Mistreatment of prisoners of war has been a contentious topic in recent months and throughout the annals of history. American soldiers held captive by the British during the American Revolution experienced some of the harshest such mistreatment, aboard prison ships docked off New York City’s East River in the late Eighteenth Century.</P><P>Four out of every five men who passed through the prison ships died in filth and darkness, and most were buried in shallow graves by their freedom-fighting peers on the banks of the river. On Sunday, February 13th at 9 p.m. ET/PT, The History Channel presents POW’s OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, a comprehensive look at some of the harshest prison conditions ever recorded, as told by some of the few captives who managed to survive.</P><P>Between 1776 and 1863, a dozen British prison ships sat anchored in Wallabout Bay off New York City’s East River. The dark, disease-ridden vessels housed thousands of American fighters taken prisoner during the struggle for independence. </P><P>Those aboard endured nothing less than a living hell at the hands of the British. Ebenezer Fox, a Boston teenager who enlisted as a privateer to battle the powerful British Navy at sea, managed to survive nearly two years aboard the most notorious prison ship, The Jersey, only to ultimately escape the British Armed Forces and live to turn his tale into a memoir entitled "Testament to the Horrors Aboard the Prison Ships of Wallabout Bay." </P><P>Making use of Fox’s writings and the historical perspective of a variety of New York-area professors, POW’s OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION presents a unique and compelling perspective on an aspect of the American Revolution that is often overlooked.</P><P>"Many Americans are familiar with the story of the generals and the politicians," says Brooklyn College (CUNY) professor Edwin G. Burroughs. "This is the story of ordinary guys caught up in a big conflict, often who paid a very high price for it."</P><P>Prisoners housed aboard the ships were subject to cramped conditions without proper exercise, ventilation, nutrition, or waste removal for months, sometimes years at a time. They felt the oppressive heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter in the same clothing in which they’d been captured. Bugs and lice infested the quarters and diseases spread unchecked. </P><P>Malnourishment may have been the biggest culprit, as Ebenezer Fox’s diary tells the story of eating worm-infested biscuits and year-old meat boiled in dirty river water without a fruit or a vegetable in sight. British motivation for the abuse was multi-faceted: prisoners destroyed by the conditions were highly unlikely to re-join the American cause, and those willing to join forces with the British were offered a ticket out. </P><P>By the end of the war in 1783, it is estimated that as many Americans (about 20,000) had died as prisoners in the hands of the British as died in combat during the War. The remains of the dead continued to turn up on the beaches of the East River for decades, and many today are interred in a monument at Fort Green Park in the Brooklyn section of New York City.</P><P>With a number of experts providing the historical details to supplement the accounts of the survivors, POW’s OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION chronicles the driving forces behind the brutality toward the American rebels and the George Washington-led American efforts to stop it. A tale of war, politics, brutality, and survival, POW’s OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION brings to life some of the harshest realities of war and the bravery of those that survived.</P><P>Executive Producer for The History Channel is Susan Werbe. POWs OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION was produced for The History Channel by Principal Films.</P><P>Further details on their <A href="http://www.history.com/" target=_blank>Web site</A>.</P>Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.
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