Price of Tobacco - Cleanliness - Not to be discouraged - Blankets - Distribution - Letter from America - Officers Escape - Arrival of a Fleet - Paper - Dr. Franklin to the Council - State of Troops - Deserters Taken - Visit from the Governor and Lady - Removal of Officers - General wish for Peace - A Newspaper - Commissioners - Public Fast - Allowance withdrawn - Liberality - Petition Refused - A Newspaper - Reward of Bravery - Lights continued.
JANUARY 27. We are informed by the man who contracts for our tobacco, that it is very scarce, and hard to be got for the money; it is three shillings and sixpence per pound, which is one shilling and twopence dearer than it was at Christmas. The officers, in a separate prison, are allowed to burn candles in the evening until gun-fire, which is eight o'clock.
28. To-day some new washing troughs were brought to prison 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.
29. It being a pleasant day, the prison was again smoked. Concerning being released, we have no reason to think that those gentlemen who gave us encouragement intend to flatter us, as often the darkest hour of the night is just before day. It may be so with us, as those things which we have received since new year, came entirely unexpected to us; who knows but our redemption may come as suddenly and unexpectedly; so that I think it becomes us to put things on a medium, and make the best of a bad bargain; not to let our fears exceed our hopes, nor to put so much dependence on getting out, as to be disappointed of it; but as we are committed to prison by a civil magistrate for high treason, it is the opinion of some, that it is not in the power of the King or council to release us without some sort of a trial.
30. Yesterday afternoon, about sixty pairs of blankets were sent for those who had none. We also have the paper, wherein is an extract of a letter from a nobleman in the British service in America. He writes, that Cornwallis embarked on such a day, for home, to lay before the King and council the true state of America; be writes that the Americans want for nothing that is necessary, while they are in want of every thing. Beef is four shillings per pound in Philadelphia, and other fresh provisions in proportion; and flour is not to be had. He states that it is wholly owing to Howe's good conduct that they are not totally cut off to a man, but if the Schuylkill freezes over it is not too late to do it yet. We also have a paper, wherein is Lord North's proposition for reconciliation with America.
February 1. Sunday. Last evening, between seven and nine 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 Eleazer Johnston, Offin Boardman, Samuel Treadwell and one Mr. Deal. Captain Henry Johnston having several suits of good clothes, he gave each sentry one, which they put on, and left their regimentals at their posts, with their firelocks, and made off; they were soon discovered by the guard, and pursued, but not taken.
3. I had a quantity of cedar brought to me to make boxes of.
4. This afternoon a fleet of about twelve or fifteen sail, with a convoy, arrived in the Sound, and saluted the admiral. It is thought they are part of Burgoyne's fleet, as we have heard that they were expected home.
5. To-day two large ships went from the Sound up to Ammoors, one of which had lost her maintop-mast. We are told that the three parties that went in pursuit of those who made their escape a few evenings ago, returned unsuccessful.
6. For two or three days I have been out of wood, so that I have done very little work, but today I had enough brought to last me a month.
7. To-day we had half a pound of pork more than usual, to each mess, which makes a pound and a half to each mess.
8. Sunday. We have the paper wherein is an extract 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 received from time to time, and giving them to know that it is in the power of the Americans to make ample retaliation, but they hoped that there was more humanity left in their hearts. They also wrote concerning an exchange of prisoners, and that if they would not exchange, they hoped that Congress would be permitted to appoint an agent to supply the prisoners in England with such things as were necessary, at their own expense. We learn that their answer was, that in America there was an exchange.
11. For some days past, the masons have been at work building a chimney.
12. We have a paper wherein is an account of the House of Parliament being very full, and that there is upwards of two hundred and fifty for carrying on the war, and upwards of one hundred and fifty for settling it. I am glad to find that the minority increases fast; the same paper informs us that there is nearly one half against the method they take in raising money to carry on the war, and there is a disturbance about the method they take for raising troops. The same paper also informs us, that their troops at home are five thousand six hundred and seventy-three short of the peace establishment, and that there is only about ten thousand troops in England, Ireland, Scotland, Gibraltar and Mahon.
13. Many people in England, besides us prisoners, thought that Burgoyne's troops were to be sent home, as we have heard, agreeably to their capitulation, but by this time we are persuaded to the contrary.
14. For two or three days I have been out of wood, so that I have done but little work; till within a few days I have received three shillings for boxes.
15. To-day it is fifteen months since we sailed from Newbury.
16. To-day it snowed about three hours, just so as to cover the ground. It is the first time the ground has been covered this winter.
17. Clear and cold. it is now we find the benefit of our great coats. We hear that the two soldiers that deserted and went off with the beforementioned officers, from the prison, have been taken; which I am sorry to hear, for they will undoubtedly both be shot; and not only so, but I am afraid that their being taken will be followed with other bad consequences.
18. The chimney, in a separate prison, is so far completed, that we have a fire in it. To-day about twelve o'clock, the Governor of Plymouth and his lady, came to see us, and bought some of our wooden ware, and tasted of our broth; he said it was very fine, as indeed it has been, ever since we have had it thickened, and leeks put into it.
19. We are told by almost every one that comes to the gate, that a French war is near at hand, and cannot be avoided.
20. To-day each man in prison had a check linen handkerchief sent to him, which was given us by the donation. Also, to-day the officers in this prison moved into another, which has been preparing for them, so that all the officers who were committed to prison, as such, are in a prison by themselves.
21. Some time ago we had two fourpenny loaves to each mess, per day, but one of them was soon taken off; and as they told us we should have as much provision as we wanted, we made it known to them, that we were desirous of having a sixpenny loaf instead of the fourpenny one, which they granted, and to-day we received a sixpenny loaf to each mess.
22. Sunday. We hear that General Gates sent a letter to one of the Parliament, in which he deplores the state of Great Britain, and advises them to make peace, before the Americans form alliance with any other nation. But he states that they will accept of nothing short of independence.
23. We have been informed several times, lately, that all the Acts since the year 1763, are likely to be repealed. "Peace with America and war with France," is the cry of almost every Briton. We have a paper in prison wherein is Lord North's speech in the House. He confesses that the English troops in America, have been beaten by inferior numbers. For several evenings past, we have had candles burning in prison, unknown to the agent, turnkey or guard; but I expect it will not be long before we shall be allowed to burn them, as we have written to the Board concerning it. We hear that a proclamation is issued for a public fast throughout England, Ireland and Scotland.
25. We hear that commissioners are appointed to go to America to treat with Congress; and they are to be considered a legal body while in treaty with them.
26. Last night the snow fell about two inches deep, on a level, which is more than it has snowed, put it all together, during the winter.
27. This day is kept as a public fast, throughout the united kingdom. I suppose they did not think it worth while to proclaim a fast before, as I do not remember that there has been one since I have been a prisoner, except a yearly fast. It is the opinion of many in prison, that if the proposals have not already gone to America, that we shall be sent with them, to give an assurance that they are real.
28. We are credibly informed that America has formed an alliance with France, for the space of twenty-one years; but whether it is any thing more than an alliance for trade, we have not yet learned, We hear that it took place the 26th of this month. We also hear that the money raised in England for the Americans here, amounted to £7000 sterling.
March 1. Wet, dirty weather, which obliges us to keep house most of the time. To-day is the first day of spring, and I have some secret expectations of being liberated before the season is expired, as there is a fleet of transports, with provision, bound to America, which will be ready to sail by the last of this month, or the first of April. Some think it probable that we may be sent with them.
2. Warm and pleasant for the season. We received an answer to the petition we wrote for the liberty to burn candles in the evening, but the answer was that we could not be allowed the privilege.
3. We have a paper in prison, from which we learn that Congress has made a present of a gold medal to General Gates, and a sword to the commander at Mud Island, for their bravery. There is also a slur upon Howe, in the paper, which is, that he has got three miles in length, and two in breadth, in the late campaign.
4. To-day, every man's clothing was examined to see if we keep ourselves clean. Last evening one of the prisoners was sent to the Blackhole, for abusive words spoken to the agent, and another to-day, for selling his clothes, which were given him, to get money to gamble with.
5. Remarkably pleasant weather for the season. It is so warm, and the yard is so dry, that we all carried our hammocks and bedding out to air. Yesterday, Captain Lee received a letter, by the way of Bilboa, from Newbury, from Mr. Tracy, by which we learn that he is daily striving for our exchange.
6. Although we are not allowed lights in prison, yet we have them every evening, and intend to till we are found out; and then they can do no more than deny us of them, for when we cannot get candles, we burn marrow-bones, which give a very good light, and a good bone will last as long as half a candle.