Monday, August 20, 2012

Continued Close Confinement "Would Have Endangered Their Lives"

In July 1776, the Committee of Litchfield, Connecticut balked at receiving prisoners from New York that included former New York City Mayor David Mathews.  The Committee that already overcrowded conditions of the Litchfield Jail rendered the state of the prisoners already in custody “incompatible either with the publick safety, or even with the safety of the prisoners’ lives….”
    Abraham De Peyster, who escorted the prisoners to Connecticut, returned to investigate the conditions of the Loyalist prisoners from New York.  On August 21, 1776, De Peyster wrote, “When I arrived there [i.e., in Litchfield] I found that the Committee of that town, in my absence, had permitted all the prisoners, who had been put in close confinement, (except Gilbert Forbes,) to go at large about the town, as the keeping them shut up in jail would have endangered their lives.”
    De Peyster found prisoners Isaac Young and Israel Young living in the home of Litchfield County Sheriff Lynde Lord, Esquire.  Prisoner John L. C. Broome [Roome?], Esq. lived in the Jailer’s apartment near the Jail.  “The others were at work in different places, some in harvests, and others at their respective trades, as journeymen.  Mr. Mathews, during my absence, I understand, had agreeable to his promise, strictly confined himself to Captain Seamour’s house, in which I had left him.”
    De Peyster reported, “This change in the prisoners’ situation from that in which they were when I left Litchfield, made the account I brought them of their removal very unwelcome; and they now, to a man, solicit as much to remain at Litchfield as they had before to be conveyed to some other place.” 
    Broome and Mayor Mathews pleaded to stay in Litchfield, Mathews likely the reasonable rent at Captain Seamour’s lodgings, and Seamour pledged security for both gentlemen.  Sheriff Lord, likewise, pledged for the security of the Youngs.  De Peyster and a company of guards transferred six other prisoners to Norwich, Connecticut.   Sadly, De Peyster “was under necessity” to leave sickly “old [Nathan] Gyre” at the roadside lest the jostling wagon on the bumpy road “deprived him of what little life he had left.”    
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