Saturday, May 31, 2014

PRISON SHIPS AND BARGES "Bits And Pieces of History"

The exact number of  American troops who died aboard prison ships and barges during the war is not known but more than 11,000 were held between 1776 and 1783.  Nearly half of those were captured in the South and hundreds transported to one of sixteen ships in New York harbor. “Hell” was the name the prisoners gave the British ship Jersey because of the high number of deaths due to sickness, starvation and beatings.  “Turn  out your dead” was the cry each morning and the dead were collected to be buried onshore.

Following the defeat at Charles Town the British agreed to retain those prisoners on ships anchored in the harbor.  Fed a diet of mostly salt pork  and usually confined in close quarters below deck it was not long before scores of them fell ill and died.  Petitions for better treatment were met with indifference and when supplies of clothing, medicine and food arrived sent by the Continental Congress and citizens, it was withheld.  Prisoners were promised parole or freedom if they pledged loyalty to King George and  whipped, threatened with transport to England or the West Indies or simply impressed into the Royal Navy if they refused.
The prisoners held in Charles Town Harbor were eventually exchanged May 3, 1781.  For many of those held in New York the end of the war would come too late.   

A monument overlooks Wallabout Bay in Fort Green Park in Brooklyn  NY in tribute to the hundreds of Americans buried in shallow graves or tossed into the waters from the prison ships and barges.  All thirteen colonies and more than a dozen foreign countries were represented on the ships and among the dead, including some women.

Posted by Diane Price
From internet sources and Fort Greene site.

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