The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument is located in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, New York. Below the monument lay the remains of over 11,500 American Prisoners of War, the largest single Revolutionary War grave in the country. These men were held on British prison ships in Wallabout Bay, now known as New York Harbor, near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
These are America’s first martyrs. Our POWs suffered outrageous and indefensible cruelty resulting in lingering torturous deaths made more painful by starvation, regular beatings and diseases. Fatal diseases included yellow fever and small pox, which spread throughout the overcrowded, filthy prison ships.
One notorious ship, The Jersey, was built to hold 400 persons, but when used as a British prison ship, held 1,400 Americans, with the portholes sealed to prevent escape. These men spent years suffering from intolerable circumstances, the blistering heat of summer, and the bitter cold of winter.
These ships, 12 known, became pestholes where prisoners died at rates of five to ten a day—their bodies tossed overboard and whose bones and remains washed upon the shores. At any time, prisoners could have walked off these ships with their lives had they agreed to defect and enlist in the British Armed Services. With very few exceptions, they all said no and chose a horrid death rather than forsake their new beloved country and leader General Washington.
- Marker Organization: Society of Old Brooklynites
- Marker Date: June 1, 1960
- Marker Text: In memory of the 11,500 patriotic American Sailors and Soldiers who endured untold suffering, and died on the British prison ships, anchored in Wallabout during the Revolutionary War 1776 - 1782. Their remains lie buried in the crypt at the base of this monument which was dedicated on November 14, 1908.
Form Submitted By: Fort Greene Chapter, NSDAR 1/5/2016