The Horror of Horrors

Jeannette Holland Austin
10 min readOct 24, 2022

The American Revolutionary War. 1775–1783.

A depiction of “The Jersey” Prison Ship

The “Jersey” prison ship wins the award for Despicable Human Cruelty, every day, every week, every month, and every year, including the future. Define it any way that you like, viz; abominable, abhorrent, detestable, fearful, lurid, gruesome, it all adds to a disgusting glob of vomit for all eras of time, past and future!

Reading these accounts of how the American soldiers died at the hand of the British while onboard this vessel will make you sick to your stomach.

Sources: Journal of the American-Irish Historical Society (Vol. VI) by Thomas Hamilton Murray; Irish-American Historical Miscellany by John D. Crimmins (New York 1905)


The horrors of the Jersey prison ship have often been told. Jersey and other hulks, used by the British, were anchored near the Wallabout, Brooklyn, N. Y. Many thousands of prisoners perished on these ships by cruelty and disease. The conduct of their captors was inhumane and dastardly. It is not surprising, therefore, that the mortality was so great.

William Burke, a prisoner aboard the Jersey ship, at one time, has left a record in which he states that he was confined on the ship for 14 months and that he saw, among other cruelties, many American prisoners put to death by the bayonet. This cruel treatment was never relaxed by the English or Scots, but sometimes the more humane Hessians evinced pity for the unfortunate sufferers. Burke says:

“During that period, among other cruelties which were committed, I have known many of the American prisoners put to death by the bayonet: in particular, I well recollect, that it was the custom on board the ship for but one prisoner at a time to be admitted on deck at night, besides the guards or sentinels. One night, while the prisoners were many of them assembled at the grate at the hatchway, for the purpose of obtaining fresh air, and waiting their turn to go on deck, one of the sentinels thrust his bayonet down among them, and in the morning twenty-five of them were found wounded, and stuck in the head, and dead of the wounds they had thus received. I further recollect that this was the case several

Jeannette Holland Austin

Author of 100+ genealogy books. Owner of 8 genealogy websites available by subscription.