The mistreatment of American prisoners, by British forces under General Sir William Howe, shocked the American public.
Extract of a letter from Peeks kill, dated January 19, 1777.
"General Howe has discharg'd all the privates, who were prisoners in New-York, one half he sent to the world of spirits for want of food--the other he hath sent to warn their countrymen of the danger of falling into their hands, and to convince them by occular demonstration, that it is infinitely better to be slain in battle, than to be taken prisoners by British brutes, whose tender mercies are cruelty."
Continental Journal [Boston, Massachusetts], 13 Feb. 1777, quoted with normalized spelling in Frank Moore, editor, Diary of the American Revolution: From Newspapers and Original Documents 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner, 1860), 1:374