As we have seen, the officers fared well in comparison with the wretched privates. Paroled and allowed the freedom of the city, they had far better opportunities to obtain the necessities of life. "Our poor soldiers fared most wretchedly different," says Major Bedinger.
Before we begin, however, to speak of the treatment they received, we must make some attempt to tell the reader who they were. We wish it were possible to give the name of every private who died, or rather who was murdered, in the prisons of New York at this time. But that, we fear, is now an impossibility. As this account is designed as a memorial to those martyred privates, we have made many efforts to obtain their names. But if the muster rolls of the different companies who formed the Rifle Regiment, the Pennsylvania Flying Camp, and the other troops captured by the British in the summer and fall of 1776 are in existence, we have not been able to find them.
The records of the Revolution kept in the War Department in England have been searched in vain by American historians. It is said that the Provost Marshal, William Cunningham, destroyed his books, in order to leave no written record of his crimes. The names of 8,000 prisoners, mostly seamen, who were confined on the prison ship Jersey, alone, have been obtained by the Society of Old Brooklynites, from the British Archives, and, by the kind permission of this Society, we re-publish them in the Appendix to this volume.
Here and there, also, we have obtained a name of one of the brave young riflemen who died in torment a hundred times worse, because so much less swift, than that endured on a memorable occasion in India, when British soldiers were placed, during a single night, into one of their own "Black Holes." But the names of almost all of these our tortured countrymen are forgotten as completely as their places of interment are neglected.
In the hands of the writer, however, at this time [Footnote: This muster roll was lent to the writer by Henry Bedinger Davenport, Esq, a descendant of Major Bedinger] is the pay-roll of one of these companies of riflemen,--that of Captain Abraham Shepherd of Shepherdstown, Virginia. It is in the handwriting of Henry Bedinger, one of the lieutenants of the company.
We propose to take this list, or pay roll, as a sample, and to follow, as well as we can, at this late day, the misfortunes of the men named therein. For this purpose we will first give the list of names, and afterwards attempt to indicate how many of the men died in confinement, and how many lived to be exchanged.