Part 10 out of 11
James Roberts (2)
Moses Roberts (2)
William Roberts (4)
Charles Robertson (2)
James Robertson (3)
John Robertson (6)
James Robinson (2)
John Robinson (3)
Jean Raptist Rodent
George Rogers (3)
John Rogers (5)
John Francis Rogue
Gideon Rose (2)
John Rose (2)
Jean Baptist Rosua
Daniel Ross (3)
William Ross (3)
Jean Baptist Rouge
Jean James Rouge
John Frederick Rowlin
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Stephen Sampson (2)
John Scott (4)
Thomas Sealey (2)
Jean Baptist Sego
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John Shepherd (4)
Robert Shepherd (3)
Samuel Sherman (3)
Louis de Shille
Frederick Shiner (2)
Joseph Shoakley (2)
John Short (2)
Samuel Skinner (2)
Peter Skull (2)
Jean Louis Slarick
John Smallwood (2)
Andrew Smith (2)
Benjamin Smith (2)
Daniel Smith (3)
James Smith (7)
John Smith (12)
Jonathan Smith (5}
Joseph Smith (3)
Richard Smith (3)
Roger Smith (2)
Samuel Smith (6)
Thomas Smith (8)
William Smith (4)
John Spicer (2)
John Spier (2)
John St. Clair
Francisco St. Domingo
John St. Thomas
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Joshua Bla Stratia
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Franco Deo Suttegraz
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Thomas W Trescott
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Eleazar Van Dyke
John Van Dyke
Nathaniel Van Horn
William Van Horn
Jean Van Orse
Juan Albert Vixeaire
William Von Won
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William Taylor Warn
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Card Way Whithousen
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John Foster Willian
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Simon de Wolf
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Herbert Woodbury (3)
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Jean Peter Zamiel
THE PRISON SHIP MARTYRS OF THE REVOLUTION, AND AN UNPUBLISHED DIARY OF
ONE OF THEM, WILLIAM SLADE, NEW CANAAN, CONN., LATER OF CORNWALL, VT.
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
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
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
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 months.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.