Brooklyn Ghost Ship: Revolutionary War British Prison Ship HMS Jersey

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Brooklyn Prison ShipA new book by Robert P. Watson, The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn (Da Capo Press, 2017) tells the story of a prison ship employed by the British during the American Revolution.

Moored off the coast of Brooklyn until the end of the war, the derelict ship, the HMS Jersey, held thousands of Americans either captured by the British or accused of disloyalty.

Crammed below deck – one thousand men 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 were held at the mercy of British and Hessian guards.

Throughout the colonies, mention of the ship incited fear and hatred of British troops. It also sparked a backlash of outrage as newspapers everywhere described the horrors aboard the British ship. This event, much like the better-known Boston Massacre before it, ended up rallying public support for the war.

The book reveals hundreds of accounts culled from old newspapers, diaries, and military reports. Watson follows the lives and ordeals of the ship’s few survivors in order tell the story of the ship that killed thousands of Americans, while also helping to secure victory in the fight for independence.

Note: Books noticed on The New York History Blog have been provided by their publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

6 thoughts on “Brooklyn Ghost Ship: Revolutionary War British Prison Ship HMS Jersey

  1. fred friendly

    i am confused about the prisoners “self vaccination” in 1776 to prevent smallpox when Jenner did not introduce this until 1796. How was this possible?

    1. Patt Emmett

      Variolation was advocated by a physician named Thomas Dimsdell – Catherine the Great brought him to Russian in 1764 to protect herself and son Paul – successfully. It was with live smallpox. Jenner refined and replaced the practice.


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