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Otsego Herald

August 15, 2013

Americans imprisoned

From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, August 14, 1813

Compiled, with comments

by HUGH C. MacDOUGALL

IMPRESSED SEAMEN

Facts are daily transpiring tending to show the extent and enormity of this practice upon the seamen of our country. No man not lost to every sense of shame, can resist the mass of testimony which is daily unfolding; or longer view with indifference, unless his bosom has become callous as well to every impulse of humanity, as to the glow of patriotism.

The last Salem Register furnishes the names of 127 impressed American seamen, now on board the British prison ship San Antonio, at Chatham, England, who having refused to fight against their country after being repeatedly flogged, have been discharged from the British service, and are now being held as prisoners of war ... 20 of these seamen are natives of New-York — two have been in slavery 18 years — and seven 15 years — and 41 others from 5 to 15 years ... They were discharged from less than 50 ships, and left on board ... one hundred and seventy-seven American seamen, still retained in bondage! ...

There were on board the other Chatham prison ships, 320 discharged in like manner, and an immense number on board the prison ships at Portsmouth, at Plymouth and other places. Four hundred Americans were discharged from the Toulon blockading squadron alone.

John Nichols [see below]

These facts are studiously kept from one half the nation, and lest they should excite in Americans a spirit worthy of their fathers, they are denied, palliated and justified with a pertinacity and hardihood disgraceful to our country, and insulting to the understandings of our citizens.

COMMENT: The seizure (or “impressment”) of American seamen by the British navy, on the grounds — often false —that they were really British, was one of the major causes of the American declaration of war in 1812. Now some such seamen had their status changed to prisoner-of-war, when they refused to fight against their country.

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