The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn
An Untold Story of the American Revolution
Robert P. Watson
Da Capo Press
ISBN 13: 9780306825521
ISBN 10: 030682552X
2018 Commodore Barry Book Award
2017 John Lyman Book Award
Moored off the coast of Brooklyn until the end of the war, the derelict ship, the HMS Jersey, was a living hell for thousands of Americans either captured by the British or accused of disloyalty. Crammed below deck - a shocking one thousand at a time - without light or fresh air, the prisoners were scarcely fed food and water. Disease ran rampant and human waste fouled the air as prisoners suffered mightily at the hands of brutal British and Hessian guards. Throughout the colonies, the mere mention of the ship sparked fear and loathing of British troops. It also sparked a backlash of outrage as newspapers everywhere described the horrors aboard the ghostly ship. This shocking event, much like the better-known Boston Massacre before it, ended up rallying public support for the war.
Revealing for the first time hundreds of accounts culled from old newspapers, diaries, and military reports, award-winning historian Robert P. Watson follows the lives and ordeals of the ship's few survivors to tell the astonishing story of the cursed ship that killed thousands of Americans and yet helped secure victory in the fight for independence.
Praise for The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn
In vivid and often elegiac prose, Robert Watson has rediscovered a forgotten story about the grim and usually fatal fate of American prisoners of war during the American Revolution. We carry in our heads prim and proper pictures of that patriotic struggle that will need to be revised on the basis of Watson's thorough documentation of the hellish conditions aboard those floating dungeons where twice as many American soldiers and sailors died than in all the battles of the war. Watson makes 'lest we forget' ironic, since until now, we have.
Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author of Founding Brothers and American Sphinx
A fascinating collection of stories of American Revolutionary War soldiers and sailors captured by the British and imprisoned, many of them in the infamous ship, Jersey, the hell that floated off Brooklyn. These stories may have been once forgotten by history, but with the publication of this very readable book that will no longer be possible.
Gordon Wood, Pulitzer Prize and Bancroft Prize-winning author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution and Empire of Liberty
Watson brings the people of history to life! His well-written, carefully-researched book propels the reader into some of the grim realities of the American Revolution. By skillfully weaving together historical records with dozens of first-hand accounts, Watson introduces the reader to the ghastly consequences of being an American prisoner aboard the British prison ship, Jersey. This is how history should be written - bravo!
Michael C. Quinn, President and CEO, Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia
The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn brings to life the hell on water that thousands of prisoners were forced to endure during the American Revolutionary War. Through these untold stories, Robert Watson recounts the horrors inflicted aboard the HMS Jersey, remembers the courageous spirit of its captives, and ensures the memory of these American patriots will never be forgotten.
John McCain, US Senator of Arizona and former POW