The Cartel--Captain Dring's Narrative (Continued)

As found in the book, "American Prisoners of The Revolution", By Danske Dandridge.



"On his arrival in Providence Captain Aborn had lost no time in making the details of our sufferings publicly known; and a feeling of deep commiseration was excited among our fellow citizens. Messrs. Clarke and Nightingale, the former owners of the Chance, in conjunction with other gentlemen, expressed their determination to spare no exertion or expense necessary to procure our liberty. It was found that forty British prisoners were at that time in Boston. These were immediately procured, and marched to Providence, where a sloop owned and commanded by a Captain Gladding of Bristol was chartered, to proceed with the prisoners forthwith to New York, that they might be exchanged for an equal number of our crew. Captain Corey was appointed as an Agent to effect the exchange, and to receive us from the Jersey; and having taken on board a supply of good provisions and water, he hastened to our relief. He received much assistance in effecting his object from our townsman, Mr. John Creed, at that time Deputy Commissary of Prisoners. I do not recollect the exact day of our deliverance, but think it was early in the month of October * * * We were obliged to pass near the shore of Blackwell's Island, where were several of our crew, who had been sent on shore among the sick. They had learned that the Cartel had arrived from Providence for the purpose of redeeming the crew of the Chance, and expected to be taken on board. Seeing us approaching they had, in order to cause no delay, prepared for their departure, and stood together on the shore, with their bundles in their hands; but, to their unutterable disappointment and dismay, they saw us pass by. We knew them and bitterly did we lament the necessity of leaving them behind. We could only wave our hands as we passed; but they could not return the salutation, and stood as if petrified with horror, like statues fixed immovably to the earth, until we had vanished from their sight.

"I have since seen and conversed with one of these unfortunate men, who afterwards made his escape. He informed me that their removal from the Jersey to the Island was productive of the most beneficial effects upon their health, and that they had been exulting at the improvement of their condition; but their terrible disappointment overwhelmed them with despair. They then considered their fate inevitable, believing that in a few days they must again be conveyed on board the hulk; there to undergo all the agonies of a second death. * * * Several of our crew were sick when we entered the Cartel, and the sudden change of air and diet caused some new cases of fever. One of our number, thus seized by the fever, was a young man named Bicknell of Barrington, R. I. He was unwell when we left the Jersey, and his symptoms indicated the approaching fever; and when we entered Narragansett Bay, he was apparently dying. Being informed that we were in the Bay he begged to be taken on deck, or at least to the hatchway, that he might look once more upon his native land. He said that he was sensible of his condition; that the hand of death was upon him; but that he was consoled by the thought that he should be decently interred, and be suffered to rest among his friends and kindred. I was astonished at the degree of resignation and composure with which he spoke. He pointed to his father's house, as we approached it, and said it contained all that was dear to him upon earth. He requested to be put on shore.

"Our Captain was intimately acquainted with the family of the sufferer; and as the wind was light we dropped our anchor, and complied with his request. He was placed in the boat, where I took a seat by his side; in order to support him; and, with two boys at the oars, we left the sloop. In a few minutes his strength began rapidly to fail. He laid his fainting head upon my shoulder, and said he was going to the shore to be buried with his ancestors; that this had long been his ardent desire, and that God had heard his prayers. No sooner had we touched the shore than one of the boys was sent to inform his family of the event. They hastened to the boat to receive their long lost son and brother, but we could only give them his yet warm and lifeless corpse."


"After remaining a few moments with the friends of our deceased comrade we returned to the sloop and proceeded up the river. It was about eight o'clock in the evening when we reached Providence. There were no quarantine regulations to detain us; but, as the yellow fever was raging among us, we took the precaution to anchor in the middle of the stream. It was a beautiful moonlit evening, and the intelligence of our arrival having spread through the town, the nearest wharf was in a short time crowded with people drawn together by curiosity, and a desire for information relative to the fate of their friends and connections.

"Continual inquiries were made from the anxious crowd on the land respecting the condition of several different individuals on board. At length the information was given that some of our number were below, sick with the yellow fever. No sooner was this fact announced than the wharf was totally deserted, and in a few moments not a human being remained in sight. The Old Jersey fever as it was called, was well known throughout the whole country. All were acquainted with its terrible effects; and it was shunned as if its presence were certain destruction.

"After the departure of the crowd, the sloop was brought alongside the wharf, and every one who could walk immediately sprang on shore. So great was the dread of the pestilence, and so squalid and emaciated were the figures which we presented, that those among us whose families did not reside in Providence found it almost impossible to gain admittance into any dwelling. There being at that time no hospital in or near the town, and no preparations having been made for the reception of the sick, they were abandoned for that night. They were, however, supplied in a few hours with many small articles necessary for their immediate comfort, by the humane people in the vicinity of the wharf. The friends of the sick who belonged in the vicinity of the town were immediately informed of our arrival, and in the course of the following day these were removed from the vessel. For the remainder of the sufferers ample provision was made through the generous exertions of Messrs. Clarke and Nightingale.

"Solemn indeed are the reflections which crowd upon my mind as I review the events which are here recorded. Forty-two years have passed away since this remnant of our ill-fated crew were thus liberated from their wasting captivity. In that time what changes have taken place! Of their whole number but three are now alive. James Pitcher, Dr. Joseph Bowen, and myself, are the sole survivors. Of the officers I alone remain."

[ American Prisoners of The Revolution ]