James Madison Papers

To James Madison from American Prisoners of War in Barbados, 25 April 1813

From American Prisoners of War in Barbados

Barbadoes Apl. 25th 1813.

Honored Sir.

From a long and tedious Imprisonment patience exausted & health Impaird we have taken the liberty to address your Exelency, Concious that you can no other than listen to the complaints of a distress’d Countrymen some of which have been Imprisoned here eight months. We have long been waiteing with a glow of Ambition peculiar to our Countrymen our release and have untill the presant time born it with uncommon fortitude & patience. But at length to see so many of our fellow Countrymen taken from their places of Imprisonment & born in a car to the common Hospital many of which die1 rends the heart of evry American that holds dear to him his native Country. Men that were when brought here eager & able to redress the wrongs & support the Honor & Vertue of their Country.

Their courage that was once Desprate now deprest.

Their constitutions that was once robust now broken.

Their faces that once glow’d with a Virtuous & ambitious ⟨b⟩lood now Emaciate & born down with grief & dispair. And we have reason to think that a Longer Imprisonment will be attended with serious Consiquences. There is now Imprisone’d here the following crews VIZ

The Officers & crew of the Privateer Providence Hopkins of Providence2 Officers and crew of the Privateer Schooner Yankey Pilsbury of Newbury port from Sallem3 Officers & crew of the Privateer Schooner Blockade Mix of Hartford4 Officers & Crew of the Privateer Brig Decator Nichols of Newbury port5 Officers & Crew of the Privateer Ship John Fairfield of Salem6 many recaptured in Prizes & men taken in Merchant Ships & a number given up from British Men of War makeing in all Five Hundred & thirty four. Many of which have not cloths to ware or a Solar thing to make life Comfortable, No American Agent to redress their wrongs or see them provided for. We therefore Intreat your Exelency Jointly & Severally to make some arangements for our Exchange or that we may be more comfortably Situated send out an Agent. We have the Honor to be Severally your Obt Huml Servts

Commanders & Officers of Private Armed Vessels

RC (DNA: RG 94, War of 1812, Records Relating to Prisoners, entry 127-A, box 20, folder 1); RC, two copies (ibid., box 10, folder 1, bundle 178). First RC marked “Triplicate of the Same Date” in the left margin. Postmarked Boston, 3 June; readdressed by JM to “The Secretary of State.” Damaged by removal of seal; part of word in angle brackets supplied from second RC. Second RC, dated 26 Apr., bears the postscript: “NB You will please to observe that evry attention is paid at the Hospital that can be expected.” Postmarked New York, 23 May; readdressed by James Monroe to “Genl Mason.” Third RC dated 24 Apr.; marked “Duplicate.” Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1Second RC has “Naval Hospital where you cannot be admitted unless Dangerously ill”; third RC has “Common Hospital.”

2The Providence, commanded by Nicholas Hopkins and carrying a crew of sixty, was captured by the Dominica on 11 Sept. 1812 after a ten-hour chase (George F. Emmons, The Navy of the United States, from the Commencement, 1775 to 1853; with a Brief History of Each Vessel’s Service and Fate as Appears upon Record [Washington, D.C., 1853], 190–91).

3Capt. Timothy Pilsbury’s schooner, Yankee American, and its crew of forty-four were captured off Sombrero on 24 Oct. 1812 by the Peruvian (ibid., 196–97).

4On 31 Dec. 1812, E. Mix’s ten-gun schooner, Blockade, was captured by the eighteen-gun Charybdis, after losing twenty-eight of its crew of sixty-six in a battle that lasted an hour and twenty minutes (ibid., 172–73).

5After capturing fourteen British vessels during the summer of 1812 and returning to port, the Decatur, Captain Nichols, set out on a cruise to the West Indies. The ship and its crew of 160 were captured by the Surprize off Barbados on 16 Jan. 1813 and taken to that island, where Nichols was confined to a five-by-seven-foot cell as retribution for having recaptured his ship from the British at the beginning of the war. He was eventually sent to England (ibid., 174–75; Edgar Stanton Maclay, A History of American Privateers [London, 1900], 309–11).

6The John, Capt. J. Fairfield, and 100 men were captured on 6 Feb. 1813 by the Peruvian (Emmons, Navy of the United States, 182–83).

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