Monday, April 29, 2013

April 30, 1777: News from Danbury

   After British forces attacked Danbury, Connecticut, New Haven paper The Connecticut Journal reported on April 30, 1777, “The enemy on this occasion behaved with their usual barbarity, wantonly and cruelly murdering the wounded prisoners who fell into their hands, and plundering the inhabitants, burning and destroying every thing in their way.”
   The British and Loyalist forces landed at what is now Westport on April 25, 1777.  Royal Governor of New York Major General William Tryon commanded the force of about 2,000 men.  Tryon’s object was the military depot at Danbury.  
   Americans spread the alarm upon sighting the British ships.  The few Continental troops in Danbury evacuated the town but managed to secure parts of the town and the supplies there.  As The Connecticut Journal reported, “The enemy on their arrival began burning and destroying the stores, houses, provisions, &c.” 
   Major General David Wooster, Brigadier General Gold. S. Silliman and Brigadier General Benedict Arnold raised about 700 men, both Continental soldiers and Connecticut militia, to challenge the invaders.  Sadly, Brigadier General Wooster was mortally wounded in the fighting of April 27.  Wooster died from his wounds a few days later, on May 2, 1777.
   For more background on William Tryon and his advocacy of desolation warfare against the Americans, please consult the book by Historian Paul David Nelson, William Tryon and the Course of Empire: A Life in British Imperial Service (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011 [1990]).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Author Rita Mae Brown on History

Author Rita Mae Brown applauds efforts to preserve the site of Camp Security, a Revolutionary War prison camp operated from 1781 to 1783.  Brown is most famous for her mystery novels.

For more about Brown's enthusiasm for history, read Teresa Ann Boeckel's article for Pennsylvania newspaper York Daily Record.  For information on Rita Mae Brown, visit her website,  

Please visit the website of the Friends of Camp Security.  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Camp Security Fundraiser

From 1781 through the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, Camp Security housed British and other prisoners of war.  On April 20, 2013, the Friends of Camp Security are raising funds to preserve the remarkable historic site. 

Christina Kauffman reports for The York Dispatch that the April 20 fundraiser will display a sample of the more than 10,000 artifacts recovered in a 1979 archaeological dig at the Camp Security site.  The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will loan the sample of artifacts for the event. 

If you are in York, Pennsylvania between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, 2013, please consider visiting the York County Heritage Trust’s Museum and Library at 250 East Market Street. 

For more information on Camp Security, please consult the article by Mark Scolforo of the Associated Press, “Pa. Field Holds Secrets of 1780s British POW camp,” Yahoo! News, April 6, 2013 (accessed April 14, 2013)
The Friends of Camp Security have a web site as well as a Facebook page.  Thank you for your interest.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Memories of a Prison Ship

     In 1812, Hezekiah Niles, publisher of Baltimore newspaper The Weekly Register, shared a story he heard from a survivor of the prison ship Jersey:  

“A gentleman who was confined in this hell on the water, afterwards a respectable trader of Philadelphia, informed the editor of the REGISTER some years ago, that the hardest battle he ever fought in his life was with a fellow prisoner on board of the Jersey; and the object of contention was the putrified carcase of a starved RAT!”

     One of the American grievances that provoked the War of 1812 was impressment, the coercive enlistment of American sailors by the British Navy.  For many Americans, impressment stirred memories of the Revolutionary War.  During the Revolution, the British Army and Navy tried to coerce the enlistment of American prisoners by exposing them to starvation, overcrowding and disease. 

     Conditions were especially horrendous on prison ships operated off occupied cities like Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; and New York City.  The most notorious prison ship of the war was the Jersey, stationed just off Brooklyn. 
     On July 25, 1812, Baltimore newspaper The Weekly Register published an article reminding readers of the prisoners who died of starvation on the prison ship Jersey.  In a footnote to the story, Niles mentioned the story he heard from a Jersey survivor.  Below is Robert Smirke's engraving, "Cruelty presiding over the prison ship."  

Cruelty presiding over the pri... Digital ID: 1253296. New York Public Library