Sunday, February 28, 2010

Listened to: "Forgotten Patriots" by Edwin Burrows

Listened to: Forgotten Patriots: the untold story of American prisoners during the Revolutionary War by Edwin Burrows, 2008, downloaded from Overdrive.

I tried reading the print version but was getting nowhere. I like nonfiction audiobooks because with print I tend to try and study nonfiction as though I were prepping for a test. With audio I can just listen, learn, and enjoy.

Burrows did some deep research but still has to make a lot of educated guesses about what happened during the war. Basically, most prisoners held by the British were kept in the NYC area with a few in the south and around other smaller places in the colonies. Two large buildings in New York City were converted to prisons and, when those buildings too full, the Brits started using prison ships. All those facilities were shitholes with brutal treatment and below poverty level food.

Prisoners were supposed to receive a certain amount of food (2/3 or so of British Army regular rations) but did not. After all, the supply train for the Brits started in England and had to come overseas and they had trouble feeding their own people. American officers were treated with disdain by the "gentlemen" class which considered the common, rebellious scum.

In short, many died in New York and were buried in mass graves. For years afterward survivors would visit the "sugar house" prisons in New York that had been converted to prisons. Several thousand died in captivity. Much more than perished in battle and even more - if i recall correctly - than disease.

That the treatment and conditions of those prisons was forgotten is well covered by Burrows. If mainly comes down to money and reconciliation. After the war there was an effort to bring back the loyalists who had fled the country. Trade with England was also being re-established.

Burrows has a neat tale of how during WWI it was illegal to do anything seen as hurting the war effort. Criticizing he limeys for letting so many prisoners die was, therefore, illegal and one film producer was sentenced to a ten year prison term to a flick on the revolutionary war.

Anyway. A good book.

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