Mill Prison, England is where hundreds of American sailors were held. Extensive research reveals that several men kept nearly day to day journals of their time at Mill. This journal is based on their accounts and is a compilation of their collective experience.
June 18. 1778
Some boys from another ship’s crew made their way back into the prison today during our muster. While there they damaged some hammocks for which their punishment was a sound whipping.
June 19. 1778
We are told that the sentries and guards have orders not to abuse us even should we be caught attempting to escape. I guess we afford better treatment now that the British worry about the welfare of their own prisoners in France and in America after Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga.
June 20. 1778
Today Mr. Heath returned and asked that each of us provide name, occupation and place of residence. This list will be sent to the committee responsible for raising subscriptions to support us. He again told us that prospects are high for an exchange soon.
June 24. 1778
Over these past several days some of the men have been employed at digging a hole into the vault drain in the old stone prison. To our regret this plan was found out by the sentries the day before yesterday at about 8 o’clock in the evening. The men who were discovered were promptly committed to the Black Hole. The sentries then went into the officer’s prison and found our 2nd Lieutenant Buntin and Captain Boardman strolling about. They refused to go to bed as ordered and they too were sent off to the Black Hole.
Last night Mr. Cross of our crew and Mr. Dale, Lieutenant of the Lexington were also found out to be walking about after the designated time and were sent to the Black Hole. Today they have written a petition to the Board to ask whether our prison keeper has the authority to commit men to the Black Hole for simply walking about after hours.
June 26. 1778
A French cutter and 2 frigates have been taken by the British and brought here to Plymouth. Several wounded Frenchmen were brought to the prison hospital for treatment of their injuries caused during the engagement. Five of our men who escaped yesterday were returned to our yard today. They had successfully made it to a boat some distance from the prison but the alarm was sounded and they soon were captured.
June 27. 1778
This afternoon Mr. Kirk, an Irishman and officer of the Lexington, and Mr. Showmaker, officer of the Charming Sally from Long Island, were invited by the sentry to make their escape over the wall but they were soon found out, returned and committed to the Black Hole.
June 29. 1778
Joseph Burnham of our crew has a white swelling in his knee. The prison doctor has offered to amputate his leg to save his life should he be willing.