Perez Drinkwater of Portland, Maine (then part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) was a lieutenant on Lucy – a privateer schooner – during the War of 1812. Towards the end of 1813, he and the Lucy crew were captured southwest of England. In the following letter to his brother Elbridge Drinkwater, Perez described the prisoner situation at the Dartmoor Prison in Princeton, England.
Saturday Morning, May 20th, 1814
Dartmoor Prison, Princeton, England
Dr. Brother –
. . .We arrived into Plymouth on the 20th of Janurary was put on board the [prison-ship] Brave on the 24th and was landed from her on the 31 and marched to this place in a snow storm. This Prison is situated on one of the highest places in England and it either snows or rains the whole year round and is cold enough to wear a great coat the whole time there is 10,000 of us here now but the French are about going home. . .
This is the first time that I was ever deprived of my Liberty and when I sit and think of it it almost deprives me of my sences for we have nothing else to do but sit and reflect on our preasant situation which is bad anough god noes for we have but 1 lb and a half of black bread and about 3 ounces of beef and a Little beef tee to drink and all that makes us one meal a Day the rest of the time we have to fast which is hard times for the days are very Long heir now I want to get out of heir before the war is over so that I can have the pleasure of killing one Englishman and drinking his blood which I think I could do with a good will for I think them the worst of all the human race for their is no crimes but what they are gilty of. . . .
. . . yisterday they called up 500 French men to go away their was one that had been in prison Nine years and had worn his blanket out so that he had but half of it to give those rebels and on that acount they sent him back and put him on the bottom of the books for exchangeing, the man took it so hard that he cut his throught and was found dead between the prison dores, and a thousand other such deeds they have been guilty of since we have been confined heir in this cursed place and a monght these rebels for I can call them nothing better and I shall never dye happy till I have had the pleasure of killing one of them which I am determined to do if an oppertunity ever offers to me to doe it. . . .
. . .we have plenty of creepers [insects such as bedbugs and lice] heir to turn us out in the morning, them and the Englishmen together don’t Let us have much peace Day nor night for they are both enimyes to us and Likewise to peace and the more they can torment the human rase the better they are pleased. . . .
I hope that you will write to me every oppertunity that affored you to do for it would be a happy thing for me to heir from you I have wrote several Letters to you be fore and shall still continue to write every oppertunity, you must tell Sally to bare her misfortunes with as much fortitude as she can till my return I must conclude with wishing you all well. So god bless you all and be with you for I cannot.
From your sincere friend & Brother.
In December 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed and ended the war. However, it did not mean that Perez Drinkwater and the other several thousands of prisoners would be immediately released. In another one of his letters, dated in April, he was still at the Dartmoor Prison. Eventually he did return home and actively participated in his community and lived a long life.