Read The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn: An Untold Story of the American Revolution by Robert P. Watson Online


The most horrific struggle of the American Revolution occurred just 100 yards off New York, where more men died aboard a rotting prison ship than were lost to combat during the entirety of the war.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 accusThe most horrific struggle of the American Revolution occurred just 100 yards off New York, where more men died aboard a rotting prison ship than were lost to combat during the entirety of the war.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 onboard 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....

Title : The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn: An Untold Story of the American Revolution
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780306825521
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 312 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn: An Untold Story of the American Revolution Reviews

  • David Eppenstein
    2019-03-17 10:32

    An excellent account of a little known facet of the American Revolution, the experiences of American prisoners on the prison ships employed by the British on New York's East River. I have read an array of accounts dealing with England's treatment of its colonies and this book fits naturally into this shameful past. To read this history will bring to mind the abuse of American prisoners by the Japanese during WWII and by the Vietnamese during that war. What the author explains is the desire of the British to use these ships to terrorize the Americans in hopes of returning their loyalty to England. This desire was not only not realized but worked to an opposite affect. The deplorable treatment of prisoners aroused the anger of colonials and did more to swing neutrals and loyalists to the American cause. This would have been a hard lesson to learn if the English had learned it but they did not. This sort of barbaric behavior was repeated by this empire that was the alleged paragon of the civilized world throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in every country under their colonial dominion. It is the British after all that invented the concentration camp during the Boer War and starving civilians in a virtual genocide was the fate of Irish during the 1840's. With such a history I can't say I was surprised by what I read in this book about their treatment of people, their own blood kin, that they now considered traitors and pirates and criminals.The author's narrative primarily involves following the fates of 5 American prisoners imprisoned on the most infamous of these British prison ships, the Jersey. He thoroughly describes in the words of these prisoners the routine on this ship; the lack of food; the total lack of medical care; the lack of sanitary facilities; the inadequate ventilation; lack of clothing; and the brutality of the guards and their superiors. The author also describes the difficulties of escape; the political and bureaucratic problems with prisoner exchanges; the deceitful behavior of the British military leadership; and the fates of these prisoners after exchange and after the war. It was Washington's conundrum that the English would exchange Americans but were returning prisoners that were nearly dead for English prisoners that were healthy and able to return to service. The American prisoners frequently died during the exchange or shortly thereafter but in no case were they ever able to return to military service. As a consequence Washington understood that these exchanges helped the British replenish their army but did nothing for the American army. Nevertheless, relief for these suffering patriots was the paramount consideration and the exchanges continued whenever possible. A relatively short book that is a fast and informative read and worth the effort.

  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    2019-03-02 10:06

    A big thank you to Robert P. Wats, Da Capo Press, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. When Americans think of prisoners of war, we think of WWII, the Vietnam war, Stalin. Sometimes we remember the atrocities we perpetrated on ourselves during the Civil War. What is not prevalent in the annals of our history classes is the role of a prison ship utilized by the British during the 1770s moored in New York known as the Jersey.The British were not choosy; prisoners included: sailors, civilians who refused the oath of allegiance, privateers, and Continental soldiers. The ship could hold as much as a thousand persons at a time moored in murky, shallow waters in Wallabout Bay. Disease was rampant, killing more Americans by the end of the war than combat did. It, of course, deserved its rotten reputation and became a symbol of liberty for the Revolutionists.Wats has obviously done his homework here. Luckily the British were adequate record keepers and the prisoners were not shy about sharing their experiences and wrote memoirs. But I'm wondering if this book has the correct title? For one it covers so much more than the POW warships; for two the author makes it plain that there were many of these wooden floating houses of torture and discusses all of them. I'm supposing the title comes from the poem used throughout the book and the fact that the memoirs used are all from Jersey survivors? Wats does an excellent job of discussing the poor conditions aboard the Jersey and other ships. However, he has a tendency to repeat himself. That repetitiveness broke the flow of the book for me. Overall this was an informative read. I've already recommended it to two of my teacher friends, one is a home schooler; one teaches history. I think it is promising enough that it can enrich lessons. Good job, Wat! With a little tweaking this will be a great book.

  • Gwen - Chew & Digest Books -
    2019-03-19 06:07

    This made me so freaking mad and broke my heart at the same time. Thank God we gained our independence and with the way they treated us, it's a wonder that we have a "special relationship" now.

  • Jerry
    2019-03-03 09:18

    Robert Watson spoke at the Brattleboro Literary Festival on Thursday, October 12:Robert P Watson IntroProfessor Robert Watson is the author of forty books--yes that’s 40--which include both nonfiction, three novels, contributions to encyclopedia sets, and hundreds of scholarly journal articles. His most recent book, published this past August is , The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn, which is a recovered, largely unknown history, from the American Revolution. It brilliantly recounts the sordid tale of a deadly prison where American soldiers--or as the British liked to call them, “the rebels” -- were held in captivity during much of the war.Because the Brits were fighting on American enemy soil, there were not enough land-based prisons to put the captured soldiers, so His Majesty’s Navy would “hulk”, or hollow out old battleships to hold the prisoners. There were at least seventeen ships converted in this way, but one called “the Jersey,” was the most infamous, or better known by its prisoner occupants as “Hell” or “Hell Afloat.” The Jersey was moored in Wallabout Bay, (meaning “bend in the harbor, in Dutch) off the coast of Brooklyn, with its 1,000 prisoners locked away in the dark, dank hull. The ship was originally designed to hold only 400. This particular floating prison also counted for the most deaths, so much so, that its legend echoed into the next century. In 1846, Walt Whitman, in a newspaper article, called the deaths aboard The Jersey, “a vast and silent army” of ghosts scattered in the shallow graves along the Brooklyn waterfront. An average of 6-12 soldiers died each day from diseases such as dysentery, smallpox, yellow fever, typhoid, polluted water, and sadistic treatment by the prison guards. As a deterrent, the British used the horrific stature of the prison ship as psychological warfare to frighten American soldiers, but it had the opposite effect, as the ship’s reputation became a rallying point for the American cause.Dr. Watson relates the Jersey story through primary sources, newspapers, military reports, and from the most compelling documents --the words of prisoners who lived in its terror and had escaped, later in their lives to write down their experiences.This book was not an easy read, but was one I could not put it down. At midway point, I started an inventory of words used to describe the ship and its inhabitants. They are: disgusting, dark and filthy, putrid, noxious, rat-infested, diseased, pallid, violent, wretched, rotted, pestilent, lice, vermin---you get the idea.It has been calculated that over 11,500 men died on board the Jersey, which is twice the number of American soldiers who fell in combat.As I said, the story is told from the point of view of five soldiers who wrote their memoirs later in life at the behest of their families. These men at the time of their capture ranged in age from 12 to adult. The book tells the story of courage in the face of man’s inhumanity to man, and especially surprising as it was perpetrated by a great continental power against its own people in the colonies.Besides the prisoners, it is also a story of heroic American citizens who put their lives on the line to help the prisoners. People like Elizabeth Burgin, a mother of three, probably a war widow, who delivered food to the prisoners and risked contracting diseases aboard the ship. And not considering the great danger she made for herself, Elizabeth hatched a plan to help some prionsers escape, which caused her to become a fugitive with a bounty on her head. Dr. Watson is the Director of American Studies at Florida’s Lynn University. His two previous books are The Nazi Titanic: The Incredible Untold Story of a Doomed Ship in World War II ; and America's First Crisis: The War of 1812.Because of his immense expertise on American history, he has been a commentator for CNN, MSNBC, BBC, and serves as a political analyst for the NBC affiliate station in Florida. Professor Watson’s off campus work also includes community activism. He founded three non-profit think tanks dedicated to civic education, political reform, and fact-checking campaign lies, which I am sure worked overtime during the 2016 Presidential campaign. He is the founding editor of the journal "White House Studies" and both directs and edits the "Report to the First Lady," which is presented to the First Lady and White House every four years after the Inauguration. Maybe he can say a few words about this as well.Please welcome to Brattleboro, Robert Watson.

  • George Siehl
    2019-03-23 10:18

    The "Untold Story" recounted here is one of the barbaric treatment by the British of American prisoners of war, largely sailors who had been engaged as privateers, during the American Revolution. These men were regarded as rebels and pirates by the Brits, hence undeserving of humane treatment. The central focus of the book is the use of old sailing ships stripped of sails, masts and rudder,known as hulks, for the warehousing of captives. The author draws on a number of sources, primarily the memoirs of the survivors of the worst of the prison hulks, the Jersey. He provided estimates that over 11,000 men and boys died during captivity aboard this "Hell ship." He notes that the raw number is bad, but proportionately for the population of the time it was horrific, equal to the population of Boston at the time.The prisoners were overcrowded below deck with over a thousand crammed into a space that was meant for less than half that number. They were given short rations, most of which were barely palatable, limited water, and little or no medical treatment although smallpox and yellow fever raged periodically through the ship. Chances to escape were limited because the ship was moored in a Brooklyn bay and mudflat known as Wallabout Bay.The treatment was a matter of British policy designed to serve as a warning to patriots who would take arms against the King. The policy was made worse by the men in charge, Joshua Logan, William Cunningham, and David Sproat who joined larceny with their sadism, and the guards posted to the ship, the worst of which were the loyalist militia men. Watson notes that the British favored prisoner exchanges because they benefitted from them in several ways. As the exchanges were officer for officer and man for man, the British would hand over men who were on the verge of death because of their treatment for well cared for troops who had been in American custody. He notes that many of the exchanged Americans died in route to the exchange, or shortly thereafter. Also, the British soldiers and sailors were trained and experienced while the Americans were frequently farmers who had taken up arms or gone to sea as privateers. As the war progressed, Watson notes that the British increased their efforts to capture more of the untrained Americans so they could recover more of their higher quality fighters. General Washington recognized this inbalance and threatened to treat British prisoners in the same way the Americans were being treated on the Jersey. Eventually he followed through on this threat. The prisoners were also offered their freedom if they agreed to serve on British ships, another means of increasing scarce manpower.Watson uses the memoirs published by several of the survivors to create an active, if horrifying, account of the treatment, escape attempts, and psychological damage to the American prisoners aboard the floating death factories. Unfortunately, those who set and implemented the deadly policy returned to England at the end of the war. Incredibly, the butchers Loring, Sproat, and Cunningham filed claims against the United States for sums of their own money they said they spent to provide succor to the prisoners. More incredibly, Congress approved partial reimbursement of these claims.We learn that fake news is not a current invention. Watson describes how loyalist New York papers printed false accounts, including bogus or extorted letters from prisoners, of humane treatment on the prison ships. A disturbing book, as any close look at war can be, but it is a story that deserved to be told to honor these forgotten brave fighters for American independence.

  • Brad Hart
    2019-03-07 09:12

    Every once in a while I will be asked to review a new book (usually related to history in some way) that is soon to be published. I enjoy these opportunities when they come. Below I have attached my review of "The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn" by Robert Watson. The book is a history of British prisoner of war ships during the American Revolution. You can also read this review at my personal blog: ------------------------------------------------The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn: An Untold Story of the American Revolution. By Robert P. Watson. (Da Capo Press., August 31, 2017. Pp. 256). The history of the American Revolution is a field that has been thoroughly plowed, on multiple occasions, by historians of every generation. To find a unique parcel of this fascinating era of history that hasn’t already been cultivated is a chore to say the least. Robert Watson’s The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn is one of those rare instances when a historian stumbles upon this rare piece of uncharted land. Watson’s book is focused almost exclusively on a British prisoner of war ship called the HMS Jersey. On this boat, thousands of American prisoners of war (or those accused of disloyalty to the British crown) were confined in the dark, wet and disease-ridden hull of the Jersey. Food was scarce while sanitation was almost completely absent. Watson points out how such conditions led to a death toll that rivaled that of combat fatalities during the war.Due to these intolerable conditions, the Jersey developed a reputation throughout the American colonies (more specifically throughout New York). In fact, the ship became a symbol of British tyranny and oppression, which galvanized the American rebels to support the cause of independence. The depth of Watson’s research is clearly evident in the book. He regularly references the first-hand accounts of American colonists who had experienced confinement on the Jersey. In addition, Watson relies on the records of the British themselves, who kept a detailed account of all prisoners incarcerated. Watson’s attention to these sources adds credence to his claim that British prisoner ships did just as much (if not more) to bolster the cause of American independence as events like the Boston Massacre. The book’s prose has a pleasant flow that is easy for the reader to follow though the depth of Watson’s research may prove daunting for some (the book does, at times, repeat itself). Watson presents the history in an entertaining manner, which makes the book feel more like an engaging story than a textbook. Watson’s ability to frame the history in a compelling narrative will increase the appeal of this work to not only history enthusiasts but to a broader readership.Overall, I found The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn to be an enjoyable and enlightening read. Its unique contribution to the history of the American Revolution should not go overlooked. My overall grade: B+

  • Margaret Sankey
    2019-03-02 09:08

    The distinctive endnotes for amateurs (by chapter, no page #s), the early note explaining that "Tory" was a name for Loyalists in the Revolution and the "untold story!" title should have tipped me off. This is a good story, and Watson has traced the lives of men and the service of a British prison ship in the American Revolution, to make the point that mortality was really high and terrible things happen to prisoners of war. There are some vivid moments--a POW inoculates himself and willing volunteers from a comrade's smallpox pus, escapees and parolees get home, only to infect everyone they know with disease, brave local people go out to the ships to offer food and necessities (sometimes at a profit). But the story of American Revolution POWs is better told in context by the scholarly studies available, by people who don't overlook the existing practice of prison hulks (1745 was kind of obvious).

  • Steve
    2019-03-16 10:14

    A great book and an interesting read. In junior high and high school in history classes we studied about prisoners of war during World War II and Vietnam. I have read books about prisoners of war from the Vietnam War and prisoners of war being held both by the Germans and Japanese during World War II and how they were treated. Even the Union prisoners of war being held in Andersonville and Confederate POW's in Union prisons during the Civil War. I have heard about POW's during the American Revolution, But this is the first book I have read about American soldiers being held prisoner during the American Revolution in British prison ships and how they were treated. Very insightful. It describes the "hell ships" and the treatment and conditions the American POW's endured by the British as well as Hessian soldiers during the American Revolution.

  • Christa Sigman
    2019-03-19 03:21

    I am not a big fan of non-fiction but have been challenging myself to read more each year. Books like this make me want to read more and learn more. This book is about a part of the Revolutionary War I had never heard before. It did not read like a text book, but more like a podcast or documentary telling me the story. There is plenty of documentation at the back of the book citing sources. There are occasional footnotes defining terminology or explaining locations. Concisely ordered so the time line of history is not skewed it is easy to keep track of what happened when. This is a well researched, well ordered and well written book that I believe anyone interested in the history of the United States would find enjoyable.

  • Brad V
    2019-03-14 08:34

    An exceedingly important book reminding us of a foundational tragedy: the deaths of over 11,000 Americans in Britain prison ships in Wallabout Bay (now the Brooklyn Navy Yard) during the Revolutionary War. Elizabeth Burgin, who helped at least two hundred prisoners escape, deserves a statue, truly. Overall, though, the book’s organization and over-reliance in many places on superlative adjectives left something to be desired. It made me want to read the original, underlying narratives by some of the captives from the early 1800s instead.

  • Michele Weiner
    2019-03-01 06:18

    This book was stunning on the one hand, and because one of my relatives was involved as a prisoner on the Ghost Ship, I was interested in reading it. It has impressive detail based on memoirs of survivors and escapees, but was limited because once you've described the horrors, there is not much left to say.

  • Dale Dewitt
    2019-03-07 05:13

    I did enjoy this book. I had just finished reading The Loyal Son so i will admit it was hard to get through another revolutionary war book but this book actually went right along with that book and could almost be seen a compendium of the dark world that swirled in colonial america during the revolution

  • Diane
    2019-03-03 07:07

    This book tells the story of British prisoners during the Revolutionary War. The prisoners lived in the most wretched situations. I was totally unaware of this part of history. The book is difficult to read due to the treatment of the prisoners. I had to put the book down several times while I was reading. Wow!

  • Lesley
    2019-03-08 09:30

    I'm not one for war history but this book caught my eye. This is an aspect of the American Revolution that I personally never heard about nor considered. The reality must have been harrowing. I enjoyed learning something new here.

  • Rick Brown
    2019-03-18 03:18

    Excellent book about an aspect of the Revolutionary War that I knew nothing about: Prison ships docked in Brooklyn (currently where the Naval Shipyard is located) that were so horrendous close to 10,000 prisoners held by the British died in captivity on these ships. Horrifying.

  • Shannon
    2019-02-22 04:34

    So amazing and amazingly sad! Eye opening.

  • Tehila
    2019-03-12 10:20

    Wish I’d had this as a text book in high school

  • Michele
    2019-03-05 02:17

    I find Watson's non-fiction to be incredibly readable! He is a gifted writer, and his subjects are always fascinating! The horror that these men went through centuries ago is unimaginable!

  • Tony Taylor
    2019-02-24 02:14

    Very interesting history, but the book was poorly edited with multiple repetitious passages throughout the book to the point that they became distracting.

  • Casey Wheeler
    2019-03-18 09:15

    I received a free Kindle copy of The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn by Robert Watson courtesy of Net Galley and DeCapo Press, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my history book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as I read a great deal about the Revolutionary War, but this is the first time that I have seen a book devoted to the subject of the prison ships used by the British. It is the first book by Robert Watson that I have read.This is a well researched and engaging read. It is not a dry recitation of the facts surrounding the subject. The author used the written first hand experiences of five survivors of the infamous prison ship the Jersey that reportedly had over 11,000 men die as a result of their incareration on it.Watson delves into the reasons why the British used the ship(s) and the amount of embezzlement that led to the horrid conditions on the ship. In addition, he discusses the differences in the groups of rotating guards on the ship. In the final chapter, he briefly presents what happenned to the the 5 survivors and the main characters on the British side.I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the Revolutionary War and is interested in an interesting read about something of which there has been little written about.

  • Daniel Ligon
    2019-03-05 02:28

    Robert Watson's The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn is an account of a fairly little-known aspect of the American Revolution: the treatment of the prisoners of war held on hulks near the city of New York. The book is fairly well written, though a bit repetitive at times. Its scope is broader than what the title would indicate: Watson doesn't just deal with "The Ghost Ship" (HMS Jersey). He writes about a number of different hulks used by the British as prisons, as well as digressing into brief histories of a number of different prisoners, giving their personal stories, how they were captured, and what they did after the war. I don't mind Watson using these stories to try to add a personal touch to general arc of this tragic story.However, I came away from this book with the idea that Watson has a bit of an us vs. them mentality when it came to the British treatment of prisoners. While there certainly was a high level of violence and a callous disregard for human life present among many of the British at this time, it was not unique to them. The 1700's were violent times, and the Revolutionary War was particularly violent even for that time period. For a broader and less biased account of the violent nature of this war and the treatment of prisoners on both sides, I would recommend Scars of Independence by Holger Hoock. While this book contains plenty of enlightening information and, occasionally, good storytelling, it still left me a bit disappointed overall.I received a digital copy of this book for free from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are entirely my own.