A Journal Kept In The Provost
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An old man named John Fell was taken up by the British, and confined for some months in the Provost prison. He managed to secrete writing materials and made notes of his treatment. He was imprisoned for being a Whig and one of the councilmen of Bergen, New Jersey. We will give his journal entire, as it is quoted by Mr. Onderdonk.
April 23rd, 1777. Last night I was taken prisoner from my house by 25 armed men (he lived in Bergen) who brought me down to Colonel Buskirk’s at Bergen Point, and from him I was sent to Gen. Pigot, at N. Y., who sent me with Captain Van Allen to the Provost Jail.
24th. Received from Mrs. Curzon, by the hands of Mr. Amiel, $16, two shirts, two stocks, some tea, sugar, pepper, towels, tobacco, pipes, paper, and a bed and bedding.
May 1st. Dr. Lewis Antle and Capt. Thomas Golden at the door, refused admittance.
May 2nd. 6 10 P. M. died John Thomas, of smallpox, aged 70 & inoculated.
5th. Capt. Colden has brought from Mr. Curson $16.00.
11. Dr. Antle came to visit me. Nero at the door. (A dog?)
13. Cold weather.
20. Lewis Pintard came per order of Elias Boudinot to offer me money. Refused admittance. Capt. Colden came to visit me.
21. Capt and Mrs Corne came to visit me, and I was called downstairs to see them.
23. Lewis Pintard came as Commissary to take account of officers, in order to assist them with money.
24. Every person refused admittance to the Provost.
25. All prisoners paraded in the hall: supposed to look for deserters.
27. Rev. Mr. Hart and Col. Smith brought to the Provost from Long Island.
29. Stormy in Provost.
30. Not allowed to fetch good water.
31. Bad water; proposing buying tea-water, but refused. This night ten prisoners from opposite room ordered into ours, in all twenty.
June 1. Continued the same today.
2. The people ordered back to their own room.
3. Captain Van Zandt sent to the dungeon for resenting Captain Cunningham’s insulting and abusing me.
4. Capt. Adams brought into our room. At 9 P.M. candles ordered out.
7. Captain Van Zandt returned from the dungeon.
8. All prisoners paraded and called over and delivered to care of Sergt. Keath. (O’Keefe, probably.) And told we are all alike, no distinction to be made.
10. Prisoners very sickly.
11. Mr Richards from Connecticut exchanged.
12. Exceeding strict and severe. “Out Lights!”
13. Melancholy scene, women refused speaking to their sick husbands, and treated cruelly by sentries.
14. Mr. James Ferris released on parole. People in jail very sickly and not allowed a doctor.
17. Capt. Corne came to speak to me; not allowed.
18. Letter from prisoners to Sergeant Keath, requesting more privileges.
19. Received six bottles claret and sundry small articles, but the note not allowed to come up.
20. Memorandum sent to Gen. Pigot with list of grievances.
21. Answered. “Grant no requests made by prisoners.”
22. Mrs. Banta refused speaking to her son.
23. Mr Haight died.
24. Nineteen prisoners from Brunswick. Eighteen sent to the Sugar House.
25. Dr Bard came to visit Justice Moore, but his wife was refused, tho’ her husband was dying.
26. Justice Moore died and was carried out.
27. Several sick people removed below.
30. Provost very sickly and some die.
July 3. Received from Mrs Curson per Mrs. Marriner, two half Joes.
6. Received of E. Boudinot, per Pintard, ten half Joes.
7. Capt. Thomas Golden came to the grates to see me.
9. Two men carried out to be hung for desertion, reprieved.
11. Mr Langdon brought into our room.
13. The Sergeant removed a number of prisoners from below.
14. Messrs Demarests exchanged. Dr. Romaine ordered to visit the sick.
15. A declaration of more privileges, and prisoners allowed to speak at the windows.
17. Peter Zabriskie had an order to speak with me, and let me know that all was well at home
19. Sergt. from Sugar House came to take account of officers in the Provost. Capt. Cunningham in town.
21. Sergt. took account of officers. Capt. Jas. Lowry died.
22. Mr. Miller died. Capt. Lowry buried.
Aug. 1. Very sick. Weather very hot.
5. Barry sent to the dungeon for bringing rum for Mr Phillips without leave of the Sergt. Everything looks stormy.
6. Warm weather. Growing better. Mr. Pintard came to supply prisoners of war with clothes.
10. Two prisoners from Long Island and four Lawrences from Tappan.
11. John Coven Cromwell from White Plains. Freeland from Polly (?) Fly whipped about salt.
12. Sergt. Keath took all pens and ink out of each room, and forbid the use of any on pain of the dungeon.
13. Abraham Miller discharged.
14. Jacobus Blauvelt died in the morning, buried at noon.
16. Capt. Ed. Travis brought into our room from the dungeon, where he had long been confined and cruelly treated.
17. Mr. Keath refused me liberty to send a card to Mr Amiel for a lb of tobacco.
21. Capt. Hyer discharged from the Provost.
25. Barry brought up from the dungeon, and Capt. Travis sent down again without any provocation.
26. Badcock sent to dungeon for cutting wood in the evening. Locks put on all the doors, and threatened to be locked up. Col. Ethan Allen brought to the Provost from Long Island and confined below.
27. Badcock discharged from below.
30. 5 P.M. all rooms locked up close.
31. A.M. Col Allen brought into our room.
Sep. 1. Pleasant weather. Bad water.
4. Horrid scenes of whipping.
6. Lewis Pintard brought some money for the officers. P.M. Major Otho H. Williams brought from Long Island and confined in our room. Major Wells from same place confined below. A. M. William Lawrence of Tappan died.
8. Campbell, Taylor, John Cromwell, and Buchanan from Philadelphia discharged.
10. Provisions exceedingly ordinary,–pork very rusty, biscuit bad.
12. Capt. Travis, Capt. Chatham and others brought out of dungeon.
14. Two prisoners from Jersey, viz: Thomas Campbell of Newark and Joralemon. (Jos. Lemon?)
16. Troops returned from Jersey. Several prisoners brought to Provost viz:–Capt. Varick, Wm. Prevost Brower, etc. Seventeen prisoners from Long Island.
22. Nothing material. Major Wells brought from below upstairs.
24. Received from Mr. Curson per Mr. Amiel four guineas, six bottles of wine, and one lb tobacco.
26. Mr. Pintard carried list of prisoners and account of grievances to the General Capt. Chatham and others carried to dungeon.
28. Yesterday a number of soldiers were sent below, and several prisoners brought out of dungeon. Statement of grievances presented to General Jones which much displeased Sergt. Keath who threatened to lock up the rooms.
29. Last night Sergt. K. locked up all the rooms. Rev. Mr. Jas. Sears was admitted upstairs.
30. Sent Mr. Pintard a list of clothing wanted for continental and state prisoners in the Provost. Sergt. locks up all the rooms.
Oct. 2. Candles ordered out at eight.–Not locked up.
4. Locked up. Great numbers of ships went up North River. Received sundries from Grove Bend. Three pair ribbed hose, three towels.
5. Garret Miller, of Smith’s Cove, signed his will in prison, in presence of Benjamin Goldsmith, Abr. Skinner, and myself. C. G. Miller died of small-pox–P. M. Buried.
7. Wm. Prevost discharged from Provost.
8. Capt. Chatham and Lewis Thatcher brought out of dungeon.
10. Mr. Pintard sent up blankets, shoes, and stockings for the prisoners.
12. Lt. Col. Livingstone and upwards of twenty officers from Fort Montgomery and Clinton, all below.
13. Received from Mr. Pintard a letter by flag from Peter R. Fell, A. M. Mr. Noble came to the grates to speak to me.
14. Sergt. Keath sent Lt. Mercer and Mr. Nath. Fitzrandolph to the dungeon for complaining that their room had not water sufficient.
15. Mr. Pintard brought sundry articles for the prisoners.
17. Mr. Antonio and other prisoners brought here from up North River.
19. Ben Goldsmith ill of smallpox, made his will and gave it to me. Died two A. M. Oct. 20.
21. Glorious news from the Northward.
22. Confirmation strong as Holy Writ. Beef, loaf bread, and butter drawn today.
23. Weather continues very cold. Ice in the tub in the hall. A number of vessels came down North River. Mr. Wm. Bayard at the door to take out old Mr. Morris.
24. Prisoners from the Sugar House sent on board ships.
25. Rev. Mr. Hart admitted on parole in the city. Sergt. Woolley from the Sugar House came to take names of officers, and says an exchange is expected.
28. Last night and today storm continues very severe. Provost in a terrible condition. Lt. Col. Livingston admitted upstairs a few minutes.
Nov. 1. Lt. Callender of the train ordered back on Long Island; also several officers taken at Fort Montgomery sent on parole to Long Island.
3. In the evening my daughter, Elizabeth Colden, came to see me, accompained by Mayor Matthews.
5. Elizabeth Colden came to let me know she was going out of town. Yesterday Sergt refused her the liberty of speaking to me. Gen. Robertson’s Aid-decamp came to inquire into grievances of prisoners.
16. Jail exceedingly disagreeable.–many miserable and shocking objects, nearly starved with cold and hunger,–miserable prospect before me.
18. The Town Major and Town Adjutant came with a pretence of viewing the jail.
19. Peter and Cor. Van Tassel, two prisoners from Tarrytown, in our room.
20 Mr. Pintard sent three barrels of flour to be distributed among the prisoners.
21. Mr. Pintard came for an account of what clothing the prisoners wanted.
24. Six tailors brought here from prison ship to work in making clothes for prisoners. They say the people on board are very sickly. Three hundred sent on board reduced to one hundred.
25. Mr. Dean and others brought to jail from the town.
26. Dean locked up by himself, and Mr. Forman brought upstairs attended by Rev. Mr. Inglis, and afterwards ordered downstairs. New order–one of the prisoners ordered to go to the Commissary’s and see the provisions dealt out for the prisoners. Vast numbers of people assembled at the Provost in expectation of seeing an execution.
27. John, one of the milkmen, locked upstairs with a sentry at his door. A report by Mr. Webb that a prisoner, Herring, was come down to be exchanged for Mr Van Zandt or me.
30. Captain Cunningham came to the Provost.
Dec. 1. Capt. Money came down with Mr Webb to be exchanged for Major Wells.
2. Col. Butler visited the Provost and promised a doctor should attend. Received from Mr Bend cloth for a great coat, etc. Mr. Pmtard took a list of clothing wanted for the prisoners.
3. Several prisoners of war sent from here on board the prison shop, & some of the sick sent to the hospital, Dr Romaine being ordered by Sir H. Clinton to examine the sick Prisoners sickly: cause, cold. Prisoners in upper room (have) scanty clothing and only two bushels of coal for room of twenty men per week.
5. Mr. Blanch ordered out; said to be to go to Morristown to get prisoners exchanged. Cold.
7. Mr. Webb came to acquaint Major Wells his exchange was agreed to with Capt. Money.
8. Major Gen. Robertson, with Mayor came to Provost to examine prisoners. I was called and examined, and requested my parole. The General said I had made bad use of indulgence granted me, in letting my daughter come to see me. * * *
9. Major Wells exchanged.
10. Mr. Pintard sent 100 loaves for the prisoners. A. M. Walter Thurston died. Prisoners very sickly and die very fast from the hospitals and prison ships.
11. Some flags from North River.
12. Abel Wells died, a tailor from the prison ship. Mr. Pintard brought letters for sundry people.
14. Sunday. Guards more severe than ever notwithstanding General Robertson’s promise of more indulgence. Capt. Van Zandt brought from Long Island.
16. Sent message to Mr Pintard for wood. Cold and entirely out of wood.
17. Commissary Winslow came and released Major Winslow on his parole on Long Island.
18. Mr Pintard sent four cords of wood for the prisoners.
19. Capt. John Paul Schoot released on parole. Mr Pintard with clothing for the people.
21. A paper found at the door of the Provost, intimating that three prisoners had a rope concealed in a bag in one of the rooms in order to make their escape. The Sergt. examined all the rooms, and at night we were all locked up.
22. Received from Mr Pintard 100 loaves and a quarter of beef.
24. Distributed clothing, etc., to the prisoners.
28. Gen. Robertson sent a doctor to examine me in consequence of the petition sent by Col. Allen for my releasement. The doctor reported to Dr. Mallet.
29. Gen. Robertson sent me word I should be liberated in town, provided I procured a gentleman in town to be responsible for my appearance. Accordingly I wrote to Hon. H. White, Esq.
30. Dr Romaine, with whom I sent the letter, said Mr White had a number of objections, but the doctor hoped to succeed in the afternoon. Mr. Winslow came and told the same story I heard the day before.
31. Sergt. Keath brought a message from the General to the same purpose as yesterday. N. B. I lost the memoranda from this date to the time of my being liberated from the Provost on Jan. 7, 1778.
New York Feb. 11. ’78. Received a letter from Joshua Loring, Esq, Commissary of Prisoners, with leave from Gen. Robertson for my having the bounds of the city allowed me.
March. 23. Wrote to Major Gen. Robertson and told him this was the eleventh month of my imprisonment.”
Fell’s note to the general follows, in which he begs to be liberated to the house of Mrs. Marriner, who kept an ordinary in the town. A card in reply from the general states that it is impossible to comply with his request until Mr. Fell’s friends give him sufficient security that he will not attempt to escape. A Mr. Langdon having broken his faith in like circumstances has given rise to a rule, which it is out of the general’s power to dispense with, etc, etc.
“Feb. 4, 1778. I delivered to Mr. Pintard the wills of Garret Miller and Benjamin Goldsmith, to be forwarded to their respective families. Present E. Boudinot.
“May 20 ’78, I had my parole extended by order of Gen. Daniel Jones, to my own house in Bergen County, for thirty days.
“July 2. I left town, and next day arrived safe home.
“Nov. 15, 1778 I received a certificate from A. Skinner, Deputy Com. of Prisoners of my being exchanged for Gov. Skene. Signed by Joshua Loring, Commissary General of Prisoners, dated New York, Oct 26 1778.”