tv HMS Jersey the American Revolution CSPAN January 27, 2018 5:00pm-5:53pm EST
watson talks about his book, "the ghost ship of brooklyn: an untold story of the american revolution." he describes how the british used the hms jersey, a former warship, as a floating jail for thousands of american prisoners during the revolutionary war. the museum of the american revolution in philadelphia hosted this 50-minute event. >> my name is michael quinn and it is my great pleasure to welcome you for a fascinating insight into part of the american revolution. one of the things we pride ourselves here at this museum is telling the stories of the revolution that you do not always know. bringing to life people from all walks of life who took part in the revolution, who took the ideas of the revolution to heart and launched a series of
revolution that has created the american nation. today, it is my great pleasure to introduce a noted scholar, activist, political robert watson from lynn university who will be talking about "the ghost ship of brooklyn." i am holding the book in my hand here. i hope you have got it. i know we have had a lot of online orders for this book. he will be signing books immediately after and we still have a few left in our gift shop if you want to take it home. this really is how history should be written. a story oft drama and excitement. i encourage you to get it. the reason is such a good book is robert watson is an unusual historian and scholar. he passionately acts on his conviction that understanding the past is incredibly important
in civic engagement, political leadership and decision-making. he has written, edited, and published nearly 40 books on a stunning array of topics from modern history to the war of 1812. he has even written a historical novel with his son on washington's crossing of the delaware. he has taken a particular interest in political leadership , and he has convened a number of conferences on the american presidency. he founded the quarterly journal "white house studies" and is the editor of two publication series on the american presidents. and reflecting his deep inside -- insight into presidential politics, he has written a history on the important office of first lady.
robert also engages in politics. he is a regular political commentator for media ranging from cnn on the left to fox news on the right. and everything in between. he has written a regular op-ed sentinel" the "sun newspaper in palm beach. he moderates forearms. he speaks frequently to civic organizations and he helped to bring one of the 2012 presidential debates to the faculty, which he is lynn university in florida. founded several organizations that champion civic engagement and political reform. he has been recognized by groups women's groups and
publication groups. i am certain that none are of meaningful to him as the recognition he has received from his students and colleagues at lynn university, who have a named him as the university's outstanding professor. he brings history to life. one of the things you are going to hear about the ghost ship is one of the people we highlight in our museum is james fortin. he will discovered -- you will discover he was later imprisoned on the ghost ship. ladies and gentlemen, if you are -- were not able to be with us in september, thank you for being patient and coming back. there was a hurricane in september that blew away those plans. we are excited to welcome robert watson. [applause]
mr. watson: can everyone hear me ok? are you enjoying the museum? it is extraordinary. even though it just opened in late april, this is my fourth visit from florida. i really like this museum. you are blessed in this community to have a visionary and extraordinary leader. this museum is unlike most museums. this museum tells the revolution from multiple perspectives. that of the first americans. that of slaves, the british, children, women. this is very unusual for a traditional museum and i am kind of a museum rat in that i'm always at museums. there is a marvelous speaker series coming up this winter. you want to check those dates on your way out. you don't want to miss them.
my students for almost three decades in the classroom --i always start off by telling my students there is more we do not know about history than we do know. we are going to play protected -- detective this semester. all the witnesses have been dead for centuries. this is a real challenge. but uncovering these hidden tidbits of history is something i am quite passionate about. even though we think we know a lot about history, there are still stories waiting to be told. for instance, most any american school kid can tell us about paul revere's midnight ride. thanks to the wordsworth longfellow poem. it is a beautiful poem but not very good history. most schoolkids can tell us about the boston tea party but virtually no textbook mentions the single bloodiest battle of the entire revolutionary war.
one that would help change the course of history. that battle was not saratoga or yorktown, not brandywine, that battle was fought 100 yards off the coast of brooklyn on a wretched, rotting old british warship called the hms jersey. and on that one ship, twice as many americans died than died in combat during the entirety of the revolutionary war. there is a statistic for you. how did all this happen? let's step back. in the 1730's, the british were launching a fleet of impressive warships. one of those was the jersey. she was a beautiful and powerful warship. over 140 feet long. she carried over 60 cannons. had a crew of 400.
she was a weapon of mass destruction. a technological marvel to behold. agile, powerful, fast. unfortunately for the ship, it was believed she was cursed. her captain died of mysterious circumstances. she loses almost every battle she was in. she fights in the war of jenkin's ear. you can't make that up. there was a british captain who he in spanish waters where was not supposed to be, doing what he was doing because of the treaty. a spanish captain cut off his ear and the story goes that he pickled it and held it up in parliament. hotheads went to war over jenkin's war.
we are not sure how true it is, but that is the story. so, the ship was cursed. she is well past her prime as a warship. because she was thought to be cursed, not a lot of crew members or captains wanted to be stationed to her. they were not planning on renovating her. they were letting her rot. she had one more mission. that would be the revolutionary war. we tell the story upstairs in this museum brilliantly of yorktown. in 1776, they set sail with 32000 and in a flotilla of warships and set sail for new york city. with them are germanic mercenaries. some of the most feared warriors of their time. an army of 32,000 may not sound like a lot today but that was at the time the largest expeditionary force ever to set sail from english shores.
they wanted to put down this pesky revolution once and for all. we got off to a good start. the story is upstairs. lexington, concord, bunker hill, boston. we had a pretty good first quarter. but the british were ready to end all that. so, they set sail. george washington correctly guessed they would pick new york city for their beachhead for this counterattack. washington dug in to try to prevent the british from getting a beachhead. as we all know, new york city has so many watch access points it is an impossible task. the british found some beach area in staten island. it was unprotected. that is where they landed. august 27, they annihilate washington's army. that love long island, battle of
brooklyn heights, various names. they drive washington almost into the river. issues almost a mysterious hault order. like hiller's hault order at dunkirk. this allows washington to sneak across the river at night. trickyton is a sly and fellow so he lights campfires at at night leading howell to think he is still there. howell arrives to find an empty campsite. an unsung hero of the war, a fisherman from massachusetts glover, took the entire army across the river at night. he was the same fellow who would transport washington across the delaware river in the battle of trenton, which is also in this wonderful museum. washington crosses the lower manhattan, the british follow and they chase washington up manhattan.
he is racing for his life. they get the way up to white plains. they are still being hit. washington is running short on power. he realizes they could theoretically chase him all the way to canada. washington pulls another trick. south,gs around and cuts crosses the delaware river into pennsylvania. you know where the story goes. meanwhile back in new york city, the british have a new problem. they had well over 4000 prisoners of war. there are only two functioning prisons in new york city. part of the city was burned down. farmss not want to use for the prisoners because he needs all of that to feed an army of 32,000 and all the
loyalists. they come up with an idea. they do not want to build prisons. they do not want to take the time, energy, and resources because they believed the war is going to end. they decide to hawk prison ships. what does that mean? they take the masts and sails off. they take the rudder off and the wheelhouse off leaving just a wooden box, a floating coffin. a dungeon, if you will. they moor the ship 100 yards off the brooklyn shoreline. why there? they knew disease was going to run rampant through these ships
because they were going to use them as floating prisons and they did not want the diseases to come ashore and annihilate the british population or military. and no one gave a darn about brooklyn. so they moored them there. initially, the british tried to keep this under wraps. they are trying to seek an end to the war and the last thing they want to do is aggravate us when we find out what they are doing to the prisoners. three years later, they change their tactics. they have so many prisoners that they decide to hawk one of these massive warships. that is the hms jersey. our cursed warship. they put 1000 american prisoners in her hulls. they hammer shut the portals, they put wood over them, they nail down the hatch, and almost 1000 of them die. this is when the british get a plan. a shocking plan.
a plan that is remarkably contemporary. that is this. why don't we use this worship as a psychological weapon of terror? if we announce, if you pick up arms against us as colonists, if privateers, if you pick up weapons against us and you get caught, you are going to that ship. and there's only one way off the ship and we all know what that is. the british thought this form of psychological weapon of terror would deter us from picking up arms against them. and it would help expedite the end of the war. long story short, it has the opposite effect. a few teenagers managed to escape from the ship and live to tell the tale. when they told of the horrors
and brutality and the 90% plus mortality rate on the ships, it rallied people to the cause of the war. we did not have public opinion polls back then. thank goodness. whatnstilled debate percentage of the population was loyalist or not. historians call it the adams' third. named after john. in one of his letters, he hypothesizes may be a third of the population was pro-british and the other third had no dog in the fight. think about it. you are a recent immigrant eking out a miserable existence on three acres of land. why do you care who is governing you. we do not know if that is accurate. folks are still debating that. one of the things i found on writing books on military history and the revolution and
the war of 1812, we have this notion that most men and boys went to war for pride and patriotism. for flag, for country. some did. i believe most went off to war because they wanted a warm meal. or food. i have read letters and diaries of a couple of folks who survived this ship. some of the men and boys went on as privateers and got captured and they lived through this ordeal. some said he joined because he had not eaten. the idea of three meals a day is contemporary unless you are the king. most people ate when they had a chance. another boy that joined and survived the ship, he said he went to war because it was winter and he was freezing and they would give him a coat. these were the situations. the british thought they would deter us but rather it drove us towards independence and the
cause. if you were to take a time machine and go back to the year 1780 and pick almost any community in new england and new york and mention the jersey, everyone knew about the ship. today she has been forgotten. it was almost like a bogeyman that mothers might tell their sons to not fight because they might end up on the ghost ship. everyone knew about this ship. the british typically put 1000 to 1200 men on board at the time. the mortality rate in the dead of winter or when diseases tore through the hull, it was shocking. the other thing about this ship that i think is interesting from a british perspective, i apologize for mentioning his name, bad guy that makes good movies. mel gibson had the movie "the patriot." i remember some critics and folks were dismissing the film
because the british were shown as putting people in a church and burning it to the ground. the british were often aggressive to civilians. there was this view that the british could not have done that . they were gentlemen. they would have fought a prim and proper war. there is an exhibit upstairs about bannister carlton, the green dragon. he and other bloodthirsty british officers put civilians to death at an alarming rate. this ship shows that the british consciously, clinton, amherst, other commanders in charge of the north american colonies, consciously used the ship as a psychological weapon of terror. and thousands of men died. there were three ward is that oversaw prisoners. these men were diabolical.
my last book last year was about the final days of the holocaust. so, i do not say this lightly. reading about some of the things they did, it reminded me of some of the concentration camp commandants. i say that respectfully. cunningham, when a mother or daughter or a wife would show up to see her loved one and maybe bring an apple or warm clothing, he would do the same thing. he would make the prisoners watch and they knew what would happen. they would have to watch. he would have her stripped, but -- put against a pole and whipped. then he would take everything for himself. i estimate cunningham killed in cold blood at least 250 american prisoners during the war. it seemed like about every two weeks or so, he would be bored. he would have six prisoners brought out around midnight and he would sit in a chair as if it
were entertainment and have his guards torture them until they died. they would dispose of the bodies and go to bed. this was cunningham. the scotsman was directly overseeing the ghost ship. at one point, there was a prisoner exchange. a couple of hundred british for a couple hundred americans. couple hundred folks in a prisoner exchange. back then, it was one for one. oat gives his charges, his prisoners, a last meal. it turns out to be a last meal. unbeknownst to the prisoners, he poisons them. almost every american prisoner died on the schooners taking them back home. these were the british officers in charge on the ships. life on the ghost ship is unimaginable. they would nail down the portholes.
some died of a lack of hygiene. but others of asphyxiation. one man described at night trying to light a candle. there was so little air that he could not light a candle below decks. every morning, it was the same macabre scene. every morning the british would , take the nails out of the hatch, seven days a week, 365 days a year, year in and year out and yell the same thing , down. rebels, turn out your dead. at sunup, they would carry on average from 6 to 12 deceased prisoners atop the deck. where they would be thrown into the putrid water of the bay or put into a deadboat. a small launch. two prisoners would row 100
ury the dead.nd ba i put "bury"". those who watched the routine would say guards allow the prisoners to put 1,2,3 shovels of sand over the bodies before they were forced back to the ghost ship. the same scene played itself out. coyotes andd buzzards would come and eat the dead. and at the next high tide, the bones would wash away. there was no accommodation for human waste. there was a tub below decks that was open and constantly overflowed with feces and urine. room belowo little decks with 1200 men under the hatch, so little room that men
were piled up on top of one another. to lier to have a place down, the weakest, the oldest, the youngest would have the bunk around the tub of feces. and every few days, the british guards would announce it was time to carry the tub up the ladder. can you imagine trying to carry seriouslytoub dehydrated and malnourished? when they took it above, they would dump it overboard andd t then they would put the bucket in the water and tell them these are your water rations. if you drink, you die. if you do not drink, you die. if you did not eat, you died. if you did eat, you died. i estimate they were given about neededthe caloric intake
to stay alive each day. the men who had to carry the tub up were not allowed to bathe. the only chance you got to bathe was if you happened to be on the top deck when it was raining. if not, you lived in that. those folks typically died soon from disease as well. they got water from two sources. the crew and the guards, they would send soldiers and guards a short to find a creek and bring a barrel of water back from them. the prisoners got it from a putrid source. it was highly polluted. some of the prisoners said when they would try to drink, they could not get it past their nose even when they were dying of thirst. this is how bad it was. the food, they ate a variety of things including hard tack, which is a buscuit the
consistency of the heel of my shoe. stale porridge and maybe some green, rotten meat. each day, the british had a big thing where they would boil their water. of course, it was the water from the putrid sources. they were given a moment to boil their food. and if you had a string you could boil the meat to make it so you could get it passed your nose. and the hard tack had to be boiled or it would take out your teeth. prisoners described that they would boil it because of all the bugs and worms that came out of it. others would eat it because they needed the protein. the problem was lining up to boil was the cook. the prisoners called him his majesty, the cook, as an insult.
was a former prisoner who was made to cook. he would stand with a ladle beside the boiling pot and he would throw water in their eyes to blind them just for kicks. they would ring the bell and that was the end of food service. if you were back in the end of the line, you did not eat. the men had to find ways to keep themselves alive. there were three. one was described as an older, portly woman named dame grant. mrs. grant lived nearby and she would have young boys row her out to the boat and she would bring apples or pipe tobacco. whatever she had. to theld give or sell it guards and prisoners. the guards would not allow the prisoners to have some she would not come back. , because the guards are stuck here too.
guardsre accounts of the throwing up above deck because of the smell below deck. there is one etching from history that showed a guard below deck with a gun. all of the prisoners said the guards never came below deck because it smelled like a open sewer. dame grant would come and deliver this. the lion's share of men did not get anything. but the men with lineup. they could not wait for her visits. i suspect she probably reminded them of a mother or a grandmother. she continued to come aboard. she catches one of the diseases and dies. then they capture a virginian the prisoners and call the orator. he would climb up on the side of the ship and give these impassioned orations. inspiring them men to live, we have got to make it through this. then he started criticizing the
wardens, and then he started criticizing the king and his speeches got more aggressive. to toneoners begged him them down because they knew what would happen. one day, the armed guards show up and take him away. the prisoners who survived believe the captain took them ashore and put a bullet in the back of his head. the thing that inspired the men was that they planned an independent state in 1782. this was a year after yorktown. the war is ending. because of rudimentary transportation and communication systems, because lord north's government collapses, because the british were prideful and drag their feet, it would be until september of 1783 that the piece was signed.
the war is being dragged on and on. the men shared a fourth of july celebration. they saved a bit of their rations, whatever was not immediately perishable. they saved part of their small ration of water. they used the thread that dame grant sold them or the clothing of the dead to make makeshift little flags. then on the 4th, the men lined up and had a communion together. they shared a sip of water and a bit of hard tack. they sang patriotic songs. the guards told them to cease and desist so they sang louder. then the guards opened up on them, swords, bayonets, and they were defenseless skeletons. they drove them below deck and hammered the hatch shut. it is july. humidity and heat.
below deck, they were not given food or water. ultimately when they opened the hatch, most men were dead or dying. one quick example. i found several accounts or diaries by some of these in boys -- young boys and men who survived this horrible ordeal. one of them was a teenager named christopher hawkins, who was on a privateer similar to the one displayed in this museum. christopher hawkins was only 13 and had the misfortune of being the youngest son of a poor illiterate family. ,therefore, he was apprenticed. the man he was apprenticed to loses his job and everything. the british have blockaded the eastern seaboard and everyone is basically unemployed. the man sells christopher hawkins to a fishing boat captain. the fishermen could not go fishing because the british blockaded the port. he turns his fishing boat into a privateer. that is basically a government
sanctioned pirate. he straps a cannon on his fishing boat and hires a half-dozen illiterate teenagers and goes out hunting british supply ships. the grand title of "the eagle." they go out on an overcast and foggy day, all of a sudden bowof the fog emerges the of an enormous british warship. the ship blows the little eagle out of the water. christopher hawkins describes it as an apparition of we side and the mesh was ardent -- as an apparition of poseidon. they fished the boy out, take him in irons and put him below deck. hawkins is dying and he finds
another boy around his age and the two of them plan to escape. they are so skinny that there is a rotting hole in the back of the hull that they can squeeze through. will goes first. christopher goes after him. he cannot find will. when he goes into the water night, he cannot find william. he was so weak that he underestimated his strength. christopher made it to shore and runs by night and hides by day. he is naked, starving, close to death. he gets captured again. he escapes again. he continues to run until he can go no further. he sees a farm boy with a bag of food. the boy runs and tells his mother. the mother comes out and takes one look at him and breaks down and says you were on the ghost ship. her husband had just died on the same ship. she cares for him. he makes his way back home to rhode island.
his brother is away in the war and another one is dead. he makes it back to see his mother after all of this time. he is such a patriot that despite the horrors he endured, this kid reenlists. he goes back to fight. just remarkable and inspiring stories. in closing, even though the treaty of paris was official in september of 1783, the british would not abandon new york city until what we call evacuation day, november 25, 1783. the british new that they were leaving. up and down the eastern seaboard , they took down the union jack. they sold a lot of their ships. the wood, the nails and we would buy them from them because of the blockade. people do not have wood or nails or anything.
they sell everything and sail out. as they leave, american lineup to harass them and scream at them. the british fire a cannon and it lands shy in the water. everyone erupts in celebration. the one piece of real estate that they did not dismantle was the ghost ship. they left her sitting 100 yards rottingbrooklyn coast as a 'f u' to us. over the next few weeks, she rots into the muck. a long time later, at the brooklyn navy yard, it is expanding and they find some old pottery shards. some nails.
rotted wood from the ghost ship. the relics of it are in the brooklyn historical society today. i think there are a number of lessons there about what the prisoners endured. in holocaust studies, there is a saying, never forget, never again. otherwise, it will happen again. with prisoners, we like to say lest we forget. john mccain was kind enough to read through the book and michael was as well and offer up a word. but these prisoners have largely been forgotten. yet they were true heroes and patriots. aboard the ship helped rally people to the cause of the revolution. that is one of many stories waiting to be told about this remarkable moment in american history. thank you. [applause] mr. watson: questions?
i will repeat them nice and loud. thank you to c-span for covering this today. i'm a big c-span fan. i've had the pleasure of 30 or 40 appearances on c-span. i'm one of the guys who watches on that long and gets excited and buys the book. >> thank you for your wonderful talk. it was great. from what i read, william allen -- howell and his brother the admiral were sincerely interested in peace. how do you account for how that developed? the prison ship. mr. watson howell was in charge : circa 76. he was interested in peace. he is trying to pursue multiple courses to achieve peace. when he hawks ships and puts prisoners on them, he's putting maybe prisoners on small ships. 200 he is trying to keep it want because he does not word to get out.
but when he leaves, his predecessors and new generals have had it. the british patience has worn thin. these pesky colonials are still in the fight. that is when they decided to hawk the hms jersey. and put 1000 men on her. by then, they are losing patience and we do not know who it was. i wish i had a document that i could say it was this individual on this day that make the decision. the command structure, beginning in 1779 is as narrowed down as i can get it. either i have not found a document where it was never written or burned or it was an oral order. but that is when they used this as a weapon of terror. the question was could they not have known about it.
they knew about it. the british command post headquarters are in new york city. the jersey is this massive warship 100 yards off the brooklyn coast. you can see it from the river. at any given time, one or two or three small satellite ships were around it with maybe 200 prisoners. if you add up all the ships that accommodated prisoners and added the total, it would probably not meet the amount that was on the jersey. they knew what they were doing. it was a conscious policy decision. sort of like the depiction in that movie "the patriot" of the horrors directed towards civilians. who was on the ship? teenagers, sailors, a few french, spanish were all on the ship. civilians accused of being disloyal to his majesty. all sorts of folks were on the ship. and with the kind of mortality rates on board the ship, very few people lived to be able to
write an account. and those who did live were illiterate. others were teenagers. marginally literate. who is going to read their stories? we do not have c-span. we do not have museums or that mass circulating newspaper. we do not have paved roads. how is communication going to travel? after every war, people seek a return to normalcy. who wants to remember the horrors? we want to remember ben franklin's kite and washington's crossing. these words and stories are pretty much forgotten. a lot of the folks who survived this were so malnourished and survived so many diseases that they perished soon afterwards meaning they were not around to tell their stories from the first person perspective. >> first of all, i have not finished the book yet. so i apologize if this is something you talk about later. mr. watson: thank you for
picking it up. i have kids and that will help them to go to college. [laughter] >> a lot of what you talked about and what i have been reading about in the book reminded me a lot of accounts from slave ships crossing the atlantic. point itoned at one was one of the only areas that were integrated. i was wondering if any other people made that connection or an argument about the horrors of the slave trade. mr. watson: great point. a couple of comments. her comment was this reminded her of the slave trade. i mentioned the ship was integrated. tragically this is one of the , first public spaces that is integrated. black, white, indian, french, everyone is put together. a lot of the white sailors and
soldiers were outraged and it seemed to be more outraged by it being integrated than the food and water conditions. that tells of a horrific inside -- insight into the state of things. in every war, horrors have been inflicted on prisoners. from the civil war, prisons like andersonville and what the south did to northern prisoners is just atrocious. slavers, sure. i do not publish on this but i teach a philosophy of social justice and civil rights class on campus. over the years, i read a lot of slave journal accounts from the slavers themselves, from the shipping captains. it is difficult to read. they might pack 300 folks on board because the accepted a
high mortality rate. they did not care because it was profit. at one point you think, even if you are utterly heartless, at least you are a capitalist so you think, why not have healthy folks you can get more money for? at least, you know, have one shred of humanity. but no. they would accept these horrific casualty counts and folks were often time chained below deck. everybody remembers the movie "the on the start -- "the amistad" which was reasonably accurate. there was attempted slave revolts and 50 people brought up on deck and a handful of crew members. people were chained on their backs for 23 hours a day. urine, feces, vomit, and everybody in these rocking ships got sick.
dante's inferno, the conditions below decks were atrocious. almost every standard history textbook does not do what this museum does by offering multiple perspectives. almost every history textbook says the same line. "slaves were brought to america." i would say instead raped, murdered, shackled, beaten. yeah, it reminded me of that absolutely. good connection. sir? >> i finished the book. mr. watson: is that my brother? [laughter] flex never met you before. i thought it was awesome. two things that struck me. a lot of things struck me bit two things i would like to point out. seems like washington was well aware and every correspondence you cite in here, he is all over
-- after the british about it. if you could speak on that a little bit. mr. watson: was washington aware of this? yes. i am a big george washington fan. it is difficult to read that he did not conduct many prisoner exchanges. the british would not take prisoner exchanges more often than not. many times washington was forced to bite the bullet. if you do 500 for 500, the british are getting back 500 men who are freshly trained who are , well fed and have been eating. and we were exchanging for weak prisoners. the more exchanges washington would conduct, the more it cap the british in the fight. representatives, multiple people, to the british, to those evil wardens i
mentioned earlier, to please take this money. buy food, here is clothing. washington was always asking the british to improve the conditions and the answer was always no. by the end of the war, you can tell washington has had enough. he writes back and says need i remind you that i have a lot of british prisoners and i am willing to start treating the m the way you are treating our prisoners. after yorktown, we have generals. the british do not want their officers to be held prisoner. the british moved heaven and earth to have their generals out of prison. the very end of the war, there's a prisoner on board the ship and he is my favorite person i read about. his name was captain thomas dring. he is like half macgyver and half indiana jones.
he is an innovative, dashing professor, and of course, aren't all professors? very resourceful. they do not have inoculations at the time. he realizes everyone is dying of a disease and he and the others were not inoculated. he gets pus from an infected person and puts it in his blood. when there is a disease, he and a few other officers are the only ones to live through it. he gets off the ship at the end and meets with washington. he tells washington you have to organize a prisoner exchange. washington agrees at the end. he tells the warden, you are going to die. sooner or later, you're going to get a disease on this ship. we are all going to die. the war is ending any day now and the angry mob is going to come and tear you limb from limb. washington is coming and you are
done. he said, let me negotiate a prisoner exchange and maybe you can live through these things. they arrange an exchange. the prison warden's deal is that if you do not return to the ship, i will kill everybody on it. dring goes back on the ship. keeps his promise. he is dying of a disease as he's back on board. as i reading it, i am going, please do not die. he makes it through. it is an extraordinary story. what i tried to do, in addition to telling the story of this ship and the story of the war, and the plight of prisoners and how far the british were willing what i alsoal war, tried to do is follow the lives of these couple of young guys. how they went on board and managed to live through this and tell their stories. they are kind of the protagonists. you had a second question. >> what i found interesting that
you mention but did not write a lot about is the french, spanish, any other europeans that they captured in a naval battle were put in the lowest level. they were treated horribly. could you expand on that? mr. watson: this gentleman said spanish and french were captured and they were treated worse than the americans. they were privateers, sailors and soldiers, political prisoners on board. whenever the british would capture a french or spanish ship that was either trading with us or a warship, they would put their prisoners in the lowest holds. the mortality count would have been much higher for them. i did not focus on their stories
because i could not find reliable first-person accounts from them. but i did find accounts from a few of the men who survived this. they would talk about every once in a wild, even the lowest hatch would be opened up and these ghosts would come straggling up to get a little bit of rations. and they were the french and spanish. dring has a sense of humor. they were given what they called butter. it was basically some despicable fact and oil. he said the french complained chronically about not getting their butter. ration to givele to the french as they are climbing back down. the british did not allow interaction. you can planeans to escape and get off the ship.
let me thank c-span and michael and the staff at this magnificent museum for the opportunity to come and see you. i will hang around and sign copies of the book and chitchat if you are interested. thank you to your staff. [applause] >> this weekend, american history tv on cspan3. tonight at 8:00 eastern, the saigon: target zero." >> the army succeeded in denying the communists the chance to use women and children of the area as human shields. >> on sunday at 10:00 a.m. eastern, interviews from the
west point center for oral history with the west point graduate in vietnam helicopter pilot. 1968, made the major assault in the valley. that was a big deal effort. we lost 24 aircraft the first day, 24 helicopters. ae memories i have of that is chinook flying down the valley with fire coming out the back of the aircraft. p.m., the wake forest university professor shares on americanhis book art and the first world war. watch american history tv this weekend on cspan3. >> president dwight eisenhower used to call this his summer