Category: Pow - Kate Kasserman

The abuses America suffered under English rule may have been, as a rule, largely symbolic.  The abuses American POWs suffered in English detention during the war were not, even by the low standards of the time.  Little food, poisonous food, no food -- possessions robbed -- no room to sit or lie down, except in shifts -- the sick and the dead mixed in with the living, who were outnumbered by the rats -- no provision made for even basic cleanliness -- this was the fate of most prisoners in English hands.  The worst conditions were on the notorious prison ships, rotting hulks too foul to be of any naval utility (the cheerful little ship used as an illustration here was of course not one of these prison carcasses) and so adapted to hold captives.  And the worst ship of these was probably the Jersey, where thousands of Americans died in a few short years due to the cruelty of their treatment.

This is a brief excerpt from the recollections of Captain Thomas Dring, who survived his incarceration on that ship.  Even under these conditions, it is more the implication of them -- the sadness and the hopelessness of being treated in such a manner rather than the treatment itself -- that he cites as the most damning effect.

These poor creatures had, in many instances, been plundered of their wearing apparel by their captors. And here the dismal and disgusting objects by which they were surrounded; the vermin which infested them; their vile and loathsome food; and what, with them, was far from being the lightest of their trials, their ceaseless longing after their homes and the scenes to which they had been accustomed, all combined to produce a wonderful effect upon them. Dejection and anguish were soon visible in their countenances. They became dismayed and terror stricken; and many of them absolutely died that most awful of all human deaths, the effects of a broken heart.