumed."


"Soon after the Jersey was first used as a place of confinement a
code of by-laws had been established by the prisoners, for their own
regulation and government; to which a willing submission was paid, so
far as circumstances would permit. I much regret my inability to give
these rules verbatim, but I cannot at this distant period of time
recollect them with a sufficient degree of distinctness. They were
chiefly directed to the preservation of personal cleanliness, and the
prevention of immorality. For a refusal to comply with any of them,
the refractory person was subjected to a stated punishment. It is an
astonishing fact that any rules, thus made, should have so long existed
and been enforced among a multitude of men situated as we were, so
numerous and composed of that class of human beings who are not easily
controlled, and usually not the most ardent supporters of good order.
There were many foreigners among our number, over whom we had no
control, except so far as they chose, voluntarily, to submit to our
regulations, which they cheerfully did, in almost every instance, so far
as their condition would allow. Among our rules were the following. That
personal cleanliness should be preserved, as far as was practicable;
that profane language should be avoided; that drunkenness should not
be allowed; that theft should be severely punished, and that no smoking
should be permitted between decks, by day or night, on account of the
annoyance which it caused the sick.

"A due observance of the Sabbath was also strongly enjoined; and it
was recommended to every individual to appear cleanly shaved on Sunday
morning, and to refrain from all recreation during the day.

"This rule was particularly recommended to the attention of the
officers, and the remainder of the prisoners were desired to follow
their example.

"Our By-laws were occasionally read to the assembled prisoners, and
always whenever any person was to be punished for their violation. Theft
or fraud upon the allowance of a fellow prisoner was always punished,
and the infliction was always approved by the whole company. On these
occasions the oldest officer among the prisoners presided as Judge. It
required much exertion for many of us to comply with the law prohibiting
smoking between decks. Being myself much addicted to the habit of
smoking, it would have been a great privilege to have enjoyed the
liberty of thus indulging it, particularly during the night, while
sitting by one of the air-ports; but as this was inadmissible, I of
course submitted to the prohibition. * * * We were not allowed means of
striking a fire, and were obliged to procure it from the Cook employed
for the ship's officers, through a small window in the bulkhead, near
the caboose. After one had thus procured fire the rest were also soon
supplied, and our pipes were all in full operation in the course of
a few minutes. The smoke which rose around us appeared to purify
the pestilent air by which we were surrounded; and I attribute the
preservation of my health, in a great degree, to the exercise of this
habit. Our greatest difficulty was to procure tobacco. This, to some of
the prisoners, was impossible, and it must have been an aggravation to
their sufferings to see us apparently puffing away our sorrows, while
they had no means of procuring the enjoyment of a similar gratification.

"We dared not often apply at this Cook's caboose for fire, and the surly
wretch would not willingly repeat the supply. One morning I went to
the window of his den, and requested leave to light my pipe, and the
miscreant, without making any reply, threw a shovel full of burning
cinders in my face. I was almost blinded by the pain; and several days
elapsed before I fully regained my sight. My feelings on this occasion
may be imagined, but redress was impossible, as we were allowed no means
of even seeking it. I mention this occurrence to show to what a wretched
condition we were reduced."


"During the period of my confinement the Jersey was never visited by any
regular clergyman, nor was Divine service ever performed on board, and
among the whole multitude of prisoners there was but one individual
who ever attempted to deliver a set speech, or to exhort his fellow
sufferers. This individual was a young man named Cooper, whose station
in life was apparently that of a common sailor. He evidently possessed
talents of a very high order. His manners were pleasing, and he had
every appearance of having received an excellent education. He was a
Virginian; but I never learned the exact place of his nativity. He told
us that he had been a very unmanageable youth, and that he had left
his family, contrary to their wishes and advice; that he had been often
assured by them that the Old Jersey would bring him up at last, and the
Waleboght be his place of burial. 'The first of these predictions,'
said he, 'has been verified; and I care not how soon the second proves
equally true, for I am prepared for the event. Death, for me, has lost
its terrors, for with them I have been too long familiar.'

"On several Sunday mornings Cooper harangued the prisoners in a very
forcible yet pleasing manner, which, together with his language, made
a lasting impression upon my memory. On one of these occasions, having
mounted upon a temporary elevation upon the Spar-deck, he, in an audible
voice, requested the attention of the prisoners, who having immediately
gathered around him in silence, he commenced his discourse.

"He began by saying that he hoped no one would suppose he had taken that
station by way of derision or mockery of the holy day, for that such
was not his object; on the contrary he was pleased to find that the good
regulations established by the former prisoners, obliged us to refrain
even from recreation on the Sabbath; that his object, however, was not
to preach to us, nor to discourse upon any sacred subject; he wished to
read us our By-laws, a copy of which he held in his hand, the framers of
which were then, in all probability, sleeping in death, beneath the sand
of the shore before our eyes. That these laws had been framed in wisdom,
and were well fitted to preserve order and decorum in a community like
ours: that his present object was to impress upon our minds the absolute
necessity of a strict adherence to those wholesome regulations; that he
should briefly comment upon each article, which might be thus considered
as the particular text of that part of his discourse.

"He proceeded to point out the extreme necessity of a full observance of
these Rules of Conduct, and portrayed the evil consequences which would
inevitably result to us if we neglected or suffered them to fall into
disuse. He enforced the necessity of our unremitting attention to
personal cleanliness, and to the duties of morality; he dwelt upon the
degradation and sin of drunkeness; described the meanness and atrocity
of theft; and the high degree of caution against temptation necessary
for men who were perhaps standing on the very brink of the grave; and
added that, in his opinion, even sailors might as well refrain from
profane language, while they were actually suffering in Purgatory.

"He said that our present torments, in that abode of misery, were a
proper retribution for our former sins and transgressions; that Satan
had been permitted to send out his messengers and inferior demons in
every direction to collect us together, and that among the most active
of these infernal agents was David Sproat, Commissary of Prisoners.

"He then made some just and suitable observations on the fortitude with
which we had sustained the weight of our accumulated miseries; of our
firmness in refusing to accept the bribes of our invaders, and desert
the banners of our country. During this part of his discourse the
sentinels on the gangways occasionally stopped and listened attentively.
We much feared that by some imprudent remark, he might expose himself to
their resentment, and cautioned him not to proceed too far. He replied
our keepers could do nothing more, unless they should put him to the
torture, and that he should proceed.

"He touched on the fact that no clergyman had ever visited us; that
this was probably owing to the fear of contagion; but it was much to
be regretted that no one had ever come to afford a ray of hope, or to
administer the Word of Life in that terrific abode; that if any Minister
of the Gospel desired to do so, there could be no obstacles in the way,
for that even David Sproat himself, bad as he was, would not dare to
oppose it.

"He closed with a merited tribute to the memory of our fellow-sufferers,
who had already passed away. 'The time,' said he, 'will come when
their bones will be collected, when their rites of sepulchre will be
performed, and a monument erected over the remains of those who
have here suffered, the victims of barbarity, and who have died in
vindication of the rights of man.'

"The remarks of our Orator were well adapted to our situation, and
produced much effect on the prisoners, who at length began to accost him
as Elder or Parson Cooper. But this he would not allow; and told us,
if we would insist on giving him a title, we might call him Doctor, by
which name he was ever afterwards saluted, so long as he remained among

"He had been a prisoner for about the period of three months when
one day the Commissary of Prisoners came on board, accompanied by a
stranger, and inquired for Cooper, who having made his appearance, a
letter was put in his hand, which he perused, and immediately after left
the ship, without even going below for his clothing. While in the boat
he waived his hand, and bade us be of good cheer. We could only return a
mute farewell; and in a few minutes the boat had left the ship, and was
on its way to New York.

"Thus we lost our Orator, for whom I had a very high regard, at the
time, and whose character and manners have, ever since, been to me a
subject of pleasing recollection.

"Various were the conjectures which the sudden manner of his departure
caused on board. Some asserted that poor Cooper had drawn upon himself
the vengeance of old Sproat, and that he had been carried on shore to be
punished. No certain information was ever received respecting him, but I
have always thought that he was a member of some highly influential and
respectable family, and that his release had been effected through
the agency of his friends. This was often done by the influence of the
Royalists or Refugees of New York, who were sometimes the connections or
personal friends of those who applied for their assistance in procuring
the liberation of a son or a brother from captivity. Such kind offices
were thus frequently rendered to those who had chosen opposite sides in
the great revolutionary contest, and to whom, though directly opposed to
themselves in political proceedings, they were willing to render every
personal service in their power."



A few days before the fourth of July we had made such preparations as
our circumstances would admit for an observance of the anniversary of
American Independence. We had procured some supplies with which to make
ourselves merry on the occasion, and intended to spend the day in such
innocent pastimes as our situation would afford, not dreaming that our
proceeding would give umbrage to our keepers, as it was far from our
intention to trouble or insult them. We thought that, though prisoners,
we had a right, on that day at least, to sing and be merry. As soon as
we were permitted to go on deck in the morning thirteen little national
flags were displayed in a row on the boom. We were soon ordered by the
guards to take them away; and as we neglected to obey the command, they
triumphantly demolished, and trampled them under foot. Unfortunately for
us our guards at that time were Scotch, who, next to the Refugees, were
the objects of our greatest hatred; but their destruction of our flags
was merely viewed in silence, with the contempt which it merited.

"During the time we remained on deck several patriotic songs were sung,
and choruses repeated; but not a word was intentionally spoken to give
offence to our guards. They were, nevertheless, evidently dissatisfied
with our proceedings, as will soon appear. Their moroseness was a
prelude to what was to follow. We were, in a short time, forbidden to
pass along the common gangway, and every attempt to do so was repelled
by the bayonet. Although thus incommoded our mirth still continued.
Songs were still sung, accompanied by occasional cheers. Things thus
proceeded until about four o'clock; when the guards were ordered
out, and we received orders to descend between decks, where we were
immediately driven, at the point of the bayonet.

"After being thus sent below in the greatest confusion, at that early
and unusual hour, and having heard the gratings closed and fastened
above us, we supposed that the barbarous resentment of our guards was
fully satisfied; but we were mistaken, for they had further vengeance in
store, and merely waited for an opportunity to make us feel its weight.

"The prisoners continued their singing between decks, and were, of
course, more noisy than usual, but forbore even under their existing
temptations, to utter any insulting or aggravating expressions. At
least, I heard nothing of the kind, unless our patriotic songs could be
thus constructed. In the course of the evening we were ordered to desist
from making any further noise. This order not being fully complied
with, at about nine o'clock the gratings were removed, and the guards
descended among us, with lanterns and drawn cutlasses in their hands.
The poor, helpless prisoners retreated from the hatchways, as far as
their crowded situation would permit, while their cowardly assailants
followed as far as they dared, cutting and wounding every one
within reach, and then ascended to the upper deck, exulting in the
gratification of their revenge.

"Many of the prisoners were wounded, but from the total darkness,
neither their number, nor their situation could be ascertained; and, if
this had been possible, it was not in the power of their compatriots
to afford them the least relief. During the whole of that tragic night,
their groans and lamentations were dreadful in the extreme. Being in the
Gun-room I was at some distance from the immediate scene of this bloody
outrage, but the distance was by no means far enough to prevent my
hearing their continual cries from the extremity of pain, their
appeals for assistance, and their curses upon the heads of their brutal

"It had been the usual custom for each person to carry below, when he
descended at sunset, a pint of water, to quench his thirst during the
night. But, on this occasion, we had thus been driven to our dungeon
three hours before the setting of the sun, and without our usual supply
of water.

"Of this night I cannot describe the horror. The day had been sultry,
and the heat was extreme throughout the ship. The unusual number of
hours during which we had been crowded together between decks; the
foul atmosphere and sickening heat; the additional excitement and
restlessness caused by the unwonted wanton attack which had been made;
above all, the want of water, not a drop of which could be obtained
during the whole night, to cool our parched lips; the imprecations of
those who were half distracted with their burning thirst; the shrieks
and wails of the wounded; the struggles and groans of the dying;
together formed a combination of horrors which no pen can describe.

"In the agonies of their sufferings the prisoners invited, and even
challenged their inhuman guards to descend once more among them, but
this they were prudent enough not to attempt.

"Their cries and supplications for water were terrible, and were of
themselves sufficient to render sleep impossible. Oppressed with the
heat, I found my way to the grating of the main hatchway, where on
former nights I had frequently passed some time, for the benefit of the
little current of air which circulated through the bars. I obtained a
place on the larboard side of the hatchway, where I stood facing the
East, and endeavored, as much as possible, to withdraw my attention
from the terrible sounds below me, by watching, through the grating, the
progress of the stars. I there spent hour after hour, in following with
my eyes the motion of a particular star, as it rose and ascended until
it passed over beyond my sight.

"How I longed for the day to dawn! At length the morning light began
to appear, but still our torments were increasing every moment. As
the usual hour for us to ascend to the upper deck approached, the
Working-party were mustered near the hatchway, and we were all anxiously
waiting for the opportunity to cool our weary frames, to breathe for
awhile the pure air, and, above all, to procure water to quench our
intolerable thirst. The time arrived, but still the gratings were not
removed. Hour after hour passed on, and still we were not released. Our
minds were at length seized with horror, suspicious that our tyrants
had determined to make a finishing stroke of their cruelty, and rid
themselves of us altogether.

"It was not until ten o'clock in the forenoon that the gratings were at
last removed. We hurried on deck and thronged to the water cask, which
was completely exhausted before our thirst was allayed. So great was
the struggle around the cask that the guards were again turned out to
disperse the crowd.

"In a few hours, however, we received a new supply of water, but it
seemed impossible to allay our thirst, and the applications at the cask
were incessant until sunset. Our rations were delivered to us, but of
course long after the usual hour. During the whole day, however, no fire
was kindled for cooking in the galley. All the food which we consumed
that day we were obliged to swallow raw. Everything, indeed, had been
entirely deranged by the events of the past night, and several days
elapsed before order was restored. This was at last obtained by a
change of the guard, who, to our great joy, were relieved by a party
of Hessians. The average number who died during a period of 24 hours
on board the Jersey was about six, [Footnote: This was in 1782. The
mortality had been much greater in former years.] but on the morning of
the fifth of July eight or ten corpses were found below. Many had been
badly wounded, to whom, in the total darkness of the night, it was
impossible for their companions to render any assistance; and even
during the next day they received no attention, except that which was
afforded by their fellow prisoners, who had nothing to administer
to their companions, not even bandages for their wounds. I was not
personally acquainted with any of those who died or were wounded on that
night. No equal number had ever died in the same period of time since
my confinement. This unusual mortality was of course caused by the
increased sufferings of the night. Since that time I have often, while
standing on the deck of a good ship under my command, and viewing the
rising stars, thought upon the horrors of that night, when I stood
watching their progress through the gratings of the Old Jersey, and when
I now contrast my former wretchedness with my present situation, in the
full enjoyment of liberty, health, and every earthly comfort, I cannot
but muse upon the contrast, and bless the good and great Being from whom
my comforts have been derived. I do not now regret my capture nor my
sufferings, for the recollection of them has ever taught me how to
enjoy my after life with a greater degree of contentment than I should,
perhaps, have otherwise ever experienced."



It had been for some time in contemplation among a few inmates of
the Gun-room to make a desperate attempt to escape, by cutting a hole
through the stern or counter of the ship. In order that their operations
might proceed with even the least probability of success, it was
absolutely necessary that but few of the prisoners should be admitted
to the secret. At the same time it was impossible for them to make any
progress in their labor unless they first confided their plan to all
the other occupants of the Gun-room, which was accordingly done. In this
part of the ship each mess was on terms of more or less intimacy with
those whose little sleeping enclosures were immediately adjacent to
their own, and the members of each mess frequently interchanged good
offices with those in their vicinity, and borrowed or lent such little
articles as they possessed, like the good housewives of a sociable
neighborhood. I never knew any contention in this apartment, during
the whole period of my confinement. Each individual in the Gun-room
therefore was willing to assist his comrades, as far as he had the power
to do so. When the proposed plan for escape was laid before us, although
it met the disapprobation of by far the greater number, still we were
all perfectly ready to assist those who thought it practicable. We,
however, described to them the difficulties and dangers which must
unavoidably attend their undertaking; the prospect of detection while
making the aperture in the immediate vicinity of such a multitude of
idle men, crowded together, a large proportion of whom were always kept
awake by their restlessness and sufferings during the night; the little
probability that they would be able to travel, undiscovered, on Long
Island, even should they succeed in reaching the shore in safety; and
above all, the almost absolute impossibility of obtaining food for their
subsistence, as an application for that to our keepers would certainly
lead to detection. But, notwithstanding all our arguments, a few of
them remained determined to make the attempt. Their only reply to our
reasoning was, that they must die if they remained, and that nothing
worse could befall them if they failed in their undertaking.

"One of the most sanguine among the adventurers was a young man named
Lawrence, the mate of a ship from Philadelphia. He was a member of
the mess next to my own, and I had formed with him a very intimate
acquaintance. He frequently explained his plans to me; and dwelt much on
his hopes. But ardently as I desired to obtain my liberty, and great
as were the exertions I could have made, had I seen any probability
of gaining it, yet it was not my intention to join in this attempt.
I nevertheless agreed to assist in the labor of cutting through the
planks, and heartily wished, although I had no hope, that the enterprise
might prove successful.

"The work was accordingly commenced, and the laborers concealed, by
placing a blanket between them and the prisoners without. The counter of
the ship was covered with hard oak plank, four inches thick; and through
this we undertook to cut an opening sufficiently large for a man to
descend; and to do this with no other tools than our jack knives and a
single gimlet. All the occupants of the Gun-room assisted in this labor
in rotation; some in confidence that the plan was practicable, and the
rest for amusement, or for the sake of being employed. Some one of our
number was constantly at work, and we thus continued, wearing a hole
through the hard planks, from seam to seam, until at length the solid
oak was worn away piecemeal, and nothing remained but a thin sheathing
on the outside which could be cut away at any time in a few minutes,
whenever a suitable opportunity should occur for making the bold attempt
to leave the ship.

"It had been previously agreed that those who should descend through the
aperture should drop into the water, and there remain until all those
among the inmates of the Gun-room who chose to make the attempt could
join them; and that the whole band of adventurers should then swim
together to the shore, which was about a quarter of a mile from the

"A proper time at length arrived. On a very dark and rainy night, the
exterior sheathing was cut away; and at midnight four of our number
having disencumbered themselves of their clothes and tied them across
their shoulders, were assisted through the opening, and dropped one
after another into the water.

"Ill-fated men! Our guards had long been acquainted with the enterprise.
But instead of taking any measures to prevent it, they had permitted us
to go on with our labor, keeping a vigilant watch for the moment of
our projected escape, in order to gratify their bloodthirsty wishes. No
other motive than this could have prompted them to the course which they
pursued. A boat was in waiting under the ship's quarter, manned with
rowers and a party of the guards. They maintained a profound silence
after hearing the prisoners drop from the opening, until having
ascertained that no more would probably descend, they pursued the
swimmers, whose course they could easily follow by the sparkling of the
water,--an effect always produced by the agitation of the waves in a
stormy night.

"We were all profoundly silent in the Gun-room, after the departure
of our companions, and in anxious suspense as to the issue of the
adventure. In a few minutes we were startled by the report of a
gun, which was instantly succeeded by a quick and scattering fire of
musketry. In the darkness of the night, we could not see the unfortunate
victims, but could distinctly hear their shrieks and cries for mercy.

"The noise of the firing had alarmed the prisoners generally, and the
report of the attempted escape and its defeat ran like wildfire through
the gloomy and crowded dungeons of the hulk, and produced much commotion
among the whole body of prisoners. In a few moments, the gratings were
raised, and the guards descended, bearing a naked and bleeding man,
whom they placed in one of the bunks, and having left a piece of burning
candle by his side, they again ascended to the deck, and secured the

"Information of this circumstance soon reached the Gun-room; and myself,
with several others of our number, succeeded in making our way through
the crowd to the bunks. The wounded man was my friend, Lawrence. He was
severely injured in many places, and one of his arms had been nearly
severed from his body by the stroke of a cutlass. This, he said, was
done in wanton barbarity, while he was crying for mercy, with his hand
on the gunwale of the boat. He was too much exhausted to answer any
of our questions; and uttered nothing further, except a single inquiry
respecting the fate of Nelson, one of his fellow adventurers. This we
could not answer. Indeed, what became of the rest we never knew. They
were probably all murdered in the water. This was the first time that I
had ever seen a light between decks. The piece of candle had been left
by the side of the bunk, in order to produce an additional effect upon
the prisoners. Many had been suddenly awakened from their slumbers, and
had crowded round the bunk where the sufferer lay. The effect of the
partial light upon his bleeding and naked limbs, and upon the pale and
haggard countenances, and tattered garments of the wild and crowded
groups by whom he was surrounded, was horrid beyond description. We
could render the sufferer but little assistance, being only able to
furnish him with a few articles of apparel, and to bind a handkerchief
around his head. His body was completely covered, and his hair filled
with clotted blood; we had not the means of washing the gore from his
wounds during the night. We had seen many die, but to view this wretched
man expire in that situation, where he had been placed beyond the reach
of surgical aid, merely to strike us with terror, was dreadful.

"The gratings were not removed at the usual hour in the morning, but we
were all kept below until ten o'clock. This mode of punishment had now
become habitual with our keepers, and we were all frequently detained
between decks until a late hour in the day, in revenge for the most
trifling occasion. This cruelty never failed to produce the torments
arising from heat and thirst, with all their attendant miseries.

"The immediate purpose of our tyrants having been answered by leaving
Mr. Lawrence below in that situation they promised in the morning that
he should have the assistance of a surgeon, but that promise was not
fulfilled. The prisoners rendered him every attention in their power,
but in vain. Mortification soon commenced; he became delirious and died.

"No inquiry was made by our keepers respecting his situation. They
evidently left him thus to suffer, in order that the sight of his
agonies might deter the rest of the prisoners from following his

"We received not the least reprimand for this transaction. The aperture
was again filled up with plank and made perfectly secure, and no similar
attempt to escape was made,--at least so long as I remained on board.

"It was always in our power to knock down the guards and throw them
overboard, but this would have been of no avail. If we had done so,
and had effected our escape to Long Island, it would have been next
to impossible for us to have proceeded any further among the number of
troops there quartered. Of these there were several regiments, and among
them the regiment of Refugees before mentioned, who were vigilant in
the highest degree, and would have been delighted at the opportunity of
apprehending and returning us to our dungeons.

"There were, however, several instances of individuals making their
escape. One in particular, I well recollect,--James Pitcher, one of
the crew of the Chance, was placed on the sick list and conveyed to
Blackwell's Island. He effected his escape from thence to Long Island;
from whence, after having used the greatest precaution, he contrived to
cross the Sound, and arrived safe at home. He is now one of the three
survivors of the crew of the Chance."



  "The body maddened by the spirit's pain;
  The wild, wild working of the breast and brain;
  The haggard eye, that, horror widened, sees
  Death take the start of hunger and disease.
  Here, such were seen and heard;--so close at hand,
  A cable's length had reached them from the land;
  Yet farther off than ocean ever bore;--
  Eternity between them and the shore!"
  --W. Read.

"Notwithstanding the destroying pestilence which was now raging to
a degree hitherto unknown on board, new companies of victims were
continually arriving; so that, although the mortality was very great,
our numbers were increasing daily. Thus situated, and seeing no prospect
of our liberty by exchange, we began to despair, and to believe that our
certain fate was rapidly approaching.

"One expedient was at length proposed among us and adopted. We
petitioned General Clinton, who was then in command of the British
forces at New York, for leave to transmit a Memorial to General
Washington, describing our deplorable situation, and requesting his
interference in our behalf. We further desired that our Memorial might
be examined by the British General, and, if approved by him, that it
might be carried by one of our own number to General Washington. Our
petition was laid before the British commander and was granted by the
Commissary of Prisoners. We received permission to choose three from
our number, to whom was promised a pass-port, with leave to proceed
immediately on their embassy.

"Our choice was accordingly made, and I had the satisfaction to find
that two of those elected were from among the former officers of the
Chance, Captain Aborn and our Surgeon, Mr. Joseph Bowen.

"The Memorial was soon completed and signed in the name of all the
prisoners, by a Committee appointed for that purpose. It contained an
account of the extreme wretchedness of our condition, and stated that
although we were sensible that the subject was one over which General
Washington had no direct control, as it was not usual for soldiers to
be exchanged for seamen, and his authority not extending to the Marine
Department of the American service; yet still, although it might not be
in his power to effect an exchange, we hoped he would be able to devise
some means to lighten or relieve our sufferings.

"Our messengers were further charged with a verbal commission to General
Washington, which, for obvious reasons, was not included in the written
Memorial. They were directed to state, in a manner more circumstantial
than we had dared to write, the peculiar horrors of our situation; to
discover the miserable food and putrid water on which we were doomed to
subsist; and finally to assure the General that in case he could effect
our release, we would agree to enter the American service as soldiers,
and remain during the war. Thus instructed our messengers departed.

"We waited in alternate hope and fear, the event of their mission. Most
of our number, who were natives of the Eastern States, were strongly
impressed with the idea that some means would be devised for our relief,
after such a representation of our condition should be made. This class
of the prisoners, indeed, felt most interested in the success of the
application; for many of the sufferers appeared to give themselves but
little trouble respecting it, and some among the foreigners did not
commonly know that such an appeal had been made, or that it had even
been in contemplation. The long endurance of their privations had
rendered them almost indifferent to their fate, and they appeared
to look forward to death as the only probable termination of their

"In a few days our messengers returned to New York, with a letter from
General Washington, addressed to the Committee of Prisoners who had
signed the Memorial. The prisoners were all summoned to the Spar-deck
where this letter was read. Its purport was as follows:--That he had
perused our communication, and had received, with due consideration,
the account which our messengers had laid before him; that he viewed
our situation with a high degree of interest, and that although our
application, as we had stated, was made in relation to a subject over
which he had no direct control, yet that it was his intention to lay
our Memorial before Congress; and that, in the mean time, we might be
assured that no exertions on his part should be spared which could tend
to a mitigation of our sufferings.

"He observed to our messengers, during their interview, that our long
detention in confinement was owing to a combination of circumstances,
against which it was very difficult, if not impossible, to provide.
That, in the first place, but little exertion was made on the part of
our countrymen to secure and detain their British prisoners for the sake
of exchange, many of the British seamen being captured by privateers, on
board which, he understood, it was a common practice for them to enter
as seamen; and that when this was not the case, they were usually set
at liberty as soon as the privateers arrived in port; as neither the
owners, nor the town or State where they were landed, would be at the
expense of their confinement and maintenance; and that the officers
of the General Government only took charge of those seamen who were
captured by the vessels in public service. All which circumstances
combined to render the number of prisoners, at all times, by far too
small for a regular and equal exchange.

"General Washington also transmitted to our Committee copies of letters
which he had sent to General Clinton and to the Commissary of Prisoners,
which were also read to us. He therein expressed an ardent desire that
a general exchange of prisoners might be effected; and if this could not
be accomplished, he wished that something might be done to lessen the
weight of our sufferings, that, if it was absolutely necessary that we
should be confined on the water, he desired that we might at least be
removed to clean ships. He added if the Americans should be driven to
the necessity of placing the British prisoners in situations similar
to our own, similar effects must be the inevitable results; and that he
therefore hoped they would afford us better treatment from motives
of humanity. He concluded by saying, that as a correspondence on
the subject had thus begun between them, he ardently wished it might
eventually result in the liberation of the unfortunate men whose
situation had called for its commencement.

"Our three messengers did not return on board as prisoners, but were all
to remain on parole at Flatbush, on Long Island.

"We soon found an improvement in our fare. The bread which we received
was of a better quality, and we were furnished with butter, instead of
rancid oil. An awning was provided, and a wind-sail furnished to conduct
fresh air between the decks during the day. But of this we were always
deprived at night, when we most needed it, as the gratings must always
be fastened over the hatchway and I presume that our keepers were
fearful if it was allowed to run, we might use it as a means of escape.

"We were, however, obliged to submit to all our privations, consoling
ourselves only with the faint hope that the favorable change in our
situation, which we had observed for the last few days, might lead to
something still more beneficial, although we saw little prospect
of escape from the raging pestilence, except through the immediate
interposition of divine Providence, or by a removal from the scene of

_Note_. From the _New Jersey Gazette_, July 24th, 1782. "New London.
July 21st. We are informed that Sir Guy Carleton has visited all the
prison ships at New York, minutely examined into the situation of the
prisoners, and expressed his intention of having them better provided
for. That they were to be landed on Blackwell's Island, in New York
harbour, in the daytime, during the hot season."



"Soon after Captain Aborn had been permitted to go to Long Island on
his parole, he sent a message on board the Jersey, informing us that his
parole had been extended so far as to allow him to return home, but that
he should visit us previous to his departure. He requested our First
Lieutenant, Mr. John Tillinghast, to provide a list of the names of
those captured in the Chance who had died, and also a list of the
survivors, noting where each survivor was then confined, whether on
board the Jersey, or one of the Hospital ships.

"He also requested that those of our number who wished to write to their
friends at home, would have their letters ready for delivery to him,
whenever he should come on board. The occupants of the Gun-room, and
such of the other prisoners as could procure the necessary materials
were, therefore, soon busily engaged in writing as particular
descriptions of our situation as they thought it prudent to do, without
the risk of the destruction of the letters; as we were always obliged to
submit our writing for inspection previous to its being allowed to pass
from the ship. We, however, afterwards regretted that on this occasion
our descriptions were not more minute, as these letters were not

"The next day Captain Aborn came on board, accompanied by several other
persons, who had also been liberated on parole; but they came no nearer
to the prisoners than the head of the gangway-ladder, and passed through
the door of the barricade to the Quarter-deck. This was perhaps a
necessary precaution against the contagion, as they were more liable to
be affected by it than if they had always remained on board; but we were
much disappointed at not having an opportunity to speak to them. Our
letters were delivered to Captain Aborn by our Lieutenant, through whom
he sent us assurances of his determination to do everything in his power
for our relief, and that if a sufficient number of British prisoners
could be procured, every survivor of his vessel's crew should be
exchanged; and if this could not be effected we might depend upon
receiving clothing and such other necessary articles as could be sent
for our use.

"About this time some of the sick were sent on shore on Blackwell's
Island. This was considered a great indulgence. I endeavored to obtain
leave to join them by feigning sickness, but did not succeed.

"The removal of the sick was a great relief to us, as the air was less
foul between decks, and we had more room for motion. Some of the bunks
were removed, and the sick were carried on shore as soon as their
condition was known. Still, however, the pestilence did not abate on
board, as the weather was extremely warm. In the daytime the heat was
excessive, but at night it was intolerable.

"But we lived on hope, knowing that, in all probability, our friends at
home had ere then been apprised of our condition, and that some relief
might perhaps be soon afforded us.

"Such was our situation when, one day, a short time before sunset, we
described a sloop approaching us, with a white flag at her mast-head,
and knew, by that signal, that she was a Cartel, and from the direction
in which she came supposed her to be from some of the Eastern States.
She did not approach near enough to satisfy our curiosity, until we were
ordered below for the night.

"Long were the hours of the night to the survivors of our crew. Slight
as was the foundation on which our hopes had been raised, we had clung
to them as our last resource. No sooner were the gratings removed in the
morning than we were all upon deck, gazing at the Cartel. Her deck was
crowded with men, whom we supposed to be British prisoners. In a few
moments they began to enter the Commissary's boats, and proceeded to New

"In the afternoon a boat from the Cartel came alongside the hulk, having
on board the Commissary of Prisoners, and by his side sat our townsman,
Captain William Corey, who came on board with the joyful information
that the sloop was from Providence with English prisoners to be
exchanged for the crew of the Chance. The number which she had brought
was forty, being more than sufficient to redeem every survivor of our
crew then on board the Jersey.

"I immediately began to prepare for my departure. Having placed the
few articles of clothing which I possessed in a bag (for, by one of
our By-laws, no prisoner, when liberated, could remove his chest) I
proceeded to dispose of my other property on board, and after having
made sundry small donations of less value, I concluded by giving my tin
kettle to one of my friends, and to another the remnant of my cleft of

"I then hurried to the upper deck, in order to be ready to answer to my
name, well knowing that I should hear no second call, and that no delay
would be allowed.

"The Commissary and Captain Corey were standing together on the
Quarter-deck; and as the list of names was read, our Lieutenant, Mr.
Tillinghast, was directed to say whether the person called was one
of the crew of the Chance. As soon as this assurance was given, the
individual was ordered to pass down the Accommodation ladder into the
boat. Cheerfully was the word 'Here!' responded by each survivor as his
name was called. My own turn at length came, and the Commissary pointed
to the boat. I never moved with a lighter step, for that moment was the
happiest of my life. In the excess and overflowing of my joy, I even
forgot, for awhile, the detestable character of the Commissary himself,
and even, Heaven forgive me! bestowed a bow upon him as I passed.

"We took our stations in the boat in silence. No congratulations were
heard among us. Our feelings were too deep for utterance. For my own
part, I could not refrain from bursting into tears of joy.

"Still there were moments when it seemed impossible that we were in
reality without the limits of the Old Jersey. We dreaded the idea that
some unforeseen event might still detain us; and shuddered with the
apprehension that we might yet be returned to our dungeons.

"When the Cartel arrived the surviving number of our crew on board
the Old Jersey was but thirty-five. This fact being well known to Mr.
Tillinghast, and finding that the Cartel had brought forty prisoners, he
allowed five of our comrades in the Gun-room to answer to the names of
the same number of our crew who had died; and having disguised them in
the garb of common seamen, they passed unsuspected.

"It was nearly sunset when we had all arrived on board the Cartel. No
sooner had the exchange been completed than the Commissary left us, with
our prayers that we might never behold him more. I then cast my eyes
towards the hulk, as the horizontal rays of the sunset glanced on her
polluted sides, where, from the bend upwards, filth of every description
had been permitted to accumulate for years; and the feeling of disgust
which the sight occasioned was indescribable. The multitude on her
Spar-deck and Fore-castle were in motion, and in the act of descending
for the night; presenting the same appearance that met my sight when,
nearly five months before, I had, at the same hour, approached her as a

It appears that many other seamen on board the Jersey and the Hospital
ships were exchanged as a good result of the Memorial addressed to
General Washington. An issue of the _Royal Gazette_ of New York,
published on the 17th of July, 1782, contains the following statement:

"The following is a Statement of the Navy Prisoners who have, within the
last few days, been exchanged and brought to this city, viz:

"From Boston, 102 British Seamen. "From Rhode Island, 40 British Seamen.
"From New London, Conn., 84 British Seamen. "From Baltimore, Md, 23
British Seamen. "Total 249.

"The exertions of those American Captains who published to the world in
this _Gazette_, dated July 3rd, the real state and condition of their
countrymen, prisoners here, and the true cause of their durance and
sufferings, we are informed was greatly conducive to the bringing this
exchange into a happy effect. We have only to lament that the endeavors
of those who went, for the same laudable purpose, to Philadelphia, have
not hitherto been so fortunate."

This was published before the release of Captain Dring and the crew of
the Chance, and shows that they were not the only prisoners who were so
happy as to be exchanged that summer. It is possible that the crew
of the Chance is referred to in this extract from the _Pennsylvania
Packet_, Philadelphia, Thursday, August 15th, 1782: "Providence, July
27th. Sunday last a flag of truce returned here from New York, and
brought 39 prisoners."



"On his arrival in Providence Captain Aborn had lost no time in making
the details of our sufferings publicly known; and a feeling of deep
commiseration was excited among our fellow citizens. Messrs. Clarke and
Nightingale, the former owners of the Chance, in conjunction with other
gentlemen, expressed their determination to spare no exertion or expense
necessary to procure our liberty. It was found that forty British
prisoners were at that time in Boston. These were immediately procured,
and marched to Providence, where a sloop owned and commanded by a
Captain Gladding of Bristol was chartered, to proceed with the prisoners
forthwith to New York, that they might be exchanged for an equal number
of our crew. Captain Corey was appointed as an Agent to effect the
exchange, and to receive us from the Jersey; and having taken on board
a supply of good provisions and water, he hastened to our relief. He
received much assistance in effecting his object from our townsman,
Mr. John Creed, at that time Deputy Commissary of Prisoners. I do not
recollect the exact day of our deliverance, but think it was early in
the month of October * * * We were obliged to pass near the shore of
Blackwell's Island, where were several of our crew, who had been sent on
shore among the sick. They had learned that the Cartel had arrived from
Providence for the purpose of redeeming the crew of the Chance, and
expected to be taken on board. Seeing us approaching they had, in order
to cause no delay, prepared for their departure, and stood together on
the shore, with their bundles in their hands; but, to their unutterable
disappointment and dismay, they saw us pass by. We knew them and
bitterly did we lament the necessity of leaving them behind. We
could only wave our hands as we passed; but they could not return the
salutation, and stood as if petrified with horror, like statues fixed
immovably to the earth, until we had vanished from their sight.

"I have since seen and conversed with one of these unfortunate men, who
afterwards made his escape. He informed me that their removal from the
Jersey to the Island was productive of the most beneficial effects upon
their health, and that they had been exulting at the improvement of
their condition; but their terrible disappointment overwhelmed them with
despair. They then considered their fate inevitable, believing that in a
few days they must again be conveyed on board the hulk; there to undergo
all the agonies of a second death. * * * Several of our crew were sick
when we entered the Cartel, and the sudden change of air and diet caused
some new cases of fever. One of our number, thus seized by the fever,
was a young man named Bicknell of Barrington, R. I. He was unwell when
we left the Jersey, and his symptoms indicated the approaching fever;
and when we entered Narragansett Bay, he was apparently dying. Being
informed that we were in the Bay he begged to be taken on deck, or at
least to the hatchway, that he might look once more upon his native
land. He said that he was sensible of his condition; that the hand of
death was upon him; but that he was consoled by the thought that he
should be decently interred, and be suffered to rest among his friends
and kindred. I was astonished at the degree of resignation and composure
with which he spoke. He pointed to his father's house, as we approached
it, and said it contained all that was dear to him upon earth. He
requested to be put on shore.

"Our Captain was intimately acquainted with the family of the sufferer;
and as the wind was light we dropped our anchor, and complied with his
request. He was placed in the boat, where I took a seat by his side; in
order to support him; and, with two boys at the oars, we left the
sloop. In a few minutes his strength began rapidly to fail. He laid his
fainting head upon my shoulder, and said he was going to the shore to
be buried with his ancestors; that this had long been his ardent desire,
and that God had heard his prayers. No sooner had we touched the shore
than one of the boys was sent to inform his family of the event. They
hastened to the boat to receive their long lost son and brother, but we
could only give them his yet warm and lifeless corpse."


"After remaining a few moments with the friends of our deceased comrade
we returned to the sloop and proceeded up the river. It was about
eight o'clock in the evening when we reached Providence. There were no
quarantine regulations to detain us; but, as the yellow fever was raging
among us, we took the precaution to anchor in the middle of the stream.
It was a beautiful moonlit evening, and the intelligence of our arrival
having spread through the town, the nearest wharf was in a short time
crowded with people drawn together by curiosity, and a desire for
information relative to the fate of their friends and connections.

"Continual inquiries were made from the anxious crowd on the land
respecting the condition of several different individuals on board. At
length the information was given that some of our number were below,
sick with the yellow fever. No sooner was this fact announced than
the wharf was totally deserted, and in a few moments not a human being
remained in sight. The Old Jersey fever as it was called, was well known
throughout the whole country. All were acquainted with its terrible
effects; and it was shunned as if its presence were certain destruction.

"After the departure of the crowd, the sloop was brought alongside the
wharf, and every one who could walk immediately sprang on shore. So
great was the dread of the pestilence, and so squalid and emaciated were
the figures which we presented, that those among us whose families did
not reside in Providence found it almost impossible to gain admittance
into any dwelling. There being at that time no hospital in or near the
town, and no preparations having been made for the reception of the
sick, they were abandoned for that night. They were, however, supplied
in a few hours with many small articles necessary for their immediate
comfort, by the humane people in the vicinity of the wharf. The friends
of the sick who belonged in the vicinity of the town were immediately
informed of our arrival, and in the course of the following day these
were removed from the vessel. For the remainder of the sufferers ample
provision was made through the generous exertions of Messrs. Clarke and

"Solemn indeed are the reflections which crowd upon my mind as I review
the events which are here recorded. Forty-two years have passed away
since this remnant of our ill-fated crew were thus liberated from their
wasting captivity. In that time what changes have taken place! Of their
whole number but three are now alive. James Pitcher, Dr. Joseph Bowen,
and myself, are the sole survivors. Of the officers I alone remain."



General Washington cannot with justice be blamed for any part of the
sufferings inflicted upon the naval prisoners on board the prison ships.
Although he had nothing whatever to do with the American Navy, or the
crews of privateers captured by the British, yet he exerted himself
in every way open to him to endeavor to obtain their exchange, or,
at least, a mitigation of their sufferings, and this in spite of the
immense weight of cares and anxieties that devolved upon him in his
conduct of the war. Much of his correspondence on the subject of these
unfortunate prisoners has been given to the world. We deem it necessary,
in a work of this character, to reproduce some of it here, not only
because this correspondence is his most perfect vindication from the
charge of neglect that has been brought against him, but also because it
has much to do with the proper understanding of this chronicle.

One of the first of the letters from which we shall quote was written by
Washington from his headquarters to Admiral Arbuthnot, then stationed at
New York, on the 25th of January 1781.


Through a variety of channels, representations of too serious a nature
to be disregarded have come to us, that the American naval prisoners in
the harbor of New York are suffering all the extremity of distress,
from a too crowded and in all respects disagreeable and unwholesome
situation, on board the Prison-ships, and from the want of food and
other necessaries. The picture given us of their sufferings is truly
calamitous and deplorable. If just, it is the obvious interest of
both parties, omitting the plea of humanity, that the causes should be
without delay inquired into and removed; and if false, it is
equally desirable that effectual measures should be taken to obviate
misapprehensions. This can only be done by permitting an officer, of
confidence on both sides, to visit the prisoners in their respective
confinements, and to examine into their true condition. This will
either at once satisfy you that by some abuse of trust in the persons
immediately charged with the care of the prisoners, their treatment is
really such as has been described to us and requires a change; or it
will convince us that the clamors are ill-grounded. A disposition to
aggravate the miseries of captivity is too illiberal to be imputed to
any but those subordinate characters, who, in every service, are too
often remiss and unprincipled. This reflection assures me that you will
acquiesce in the mode proposed for ascertaining the truth and detecting
delinquency on one side, or falsehood on the other. The discussions and
asperities which have had too much place on the subject of prisoners are
so irksome in themselves, and have had so many ill consequences, that it
is infinitely to be wished that there may be no room given for reviving
them. The mode I have suggested appears to me calculated to bring
the present case to a fair, direct, and satisfactory issue. I am not
sensible of any inconvenience it can be attended with, and I therefore
hope for your concurrence.

I should be glad, as soon as possible, to hear from you on the subject.

I have the honor to be, etc., George Washington.

To this letter, written in January, Admiral Arbuthnot did not reply
until the latter part of April. He then wrote:

Royal Oak Office April 2lst. 1781.


If I had not been very busy when I received your letter dated the 25 of
Jan. last, complaining of the treatment of the naval prisoners at
this place, I certainly should have answered it before this time; and,
notwithstanding that I then thought, as I now do, that my own testimony
would have been sufficient to put the truth past a doubt, I ordered
the strictest scrutiny to be made into the condition of all parties
concerned in the victualling and treatment of those unfortunate people.
Their several testimonies you must have seen, and I give you my
honor that the transaction was conducted with such strict care and
impartiality that you may rely on its validity.

Permit me now, Sir, to request that you will take the proper steps to
cause Mr. Bradford, your Commissary, and the Jailor at Philadelphia,
to abate the inhumanity which they exercise indiscriminately upon all
people who are so unfortunate as to be carried into that place.

I will not trouble you, Sir, with a catalogue of grievances, further
than to request that the unfortunate may feel as little of the
severities of war as the circumstances of the time will permit, that in
future they may not be fed in winter with salted clams, and that they
may be afforded a sufficiency of fuel.

I am, Sir, your most obdt and hble srvt M. Arbuthnot.

Probably the American prisoners would have been glad to eat salted
clams, rather than diseased pork, and, as has been shown, they were
sometimes frozen to death on board the prison ships, where no fire
except for cooking purposes seems ever to have been allowed.

In August, 1781, a committee appointed by Congress to examine into the
condition of naval prisoners reported among other things as follows:
"The Committee consisting of Mr. Boudinot, Mr. Sharpe, Mr. Clymer,
appointed to take into consideration the state of the American prisoners
in the power of the enemy report:

"That they have collected together and cursorily looked into various
evidences of the treatment our unhappy fellow-citizens, prisoners with
the enemy, have heretofore and do still meet with, and find the
subject of so important and serious a nature as to demand much greater
attention, and fuller consideration than the present distant situation
of those confined on board the Prison-ships at New York will now admit
of, wherefor they beg leave to make a partial representation, and desire
leave to sit again. * * *"


"A very large number of marine prisoners and citizens of these
United States taken by the enemy, are now closely confined on board
Prison-ships in the harbor of New York.

"That the said Prison-ships are so unequal in size to the number of
prisoners, as not to admit of a possibility of preserving life in this
warm season of the year, they being crowded together in such a manner
as to be in danger of suffocation, as well as exposed to every kind of
putrid, pestilential disorder:

"That no circumstances of the enemy's particular situation can justify
this outrage on humanity, it being contrary to the usage and customs of
civilizations, thus deliberately to murder their captives in cold blood,
as the enemy will not assert that Prison-ships, equal to the number of
prisoners, cannot be obtained so as to afford room sufficient for the
necessary purposes of life:

"That the enemy do daily improve these distresses to enlist and compel
many of our citizens to enter on board their ships of war, and thus to
fight against their fellow citizens, and dearest connections.

"That the said Marine prisoners, until they can be exchanged should
be supplied with such necessaries of clothing and provisions as can be
obtained to mitigate their present sufferings.

"That, therefor, the Commander-in-chief be and he is hereby instructed
to remonstrate to the proper officer within the enemy's lines, on the
said unjustifiable treatment of our Marine prisoners, and demand, in
the most express terms, to know the reasons of this unnecessary severity
towards them; and that the Commander-in-chief transmit such answer
as may be received thereon to Congress, that decided measures for
due retaliation may be adopted, if a redress of these evils be not
immediately given.

"That the Commander-in-chief be and he is hereby also instructed to
direct to supply the said prisoners with such provisions and light
clothing for their present more comfortable subsistence as may be in his
power to obtain, and in such manner as he may judge most advantageous
for the United States."

Accordingly Washington wrote to the officer then commanding at New York,
Commodore Affleck, as follows:

Headquarters, August 21 1781


The almost daily complaints of the severities exercised towards the
American marine prisoners in New York have induced the Hon. the Congress
of the United States to direct me to remonstrate to the commanding
officer of his British Majesty's ships of war in the harbor upon the
subject; and to report to them his answer. The principal complaint now
is, the inadequacy of the room in the Prison-ships to the number of
prisoners, confined on board of them, which causes the death of many,
and is the occasion of most intolerable inconvenience and distresses to
those who survive. This line of conduct is the more aggravating, as
the want of a greater number of Prison-ships, or of sufficient room on
shore, can hardly be pleaded in excuse.

As a bare denial of what has been asserted by so many individuals who
have unfortunately experienced the miseries I have mentioned, will
not be satisfactory, I have to propose that our Commissary-general of
prisoners, or any other officer, who shall be agreed upon, shall have
liberty to visit the ships, inspect the situation of the prisoners, and
make a report, from an exact survey of the situation in which they may
be found, whether, in his opinion, there has been any just cause of

I shall be glad to be favored with an answer as soon as convenient.

I have the honor to be yr most obdt srvt George Washington


New York 30 August 1781


I intend not either to deny or to assert, for it will neither facilitate
business, nor alleviate distress. The subject of your letter seems to
turn on two points, namely the inconvenience and distresses which
the American prisoners suffer from the inadequacy of room in the
Prison-ships, which occasions the death of many of them, as you are
told; and that a Commissary-general of prisoners from you should have
liberty to visit the ships, inspect the situation of the prisoners, and
make a report from an actual survey. I take leave to assure you that
I feel for the distresses of mankind as much as any man; and since my
commission to the naval command of the department, one of my principal
endeavors has been to regulate the Prison and hospital ships.

The Government having made no other provision for naval prisoners than
shipping, it is impossible that the greater inconvenience which people
confined on board ships experience beyond those confined on shore can be
avoided, and a sudden accumulation of people often aggravates the evil.

But I assure you that every attention is shown that is possible, and
that the Prison-ships are under the very same Regulations here that have
been constantly observed towards the prisoners of all nations in Europe.
Tables of diet are publicly affixed; officers visit every week, redress
and report grievances, and the numbers are thinned as they can provide
shipping, and no attention has been wanting.

The latter point cannot be admitted to its full extent; but if you think
fit to send an officer of character to the lines for that purpose, he
will be conducted to me, and he shall be accompanied by an officer, and
become a witness to the manner in which we treat the prisoners, and I
shall expect to have my officer visit the prisoners detained in your
jails and dungeons in like manner, as well as in the mines, where I am
informed many an unhappy victim languishes out his days. I must remark,
had Congress ever been inclined, they might have contributed to relieve
the distress of those whom we are under the necessity of holding as
prisoners, by sending in all in their possession towards the payment
of the large debt they owe us on that head, which might have been an
inducement towards liberating many now in captivity. I have the honor to
be, Sir, with due respect, etc,

Edmund Affleck

Much correspondence passed between the English and American Commissaries
of Prisoners, as well as between Washington and the commanding officer
at New York on the subject of the naval prisoners, but little good seems
to have been effected thereby until late in the war, when negotiations
for peace had almost progressed to a finish. We have seen that, in the
summer of 1782, the hard conditions on board the prison ships were
in some measure mitigated, and that the sick were sent to Blackwell's
Island, where they had a chance for life. We might go on presenting much
more of the correspondence on both sides, and detail all the squabbles
about the number of prisoners exchanged; their treatment while in
prison; and other subjects of dispute, but the conclusion of the whole
matter was eloquently written in the sands of the Wallabout, where
the corpses of thousands of victims to British cruelty lay for so many
years. We will therefore give only a few further extracts from the
correspondence and reports on the subject, as so much of it was tedious
and barren of any good result.

In December of the year 1781 Washington, on whom the duty devolved of
writing so many of the letters, and receiving so many insulting replies,
wrote to the President of Congress as follows:

"I have taken the liberty of enclosing the copies of two letters from
the Commissary-general of Prisoners setting forth the debt which is
due from us on account of naval prisoners; the number remaining in
captivity, their miserable situation, and the little probability there
is of procuring their release for the want of proper subjects in our

"Before we proceed into an inquiry into the measures that ought to be
adopted to enable us to pay our debt, and to affect the exchange of
those who still remain in captivity, a matter which it may take some
time to determine, humanity and policy point out the necessity of
administering to the pressing wants of a number of the most valuable
subjects of the republic.

"Had they been taken in the Continental service, I should have thought
myself authorized in conjunction with the Minister of War to apply a
remedy, but as the greater part of them were not thus taken, as appears
by Mr. Skinner's representation, I must await the decision of Congress
upon the subject.

"Had a system, some time ago planned by Congress and recommended to the
several States, been adopted and carried fully into execution, I mean
that of obliging all Captains of private vessels to deliver over their
prisoners to the Continental Commissioners upon certain conditions, I am
persuaded that the numbers taken and brought into the many ports of the
United States would have amounted to a sufficiency to have exchanged
those taken from us; but instead of that, it is to be feared, that few
in proportion were secured, and that the few who are sent in, are so
partially applied, that it creates great disgust in those remaining.
The consequence of which is, that conceiving themselves neglected, and
seeing no prospect of relief, many of them entered into the enemy's
service, to the very great loss of our trading interest. Congress will,
therefore, I hope, see the necessity of renewing their former, or making
some similar recommendation to the States.

"In addition to the motives above mentioned, for wishing that the
whole business of prisoners of war might be brought under one general
regulation, there is another of no small consideration, which is, that
it would probably put a stop to those mutual complaints of ill treatment
which are frequently urged on each part. For it is a fact that, for
above two years, we have had no occasion to complain of the treatment of
the Continental land prisoners in New York, neither have we been charged
with any improper conduct towards those in our hands. I consider the
sufferings of the seamen, for some time past, as arising in great
measure from the want of that general regulation which has been spoken
of, and without which there will constantly be a great number remaining
in the hands of the enemy. * * *"

Again in February of the year 1782 Washington wrote to Congress from
Philadelphia as follows:

Feb. 18, 1782.

* * * "Mr. Sproat's proposition of the exchange of British soldiers for
American seamen, if acceded to, will immediately give the enemy a very
considerable re-enforcement, and will be a constant draft hereafter upon
the prisoners of war in our hands. It ought also to be considered that
few or none of the Continental naval prisoners in New York or elsewhere
belong to the Continental service. I, however, feel for the situation
of these unfortunate people, and wish to see them relieved by any mode,
which will not materially affect the public good. In some former letters
upon this subject I have mentioned a plan, by which I am certain
they might be liberated nearly as fast as they are captured. It is by
obliging the Captains of all armed vessels, both public and private,
to throw their prisoners into common stock, under the direction of the
Commissary-general of prisoners. By this means they would be taken care
of, and regularly applied to the exchange of those in the hands of the
enemy. Now the greater part are dissipated, and the few that remain are
applied partially. * * *"

James Rivington edited a paper in New York during the Revolution, and,
in 1782, the American prisoners on board the Jersey addressed a letter
to him for publication, which is given below.

"On Board the Prison-ship Jersey, June 11, 1782.


Enclosed are five letters, which if you will give a place in your
newspaper will greatly oblige a number of poor prisoners who seem to be
deserted by our own countrymen, who has it in their power, and will not
exchange us. In behalf of the whole we beg leave to subscribe ourselves,
Sir, yr much obliged srvts,

"John Cooper "John Sheffield "William Chad "Richard Eccleston "John


David Sproat, Commissary of Prisoners, to the prisoners on board the
Jersey, New York.

"June 11 1782

"This will be handed you by Captain Daniel Aborn, and Dr, Joseph Bowen,
who, agreeable to your petition to his Excellency, Rear-Admiral Digby,
have been permitted to go out, and are now returned from General
Washington's Head-quarters, where they delivered your petition to him,
representing your disagreeable situation at this extreme hot season
of the year, and in your names solicited his Excellency to grant your
speedy relief, by exchanging you for a part of the British _soldiers_ in
his hands, the only possible means in his power to effect it. Mr. Aborn
and the Doctor waits on you with his answer, which I am sorry to say is
a flat denial.

"Enclosed I send you copies of three letters which have passed between
Mr. Skinner and me, on the occasion, which will convince you that
everything has been done on the part of Admiral Digby, to bring about a
fair and general exchange of prisoners on both sides. I am

"your most hble Srvt, "David Sproat "Comm. Gen. for Naval Prisoners."


David Sproat to Abraham Skinner, American Commissary of Prisoners.

New York lst June 1782


"When I last saw you at Elizabeth Town I mentioned the bad consequences
which, in all probability, would take place in the hot weather if an
exchange of prisoners was not agreed to by the commissioners on the part
of General Washington. His Excellency Rear-Admiral Digby has ordered me
to inform you, that the very great increase of prisoners and heat of
the weather now baffles all our care and attention to keep them healthy.
Five ships have been taken up for their reception, to prevent being
crowded, and a great number permitted to go on parole.

"In Winter, and during the cold weather, they lived comfortably, being
fully supplied with warm cloathing, blankets, etc, purchased with the
money which I collected from the charitable people of this city; but now
the weather requires a fresh supply--something light and suitable
for the season--for which you will be pleased to make the necessary
provision, as it is impossible for them to be healthy in the rags they
now wear, without a single shift of cloathing to keep themselves clean.
Humanity, sympathy, my duty and orders obliges me to trouble you again
on this disagreeable subject, to request you will lose no time in laying
their situation before his Excellency General Washington, who, I hope,
will listen to the cries of a distressed people, and grant them, (as
well as the British prisoners in his hands) relief, by consenting to a
general and immediate exchange.

"I am, sir, etc, "David Sproat."

It is scarcely necessary to point out to the intelligent reader the
inconsistencies in this letter. The comfortable prisoners, abundantly
supplied with blankets and clothing in the winter by the charity of the
citizens of New York, were so inconsiderate as to go on starving
and freezing to death throughout that season. Not only so, but
their abundant supply of clothing was reduced to tattered rags in a
surprisingly short time, and they were unable to be healthy, "without a
single shift of clothing to keep themselves clean."

We have already seen to what straits they were in reality reduced, in
spite of the private charity of the citizens of New York. We do not
doubt that the few blankets and other new clothing, if any such were
ever sent on board the Jersey, were the gifts of private charity, and
not the donation of the British Government.

No one, we believe, can blame General Washington for his unwillingness
to add to the British forces arrayed against his country by exchanging
the captured troops in the hands of the Americans for the crews of
American privateers, who were not in the Continental service. As we have
already seen, the blame does not rest with that great commander, whose
compassion never blinded his judgment, but with the captains and owners
of American privateers themselves, and often with the towns of New
England, who were unwilling to burden themselves with prisoners taken on
the ocean.

The next letter we will quote is the answer of Commissary Skinner to
David Sproat:

"New York June 9th. 1782


From the present situation of the American naval prisoners on board your
prison-ships, I am induced to propose to you the exchange of as many as
I can give you British naval prisoners for, leaving the balance
already due you to be paid when in our power. I could wish this to be
represented to his Excellency, Rear Admiral Digby, and that the proposal
could be acceded to, as it would relieve many of these distrest men and
be consistent with the humane purposes of our office.

"I will admit that we are unable at present to give you seaman for
seaman, and thereby relieve the prison-ships of their dreadful burthen,
but it ought to be remembered there is a large balance of British
soldiers due to the United States, since February last, and that as we
have it in our power we may be disposed to place the British soldiers
who are now in our possession in as disagreeable a situation as those
men are on board the prison ships.

"I am yr obdt hble srvt "Abraham Skinner"


"New York June 9th 1782


"I have received your letter of this date and laid it before his
Excellency Rear Admiral Digby, Commander in charge, etc, who has
directed me to give for answer that the balance of prisoners, owing to
the British having proceeded, from lenity and humanity, on the part of
himself and those who commanded before his arrival, is surprized you
have not been induced to offer to exchange them first; and until this is
done can't consent to your proposal of a partial exchange, leaving the
remainder as well as the British prisoners in your hands, to linger in
confinement. Conscious of the American prisoners under my direction,
being in every respect taken as good care of as their situation and ours
will admit. You must not believe that Admiral Digby will depart from the
justice of this measure because you have it in your power to make the
British prisoners with you more miserable than there is any necessity
for. I am, Sir,

"yr hble servt "David Sproat."

The prisoners on board the Jersey published in the _Royal Gazette_ the


"Prison Ship Jersey, June 11th 1782

"Friends and Fellow Citizens of America:

"You may bid a final adieu to all your friends and relatives who are
now on board the Jersey prison ships at New York, unless you rouse the
government to comply with the just and honorable proposals, which has
already been done on the part of Britons, but alas! it is with pain
we inform you, that our petition to his Excellency General Washington,
offering our services to the country during the present campaign, if he
would send soldiers in exchange for us, is frankly denied.

"What is to be done? Are we to lie here and share the fate of our
unhappy brothers who are dying daily? No, unless you relieve us
immediately, we shall be under the necessity of leaving our country, in
preservation of our lives.

"Signed in behalf of prisoners

"John Cooper "John Sheffield "William Chad "Richard Eccleston "George
Wanton "John Baas.

"To Mr James Rivington, Printer N. Y."

This address was reproduced in Hugh Gaines's _New York Gazette_, June
17, 1782.

Whether the John Cooper who signed his name to this address is the Mr.
Cooper mentioned by Dring as the orator of the Jersey we do not know,
but it is not improbable. Nine Coopers are included in the list, given
in the appendix to this volume, of prisoners on the Jersey, but no John
Cooper is among them. The list is exceedingly imperfect. Of the other
signers of the address only two, George Wanton and John Sheffield, can
be found within its pages. It is very certain that it is incomplete, and
it probably does not contain more than half the names of the prisoners
who suffered on board that dreadful place. David Sproat won the hatred
and contempt of all the American prisoners who had anything to do with
him. One of his most dastardly acts was the paper which he drew up in
June, 1782, and submitted to a number of American sea captains for their
signature, which he obtained from them by threats of taking away their
parole in case of their refusal, and sending them back to a captivity
worse than death. This paper, _which they signed without reading_ was to
the following effect:


New York, June 22, 1782.


We beg you will be pleased to give the inclosed Report and Resolve of a
number of Masters of American Vessels, a place in your next Newspaper,
for the information of the public. In order to undeceive numbers of our
countrymen without the British lines, who have not had an opportunity of
seeing the state and situation of the prisoners of New York as we have
done. We are, Sir,

yr most obdt, hble srvts,

Robert Harris, Captain of the sloop Industry John Chace Charles Collins,
Captain of the Sword-fish Philemon Haskell Jonathan Carnes


We whose names are hereunto subscribed, late Masters of American
vessels, which have been captured by the British cruisers and brought
into this port, having obtained the enlargement of our paroles from
Admiral Digby, to return to our respective homes, being anxious before
our departure to know the true state and situation of the prisoners
confined on board the prison ships and hospital ships for that purpose,
have requested and appointed six of our number, viz, R. Harris, J.
Chace, Ch. Collins, P. Haskell, J. Carnes and Christopher Smith, to
go on board the said prison ships for that purpose and the said six
officers aforesaid having gone on board five of the vessels, attended by
Mr. D. Sproat, Com. Gen. for Naval Prisoners, and Mr. George Rutherford,
Surgeon to the hospital ships, do report to us that they have found them
in as comfortable a situation as it is possible for prisoners to be on
board of ships at this season of the year, and much more so than they
had any idea of, and that anything said to the contrary is false and
without foundation. That they inspected their beef, pork, flour, bread,
oatmeal, pease, butter, liquors, and indeed every species of provisions
which is issued on board his British Majesty's ships of war, and
found them all good of their kind, which survey being made before the
prisoners, they acknowledged the same and declared they had no complaint
to make but the want of cloaths and a speedy exchange. We therefore from
this report and what we have all seen and known, _Do Declare_ that great
commendation is due to his Excellency Rear Admiral Digby, for his
humane disposition and indulgence to his prisoners, and also to those
he entrusts the care of them to; viz: To the Captain and officers of
his Majesty's prison-ship Jersey, for their attention in preserving good
order, having the ship kept clean and awnings spread over _the whole_ of
her, fore and aft: To Dr Rutherford, and the Gentlemen acting under him
* * *, for their constant care and attendance on the sick, whom we found
in wholesome, clean sheets, also covered with awnings, fore and aft,
every man furnished with a cradle, bed, and sheets, made of good Russia
linen, to lay in; the best of fresh provisions, vegetables, wine, rice,
barley, etc, which was served out to them. And we further do declare
in justice to Mr. Sproat, and the gentlemen acting under him in his
department, that they conscientiously do their duty with great humanity
and indulgence to the prisoners, and reputation to themselves; And we
unanimously do agree that nothing is wanting to preserve the lives and
health of those unfortunate prisoners but clean cloaths and a speedy
exchange, which testimony we freely give without restriction and
covenant each with the other to endeavor to effect their exchange as
soon as possible:

For the remembrance of this our engagement we have furnished ourselves
with copies of this instrument of writing. Given under our hands in New
York the 22 of June, 1782.


Robert Harris John Chace Charles Collins Philemon Haskell ]. Carnes
Christopher Smith James Gaston John Tanner Daniel Aborn Richard Mumford
Robert Clifton John McKeever Dr. J. Bowen.

The publication of this infamously false circular roused much
indignation among patriotic Americans, and no one believed it a
trustworthy statement. The _Independent Chronicle_, in its issue for
August, 1782, had the following refutation: [Footnote: This letter is
said to have been written by Captain Manly, _five times_ a prisoner
during the Revolution.]

"Mr Printer:

"Happening to be at Mr. Bracket's tavern last Saturday, and hearing
two gentlemen conversing on the surprising alteration in regard to the
treatment our prisoners met with in New York, and as I have had the
misfortune to be more than once a prisoner in England, and in different
prison-ships in New York, and having suffered everything but death, I
cannot help giving all attention to anything I hear or read relative to
the treatment our brave countrymen met with on board the prison-ships
of New York. One of the gentlemen observed that the treatment of our
prisoners must certainly be much better, as so many of our commanders
had signed a paper that was wrote by Mr. David Sproat, the commissary of
naval prisoners in New York. The other gentleman answered and told him
he could satisfy him in regard to the matter, having seen and conversed
with several of the Captains that signed Mr. Sproat's paper, who told
him that, although they had put their names to the paper that Mr. Sproat
sent them on Long Island, where they were upon parole, yet it was upon
these conditions they did it: in order to have leave to go home to their
wives and families, and not be sent on board the prison-ships, as Mr.
Sproat had threatened to do if they refused to sign the paper that he
sent them. These captains further said, that they did not read the paper
nor hear it read. The gentleman then asked them how they could sign
their names to a paper they did not read; they said it was because
they might go home upon parole. He asked one of them why he did not
contradict it since it had appeared in the public papers, and was false:
he said he dare not at present, for fear of being recalled and sent on
board the prison-ship, and there end his days: but as soon as he was
exchanged he would do it. If this gentleman, through fear, dare not
contradict such a piece of falsehood, I dare, and if I was again
confined on board the prison-ship in New York, dare again take the boat
and make my escape, although at the risk of my life.

"Some of the captains went on board the prison-ship with Mr. Sproat, a
few moments, but did not go off the deck.

"In justice to myself and country I am obliged to publish the above.

"Captain Rover."

Besides this refutation of Sproat's shameful trick there were many
others. The _Pennsylvania Packet_ of Tuesday, Sept. 10, 1782, published
an affidavit of John Kitts, a former prisoner on board the Jersey.

"The voluntary affidavit of John Kitts, of the city of Phila., late
mate of the sloop Industry, commanded by Robert Harris, taken before the
subscriber, chief justice of the commonwealth of Pa., the 16th day of
July, 1782.--This deponent saith, that in the month of November last
he was walking in Front St. with the said Harris and saw in his hand a
paper, which he told the deponent that he had received from a certain
Captain Kuhn, who had been lately from New York, where he had been
a prisoner, and that this deponent understood and believed it was a
permission or pass to go to New York with any vessel, as it was blank
and subscribed by Admiral Arbuthnot: that he does not know that the said
Robert Harris ever made any improper use of said paper."


From the _Pennsylvania Packet_, Phila., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 1782.

"The voluntary Affidavit of John Cochran, of the city of Phila.,
late mate of the ship, Admiral Youtman, of Phila., taken before the
subscriber, the 16 day of July, 1782.

"The said deponent saith, that he was taken prisoner on board the
aforesaid ship on the 12 of March last by the ship Garland, belonging to
the king of Great Britain, and carried into the city of New York, on
the 15 of the same month, when he was immediately put on board the
prison-ship Jersey, with the whole crew of the Admiral Youtman, and was
close confined there until the first day of this month, when he made his
escape; that the people on board the said prison-ship were very
sickly insomuch that he is firmly persuaded, out of near 1000 persons,
perfectly healthy when put on board the same ship, during the time of
his confinement on board, there are not more than but three or four
hundred now alive; that when he made his escape there were not three
hundred men well on board, but upward of 140 very sick, as he understood
and was informed by the physicians: that there were five or six men
buried daily under a bank on the shore, without coffins; that all the
larboard side of the said ship was made use of as a hospital for the
sick, and was so offensive that he was obliged constantly to hold
his nose as he passed from the gun-room up the hatchway; that he seen
maggots creeping out of a wound of one Sullivan's shoulder, who was the
mate of a vessel out of Virginia; and that his wound remained undressed
for several days together; that every man was put into the hold a little
after sundown every night, and the hatches put over him; and that the
tubs which were kept for the use of the sick * * * were placed under the
ladder from the hatchway to the hold, and so offensive day and night,
that they were almost intolerable, and increased the number of the
sick daily. The deponent further saith, that the bilge water was very
injurious in the hold, was muddy and dirty, and never was changed or
sweetened during the whole time he was there, nor, as he was informed
and believes to be true, for many years before; for fear, as it was
reported, the provisions might be injured thereby; that the sick in the
hospital part of the said ship Jersey, had no sheets of Russia, or any
other linen, nor beds nor bedding furnished them; and those who had
no beds of their own, of whom there were great numbers, were not even
allowed a hammock, but were obliged to lie on the planks; that he was on
board the said prison ship when Captain Robert Harris and others, with
David Sproat, the commissary of prisoners, came on board her, and that
none of them went or attempted to go below decks, in said ship, to
see the situation of the prisoners, nor did they ask a single question
respecting the matter, to this deponent's knowledge or belief; for
that he was present the whole time they were on board, and further the
deponent saith not.

"John Cochran"

"Theodore McKean C. J.

It seems singular that Sproat should have resorted to such a
contemptible trick, which deceived few if any persons, for the
reputation of the Jersey was too notorious for such a refutation to
carry weight on either side.

In the meantime the mortality on board continued, and, by a moderate
computation, two-thirds of her wretched occupants died and were buried
on the shore, their places being taken by fresh victims, from the many
privateers that were captured by the British almost daily.



Washington's best vindication against the charge of undue neglect of
American prisoners is found in the correspondence on the subject.
We will therefore give his letter to Rear Admiral Digby, after his
interview with the committee of three sent from the Jersey to complain
of their treatment by the British, and to endeavor to negotiate an


Head-Quarters, June 5 1782


By a parole, granted to two gentlemen, Messrs. Aborn and Bowen, I
perceive that your Excellency granted them permission to come to me
with a representation of the sufferings of the American prisoners at New
York. As I have no agency on Naval matters, this application to me is
made on mistaken grounds. But curiosity leading me to enquire into
the nature and cause of their sufferings, I am informed that the prime
complaint is that of their being crowded, especially at this season, in
great numbers on board of foul and infected prison ships, where disease
and death are almost inevitable. This circumstance I am persuaded needs
only to be mentioned to your Excellency to obtain that redress which is
in your power _only_ to afford, and which humanity so strongly prompts.

If the fortune of war, Sir, has thrown a number of these miserable
people into your hands, I am certain your Excellency's feelings for
fellowmen must induce you to proportion the ships (if they _must_ be
confined on board ships), to their accommodation and comfort, and not,
by crowding them together in a few, bring on disorders which consign
them, by half a dozen a day, to the grave.

The soldiers of his British Majesty, prisoners with us, were they (which
might be the case), to be equally crowded together in close and confined
prisons, at this season, would be exposed to equal loss and misery. I
have the honor to be, Sir

Yr Excellency's most obt Hble srvt George Washington


N. Y. June 8 1782


My feelings prompted me to grant Messrs. Aborn and Bowen permission to
wait on your Excellency to represent their miserable situation, and if
your Excellency's feelings on this occasion are like mine, you will
not hesitate one moment in relieving both the British and Americans
suffering under confinement.

I have the Honor to be your Excellency's Very obdt Srvt

R. Digby


Camp Highlands, June 24th 1782


As I perceive by a New York paper of the 12 inst, the last letters which
passed between us on the subject of naval prisoners have been committed
to print, I must request the same to be done with this which is intended
to contain some animadversions on those publications.

The principles and policy which appear to actuate your superiors in
their conduct towards the American seamen who unfortunately fall into
their power, are too apparent to admit of a doubt or misapprehension.
I am sorry to observe, Sir, that notwithstanding the affectation of
candour and fairness on your part, from the universal tenor of behaviour
on your side of the lines, it is obvious that the designs of the British
is, by misrepresenting the state of facts with regard to exchanges, to
excite jealousy in the minds of our unfortunate seamen, that they are
neglected by their countrymen, and by attempting to make them believe
that all the miseries they are now suffering in consequence of a
pestilential sickness arise from want of inclination in General
Washington to exchange them when he has it in his power to do it; in
hopes of being able by this insinuation and by the unrelenting
severity you make use of in confining them in the contaminated holds of
prison-ships, to compel them, in order to avoid the dreadful alternative
of almost inevitable death, to enter the service of the King of Great

To show that these observations are just and well grounded, I think
it necessary to inform you of some facts which have happened within
my immediate notice, and to put you in mind of others which you cannot
deny. I was myself present at the time when Captain Aborn and Dr. Bowen
* * * waited on his Excellency General Washington, and know perfectly
well the answer his Excellency gave to that application: he informed
them in the first place that he was not directly or indirectly invested
with any power of inference respecting the exchange of naval prisoners;
that this business was formerly under the direction of the Board
of Admiralty, that upon the annihilation of that Board Congress
had committed it to the Financier (who has in charge all our naval
prisoners) and he to the Secretary at war. That (the General) was
notwithstanding disposed to do everything in his power for their
assistance and relief: that as exchanging seamen for soldiers was
contrary to the original agreement for the exchange of prisoners,--which
specified that officers should be exchanged for officers, soldiers
for soldiers, citizens for citizens, and seamen for seamen; as it was
contrary to the custom and practice of other nations, and as it would
be, in his opinion, contrary to the soundest policy, by giving the
enemy a great and permanent strength for which we could receive no
compensation, or at best but a partial and temporary one, he did not
think it would be admissible: but as it appeared to him, from a variety
of well authenticated information, the present misery and mortality
which prevailed among the naval prisoners were almost entirely, if not
altogether produced by the _mode of their confinement_, being closely
crowded together in infected prison-ships, where the very air is
pregnant with disease, and the ships themselves (never having been
cleaned in the course of many years), a mere mass of putrefaction, he
would therefor, from motives of humanity, write to Rear-Admiral Digby,
in whose power it was to remedy this great evil, by confining them on
shore, or having a sufficient number of prison-ships provided for that
purpose, for, he observed, it was as preposterously cruel to confine 800
men, at this sultry season, on board the Jersey prison-ship, as it would
be to shut up the whole army of Lord Cornwallis to perish in the New
Goal of Philadelphia, but if more commodious and healthy accommodations
were not afforded we had the means of retaliation in our hands, which he
should not hesitate, in that case, to make use of, by confining the land
prisoners with as much severity as our seamen were held.--The Gentlemen
of the Committee appeared to be sensible of the force of these reasons,
however repugnant they might be to the feelings and wishes of the men
who had destruction and death staring them in the face.

His Excellency was further pleased to suffer me to go to New York to
examine into the grounds of the suffering of the prisoners, and to
devise, if possible, some way or another, for their liberation or
relief. With this permission I went into your lines: and in consequence
of the authority I had been previously invested with, from the Secretary
at War, I made the proposition contained in my letter of the ninth
instant. Although I could not claim this as a matter of right I
flattered myself it would have been granted from the principles of
humanity, as well as other motives. There had been a balance of 495
land prisoners due to us ever since the month of February last, when a
settlement was made; besides which, to the best of my belief, 400 have
been sent in, (this is the true state of the fact, though it differs
widely from the account of 250 men, which is falsely stated in the
note annexed to my letter in the New York paper:) notwithstanding this
balance, I was then about sending into your lines a number of land
prisoners, as an equivalent for ours, who were then confined in the
Sugar House, without which (though the debt was acknowledged, I could
not make interest to have them liberated), this business has since been
actually negotiated, and we glory in having our conduct, such as will
bear the strictest scrutiny, and be found consonant to the dictates of
reason, liberality, and justice. But, Sir, since you would not agree to
the proposals I made, since I was refused being permitted to visit the
prison-ships: (for which I conclude no other reason can be produced than
your being ashamed or afraid of having those graves of our seamen seen
by one who dared to represent the horrors of them to his countrymen,)
Since the commissioners from your side, at their late meeting, would not
enter into an adjustment of the accounts for supplying your naval and
land prisoners, on which there are large sums due us; and since your
superiors will neither make provision for the support of your prisoners
in our hands, nor accommodation for the mere existence of ours, who are
now languishing in your prison-ships, it becomes my duty, Sir, to state
these pointed facts to you, that the imputations may recoil where they
are deserved, and to report to those, under whose authority I have the
honor to act, that such measures as they deem proper may be adopted.

And now, Sir, I will conclude this long letter with observing that not
having a sufficient number of British seamen in our possession we are
not able to release urs by exchange:--this is our misfortune, but it is
not a crime, and ought not to operate as a mortal punishment against the
unfortunate--we ask no favour, we claim nothing but common justice and
humanity, while we assert to the whole world, as a notorious fact,
that the unprecedented inhumanity in the _mode_ of confining our naval
prisoners, to the amount of 800 in one old hulk, which has been made use
of as a prison-ship for more than three years, without ever having
been once purified, has been the real and sole cause of the deaths
of hundreds of brave Americans, who would not have perished in that
untimely and barbarous manner, had they, (when prisoners,) been suffered
to breathe a purer air, and to enjoy more liberal and convenient
accommodations agreeably to the practice of civilized nations when at
war, (and) the example which has always been set you by the Americans.
You may say, and I shall admit, that if they were placed on islands,
and more liberty given them, that some might desert; but is not this the
case with your prisoners in our hands? And could we not avoid this also,
if we were to adopt the same rigid and inhuman mode of confinement you

I beg, Sir, you will be pleased to consider this as addressed to you
officially, as the principal executive officer in the department of
naval prisoners, and not personally, and that you will attribute any
uncommon warmth of style that I may have been led into to my feeling and
animation on a subject with which I find myself so much interested, both
from the principles of humanity and the duties of office. I am, Sir,

yr most obdt Srvt Abraham Skinner

Letters full of recriminations continued to pass between the
commissaries on both sides. In Sproat's reply to the letter we have
just quoted, he enclosed a copy of the paper which he had induced the
thirteen sea captains and other officers to sign, obtained as we have
seen, in such a dastardly manner.

In the meantime the naval prisoners continued to die in great numbers
on board the prison and hospital-ships. We have already described the
cleansing of the Jersey, on which occasion the prisoners were sent on
board of other vessels and exposed to cold and damp in addition to their
other sufferings. And while negotiations for peace were pending some
relaxation in severity appears to have taken place.



We have seen that the crew of the Chance was exchanged in the fall of
1782. A few of the men who composed this crew were ill at the time that
the exchange was affected, and had been sent to Blackwell's Island.
Among these unfortunate sufferers was the sailing-master of the Chance,
whose name was Sylvester Rhodes.

This gentleman was born at Warwick, R. I., November 21, 1745. He married
Mary Aborn, youngest sister of Captain Daniel Aborn, and entered the
service of his country, in the early part of the war, sometimes on land,
and sometimes as a seaman. He was with Commodore Whipple on his first
cruise, and as prize-master carried into Boston the first prize captured
by that officer. He also served in a Rhode Island regiment.

When the crew of the Jersey was exchanged and he was not among the
number, his brother-in-law, Captain Aborn, endeavored to obtain his
release, but, as he had been an officer in the army as well as on the
privateer, the British refused to release him as a seaman. His father,
however, through the influence of some prominent Tories with whom he
was connected, finally secured his parole, and Captain Aborn went to
New York to bring him home. But it was too late. He had become greatly
enfeebled by disease, and died on board the cartel, while on her passage
through the Sound, on the 3rd of November, 1782, leaving a widow and
five children. Mary Aborn Rhodes lived to be 98, dying in 1852, one of
the last survivors of the stirring times of the Revolution.


One of the most adventurous of American seamen was William Drowne, who
was taken prisoner more than once. He was born in Providence, R. I., in
April 1755. After many adventures he sailed on the 18th of May, 1780,
in the General Washington, owned by Mr. John Brown of Providence. In a
Journal kept by Mr. Drowne on board of this ship, he writes:

"The cruise is for two months and a half, though should New York fetch
us up again, the time may be protracted, but it is not in the bargain to
pay that potent city a visit _this bout_. It may easily be imagined what
a _sensible mortification_ it must be to dispense with the delicious
sweets of a Prison-ship. But though the Washington is deemed a prime
sailor, and is well armed, I will not be too sanguine in the prospect of
escape, as 'the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the
strong.' But, as I said before, it is not in the articles to go there
this time, especially as it is said the prisoners are very much crowded
there already, and it would be a piece of unfeeling inhumanity to be
adding to their unavoidable inconvenience by our presence. Nor could we,
in such a case, by any means expect that Madam Fortune would deign to
smile so propitiously as she did before, in the promotion of an exchange
so much sooner than our most sanguine expectations flattered us with, as
'tis said to be with no small difficulty that a parole can be obtained,
much more an exchange."

This cruise resulted in the capture by the Washington of several
vessels, among them the Robust, Lord Sandwich, Barrington, and the
Spitfire, a British privateer.

In May, 1781, Mr. Drowne sailed on board the Belisarius, commanded by
Captain James Munro, which vessel was captured on the 26th of July and
brought into the port of New York. Browne and the other officers were
sent to the Jersey, where close confinement and all the horrors of the
place soon impaired his vigorous constitution. Although he was, through
the influence of his friends, allowed to visit Newport on parole in
November, 1781, he was returned to the prison ship, and was not released
until some time in 1783. His brother, who was a physician, nursed him
faithfully, but he died on the 9th of August, 1786. Letters written on
board the Jersey have a melancholy interest to the student of history,
and this one, written by William Drowne to a Mrs. Johnston, of New York,
is taken from the appendix to the "Recollections of Captain Dring."

Jersey Prison Ship Sep. 25 1781


Your letter to Captain Joshua Sawyer of the 23d Inst, came on board this
moment, which I being requested to answer, take the freedom to do, and
with sensible regret, as it announces the dissolution of the good man.
It was an event very unexpected. Tis true he had been for some days very
ill, but a turn in his favor cancel'd all further apprehension of his
being dangerous, and but yesterday he was able without assistance to go
upon deck; said he felt much better, and without any further Complaints,
at the usual time turned into his Hammock, and as was supposed went
to sleep. Judge of our Surprise and Astonishment this morning at being
informed of his being found a lifeless Corpse.

Could anything nourishing or comfortable have been procured for him
during his illness, 'tis possible He might now have been a well man. But
Heaven thought proper to take him to itself, and we must not repine.

A Coffin would have been procured in case it could be done seasonably,
but his situation render'd a speedy Interment unavoidable. Agreeably to
which 10 or 12 Gentlemen of his acquaintance presented a petition to
the Commanding Officer on board, requesting the favor that they might be
permitted, under the Inspection of a file of Soldiers, to pay the last
sad duties to a Gentleman of merit; which he humanely granted, and in
the Afternoon his remains were taken on shore, and committed to their
native dust in as decent a manner as our situation would admit. Myself,
in room of a better, officiated in the sacred office of a Chaplain and
read prayers over the Corpse previous to its final close in its gloomy
mansion. I have given you these particulars, Madam, as I was sensible it
must give you great satisfaction to hear he had some friends on board.
Your benevolent and good intentions to him shall, (if Heaven permits
my return) be safely delivered to his afflicted wife, to give her
the sensible Consolation that her late much esteemed and affectionate
Husband was not destitute of a Friend, who had wish'd to do him all the
good offices in his power, had not the hand of fate prevented.

If you wish to know anything relative to myself--if you will give
Yourself the trouble to call on Mrs. James Selhrig, she will inform You,
or Jos. Aplin, Esqre.

You will please to excuse the Liberty I have taken being an entire
stranger. I have no Views in it but those of giving, as I said before,
satisfaction to one who took a friendly part towards a Gentleman
decease'd, whom I very much esteemed. Your goodness will not look with a
critical eye over the numerous Imperfections of this Epistle.

I am, Madam, with every sentiment of respect

yr most Obdt Servt

Wm. Drowne

The next letter we will give was written by Dr. Solomon Drowne to his
sister Sally. This gentleman was making every effort to obtain his
brother's release from captivity.

Providence, Oct. 17 1781

Dear Sally:

We have not forgot you;--but if we think strongly on other objects the
memory of you returns, more grateful than the airs which fan the Summer,
or all the golden products of ye Autumn. The Cartel is still detained,
for what reason is not fully known. Perhaps they meditate an attack upon
some unguarded, unsuspecting quarter, and already in idea glut their
eyes, with the smoke of burning Towns and Villages, and are soothed by
the sounds of deep distress. Forbid it Guardian of America!--and rather
let the reason be their fear that we should know the state of their
shattered Navy and declining affairs--However, Bill is yet a Prisoner,
and still must feel, if not for himself, yet what a mind like his will
ever feel for others. In a letter I received from him about three weeks
since he mentioned that having a letter to Mr. George Deblois, he sent
it, accompanied with one he wrote requesting his influence towards
effecting his return the next Flag,--that Mr. Deblois being indisposed,
his cousin Captain William Deblois, taken by Monro last year, came on
board to see him, with a present from Mr. Deblois of some Tea, Sugar,
Wine, Rum, etc, and the offer of any other Civilities that lay in the
power of either:--This was beneficence and true Urbanity,--that he was
not destitute of Cash, that best friend in Adversity, except some other
best friends,--that as long as he had health, he should, he had like to
have said, be happy. In a word he bears up with his wonted fortitude and
good spirits, as we say, nor discovers the least repining at his fate.
But you and I who sleep on beds of down and inhale the untainted,
cherishing air, surrounded by most endeared connexions, know that his
cannot be the most delectable of situations: therefor with impatience we
look for his happy return to the Circle of his Friends.

Yr aff Bro.

Solomon Drowne


Newport Nov. 14 1781

Respected Mother,

I found Billy much better than I expected, the account we received of
his situation having been considerably exaggerated: However we ought to
be thankful we were not deceived by a too favorable account, and so left
him to the care of strangers, when he might most need the soothing aid
of close relatives. He is very weak yet, and as a second relapse might
endanger his reduced, tottering system, think it advisable not to set
off for home with him till the wind is favorable. He is impatient, for
the moment of its shifting, as he is anxious to see you all.

The boat is just going, Adieu, yr aff son

Solomon Drowne

We have already quoted from the Recollections of Jeremiah Johnson who
lived on the banks of Wallabout Bay during the Revolution. He further
says: "The prisoners confined in the Jersey had secretly obtained a
crow-bar which was kept concealed in the berth of some confidential
officer among the prisoners. The bar was used to break off the _port_
gratings. This was done, in windy nights, when good swimmers were ready
to leave the ship for the land. In this way a number escaped.

"Captain Doughty, a friend of the writer, had charge of the bar when he
was a prisoner on board of the Jersey, and effected his escape by its
means. When he left the ship he gave the bar to a confidant to be used
for the relief of others. Very few who left the ship were retaken. They
knew where to find friends to conceal them, and to help them beyond

"A singularly daring and successful escape was effected from the Jersey
about 4 o'clock one afternoon in the beginning of Dec. 1780. The best
boat of the ship had returned from New York between 3 & 4 o'clock, and
was left fast at the gangway, with the oars on board. The afternoon was
stormy, the wind blew from the north-east, and the tide ran flood.
A watchword was given, and a number of prisoners placed themselves
carelessly between the ship's waist and the sentinel. At this juncture
four Eastern Captains got on board the boat, which was cast off by their
friends. The boat passed close under the bows of the ship, and was a
considerable distance from her before the sentinel in the fo'castle gave
the alarm, and fired at her. The second boat was manned for a chase; she
pursued in vain; one man from her bow fired several shots at the boat,
and a few guns were fired at her from the Bushwick shore; but all to no
effect,--and the boat passed Hell-gate in the evening, and arrived safe
in Connecticut next morning.

"A spring of the writer was a favorite watering-place for the British
shipping. The water-boat of the Jersey watered from this spring daily
when it could be done; four prisoners were generally brought on shore
to fill the casks, attended by a guard. The prisoners were frequently
permitted to come to the (Johnstons') house to get milk and food; and
often brought letters privately from the prisoners. From these the
sufferings on board were revealed.

"Supplies of vegetables were frequently collected by Mr. Remsen (the
benevolent owner of the mill,) for the prisoners; and small sums of
money were sent on board by the writer's father to his friends by means
of these watering parties."


"I was one of 850 souls confined in the Jersey in the summer of 1781,
and witnessed several daring attempts to escape. They generally ended
tragically. They were always undertaken in the night, after wrenching or
filing the bar off the port-holes. Having been on board several weeks,
and goaded to death in various ways, four of us concluded to run the
hazard. We set to work and got the bars off, and waited impatiently for
a dark night. We lay in front of Mr. Remsen's door, inside of the
pier head and not more that 20 yards distant. There were several guard
sloops, one on our bow, and the other off our quarter a short distance
from us. The dark night came, the first two were lowered quietly into
the water; and the third made some rumbling. I was the fourth that
descended, but had not struck off from the vessel before the guards
were alarmed, and fired upon us. The alarm became general, and I was
immediately hauled on board (by the other prisoners).

"They manned their boats, and with their lights and implements of death
were quick in pursuit of the unfortunates, cursing and swearing, and
bellowing and firing. It was awful to witness this deed of blood. It
lasted about an hour,--all on board trembling for our shipmates. These
desperadoes returned to their different vessels rejoicing that they had
killed three damned rebels.

"About three years after this I saw a gentleman in John St., near
Nassau, who accosted me thus: 'Manley, how do you do?' I could not
recollect him. 'Is it possible you don't know me? Recollect the Old
Jersey?' And he opened his vest and bared his breast. I immediately said
to him--'You are James McClain.' 'I am,' said he. We both stepped into
Mariner's public house, at the corner, and he related his marvellous
escape to me.

"'They pursued me:--I frequently dived to avoid them, and when I came up
they fired on me. I caught my breath, and immediately dived again, and
held my breath till I crawled along the mud. They no doubt thought they
killed me. I however, with much exertion, though weak and wounded, made
out to reach the shore, and got into a barn, not far from the ship, a
little north of Mr. Remsen's house. The farmer, the next morning, came
into his barn,--saw me lying on the floor, and ran out in a fright. I
begged him to come to me, and he did, I gave an account of myself, where
I was from, how I was pursued, with several others. He saw my wounds,
took pity on me; sent for his wife, and bound up my wounds, and kept
me in the barn until night-fall,--took me into his house, nursed me
secretly, and then furnished me with clothing, etc., and when I was
restored, he took me with him, into his market-boat to this city, and
went with me to the west part of the city, provided me with a passage
over to Bergen, and I landed somewhere in Communipaw. Some friends
helped me across Newark Bay, and then I worked my way, until I
reached Baltimore, to the great joy of all my friends." [Footnote:
"Recollections of Captain Manley".]

Just what proportion of captives died on board of the Jersey it is now
impossible to determine. No doubt there were many escapes of which it
is impossible to obtain the particulars. The winter of 1779-80 was
excessively cold, and the Wallabout Bay was frozen over. One night
a number of prisoners took advantage of this to make their escape by
lowering themselves from a port hole on to the ice. It is recorded that
the cold was so excessive that one man was frozen to death, that the
British pursued the party and brought a few of them back, but that a
number succeeded in making their escape to New Jersey. Who these men
were we have been unable to discover. Tradition also states that while
Wallabout Bay was thus frozen over the Long Island market women skated
across it, with supplies of vegetables in large hampers attached to
their backs, and that some of them came near enough to throw some of
their supplies to the half-famished prisoners on board the Jersey.

It would appear that these poor sufferers had warm friends in the
farmers who lived on the shores of the Wallabout. Of these Mr. A.
Remsen, who owned a mill at the mouth of a creek which empties into the
Bay, was one of the most benevolent, and it was his daughter who is said
to have kept a list of the number of bodies that were interred in the
sand in the neighborhood of the mill and house. In 1780 Mr Remsen hid an
escaped prisoner, Major H. Wyckoff, for several days in one of his upper
rooms, while at the same time the young lieutenant of the guard of the
Jersey was quartered in the house. Remsen also lent Captain Wyckoff as
much money as he needed, and finally, one dark night, safely conveyed
him in a sleigh to Cow Neck. From thence he crossed to Poughkeepsie.

Although little mention is made by those prisoners who have left
accounts of their experiences while on board the Jersey, of any aid
received by them from the American government the following passage from
a Connecticut paper would seem to indicate that such aid was tendered
them at least for a time. It is possible that Congress sent some
provisions to the prison-ships for her imprisoned soldiers, or marines,
but made no provision for the crews of privateers.

"New London. September 1st. 1779. D. Stanton testifies that he was taken
June 5th, and put in the Jersey prison ship. An allowance from Congress
was sent on board. About three or four weeks past we were removed on
board the Good Hope, where we found many sick. There is now a hospital
ship provided, to which they are removed and good attention paid."

The next extract that we will quote probably refers to the escape of
prisoners on the ice referred to above.

"New London. Conn. Feb. 16th. 1780. Fifteen prisoners arrived here who
three weeks ago escaped from the prison-ship in the East River. A number
of others escaped about the same time from the same ship, some of whom
being frost-bitten and unable to endure the cold, were taken up and
carried back, one frozen to death before he reached the shore."

"_Rivington's Gazette_, Dec. 19th 1780. George Batterman, who had been
a prisoner on board the prison ship at New York, deposes that he had had
eight ounces of condemned bread per day; and eight ounces of meat. He
was afterwards put on board the Jersey, where were, as was supposed,
1,100 prisoners; recruiting officers came on board and finding that the
American officers persuaded the men not to enlist, removed them, as he
was told, to the Provost. The prisoners were tempted to enlist to free
themselves from confinement, hopeless of exchange. * * * The prisoners
had a pint of water per day:--the sick were not sent to the hospitals
until they were so weak and ill that they often expired before they got
out of the Jersey. The commanding officer said his orders were that if
the ship took fire we should all be turned below, and left to perish in
the flames. By accident the ship took fire in the steward's room, when
the Hessian guards were ordered to drive the prisoners below, and fire
among them if they resisted or got in the water."

Talbot in his Memoirs stated that: "When the weather became cool and
dry in the fall and the nights frosty the number of deaths on board the
Jersey was _reduced_ to an average of ten per day! which was _small_
compared with the mortality for three months before. The human bones
and skulls yet bleaching on the shore of Long Island, and exposed by the
falling down of the high bank, on which the prisoners were buried, is a
shocking sight." (Talbot, page 106.)

In May, 1808, one William Burke of New York testified that "He was a
prisoner in the Jersey 14 months, has known many American prisoners put
to death by the bayonet. It was the custom for but one prisoner at a
time to go on deck. One night while many prisoners were assembled at the
grate, at the hatchway to obtain fresh air, and waiting their turn to
go on deck, a sentinel thrust his bayonet down among them, and 25 next
morning were found to be dead. This was the case several mornings, when
sometimes six, and sometimes eight or ten were found dead by wounds thus

A Connecticut paper, some time in May, 1781, stated that. "Eleven
hundred French and American prisoners died in New York last winter."

A paper published in Philadelphia, on the 20th of February, 1782, says:
"Many of our unfortunate prisoners on board the prison ships in the East
River have perished during the late extreme weather, for want of fuel
and other necessaries."

"New London. May 3rd. 1782. One thousand of our seamen remain in prison
ships in New York, a great part in close confinement for six months
past, and in a most deplorable condition. Five hundred have died during
the past five or six months, three hundred are sick; many seeing no
prospect of release are entering the British service to elude the
contagion with which the prison ships are fraught."

Joel Barlow in his Columbiad says that Mr. Elias Boudinot told him that
in the Jersey 1,100 prisoners died in eighteen months, almost the whole
of them from the barbarous treatment of being stifled in a crowded hold
with infected air; and poisoned with unwholesome food, and Mr Barlow
adds that the cruelties exercised by the British armies on American
prisoners during the first years of the war were unexampled among
civilized nations.


Such of the prisoners as escaped after months of suffering with health
sufficient for future usefulness in the field often re-enlisted, burning
for revenge.

Mr. Scharf, in his "History of Western Maryland," speaks of Colonel
William Kunkel, who had served in Prussia, and emigrated to America
about the year 1732. He first settled in Lancaster, Pa., but afterwards
moved to Western Maryland. He had six sons in the Revolution. One of
these sons entered the American army at the age of eighteen. Taken
prisoner he was sent on board the Jersey, where his sufferings were
terrible. On his return home after his exchange he vowed to his father
that he would return to the army and fight until the last redcoat was
driven out of the country. He did return, and from that time, says Mr
Scharf, his family never heard from him again.

Mr. Crimmins in his "Irish-American Historical Miscellany," says: "An
especially affecting incident is told regarding one prisoner who died
on the Jersey. Two young men, brothers, belonging to a rifle corps were
made prisoners, and sent on board the ship. The elder took the fever,
and in a few days became delirious. One night as his end was fast
approaching, he became calm and sensible, and lamenting his hard fate,
and the absence of his mother, begged for a little water. His brother
with tears, entreated the guard to give him some, but in vain. The sick
youth was soon in his last struggles, when his brother offered the guard
a guinea for an inch of candle, only that he might see him die. Even
this was denied."

The young rifleman died in the dark.

"Now," said his brother, drying his tears, "if it please God that I ever
regain my liberty, I'll be a most bitter enemy!"

He was exchanged, rejoined the army, and when the war ended he is said
to have had eight large and one hundred and twenty-seven small notches
on his rifle stock. The inference is that he made a notch every time he
killed or wounded a British soldier, a large notch for an officer, and a
small one for a private.

Mr. Lecky, the English historian, thus speaks of American prisoners:
"The American prisoners who had been confined in New York after the
battle of Long Island were so emaciated and broken down by scandalous
neglect or ill usage that Washington refused to receive them in exchange
for an equal number of healthy British and Hessian troops. * * * It is
but justice to the Americans to add that their conduct during the war
appears to have been almost uniformly humane. No charges of neglect
of prisoners, like those which were brought, apparently with too good
reason, against the English, were substantiated against them. The
conduct of Washington was marked by a careful and steady humanity, and
Franklin, also, appears to have done much to mitigate the war."

Our task is now concluded. We have concerned ourselves with the
prisoners themselves, not much with the history of the negotiations
carried on to effect exchange, but have left this part of the subject
to some abler hand. Only a very small part of the story has been told
in this volume, and there is much room for future investigations. It
is highly probable that if a systematic search is made many unpublished
accounts may be discovered, and a great deal of light shed upon the
horrors of the British prisons. If we have awakened interest in the sad
fate of so many of our brave countrymen, and aroused some readers to a
feeling of compassion for their misfortunes, and admiration for their
heroism, our task has not been in vain.




This list of names was copied from the papers of the British War
Department. There is nothing to indicate what became of any of these
prisoners, whether they died, escaped, or were exchanged. The list
seems to have been carelessly kept, and is full of obvious mistakes in
spelling the names. Yet it shall be given just as it is, except that
the names are arranged differently, for easier reference. This list
of prisoners is the only one that could be found in the British War
Department. What became of the lists of prisoners on the many other
prison ships, and prisons, used by the English in America, we do not

     Garret Aarons
     John Aarons (2)
     Alexander Abbett
     John Abbett
     James Abben
     John Abbott
     Daniel Abbott
     Abel Abel
     George Abel
     Jacob Aberry
     Jabez Abett
     Philip Abing
     Thomas Abington
     Christopher Abois
     William Aboms
     Daniel Abrams
     Don Meegl (Miguel) Abusure
     Gansio Acito
     Abel Adams
     Amos Adams
     Benjamin Adams
     David Adams
     Isaac Adams
     John Adams (4)
     Lawrence Adams
     Moses Adams
     Nathaniel Adams
     Pisco Adams
     Richard Adams
     Stephen Adams
     Thomas Adams
     Warren Adams
     Amos Addams
     Thomas Addett
     Benjamin Addison
     David Addon
     John Adlott
     Robert Admistad
     Noah Administer
     Wm Adamson (2)
     John Adobon
     James Adovie
     Sebastian de Aedora
     Jean Aenbie
     Michael Aessinis
     Frances Affille
     Joseph Antonio Aguirra
     Thomas Aguynoble
     John Aires
     Robert Aitken
     Thomas Aiz
     Manuel Ajote
     Jacob Akins
     Joseph Aker (2)
     Richard Akerson
     Charles Albert
     Piere Albert
     Robert Albion
     Joachin Alconan
     Joseph de Alcorta
     Juan Ignacid Alcorta
     Pedro Aldaronda
     Humphrey Alden
     Fred Aldkin
     George Aldridge
     Jacob Alehipike
     Jean Aleslure
     Archibald Alexander
     John Alexander (2)
     Lehle Alexander
     William Alexander
     Thomas Alger
     Christopher Aliet
     Joseph Aliev
     George Alignott
     Joseph Allah
     Gideon Allan
     Hugh Allan
     Francis Allegree
     Baeknel Allen
     Bancke Allen
     Benjamin Allen
     Bucknell Allen
     Ebeneser Allen
     George Allen
     Gideon Allen
     Isaac Allen
     John Allen (5)
     Josiah Allen
     Murgo Allen
     Richard Allen (2)
     Samuel Allen (7)
     Squire Allen
     Thomas Allen (3)
     William Allen (4)
     Jean Allin
     Caleb Allis
     Bradby Allison
     Bradey Allison
     James Allison
     Frances Alment
     Arrohan Almon
     Aceth Almond
     William Alpin
     Jacob Alsfrugh
     Jacob Alsough
     Jacob Alstright
     Jacob Alsworth
     Thomas Alvarey
     Miguel Alveras
     Don Ambrose Alverd
     Joseph Alvey
     James Alwhite
     George Alwood
     James Alwood
     Charles Amey
     Anthony Amingo
     Manuel Amizarma
     Nathaniel Anabel
     Austin Anaga
     Jean Ancette
     Charles Anderson
     Joseph Anderson
     Robert Anderson
     William Anderson (3)
     George Andre
     Benjamin Andrews
     Charles Andrews
     Dollar Andrews
     Ebeneser Andrews
     Francis Andrews
     Frederick Andrews
     Jerediah Andrews
     John Andrews (4)
     Jonathan Andrews
     Pascal Andrews
     Philany Andrews
     Thomas Andrews
     William Andrews
     Guillion Andrie
     Pashal Andrie
     Dominique Angola
     Andre D. C. Annapolen
     Joseph Anrandes
     John Anson
     William Anster
     David Anthony
     Davis Anthony
     Samuel Anthony
     Pierre Antien
     Jacques Antiqua
     Jean Anton
     Francis Antonf
     John Antonio
     Daniel Appell
     Daniel Apple
     Thomas Appleby
     Samuel Appleton
     Joseph Aquirse
     ---- Arbay
     Abraham Archer
     James Archer
     John Archer
     Stephen Archer
     Thomas Arcos
     Richard Ariel
     Asencid Arismane
     Ezekiel Arme
     Jean Armised
     James Armitage
     Elijah Armsby
     Christian Armstrong
     William Armstrong
     Samuel Arnibald
     Amos Arnold
     Ash Arnold
     Samuel Arnold
     Charles Arnolds
     Samuel Arnolds
     Thomas Arnold
     Andres Arral
     Manuel de Artol
     Don Pedro Asevasuo
     Hosea Asevalado
     James Ash
     Henry Ash
     John Ashbey
     John Ashburn
     Peter Ashburn
     John Ashby
     Warren Ashby
     John Ashley
     Andrew Askill
     Francis Aspuro
     John Athan
     George Atkins
     John Atkins
     Silas Atkins
     John Atkinson
     Robert Atkinson
     William Atkinson
     James Atlin
     Duke Attera
     Jean Pierre Atton
     John Atwood
     Henry Auchinlaup
     Joseph Audit
     Anthony Aiguillia
     Igarz Baboo Augusion
     Peter Augusta
     Thomas Augustine
     Laurie Aujit
     George Austin
     Job Avery
     Benjamin Avmey
     Francis Ayres
     Don Pedro Azoala


     Franklin Babcock
     William Babcock
     James Babel
     Jeremiah Babell
     Jean Babier
     Abel Baboard
     Vascilla Babtreause
     Francis Bachelier
     Jonathan Bachelor
     Antonio Backalong
     Francis Backay
     Benjamin Bacon
     Esau Bacon
     Judah Bacon
     Stephen Badante
     Laurence Badeno
     William Badick
     Jonathan Baddock
     John Baggar
     Barnett Bagges
     Adam Bagley
     Joseph Bahamony
     John Bailey (2)
     William Bailey
     Moses Baird
     Joseph Baisolus
     William Baison
     William Batho
     Christopher Baker
     Ebenezer Baker
     John Baker (2)
     Joseph Baker
     Judah Baker
     Lemuel Baker
     Nathaniel Baker
     Pamberton Baker
     Pemberton Baker
     Pembleton Baker
     Thomas Baker (3)
     David Baldwin
     James Baldwin
     John Baldwin
     Nathaniel Baldwin
     Ralph Baldwin
     Thomas Ball
     Benjamin Ballard
     John Ballast
     Joseph Balumatigua
     Ralf Bamford
     Jacob Bamper
     Peter Banaby
     James Bandel
     Augustine Bandine
     Pierre Bandine
     John Banister (2)
     Matthew Bank
     James Banker
     John Banks
     Matthew Banks
     Jean Rio Bapbsta
     Jean Baptista
     Gale Baptist
     Jean Baptist
     John Barber
     Gilbert Barber
     John Barden
     William Barenoft
     Walter Bargeman
     Joseph Bargeron
     Charles Bargo
     Mabas Bark
     Benjamin Barker
     Edward Barker
     Jacom Barker
     John Barker
     Peter Barker
     Thomas Barker
     Benjamin Barkly
     Joseph Barkump
     John Barley
     James Barman
     Ethiem Barnell
     Charles Barnes
     Henry Barnes
     Wooding Barnes
     John Barnett
     Henry Barney
     Mons Barney
     Samuel Barney
     William Barnhouse
     James Barracks
     Pierre Barratt
     Abner Barre
     Dennis Barrett
     Enoch Barrett
     Francis Barrett
     Samuel Barrett
     William Barrett
     Robert Barrol
     Bernard Barron
     Enoch Barrott
     Francis Barsidge
     William Bartlet
     Joseph Bartley
     Charles Barthalemerd
     Charles Bartholemew
     Joseph Bartholomew
     ---- Bartholomew
     Benjamin Bartholoyd
     Petrus Bartlemie
     Michael Bartol
     Thomas Barton
     John Basker
     William Bason
     Donnor Bass
     Juvery Bastin
     Michael Bastin
     Louis Baston
     Asa Batcheler
     Benjamin Bate
     Benjamin Bates
     Henry Bates
     James Bates
     William Batt
     John Battersley
     John Battesker
     Adah Batterman
     Adam Batterman
     George Batterman (2)
     Joseph Batterman
     ---- Baumos
     Thomas Bausto
     Benjamin Bavedon
     George Baxter
     Malachi Baxter
     Richard Bayan
     Joseph Bayde
     Thomas Bayess
     John Bayley
     Joseph Baynes
     Jean Baxula
     John Bazee
     Daniel Beal
     Samuel Beal
     Joseph Beane
     James Beankey
     James Bearbank
     Jesse Bearbank
     Morgan Beard
     Moses Beard
     Daniel Beatty
     Benjamin Beasel
     Joseph Beaufort
     Perri Beaumont
     Andrew Beck
     Thomas Beck
     William Beckett
     Jonathan Beckwith
     Francis Bedell
     Frederick Bedford
     Joseph Bedford
     Thomas Bedford
     Benjamin Beebe
     Elias Beebe
     Joshua Beebe
     Benjamin Beeford
     James Beekman
     Walter Beekwith
     Lewis Begand
     Joseph Begley
     Joseph Belcher
     John Belding
     Pierre Belgard
     Aaron Bell
     Charles Bell
     Robert Bell
     Uriah Bell
     Alexander Bellard
     Joseph Belter
     Julian Belugh
     Jean Bengier
     Joseph Benloyde
     John Benn
     George Bennett
     John Bennett
     Joseph Bennett
     Peter Bennett
     Pierre Bennett
     Anthony Benson
     Stizer Benson
     David Benton
     John Benton
     Peter Bentler
     Nathaniel Bentley (2)
     Peter Bentley
     William Bentley
     Joshua M Berason
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     Simeon Drown
     William Drown
     Jean Dubison
     Tames Dublands
     Thomas Dubois
     Henry Dubtoe
     Michael Duchaee
     Archibald Ducker
     Jean Duckie
     Martin Ducloy
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     Doulram Duffey
     Ezekiel Duffey
     Thomas Duffield
     Michael Duffin
     Thomas Duffy
     Jacques Duforte
     Franes Dugree
     Chemuel Duke
     John Duke
     William Duke
     Isaac Dukerson
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     Terrence Dumraven
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     George Duncan
     John Duncan
     James Duncan
     William Duncan
     Thomas Dung
     John Dunhire
     John Dunison
     James Dunkin
     Pierre Dunkwater
     Thomas Dunlope
     John Dunlope
     Thomas Dunlope
     Archibald Dunlopp
     Allan Dunlot
     John Dunmerhay
     Arthur Dunn
     Joseph Dunn
     Peter Dunn
     Sylvester Dunnam
     John Dunning
     Peter Dunning
     Thomas Dunnon
     Edene Dunreas
     Allen Dunslope
     William Dunton
     Stephen Dunwell
     Ehenne Dupee
     Thomas Duphane
     Francis Duplessis
     France Dupue
     Charles Duran
     Henry Duran
     Lewis Duran
     Glase Durand
     Jacques Durant
     Sylvester Durham
     Israel Durphey
     Jonathan J Durvana
     Robert Duscasson
     Anthony Duskin
     Andrew Duss
     William Dussell
     Raoul Dutchell
     James Duverick
     Timothy Dwier
     William Dwine
     John Dwyer
     Timothy Dwyer (2)
     William Dwyman
     Alexander Dyer
     Fitch Dyer
     Hat Dyer
     Hubert Dyer
     Jonathan Dyer
     Nathan Dyer
     Patrick Dyer
     Robert Dyer
     Roger Dyer
     Samuel Dyer


     David Each
     Simon Eachforsh
     David Eadoe
     Benjamin Earle
     Isaac Earle
     Lewis Earle
     Pardon Earle (2)
     Michael Eason
     Amos Easterbrook
     Charles Easterbrook
     John Eaves
     Joseph Ebben
     John Ebbinstone
     Avico Ecbeveste
     Joseph Echangueid
     Francis Echauegud
     Amorois Echave
     Lorendo Echerauid
     Francis Echesevria
     Ignatius Echesevria
     Manuel de Echeverale
     Fermin Echeuarria
     Joseph Nicola Echoa
     Thoman Ecley -- Edbron
     Thomas Eddison
     William Ede
     Butler Edelin
     Jessie Edgar
     John Edgar
     Thomas Edgar
     William Edgar (2)
     James Edgarton
     Philip Edgarton
     Doum Edmondo
     Henry Edmund
     John Edmund
     Alexander Edwards
     Charles Edwards
     Daniel Edwards
     Edward Edwards
     Henry Edwards
     James Edwards
     John Edwards
     Michael Edwards
     Rollo Edwards
     Thomas Edwards
     William Edwards (2)
     James Eggleston
     Samuel Eggleston
     James Egrant
     James Ekkleston
     Jonathan Elbridge
     Nathan Elder
     Luther Elderkin
     Daniel Elderton
     Aldub Eldred
     Daniel Eldridge (2)
     Ezra Eldridge
     James Eldridge
     Thomas Eldridge
     William Eldridge
     William Eleves
     Richard Elgin
     John Eli
     Benjamin Elias
     Benjamin Elith
     James Elkins
     Nicholas Ellery
     Cornelius Elliott
     Daniel Elliott
     John Elliott
     Joseph Elliott
     Nathaniel Elliott
     Jonathan Ellis
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     Theodore Ellsworth
     Stephen Elns
     Nathaniel Elridge
     Isaac Elwell
     John Elwell
     Samuel Elwell (3)
     James Emanuel (2)
     George Emery
     Jean Emilgon
     John Engrum
     John Eoon
     Samuel Epworth
     John Erexson
     Ignaus Ergua
     Martin Eronte
     James Esk
     Walford Eskridge
     Antony Esward
     Anthony Eticore
     Joseph Eton
     Francis Eugalind
     Joseph Eugalind
     Nicholas Euston
     Alias Evans
     Pierre Evans
     Francis Eveane
     Lewis Eveane
     Lewis Even
     Peni Evena
     Pierre Evena
     Even Evens
     William Evens
     Jeremiah Everett
     Ebenezer Everall
     Robert Everley
     George Everson
     John Everson
     Benjamin Eves
     David Evins
     John Evins
     Peter Ewen
     Thomas Ewell
     William Ewell
     Peter Ewen
     Thomas Ewen
     James Ewing
     Thomas Ewing
     Juan Vicente Expassa
     Christian Eyes


     Jean Paul Fabalue
     John Faber
     Ashan Fairfield
     Benjamin Fairfield
     John Fairfield (2)
     William Faithful
     Henry Falam
     Ephraim Falkender
     George Falker
     Robert Fall
     Thomas Fallen
     Henry Falls
     Francis Fanch
     Jean Fanum
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     Michael Farrean
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     Robert Fauntroy
     Joseph Feebe
     Martin Feller
     James Fellows
     Nathaniel Fellows
     John Felpig
     Peter Felpig
     Benjamin Felt
     David Felter
     Thomas Fennall
     Cable Fennell
     John Fenton
     Cable Fenwell
     Joseph Ferarld
     Domigo Ferbon
     David Fere
     Matthew Fergoe
     Pierre Fermang
     Noah Fernal
     Francis Fernanda
     Thomas Fernandis
     Matthew Fernay
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     Fountain Fernray
     Ehemre Ferote
     Joseph Ferre
     Lewis Ferret
     Toseph Ferria
     Kennedy Ferril
     Conway Ferris
     Paul Ferris
     William Fester
     Elisha Fettian
     Manuel Fevmandez
     Frederick Fiarde
     John Ficket
     Charles Field
     John Fielding
     W Fielding
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     John Fife
     Edwin Fifer
     Nathaniel Figg
     Benjamin Files
     Jean Francis Fillear
     Patrick Filler
     Ward Filton
     John Fimsey
     Bartholomew Finagan
     David Finch
     John Fincher
     George Finer
     Dennis Finesy
     Francis Finley
     James Finley
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     Jonathan Finney (3)
     Seth Finney
     Thomas Finney
     Robert Firmie
     Joseph Firth
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     Ezekiel Fish
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     Nathaniel Fish (2)
     John Fisham
     Abraham Fisher
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     Isaac Fisher
     Jonathan Fisher
     Nathan Fisher
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     Simon Fisher
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     William Fisk
     John Fist
     Solomon Fist
     Ebenezer Fitch
     Jedeiah Fitch
     Josiah Fitch
     Peter Fitch
     Theopilus Fitch
     Timothy Fitch
     Henry Fitchett
     William Fithin
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     Patrick Faroh Fitz
     Edward Fitzgerald
     Patrick Fitzgerald
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     William Fling
     John Flinn
     Berry Floyd
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     Jonathan Follett
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     John Folston
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     Samuel Foot
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     John Footman
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     Daniel Ford
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     John Ford
     Philip Ford
     William Ford
     Benjamin Fordham
     Daniel Fore
     Hugh Foresyth
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     Matthew Forgough
     George Forket
     Samuel Forquer
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     Francis Forster
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     John Fort
     Anthony Fortash
     Emanuel Fortaud
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     Asa Foster
     Boston Foster
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     George Foster
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     Jebediah Foster
     Josiah Foster (2)
     John Foster (6)
     Nathaniel Foster
     Nicholas Foster
     William Foster
     Ephraim Fostman
     John Fouber
     Francis Foubert
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     Gideon Fowler
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     Joseph Fowler
     Michael Fowler
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     William Francis
     Manuel Francisco
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     Michael Franks
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     David Freeman
     Henry Freeman
     Humphrey Freeman
     John Freeman
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     Zebediah Freeman
     James French
     Jonathan French
     Michael French
     Josias Frett
     John Fretto
     Juban Freway
     Anthony Frick
     Post Friend
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     Isaac Frisby
     Josiah Frith
     John Frost
     Joseph Frost (2)
     Peter Frume
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     Robert Fry
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     Joseph Fubre
     Joseph Fuganey
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     Reuben Fulger
     Stephen Fulger
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     James Fuller
     Joseph Fuller
     Thaddeus Fuller
     Thomas Fuller (2)
     George Fullum
     James Fulton
     Thomas Fulton
     Abner Furguson
     Samuel Furguson
     John Furse
     John Fury
     Iman Futter


     Eudrid Gabria
     Francis Gabriel
     Franes Gabriel
     Hernan Gage
     Isaac Gage
     Matthew Gage
     Stephen Gage
     Jonas Gale
     Joseph Galina
     Andrew Gallager
     John Gallard
     John Gallaspie
     Richard Galley
     William Gallway
     Anthony Gallys
     James Gamband
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     Joseph Gamble
     Peter Gambo
     Pierre Ganart
     William Gandee
     William Gandel
     Francis Gandway
     John Gandy
     Hosea Garards
     Antony Gardil
     Silas Gardiner
     William Gardiner
     Alexander Gardner (3)
     Dominic Gardner
     James Gardner (3)
     Joseph Gardner (5)
     Larry Gardner
     Robert Gardner
     Samuel Gardner
     Silas Gardner
     Thomas Gardner
     Uriah Gardner
     William Gardner
     Dominico Gardon
     John Garey
     Manolet Garico
     James Garish
     Paul Garish
     John Garland (2)
     Barney Garlena
     Joseph Garley
     ---- Garner
     Silas Garner
     John Garnet
     Sylvester Garnett
     Isaac Garret
     Michael Garret
     John Garretson
     Antonio Garrett
     Jacques Garrett
     Richard Garrett
     William Garrett
     Louis C. Garrier
     Jacob Garrison (2)
     Joseph Garrison (3)
     Joseph Garrit
     Thomas Garriway
     Jean Garrow
     Roman Garsea
     William Garty
     Job Gascin
     Daniel Gasett
     Jacob Gasker
     Simon Gason (2)
     Manot Gasse
     John Gassers
     Francis Gater
     Charles Gates
     Peter Gaypey
     John Gault
     Paul Gaur
     Thomas Gaurmon
     Thomas Gawner
     Solomon Gay
     William Gay
     Charles Gayford
     John Gaylor
     Robert Geddes
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     George Georgean
     Hooper Gerard
     Riviere de Ggoslin
     George Gill
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     Edward Gibbertson
     John Gibbons
     Charles Gibbs (3)
     John Gibbs (2)
     Andrew Gibson
     Benjamin Gibson
     George Gibson
     James Gibson
     William Gibson
     Stephen Giddron
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     George Gilbert
     Timothy Gilbert
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     Robert Gilchrist
     John Giles
     Samuel Giles (2)
     Thomas Giles
     William Giles
     John Gill
     Philip Gill
     William Gill
     John Gilladen
     Jean B. Gillen
     Richard Gilleny
     William Gillespie
     John Gillis
     John Gillison
     David Gillispie
     David Gillot
     Toby Gilmay
     John Gilmont
     Nathaniel Gilson
     Thomas Gimray
     Peter Ginnis
     Jean Ginnow
     Baptist Giraud
     Joseph Girca
     William Gisburn
     Francis Gissia
     Jean Glaied
     Charles Glates
     Jean Glease
     Jean Gleasie
     Gabriel Glenn
     Thomas Glerner
     William Glesson
     James Gloacque
     William Glorman
     Edward Gloss
     Michael Glosses
     Daniel Gloud
     Jonathan Glover
     William Glover
     Thomas Goat
     Ebenezer Goddard
     Nicholas Goddard
     Thomas Goddard
     Joseph Godfrey
     Nathaniel Godfrey
     Samuel Godfrey
     Simon Godfrey
     Thomas Godfrey
     William Godfrey (4)
     Francis Godfry
     Pierre Godt
     Vincent Goertin
     Patrick Goff
     John Going
     Ebenezer Gold
     John Golston
     William Golston
     Robert Gomer
     Pierre Goodall
     George Goodby
     Simon Goodfrey
     Eli Goodfry
     Lemuel Gooding
     George Goodley
     Francis Goodman
     Eli Goodnow
     Elizer Goodrich
     Jesse Goodrich
     Solomon Goodrich
     James Goodwick
     Charles Goodwin
     Daniel Goodwin
     George Goodwin
     Gideon Goodwin
     Ozeas Goodwin
     Abel Goose
     James Gootman
     Abel Goove
     ---- Goquie
     Jonathan Goram (2)
     John Gord
     Andrew Gordan
     Andrew Gordon
     James Gordon (2)
     Peter Gordon
     Stephen Gordon
     Jesse Gore
     Jonathan Goreham
     James Gorham
     Jonathan Gorham
     Shubert Gorham
     Joseph Gormia
     Christian Goson
     William Goss
     Jean Gotea
     George Gothe
     Charles Gotson
     Francis Goudin
     Lewis Gouire
     Augustus Goute
     Francis Goutiere
     Joseph Goveir
     Sylverter Govell
     George Gowell (2)
     Henry Gowyall
     Jean Goyear
     Matthew Grace
     William Grafton
     Alexander Graham
     Robert Graham
     Samuel Graham
     David Graines
     Robert Grame
     L. A. Granada
     William Granby
     Adam Grandell
     Alexander Grant
     Thomas Grant
     William Grant
     Thomas Grassing
     William Gratton
     Ebenezer Graub
     Dingley Gray
     Franes Gray
     Joseph Gray (2)
     James Gray
     Samuel Gray
     Simeon Gray
     Simon Gray
     William Gray
     Isaac Greeman
     Allen Green
     Elijah Green (2)
     Elisha Green
     Henry Green
     John Green (9)
     Joseph Green (2)
     Robert Green
     Rufus Green
     William Green (3)
     Green Greenbury
     Enoch Greencafe
     James Greene (3)
     John Greene (4)
     Samuel Greene
     John Greenes
     Richard Greenfield
     Abner Greenleaf
     John Greenoth
     William Greenville
     Barton Greenville
     Malum Greenwell
     Robert Greenwold
     Jacob Greenwood
     David Gregory
     Stephen Gregory (2)
     Ebenezer Grenach
     William Grennis
     Ebenezer Grenyard
     Samuel Grey
     Charles Grier
     Isaac Grier
     Mather Grier
     William Grierson
     Moses Griffen
     Alexander Griffin
     Daniel Griffin
     Elias Griffin
     James Griffin (2)
     Jasper Griffin
     Joseph Griffin
     Moses Griffin (2)
     Peter Griffin
     Rosetta Griffin
     James Griffith
     William Griffith
     James Grig
     John Griggs
     Thomas Grilley
     Peter Grinn
     Philip Griskin
     Edward Grissell
     Elijah Griswold
     Jotun Griswold
     John Grogan
     Joseph Grogan
     Josiah Grose
     Peter Grosper
     Benjamin Gross
     Michael Gross
     Simon P. Gross
     Tonos Gross
     Peleg Grotfield
     John Grothon
     Andrew Grottis
     Joseph Grouan
     Michael Grout
     Stephen Grove
     Thomas Grover (2)
     John Gruba
     Samuel Grudge
     Peter Gruin
     George Grymes
     John Guae
     Cyrus Guan
     Elisha Guarde
     John Guason
     John Guay
     Bense Guenar
     Nathaniel Gugg
     Pierre Guilber
     John Guilley
     Peter Guin
     William Guinep
     Joseph Guiness
     Joseph Guinet
     William Gulirant
     Joseph Gullion
     Souran Gult
     Jean Gumeuse
     Antonio Gundas
     Julian Gunder
     William Gunnup
     Jean Gunteer
     Pierre Gurad
     Anthony Gurdell
     Franes Gusboro
     George Guster
     Jean Joseph Guthand
     Francis Guvare
     William Gwinnup


     Samuel Hacker
     John Hackett
     Benjamin Haddock
     Caraway Hagan
     Anthony de la Hage
     James Haggarty
     John Haglus
     Ebenezer Hail
     David Halbort
     William Haldron
     Matthew Hales
     Aaron Hall
     Ebenezer Hall
     Isaac Hall
     James Hall
     John Hall (3)
     Joseph Hall
     London Hall
     Lyman Hall
     Millen Hall
     Moses Hall
     Nathan Hall
     Samuel Hall
     Spence Hall
     Thomas Hall (3)
     William Hall
     Willis Hall
     Thomas Hallahan
     James Hallaughan
     Benjamin Hallett (2)
     James Hallett (2)
     Ephraim Halley
     John Halley
     Joseph Halley (2)
     Samuel Halley
     Richard Halley
     Charles Hallwell
     Henry Halman
     William Halsey
     Moses Halton
     Jesse Halts
     Byron Halway
     Benjamin Halwell
     James Ham
     Levi Ham
     Reuben Hambell
     William Hamber
     Empsen Hamilton
     Henry Hamilton (2)
     John Hamilton (2)
     William Hamilton (2)
     Flint Hammer
     Charles Hammond
     Elijah Hammond
     Homer Hammond
     James Hammond
     Joseph Hammond
     Thomas Hamsby
     James Hanagan
     Stephen Hanagan
     Henry Hance
     Abraham Hancock
     Samuel Hancock
     Elias Hand
     Elijah Hand
     Gideon Hand
     Joseph Hand (2)
     Thomas Hand
     William Hand
     Levi Handy
     Thomas Handy (3)
     John Hanegan
     Josiah Hanes
     Patrick Hanes
     Samuel Hanes
     John Haney
     Gideon Hanfield
     Peter Hankley
     Every Hanks
     John Hannings
     Hugh Hanson
     James Hanwagon
     Jonathan Hanwood
     John Hanwright
     Neil Harbert
     John Harbine
     Daniel Harbley
     Augustus Harborough
     Peter Harcourt
     Jean Hard
     Lewis Harden
     Richard Harden
     William Harden
     Turner Hardin
     Frances Harding
     Nathaniel Harding (2)
     George Hardy
     James Hardy
     Joseph Hardy (2)
     Thomas Harens
     John Harfun
     Joel Hargeshonor
     Jacob Hargous
     Abraham Hargus
     Thomas Harkasy
     John Harket
     Solomon Harkey
     Thomas Harkins
     Charles Harlin
     Selden Harley
     Solomon Harley
     Byron Harlow
     John Harman
     Richard Harman
     John Harmon
     Joseph Harner
     William Harragall
     John Harragall
     Lewis Harrett
     Bartholomew Harrington
     Daniel Harrington
     Charles Harris
     Edward Harris
     Francis Harris
     George Harris
     Hugh Harris
     James Harris (2)
     John Harris (2)
     Joseph Harris
     Nathaniel Harris (2)
     Robert Harris
     William Harris
     Charles Harrison
     Elijah Harrison
     Gilbert Harrison
     John Harrison
     William Harron
     Charles Harroon
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     Jacob de Hart
     John Hart
     Samuel Hartley
     Jacob Hartman
     James Hartshorne
     Thomas Hartus
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     Michael Hashley
     Philip Hashton
     John Hasker
     Jacob Hassa
     John Hassett
     John Hassey
     Benjamin Hatam
     Charles Hatbor
     Edward Hatch
     Jason Hatch
     Nailor Hatch
     Prince Hatch
     Reuben Hatch
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     Edward Hatchway
     Burton Hathaway
     Jacob Hathaway
     Russell Hathaway
     Woolsey Hathaway
     Andrew Hatt
     Shadrach Hatway
     Michael Haupe
     Jacob Hauser
     William Hawke
     Jacob Hawker
     John Hawker
     John Hawkin
     Christopher Hawkins
     Jabez Hawkins
     John Hawkins (2)
     Thomas Hawkins
     Jacob Hawstick
     John Hawston
     George Haybud
     Benjamin Hayden
     Nicholas Hayman
     David Hayne
     Joseph Haynes
     Peter Haynes (2)
     Thomas Haynes
     William Haynes
     David Hays
     Patrick Hays
     Thomas Hays
     William Hays
     William Haysford
     Benjamin Hazard
     John Hazard
     Samuel Heageork
     Gilbert Heart
     Samuel Heart
     Joseph Hearth
     Charles Heath
     Joseph Heath
     Seren Heath
     Seson Heath
     Jack Hebell
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     George Heft
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     Lacy Helman
     Thomas Helman
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     Daniel Hemdy
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     Alexander Henderson
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     Joseph Henderson
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     Leeman Henley
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     James Henry
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     Joseph Henry
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     William Henry (2)
     John Hensby
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     Enos Henumway
     Dennis Henyard
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     Philip Herewux
     Ephraim Herrick
     John Herrick (2)
     William Herrick
     Michael Herring
     William Herring
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     Robert Hertson
     Augustin Hertros
     Stephen Heskils
     John Hetherington
     John Hewengs
     Lewis Hewit
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     Diah Hibbett
     John Hibell
     Michael Hick
     Daniel Hickey
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     Benjamin Hicks
     John Hicks
     Isaac Higgano
     George Higgins
     Ichabod Higgins
     Samuel Higgins
     Stoutly Higgins
     William Higgins (3)
     Henry Highlander
     John Highlenede
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     James Hill
     Joshua Hill (2)
     Thomas Hill (2)
     Edward Hilley
     James Hilliard
     Joseph Hilliard
     Nicholas Hillory
     Hale Hilton
     Nathaniel Hilton
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     William Hinman
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     Jonathan Hint
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     John Hislop
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     Loren Hitch
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     Joseph Hitchband
     Edward Hitchcock
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     John Hitching
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     William Hobbs
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     Nathaniel Hobby
     Joseph Hockless
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     Benjamin Hodgkinson
     Samuel Hodgson
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     Cornelius Hoffman
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     Stephen Hogan
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     Jacob Hogworthy
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     Thomas Holdridge
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     Michael Holland
     William Holland (2)
     Nicholas Hollen
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     Myburn Holloway
     Grandless Holly
     Henry Holman
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     Joseph Holmes
     Nathaniel Holmes
     Thomas Holmes (3)
     George Holmstead
     Charles Hole
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     James Home
     Jacob Homer
     William Homer
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     Simon Hong
     Warren Honlap
     Daniel Hood (2)
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     George Hook
     John Hook (2)
     George Hooker
     Ezekiel Hooper
     John Hooper (3)
     Michael Hooper (3)
     Sweet Hooper
     Caleb Hopkins
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     Edward Hopper
     John Hopper
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     Levi Hoppins
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     Jean Hosea
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     Jean Hoskins
     James Hottahon
     Ebenezer Hough
     Enos House
     Seren House
     Noah Hovard
     Joseph Hovey
     John Howe
     Absalom Howard
     Ebenezer Howard
     John Howard
     Richard Howard
     Thomas Howard
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     James Howburn
     Edward Howe
     John Howe
     Thomas Howe
     Ebenezer Howell
     Jesse Howell
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     John Howell
     Luke Howell
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     Thomas Howell
     Waller Howell
     William Howell
     Daniel Howland
     Joseph Howman
     Benjamin Hoyde
     Dolphin Hubbard
     Jacob Hubbard
     James Hubbard
     Joel Hubbard
     Moses Hubbard
     William Hubbard
     Abel Hubbell
     William Huddle
     John Hudman
     Fawrons Hudson
     John Hudson
     Phineas Hudson
     John Huet
     Conrad Huffman
     Stephen Huggand
     John Huggins
     Abraham Hughes
     Felix Hughes
     Greenberry Hughes
     Greenord Hughes
     Jesse Hughes
     John Hughes
     Peter Hughes
     Thomas Hughes
     Pierre Hujuon
     Richard Humphrey
     Clement Humphries
     W W Humphries
     Ephraim Hunn
     Cephas Hunt
     John Hunt (2)
     Robert Hunt
     Alexander Hunter
     Ezekiel Hunter
     George Hunter
     Robert Hunter
     Turtle Hunter
     Rechariah Hunter
     Elisha Huntington
     Joseph Harand
     Benjamin Hurd
     Joseph Hurd
     Simon Hurd
     Asa Hurlbut
     George Husband
     John Husband
     Negro Huson
     Charles Huss
     Isaac Huss
     Jesse Hussey
     James Huston
     Zechariah Hutchins
     Esau Hutchinson
     John Hutchison
     Abraham Smith Hyde
     Vincent Hyer


     Joseph Ignacis
     Ivede Sousis Illiumbe
     Benjamin Indecot
     Isaac Indegon
     John Ingersall
     Henry Ingersoll (2)
     John Ingraham
     Joseph Ingraham
     Joshua Ingraham
     Philip Ignissita
     Joseph Irasetto
     David Ireland
     James Ireland
     Joseph Ireland
     Michael Irvin
     George Irwin
     Michael Irwin
     Isaac Isaacs
     George Ismay
     Gospar Israel
     James Ivans
     John Ivington
     Francis D Izoguirre


     Michael Jacen
     Black Jack
     John Jack (2)
     John Jacks (2)
     Frederick Jacks (2)
     George Jacks (2)
     Henry Jacks
     John Jacks
     John Jackson
     James Jackson
     Josiah Jackson
     Nathaniel Jackson
     Peter Jackson
     Robert Jackson
     Jean Jacobs
     Bella Jacobs
     Joseph Jacobs
     Wilson Jacobs
     Andrew Jacobus
     Guitman Jacques
     Guitner Jacques
     Lewis Jacques
     Peter Jadan
     John Jaikes
     Benjamin James
     John James (2)
     Ryan James
     William James
     Daniel Jamison
     Josiah Janes
     Jean Jardin
     Francis Jarnan
     Edward Jarvis
     Petuna Jarvis
     Negro Jask
     John Jassey
     Francis Jatiel
     Clement Jean
     Joseph Jean
     William Jean
     Benjamin Jeanesary
     Roswell Jeffers
     Samuel Jeffers
     James Jeffrey
     John Jeffries
     Joseph Jeffries
     Philip Jeffries
     George Jemrey
     Pierre Jengoux
     David Jenkin
     Enoch Jenkins
     George Jenkins
     Solomon Jenkins
     George Jenney
     John Jenney
     Langdon Jenney
     Langhorn Jenney
     Nathaniel Jennings
     Thomas Jennings
     William Jennings
     John Jenny
     Langhorn Jenny
     Frances Jerun
     Abel Jesbank
     Oliver Jethsam
     Germain Jeune
     Silas Jiles
     Nathan Jinks
     Moses Jinney
     Verd Joamra
     Manuel Joaquire
     Robert Job
     ---- Joe
     Thomas Joel
     Elias Johnson (2)
     Francis Johnson
     George Johnson
     James Johnson (3)
     John Johnson (3)
     Joseph Johnson
     Major Johnson
     Samuel Johnson
     Stephen Johnson
     William Johnson (8)
     Ebenezer Johnston
     Edward Johnston
     George Johnston
     John Johnston (2)
     Joseph Johnston
     Major Johnston
     Michael Johnston
     Miller Johnston
     Paul Johnston
     Peter Johnston
     Robert Johnston (3)
     Samuel Johnston
     Simon Johnston
     Stephen Johnston
     William Johnston (8)
     William B. Johnston
     James Johnstone
     John Joie
     Thomas Joil
     Adam Jolt
     ---- Joan
     Benjamin Jonas
     Abraham Jones
     Alexander Jones
     Benjamin Jones (3)
     Beal Jones
     Clayton Jones
     Darl Jones
     Edward Jones (2)
     James Jones
     Jib Jones
     John Jones (7)
     Thomas Jones (2)
     Richard Jones (2)
     Samuel Jones (3)
     William Jones (10)
     Jean Jordan
     John Jordan
     Philip Jordan
     Nicholas Jordon (2)
     Anthony Joseph
     Antonio Joseph
     Emanuel Joseph
     Thomas Joseph
     William Joslitt
     Antonio Jouest
     Thomas Joulet
     Jean Jourdana
     Mousa Jousegh
     Jean Jowe
     Thomas Jowe
     Curtis Joy
     Josiah Joy
     Peter Joy (2)
     Samuel Joy
     Samuel Joyce
     Conrad Joycelin
     Randon Jucba
     Manuel Joseph Jucerria
     Peter Julian
     Henry Junas
     Henry Junus (2)
     Jacques Jurdant
     George Juster
     Samuel Justice
     Simeon Justive
     George Justus
     Philip Justus


     Mark Kadoody
     Jonn Kam
     Lewis Kale
     Barney Kane
     Edward Kane
     John Kane
     Patrick Kane
     Thomas Kane
     Sprague Kean
     Thomas Kean
     Nathaniel Keard
     William Keary
     Tuson Keath
     Daniel Keaton
     Samuel Kelbey
     Samuel Kelby
     John Keller
     Abner Kelley
     John Kelley (5)
     Michael Kelley (2)
     Oliver Kelley
     Patrick Kelley
     Samuel Kelley
     William Kelley
     Roy Kellrey
     Abner Kelly (2)
     Hugh Kelly
     James Kelly
     John Kelly
     Roger Kelly
     Seth Kelly
     Timothy Kelly
     Nehemiah Kelivan
     Olgas Kilter
     William Kemplin
     Simon Kenim
     Charles Kenneday
     James Kenneday
     Jonathan Kenneday
     Nathaniel Kenneday
     Robert Kenneday (2)
     Thomas Kenneday
     William Kenneday (2)
     David Kennedy
     James Kennedy
     John Kenney (2)
     William Kensey
     Elisha Kenyon
     Joson Ker
     John Kerril
     William Kersey (2)
     Edward Ketcham
     Samuel Ketcham
     William Keyborn
     Anthony Keys
     John Keys
     Michael Keys
     Jean Kiblano
     James Kickson
     George Kidd
     John Kidd
     James Kidney
     Manuel Kidtona
     Thomas Kilbourne
     John Kilby
     Lewis Kildare
     John Kilfundy
     Samuel Killen
     William Killenhouse
     Samuel Killer
     Charles Killis
     Gustavus Killman
     Daniel Kilray
     John Kilts
     Nathaniel Kimberell
     Charles King
     Gilbert King
     Jonathan King
     John King (4)
     Joseph King (4)
     Michael King
     Richard King
     William King
     Nathaniel Kingsbury
     William Kingsley
     Samuel Kinney
     Josiah Kinsland
     Benjamin Kinsman
     Charles Kirby
     John Kirk
     William Kirk
     Jacob Kisler
     Edward Kitchen
     John Kitler
     Ebenezer Knapp
     James Knapp
     Benjamin Knight (2)
     Job Knight
     Reuben Knight
     Thomas Knight (2)
     James Knowles (2)
     Nathaniel Knowles
     James Knowls
     Edward Knowlton
     William Knowlton
     Jeremiah Knox (2)
     John Knox
     Ezekiel Kuthoopen
     Louis Kyer


     Basil Laban
     Pierre Labon
     Francois Labone
     Deman Labordas
     Fortne Laborde
     Frederick Laborde
     Anton Laca
     Michael La Casawyne
     John Lack
     Christopher Lacon
     Oliver Lacope
     Guilham La Coque
     Anthony Lafart
     Dennis Lafferty
     Pierre La Fille
     Anthony Lagarvet
     Jeff Laggolf
     Samuel Laighton
     Thomas Laigue
     Peter Lain
     Christopher Laird (3)
     John Laird (2)
     Simon Lake
     Thomas Lake
     Nathan Lakeman
     Thomas Laley
     Samson Lalley
     John Lalour
     David Lamb
     William Lamb
     Pierre Lambert
     Richard Lambert (2)
     Cayelland Lambra
     Thomas Lambuda
     Evena Lame
     Thomas Lame
     Jean Lameari
     Michael Lameova
     Alexander Lamere (2)
     Roque Lamie
     Henry Land
     Stephen Landart
     George Landon
     Peter Landon
     William Lane
     John Langdon
     Jonathan Langer
     Darius Langford
     William Langford
     John Langler
     Obadiah Langley
     Thomas Langley (2)
     James Langlord
     Joseph Langola
     Andrew Langolle
     Thomas Langstaff
     Franes Langum
     Francois Lan Hubere
     Samuel Lanman
     Nicholas Lanmand
     William Lanvath
     David Lapham
     Bundirk Laplaine
     Joseph La Plan
     James Lapthorn
     Pierre Laquise
     Francis Larada
     Matthew La Raison
     Charles Larbys
     Thomas Larkin
     James Larkins
     Gillian Laroache
     Bundirk Larplairne
     Pierre Larquan
     Benjamin Larrick
     Lewis Larsolan
     Guillemot Lascope
     Julian Lascope
     Joseph Laselieve
     John Lasheity
     William Lasken
     Jachery Lasoca
     David Lassan
     Michael Lassly
     Pierre Lastio
     David Latham
     Edward Latham
     James Latham
     Thomas Latham
     Elisha Lathrop
     John Lathrop
     Hezekiah Lathrop
     Solomon Lathrop
     James Latover
     Lorenzo Lattam
     Peter Lattimer
     Thomas Lattimer
     William Lattimer
     William Lattimore
     Frederick Lasker
     William Lathmore
     Samuel Laura
     John Laureny
     Homer Laury
     Michael Lased
     Daniel Lavet
     Pierre Lavigne
     Michael Lavona
     Ezekiel Law (2)
     John Law
     Richard Law
     Thomas Law
     Michael Lawbridge
     Thomas Lawrance
     Antonio Lawrence
     Isaac Lawrence
     James Lawrence
     John Lawrence (2)
     Joseph Lawrence
     Michael Lawrence
     Robert Lawrence
     Samuel Lawrence (3)
     Thomas Lawrence
     William Lawrence (2)
     John Lawrie
     Andrew Lawson
     Joseph Lawson
     Joseph Lawton
     Edward Lay
     Lenolen Layfield
     William Layne
     John Layons
     Colsie Layton
     Jessie Layton
     Anthonv Layzar
     Ezekiel Leach
     Thomas Leach (3)
     William Leach
     William Leachs
     John Leafeat
     Cornelius Leary
     John Leasear
     John Leatherby
     Louis Leblanc
     Philip Le Caq
     William Le Cose
     Baptist Le Cour
     Benjamin Lecraft
     Joseph Lecree
     Aaron Lee
     Adam Lee
     David Lee
     Henry Lee
     James Lee
     John Lee
     Josiah Lee
     Peter Lee
     Richard Lee (3)
     Stephen Lee
     Thomas Lee (3)
     James Leech
     John Leech (2)
     George Leechman
     Jack Leeme
     Joseph Leera
     Jean Lefant
     ---- Le Fargue
     Michael Lefen
     Samuel Le Fever
     Nathaniel Le Fevere
     Alexander Le Fongue
     Jean Le Ford
     Hezekiah Legrange
     Thomas Legrange
     Joseph Legro
     Samuel Legro
     George Lehman
     Gerge Lehman
     George Leish
     Jacob Lelande
     Jeremiah Leman
     John Lemee
     Rothe Lemee
     Abraham Lemon
     Peter Lernonas
     Pierre Lemons
     John Lemont
     Powell Lemosk
     John Lemot
     James Lenard
     Joseph Lenard
     John Lenham
     Tuft Lenock
     Joseph Lenoze
     John Leonard
     Simon Leonard
     Louis Le Pach
     Joshua Le Poore
     Pierre Le Port
     Francis Lepord
     Pierre Lepord
     Pierre Lerandier
     Jean Le Rean
     Joseph Peccanti Lescimia
     John Lessington
     John Lessell
     Christian Lester
     Henry Lester
     Lion Lesteren
     Ezekiel Letts (2)
     James Leuard
     Anthony Levanden
     Thomas Leverett
     John Leversey
     Joseph Levett
     Nathaniel Levi
     Bineva Levzie
     Jean Baptiste Leynac
     Nicholas L'Herox
     Pierre Liar
     John Lidman
     George Lichmond
     Charles Liekerada
     Charles Liekeradan
     Louis Light
     John Lightwell
     Homer Ligond
     Joseph Lilihorn
     Jonathan Lillabridge
     Joseph Lillehorn
     Thomas Lilliabridge
     Armistead Lillie
     John Lilling
     John Limberick
     Christopher Limbourne (2)
     Lewis Lincoln
     Samuel Lindsay
     James Lindsey
     Matthew Lindsley
     William Lindsley
     Lamb Lines
     Charles Linn
     Lewis Linot
     Richard Linthorn
     Nicholas Linva
     Samuel Linzey
     William Linzey
     Jesse Lipp
     Henry Lisby
     Francis Little
     George Little
     John Little (3)
     Philip Little
     Thomas Little
     Thomas Littlejohn
     William Littleton
     Thomas Livet
     Licomi Lizarn
     James Lloyd
     Simon Lloyd
     William Lloyd
     Lones Lochare
     John Logan
     Patrick Logard
     Eve Logoff
     Samuel Lombard
     John London
     Richard London
     Adam Lone
     Christian Long
     Enoch Long
     Jeremiah Long
     William Long
     Martin Longue
     Emanuel Loper
     Joseph Lopez
     Daniel Loran
     John Lorand
     Nathaniel Lord
     William Loreman
     Francis Loring
     John Lort
     Thomas Lorton
     Jean Lossett
     William Lott
     David Louis
     John Love (2)
     Stephen Love
     Thomas Love
     John Loveberry
     William Loverin
     James Lovett
     Thomas Lovett (2)
     James Low
     William Low
     John Lowe
     Abner Lowell (2)
     Israel Lowell
     Jonathan Lowell
     John Lowering
     Jacob Lowerre
     Robert Lowerre (2)
     Robert Lowerry
     John Lowery
     Philip Lowett
     John Lowring
     Pierre Lozalie
     Jacques Lubard
     James Lucas
     Lucian Lucas
     Jean Lucie
     William Lucker
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     W. Ludds
     Samuel Luder
     David Ludwith
     Peter Lumbard
     Francois Lumbrick
     Joseph Lunt (3)
     Skipper Lunt
     Philip Lute
     Nehemiah Luther
     Reuben Luther
     Benjamin Luyster
     Augustin Luzard
     Alexander Lyelar
     Charles Lyle
     Witsby Linbick
     Jean Lynton
     Peter Lyon
     Samuel Lyon
     Archibald Lyons
     Daniel Lyons
     Ephraim Lyons
     Ezekiel Lyons
     Jonathan Lyons
     Samuel Lyons


     Jean Franco Mabugera
     John Macay
     Nicholas McCant
     John Mace
     Anthony Macguire
     Pierre Marker
     William Macgneol
     Romulus Mackroy
     John Madding (2)
     Peter Madding
     Peter Maggot
     John Maginon
     Stringe Mahlan
     Peter Mahrin
     Jean Maikser
     William Main
     Joseph Mainwright
     Simon Majo
     Pierre Malaque
     John Maleon
     Lewis Malcom
     Maurice Malcom
     John Male
     William Malen
     Francis Maler
     Matthew Malkellan
     Enoch Mall
     Daniel Malleby
     Thomas Malleby
     Frederick Malleneux
     John Mallet
     Daniel Mallory
     John Malone
     Paul Malory
     Thomas Makend
     Nathaniel Mamford
     ---- Mamney
     Peter Manaford
     Josiah Manars
     John Manchester
     Silas Manchester
     Thaddeus Manchester
     Edward Mand
     Edward Manda
     Jonathan Mandevineur
     Sylvester Manein
     Pierre Maneit
     Etien Manett
     George Manett
     George Mangoose
     John Manhee
     William Manilla
     Anthony Mankan
     Jacob Manlore
     William Manlove
     John Manly
     James Mann
     John Manor
     Isaac Mans
     Benjamin Mansfield
     Hemas Mansfield
     William Mansfield
     Joseph Mantsea
     Jonathan Maples
     Jean Mapson
     Auree Marand
     ---- Marbinnea
     Mary Marblyn
     Etom Marcais
     James Marcey
     Jean Margabta
     Jean Marguie
     Timothy Mariarty
     John Mariner (2)
     Hercules Mariner (2)
     Elias Markham
     Thomas Marle
     James Marley
     Jean Marlgan
     Francis Marmilla
     David Marney
     James Marriott
     Zachary Marrall
     William Marran
     James Marriott
     Alexander Marse
     Jarnes Marsh
     Benjamin Marshall
     James Marshall
     John Marshall
     Joseph Marshall
     Samuel Marshall
     Thomas Marshall
     Timothy Marson
     Thomas Marston
     Adam Martellus
     Antonio Marti
     Ananias Martin
     Damon Martin
     Daniel Martin
     Daniel F. Martin
     Emanuel Martin
     Embey Martin
     Francis Martin
     George Martin
     Gilow Martin
     Jacob Martin
     James Martin
     Jesse Martin
     John Martin (4)
     Joseph Martin (3)
     Lewis Martin
     Martin Martin
     Michael Martin
     Peter Martin
     Philip Martin
     Samuel Martin (2)
     Simon Martin
     Thomas Martin (2)
     William Martin (3)
     Jose Martine (2)
     Thomas Martine
     Pierre Martinett
     Philip Marting
     Martin Martins
     Oliver Marton
     John Marton
     Baptist Marvellon
     Anthony Marwin
     Andrew Masar
     Thomas Mash
     Matthew Maskillon
     Thomas Masley
     Jean Maso
     Augustus Mason
     Francis Mason
     Gerard B. Mason
     Halbert Mason
     James Mason
     Louis Mason
     Charles Massaa
     James Massey
     James Maston
     Pierre Mathamice
     James Mathes
     Jeffrey Mathews
     John Mathews
     Joseph Mathews (2)
     Josiah Mathews
     Richard Mathews (2)
     Robert Mathews
     Thomas Mathews
     William Mathews (2)
     Thomas Mathewson
     Robert Mathias
     Joseph Matre
     James Matson
     William Matterga
     George Matthews
     Joseph Matthews
     Josiah Matthews
     Richard Matthias
     Thomas Maun
     James Maurice
     John Mawdole
     Patrick Maxfield
     Daniel Maxwell
     David Maxwell
     George Maxwell
     James Maxwell (6)
     John Maxwell (3)
     William Maxwell (5)
     George May
     John Maye (3)
     John Maygehan
     Pierre Maywer (3)
     Parick McAllister
     Charles McArthur
     John McArthur
     Peter McCalpan
     Nathaniel McCampsey
     William McCanery
     Edward McCann
     Daniel McCape (2)
     Andrew McCarty
     Cornelius McCarty
     William McCarty
     John M. McCash
     Francis McClain
     James McClanagan
     Daniel McClary
     Henry McCleaf
     Patrick McClemens
     John McClesh
     Patrick McCloskey
     Murphy McCloud
     Peter McCloud
     James McClure
     William McClure
     Johnston McCollister
     James McComb
     Paul McCome
     James McConnell
     Hugh McCormac
     James McCormick
     William McCowan
     Donald McCoy
     George McCoy
     Peter McCoy
     Samuel McCoy
     John McCrady
     Gilbert McCray
     John McCray
     Roderick McCrea
     Patrick McCuila
     Francis McCullam
     William McCullock
     Daniel McCullough
     William McCullough
     Patrick McCullum
     Caleb McCully
     Archibald McCunn
     James McDaniel (3)
     John McDaniel
     John McDavid
     William McDermott
     Alexander McDonald
     Donald McDonald
     John McDonald
     Petre McDonald
     William McDonald (2)
     Patrick McDonough (2)
     William McDougall
     Ebenezer McEntire
     John McEvan
     John McFaggins
     James McFall
     Bradford McFarlan
     Daniel McFarland
     William McFarland (2)
     Bradford McFarling
     Bushford McFarling
     John McFamon
     William McGandy
     John McGee (2)
     Andrew McGelpin (3)
     James McGeer
     John McGey (3)
     Arthur McGill
     James McGill
     Henry McGinness
     James McGinniss
     John McGoggin
     Robert McGonnegray
     James McGowan
     John McGoy
     Barnaby McHenry
     Duncan Mclntire
     Patrick McKay
     Matthew McKellum
     Barnaby McKenry
     John McKensie
     Thomas McKeon
     Patrick McKey
     James McKinney (2)
     John McKinsey
     George McKinsle
     William McKinsley
     Benjamin McLachlan
     Edward McLain
     Lewis McLain
     Philip McLaughlin
     Daniel McLayne
     James McMichael
     Philip McMonough
     Francis McName
     John McNauch
     Archibald McNeal
     John McNeal
     James McNeil
     William McNeil
     John McNish
     Molcolm McPherman
     William McQueen
     Charles McQuillian
     Samuel McWaters
     Samuel Mecury
     John Medaff
     John Mede
     Joshua Medisabel
     Joseph Meack
     John Meak
     Usell Meechen
     Abraham Meek
     Joseph Meek
     Timothy Meek
     John Mego
     Springale Meins
     William Melch
     Joseph Mellins
     Harvey Mellville
     William Melone
     Adam Meltward
     George Melvin
     Lewis Meneal
     John Menelick
     Jean Baptist Menlich
     William Mellwood
     John Mercaten
     James Mercer
     Robert Mercer (2)
     Jean Merchant (2)
     John Merchant
     Peter Merchant
     William Merchant
     John Merchaud
     Sylvester Mercy
     Bistin Mereff
     Jean Meritwell
     Francis Merlin
     John Merlin
     Augustus Merrick
     John Merrick
     Joseph Merrick
     Samuel Merrick
     Nimrod Merrill
     John Merritt
     John Merry
     John Mersean
     Clifton Merser
     John Mersey
     Abner Mersick
     William Messdone
     Thomas Messell
     George Messingburg
     George Messmong
     Thomas Metsard
     Job Meyrick
     Roger Mickey
     Thomas Migill
     James Migley
     Jean Milcher
     John Miles (2)
     Segur Miles
     Thomas Miles
     Timothy Miles
     George Mildred
     James Millbown
     Robert Millburn
     John Millen
     Christopher Miller
     David Miller
     Ebenezer Miller
     Elijah Miller (2)
     George Miller
     Jacob Miller
     John Miller (3)
     John James Miller
     Jonathan Miller
     Michael Miller
     Peter Miller
     Samuel Miller (2)
     William Miller (2)
     Maurice Millet
     Thomas Millet
     Francis Mills
     John Mills (2)
     William Mills
     Dirk Miners
     John Mink
     Renard Mink
     Lawrence Minnharm
     Arnold Minow
     Kiele Mires
     Koel Mires
     Anthony Mitchell
     Benjamin Mitchell
     James Mitchell
     Jean Mitchell
     John Mitchell (2)
     Joseph Mitchell
     David P. Mite
     Elijah Mix
     Joseph Mix
     Paul Mix
     James Moet
     William Moffat
     David Moffet
     Emanuel Moguera
     Peter Moizan
     Joseph Molisan
     Alexander Molla
     Mark Mollian
     Ethkin Mollinas
     Bartholomew Molling
     Daniel Mollond
     James Molloy
     John Molny
     Gilman Molose
     Enoch Molton
     George Molton
     Isaac Money
     Perry Mongender
     William Monrass
     James Monro
     Abraham Monroe
     John Monroe
     Thomas Monroe
     David Montague
     Norman Montague
     William Montague
     Lewis Montaire
     Matthew Morgan
     Francis Montesdague
     George Montgomery (2)
     James Montgomery (3)
     John Montgomery (2)
     James Moody
     Silas Moody
     Hugh Mooney
     Abraham Moore (2)
     Adam Moore
     Frederick Moore
     Henry Moore
     Israel Moore
     James Moore
     John Moore (2)
     Joseph Moore
     Nathaniel Moore
     Patrick Moore
     Ralph Moore
     Richard Moore
     Samuel Moore
     Stephen Moore
     Thomas Moore (6)
     Wardman Moore
     William Moore (6)
     Charles Moosey
     John Mooton
     Acri Morana
     John Morant
     Adam Morare
     John Baptist Moraw
     W. Morce
     Gilmot Morea
     Toby Morean
     Joseph Morehand
     Abel Morehouse (2)
     Grosseo Moreo
     Jonathan Morey
     Lewis Morey
     Louis Morey
     Abel Morgan
     Henry Morgan
     John Morgan (3)
     Joseph Morgan
     Matthew Morgan
     John Moride
     Edward Moritz
     William Morein
     James Morley
     John Morrell
     Osborne Morrell
     Robert Morrell (3)
     Francis Morrice
     Andrew Morris (2)
     Daniel Morris
     David Morris
     Easins Morris
     Edward Morris
     Foster Morris
     Gouverneur Morris
     John Morris (3)
     Matthew Morris
     Philip Morris
     Robert Morris
     W Morris
     William Morris
     Hugh Morrisin
     James Morrison
     Murdock Morrison
     Norman Morrison
     Samuel Morrison
     Richard Morse
     Sheren Morselander
     William Morselander
     Benjamin Mortimer
     Robert Mortimer (2)
     Abner Morton (2)
     George Morton
     James Morton
     Philip Morton (2)
     Robert Morton
     Samuel Morton
     Philip Mortong
     Simon Morzin
     Negro Moses
     Daniel Mosiah
     Sharon Moslander
     William Moslander
     John Moss (2)
     Alexander Motley
     William Motley
     Elkinar Mothe
     Enoch Motion
     Benjamin Motte
     Francis Moucan
     Jean Moucan
     George Moulton
     John Moulton
     Richard Mount
     John Muanbet
     Hezekiah Muck
     Jacob Muckleroy
     Philip Muckleroy (2)
     Jacob Mullen
     Eleme Mullent
     Jean Muller
     Leonard Muller
     Robert Muller
     Abraham Mullet
     Jonathan Mullin
     Leonard Mullin
     Jonathan Mullin
     Robert Mullin
     William Mullin
     Edward Mulloy (2)
     Francis Mulloy
     Richard Mumford
     Timothy Mumford
     Michael Mungen
     John Mungon
     John Munro
     Henry Munrow
     Royal Munrow
     Thomas Munthbowk
     Hosea Munul
     James Murdock (2)
     John Murdock
     Peter Murlow
     Daniel Murphy (2)
     John Murphy
     Nicholas Murphy
     Patrick Murphy
     Thomas Murphy (2)
     Bryan Murray
     Charles Murray
     Daniel Murray (2)
     John Murray (4)
     Silas Murray
     Thomas Murray
     William Murray
     Antonio Murria (2)
     David Murrow
     John Murrow
     Samuel Murrow
     Adam Murtilus
     Richard Murus
     Antonio Musqui
     Ebenezer Mutter
     Jean Myatt
     Adam Myers (2)
     George Myles
     Henry Myres


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     John Xmens


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     Jean Peter Zamiel
     Pierre Zuran



The following extremely interesting article on the prisoners and prison
ships of the Revolution was written by Dr. Longworthy of the United
States Department of agriculture for a patriotic society. Through his
courtesy I am allowed to publish it here. I am sorry I did not receive
it in time to embody it in the first part of this book.


Doubtless all of us are more or less familiar with the prison ship
chapter of Revolutionary history, as this is one of the greatest, if
not the greatest, tragedies of the struggle for independence. At the
beginning of the hostilities the British had in New York Harbor a number
of transports on which cattle and stores had been brought over in 1776.
These vessels lay in Gravesend Bay and later were taken up the East
River and anchored in Wallabout Bay, and to their number were added from
time to time vessels in such condition that they were of no use except
as prisons for American troops The names of many of these infamous ships
have been preserved, the Whitby, the Good Hope, the Hunter, Prince of
Wales, and others, and worst of all, the Jersey.

It was proposed to confine captured American seamen in these ships, but
they also served as prisons for thousands of patriot soldiers taken
in the land engagements in and about New York. The men were crowded in
these small vessels under conditions which pass belief. They suffered
untold misery and died by hundreds from lack of food, from exposure,
smallpox and other dreadful diseases, and from the cruelty of their
captors. The average death rate on the Jersey alone was ten per night. A
conservative estimate places the total number of victims at 11,500. The
dead were carried ashore and thrown into shallow graves or trenches of
sand and these conditions of horror continued from the beginning of the
war until after peace was declared. Few prisoners escaped and not many
were exchanged, for their conditions were such that commanding officers
hesitated to exchange healthy British prisoners in fine condition for
the wasted, worn-out, human wrecks from the prison ships. A very large
proportion of the total number of these prisoners perished. Of the
survivors, many never fully recovered from their sufferings.

In 1808, it was said of the prison ship martyrs: "Dreadful, beyond
description, was the condition of these unfortunate prisoners of war.
Their sufferings and their sorrows were great, and unbounded was their
fortitude. Under every privation and every anguish of life, they firmly
encountered the terrors of death, rather than desert the cause of their
country. * * *

"There was no morsel of wholesome food, nor one drop of pure water. In
these black abodes of wretchedness and woe, the grief worn prisoner lay,
without a bed to rest his weary limbs, without a pillow to support his
aching head--the tattered garment torn from his meager frame, and vermin
preying on his flesh--his food was carrion, and his drink foul as the
bilge water--there was no balm for his wounds, no cordial to revive his
fainting spirits, no friend to comfort his heart, nor the soft hand of
affection to close his dying eyes--heaped amongst the dead, while yet
the spark of life lingered in his frame, and hurried to the grave before
the cold arms of death had embraced him. * * *

"'But,' you will ask, 'was there no relief for these victims of misery?'
No--there was no relief--their astonishing sufferings were concealed
from the view of the world--and it was only from the few witnesses of
the scene who afterwards lived to tell the cruelties they had endured,
that our country became acquainted with their deplorable condition. The
grim sentinels, faithful to their charge as the fiends of the nether
world, barred the doors against the hand of charity, and godlike
benevolence never entered there--compassion had fled from these mansions
of despair, and pity wept over other woes."

Numerous accounts of survivors of the prison ships have been preserved
and some of them have been published. So great was popular sympathy
for them that immediately after the close of the Revolutionary War an
attempt was made to gather the testimony of the survivors and to provide
a fitting memorial for those who had perished. So far as I have been
able to learn most of the diaries and journals and other testimony
of the prison ship victims relates to the later years of the war and
particularly to the Jersey, the largest, most conspicuous, and most
horrible of all the prison ships.

I have been so fortunate as to have access to a journal or diary kept
by William Slade, of New Canaan, Conn, a young New Englander, who early
responded to the call of his country and was captured by the British in
1776, shortly after his enlistment, and confined on one of the prison
ships, the Grovner (or Grovesner). From internal evidence it would
appear that this was the first or one of the first vessels used for the
purpose and that Slade and the other prisoners with him were the first
of the American soldiers thus confined. At any rate, throughout his
diary he makes no mention of other bands of prisoners in the same
condition The few small pages of this little diary, which was always
kept in the possession of his family until it was deposited in the
Sheldon Museum, of Middlebury, Vt, contain a plain record of every-day
life throughout a period of great suffering. They do not discuss
questions of State and policy, but they do seem to me to bring clearly
before the mind's eye conditions as they existed, and perhaps more
clearly than elaborate treatises to give a picture of the sufferings of
soldiers and sailors who preferred to endure all privations, hardships,
and death itself rather than to renounce their allegiance to their
country and enlist under the British flag.

The first entry in the Slade diary was made November 16, 1776, and the
last January 28, 1777, so it covers about ten weeks.

The entries were as follows:

Fort Washington the 16th day November A.D. 1776. This day I, William
Slade was taken with 2,800 more. We was allowed honours of War. We then
marched to Harlem under guard, where we were turned into a barn. We
got little rest that night being verry much crowded, as some trouble
[illegible]. * * *

Sunday 17th. Such a Sabbath I never saw. We spent it in sorrow and
hunger, having no mercy showd.

Munday 18th. We were called out while it was still dark, but was soon
marchd to New York, four deep, verry much frownd upon by all we saw. We
was called Yankey Rebbels a going to the gallows. We got to York at
9 o'clock, were paraded, counted off and marched to the North Church,
where we were confind under guard.

Tuesday 19th. Still confind without provisions till almost night, when
we got a little mouldy bisd [biscuit] about four per man. These four
days we spent in hunger and sorrow being derided by everry one and calld

Wednesday, 20th. We was reinforsd by 300 more. We had 500 before. This
causd a continual noise and verry big huddle. Jest at night drawd 6 oz
of pork per man. This we eat alone and raw.

Thursday, 21st. We passd the day in sorrow haveing nothing to eat or
drink but pump water.

Friday, 22nd. We drawd 3/4 lb of pork, 3/4 lb of bisd, one gil of peas,
a little rice and some kittels to cook in. Wet and cold.

Saturday, 23rd. We had camps stews plenty, it being all we had. We had
now spent one week under confinement. Sad condition.

Munday, 25th. We drawd 1/2 lb of pork a man, 3/4 of bisd, a little peas
and rice, and butter now plenty but not of the right kind.

Tuesday, 26th. We spent in cooking for wood was scarce and the church
was verry well broke when done, but verry little to eat.

Wednesday, 27th. Was spent in hunger. We are now dirty as hogs, lying
any and every whare. Joys gone, sorrows increase.

Thursday, 28th. Drawd 2 lbs of bread per man, 3/4 lb of pork. A little
butter, rice and peas. This we cooked and eat with sorrow and sadness.

Friday, 29th. We bussd [busied] ourselves with trifels haveing but
little to do, time spent in vain.

Saturday, 30th. We drawd 1 lb of bread, 1/2 lb of pork, a little butter,
rice and peas. This we eat with sorrow, discouragd.

Sunday, 1st of Decembere 1776. About 300 men was took out and carried on
board the shipping. Sunday spent in vain.

Munday, 2nd. Early in the morning we was calld out and stood in the
cold, about one hour and then marchd to the North River and went on
board The Grovnor transport ship. Their was now 500 men on board, this
made much confusion. We had to go to bed without supper. This night was
verry long, hunger prevaild much. Sorrow more.

Tuesday, 3rd. The whole was made in six men messes. Our mess drawd 4
lb of bisd, 4 oz of butter. Short allow. We now begin to feel like

Wednesday, 4th. We drawd 4 lb of bisd. After noon drawd 2 quarts of peas
and broth without salt, verry weak.

Thursday, 5th. We drawd 4 lb of bisd at noon, a little meat at night.
Some pea broth, about one mouthful per man. We now feel like prisoners.

Friday, 6th. of Decr. 1776. We drawd 1/2 of bisd, 4 oz of butter at noon
and 2 quarts of provinder. Called burgo, poor stuff indeed.

Saturday, 7th. We drawd 4 lb of bisd at noon, a piece of meat and rice.
This day drawd 2 bisd per man for back allowance (viz) for last Saturday
at the church. This day the ships crew weighd anchor and fell down the
river below Govnors Island and saild up the East River to Turcle Bay
[Turtle Bay is at the foot of 23rd street], and cast anchor for winter

Sunday, 8th. This day we were almost discouraged, but considered that
would not do. Cast off such thoughts. We drawd our bread and eat with
sadness. At noon drawd meat and peas. We spent the day reading and in
meditation, hopeing for good news.

Munday, 9th. We drawd bisd and butter at noon, burgo [a kind of porrige]
the poorest trade ever man eat. Not so good as provinder or swill.

Tuesday, 10th. We drawd bisd at noon, a little meat and rice. Good news.
We hear we are to be exchangd soon. Corpl. Hawl verry bad with small

Wednesday, 11th. We drawd bisd. Last night Corpl Hawl died and this
morning is buryd. At noon drawd peas, I mean broth. Still in hopes.

Thursday, 12th. We drawd bisd. This morning is the first time we see
snow. At noon drawd a little meat and pea broth. Verry thin. We almost
despair of being exchangd.

Friday, 13th of Decr. 1776. We drawd bisd and butter. A little water
broth. We now see nothing but the mercy of God to intercede for us.
Sorrowful times, all faces look pale, discouraged, discouraged.

Saturday, 14th. We drawd bisd, times look dark. Deaths prevail among us,
also hunger and naked. We almost conclude (that we will have) to stay
all winter At noon drawd meat and rice. Cold increases. At night suffer
with cold and hunger. Nights verry long and tiresome, weakness prevails.

Sunday, 15th. Drawd bisd, paleness attends all faces, the melancholyst
day I ever saw. At noon drawd meat and peas. Sunday gone and comfort. As
sorrowfull times as I ever saw.

Munday, 16th of Decr. 1776. Drawd bisd and butter at noon. *Burgo poor.
Sorrow increases. The tender mercys of men are cruelty.

Tuesday, 17th. Drawd bisd. At noon meat and rice No fire. Suffer with
cold and hunger. We are treated worse than cattle and hogs.

Wednesday, 18th. Drawd bisd and butter. At noon peas. I went and got a
bole of peas for 4. Cole increases Hunger prevails. Sorrow comes on.

Thursday, 19th., Drawd bisd the ship halld in for winter quarters. At
noon drawd meat and peas. People grow sick verry fast. Prisoners verry
much frownd upon by all

Friday, 20th. of Decr. 1776. Drawd bisd and butter this morn. Snow and
cold. 2 persons dead on deck. Last night verry long and tiresom. At noon
drawd burgo Prisoners hang their heads and look pale. No comfort. All

Saturday, 31st. Drawd bisd. Last night one of our regt got on shore but
got catched. Troubles come on comfort gone. At noon drawd meat and rice.
Verry cold Soldiers and sailors verry cross. Such melancholy times I
never saw.

Sunday, 22nd. Last night nothing but grones all night of sick and dying.
Men amazeing to behold. Such hardness, sickness prevails fast. Deaths
multiply. Drawd bisd. At noon meat and peas. Weather cold. Sunday gone
and no comfort. Had nothing but sorrow and sadness. All faces sad.

Munday, 23rd. Drawd bisd and butter. This morning Sergt Kieth, Job March
and several others broke out with the small pox. About 20 gone from here
today that listed in the king's service. Times look verry dark. But
we are in hopes of an exchange. One dies almost every day. Cold but
pleasant. Burgo for dinner. People gone bad with the pox.

Tuesday, 24th. Last night verry long and tiresom. Bisd. At noon rice and
cornmeal. About 30 sick. (They) Were carried to town. Cold but pleasant.
No news. All faces gro pale and sad.

Wednesday, 25th. Lastnight was a sorrowful night. Nothing but grones
and cries all night. Drawd bisd and butter. At noon peas. Capt Benedict,
Leiut Clark and Ensn Smith come on board and brought money for the
prisoners. Sad times.

Thursday, 26th. Last night was spent in dying grones and cries. I now
gro poorly. Terrible storm as ever I saw. High wind. Drawd bisd. At noon
meat and peas. Verry cold and stormey.

Friday, 27th. Three men of our battalion died last night. The most
malencholyest night I ever saw. Small pox increases fast. This day I was
blooded. Drawd bisd and butter. Stomach all gone. At noon, burgo. Basset
is verry sick. Not like to live I think.

Saturday 28th. Drawd bisd. This morning about 10 cl Josiah Basset died.
Ensn Smith come here about noon with orders to take me a shore. We got
to shore about sunset. I now feel glad. Coffee and bread and cheese.

Sunday, 29th. Cof. and bread and cheese. This day washed my blanket and
bkd my cloathes. The small pox now begins to come out.

Munday, 30th. Nothing but bread to eat and coffee to drink. This day got
a glass of wine and drinkd. Got some gingerbread and appels to eat.

Tuesday, 31st. Nothing good for breakt. At noon verry good. I grow
something poorly all day. No fire and tis cold. Pox comes out verry full
for the time. The folks being gone I went into another house and got the
man of the same to go and call my brother. When he came he said I wanted
looking after. The man concluded to let me stay at his house.

Wednesday 1st of Jany 1777. Pox come out almost full. About this time
Job March and Daniel Smith died with the small pox.

Thursday, 2nd. Ensn Smith lookd about and got something to ly on and
in. A good deal poorly, but I endeavourd to keep up a good heart,
considering that I should have it (the small pox) light for it was verry
thin and almost full.

Friday 3d. This morning the pox looks black in my face. This day Robert
Arnold and Joshua Hurd died with the small pox. This day Ensn Smith
got liberty to go home next morning, but omitted going till Sunday on
account of the prisoners going home.

Saturday, 4th. Felt more poor than common. This day the prisoners come
on shore so many as was able to travel which was not near all.

Sunday, 5th. This morning Ensn Smith and about 150 prisoners were set
out for home. The prisoners lookd verry thin and poor.

Monday 6th. Pox turnd a good deal but I was very poorly, eat but litte.
Drink much. Something vapery. Coughd all night.

Tuesday 7th. Nothing reml [remarkable] to write. No stomach to eat at
all. Got some bacon.

Wednesday, 8th. Feel better. This day I went out of doors twice. Nothing
remarkl to write.

Thursday, 9th. Tryd to git some salts to take but could not. Begin to
eat a little better.

Friday, 10th. Took a portion of salts. Eat water porrage. Gain in
strength fast.

Saturday, 11th. Walk out. Went and see our Connecticut officers. Travld
round. Felt a good deal better.

Sunday, 12th. Went and bought a pint of milk for bread. Verry good
dinner. Gain strength fast. Verry fine weather Went and see the
small-pox men and Samll.

Munday, 13th. Feel better. Went and see the officer. Talk about going

Tuesday, 14th. Went to Fulton market and spent seven coppers for cakes.
Eat them up. Washd my blanket.

Wednesday 15. Cleand up all my cloathes. Left Mr. Fenixes and went to
the widow Schuylers. Board myself.

Thursday, 16th. Went to Commesary Loring. Have incouragement of going
home. Signd the parole.

Friday, 17th. In expectation of going out a Sunday. Verry cold. Buy milk
and make milk porrage. Verry good liveing. Had my dinner give.

Saturday, 18t. Verry cold. Went to see Katy and got my dinner. Went to
Mr. Loring. Some encouragement of going hom a Munday, to have an answer
tomorrow morning. Bought suppawn (some corn?) meal and Yankey.

Sunday, 19th. Went to Mr. Lorings. He sd we should go out in 2 or
3 days. The reason of not going out now is they are a fighting at
Kingsbridge. Went to Phenixes and got my dinner. Almost discouraged
about going home. To have answer tomorrow.

Munday, 20th. Nothing remarkable. Mr. Loring sd we should have an answer
tomorrow. An old story.

Tuesday, 21st. Still follow going to Mr. Lorings. No success. He keeps a
saying come tomorrow. Nothing remarkable.

Wednesday, 22. Mr. Loring says we should have a guard tomorrow, but it
fell through. The word is we shall go out in 2 or 3 days.

Thursday, 23d. Nothing remarkl. Almost conclude to stay all winter.

Friday, 24th. Encouragement. Mr. Loring say that we shall go tomorrow.
We must parade at his quaters tomorrow by 8 oclok.

Saturday, 25th. We paraded at Mr. Lorings by 8 or 9 oclk. Marchd off
about 10 oclk. Marchd about 6 miles and the officers got a waggon and
4 or 5 of us rid about 4 miles, then travl'd about 1-1/2, then the offr
got a waggon and broght us to the lines. We were blindfolded when we
come by Fort Independency. Come about 4/5 of a mile whare we stay all
night. Lay on the floor in our cloathes but little rest.

Sunday, 26th. We marchd by sun rise. March but 8 miles whare we got
supper and lodging on free cost. This day gave 18 pence for breekft, 19
pence for dinner.

Munday, 27th. Marchd 2 miles. Got breekft cost 19 pence. Travld 2 or 3
miles and a waggon overtook us a going to Stamford. We now got chance
to ride. Our dinner cost 11 count lawful. About 3 oclok met with Capt
Hinmans company. See Judea folks and heard from home. This day come 13
miles to Horse neck. Supper cost 16. Lodging free.

Tuesday, 28th. Breekft cost 11. Rode to Stamford. Dinner 16. Travld 3
miles, supr and lodg free.

Here the diary ends when Slade was within a few miles of his home at New
Canaan, Conn., which he reached next day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps a few words of his future life are not without interest. He was
one of the early settlers who went from Connecticut to Vermont and made
a home in what was then a frontier settlement. He lived and died at
Cornwall, Vt., and was successful and respected in the community.
From 1801 to 1810 he was sheriff of Addison County. Of his sons, one,
William, was especially conspicuous among the men of his generation for
his abilities and attainments. After graduation from Middlebury College
in 1810, he studied law, was admitted to the bar, and filled many
offices in his town and county. After some business reverses he secured
a position in the State Department in Washington in 1821. He was on the
wrong side politically in General Jackson's campaign for the presidency,
being like most Vermonters a supporter of John Quincy Adams. Some time
after Jackson's inauguration, Slade was removed from his position in
the State Department and this so incensed his friends in Vermont that
as soon as a vacancy arose he was elected as Representative to Congress,
where he remained from 1831 to 1843. On his return from Washington he
was elected Governor of Vermont in 1844, and in his later years was
corresponding secretary and general agent of the Board of National
and Popular Education, for which he did most valuable work. He was a
distinguished speaker and an author of note, his Vermont State Papers
being still a standard reference work.

To revert to the prison ship martyrs, their suffering was so great and
their bravery so conspicuous that immediately after the War a popular
attempt was made in 1792 and 1798 to provide a proper resting place
for the bones of the victims, which were scattered in the sands about
Wallabout Bay. This effort did not progress very rapidly and it was
not until the matter was taken up by the Tammany Society that anything
definite was really accomplished. Owing to the efforts of this
organization a vault covered by a small building was erected in 1808
and the bones were collected and placed in the vault in thirteen large
coffins, one for each of the thirteen colonies, the interment being
accompanied by imposing ceremonies. In time the vault was neglected, and
it was preserved only by the efforts of a survivor, Benjamin Romaine,
who bought the plot of ground on which the monument stood, when it was
sold for taxes, and preserved it. He died at an advanced age and was, by
his own request, buried in the vault with these Revolutionary heroes.

Early in the last century an attempt was made to interest Congress in
a project to erect a suitable monument for the prison ship martyrs
but without success. The project has, however, never been abandoned
by patriotic and public spirited citizens and the Prison Ship Martyrs'
Society of the present time is a lineal descendant in spirit and purpose
of the Tammany Club effort, which first honored these Revolutionary
heroes. The efforts of the Prison Ship Martyrs' Association have proved
successful and a beautiful monument, designed by Stanford White, will
soon mark the resting place of these prison ship martyrs.



The writer of this volume has been very much assisted in her task by Mr.
Frank Moore's Diary of the Revolution, a collection of extracts from the
periodicals of the day. This valuable compilation has saved much time
and trouble. Other books that have been useful are the following.

Adventures of Christopher Hawkins.

Adventures of Ebenezer Fox. Published in Boston, by Charles Fox, in

History of Brooklyn by Stiles.

Bolton's Private Soldier of the Revolution.

Bigelow's Life of B. Franklin, vol II, pages 403 to 411.

Account of Interment of Remains of American Prisoners. Reprint, by Rev.
Henry R. Stiles.

Elias Boudinot's Journal and Historical Recollections.

Watson's Annals.

Thomas Dring's Recollections of the Jersey Prison Ship, re-edited by H.
B. Dawson, 1865.

Thomas Andros's Old Jersey Captive, Boston, 1833.

Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution.

Memoirs of Ethan Allen, written by himself.

Journal of Dr. Elias Cornelius.

Dunlap's New York.

Narrative of Nathaniel Fanning.

Narrative of Jabez Fitch.

Valentine's Manual of New York.

The Old Martyrs' Prison. A pamphlet.

Jones's New York.

Poems of Philip Freneau.

Prison Ship Martyrs, by Rev. Henry R. Stiles.

A Relic of the Revolution, by Rev. R. Livesey, Published by G. C. Rand,
Boston, 1854.

Memoirs of Alexander Graydon.

Memoir of Eli Bickford.

Martyrs of the Revolution, by George Taylor, 1820.

Memoirs of Andrew Sherburne.

Mrs. Ellet's Domestic History of the Revolution, pages 106-116.

Irving's Life of Washington, vol. III, p. 19.

Experiences of Levi Handford. C. I. Bushnell, New York, 1863.

Onderdonk's Suffolk and King's Counties, New York.

Philbrook's Narrative in Rhode Island Historical Society's Proceedings,
1874 and 1875.

Harper's Monthly, vol. XXXVII.

Historical Magazine, vol. VI, p. 147.

Mrs. Lamb's New York.

Jeremiah Johnson's Recollections of Brooklyn and New York.

Life of Silas Talbot, by Tuckerman.

Ramsey's History of the Revolution, vol. II, p. 9.

Narrative of John Blatchford, edited by Charles I, Bushnell, 1865.

Irish-American Hist. Miscellany, published by the author, 1906, by Mr.
John D. Crimmins.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "American Prisoners of the Revolution" ***

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