Death of the Doctor - Men in the Drain - Sailing of Admiral Biron's Fleet - Discouragements - Prison in an Uproar - Punishment - Revenge - Men in Irons - Rev. Mr. Heath - Cold reception of Proposition of Peace in America - Number of Prisoners - Rigor of Prison Discipline abated - A Letter from the Committee of Appropriation - Gratitude for Friends - Effort to Escape - Scheme continued - Discovered - Black-hole - Gen. Burgoyne's Compliment to American Troops - Unsuccessful attempt to Escape - French Frigate taken - Bad Meat refused - Unsuccessful attempt to Escape - Preparation for the Fourth of July - Fourth of July - Continued - Amputation - Another Hole - John Dam -Allowance to French Prisoners - Admiral Keppel's Fleet sail - Boys attempt to Escape.
JUNE 7. Sunday. This morning we are informed that our chief doctor is dead. He died very suddenly; I believe there are not many in prison who will mourn as we have no reason to expect that we can get a worse one. This forenoon, after we were turned out, two men of this prison got into a drain at one corner of the yard, and were digging, when one of the turnkeys present found out that they were at work, and alarmed the guard. They were taken and carried to the Black-hole, but we shall find means to help them, as we have done others before. The hole in which they were at work was commenced five days ago. They had nearly finished the work before it was found out. Thus every method we take to make our escape is found out before it is accomplished, and our unhappy efforts are not blest.
8. We hear that the fleet of men-of-war, now lying in the Sound, have received orders for sailing; also, that the convoy of the Newfoundland fleet, while they were out, took a sloop from North Carolina, loaded with indigo, bound to France.
9. This morning the fleet sailed, under the command of Admiral Biron; it consists of eleven sail of the line, and two frigates. They are bound in search of the French fleet, commanded by Count de Estaing, which sailed from Toulon; bound to America. To-day Captain Dennis, from Cape Ann, came to see us; he was taken in a brig out of Newbury. He informs us that Captain Tracy is wholly given over, which I am very sorry to hear. Captain Dennis has got his clearance, and is bound directly home, and will carry letters for those who desire to send. This afternoon thirteen more prisoners came to prison from the ships; they belonged to the same privateer with those who came last Thursday. For my own part, I think it very poor encouragement for us to see the number of prisoners increase; I think it looks very melancholy within these walls, and more and more so every day. I am so uneasy that I cannot content myself to do any thing; let me seem to be ever so busy, my mind is not fixed upon what I am about. It is dwelling upon my situation and condition.
10. To-day several of us wrote letters to send to America by Captain Dennis, but he has not yet come after them. When Mr. Sorrey came to bring us our money, he told us that orders were come for us to be exchanged for the prisoners in France. We put more confidence in what he says, because he has been very cautious hitherto of telling us news. To-day the whole prison has been in an uproar, occasioned by one or two drunken fellows, who, as regularly as they get any money, get drunk with the beer which is bought at the gate. One of these was so outrageous that he drew his knife, and walked fore and aft the prison, striking and abusing those he met. When we were turned out in the afternoon we complained to the agent, and he, by a desire of most of the men in prison, was sent to the Black-hole. After we delivered him up, he, out of spite, told of a window where some one in prison had sawed off a bar.
11. The commissioner has again been in the yard to talk with us.
12. To-day the fleet of Newfoundland fishermen sailed again, and I am afraid Captain Dennis has gone and left our letters.
13. There are now several masons and carpenters at work on an old three story prison, in another yard, repairing it for the reception of French prisoners, The man who was delivered up to the agent, a few days ago, is put in irons. He is the only one that has been put in irons since we came to prison.
14. The Rev. Mr. Heath has returned home from London, having been gone nearly three months; and yesterday afternoon he came to see us. He tells us that he has been informed that many of us pay no regard for the Sabbath, which is too true; for it is equally the same with many in this prison, whether it be the Sabbath or any other day. They will run about the yard, and play, and curse, and swear, and blaspheme, the greater part of the time. Many of them are the most wicked and profane men that I ever saw or heard of; but there are a great number of steady men. Mr. Heath gave us a few books, and he says that he has a number more to give to such as will make good use of them.
15. We hear that the reconciliation bill, which was sent to America from England, last February, met with a very cool reception, both by the American and Howe's troops, and was even treated with the greatest indignation by both. General Howe, we hear, is expected home soon, and General Clinton is to take the command at Philadelphia. We hear that there is now a Spanish fleet of twenty one sail of the line riding at anchor in Cadez, ready for sea. We have also heard it reported of late, that the American army is so destitute of clothing that they are obliged to strip the women of their petticoats to cover them. These things are put in the papers to amuse the public; but we know better; it is inconsistent with reason, and utterly false.
16. To-day we received a letter from one Captain Harris in Portsmouth prison; he writes to us that there are two hundred and fifty prisoners in France, and that we may depend upon it, that he had it from good authority, that we are to be exchanged for them, as far as they will go. But in this prison we are very faithless; we have been flattered too long for our profit. I heard some days ago that there were six hundred prisoners in France. There are now in these prisons three hundred and sixteen American prisoners.
17. We hear that Parliament is prorogued until the middle of July. I suppose by that time they expect to hear from the commissioners.
18. Yesterday, after we were turned out and the doors shut, three small boys entered through the grates into the prison and damaged several hammocks, for which, this morning, their ship's company tied them up and whipped them. Today four men came out of the Black-hole, who went in on the 31 st of May; they have been in only eighteen days; the reason of their not tarrying longer is, a commissioner being here from London, they petitioned him for pardon, and he granted it. There are only three left in the Black-hole now.
19. I hear, privately, that the soldiers have orders not to fire on the prisoners if they see any making their escape; to fire only clear powder to alarm the guard; and they are not to strike any of us, nor offer a bayonet to us: thus their rigor has been abated since Burgoyne has been taken.
20. This forenoon, Rev. Mr. Heath came and delivered us a letter, which we found to be from a gentleman who is one of the committee of appropriation for the money raised by subscription for the relief of American prisoners in this country. He desired that we should send him the name, former residence, and occupation, of all the prisoners; he assures us that there is a prospect of an exchange for some, if not all of us; he also desired that we should keep good order, and by no means attempt to elope. I lack words to express my gratitude to these gentlemen; for had it not been for our numerous friends, doubtless many of us had now been in our graves.
21. Sunday. Notwithstanding our friend's advice, we have a plan in agitation for making our escape, and are resolved to go on with it. Our design is to get into a drain at the corner of the yard, where the last hole was found out, and dig up on the other side of the wall. For this purpose, yesterday afternoon three men took down a piece of wall under a window, in an old prison adjoining this drain. These men got into the prison and the wall was put up again, and plastered up with dirt. They dug into the drain and tarried there all night and till after we were let out in the morning, when we let them out. Last night, when we were counted into prison, three boys went in first and got out at the window, and were counted twice, to make up the number.
22. Last night and to-day this scheme was carried on as before. This afternoon Captain Dennis and Captain Talford came and took our letters. They have got their clearance and are bound directly to France. I sent a letter by Captain D. to my father. Captain Dennis' hands consisted of nine Beverly men; they are all kept on board the men-of-war, as they have served all others during the war taken in merchantmen, except the captains, and them they clear.
23. Last night the scheme was carried on the same as before till about 8 o'clock in the evening, when they were discovered by the guard and sent to the Black-hole; after which they went into the officers' prison, where were Captain Bunten and Captain Boardman walking; they were ordered to bed, and they refused to go, for which they carried them to the Black-hole. This afternoon one of the prisoners was sent down to the prison hospital; he had been so sick and weak for some days past, that when we were turned out into the yard, and the door locked, (they having driven him out,) as he could not walk, we were obliged to lead him. When out, he could not stand, but was forced to lay down on the ground; and when down, could not rise up without help.
24. Last night, there were two more carried to the Black-hole from the officers' prison, for not being in bed when the guard came in, which was between nine and ten o'clock. The officers in prison have drawn up a petition to send to the board, to know if Mr. Coudry, the prison keeper, has orders to confine any one for not being in hammock at nine or ten o'clock in the evening.
25. According to the newspapers, General Burgoyne gives the American troops a brave name; he says that the troops he had at his command were as good as double the number of any other troops the King has, and that the American troops were as good as his, and would fight as well.
26. Yesterday afternoon, while the guard was turning us into prison, four that were in the Black-hole, and one that was in the hospital, broke out through the drain, and got a boat a quarter of a mile off, but they were soon discovered, and pursued by the guard. The militia were raised, and they were all taken in about half an hour and brought back. This afternoon, those five, with all the rest, were sent up into this yard. Those who came to prison last had clothes given them, which were allowed by government. I received a pair of breeches, as I had not received any before since I came to prison. This morning a French cutter was brought in here, taken by an English cutter; and at the same time two French frigates were taken, which, I hear, have arrived in Portsmouth. Six of the wounded Frenchmen were brought from the cutter to prison, and put in the hospital.
27. This afternoon two of the officers in prison had an invitation by a sentry to go over the wall, which they did, but were discovered, taken, and sent to the Black-hole.
28. We hear that the Arathusa frigate was dismasted in the engagement with the two French frigates above mentioned.
29. Joseph Barnum, one of our company, who has been unwell ever since he had the small-pox, more than twelve months ago, has now got the white swelling in his knee, which the doctor thinks will occasion his death, if not cut off; and he is so weak that I fear he is not able to undergo the operation.
30. For a long time we have been imposed upon by the agent and butcher, by sending us bad meat. Yesterday there were maggots found in our beef, and we told the two butchers who go into the cook-room to inspect our meat - that if it was the same to-day as yesterday, not to cut it up. Accordingly, they went out this morning, and as the meat proved to be very poor, our butchers refused to cut it up. Upon this, the agent ordered the cook to cut it up, which he did, and cooked it. At twelve o'clock the meat was brought in, in a tub; but we had all agreed not to take any of it. The agent told us if we would accept of it to-day, as it was cooked, we should have no more like it, but have better in future. He has, however, told us these stories too often, and we thought if we took it to-day, we should have the same another day; therefore we positively refused it; for we can live as well upon the fat that we have gathered from the donation, two days, as we could seven months ago upon all our allowance.
July 1. Last night six men in this prison attempted to make their escape; they got out at a window into the yard, but as they were trying to get over the wall, they were discovered by a sentry, so they returned and got in at the window where they got out.
2. To-day forty-seven more French prisoners were brought to prison, but they were all foremast hands; for all the French officers are allowed to go on parole. To-day the New Duke, a ship of ninety guns, dropped down in the Sound, in order for sailing. She is a new ship, and has been launched since I came to prison.
3. As it is two years to-morrow since the Declaration of Independence in America, we are resolved, although we are prisoners, to bear it in remembrance; and for that end, several of us have employed ourselves to-day in making cockades. They were drawn on a piece of paper, cut in the form of a half-moon, with the thirteen stripes, a Union, and thirteen stars, painted out, and upon the top is printed in large capital letters, "Independence," and at the bottom "Liberty or Death," or some appeal to Heaven.
4. This morning when we were let out, we all hoisted the American flag upon our hats, except about five or six, who did not choose to wear them. The agent, seeing us all with those papers on our hats, asked for one to look at, which was sent him, and it happened to be one which had "Independence " written upon the top, and at the bottom, "Liberty or Death." He, not knowing the meaning of it, and thinking we were going to force the guard, directly ordered a double sentry at the gate. Nothing happened till one o'clock; we then drew up in thirteen divisions, and each division gave three cheers, till it came to the last, when we all cheered together, all of which was conducted with the greatest regularity. We kept our colors hoisted till sunset, and then took them down.
5. The carpenters and masons have been at work for some days past, repairing an old prison in the yard.
8. This afternoon, Rev. Mr. Heath came to see us, and gave us several books; he informs us that General Howe has arrived home, and that the King's troops have left Philadelphia.
9. We are told that Captain Dennis and Captain Talford, with five or six other American captains, bought a small vessel to carry them to France, and yesterday morning set sail.
10. To-day Joseph Barnum, one of our company, and one of the French prisoners that was wounded, had their thighs cut off. Barnum has been unwell more than a year; be has had a white swelling in his knee.
11. We have a hole now in hand, which we thought this afternoon was found out, but it happened to be one within a few feet of it, which was discovered some time ago, and was of no great consequence.
12. Sunday. To-day Captain Lee received a letter from Portsmouth prison, from Jonn Dame, a Newbury man. He informs us that he was taken with Captain Dennis in a new privateer brig, of sixteen guns, that sailed from Boston on the 25th of May. On the 30th of the same month he was taken by the same frigate that General Howe came home in.
13. Since the Frenchmen came to prison we have been of considerable help to them, as we have now plenty of provisions, and many of us more than we want to eat. What we have to spare we give to them, and we daily give them more or less. Their allowance of bread is six pounds to four of them per day, which is one and a half pounds per man; but we rebels are allowed only one pound of bread a man, per day, from government. The other allowances of the French is the same as ours.
14. Admiral Keppel has lately sailed from St. Helena with about twenty-eight sail of the line and six frigates; and a French fleet has sailed from Brest; but I cannot learn the exact number of ships of which the fleet consists. It is expected, whenever these two fleets meet, there will be a bloody engagement, for England's chief dependence is in her fleet.
15. It is twenty months to-day since I left Newbury. To-day Admiral Keppel's fleet was seen from the prison to pass by this harbor, and it is expected that two or three ships from this port will join them. This afternoon four boys tried to make their escape; they got over the wall into the Frenchmen's yard, and hid in their hammocks, but were soon discovered, and taken.
16. We hear that Parliament is prorogued until some time in September next. To-day the Sudbury, a ship of seventy-four guns, sailed to join Admiral Keppel's fleet, which now appears off this port. The guard now consists partly of the Cornish, partly of the Somersetshire, and partly of the Devonshire militia, and some of the thirteenth regiment, which is the regiment that has guarded us ever since we came to prison.