Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Prisoner "Died on the Passage"

The September 30, 1778 issue of the Connecticut Journal (New Haven) carried news from the Connecticut port of New London dated September 25:
     "Yesterday se'nnight a Flag from New-York, bound to this Port with 45 American Prisoners, drove on shore at Say-Brook, where they were all landed but one who died on the Passage."
     The term sennight indicates seven days and seven nights.  September 25, 1778 was a Friday.  "Yesterday se'nnight," therefore, indicates seven days and seven nights previous to Thursday, September 24, 1778.  The ship probably ran aground at Saybrook on Thursday, September 17.
     Vessels conveying prisoners for exchange bore a flag of truce.  Contemporaries often referred to such a vessel as a "Flag of Truce" or more simple "a Flag."  
     For more information on Saybrook, Connecticut, please visit  http://oldsaybrook.org/Pages/index.
     Connecticut ports are a short distance from New York City.  Nevertheless, it was not uncommon for American prisoners returning from captivity in the British-occupied metropolis to die in the short journey to a free American port, from the disease and starvation suffered in British detention centers in New York.
     In 1777, George Washington  complained to British commander Sir William Howe that many American prisoners returning from New York died "while they were returning to their homes...."
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