Sunday, December 16, 2012

New London, Connecticut: December 18, 1778

New-London, December 25 [1778].
   Last friday a cartel arrived here from New-York with 172 American prisoners, and the next day they were landed in this town and Groton; the greater part of them are in a sickly and most deplorable condition, owing chiefly to ill usage in the prison ships, where numbers of them had their feet and legs froze....Three of the number, whose names we could not learn, (one of them an elderly man, the other a tall man who had been a boatswain, & one other) have died since they were landed.
The New-London Gazette, 25 December 1778.

 
NEW-LONDON January 1, 1779
   Sixteen of the Prisoners which arrived here in the Cartel the 18th Ult. have died since our last; and a great Number of the others still remain sick.  
The Connecticut Gazette and the Universal Intelligencer (New London), 1 January 1779, The New-London Gazette under a new title.  

In the eighteenth century, Americans and Britons referred to a vessel carrying prisoners as a cartel ship or simply a "cartel," a cartel in this case being an agreement on an exchange of prisoners.  Also expect the term "Flag of Truce" or simply "Flag."  In the same era, writers also frequently used the term "ultimo" to refer to the previous month.  For more information on the Early American Newspapers collection, please visit the Newsbank web site.

For more information on why the English public and English civilian authorities treated American prisoners kindly in England, but the British military treated prisoners with disregard operating overseas in occupied cities like New York, please consult the post "Britain as a Nation."  For more details on suffering on prison ships moored off British-occupied New York City, read this 1781 letter from the notorious prison ship Jersey
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