The Society of Old Brooklynites take great pleasure in presenting to you the names of eight thousand of the prisoners who were confined on board the British prison ship "Jersey" during a part of the Revolutionary War.
After diligent research among the records of the British War Department, access to which was kindly permitted by Her Majesty's Government, this is all that can be found; and these are from the records of this one ship only. No record of the names of any or the prisoners of the prison ships "Scorpion," "John," "Strombolo," "Falmouth," "Hunter," "Prince of Wales" and "Transport" can be found; though their log-books make very frequent mention of prisoners having been received on board. The list here presented is therefore but a small portion of those of our fellow citizens who were confined on board those floating Golgothas. Nor is it possible to designate which of these names died on board, but authentic history, within the memory of the parents of many now living, proves that the number that died and were buried on our shores, and over whose remains we now desire to erect a monument worthy of these patriots, numbered more than twelve thousand.
From these floating dungeons, the hearts of whose keepers must have delighted in the luxury of woe, the bodies of our countrymen after death were taken on shore, and one of our Revolutionary poets thus describes the manner in which their remains were disposed of:
"Each day at least six carcasses we bore,
And scratched their graves along the sandy shore;
By feeble hands the shallow graves were made,
No stone memorial o'er the corpses laid;
In barren sands and far from home they lie,
No friend to shed a tear when passing by;
O'er the mean tombs insulting Britons tread,
Spurn at the sand and curse the rebel dead."
This Society, numbering between two and three hundred. members, who must have resided in the city at least fifty years before being eligible to membership, have at great expense procured these names, and they have also caused plans and specifications of a proposed monument to the memory of these deported patriots to be prepared and forwarded to Congress, and procured the signatures of about twenty thousand citizens to the accompanying petition asking the Congress of the United States to erect the same over their remains.
The efforts of the Society in this direction have met the universal approbation of the people and of the press of the country. The Board of Supervisors of Kings County, the Board of Aldermen of the City of New York and the Legislature of the State of New York, have all passed resolutions, copies of which are printed herewith, commending the project and requesting Congress to grant the petition of the Society.
The bones of these martyrs lie interred in a permanent tomb in this city, but without a mark of any kind to inform the stranger as to the nature and object of the structure, and it is the earnest desire of this Society to remedy this defect, and to endeavor to do tardy justice to the memory of those to whose firmness and patriotism we owe our liberties and the blessings of the good government we enjoy.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled :
Your petitioners, an incorporated society of the City of Brooklyn, under the title of the " SOCIETY OF OLD BROOKLYNITES, " would respectfully represent:
That the remains of more than 12,000 martyrs to the cause of liberty lie entombed in this city, who died during our Revolutionary war on board the prison ships of the British at the Wallabout, and which were buried on our shores during that memorable struggle, many of which were by the action of the waves washed out of their shallow graves--their bones scattered along the beach, exposed to the Summer's sun and the Winter's storms, until the year 1808, when the Tammany Society or Columbian Order, of the City of New York, had them collected and buried with imposing ceremonies, in which the governors of several States, mayors of cities, and civil, military and ecclesiastical dignitaries from all parts of the country took part.
The place of burial was on Jackson street, in this city, and the tomb, a temporary wooden structure, in which they were placed, became so dilapidated by reason of changes made in the surroundings and from natural decay, that the sacred remains were again exposed to the gaze of the multitude, until the Park Commissioners of this city, with the sanction of the city government, prepared with great care and expense a permanent and imperishable tomb for their reception on the historic ground of Fort Greene, a charming elevation in Washington Park, in this city, overlooking the scene of their sufferings and death--to which the sacred remains were carefully removed and deposited.
Those devoted patriots, from every one of the original thirteen States, were prisoners of war, taken by the British army and navy, and numbered more than were killed in all the battles, sea and land, in that long and desperate struggle for freedom.
When it is remembered that constant and unremitting efforts were made by the British officers to induce these prisoners to purchase their freedom and save their lives by enlisting in the service of the enemy; that many, probably the majority of them, had families who were suffering by reason of their absence; that to remain in these horrible prisons was almost certain death, and that under all these circumstances they remained faithful to the cause in which they had enlisted and preferred death to dishonor; we must concede that they earned the title of "MARTYRS OF THE PRISON SHIPS," and deserve such recognition from the Government, to aid in the establishment of which they sacrificed their lives, as will show to the world that republics are not ungrateful, but that we cherish their memories, honor their devotion to their country, and will erect such an enduring monument to commemorate their virtues as will stimulate future generations to emulate their patriotism.
We therefore most respectfully ask that your honorable body will make an appropriation of not less than one hundred thousand dollars toward the erection of a suitable monument, to be erected at or near the spot where their sacred remains now lie, the site for which will be donated for that purpose by the City of Brooklyn.
This society will most cheerfully give all the aid in their power toward the accomplishment of the object of this Petition.
JOHN W. HUNTER, President.
SAML.A. HAYNES, Secretary.
BROOKLYN, January 5th, 1888.
Concurrent resolutions relative to erecting a monument to the Martyrs of the British ships at the Wallabout during the Revolutionary war:
© 1999 George Carroll Whipple, III. All rights reserved.