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decayed bottom, and she sank, bearing inscribed on her planks the names of thousands of American prisFor more than twenty years the ebbing tide exposed her bare ribs, but this evidence of British barbarity was at length buried beneath the United States navy yard.1 The precise number of deaths that occurred from ill treatment and starvation on these hulks will never be known till the day of doom. Many of these victims never had the rites of sepulture; and others were so imperfectly covered that for some time after the war their bones were found uncovered on the shores of Long Island.
To return to Freneau's description:
"Thou, Scorpion, fatal to thy crowded throng,
Dire theme of horror and Plutonian song,
Requir'st my lay-thy sultry decks I know,
And all the torments that exist below!
The briny wave that Hudson's bosom fills
Drain'd through her bottom in a thousand rills:
Rotten and old, replete with sighs and groans,
Scarce on the waters she sustain'd her bones;
Here, doom'd to toil, or founder in the tide,
At the moist pumps incessantly we ply'd,
Here, doom'd to starve, like famish'd dogs, we tore
The scant allowance that our tyrants bore.
When to the ocean sinks the western sun,
And the scorch'd Tories fire their evening gun,
Down, rebels, down!' the angry Scotchmen cry,
'Base dogs, descend, or by our broad swords die!'
Hail, dark abode! what can with thee compare? -
Heat, sickness, famine, death, and stagnant air-
Swift from the guarded decks we rush'd along,
And vainly sought repose, so vast our throng;
Four hundred wretches here, denied all light,
In crowded mansions pass the infernal night,
1 History of New York, by Miss Booth.
Some for a bed their tatter'd vestments join,
And some on chests, and some on floors recline;
Shut from the blessings of the evening air
Pensive we lay with mingled corpses there,
Meagre and wan, and scorch'd with heat below,
We look'd like ghosts, ere death had made us so
How could we else, where heat and hunger joined,
Thus to debase the body and the mind,-
No waters laded from the bubbling spring
To these dire ships these little tyrants bring
By planks and ponderous beams completely wall'd
In vain for water and in vain we call'd-
No drop was granted to the midnight prayer,
To rebels in these regions of despair!-
The loathsome cask a deadly dose contains,
Its poison circling through the languid veins.
Sweet morn dispell'd the horrors of the shade;
On every side dire objects met the sight,
And pallid forms, and murders of the night,
The dead were past their pain, the living groan,
Nor dare to hope another morn their own;
But what to them is morn's delightful ray?
Sad and distrestful as the close of day;
O'er distant streams appears the dewy green,
And leafy trees on mountain tops are seen,
But they no groves nor grassy mountains tread
Mark'd for a longer journey to the dead."
The freedom-loving and freedom-craving spirit of Freneau, like the caged eagle, vainly beat its wings. against the bars of its cage; and what wonder that it finally succumbed to the horrors of his situation, and that he was borne in a half-dying condition from that infected hulk to the even more loathsome one of the hospital ship, the "Hunter"?
"Joyful we left the Scorpion's dire abode;
Some tears we shed for the remaining crew,
Then curs'd the hulk, and from her sides withdrew."
THE HOSPITAL PRISON SHIP.
"Now tow'rds the Hunter's gloomy decks we came,
A slaughter-house, yet hospital in name;
We were so pale! that we were thought by some
A freight of ghosts, from death's dominions come —
Down to the gloom we took our pensive way,
Along the decks the dying captives lay;
Some struck with madness, some with scurvy pain'd,
But still of putrid fevers most complain'd!
On the hard floors these wasted objects laid,
There toss'd and tumbled in the dismal shade,
There no soft voice their bitter fate bemoan'd,
And death trode stately, while the victims groan'd;
Of leaky decks I heard them long complain,
Drown'd as they were in deluges of rain,
Deny'd the comforts of a dying bed,
And not a pillow to support the head
How could they else but pine, and grieve, and sigh,
Detest a wretched life - and wish to die?
Scarce had I mingled with this dismal band When a thin victim seiz'd me by the hand 'And art thou come,' (death heavy on his eyes) 'And art thou come to these abodes?' he cries. ( Why didst thou leave the Scorpion's dark retreat, And hither haste, a surer death to meet ? Why didst thou leave thy damp infected cell? — If that was purgatory, this is hell.'
From Brooklyn heights a Hessian doctor came,
Not great his skill, nor greater much his fame;
Fair Science never call'd the wretch her son,
And Art disdain'd the stupid man to own;
admire that Science was so coy,
Or Art refus'd his genius to employ ? -
Do men with brutes an equal dullness share,
Or cuts yon grovelling mole the midway air?
In polar worlds can Eden's blossoms blow?
Do trees of God in barren deserts grow?
Are loaded vines to Etna's summit known,
Or swells the peach beneath the frozen zone?
He on his charge the healing work begun
With antimonial mixtures by the tun,
Ten minutes was the time he deign'd to stay,
The time of grace allotted once a day.
He drench'd us well with bitter draughts, 't is true,
Nostrums from hell, and cortex from Peru
Some with his pills he sent to Pluto's reign,
And some he blister'd with his flies of Spain;
And Tartar doses walk'd their deadly round.
Here, uncontroul'd, he exercis'd his trade,
And grew experienc'd by the deaths he made,
By frequent blows we from his cane endur'd
He kill'd at least as many as he cur'd,
On our lost comrades built his future fame,
And scatter'd fate where'er his footsteps came.
Knave though he was, yet candour must confess
Not chief Physician was this man of Hesse
One master o'er the murdering tribe was plac'd,
By him the rest were honour'd or disgrac'd;
Once, and but once, by some strange fortune led
He came to see the dying and the dead
He came but anger so deform'd his eye,
And such a faulchion glitter'd on his thigh,
And such a gloom his visage darken'd o'er,
And two such pistols in his hands he bore!
That by the gods! — with such a load of steel,
He came, we thought, to murder, not to heal-
All were astonish'd at the oaths he swore;
He swore till every prisoner stood aghast,
And thought him Satan in a brimstone blast;
He wish'd us banish'd from the public light,
And wish'd us shrouded in perpetual night!
That were he king, no mercy would he show,
But drive all rebels to the world below.
Each day, at least six carcasses we bore
And scratch'd them graves along the sandy shore.
By feeble hands the shallow graves were made,
No stone, memorial, o'er the corpses laid;
In barren sands, and far from home, they lie,
No friend to shed a tear, when passing by;
O'er the mean tombs the insulting Britons tread,
Spurn at the sand, and curse the rebel dead.
When to your arms these fatal islands fall,
(For first, or last, they must be conquer'd all)
Americans! to rites sepulchral just,
With gentlest footstep press this kindred dust,
And o'er the tombs, if tombs can then be found,
Place the green turf, and plant the myrtle round.
These all in Freedom's sacred cause allied
For Freedom ventur'd and for Freedom died."
Sixty long days and nights Freneau passed between the deck and the hold of the "Scorpion;" how many more he remained in the "Hunter," we do not know exactly; but the capture occurred in May, and he was released in July of the same year, 1780.
It had been agreed between the British government and the United Colonies that all privateers sailing with letters of marque should be subject to the same rules of exchange as officers in the army. Boudinot had been appointed commissioner for the exchange of prisoners, and his father and André Freneau having been old friends as well as compatriots, he, as may be supposed, lost no time in setting Philip at liberty. Pintard, Boudinot's secretary, was a warm friend of Freneau's, and frequently spoke of the sufferings of his friend and his fellow-captives. A very romantic story in regard to the supposed escape of Freneau from the prison ship has been published, but we have the reality of his exchange in his own words:
"On the 12th of July, the flag came alongside and cleared the hospital ship. But the miseries we endured in getting to Elizabeth Town were many; those that were very bad, of which the proportion was great, naturally took possession of the hold. No prisoner was allowed to go in the cabin, so that I, with