Americans have been extremely sympathetic to the plight of its POWs in recent years, however, most people think of POWs as those held in World War II, Korea, or Viet Nam. This is understandable, given that they were largely our friends, neighbors and relatives.
At times we may think back to the Civil War and prisons like Andersonville, but that is about as far as most peoples historic memory can manage. Few among us consider that the history of American POWs goes back much farther…all the way to the Revolutionary War.
During the battle for New York, starting in August, 1776 and after New York City fell to the British, thousands of “rebels” came into British hands. It didn’t take long for the prison space to be filled up. At the same time, the British navy had taken a number of derelict vessels and soon turned them into maritime prison ships.
Each ship had more than 1,000 men crammed into the hold. Every morning, the dead would be carried up on deck to be hauled to shore later in the day. The bodies were then dumped into shallow mass graves on the shore of Wallabout Bay in Brooklyn.
The story of these men, and the atrocities they suffered on behalf of a yet unborn nation, is one of the least known sagas of the American Revolution. These brave souls, who could have saved themselves from horrible deaths if only they would join the British forces, are among America’s greatest heroes. As a proportion of today’s population their 11,500 deaths compare to a million in our day, and they were more than twice the deaths suffered in that war’s combat.
These valiant Patriots who gave their lives and suffered greatly for you and I, need to be remembered as Americas First POWs.
Life and Death Aboard Britain’s Prison Ships
Great, however, as were the sufferings of those incarcerated within the prisons of the city, they were exceeded, if possible, by those of the unfortunate naval prisoners who languished in the “prison-ships” of the “Walleboght.”
The Sacrifice and Victory
According to the Department of Defense, there were 4,435 battle deaths during the Revolutionary War. The most reliable estimate of prison ship casualties is 11,500. Although these men could be released if they joined the British forces, all refused and purchased your freedom at enormous personal costs.
The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument that stands today in the center of Fort Greene Park is a 1908 memorial to the 11,000 men, women and children who died in horrid conditions on the British Prison Ships during the Revolutionary War. The Monument, which is sometimes referred to as the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, stands in the center of what was then called Fort Putnam, named after Gernal Putnam.
Names of Prisoners
This list of names was copied from the papers of the British War Department. There is nothing to indicate what became of any of these prisoners, whether they died, escaped, or were exchanged. The list seems to have been carelessly kept, and is full of obvious mistakes in spelling the names.
Join Our Association
We welcome Associate Members who wish to become more informed about our efforts to honor the Prision Ship Martyrs. We hope to lobby Congress for more support for this Memorial, including National Park Status.