Oil of tar for Prison - Frenchmen break out - One Shot - Reduction of Donation - Two Americans in Irons - Various opinions about the Cartel - Several Holes in hand - Fearful Apprehensions - Dominica taken by the French and Americans - King's Troops on Martha's Vineyard - Drunken Prisoners delivered up -Forbearance of the Guard - Fire in the Black-hole - Four American Boys - Dolton as Fortune Privateer - Base Treachery - Plans Discovered - Mitchell the Villain - Letter of Thanks - Two Years from Home - Unsuccessful Attempts.
OCTOBER 26. It is twenty-three months to-day, since we sailed in the brig Dolton from Portsmouth. It is a long time since this prison was smoked, so that it is exceedingly foul, and smells very offensive. To-day, by order of Dr. Far, the principal physician of the royal hospital, who has now the care of our sick, some stuff was procured, which they tell us is the oil of tar, which was put on the posts fore and aft the prison, above and below. They inform us that it is better than smoking. Be it as it may, it gives the prison a very disagreeable smell.
27. As the evenings are now of considerable length, although we are not allowed candles, yet we have them every night, and have had them for several weeks past.
28. Last night the French prisoners broke out of their prison, through a hole which they had dug several yards under ground. I cannot learn the exact number that got out. However, they were discovered by the guard and pursued, and one of them was shot through the breast. After which, a turnkey struck him on the head with an iron poker, but he is yet alive. The Frenchmen are very sickly; they have the spotted fever amongst them, which carries off great numbers.
This morning, Mr. Heath and Mr. Sorrey came to see us, and informed us that they had received a letter from the committee, in London, with orders to deduct sixpence per week from each officer, and ninepence from each private; so that for the future, the officers are to receive two shillings and sixpence each, per week, and privates one shilling and threepence each, per week. All the reason I can assign for this change, is, that the donation grows short.
29. The camp at Coxheath is now broken up, and the Somersetshire militia, with the 13th regiment, have removed to the barracks at Plymouth dock; so that one day we are guarded by the militia, and the other by the 13th regiment. To-day, about fifty Frenchmen were removed from a separate prison, in another yard, to the prison-ship, for want of room in that prison.
30. To-day Mr. Sorrey came and answered a petition which we sent out, to receive what we are allowed in money, as it is so trifling. Mr. Sorrey says that Mr. Heath is absent, so that he will continue the provisions until he returns, and then he will consult him.
31. We learn, from the papers, that Lord Howe and Sir George Johnston, have arrived home in the Eagle man-of-war, of sixty-four guns.
November 1. This afternoon two Americans were brought to the gate, in irons, having four or five men, with pistols, guarding them; but who they were, or where they were taken, I cannot tell. I suppose, however, that they were not committed, by their being carried away again.
2. It is almost four weeks since Mr. Sorrey told us that we were to be exchanged; and some in prison, who believed it at first, begin to think it very doubtful; some did not believe it at first. For my own part, I am persuaded it is true, and believe it will be soon - how soon I cannot tell; but every day since I heard of it, seems as long as a week before.
3. At this time we have several holes in hand, one of which was discovered this morning, by some dirt that was carried out in the tubs to the edge of the river, to empty. To-day two large two-deckers came in, which, I suppose, belong to Admiral Keppel's fleet; and hear that they are all in Portsmouth, and other ports. I also hear that the Ocean, a three-decker, a ship of ninety guns, which came in a few days ago in a storm which she experienced, sprung a leak, and threw overboard most of her guns.
4. To-day Mr. Sorrey came, and brought some money for the officers, but none for us, as our provisions for the week past amounts to what we are allowed. Mr. Sorrey says that he expects the cartel very soon. The Lord have mercy upon us, if it does not arrive before the donation is all expended, for the second death will be worse than the first.
5. To-day, being gunpowder treason, at one o'clock the garrison and fort fired a salute, and the bells in Plymouth have been chiming most of the day.
6. To-day about one hundred more of the French prisoners in another yard, were removed on board the Cambridge, a prison ship. For several days past, a number of men have been at work laying the foundation of a large prison hospital, which is to be built.
It has been strongly reported this week, that Dominica has been taken by the French and Americans, and this evening I had the pleasure of seeing it confirmed, in the paper, by authority. The Lieutenant Governor of that Island is now a prisoner in France.
7. We learn, by the paper, that the King's troops in America, have been to Martha's Vineyard, disarmed the inhabitants, and demanded ten thousand sheep and five hundred oxen.
8. Sunday. Nothing very remarkable. Various conjectures concerning a cartel. Some imagine it is to come from France; others think it will be fitted out in England, and others are doubtful if it will come at all.
9. I thought that all who had any idea of going on board the men-of-war, had gone; but I understand that a number have sent their names out, to go; how many I cannot tell, as they did it very slyly. We shall know who they are, and how many, when an order comes to take them out.
10. This morning two of our men got some liquor, clandestinely, and made themselves drunk. One of these, about twelve o'clock, went to the gate to buy some strong beer, which was denied him, and being in a passion, without any provocation, he swore that he would break the agent's windows, and took up some old shoes, bones and stones, and threw them till he had broken seven squares in one window, and one another, in the front of the agent's office. There being three of them intoxicated, one of them took hold of the sentry at the gate, and would have taken his gun from him, but the guard came in, and the captain of the guard took hold of one of them, and being a militia man, and a very great gentleman, he said that he was lothe to bring his men who were armed, against us who were unarmed, and so went out. Upon which, we took one of them ourselves and pitched him out of the gate by the nape of the neck, and so delivered him up. In the afternoon, after we were turned out, we took the other two and delivered them up. All of which were sent to the Black- hole. So, that if any man misbehaves and deserves punishment, we will deliver him up, or punish him ourselves, rather than he should go unpunished; but rather than see a man chastised unjustly, we will do our utmost for his rescue. As for instance, on the 19th of October, when we released one of these same men from the Black-hole.
11. Those three men who were put in the Black-hole yesterday, employed themselves last night, in cutting through the bulkhead that separates the Black-hole from the hospital, and piled up the chips and set them on fire. Where they obtained the fire we cannot tell, but they were soon glad enough to put it out, as the smoke increased. This afternoon four American boys came to see us, that were taken with Captain Claston, in the Freedom, above twelve months ago. Those boys were detained, and now belong to the Apollo frigate.
12. As a fortnight has passed, and we have received no money, we begin to fear that we shall receive no more; but what is left of the donation, I expect we shall receive in clothes and provision; and for that reason, and the want of employment, I to-day began to make boxes.
13. We learn, from the paper, that the Fortune privateer, Captain George Tarton, which was formerly the Dolton, has made more money by privateering, than any other privateer out of England, since the commencement of hostilities between the English and French.
14. Last evening, it being dark and rainy, two holes were opened at the back part of the prison, and five men went out. They had agreed with a soldier to let them pass for so much money. This soldier's name was Mitchell; he was once a stage-driver in America. He let them out, and they gave him two pounds nineteen shillings; but after they delivered him the money, he let them out where the guard stood ready to receive them and carry them to the Black-hole. This morning, the guard went into the officers' prison and discovered a hole under the stairs, where they had dug down about six feet, and then proceeded through the guard-house and came up under the guard bed. - They then went up stairs and demanded the keys of the officers' chests, which they opened, and found a suit of uniform which one of the officers had purchased to make his escape in. This was the method Captains Rols, Ravel, Lee, and Mr. Kirk took to make their escape, - following the guard out when they used to come at night; but this scheme is blasted. The hole in the officers' prison had been finished near a month, and they had been only waiting for an opportunity to put their plans into execution; but as this Mitchell has appeared to be a friend, I suppose that some one of the officers communicated it to him, and he informed his officer; so by that means it was discovered.
This afternoon Mr. Sorrey and Mr. Heath came to see us, and we presented them with a letter of thanks for the many favors we have received at their hands, and requested them to let us have part of what we are to receive, in money. This favor we probably shall obtain. We have not received any coals from government, for the comfort of our sick in the hospital, for nearly six weeks, but have been obliged to use the donation coals. We informed Mr. Heath and Mr. Sorrey of this, and we find that we have been cheated, by the agent and doctor, out of nearly forty bushels of coals.
15. Sunday. It is two years to-day since I left Newbury. Alas! little did I think that I should be here now. Last night, a hole that we have had in hand nearly a fortnight, unfortunately foundered in the street. This hole was dug down by the side of the prison, about ten feet, and our intention was to dig across the street under gound, into a garden on the opposite side of the way; but, by the time it was half across, it foundered.
16. Night before last, we heard a firing which we could not account for. We have since heard that the Royal George ran ashore from her moorings, but was got off again with but little trouble.