The information presented in this post is taken from the following sources:
Alexander, John K. "Jonathan Carpenter and the American Revolution: The Journal of an American Naval Prisoner of War and Vermont Indian Fighter", (Vermont History, Vol. XXXVI, No. 2, Spring, 1968. The Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society).
Herwig, Miriam and Wes, editors. Jonathan Carpenter's Journal: Being the Diary of a Revolutionary Soldier and Pioneer Settler of Vermont, (Greenhill Books, 1994).
Kaminkow, Marian and Jack, compilers. Mariners of the American Revolution, (Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1967).
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina During the American Revolution, (The Kent State University Press, 1999).
The writer of this blog first encountered the journal of Jonathan Carpenter in a bookstore, Rivendell Books, on Main Street in downtown Montpelier, VT. The journal caught the writer's initial interest because he had become fascinated with the Revolutionary War period of Vermont history. After the writer had purchased the journal, he became aware that Jonathan Carpenter, like many of the young men of the period of the American Revolution, had become enamored with thought of high adventure and personal gain by signing on board one of the numerous patriot privateer ships operating out of any of the several ports located along the coast of New England. But, like so many of these adventurous young men, Jonathan Carpenter ended up in a British prison because the Royal Navy still "ruled the waves" and put a quick end to the adventure for Jonathan Carpenter and his shipmates.
Later, as the writer of this blog began to develop this writing on the frigate South Carolina, he began to realize that though Jonathan Carpenter did not serve on board the frigate South Carolina during the American Revolution, it was possible that there was still some form of connection between this young man and the great warship, the frigate South Carolina. Much later, the writer of this blog realized that the imprisonment of Jonathan Carpenter, recorded as it was at the contemporary time, reflected the imprisonments of so many of the first and some of the second crew of the frigate South Carolina. Thus, the writer of this blog has decided to include a brief sketch of the imprisonment of Jonathan Carpenter as a generalization of the day-to-day living conditions and experiences of so many of the incarcerated sailors of American privateers and/or merchantmen. But, more recent study has indicated that there may indeed be a more direct connection between the two seemingly geographically divergent topics of the life of a young man from Massachusetts and the frigate South Carolina.
The title page of Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, as composed by himself, is quite colorful and reflects the personal writings of both men and women of the colonial time period of American history. The full title is as follows and includes all the idiosyncrasies of Jonathan Carpenter's colonial education with its misspellings, incorrect capitalization, incorrect punctuation usage, and employment of ampersands:
A short Journal or
or Minute of the
Life & Transactions of
Jonathan Carpenter Junr
Jumbled together with
Disorder & Confusion
together with the Memorable
and Remarkable events which
I have seen at home and
Abroad amongst the
Great and Small Old and
Young friends and foes
Foreign and Domestick
This incredible title is followed by an editor's disclaimer that this was written by Jonathan Carpenter after he had completed the journal at some point during or after 1789 which is the last date actually recorded in the journal. According to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, pages 124, xiv, his grave stone indicates that he died on March 14, 1837 at "...the ripe old age of 80...".
(Note: On page 124, Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, there appears a photograph of a headstone in the cemetery of Randolph Center, VT that is the grave marker of Jonathan Carpenter. The headstone simply reads:
died March 14, 1837
Aged 80 years
Quite literally, this is all that is inscribed on the headstone of Jonathan Carpenter who served in the American Revolution and spent one and one-half years in Forton Prison in Portsmouth, England for his services in the "Cause of Liberty". The caption at the bottom of the page notes that the cemeteries in Randolph Center, VT contain the graves of sixty Revolutionary War veterans, four of which are Carpenters. The writer of this blog accessed this vital life information concerning Jonathan Carpenter from this photograph.)
First, for a brief background to the life of Jonathan Carpenter prior to him signing on board a patriot privateer out of a New England port. According to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 17, that brief account of his early life is provided by himself and is as follows - misspellings, incorrect capitalization, incorrect punctuation mark usage, and ampersands, all included:
"Jonathan Carpenter junior, was born in Rehoboth in the County of Bristol in the Privince of Massachusetts Bay - the 19th Day of June in year of our Lord - 1757 - I was brought up at home at my Fathers who gave me a Common Education & I worked at farming business - until I was upwards of Sixteen years of age...."
Beginning with the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and the colonies, Jonathan Carpenter was engaged with several different militia companies and was involved in their assigned duties. From December 10, 1775 to January 15, 1776, he was a private in Captain Nathaniel Carpenter's Company as they did duty in and around Roxbury, Massachusetts. From February 13, 1776 to April 1, 1776, he was enlisted as a private in Captain John Pain's Company and marched to Dorchester Heights across the bay from Boston and took up duties there. From July 23, 1776 to December 1, 1776, Jonathan Carpenter once again enlisted, again as a private, in Captain Nathaniel Carpenter's Company and marched to New York City where he actually participated in the fighting on Long Island. On December 28, 1776, Jonathan Carpenter joined Captain James Hill's Company for a period of three months, being dismissed from their duties at Howland's Ferry, Rhode Island on March 8, 1777. At this point in the war, Jonathan Carpenter seemed to take the longest hiatus from militia duty he had taken so far - just over six months. But, on September 30, 1777, he marched again in Captain James Hill's Company on a month long campaign into Rhode Island, being dismissed on October 30, 1777, when he and the others from Rehoboth, MA made their way home.
Jonathan Carpenter had served long and well, by all accounts. Even though he had not been "on campaign" for longer than three months at a time, except the six-month stint he did during the Long Island campaign which is where he saw the most amount of fighting on any of his other enlistments, he had diligently served well in the Cause of his country. But, on December 11, 1777, the following entry (transcribed exactly as Jonathan Carpenter wrote it) appears in his diary:
"Dec. ye 11th - I & E. [Ephraim] Read & C. [Caleb] Carpenter sot [set] out for Boston determined to take a cruise in a privateer this winter we arived at Boston the 13 Day and went to work on board the Brig Reprisal (in fixing her out as we intended to go out in her) for which we had two dollars pr Day & boarded.".
Little did Jonathan Carpenter or either of his friends know but, this decision on their parts would make all the difference in their future experiences for the next one and one-half years.
As can be seen from his journal, Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, pages 46-47, Jonathan Carpenter's naval experiences were short-lived but, would impact his life for the next one and one-half years. Also, it would effectively end his military career as far as the American Revolution was concerned. He would never re-enlist in the militia again after his return to the colony of Massachusetts. His journal entries for the time that he spent assisting in preparing the Massachusetts privateer brig Reprisal for sea are brief and will be cited in their entirety here (again, these entries will be transcribed exactly as Jonathan Carpenter recorded them with succinct date entries included for clarification):
"Jan ye 1 [January 1, 1778] I went to board at Tho's Harrises &
ye 25th [January 25, 1778] We got ye Brigg nearly fit for sea & hauled off in the stream & went to live on board of her.
Feb. ye 13 [February 13, 1778] in a hard gail [gale] of wind we were drove down near to ye Castle & and lost one of our Anchors & cable &
ye 15th [February 15, 1778] we put to sea & having a fair wind we clar'd [cleared] off the coast pretty fast -- but ye 19 [February 19, 1778] having got across the gulf stream at Daylight we saw a sail which our Capt. imprudently chased for near two hours but finding his mistake put about but she came up with us at 12 o'clock which proved to be the Unicorn a 20 gun ship in ye Service of the Tyrant King of Great Briton Commanded by John Ford -- but we are no longer our own men, but have a New Master and one of Jo's Bowars's Masters I think ha, ha:..."
What follows next is a roster of the crew of the Massachusetts privateer brig Reprisal along with a brief description of the ship-of-war as "...mounting ten carriage guns & 6 swivels...". The citation ends with " - Boston Harbor on bord the brig Reprisal Feb. ye 10th 1778 - ". Being that this entry follows a prior entry dated after this entry in chronological order, this may be evidence that Jonathan Carpenter may have been recording the events well after the fact and entirely recalled from his memory. Thus, it is possible that the dates are incorrect also.
(Note: Jonathan Carpenter's entry for February 13, 1778 noted that "...in a hard gail [gale] we were drove down near to ye Castle...". This must be a reference to Castle Island at the mouth of Boston harbor, which was heavily fortified by the occupying patriot forces and, at that point in time, under the command of Colonel Paul Revere. A little over one year later, as Jonathan Carpenter's captivity in England was drawing to a close, Colonel Paul Revere would be placed in command of the artillery contingent that participated in the disastrous Penobscot Expedition during the summer of 1779.)
In Jonathan Carpenters' Journal, Jonathan Carpenter spends a little over two pages relating the work he participated in that went into preparing the Massachusetts privateer brig Reprisal to be ready for sea. These entries are all short, succinct, and filled with only pertinent details concerning his life on board and mishaps that befell the ship-of-war. But, the relating of his captivity and prisoner-of-war experiences fill over ten pages, roughly one-tenth of the entire length of his journal. His recitation of his life and experiences mirrors so many other mariners and marines who found themselves likewise in the hands of the King's Men with prisoner-of-war status.
According to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 48, the young, twenty-year-old Jonathan Carpenter begins his captivity narrative with ominous words of doom:
"Now we must go on bord [board] of a new Ship and be put in irons & crouded [crowded] Down betwixt [between] Decks half starved like poor devils (or Rebels) as they cawl'd [called] us -- in this languishing condition we were obliged to stay suffering all that those devils on earth (or rather Hell afloat) could inflict until the 7[th] of March when we were brought in to Rhodeisland [Rhode Island] harbor and put on bord [board] the Clibborn [Cliborn] a prison Ship riding at anchor..."
So much of his early entries reiterate the journals of so many others - crowded, cramped and dirty conditions below decks on the various prisoner transport vessels; an inadequate amount of food that more often than not was of poor quality; rats and other vermin below decks where the prisoners were kept; unsympathetic and even outright hostile British captors; and, as always, the false hopes of a prisoner cartel/exchange occurring very soon prior to the prison fleet leaving colonial waters. All this tribulation ended for Jonathan Carpenter when, after a captivity of over a month, on April 13, 1778, though he was sick himself:
"...all that were able taken & distrabuted [distributed] on board a fleet of 24 sail of Marchant [Merchant] Ships distined [destined] for England I was not well but nothing would do but I must go & finally went on bord [board] the Myrtle Capt. Goldenbutton -- my friend Caleb Carpenter & one Thompstone of Virginia were with me; 3 being the Complyment [compliment] for each Ship..."
(Note: As has been seen in the course of this post, Jonathan Carpenter frequently cites dates and other pieces of information incorrectly. A reference to Kaminkow's work, Mariners of the American Revolution, page 188, does identify an individual who might be the "...Thompstone of Virginia..." who was on the Myrtle with Jonathan Carpenter for their journey to England and further captivity. The citation for this individual is as follows:
"John Thompson - he was a seaman on board the Venus out of Philadelphia. He was committed to Forton Prison on April 2, 1778. He was pardoned for exchange on May 31, 1779 and actually exchanged on July 2, 1779. He joined the Bon Homme Richard."
Being that the Venus was a privateer ship-of-war out of Philadelphia, PA, this "John Thompson" cited here was more than likely a Pennsylvanian and not a Virginian. But, there is absolutely no guarantee of that fact unless further research is conducted on the matter. Again, Jonathan Carpenter could have not correctly remembered "John Thompson's" state of origin or have mis-recorded the information. According to Kaminkow's work, "John Thompson" was also committed to a British prison on April 2, 1778, which is prior to the merchant fleet even departing American waters, while Jonathan Carpenter was committed to prison on June 9, 1778. Jonathan Carpenter may have dismembered the dates altogether. But, both men were committed to the same prison - Forton Prison in Portsmouth, England - and both were pardoned and actually exchanged on the same days. As will be seen later in this specific post, the prisoner cartel that carried Jonathan Carpenter to freedom took him to France where he took passage on General Mifflin for America. But, "John Thompson", once ashore in France, instead signed on board the frigate Bon Homme Richard and a few months later, on the evening of September 23, 1779, would take part in the most famous sea battle in American naval history between the frigate Bon Homme Richard and the HMS Serapis.)
According to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 48, the next passage reads:
"April ye 16 [April 16, 1778] we sailed for Portsmouth in England where we arrived the 12 Day of May [May 12, 1778] after a prosperous pasage [passage] of 28 Day [days]..."
Again, this is another example of Jonathan Carpenter's propensity to exaggerate or misconstrue dates and times. The voyage only took twenty-six days rather than twenty-eight days the way he described it. But, this aside, the next entry in Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 50, states:
"May ye 13 [May 13, 1778] we hauled into the harbor at Portsmouth in the County of Hampshire in Great Britain -- after shuffeling [shuffling] me about from one ship to another (to make me enter on board a King's ship) till they were weary -- ye 18th [May 18, 1778] they put me on board of the Princess Amelia a 20 gun ship lying as a guard ship at Spithead where I staid [stayed] until next day [May 19, 1778] we were sent on shore at Hasler hospital (a very fine building) where there were upward of 1700 men belonging to ye shipping & stayed there till ye 4th of June [June 4, 1778], we were sent back to ye guardship again -- and ye 19th of June [June 19, 1778] we were again sent on shoar [shore] where we were examined tryed [tried] and committed to prison (at Fortin [Forton] near Portsmouth) as Rebels & pirates taken on the high seas -- it being my birth Day the very day I should have had my freedom, but to get clear from cruel masters I rejoiced at an opportunity to go to prison where I found 175 prisoners some of them had ben [been] there a year and were in good heart but expected a long imprisonment ..."
There is a great deal of information contained in this compressed set of journal entries. First, and foremost, British bureaucracy took over a month to process these prisoners-of-war and have them committed to Forton Prison. There was also the "technicality" of having the prisoners-of-war "...enter on board a King's ship..." It must have taken a large number of transfers from one ship to another because Jonathan Carpenter was committed to Forton Prison on June 9, 1778 while his "...friend Caleb Carpenter..." was not committed to Forton Prison until August 28, 1778. They arrived together on the Myrtle on May 13, 1778 yet, were individually committed to the same prison almost three months apart in chronological time. The excruciating laboriousness of the process must have been frustrating, infuriating and mind-numbing for all involved - colonial Americans and Britons as well.
Once Jonathan Carpenter was committed to Forton Prison in Portsmouth, England, he began to exemplify the American or colonial prisoner-of-war of that time period. According to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, in a footnote #4 found on page 50, the editor of Jonathan's journal notes that "...Jonathan began keeping his diary up-to-date after being committed to prison and regaining his health. Wherever he was, he kept up on current events...". This seems to be very common for incarcerated men during the American Revolution. Once the individual is settled in a prison, there seems to be very little else to occupy their time with other than journal writing. They recorded observations made concerning weather, the actual structure of the prison building, visitors to the prison, the quality of the prisoner's treatment by prison officials and guards, work details the prisoners were sent out on, and various other sundry items of interest, all made in the course of their incarceration. But, probably the one subject that held a prisoner's interest most keenly was the ever-present hope of a prisoner cartel. The youthful Jonathan Carpenter was no different and fills seven pages (pages 50-56) with all of these same topics, especially the rumors of impending prisoner cartels.
Another example of the commonalities of Jonathan Carpenter's writings with those of other prisoners of the British in England is that he records the deaths of fellow prisoners in his journal with some degree of detail. Almost immediately after his commitment to Forton Prison on June 19, 1778, his very next journal entry on page 50, Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, and the one for June 25, 1778 states that:
"June ye 25th Jeremiah Thurber (one of our privateer crew from Rehoboth) died at Hasler Hospital with the small pox...".
Again, according to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 53, on May 25, 1779, Jonathan Carpenter likewise noted:
"May ye 25th "...Tho's [Thomas] Haly died with ye small pox..."
It seems that deaths among American/colonial prisoners-of-war held by the British in England were fairly rare. This fact seems to be the case in other prison journals of captive American who also spent time in British prisons located in England. The British seemed to be keen on keeping prisoners-of-war in their custody alive and as healthy as possible. Even though the amount and quality of food and drink was inadequate, the captives did indeed receive much better rations than their American/colonial counterparts being held in prisons or on prison "hulks" in America. Possibly, the most infamous prison in America was the Sugar House located in New York City while the most infamous prison "hulk" was the Jersey moored in Wallabout Bay across the East River from Brooklyn, NY. The death rates in these prisons were so high, at times 10-15 prisoners dying a day, that their names are frequently not given in a fellow prisoners journal or diary due to there being so many of them on each day. Deaths in Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England and in Forton Prison in Portsmouth, England were reasonably rare so that they were usually cited by whoever the journal writer was at the time.
The writer of this blog thinks it reasonable to predict that Jeremiah Thurber must have contracted small pox on board the prison transport that brought him over to England along with Jonathan Carpenter and his other captive crew mates of the brig Reprisal. Small pox is a very virulent disease but, is relatively slow to kill. The gestation period seems to be a few weeks at which point the victim either recovers from the disease or succumbs to it. If Jeremiah Thurber was already sick with the small pox, he would probably have been off-loaded from the prisoner transport as quickly as the sickness was positively identified and placed in Hasler Hospital where he eventually died. It is possible that the prisoner transport carrying Jeremiah Thurber arrived early in the transport process with Jeremiah Thurber contracting the disease after his arrival but, prior to his removal from the transport ship to Forton Prison. If this second supposition was what actually happened Jeremiah Thurber would have been removed to Hasler Hospital as soon after his sickness was identified.
In Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, pages 47-48, Thomas Haly is not identified as one of the original crew members of the privateer brig Reprisal. But, Jonathan Carpenter only named roughly forty-three of the crew members of the brig Reprisal while he seems to indicate that there were more crew members whose names he could not recall. According to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 48, Jonathan Carpenter states that the fleet of twenty-four merchant ships left Rhode Island, bound for England, each carrying three prisoners-of-war. That would make for almost seventy-five crew members, though it is not clear if all of these came from the brig Reprisal or if they might have been captured on board of another privateer ship-of-war also. Thomas Haly may well have been another prisoner-of-war captured on board of another privateer ship-of-war.
These two men died in a foreign, possibly alien land. This prior to the development of the means to transport bodies over considerable distances. Jeremiah Thurber and Thomas Haly would have been most certainly been buried there in Portsmouth, England rather than having their mortal remains returned home. Thus, a small portion of Rehoboth, Massachusetts would have returned to the land of its native origin.
The third, and only other, death of a fellow American captive that is recorded by Jonathan Carpenter is an unusual one but, not unknown among American prisoners-of-war on either side of the Atlantic Ocean - a prisoner being shot by a guard. According to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 52, provides the following information for the entry of March 25, 1779:
"March 25 Bartholemew White a prisoner in the yard was shot through the body by a Corporal of ye Guard which consists of 60 of the Westminster Militia -- he died in 24 hours after the Corporal was tryed [tried] by a Jury and cleared proved (but very falsely) to be an accident..."
(Note: According to Kaminkow's work, Mariners of the American Revolution, page 205, information for this unfortunate prisoner is given as follows:
"Bartholomew White - he served on board the Montgomery. He was committed to Forton Prison on August 7, 1777. He was accidentally shot dead in prison March 12, 1779."
From this brief entry on Bartholomew White, he was most probably a seaman rather than a petty officer or commissioned officer, which would have been duly noted. He had been incarcerated in Forton Prison for almost one year prior to the arrival of the prisoner transport fleet carrying Jonathan Carpenter. The Montgomery on which he served was most likely a privateer ship-of-war out of Maryland.)
There are all kinds of scenarios and possibilities for what exactly happened between Bartholomew White and the "...Corporal of ye Guard..." that fatal day. Bartholomew White may have been a particularly difficult prisoner to deal with and could have easily provoked the Corporal or challenged his authority in some manner that the Corporal felt he had to use force on Bartholomew White. All Jonathan Carpenter admits to in his journal entry concerning the incident was that "Bartholomew White a prisoner in the yard was shot through the body by a Corporal of ye Guard...". He makes no mention of an attempted escape or anything of this manner at all. He does close his account of the incident stating that the "...Corporal of ye Guard..." was tried by a jury of law and found not guilty as it was "...proved (but very falsely) to be an accident...". It is interesting that the "...Corporal of ye Guard..." was placed on trial for the death of a "rebel prisoner". There were "friends of the colonies" all over England and it might have been done as a factor of wanting to make it appear as though that all prisoners were treated well and their persons respected. The last matter of fact that the writer of this blog can think of that the British government wanted to get out to the opposition press was that the prisoners were being mistreated or even arbitrarily killed while in British prisons. It may have been a foregone conclusion that the private was to be exonerated by the trial but, the fact that they had a trial at all demonstrates that the British government wanted everything on "the up and up".
Also, it is no mistake that a militia unit, the Westminster Militia, were involved in this incident rather than a regular British Army unit. A regular British Army regiment would have been reserved for service overseas in time of war and thus released from doing several types of duties. These duties would have consisted of patrolling the coastlines of the British Isles, keeping the King's Peace in larger cities and towns, garrisoning castles and forts through out the British Isles, and guarding prisoners in prisons like Old Mill Prison and Forton Prison. As am example of the performance of these duties, the post entitled "Richard Wall, Cadet of Marines...Cutting Lunt, Sailing Master..." and dated "10/26/2015" mentions the capture of the jolly boat from the patriot frigate Bon Homme Richard by the "Kerry Rangers", an Irish militia unit, assigned to patrol the coast of Ireland. These militia units, like the Westminster Militia, would have frequently been utilized as prison guards, thus freeing up Regular British Army regiments for services across the British Empire but, at the same time, would have also unfortunately been involved in these kinds of lethal incidents. It was not that the militia units were cruel or sadistic towards their incarcerated American charges but, rather that they were the actual ones performing this type of guard duty and interacting with these prisoners-of-war.
This brings the readers of this blog to the subject that seemed to occupy the waking thoughts of many prisoners-of-war held in England or here in America - possible escape from their predicament. Whereas Jonathan Carpenter's accounts of prisoner death's are succinct and detailed, his renditions of escapes and escape attempts are comparatively frequent and filled with detail meant to elicit excitement for the reader of his journal. Jonathan Carpenter cites details such as the number of prisoners who were added to the compliment of Forton Prison on a particular day, rumors heard of battles and fleets being gathered for battle, and always the rumor of an impending exchange of prisoners. But, according to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 51, in the middle of all of this talk of rumors, appears the following entry for July 24, 1778:
"July 24 This day 10 of our officers made there [their] escape and got off clear...".
Prior to this entry there had been no mention of escapes and escape attempts at all. Immediately following this entry and still on the same day, Jonathan carpenter returns to speaking of an impending naval battle and citing the various different ships the British Navy has assembled at that moment in time. There is no further mention of the escaped officers and what became of them.
This first citation of a successful escape seems to set off a whole flurry of references to escapes or escape attempts in Jonathan Carpenter's Journal. Immediately following this earlier July 24th reference, we read:
"July ye 30th  about 12 o'clock at night we were discovered in our work which was digging a hole to make our escape which would have been done in 2 hours we had dug about 15 feet under ground...".
In the same passage, he returns to discussion of rumors of a sea battle and the resulting casualties for each side involved, British and French.
Jonathan Carpenter has made no earlier reference in his journal to being involved in an escape attempt. This is the first indication we have that Jonathan Carpenter was actively involved in these attempts. But, in the same vein, Jonathan Carpenter also does not say anything of any kind of repercussions for the discovery of the tunneling efforts of the patriot prisoners-of-war. He only makes mention of the discovery of their "hole...which would have been done in 2 hours...".
The very next entry in Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 51, is dated September 8, 1778 and is as follows:
"Sept. ye 8 last night there was a breach made out of ye prison into the highway by undermining about 35 feet underground by which about 50 officers got off, but 20 of them taken up & put into the black hole &c &c the rest got over to France -- we was locked up till noon & broke the dore [door] lock & the Devil to pay and no pitch hot --".
(Note: Being put into the "black hole" was a reference to being placed in solitary confinement. Usually, this was a small, cramped, damp cell somewhere in the prison that had little, if any, natural light coming into the cell. Sleeping accommodations would have been very primitive and uncomfortable. Sometimes, truant prisoners were sentenced to six weeks in the "black hole", a sentence that seems to have been carried out seldom. On occasion, prisoners were sentenced to the "black hole" only to be returned to the regular prison yard with the threat of the "black hole" still hanging over their heads.)
Again the very next entry in Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 51, and immediately after the above one is for December 10, 1778 and reads as follows:
"Dec'r ye 10 Last night 5 of our men made their escape joy go with'em...."
Which, again, is immediately followed by news of a hoped-for exchange and reduced monetary allowances. Jonathan Carpenter noted that he believed the rumor of an exchange to be a lie perpetrated by the British authorities to possibly foil any further escape attempts. Kaminkow's work, Mariners of the American Revolution, notes that escaped and recaptured prisoners whose names appeared on exchange lists were moved to the bottom of the list for exchange and thus delayed their release from prison. This may have been an incentive to convince prisoners to eschew escape attempts in hopes of being released sooner. Whether this ploy or incentive worked or not is open for debate.
Jonathan Carpenter went well into 1779 before he mentions another escape attempt. In fact, on January 12, 1779, he mentions rumor of a prison break at Old Mill Prison in which one hundred and thirty prisoners managed to successfully escape. This is just hearsay or rumor but, his entry for April 15, 1779, the following information appears:
"April 15 last night 22 prisoners made shift to git [get] off through a hole which we have had in hand about 2 months but not getting it compleated [completed] till Daylight was the ocation [occasion] of no mor's [mores] going -- afterwards all brought back but 2..."
Escaped prisoners who were recaptured were always brought back to the prison from which they had escaped for two reasons. First, there was immediate space for them there because that is where they had escaped from and their space had not been filled by another prisoner. Second, and more important for propaganda purposes, the British authorities wanted to prove visually to their fellow prisoners that escape was impossible and would only result in time spent in the "black hole". The remaining prisoners would visibly witness the escaped prisoner being returned to the prison from which they had initially escaped, usually in irons and shackles.
The last two entries concerning prison escapes recorded in Jonathan Carpenter's Journal are short and contain minimal details. For the entry dated May 22, 1779, it simply states:
"May ye 22 last night 7 prisoners broke prison from the grand Lobster guard at Fortin [Forton] &c... ha ha ha..."
and the entry for May 30, 1779 states:
"May ye 30th 5 of the men that run away last was brought back and put into the black hole &c --"
It would appear from these two close-related, chronologically-ordered entries that five of the seven escaped prisoners had been recaptured and returned to Forton Prison where they were committed to the "black hole".
Between these citations of escapes and failed escape attempts, Jonathan Carpenter's prison journal is filled with accounts of rumored battles and fleets assembled for battle with the French; letters received from Old Mill Prison informing the prisoners in Forton Prison of their conditions there; the transferring of one militia unit for a different militia unit to take over guard duty at Forton Prison; additional prisoners, both American and French, being committed to Forton Prison; and once again, news and rumors of a prisoner cartel to carry them to France and freedom. Always, it was the subject of freedom from British control -either literal freedom from British governmental control or actual physical freedom from British control of their lives as prisoners-of-war in British custody. These two subjects seemed to occupy their thoughts of the prisoners more than any other and thus accounted for the greatest number of references in the prison portion of Jonathan Carpenter's Journal.
Jonathan Carpenter's Journal is a personal journal of a young men who experienced quite a bit, both on land and at sea, during the course of the American Revolution. The prison portion of his journal is unique, as all prison journals are in their own right. But, it also typifies those writings done under the same incarcerated circumstances during the American Revolution. These journals are unique in that the individual recording these entries had nothing else to distract them and thus recorded events and occurrences in much more detail than a soldier who was at liberty but, also had many more other duties as a result of his freedom. Jonathan Carpenter's Journal reflects the common experiences of so many imprisoned Americans sailors during the American Revolution. These daily entries were the same types of everyday prison occurrences, common and unusual, experienced by these incarcerated Americans. These prison entries would have reflected the experiences of those American sailors, marines, petty officers and commissioned officers who, after a prisoner cartel found themselves in France and would later sign on and sail on board the frigate South Carolina. Jonathan Carpenter never walked on the decks of the frigate South Carolina. He probably never even heard those two words spoken together in reference to a ship-of-war. But, his prison experiences and the record he left in his Journal of those experiences made him closer to those self-same men who did sail on board the frigate South Carolina. Common experiences of common men fighting in a common Cause is a powerful thing.
Yet, Jonathan Carpenter may have been a bit closer to the frigate South Carolina than it would appear. On page 47-48 of Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, immediately after the capture of the Massachusetts privateer brig Reprisal, there appears a roster of the personnel of the captured brig as remembered by Jonathan Carpenter. The list is common in that it begins with the officers of the privateer brig and closes with the names of the enlisted men on board the brig Reprisal. The roster actually ends with the entry "...& 6 Frenchmen..." - the names of men who Jonathan Carpenter could not remember. Among the names cited on this roster of the personnel on board the captured brig Reprisal on page 47 appears the name of "John Evens". According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, the section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 146, the following entry appears:
John Evans (Evens, Evins?) no "position" given
These could conceivably be one in the same man for several reasons. First, the first name is the same in both cases - John. In many cases of the same last name, even the slightest difference in the first name, "John" and "James" for example, ends up being an indicator that information is being presented on two completely different men. According to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 47, in the roster of captured personnel from the Massachusetts privateer brig Reprisal the name is presented as "John Evens". According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 146, "John" is cited as the first name and "Evens" is cited as an alternative last name.
(Note: According to Kaminkow's work, Mariners of the American Revolution, there is no "John Evens" cited as having been a prisoner-of-war in British custody. But, there does appear the following entry on page 63 and though the individual's first name is slightly different from the entry in Carpenter's work, the facts do fit for "John Evens" as found in Jonathan Carpenter's Journal:
"Jeremiah Evans or Evens - he served as a boy on board the Montgomery. He was committed to Forton Prison on August 8, 1777. He was pardoned for exchange on May 31, 1779. He was actually exchanged on July 2, 1779. He joined the Bon Homme Richard."
Jeremiah Evens was captured too early to have served on board the Massachusetts privateer brig Reprisal with Jonathan Carpenter and be captured as a member of that crew. But, he was committed to Forton Prison - the same prison as Jonathan Carpenter - and was pardoned for exchange and actually exchanged on the same dates as Jonathan Carpenter. It could possibly be that Jonathan Carpenter drew up the roster of the crew of the brig Reprisal many years after the fact and only remembered some of the crew's names. He may have also confused prisoners who had been committed to Forton Prison under other circumstances and from other ships-of-war and cited their names as being a member of the crew of the brig Reprisal. Some of the released prisoners were known to have signed on board the frigate Bon Homme Richard. Yet, the frigate Bon Homme Richard returned to port after the engagement with the HMS Serapis in time for men who had served on board of her to either sign on board of or desert to the frigate South Carolina for her maiden voyage to America under the leadership of Commodore Alexander Gillon.)
But, assuming that the name of "John Evens" is correct, there are still further facts that line up with him having been on board the frigate South Carolina for her maiden voyage to America. Some of these facts constitute the second reason for the "John Evens" who served on board the Massachusetts privateer brig Reprisal and the "John Evens" who served on board the frigate South Carolina being the same man. According to Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 56, the entry for June 30, 1779, the following information is give relative to the termination of Jonathan Carpenter's incarceration in Forton Prison:
"Wednesday June ye 30th  120 of our names were called and ordered to keep ourselves in readyness [readiness] to go on bord [board] ye carteel [cartel] which will be in a short while..."
The next entry in Jonathan Carpenter's Journal is only two days later and reads as follows:
Fryday [Friday] July ye 2nd  this morning we were called to be in readyness [readiness] and in the afternoon were marched off through Gosport [Gosport, England], and went on bord [board] the Milford carteel [cartel] laying at Spithead &c the day long wished for has come at last Huzza -- I have been in Forton Prison one year & 12 days..."
The name of "John Evens" could have easily been one of those called that day and "...ordered to keep ourselves in readyness to go on bord ye carteel which will be in a short while...". It was indeed a short while later -- only two days, in fact, on July 2, 1779. According to Kaminkow's work, Mariners of the American Revolution, this was the "actual exchange date" even though they were still physically on board of a British ship-of-war and technically under British control. The cartel ship did not land in Paimboeuf, France until July 18, 1779 and the former prisoners were not "dismissed from the cartel" until July 22, 1779. "John Evens" could have had his liberation form Forton Prison at the same time as Jonathan Carpenter had his freedom returned to him. Jonathan Carpenter noted in Jonathan Carpenter's Journal, page 56, for his entry dated July 22, 1779:
July 22 ... And in ye afternoon entered on Bord [board] the Gen'l Jiflin [General Mifflin] an American privateer of 20 guns Geo. [George] Wade Babcock Commander bound on a cruise towards America for about 3 months &c ...".
(Note: Thomas Mifflin, ostensibly the individual in whose honor this privateer ship-of-war was named, was from the colony of Pennsylvania. Thus, the specific privateer ship-of-war was more than likely also from Pennsylvania, most likely out of Philadelphia. Kaminkow's work, Mariners of the American Revolution, page 225, cites two ships-of-war by this same name being captured by the British Royal Navy at different times - one in June 1780 and another in July 1781. Since Jonathan Carpenter left the General Mifflin to man the unnamed prize "Snow" as part of a prize crew and arrived In Boston, Massachusetts on November 1, 1779 on board of yet a third ship, a schooner, the General Mifflin could easily have been one of these patriot ships-of-war captured in either the summer of 1780 or 1781.)
So, Jonathan Carpenter signed on board the privateer ship-of-war General Mifflin as a sailor and thus gained transportation back to America and Rehoboth, Massachusetts. In fact, Jonathan Carpenter would eventually receive bounty money for the capture of an unnamed "Snow" (a type of three-masted ship) on October 11, 1779 as the General Mifflin was voyaging back to America. Jonathan Carpenter noted his receiving the money on March 3, 1780. But, "John Evens" could have easily found another manner of returning to the American colonies - by way of signing on board of a different patriot ship-of-war, the frigate South Carolina. If "John Evens" was indeed released in the same prisoner cartel as Jonathan Carpenter, he would have reached France at the same time, July 22, 1779. This is perfect timing for signing on board the frigate South Carolina as so many other sailors, petty officers and commissioned officers also did after their release from British custody and prior to the sailing of the frigate South Carolina from the Texel, Holland on August 4, 1781. "John Evens" could have simply been one of many who chose this route of return to their native land of America.
The third reason for the two "John Evens" being the same man is that he could have only served on board the frigate South Carolina for her first, or maiden, voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to America. This voyage commenced on August 4, 1781 and terminated when the frigate moored in Philadelphia, PA harbor on May 29, 1782. This was the voyage that would have been the most likely one to include prisoners-of-war recently released from British custody. These same prisoners would have been landed in France as part of a prisoner cartel or prisoner exchange. Many of these men would have already known or been directed by Americans in France at the time, most notably Benjamin Franklin, to seek out a patriot ship bound for America as the means of quickly getting home from their long incarcerations. For instance, Jonathan Carpenter signed on board of the privateer ship-of-war General Mifflin to reach Massachusetts and home, which he reached on November 1, 1779.
But, if a man's name appeared on one of the captive's lists of the three British men-of-war on December 20, 1782, it would indicate that this specific man was certainly on the second, brief voyage of the frigate South Carolina terminating in the frigate's capture off the capes of the Delaware on that date. The name of "John Evens" does not appear on any of these lists indicating that he was not on board the frigate South Carolina for the second cruise of the frigate. But, since his name does appear in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, the section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 146, it is certain that he served on board the frigate South Carolina and if not on the second, brief cruise of the frigate then most certainly on the first, or maiden, voyage of the frigate. "John Evens" therefore served on board the frigate South Carolina on the first voyage of the frigate as she was sailed across the Atlantic Ocean towards her namesake state. This clarification of which voyage of the frigate South Carolina "John Evens" was on serves to strengthen the argument that he was released from British custody in the same or near-same prisoner cartel as Jonathan Carpenter and would have sought out the frigate South Carolina as she was being fitted out in Holland for her maiden voyage to America. This also strengthens the argument that the two "John Evens" were one in the same man and that "John Evens" walked and served on board the frigate South Carolina on her maiden voyage but, most probably left the service of the frigate at some point after she docked in Philadelphia, PA on May 29, 1782. So, even though Jonathan Carpenter never walked the decks of the frigate South Carolina through the possible experiences of a fellow shipmate; those of "John Evens", formerly of the Massachusetts privateer brig Reprisal; he has some connection to the frigate South Carolina.
(Note: The captive's lists of the three British men-of-war contain all the prisoners-of-war that were taken off the frigate South Carolina on the day she was captured of the Capes of the Delaware on December 20, 1782 and are posted as follows:
The captive's list of the HMS Diomede - "03/24/2015"
The captive's list of the HMS Quebec - "03/25/2015"
The captive's list of the HMS Astrea - "03/26/2015"
As noted above, "John Evens" does not appear on any of these three lists. Therefore, he did not serve on board the frigate South Carolina for her second, brief cruise.)
(Blog Writer's Note: The writer of this blog has come across a specific irregularity that should be noted here but, most likely has little actual impact on the information shared in this specific post. This was brought to the attention of the writer of this blog by means of the discovery of an article written by John K. Alexander and entitled "Jonathan Carpenter and the American Revolution: The Journal of an American Naval Prisoner of War and Vermont Indian Fighter". This article was published in Vermont History, Volume XXXVI, Number 2, Spring 1968.
In this article, evidence is presented to indicate that even though Jonathan Carpenter's journal has been authenticated beyond any doubt, there exist very glaring incidences of plagiarism in his journal. The written passages that would have supplied these pieces of historical information came from the journal of Timothy Connor. According to Kaminkow's work, Mariners of the American Revolution, page 43, the following information is known:
"Timothy Connor - he served on board of the Rising States. He was committed to Forton Prison on June 14, 1777. He was pardoned for exchange on May 31, 1779. He was actually exchanged on July 2, 1779."
The Rising States was a Massachusetts privateer ship-of-war. It was captured by the HMS Terrible in June 1777. Timothy Connor was committed to Forton Prison almost a year before Jonathan Carpenter. But, his pardon for exchange date and actual exchange date were the same as Jonathan Carpenter. These two men must have been familiar with each other and shared information, though the bulk of the information sharing seems to have from Timothy Connor's journal to Jonathan Carpenter's journal.
The passages cited and addressed in the post above where Jonathan Carpenter seems to have plagiarized Timothy Connor's journal are as follows:
July 24, 1778 - ten officers made their escape and got away successfully.
September 8, 1778 - a breach being made and fifty officers escaping with twenty being recaptured and committed to the "black hole".
July 2, 1778 - the prisoners were marched to the Milford cartel ship and boarded the vessel.
According to Alexander's work, "Jonathan Carpenter and the American Revolution...", page 76, states clearly that "... plagiarism was a very common practice among American prisoners of war in England". This makes sense because prisoners were basically recording information learned from other prisoners for posterity in the hope that their journal and its contents would eventually make it back to America intact and preserve their place and efforts on behalf of the patriot Cause, both in their minds and hearts and in those of the people who would read their journals and diaries. Thus, the passing and recording of information between Jonathan Carpenter and Timothy Connor was a common practice of patriot men who found themselves in the same predicament of imprisonment in England.)