Bad Conduct in Prison - Its Consequences - Rules -Prison Quiet - Digging Out - Four Escape - General alarm - Fire, and Officers Escape - Discovery - Prison in an Uproar - Its Cause and Cure -Sad news from Portsmouth - Pay-day - Drink - Trouble - Invitation to go over the Wall - Admiral Keppel returns - England's pride humbled - False Reports - Studies Navigation - A good turn - A curious plan for Escape - Detection - Battle Report - Wounded in the Hospital - Effort to Escape by Swimming - Disturbance in Prison - Prisoners Return - Difficulty of Escape - Invitation to join the Fleet - Thirty join - Brave Americans pressed to the Ships of War.
JULY 17. There are a number of very quarrelsome, lawless men in prison, who have been the occasion of a great deal of mutiny and disturbance amongst us, which has obtained for us the ill-will of our friends; and we have been informed that unless there is an alteration among us, our donations will be stopped; so that we thought it proper to have Articles among ourselves. These were drawn up to-day; they forbid all gambling, and blackguarding, which have caused great disturbance in the yard, and occasioned much fighting. They also forbid any improper language to any officer or soldier, who are now, or may hereafter be, appointed to preside over us. These articles were read in the yard before all the prisoners, and then stuck up in prison, and two men out of each ship's company were appointed to see them put into execution.
18. We hear that Count D'Estaing's fleet has arrived in Boston. I learn, also, by the papers, that twenty-five sail of the line are now laying at single anchor in Cadiz, ready for sea. Their place of destination is not known.
19. Sunday. As there have been many books given in lately, the prison is much stiller of Sunday than formerly, and the people are much better employed. This forenoon, as some were in a drain digging, they were heard by the guard, but they got out before the guard reached the hole.
20. Wet, rainy weather, so that we kept house most of the day. There has been little or no rain, for two months, until last night and to-day. The ground has been so parched for want of rain, that the fields look like the fall of the year.
21. Last night about nine o'clock, it being very dark and rainy, we opened a hole at the back side of the prison, large enough for two men to go out abreast. This hole has been ready for some time past - they have only been waiting for a dark, stormy night; when they broke ground, the pavement fell in, and four men jumped out and got off. A sentry within ten feet of the hole, saw them, and immediately alarmed the guard; so that no more could escape. The guard came in, and while they were in prison the guard-house chimney took fire; upon which the drum beat to arms, and fire was cried. The cry was that the prisons were on fire, and the prisoners were breaking out. After this was over, the guard came in again and took nine of the prisoners and put them in the Black-hole, because they were up and had their clothes on. To-day, about one o'clock, four of the officers from the officers' prison got over the wall into the hospital yard; two of whom got out, but were soon discovered and taken. The other two were taken in the yard, and all put into the Black-hole last night, but came out to-day.
22. Yesterday noon, another hole was begun in this prison, and at night when we were turned in again, they went to work until nine or ten o'clock; but were then discovered by the guard, who immediately came in and carried two to the Black-hole. In the afternoon, they took two boys at work in the drain before mentioned; and to-day two of those who went out night before last, were brought back, and another came back of his own accord.
23. Most of this day the prison has been in an uproar, occasioned by a few men that will not be conformable to the rules and articles that we have amongst ourselves, but threaten to take them down and destroy them.
24. This morning we found that our articles were abused, and we took three of the before-mentioned men and tied them up to a post in the prison, and poured cold water down their arms and neck, for the space of half an hour. One of the three was afterwards complained of to the agent, who ordered him to be put in irons, and separated from us.
This afternoon, six more Frenchmen were brought to prison.
25. Yesterday a ship of seventy-four guns, and a frigate, arrived in the Sound, from Admiral Biron's fleet, with two hundred and forty-six sick men on board. The occasion of this ship's coming home was that she had sprung a leak, and the frigate came with her for fear that she might founder at sea.
26. Sunday. I daily expect to hear of an engagement between the English and French fleets, as we have heard several accounts of their being seen in sight of each other.
27. Cool weather for some days past, which is much better for us, as so many of us are confined together.
28. This afternoon we received two letters from Portsmouth prison - one from John Dame, the other from Benjamin Tappan. They give us a very disagreeable account of thirty-nine young men belonging to Newbury, who were lost with Capt. Tracy. Many of their names were mentioned in the letter; some of them I was intimately acquainted with. I could rather wish them in prison with us, than entirely lost.
29. This morning a large three-decker dropped down into the Sound, in order for sailing. Also, we have the London Evening Post, which informs us of the Lively, twenty gun ship, and a frigate, being taken. The last paper before this gives an account of two cutters being taken. They were captured by the French and carried to France.
30. Yesterday was pay-day, and there are a number of men who make it a practice to get drunk every opportunity, and two men last night, who were in liquor, struck and abused two Frenchmen, who were taken in the American service, and the majority of those in prison who were Americans, took their part, and complained to the officer of the guard. The offenders were sent to the Black-hole, and this morning we took the Frenchmen up stairs with us, where they will not be abused any more.
31. Yesterday, some in this prison had an invitation by a sentry to go over the wall, but as it was in the day time, they thought it not proper; but at twelve o'clock at night, the same sentry came to the same place and gave a signal, upon which seven men went out at a window where one of the iron bars were loosened, ready to be pulled out. After these seven men got out, the sentry alarmed the guard, and four of the number were soon taken. If they had waited a few moments longer, we should have had a hole in the back side of the prison, for a number more to have got out. The guard tell us that they have orders to fire at anyone they see getting over the wall, and also, that the soldier who let these men go is now under confinement, and will be either whipped or shot.
This forenoon, Admiral Keppel's fleet arrived in the Sound. The greatest part of this fleet now lay where we can see them from this prison. We hear that they have had an engagement with the French fleet, but have not learned the particulars. To-day, also, a dozen more Frenchmen were brought to prison. Six came out of the Black-hole; among whom was Captain Lee. While be was there, he received a letter from General Burgoyne. There are six remaining there still.
August 1. All that I can say to-day concerning the fleet, is, that several of the ships are very much shattered. Two or three are now lying on their beam-ends, in the Sound, and the boats have been passing and re-passing from them ever since they came in. We have seen a vast number of men come from the ships, in boats, whom we suppose to be wounded, as we are informed that there are between seven and eight hundred wounded men in the royal hospital, who were taken out of the fleet. This is the fleet which they have been raising for the two years past, concerning which they have boasted so much, and which they have called the terror of France. This was England's pride - the fleet that was to sweep the seas, and accomplish such wonders. Alas! many of them are disappointed of their expectations, for in their first engagement they were worsted.
2. A man in prison received a letter from his brother, who is in the fleet. He informed him that he was in the engagement, and there was only twelve sail of the English fleet that engaged the French fleet; but I suppose that he was not allowed to write the particulars.
3. For these two months past, since we have been allowed pens, ink and paper, I have employed them to as much advantage as possible. Most of the time, I have busied myself in writing and cyphering. I have had as much writing to do as I could accomplish; and to-day I sent out to buy books and instruments to learn navigation. Today a number more Frenchmen were brought to prison.
4. To-day one of the two shattered ships that lay in the Sound warped up, went to Ammoors, and the other lays opposite to our prison. To-day I began to study navigation.
5. A gentleman, who came to see us to-day, gave in half a guinea, to be drank by the prisoners; but we thought it better to divide it among the sick of the respective crews.
6. The masons and carpenters have been at work repairing an old prison in the yard; and this afternoon, as one of the laborers was at work, be pulled off his coat and hung it up against the prison, in the yard, and left the basket, that he had to bring slate in, with it. One of the prisoners went and put on the coat, and put the basket over his head, and went to the gate; and the turnkey, thinking it to be the laborer, let him out. As he was walking through the street, the laborer met him, knew his coat, and ran and alarmed the guard, who went in pursuit of him and soon took him.
7. We have been waiting impatiently to hear from the commissioners, for some time past, hoping that they would settle affairs; but we have had a flying report for some weeks, that they are likely to return as they went, without doing any thing. When they first sailed, it was the opinion of many in prison, that they were invested with full power to settle it; but soon after, we were convinced to the contrary.
8. From the Exeter paper we learn that there was only twenty-five sail of the line of battle-ships that engaged the French fleet, and that they had but five hundred and six men killed and wounded; but the royal hospital, where the wounded are, is but a small-arms' shot from this prison, and we have been repeatedly and credibly informed by those who reside in the neighborhood, that there is upwards of a thousand wounded men in the hospital, and a cart is seen to carry away the dead every day. The engagement took place on the 27th of July.
9. Sunday. Last evening, as four men went to empty their tubs, two of them took to the water to swim away, but were soon taken up. The commissioner who was here a few weeks ago, came again to-day, to regulate affairs.
10. This afternoon the guard came in and turned us all out, and locked the doors, which aggravated many, who wanted to be in prison - some reading, some writing, some cyphering, and some studying navigation. Some went and picked the locks, opened the doors, and went in; upon this the guard came in again, and turned us all out and placed a sentry at the prison doors. Two men, out of spite, went to fighting, and it took most of the guard to separate them. Soon after, another fight happened, and about the same time the commissioner came into the yard, and ordered one of them to be sent to the Black-hole. In all this disturbance, the officers of the guard appeared very mild and calm; they are officers in the militia. Most of those that have been on guard since we have been guarded by the militia, have behaved very well towards us, and very much like gentlemen, as they are chiefly gentlemen of fortune. Today the other three men were brought back that made their escape from prison on the 30th of July, in the evening.
11. Those who were brought back yesterday, were sent up out of the Black-hole to-day. They tell us that they would not go out again if the gates were set open; for they said it is a thing impossible, to get off the island. While they were out, they saw a number of ships belonging to Admiral Keppel's fleet, which lay where we cannot see them from the prison, that were very much shattered and disabled in the engagement.
12. To-day we were all examined, as of late has been customary once a month, to see who need clothes, and who do not.
13. Those who wanted shoes, were served to-day. These are allowed by government.
14. This morning, three French prizes were brought into this port - a ship, a brig, and a sloop.
15. This forenoon some officers from the ships, who were sent by Admiral Keppel, came here to take a list of the names of those who have a mind to go on board the men-of-war, and thirty in number gave in their names. Among the number were some Americans, but they were chiefly old countrymen. The officers brought with them an American who was taken with Captain Martingale in the first of the disturbance. His officers gave him a guinea to treat his countrymen.
16. Sunday. To-day another officer came from the ships. He, also, came for men.
17. We hear that Admiral Keppel and his fleet, are to sail in a few days.
18. This afternoon there were five Americans brought to prison. They were all taken in different vessels. Some of them belonged to armed ships, others to merchantmen. Some of them have been taken this six months, and have been hurried about from ship to ship, and used scandalously. They had a bounty offered them to go on board this fleet, now lying in the Sound, but they, like brave Americans, refused, and chose rather to come to prison. They were sent here without being examined, or committed by any justice of the peace.