Wednesday 1 December 2010

Warlike Wednesday: the War of 1812 - from the other side

I was lucky enough to be present when the Federation of Genealogical Societies Preserve the Pensions appeal was launched. These records are held at the National Archives in Washington DC, but there are two sides to any argument, and it set me thinking about any records from the British side that might be held in The National Archives in the UK.

Not surprisingly, there is quite a lot of material, and some of the records are full of the names of prisoners. Many prisoners were held on ships, and some of the most interesting records are the surgeons' journals kept by the Admiralty. They not only contain names, but give quite a lot more information besides. One of these is the surgeon's journal for the prison ship 'Bahama' carrying American and Danish prisoners.

The National Archives reference ADM 89/1

One of the volumes contains details of the illnesses and treatment of a number of men who were attended by the surgeon while the ship was at Chatham between 1812 and 1814. Some of the patients were sailors or marines, but most were prisoners. Some pages are just lists of names, but for a number of men ages are given, along with details of their illnesses, treatment, and whether they survived. Most of them did - there were only three deaths on board - but several of them, probably the sicker ones, were transferred to the hospital ship 'Trusty'.

The American prisoners whose ages and details appear were:

Alfred Leonard 39, Abnes Polland 41, Procter Symmonds 19, George Symington 48, George Brown 36, Adimus Bowen 44, Jeremiah Hill 46, Mr Lane (Mate) 48, Henry Shaw 32, Golding Spencer 30, Henry Scott 29, Capt Light 54, Francis Williams 28, Charlemagne 28

Medical details, but no ages, are given for:

James Head, Nicholas Noble, James Odihorne, Artimus Bowen, Jonathan Freeman.

All of these men either recovered or were transferred to the Trusty, except for Golding Spencer and Jonathan Freeman. Golding Spencer died of smallpox, and the unfortunate Jonathan Freeman died as the result of 'a singular kind of tumor in the groin' which was mis-diagnosed as a hernia by the first two surgeons who saw him. The third, James Brenan, took a great interest in this case, and wrote it up at great length. The abcess burst, and his symptoms were described in graphic detail. He succumbed to a fever as a result, was sent to the Trusty, but returned to the Bahama, apparently recovered, only to suffer a relapse that caused him to be sent back to the Trusty again, where he died.

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