Tuesday, October 16, 2012

November 2: Rigor and Inhumanity

Boston, November 2
By some prisoners lately returned from New-York, we learn, that the American as well as French prisoners there have in general been treated...with great rigor and inhumanity.

The Independent Ledger, and the American Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 November 1778

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dear Syrian Rebels Part 4

In 1937, as China faced an invasion by the Empire of Japan, Chinese Communist Mao Zedong wrote his essay On Guerrilla Warfare.  

We further our mission of destroying the enemy by propagandizing his troops, by treating his captured soldiers with consideration, and by caring for those of his wounded who fall into our hands.  If we fail in these respects, we strengthen the solidarity of our enemy.  

Mao Tse-Tung [Zedong], On Guerrilla Warfare, trans. Samuel B. Griffith (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2000 [1961]), page 93.  Mao ruled China from 1949 to his death in 1976.  Although his policies as a ruler destroyed millions of lives, Mao's doctrine of guerrilla warfare influenced modern counterinsurgency doctrine.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 14: Prisoners in Halifax

On October 15, 1778, a writer in Boston, Massachusetts reported a cartel or exchange vessel that carried prisoners returning from British custody in Canada: "Yesterday afternoon arrived here, a cartel from Halifax, with 400 unfortunate American prisoners, who have long been starving in their gaols, and on board guard ships."  

The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia), 27 October 1778.  Any suffering of American prisoners in Canada was not the fault of the Canadian people.  Canadians were generous to American soldiers who arrived in the country early in the war, as Thomas A. Desjardin wrote in Through a Howling Wilderness: Benedict Arnold's March to Quebec, 1775.  When Americans suffered in jails and prison ships in Canada, it was the fault of British military officers.  For the 1778 report from Boston, please visit the database 
Early American Newspapers.  

October 23: French Prisoners

New London, Connecticut, Friday, October 23, 1778
Wednesday two Ships with Flags arrived here from New-York; they...brought between 4 and 500 French Prisoners, to be exchanged for British Prisoners taken by Count d’Estaing’s Squadron.  They are in a very emaciated and sickly Condition.
The New-London Gazette, 23 October 1778

The British military occupied New York City from 1776 to the end of the war in 1783.  Conditions for prisoners detained by the British in the occupied city were notorious for most of the war.  Consider, for instance, this letter reportedly from a captive on the prison ship Jersey. 

From 1778 to 1780, French Admiral Jean Baptiste Charles Henri Hector, Comte d'Estaing led a French fleet in support of the American struggle for independence from Great Britain.

Newspapers around the country reprinted the October 23 account of the sick and hungry French prisoners released by the British.  For instance,
Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Packet published the story on 10 November 1778.  Please consult the database Early American Newspapers, Series I for a reasonable yearly fee from the Philadelphia Free Library.   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Privateer Rattlesnake

The December 12, 1778 issue of Philadelphia newspaper The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser carried news with the dateline Williamsburg, Virginia, October 9.  The news from Williamsburg closed with a story about Pennsylvania Privateer the Rattlesnake, dated November:

Nov. 27.  Advice is just come to town of a British armed vessel called the Swift, Captain Tathwell, having run ashore at the Capes, when in pursuit of the schooner Rattlesnake.  The Swift's people set their vessel on fire, and they, ninety-two in number, are carried prisoners to Portsmouth.  The Rattlesnake is entirely lost.

The web site American War of Independence--at Sea (awiatsea): The American Privateers reports that the Rattlesnake was "driven ashore and destroyed by HM Sloop Swift" on 22 November 1778, at the Virginia Capes near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.  Joseph Tathwell commanded the Swift.  David McCullough, an ancestor of Jazz musician Harry Connick, Jr., commanded the Rattlesnake from December 1776 to 22 November 1778.  Awiatsea reports, "This was not the end of the Rattlesnake, however.  She was inspected, righted, salvaged, and put into service in Virginia."
Watch The Rattlesnake on PBS. See more from Finding Your Roots.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dear Syrian Rebels Part 3

Tench Tilghman, an aide de camp of George Washington, described how Washington treated Tories, Americans Loyal to the British: “He is blessed wherever he goes for the Tory is protected in person and property equally with the Whig.  And indeed I often think more, for it is his Maxim to convert by good Usage and not by Severity.” Tench Tilghman to his Loyalist father, James Tilghman, 22 February 1777, in Samuel Alexander Harrison, editor, Memoir of Lieut. Col. Tench Tilghman: Secretary and aid to Washington… (Albany, NY: J. Munsell, 1876), page 153