Monday, November 16, 2009

November 19, 1776

Today, the prisoners taken at Fort Washington receive "a little pork...which they are obliged to eat raw," Private Samuel Young recalls in a deposition given a month later.

Independent Chronicle (Boston, Mass.), 12 June 1777

Undercooked pork could communicate the parasitic intestinal roundworm, Trichinella spiralis, which causes trichinosis. The United States Department of Agricultural explains of trichinosis, "The first symptoms are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain, followed by headaches, eye swelling, aching joints and muscles, weakness, and itchy skin. In severe infections, persons may experience difficulty with coordination and have heart and breathing problems. Death may occur in severe cases."

Prisoners suffered similar ill treatment during the British occupation of Philadelphia (1777-1778). Based on information obtained from American militiamen detained in Philadelphia, American commissary of prisoners Elias Boudinot reported to Congress, "There are Instances of some of them being kept from 4 to 6 Days without a Mouthful of food, and on receving [sic] a few ounces of raw Pork, it was devoured with so much eagerness that one in particular dropped dead on the spot...."

Paul H. Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789: Volume 18: March 1, 1781-August 31, 1781, 26 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1990), 396.
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