One of the most gruesome chapters in the story of America’s struggle for independence from Britain occurred in the waters near New York Harbor, near the current location of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. From 1776 to 1783, the British forces occupying New York City used abandoned or decommissioned warships anchored just offshore to hold those soldiers, sailors and private citizens they had captured in battle or arrested on land or at sea (many for refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to the British Crown). Some 11,000 prisoners died aboard the prison ships over the course of the war, many from disease or malnutrition. Many of these were inmates of the notorious HMS Jersey, which earned the nickname “Hell” for its inhumane conditions and the obscenely high death rate of its prisoners.Abraham Clark of New Jersey was a signatory of Declaration of Independence. Both of Clark's sons were captured and held prisoner on the HMS Jersey. His eldest son died there of STARVATION! More that twice as many Americans died aboard those British prison ships that actually died in battle during the Revolutionary war.
Monday, May 25, 2020
On this Memorial Day it is good to remember not just those who have given their last full measure in the past few generations but also the earliest Americans who gave their all. The story of the HMS Jersey is a good place to start: