« Tanks for the memories | Main | A Scanner Darkly - the trailer »
Monday
Jul032006

Britain's Shocking Treatment of American Prisoners

231239-382140-thumbnail.jpg
Cornwallis surrenders 1831
"The solution was to squeeze the men into an assortment of public and private buildings — including the new municipal almshouse and jail, a half-dozen churches, and two or three "sugar houses," or refineries. Broken-down warships and transports, stripped of masts and rigging, were soon pressed into service as well. Anchored in Wallabout Bay (now the site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard), they became one of the most widely recognized and terrifying symbols of the British occupation.

These makeshift prisons, most of which remained in use throughout the Revolutionary War, were shockingly overcrowded — 20 men per cell in the city jail, 700 or more in one of the churches, as many as a thousand at a time in the steaming hold of a Wallabout hulk. The men never had enough to eat, and what they did have was barely edible. The water stank. Slop buckets ran over. Blankets and clothing were infested with lice. Typhus, smallpox and scurvy ran rampant.

Those who got out alive told of comrades so hungry they ate their own shoes and clothes, of prison hulks whose decks were slippery with excrement, of wagons rumbling through cobblestone streets with corpses stacked like cordwood, of bodies hastily interred by the dozen on the beaches of Wallabout or in trenches on the outskirts of the city.

The final death toll will never be known, though a figure of 12,000 or more is consistent with the available evidence. During the Revolutionary War, in other words, more Americans lost their lives in the prisons and prison ships of New York than from any other cause — very nearly twice as many as those who died in combat. No one was surprised when the British provost marshal, William Cunningham, was reported to have claimed responsibility for killing more rebels in New York than the rest of His Majesty's forces combined." More here at The New York Times

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.