ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Dartmoor Prison England, War of 1812

Updated on July 5, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

I love to provide information about styles of clothing, accesories, beautiful jewelry or new household products for indoor or outside use.

First American Flag - Betsy Ross

source: Rare Flags Wickemedia
source: Rare Flags Wickemedia

End of Revolutionary War

The Treaty of Paris officially ended the Revolutionary War on September 3, 1783. His Britannic Majesty acknowledged the United States as:

  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts Bay
  • Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia

These were the recognized free sovereign and independent states. Unfortunately, this did not mean an end to the fighting

Conflicts with Europe - President Thomas Jefferson

The United States had been irritated with the failure of the British to withdraw from American territory along the Great Lakes following the war, and at their backing of the Indians on America's frontiers. In addition, England was unwilling to sign commercial agreements favorable to the United States.

In this time frame the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802) and the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) in which France and Britain were the main combatants occurred. The result was France came to dominate much of continental Europe and Britain dominated the seas.

They also fought each over commercial interests; Britain attempted to blockade the continent of Europe, and France tried to prevent the sale of British goods to French possessions.

The United States was still unable to come to any agreement concerning commercial goods. In 1807, after the British ship Leopard fired on the American frigate Chesapeake,

President Thomas Jefferson urged Congress to pass the Embargo Act banning all American ships from foreign trade. The embargo failed to change British or French policies but devastated New England shipping.


source Yahoo resourcesforhstory
source Yahoo resourcesforhstory | Source

Start of War of 1812

As the United States failed in a peaceful effort and were facing an economic depression, Americans argued for a declaration of war to redeem their national honor. Ultimately, there was a group in Congress elected in 1810, known as the War Hawks who demanded war against Great Britain.

The United States wasn't ready for war, and most of their campaigns of 1812 and 1813 failed. American frigates won a few battles at sea. In the meantime, the British formed a blockade around America's coast ruining their trade, which threatened American finances and exposed the entire coastline to the British attack.

The United States continued to suffer under British attack and Britain burned down most of Washington DC. Britain then set its eyes on the area around New Orleans.

The citizens of southern Louisiana looked to Major General Andrew Jackson who arrived in New Orleans in the fall of 1814, and quickly prepared defenses. There were several failed attacks before the Battle of New Orleans.

Jackson was well-prepared using former Haitian slaves fighting as free men, Kentucky and Tennessee frontiersmen armed with deadly long rifles and the colorful band of Jean Lafitteā€™s outlaws.

Jackson's victory saved New Orleans, but it happened after the war was over, as the Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812. None of the issues that started the war were resolved.

Dartmoor Front Gate


Dartmoor Prison

I am a member of the National Society of the United States Daughters of 1812 Society. I recently attended a lecture about England's Dartmoor Prison where many Americans sailors were held during the war of 1812. There was a lecturer and a good video.

The video speaker was a sweet 77-year-old English gentleman who is the historian and caretaker for the prison now being used as a museum. He told the history of the prison and the miserable living conditions.

This prison has held a fascination for people interested in British crime, since 1850, as most of England's most notorious criminals were condemned to labor on the bleak Devonshire moor.

One of the tragedies of this war was the thousands of American sailors held at the massive jail Dartmoor, in Devon, England. The first few hundred arrived in the winter and had to march 17 miles to the prison from the sea and most of them didn't have socks or shoes.

Fewer than 250 of the prisoners were from the United States Navy; many more came from the privateers who had shocked the British Navy, as they were merchant seaman who carried the American flag from Riga to Canton and numerous other American ports.

There were approximately 900 black American prisoners. There were meticulous records kept which reveal the names of the 6,553 American prisoners admitted to the prison.

Dartmoor Prison

source photo free
source photo free

Dartmoor Map

Dartmoor Location in Devon, England
Dartmoor Location in Devon, England

Dartmoor Prison - American Prisoners

The British held American prisoners of war at Dartmoor from the spring of 1813 to the early summer of 1815 even though the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814.

According to the English gentleman, it was decided that the prisoners would build a church and were paid sixpence a day, but only received the pay every three months. If a prisoner escaped during that time all money would be forfeited, therefore, in essence, they became their own jailers.

The prisoners made sure no one escaped and the little church was built. The prisoners got to know some of the town people when they got paid and would buy items they needed. The first church service was held on January 2, 1814.

Dartmoor Prison Mutiny (1932)

In Conclusion

The War of 1812 created great losses of men and finances for America and Britain. Many died from diseases. Dartmoor Prison is certainly a sad and little known tale. Prisoners wrote home frequently but most mail never arrived.

This seems to be the only copy of a letter available that made it home from a prisoner:

"ROYAL PRISON, Dartmoor Oct. 12th, 1814

Dear Sally -

It is with regret that I have to inform you of my unhappy situation that is, confined heir in a loathsom prison where I have wourn out almost 9 months of my Days; and god knows how long it will be before I shall get my Liberty again. . . . I cheer my drooping spirits by thinking of the happy Day when we shall have the pleasure of seeing you and my friends. . .

This same place is one of the most retched in this habbited world. . . neither wind nor watertight, it is situated on the top of a high hill and is so high that it either rains, hails or snows almost the year round for further partickulars of my preasant unhappy situation, of my strong house, and my creeping friends which are without number. . . .

. . .my best wishes are that when these few lines come to you they will find you, the little Girl [his daughter] my parents Brothers sisters all in good helth I have wrote you a number of letters since my inprisenment here and I shall still trouble you with them every opportunity that affords me till I have the pleasure of receiving one from you which I hope will be soon. . . .

I am compeled to smugle this out of prison for they will not allow us to write to our friends if they can help it. . . . So I must conclude with telling you that I am not alone for there is almost 5,000 of us heir, and creepers a 1000 to one. . .

Give my Brothers my advice that is to beware of coming to this retched place for no tongue can tell what the sufferings are heir till they have a trial of it. So I must conclude with wishing you all well so God bless you all. This is from your even [ever] derr and beloved Husband.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 years ago from Sunny Florida

    nhill, What a fascinating ancestry you have, and I have been researching mine for eons also. Thanks so much for sharing your interesting history.

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Perez Drinkwater, Jr., was my 3rd great-grandfather. He was the son or Perez Sr., who participated in the American War of Independence at the Battle of Castine. It is believed that his ancestors came from Aberdeen, Scotland, and settled in Taunton, MA - Thomas being the first in the colonies (dying here in 1715). Four of his sons went north to ME (although it was part of MA at the time).

    BTW, Perez, Jr., wrote several letters that arrived home (Yarmouth, ME) to his wife and family. The letters were printed in the Machias Union in 1881. Perez died in 1860. I descend from his daughter, Helen Marr Drinkwater Merrill.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Warren Baldwin, I belong to a few genealogy associations (DAR, Colonial, Patriots of 1812) and last year we had a speaker come to the Patriot meeting and tell this story along with a power point presentation. It was fascinating to me and that is how I got the letter. I would have to look back through the minutes of the meeting to remember his name. I don't mind it you quote some of the article for your paper. I don't know if the letter writer was and Indian but the name would tend to indicate that. I appreciate your comments.

  • profile image

    Warren Baldwin 

    8 years ago


    I am researching for an article I am writing on the American POWs at Dartmoor in the War of 1812. Your article has some very good information, and is the only place I have found some of this information, particularly the letter by Perez Drinkwater (was he Navtive American?). Could I quote some of it in my article (for our local newspaper)? And how did you get a copy of the letter?

    Also, you would enjoy an article in the Jan 1997 issue of the Barnes Review about the prison, entitled, "The Untold Story of Americans Held Prisoner by the British in the War of 1812." The British didn't want to pay for the pows to be returned, that is why they kept them for so long. When the prisoners grew restless, the British fired on the unarmed prisoners, killing many of them AFTER the war was over. It is truly one of the important unkown tragedies of our history.

    Thanks for this good article.


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Amber, Thanks for the extra information. I went to a lecture about the prison and they showed a video by the keeper of the museum who gave much of the history and the rest I researched on the internet. You have added some things didn't know as I didn't realize it was still being used today. Thanks for your comments.

  • Amber Allen profile image

    Amber Allen 

    9 years ago

    Hi Pamela

    Dartmoor Prison was built in 1809 to house French prisoners of war from the Napoleonic Wars and it was then also used to house American prisoners of war from the War of 1812.

    My understanding is that until the prison was built the prisoners of war were kept on derelict ships moored in Plymouth. The prison was said to provide much better conditions but having read the letter that you placed in your hub, this is very hard to believe.

    After these wars ended the prison stood unoccupied for many years and it was not until 1850 that prison was rebuilt and put into use as a criminal prison and the prison is still used for this purpose today. The Museum is housed in a former Dairy a little way away from the prison, in which prisoners used to work.


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Bethany, I hope he enjoys the hub. Thanks for your comments.

  • profile image

    Bethany Culpepper 

    9 years ago

    I'm sharing this one with my son - he's a huge history buff. Good job!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Rob, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

  • rpalulis profile image


    9 years ago from NY

    Very cool Pamela, I love learning new things especially history. Thanks for sharing.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    A.A. Zavala, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and thank you your comments.

  • A.A. Zavala profile image

    Augustine A Zavala 

    9 years ago from Texas

    I'm always fascinated by history, which I beleive is more exciting than fiction. Thank you for sharing the research and insight into this time in history.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Tina, it is interesting to see things that were written so long ago because they didn't spell words the same. Thank you so much for your comment and I hope to write some more articles on historic governance as I really enjoy them.

    Audrey, thank you so much for your comment and your hints about the writing contest if I didn't realize there was no space but I'll fix it immediately. I appreciate your help as always

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    9 years ago from Washington

    Pamela - great subject and well done....p.s. I think you have to have the tag was WritingContest (no space) - just making sure your entry gets in!!!

  • gr82bme profile image


    9 years ago from USA

    The letters were neat to rad. It is something the way some of the words were spelled.

    I love history. Thank you for all the hard work and sharing


    voted up

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    drbj, I am so glad that you enjoyed this story and I appreciate your comments.

    JY, I'm glad you like the hub and I thank you for your comments.

    Becky, I was excited when I found that letter because of the historic value and I knew I wanted to included in the hub. I appreciate your comments.

    Susan, I'm glad you enjoyed the history and I appreciate your comments.

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 

    9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Had a great History lesson here today. Thanks so much.

    Up and useful!

  • Becky Puetz profile image

    9 years ago from Oklahoma

    Great historical information. Loved reading the letter. Thanks for an interesting read.

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 

    9 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

    Liked it very much Pam. I'm glad to see you are expanding your topics into other areas. Voted up as usual.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    9 years ago from south Florida

    What a fascinating and well-written story, Pamela. I enjoyed reading every word. Up, up and away-rated.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Will, thanks so much for your comment.

  • WillStarr profile image


    9 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    Terrific Hub Pam!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    phillip, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

    RedElf, Thank you so much for your comments. Much appreciated.

    Pop, Thank you for the great comments.

  • breakfastpop profile image


    9 years ago

    Terrific piece of writing. I can't get over how talented and versatile you are. Up and awesome!

  • RedElf profile image


    9 years ago from Canada

    You write on the most interesting topics! Thanks for another (as always) well-written and informative hub!

  • phillip goodson profile image

    phillip goodson 

    9 years ago

    That was very interesting, I learned a few things I didn't know about the war of 1812, thank you!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Darsky, I am so glad you were able to get back on Hubpages. I'm glad you liked the hub and I appreciate your comment. Love and Peace.

    Acer, I'm glad you got a walk down memory lane. thanks for your comment.

    electricksy, I appreciate your comment.

  • electricsky profile image


    9 years ago from North Georgia

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Mentalist acer profile image

    Mentalist acer 

    9 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

    One my delightful childhood memories was of visiting Jackson Square in New Orleans,thanks Pamela.;)

  • Darlene Sabella profile image

    Darlene Sabella 

    9 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

    Very cool hub pamela, I love history as you know and this hub is excellent. Great job, and I hope you win...I am back on hubpages missed you too much..rate up up love & peace darski


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)