Attempt to Escape discovered - Awful description of Suffering Dreadful Starvation- Gloomy Prospects - Death of Gideon Warren - Detection - Close Examination - Commissioner - A Newspaper - Relief Prohibited - Attempt to Escape - Oath of Secrecy - Another attempt to Escape - Captain Johnston and the Lexington - Sea Fight - The Press continued - Love of Liberty - Meeting after long absence - A Privilege granted - Agent in a good humor - A Purchase - More Prisoners - Running the Gauntlet.
AUGUST 27. Last night, as our people who are on half allowance in a separate prison, were trying to dig out, the guard went in and caught them. Two of these are now confined in the Black-hole. To-day a prize was brought in here; she appears to be a small brig.
30. For the week past, I have received four shillings for boxes.
31. Sunday. To-day we had a newspaper, wherein was a confirmation of Ticonderoga and Philadelphia being taken; also, of the Hancock frigate and Fox being retaken; this news is very disagreeable to us, for we are sorry to hear of the enemy being in any way victorious; for should they conquer the country, or even get the upper hands of it, we are positive that the gallows or the East Indies will be our destiny. But as to conquering the country, it never disturbed, for me, an hour's rest, though it appears that they are in a fairer way for doing it now, than ever before. We have trouble enough here, without hearing bad news; for it is enough to break the heart of a stone to see so many strong, hearty men, almost starved to death through want of provisions. A great part of those in prison, eat at one meal what they draw for twenty long hours, and then go without until the next day. Many are strongly tempted to pick up the grass in the yard, and eat it, and some pick up old bones in the yard, that have been laying in the dirt a week or ten days, and pound them to pieces and suck them. Some will pick up snails out of the holes in the wall, and from among the grass and weeds in the yard, boil them and eat them, and drink the broth. Often the cooks, after they have picked over our cabbage, will cut off some of the but-ends of the stalks and throw them over the gate into the yard, and I have often seen, after a rain, when the mud would be over shoes, as these stumps were thrown over the gate, the men running from all parts of the yard, regardless of the mud, to catch at them, and nearly trample one another under feet to get a piece. These same cabbage stumps, hogs in America would scarcely eat if they had them; and as to our broth, I know very well hogs in America would scarcely put their noses into it. Our meat is very poor in general; we scarcely see a good piece once in a month. Many are driven to such necessity by want of provisions, that they have sold most of the clothes off their backs for the sake of getting a little money to buy them some bread. I find it very hard, myself, but it is not so hard with me and a few others, who have got into a way of making boxes and punch ladies, for which we get a trifle, as it is with the prisoners, in general, who are obliged to live upon their allowance; but I expect that boxes and punch ladles will soon become an old thing, for many who buy them now, buy them more out of charity than any thing else.
September 1. Nothing remarkable, but repeated confirmation of the before-mentioned sad news.
2. We are informed by a friend, that he is fearful that we shall be distributed on board of His Majesty's ships.
3. There is one of our company who lays very ill with small-pox, but all Captain Lee's men, who were inoculated, are better.
4. Last night Gideon Warren, one of our company, died of small-pox, in the prison hospital. He is the sixth of our company who has died since we were taken - five of the number died of smallpox.
5 . To-day the carpenters have been at work, altering the hanging of our hammocks, to make them hang on the middle rail, for fear that we. should make a breach in the wall and conceal the same by our hammocks hanging against it until we make our escape.
6. For the week past, I have received one shilling and ninepence, for boxes.
7. Sunday. We were threatened to be put on half allowance, on account of the orders being torn, which are put up in the prison.
8. Several who have recovered from small-pox, came up from the hospital.
9. To-day two large ships sailed from the Sound.
10. This morning, early, while some of our people were digging out, the guard came upon them, and we were all immediately turned out and searched, and all our knives taken from us, that they could find; some other tools, and some paper which they found in prison, as we are not allowed paper, pens or ink; but I passed the search with two knives and my journal about me. Captain Bird, captain of a packet bound to America, came to see us, and offered to carry letters for us.
11. Eleven of Captain Lee's men came up from the hospital, recovered from the small-pox, after being inoculated.
12. To-day a commissioner came here from London. He told us, with other business, he came to see us righted about our provisions; he said that he lodged twenty-five miles distant last night, on purpose to be here at the time of our drawing our provisions. He also gave us liberty, whenever we wished to make our grievances known, to write to the Board, without inspection by the agent.
13. To-day we wrote our petition to the Board, for redress of grievances, and it was read before the prisoners. Also, we had a paper, wherein was a melancholy account of the barbarous treatment of American prisoners, taken at Ticonderoga, and an account of the Indians in Burgoyne's army proving treacherous.
14. Sunday. The week past I have received three shillings for boxes.
15. For nearly a month past, the carpenter, of whom I have had my wood, has not been here, so that I have been working a chest up into boxes, on shares. When finished and sold, it brought nearly thirty-two shillings; but I have had a partner to work with me, and one third of the avails we paid for the chest, so that only one third belonged to myself.
16. Mr. Bell, the commissioner, has been here again, and measured our cans, in which we draw our beer, and he says he shall come again and try the weights and measures by which we draw our provisions. To-day about twenty old countrymen petitioned the Board for permission to go on board His Majesty's ships.
17. To-day the bells have been chiming in Plymouth and Dock, on the election of a new Lord Mayor.
18. Yesterday some friends, from without, sent victuals to those men who are on short allowance, but the agent would not let them come in.
19. The commissioner has again been here; he came precisely at the time of drawing our meat. We complained to him about the market, and he told us that no one should be allowed to retail any thing out to us, but that there should be an open market at the gate, three hours in a day. Also, those knives that were taken away a few days ago, were handed in again.
20. For the week past, I have received one shilling and eightpence for boxes.
21. Sunday. Last evening about nine o'clock, it being very dark, a number attempted to get over the wall by the help of a line, but as the sixth man was getting over, they were discovered, and three of the number immediately taken.
22. To-day is the King's coronation day, and each ship in commission, in the harbor, fired a salute.
23. To-day the masons have been at work, building the wall higher where the men got over.
24. Pleasant weather.
25. We are informed that the Lexington, privateer, Captain Henry Johnston, of sixteen guns, is taken by a cutter of ten guns.
26. Last evening one of our company made an attempt to get over the wall, but no sooner was he over than he was discovered and taken. The commissioner again visited us, and spoke in particular to each of our requests. He informed us that a newspaper could not be allowed us, and that persons on half allowance must not be helped by any donations; he told us that he had written to the Board for an addition of a quarter of a pound of beef to a man; and as cold weather was coming on, for shoes and stockings for such as are destitute. Since this gentleman has been in town, our provisions have been much better than they were before. This afternoon, Captain Johnston, of the Lexington privateer, and six of his officers, were brought to prison in a coach.
27. Ten more of Captain Johnston's men came to prison to-day. They inform us that they were taken by a ten gun cutter after almost four hours' engagement, and having expended all their shot; they were so disabled by having their shrouds, stays, and braces shot away, and so nearly wrecked, that they were obliged to strike to their inferiors. They had six men killed and a number wounded; their first lieutenant had an arm shot off, and after they were taken they were not stripped as our company had been, but were allowed all their clothes; and Captain Johnston was allowed even to wear his hanger, which he brought to prison with him, and delivered to the agent. He had considerable money with him, which the agent took, and he is to have it in small quantities as he wants it, for immediate use.
28. Sunday, Two large men-of-war came up from the Sound to Ammoors; also, a frigate arrived in the Sound, dismasted.
29. Michaelmas day.
30. Within a few days, three East Indiamen arrived here, and we are told that a great part of their men are pressed on board of the men-of-war. This afternoon a number more of Captain Johnston's men were brought to prison.
October 1. A number more of Captain Johnston's men came to prison; they inform us that the Frenchmen which they had on board, are not likely to come to prison. There were about twenty of them.
3. Captain Lee, being unwell, was sent to the hospital.
4. To-day the remainder of Captain Johnston's men came to prison, except the Frenchmen.
5. Sunday. Pleasant weather.
6. To-day one of our company was brought back, who made his escape over the wall on the 20th of last month. This is the fourth time that this man has tried to escape without success.
7. The father and mother of one of Captain Lee's men came to see him; they had not seen each other before, for nearly fifteen years.
8. One of the officers of the Fieutryant came to prison to see Captain Lee. He informed us that they have been cruising two hundred and fifty leagues to the westward, and have taken one of the schooner Hawk's prizes.
9. When the commissioner was here, we requested of him the privilege of two men per day, to go into the cook-room and cut up our meat, and see it put into the copper, which be granted.
10. Warm and pleasant.
11. To-day the captains of the Burford and Fieutryant came to see us,
12. Sunday. Of late, there have not been so many people to see us as formerly.
13 To-day our agent has been in a very good humor, and he informed us that there is great expectation of a French war, and within a few days there have been four ships of the first class put in commission, and orders have come from London to man them as quickly as possible. He also tells us that he has had a letter from the commissoner, which says that Mr. Knapp, and another Newbury man, who made their escape from this place on the 5th of August last, are taken up.
14. To-day a mess of us bought a bag of potatoes, containing seventeen gallons, for three shillings, which is much cheaper than to buy them at the gate for fourpence a gallon.
15. It is eleven months to-day since we sailed from Newburyport.
16. To-day a Marblehead man came to see us, who has been on board the men-of-war ever since the disturbance. He informs us that there are a few Marblehead men on board the Blenheim.
17. This afternoon there were seven more prisoners brought on shore to prison; some of whom belong to the schooner Hawk's prize, that was taken by the Fieutryant, and the rest belong to the Oliver Cromwell privateer, that was taken by the Beaver sloop-of-war.
18. We learn by those who came to prison last, that Dr. Franklin has written to the English ambassador, concerning an exchange of prisoners.
19. Sunday. This morning we found out that one of our company, confederate with a black man, had stolen, last night, an allowance of bread and cheese from those who came last to prison, - for which they made him run the gantlet up one side of the prison and down the other, one hundred and thirty feet, through a double file of men armed each with a nettle.