As we have seen, the officers fared well in comparison with the wretched privates. Paroled and allowed the freedom of the city, they had far better opportunities to obtain the necessities of life. “Our poor soldiers fared most wretchedly different,” says Major Bedinger.
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Before we begin, however, to speak of the treatment they received, we must make some attempt to tell the reader who they were. We wish it were possible to give the name of every private who died, or rather who was murdered, in the prisons of New York at this time. But that, we fear, is now an impossibility. As this account is designed as a memorial to those martyred privates, we have made many efforts to obtain their names. But if the muster rolls of the different companies who formed the Rifle Regiment, the Pennsylvania Flying Camp, and the other troops captured by the British in the summer and fall of 1776 are in existence, we have not been able to find them.
The records of the Revolution kept in the War Department in England have been searched in vain by American historians. It is said that the Provost Marshal, William Cunningham, destroyed his books, in order to leave no written record of his crimes. The names of 8,000 prisoners, mostly seamen, who were confined on the prison ship Jersey, alone, have been obtained by the Society of Old Brooklynites, from the British Archives, and, by the kind permission of this Society, we re-publish them in the Appendix to this volume. (See Source Below)
Here and there, also, we have obtained a name of one of the brave young riflemen who died in torment a hundred times worse, because so much less swift, than that endured on a memorable occasion in India, when British soldiers were placed, during a single night, into one of their own “Black Holes.” But the names of almost all of these our tortured countrymen are forgotten as completely as their places of interment are neglected.
In the hands of the writer, however, at this time [Footnote: This muster roll was lent to the writer by Henry Bedinger Davenport, Esq, a descendant of Major Bedinger] is the pay-roll of one of these companies of riflemen,–that of Captain Abraham Shepherd of Shepherdstown, Virginia. It is in the handwriting of Henry Bedinger, one of the lieutenants of the company.
We propose to take this list, or pay roll, as a sample, and to follow, as well as we can, at this late day, the misfortunes of the men named therein. For this purpose we will first give the list of names, and afterwards attempt to indicate how many of the men died in confinement, and how many lived to be exchanged.
The paper in question, falling to pieces with age, and almost illegible in places, is headed, “An ABSTRACT of the Pay due the Officers and Privates of the Company of Riflemen belonging to Captain Abraham Shepherd, being part of a Battalion raised by Colonel Hugh Stevenson, deceased, and afterwards commanded by Lieut Colonel Moses Rawlings, in the Continental Service from July 1st, 1776, to October 1st, 1778.” The paper gives the dates of enlistment; those who were killed; those who died; those who deserted; those who were discharged; drafted; made prisoners; “dates until when pay is charged;” “pay per month;” “amount in Dollars,” and “amount in lawful Money, Pounds, Shillings and pence.” From this account much information can be gleaned concerning the members of the company, but we will, for the present, content ourselves with giving the muster roll of the company.
MUSTER ROLL OF CAPTAIN ABRAHAM SHEPHERD’S COMPANY OF RIFLEMEN RAISED IN JULY, 1776
Captain Abraham Shepherd. First Lieutenant, Samuel Finley. Second Lieutenant, William Kelly. Third Lieutenant, Henry Bedinger. First Sergeant, John Crawford. Second Sergeant, John Kerney. Third Sergeant, Robert Howard. Fourth Sergeant, Dennis Bush. First Corporal, John Seaburn. Second Corporal, Evert Hoglant. Third Corporal, Thomas Knox. Fourth Corporal, Jonathan Gibbons. Drummer, Stephen Vardine. Fifer, Thomas Cook. Armourer, James Roberts.
Privates, William Anderson, Jacob Wine, Richard Neal, Peter Hill, William Waller, Adam Sheetz, James Hamilton, George Taylor, Adam Rider, Patrick Vaughan, Peter Hanes, John Malcher, Peter Snyder, Daniel Bedinger, John Barger, William Hickman, Thomas Pollock, Bryan Timmons, Thomas Mitchell, Conrad Rush, David Harman, James Aitken, William Wilson, John Wilson, Moses McComesky, Thomas Beatty, John Gray, Valentine Fritz, Zechariah Bull, William Moredock, Charles Collins, Samuel Davis, Conrad Cabbage, John Cummins, Gabriel Stevens, Michael Wolf, John Lewis, William Donnelly, David Gilmore, John Cassody, Samuel Blount, Peter Good, George Helm, William Bogle (or Boyle), John Nixon, Anthony Blackhead, Christian Peninger, Charles Jones, William Case, Casper Myre, George Brown, Benjamin McKnight, Anthony Larkin, William Seaman, Charles Snowden, John Boulden, John Blake, Nicholas Russell, Benjamin Hughes, James Brown, James Fox, William Hicks, Patrick Connell, John Holmes, John McSwaine, James Griffith, Patrick Murphy, James Aitken.
Besides the names of this company we can give a few privates of the Pennsylvania Flying Camp who are mentioned by Saffel. He adds that, as far as is known, all of these perished in prison, after inscribing their names high up upon the walls.
SOME PRIVATES OF THE PENNSYLVANIA FLYING CAMP WHO PERISHED IN PRISON IN 1776-7
“Charles Fleming, John Wright, James McKinney, Ebenezer Stille, Jacob Leinhart, Abraham Van Gordon, Peter D’Aubert, William Carbury, John McDowell, Wm. McKague, Henry Parker, James Burns, Henry Yepler, Baltus Weigh, Charles Beason, Leonard Huber, John McCarroll, Jacob Guiger, John May, Daniel Adams, George McCormick, Jacob Kettle, Jacob Miller, George Mason, James Kearney, David Sutor, Adam Bridel, Christian Mull, Daniel McKnight, Cornelius Westbrook, Luke Murphy, Joseph Conklin, Adam Dennis, Edward Ogden, Wm. Scoonover, James Rosencrants.”
The names of the officers who were prisoners in New York after the battle of Long Island and the surrender of Fort Washington, can easily be obtained. But it is not with these, at present, that we have to do. We have already seen how much better was their treatment than that accorded to the hapless privates. It is chiefly to commemmorate the sufferings of the private soldier and seaman in the British prisons that this account has been written.