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Crypt for the Prison Ship Martyrs

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  • Gilliam Cornell (1743 - bef.1778)
    Gilliam(5) Cornell, born in New Amersfoort on 20 June 1743 [JV Bible], wrote to his parents while imprisoned by the British during the Revolution. Neither his death nor marriage is noted in the JV Bibl...
  • Edward Bliven, Jr. (1748 - d.)
    Capt Edward Bliven Find A Grave Memorial# 50352084* Perished aboard the British Prison Ships that docked in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War* Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument, Brooklyn, Kings ...
  • William Bidlack (1754 - 1778)
    "William Bidlack was born 8/8/1754 son of James and Mehetabel (Durkee) Bidlack. He was among the first young men of the Wyoming valley to enlist in the Continental Army. During the Battle of Long Islan...

Crypt for the Prison Ship Martyrs

  • coordinates: 40° 41' 30" N. 073° 58' 32" W. Google Map
  • Type: Crypt (cemeteries, graveyards)
  • Location: Fort Greene Park, Myrtle to Dekalb Avenues, Edwards and Cumberland Streets
  • County: Kings. City: New York. Borough: Brooklyn. State: NY (New York) Country: US (United States)

Please add Geni profiles of these American Patriots to this project (actions menu > add profile). Must be set to public. See "resources" section for names of the POW's.


The Prison Ship Martyrs Memorial (Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, New York) pays tribute to the soldiers and civilians who perished aboard the British Prison Ships that docked in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War. The remains of a small fraction of those who died on the ships are interred in a crypt beneath its base. The ships included the HMS Jersey, the Scorpion, the Hope, the Falmouth, the Stromboli, Hunter, and others.

In 1867, Olmsted, Vaux & Company, redesigned Fort Greene Park, and installed a crypt for the remains of the prison ship victims in a stone wall, halfway up the stairs that now face the Fort Greene housing projects.

Remains of deceased prisoners

From Wikipedia

During the Revolutionary War, the British maintained a series of prison ships in the New York Harbor and jails on the shore for captured prisoners of war. Due to brutal conditions, more Americans died in British jails[ and prison ships in New York Harbor than in all the battles of the American Revolutionary War. The British quickly disposed of the bodies of the dead from the jails and ships by quick interment or throwing the bodies overboard.

Following the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783, the remains of those who died on the 16 prison ships were neglected, left to lie along the Brooklyn shore on Wallabout Bay, a rural area little visited by New Yorkers. On January 21, 1877, the New York Times reported that the dead came from all parts of the nation and "every state of the Union was represented among them."

Officials of the local Dutch Reformed Church met with resistance from the property owner when they sought to remove the bones to their churchyard. Nathaniel Scudder Prime reported that the "skulls and feet, arms and legs [were] sticking out of the crumbling bank in the wildest disorder". Edwin G. Burrows described the skulls on the coast "as thick as pumpkins in an autumn cornfield". During construction at the Naval Yards, workers were not sure what to do with the bones, and they started to fill casks and boxes. They were reburied on the grounds of the nearby John Jackson estate.

Eventually, "near twenty hogsheads full of bones were collected by the indefatigable industry of John Jackson esq, the committee of Tammany Society, and other citizens, to be interred in the vault." The monument's dedication plaque estimates that 11,500 prisoners of war died in the prison ships, but others estimate the number to be as high as 18,000 people.


From "Resurrecting Patriots, and Their Park; Shrine to Revolution's Martyrs Is Part of Fort Greene Renewal" New York Times, by Douglas Martin. Published: September 23, 1995

Richie Williamson, a blacksmith, helped force open the bronze door of the crypt at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. In the dim light, on the nearest shelf, he could see a human jawbone, more than 200 years old, covered with blackened cobwebs.
He made the sign of the cross over his heart and prayed for the souls of 11,500 American heroes, men who died on prison ships in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War. Some were within sight of their homes and farms in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but they refused to switch their allegiance to the King of England in exchange for their freedom.
"This is a holy place," whispered Mr. Williamson. "Where would we be without these guys?"


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