French Prisoners - Admiral Keppel sails - Another attempt to Escape - Americans brought back - Another Hole - Admiral Biron's Fleet - A Gate - Number of French Prisoners - General Clinton's retreat from Philadelphia - Elias Hart died - Fever and Ague prevails - A Discharge - Captain Burnel and Wife - Escape from Portsmouth - French Privateer - Letter from Portsmouth - Distribution of Clothing - Hot Press - Letter to Captain Lee - French Prisoners increase - Thomas Pillar - Fever and Ague prevails - A Vote for Money - Poor Beer - Drunkenness and Fighting.
AUGUST 19. This afternoon an officer from the ships came for those five men who were brought here yesterday. When they found out that they were to be carried on board the ships, as they were advised by the people in the yard not to go out at the gate, without they were dragged out, like brave men, they resisted, and swore that they would never lift a hand to do any thing on board of King George's ships - neither would they go out of the yard. As the key was turned upon them, the guard was called in, and the officer of the guard and agent plead with them, telling them that they were put in here through mistake; and being over-persuaded by them, they went out.
20. Another French prize was brought in here to-day.
21. It seems that some of the sick and wounded men that came out of Admiral Keppel's fleet, are recovered. They have made several attempts to escape, and they are obliged to keep a guard here to prevent them from running away.
22. Early this morning, part of Admiral Keppel's fleet sailed. Last night, and this morning, a number of Frenchmen were brought to this prison. This afternoon, Captain Lee received a letter from General Burgoyne; he wrote him that he would do all he could to get bail for him.
23. Sunday. Early this morning, the remainder of Admiral Keppel's fleet sailed, except a few ships that are not ready. The squadron that sailed yesterday morning, appeared this morning in sight, off the harbor. I suppose they are all bound on a cruise together.
24. The men that gave in their names, to go on board the men-of-war, are apprehensive that they will not be allowed to do so, and last evening some of them went to work to try to dig out, but upon breaking ground they were discovered, and the sentry discharged two guns into the hole, but they injured no one.
25. To-day, four of the five men who were brought to this prison on the 18th of this month, and carried away again the next day, were back because they would not enter. On number was an Italian. He was put in a separate yard, with the Frenchmen. Also, to-day a captain of an armed vessel, that was captured by an American privateer in the North Channel, came here to see Captain Lee. He informed him that be gave bonds, for a large sum of money, to return to America as a prisoner, unless he could get Captain Lee exchanged for him. This man is bound for London.
26. This afternoon a prize was brought in here, which proved to be a large French West Indiaman, a ship of about four hundred tons. Also, a number of French prisoners were brought to prison.
27. We learn from the papers, that the Parliament is prorogued until Thursday the first of October, We also learn from the same source, that the damage to the French fleet, in the late engagement, was very inconsiderable.
28. This morning the guard discovered another hole in the prison, which was begun a few days ago; but as yet there has been but little said about it.
29. We have a paper, from which we learn that Admiral Biron's fleet that sailed from this port on the 9th of June last, bound to America, upon their passage, met with a gale of wind which separated the fleet and dismasted several of their ships. The Albion has arrived in Lisbon, dismasted. She was one of the fleet.
30. Some of us are sick with fever and ague.
31. Some carpenters are now at work building a new Black-hole, in an old prison in this yard, that has lately been repaired.
September 1. It is the opinion of some in this prison, that all the American prisoners in this yard will be removed to some other prison, to make room for the French prisoners, as there are now about four hundred Frenchmen in another yard; and there are a great number of French officers gone into the country, on parole.
2. This afternoon, Mr. Heath and Mr. Sorrey came to see us, and brought bad news for our officers, in a letter from the committee in London. The contents read nearly as follows: -
"Not from any prejudice or alteration in our affection for you, but fearing that you will remain in prison another winter, and the money raised for your support be expended, we thought proper to deduct two shillings per week from those officers who have hitherto been allowed five shillings; the other officers and privates, to remain as before."
3. Nothing remarkable.
4. To-day four American gentlemen came to see us; one of whom belonged to Baltimore. He is a young man, and was bound to France to finish his education, when he was taken. He left America since General Clinton retreated from Philadelphia to New York, and he gave us a very satisfactory account of the battle - different from what was reported to us before. This young man had liberty to converse with us nearly two hours.
5. This morning, Elias Hart, one of Captain Lee's company, died of consumption in the prison hospital. He is the sixth man that has died since I came to prison. Of late, our sick have fared much better than formerly. As we all draw money once a week, each respective crew contributes, weekly, for their sick, which supplies them with every necessary; so, that of late, there is always some money in the bank for the use of the sick. Since two shillings per week has been deducted from the officers, who formerly received five, most of them, from choice, receive what they are allowed from subscription, in money, and draw no other allowance than what is afforded by government. They can buy provisions as often as they want them, in public market, at the gate.
6. Sunday. This afternoon, three American captains came to see us. They have been taken some months, and are bound directly home. - Among the number, there is one Captain Potter, belonging to Boston.
7. Several of our men have been taken sick with fever and ague, within a few days, and a great number in prison are unwell.
8. This afternoon, thirteen American prisoners were brought to prison. They were lately brought round from Liverpool, and are the remainder of Captain Ravel's crew.
9. To-day, one Thomas Pillar, of Portsmouth, visited us. He was one of the five who were brought here on the 18th of August; he was carried on board the men-of-war the next day, having been taken in a merchantman. They kept him for a time, but he has since received his discharge, and intends to return home. Several letters were delivered to him to carry, and he is to call and get more.
10. This afternoon, Rev. Mr. Heath came to see us, in company with a young American gentleman, who has been taken, lately, on his passage to France. Our agent, or prison-keeper, being sick and absent, Mr. Heath came into prison and discoursed nearly two hours with the officers.
11. We have accounts in the papers, that Winchester castle is to be repaired for the reception of one hundred American prisoners - a larger number than they now have in England.
12. Captain Burnel, who is a prisoner here, taken in the American service, and has a wife and family in England, has received a letter from his wife, informing him that she has been turned out of doors, wholly on account of his being in the American service. The prisoners are about raising money for her relief.
13. Sunday. This afternoon, Captain Rols received a letter from Captain Harris, in Portsmouth prison. He informs him that forty-five officers and eleven privates, had made their escape lately, out of that prison, twenty-five of whom were brought back - the other thirty-one had got off.
14. We are informed, that last evening, a French privateer was brought in here, with eighty prisoners on board, and the sailors having got a number of prostitutes, and gone below, drinking, the Frenchmen rose, closed the hatches on them, cut the cable and went off with the vessel.
15. To-day, several letters were received here, from the prisoners at Portsmouth. They inform us that they have received a letter from Captain Cowes, in France, who made his escape from that prison. He writes that he has been at Paris, and conversed with Dr. Franklin, and told him our situation. His answer was, that he expected orders from America for the release of all of us. - This agrees with a letter which was received by the prisoners in Portsmouth, from a gentleman in London. In conversation with Mr. Heartley, who is a great speaker in the House of Commons, he informed him, that it lay in Dr. Franklin's power to exchange us when he pleases. It seems by their writing, that they give credit to the report but our faith has been so long tried, and we have been flattered so often, many in prison will not believe that they are going, until they see the prison gates open.
16. Considerable rain in the first part of the day. I believe there has not been two hours steady rain, before to-day, for nearly three months. Today some jackets, shirts and stockings were given us by the agent, by order of the Board. I received one shirt, which is the only one I have received from Government, since I have been a prisoner.
17. The West India fleet that put in here a few days ago, sailed to-day, bound up channel. We heard that most of their hands were pressed, and that they were manned by men-of-wars-men. Today I finished my studies in navigation.
18. To-day Captain Lee received a letter from a man that was here a few weeks ago, and who informed him that he was taken by an American privateer, and came home upon condition that he was to return to America, if he could not get Captain Lee exchanged for him. He now writes that he has done his utmost, but it is impossible for any man to get out, so long as this Act is in force.
19. To-day about forty French prisoners were brought to prison, who were captured in a privateer. There are now about five hundred French prisoners here.
20. To-day Thomas Pillar came again to see us. He informed us that he expects to sail this afternoon. They are first bound to Ireland, to join a fleet; from thence, to New York. A number in prison sent letters by him. I sent one to my father. He also informs us that he is to work for his passage, and that he has no money to purchase his sea stores. We collected about sixteen shillings, and gave it to him.
21. I expected that Admiral Keppel's fleet would have come in before this time, on account of the sun's crossing the line; but they are not yet in, so that I am in daily expectation of hearing that there has been an engagement between the two fleets.
To-day, eight more of our sick were carried into the prison hospital. They are attacked with fever and ague, and a number more are very unwell with the same complaint; and I am afraid it will be very sickly among us, unless cold weather sets in very soon.
22. To-day is King George's coronation day, and between twelve and one o'clock the fort and garrison fired a salute. There was but very little firing to what there was last year, on account of there being but few ships in the port. To-day, also, one Captain Smith came to see us. He belongs to Portsmouth. He was taken in a merchantman bound to the West Indies, and brought in here. His men are all put on board the men-of-war; but he has got his liberty, and is bound home. A great number in prison will send letters by him.
23. There are a great many in prison, who contemplate having the beef which we receive from subscription, and the soap, tobacco, and oatmeal, and the herbs which we have in our broth, all taken off, and receive a white loaf and some money instead of them. In order to ascertain the mind of the majority, we all drew up in the yard and passed a vote, which was in favor of the change; but whether the gentlemen, Mr. Heath and Mr. Sorrey, will agree to it or not, we do not know; or whether the agent will allow the money to come into the yard, is not yet determined. I was for receiving the provisions, fearing that if the money was allowed to come into the yard, it would be attended with many bad consequences - too many to enumerate here.
24. This afternoon, Captain Smith came to see us again, and took our letters. I sent one by him to my father. To-day our small beer was very bad, and we refused to take it; they afterwards got some that was a very little better; but a great part in prison carried theirs and turned it over the gate, before the eyes of the prison officers, chosing rather, to drink water. The prison has been in an uproar all day, it being donation day. Several in prison became intoxicated, and went to fighting; but after a few battles the prison was again quiet.