Awful Penalty for Desertion - Public Indignation -Remarkable Health of the Prisoners - Recruiting Party in Cornwall - Howe in trouble - Two Fathers - Scarcity of Provisions in the West Indies - Black-hole - American Privateer - Hot Press - Detection - French Brig run down - Prisoners sell their clothes to gamble - "Preceptor" - Extreme Punishment - Sports - Examination - Use of poverty - English Ambassador returns from France - Captain Boardman - Titcomb - Hope of Return - Commissioners to America - Newspapers.
MARCH 7. We are told that the two soldiers who deserted and carried five of the officers from prison, on the evening of the 31st of January, have had their trial. One of them is condemned to be shot, the other to receive seven hundred stripes. After their trial some handbills were sent to the barrack, to the dock, and to Plymouth, to set forth the heinousness of their crime in deserting their colors and carrying off rebels with them; but the people in the King's dock-yard, and some sailors who were on shore from the men-of-war, gathered in a mob; got all the bills together that they could find, and burnt them.
8. Sunday. We hear that there has been several commissioners chosen to go to America, but they all refuse to go.
9. For the week past I have been something poorly, but the prisoners in g eneral are remarkably healthy ; never did I bear of such a number of men confined together who enjoyed such perfect health, and had so little sickness as we have. Even upon short allowance we enjoyed our health, though every man pined away to merely skin and bone. Those who had no money to help themselves, and looked pale and ghastly, and were so weak as scarcely to be able to walk, now look brisk, lively, and we all are strong, fat, and hearty.
10. We are informed that about three hundred merchants in London, Bristol and other places, have petitioned for peace with America, otherwise they will be entirely ruined. We hear that a great part of the merchants in Bristol are broken, and worth nothing.
11. We learn that some recruiting parties that went into Cornwall to obtain recruits, met with a very severe reception; the people gathered together and disarmed them, and drove them out of their territory. Indeed, all England seems to be in commotion: it is the opinion of some, that should the American war continue another year, there would be civil war in England; it seems to be but little short of it now.
12. We are informed that General Howe has written home for a reinforcement immediately, or he must inevitably share the fate of Burgoyne; this inspires us with fresh courage. To-day our two fathers came to see us, as they commonly do once or twice a week. They are Mr. Heath and Mr. Sorry, the former is a Presbyterian minister, in Dock; the latter a merchant in Plymouth. These 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 every thing goes on well on our side, so that I hope our long wished for prize is just at hand - a prize that is preferable to any other earthly enjoyment. I hope our days of trouble are nearly at an end, and after we have borne them with a spirit of manly fortitude, we shall be returned to a free country to enjoy our just rights and privileges, for which we have been so long contending. This will make ample satisfaction for all our sufferings. To-day we received two shillings per mess, which is sixpence per man; this is back money that we had not received, as we receive two shillings per man a week; what we do not receive in provisions we have in money.
13. Three Marblehead men came to see us, who were lately taken in a merchantman bound to France. They are about two months from America. They had the liberty to talk with us for nearly an hour. To-day three men were brought to prison, they being officers of a privateer that was taken and carried to the West Indies. They inform us that provisions are so scarce in the English islands that the inhabitants move from one island to another on that account, and are almost starved; they also inform us that Mr. Samuel Treadwell is taken, and is now on board the Blenheim; he is one of the five who went out on the 31st of June.
14. To-day Mr. Treadwell was brought back to prison and put immediately in the Black-hole, where he is to lay forty days on half allowance. This afternoon, for the misbehavior of three or four persons, we were all confined in prison; and it being a very pleasant afternoon, it aggravated many so that they ran fore and aft the prison screaming, and some cried murder, which alarmed the guard, and we were turned out, and the offenders delivered up and sent to the Black-hole, where they must lay until orders come from the Board to take them out.
15. Sunday. For some days past I have spent most of my time in reading, and I can better compose myself to it now than I could six months ago.
16. We are informed that on Saturday an American privateer chased a merchantman into the mouth of this harbor, and then hoisted her colors and made the best of her way from land; and that a frigate, that lay in the Sound, slipped her cable and went after her.
17. St. Patrick's Day. By what we can learn, a French and Spanish war is very near at hand. The French are making all preparation for the contest, so also are the English, for we are told that all the ships belonging to the navy, that with repairing will be fit for sea, are to be put in commission immediately; and such a hot press as there is now in England was never known - they press against all protections.
18. To-day another was sent to the Black-hole, for selling the clothes which were given to him; which is no more than right. We are informed that we are to be removed very soon and carried to Chester castle, but we pay no regard to it; for I believe two-thirds in prison expect to be sent to America within three months.
19. We hear again that we are to be carried to Chester, but pay no regard to it, as I said before.
20. We are informed that last night two or three hundred men were pressed in Plymouth, and Dock; even the lamp-lighter who tends the lamps about the prison, was pressed; but as he was in the King's service he was released. A lieutenant of one of the King's ships came to prison and advised those who had a mind to go on board the men-of-war to petition immediately. Accordingly a petition was written and signed by six old countrymen, and sent to the commissioners.
21. Dull, thick weather, some rain, so that we keep house.
22. Sunday. Some time ago we heard that some troops were to be sent to America this spring, but to-day we hear that their orders are countermanded.
23. To-day four or five large ships sailed from the Sound, bound to Spithead to join a fleet. We were found out to-day in conveying bread to the half allowance men in the Black-hole; so there is now a stop put to it.
24. Pleasant, for the season of the year. We received a letter from two of the officers that made their escape from prison on the 31st of January last; they inform us that they were taken up in London, and are now on board a guard ship in Portsmouth, waiting to come round.
25. We were informed that a few days ago a large ship accidentally ran down a French brig in the Sound; eleven men were drowned, and her mainmast carried away.
26. Last evening the guards discovered our lights in the prison, so that I am afraid there will be a stop put to it.
27. There are many in prison who have sold all their clothes that were given them by subscription, to get a little money to gamble with, and buy strong beer; some of these have been found out, and justice is likely to be done them.
28. We hear that an American Captain, who has long been confined in prison, in London, petitioned for a trial, and was cleared and set at liberty. He then sued them for false imprisonment, but he was immediately apprehended and sent to Newgate. He again petitioned for a trial, was again tried, acquitted, and set at liberty, and went off.
29. Sunday. Stormy, so that we keep house, except when we go to draw our provisions.
30. We are informed that tobacco is 5s. a pound; at Christmas it was only 2s. 4d.
31. To-day I received the books which myself and another sent out to buy. These are the "Preceptor," in two volumes; the price of them was twelve shillings. The reason of its being so long after we sent out for them before we received them, was, they could not be bought in Plymouth, and the bookseller had to send to London for them.
April 1. To-day the two soldiers who went off with five officers, on the evening of the 31st of January last, received their punishment; one was shot, the other whipped; they belonged to the Light Infantry in the regiment.
2. Warm, and something pleasant, and the yard begins to be dry again, so that we can return to our former sports; these are ball and quoits, which exercise we make use of to circulate our blood and keep us from things that are worse.
3. This afternoon the agent and his clerk, the steward and doctor, seated themselves opposite the prison door and called over the roll, and ordered us one by one to pass out, and we were examined to see if we had our full compliment of clothing that was given us, and that they were clean and in order.
4. To-day each of us again received sixpence, which was back money, as before mentioned. Also, three of his Majesty's ships sailed - the Queen, of ninety guns, the Ocean, of ninety guns, both three-deckers, and the Fieutryant, a two-decker of eighty-four guns, which was taken from the French, the last war; we are told that she is the longest ship in the navy.
5. Sunday. It is ten months to-day since I came to prison. One Sunday passes away after another, seemingly disregarded by us, to our shame.
6. We keep house to-day on account of it being wet weather, and the prison yard is very muddy.
7. Mr. Heath, one of our fathers, has been in London, for near a month, and Mr. Sorry is to set out in a few days. To-day the latter came to see us, and we desired him, for the future, to send us a fourpenny white loaf to each mess, per day, in place of a sixpenny one, for we have more provisions 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 the want of.
8. We are informed that the English ambassador has returned from France, and upon his return he informed His Majesty that the King of France had recognized the independence of America.
9. Very warm and pleasant, so that all the prisoners in this prison carried their bedding out into the yard to air, and the prison was smoked with charcoal and sulphur, as is customary every few days. To-day we received a fourpenny loaf according to our request.
10. To-day Captain Boardman and Mr. Deal were brought back to prison, which makes three of the number brought back who went out on the 31st of January last. The other two were Captain Henry Johnston, of the Lexington, and Captain Eleazer Johnston, of the Dolton. These, we suppose, have got clear. Also, this afternoon William Titcomb, a Newbury man, came to see us, about half an hour, and very glad was I to see him. He was taken in the Yankee Hero, by the Milford. He informs us that he has belonged to the Milford ever since he was taken, and he has been present at the capture of four American privateers. Upon their passage home, they took a vessel, which was one of the Civil Usage's prizes. The Milford arrived about three weeks ago. Titcomb has been unwell, and has been in the royal hospital most of the time since he arrived. He told us that he had rather be in our situation than his.
11. Very warm and pleasant; it is as warm as it was any time last summer. The spring is very forward, much more so than the last; but we were told that last spring was uncommonly backward.
12. Sunday. It is twelve months to-day since I set my foot upon this island, but now I think the auspicious day is about to dawn, when, if it is the Lord's will, we shall bid it farewell. To-day, by an order from the Board, we drew cabbage instead of broth, and we are to have cabbage two days in a week, peas two, and broth three, which we like much better; for when a person is confined to one steady diet, and has enough, he soon gets tired of it.
13. We are informed by Captain Boardman, that while he was out, he saw one Mr. Bapson, lately from America, who belonged to Cape Ann. He informed him that a new ship of twenty-six guns, which was built by the Marine Society of Newbury, Captain William Friend, master, just after she got over the Bar, filled and sunk, and a number of men were drowned. He also informs us that Captain James Tracy in the new ship Hero, has not been heard of since be sailed; and that the schooner Washington has been absent some months, and they are afraid she is lost. William Titcomb, who was here a few days ago, told us that Tracy, in company with another frigate, was cruising off the Cape of Good Hope.
14. We are informed that Governor Johnston and two others, have kissed His Majesty's hand, and are appointed commissioners to go to America.
15. What money I have received for boxes since I have been in prison, amounts to over three guineas. Had it not been for this money, I must inevitably have suffered more than I did.
16. Very warm and pleasant; the grass and herbs in the fields appear to us as forward, from what We can see from the prison, as they do the first of June in America.