AAR: Honor and Remember, The Prison Ship Martyrs 2010

On a day when many were in Washington for a Restoring Honor event, another Honor and Remember event, one that has been repeated for the past 130 years was taking place in Brooklyn, NY.

The Prison Ship Martyrs Memorial is the single largest mass grave of American POWs in the world.  The remains of 11,500 patriots are entombed within the mausoleum upon which the memorial is built.  These men, many captured at the Battle of Brooklyn (Itself the first and largest battle of the Revolutionary War), were imprisoned within the floating hulks of decomissioned British warships that were anchored in Wallabout Bay, later the site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  What is most unique about this group of patriots is that each and every one of them had the opportunity to walk free.  All it would have required was to forsake their belief in Liberty and swear allegiance to the King of England.

None did.

So for months and years they froze and sweltered in the hulls of those airless hulks.  When disease wrenched the last breath from their bodies their carcasses were unceremoniously bundled into long boats and dumped in shallow graves along the shore.

No one knows how many perished.  Only one ship, HMS Jersey, kept records which showed eight men a day on average perished within her holds.  There were at least ten other ships which kept no records.  Continental Army accounts compiled after the war showed twenty thousand died in captivity, the great majority of whom were confined in the prison ships, and an untold number of captured Navy seamen and privateers as well.

The Society of Old Brooklynites have been the custodians of this memorial since before it was constructed.

Each year they hold the memorial remembrance in August at the base of the monument where they place a wreath.

And every year there are speakers who relate the history of the Battle of Brooklyn, the Prison Ships, and the relationship to veterans and patriots of the past and present.

But for the vast majority of Americans, this is an unknown subject, an unknown monument, and forgotten patriots.

Thank God there are some who will keep the eternal flame glowing.

More photos are here.

Previous reports are here:  20092008.

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  1. I got this link in an email. I’m a New Yorker and never heard of this before. Thank you for posting this.
    Bob A.




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