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Hatred Is the Key - Dartmoor Prison England and the American Holocaust in the War of 1812

Updated on December 10, 2012

August 2, 1812

USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere, by Michel Felice Corne(1752-1845).
USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere, by Michel Felice Corne(1752-1845).

Hatred is the Key

by author Graham Sclater

Tabitha Books

ISBN 978-0956397713

Published in the USA and available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in the UK or copies signed by the author from the publisher  Tabitha Books

Reviewer Rating ♦♦♦♦♦ out of 5

Author Graham Sclater

Source

At Dartmoor Depot Museum

Author Graham Sclater (on the left) at Dartmoor Prison Museum during his UK book launch on 15 April 2010. (click to enlarge)
Author Graham Sclater (on the left) at Dartmoor Prison Museum during his UK book launch on 15 April 2010. (click to enlarge)

Enlightenment

Heartfelt thanks to the Internet for connecting writers with audiences in the far flung corners of the world!

The web led me to UK author Graham Sclater and Hated Is the Key, an unexpected and brilliant focus on the hatred rampant between early 19th Century Engish and Americans in the War of 1812-1814. The book presents a vividly painted world that surrounds and centers on England’s Dartmoor Depot and its sinister role for America during the devastating war the Atlantic Ocean. Hatred extended to American-held slaves, freedmen, Metis, Caribbean Islanders, and First Nations/Native Americans that became involved as well. Irrational hatred crisscrossed among these subgroups, as you will read firsthand in this novel.

Even with at least one ancestor in the Seige of Fort Pitt and the later War of 1812-1814, I knew little of the latter war and less of Dartmoor Depot or Dartmoor prison as it was later renamed. Thanks to Graham Sclater, I now know the rest of the story - the consequences on a personal level to all sides in the War of 1812.

Dartmoor took a bloody grasp of over 10,000 American prisoners of war: sailors and merchants; freemen, slaves, and children. Those operating the prison were likely not much better off, particularly in the toll such operations took on these individuals mentally, inhabiting their nightmares for decades in the style those infesting the Viet Nam Conflict. Not only this, but Dartmoor was built to house only 3,000 prisoners, the overcrowding horrific in its consequences.

Usual American histories of the War of 1812 show nothing of Dartmoor Depot. Perhaps USA did not wish to publicize the plight of their period POWS, but it was a Holocaust of proportions that Cecil B. DeMille would have depicted with fervor and drawn many crowds. Picasso’s Guernica in its exquisite agonies does not do the image of Dartmoor justice. Graham Sclater does so in Hatred Is the Key.

Hatred Is the Key is a work of engaging historical fiction that accurately portrays the aftermath of American losses on the Atlantic Ocean to the English fleet. Much like springtime television cliffhangers, one cannot stop “watching” this story, continuing to read and re-read the novel at great length.

Washington DC on August 24, 1814

By George Munger, 1814 (1781 - 1825): Ruins of the US Capitol after British burning; fire damage to US Senate and House; damaged colonnade in the House shored up with firewood; shell of the rotunda with the facade and roof missing.
By George Munger, 1814 (1781 - 1825): Ruins of the US Capitol after British burning; fire damage to US Senate and House; damaged colonnade in the House shored up with firewood; shell of the rotunda with the facade and roof missing.

Fever of Sea and War

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, and a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trip's over. - from Sea Fever by John Masefield

This was likely the wish of many captains like Captain Sleep and Captain Coombes in the seagoing war, but neither received their shared wish. Captain Shortland as well had no such reward in his assignment as commander of Dartmoor Depot, a UK facility still operating, full of the ghostly habitations of three years and over 10,000 tortured men and boys. The images of capture, the forced march to the prison, and the tumultuous hell on the inside will keep you awake at night, just as they did the prisoners you will meet in the story. Fictional, but hard-wired in fact, the characters and the events will burn into your memory.

Read this book and you will know what most Americans and most people do not yet know about the horrors of the War of 1812. Yet, despite circumstances, these prisoners held onto their personalities and many, to solid character as well. Read and you will see victory in the middle of hell.

Stone Prison

Photo of prisoners at Dartmoor Prison tied together and transporting a cart out the Princetown Gate.
Photo of prisoners at Dartmoor Prison tied together and transporting a cart out the Princetown Gate.

DARTMOOR Today

Stonework from 1809, Dartmoor still operates at some level. CC licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Stonework from 1809, Dartmoor still operates at some level. CC licenses/by-sa/2.0/ | Source

Prison of Evil

HM Prison Dartmoor is an active men's prison in Princetown, on Dartmoor in Devon, England. Designed by Andrew A. Alexander, it was built from 1806 - 1809 with high stone walls of cold granite. Currently owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and run through Her Majesty's Prison Service, it was built to house 3,000 (French) men captured by Britain in the Napoleonic Wars, but held many more from 1812 - 1815. It held over triple its limit, in squalor and the coldest winter in a hundred years. Disease, cold, hunger, lack of sanitation, and a horde of insects and other vermin killed many and nearly drove the rest mad. Prolonged solitary confinement and "disappearing" also took a toll of lives and sanity - even months after the war ended.

English restrictions and interference imposed against US-French trade resulted in an American declaration of war on Canada and Britain in June, 1812. This filled the North Atlantic and the Great Lakes with battles in which America lost many ships and men who were jailed in Dartmoor Depot. After the war was over in December 1814, Americans were held overtime in Dartmoor prison and tortured, until finally they gained their release after an uprising on April 6, 1815, in which many more of them were killed.

On April 6, a reported seven POWs were killed and 31 wounded as guards fired on the orders of a reportedly drunked British officer. The drunken command of Captain Shortland in the novel depicts this and related prison events vividly, yet shows the humanity of this man just as well as do the word author's portraits of the Americans. A memorial stands today to some 270 POWS buried on the prison grounds, although BBC online records that 1,500 are so buried.

Neither British nor Americans lost or gained any lands in this war and they lost many lives as well as their peace of mind and parts of their souls; but the First Nations and Native Americans lost everything, including lands promised by the British. Freed slaves and some American boys as young as 13 or younger lost their lives in the prison as well. It was much like the Holocaust of a later war.

Dartmoor Prison and Grounds

CC 3.0 Unported
CC 3.0 Unported | Source

American Sea Losses - Atlantic and Great Lakes

Painting 1830, by Schetky King & Capt John Christian (1778-1874): HMS Shannon leading captured USS Chesapeake into Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia in June, 1813.
Painting 1830, by Schetky King & Capt John Christian (1778-1874): HMS Shannon leading captured USS Chesapeake into Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia in June, 1813.

Recommended Reading

This novel describes seagoing battles in the Atlantic in realistic fashion and fills out characters into people to whom we as readers can relate. Captains Coombes, Hawkins, Sleep, and Shortland are so substantial and similar - all British stock or descendant - that one can forget which side they’re on.Members of the opposing navy crews and the civilians are likable or despicable by turns. it seems that real people die as any of them succumb to wounds or disease. This all makes a greater case against war and prejudice in the end,

Americans slaves are as intelligent as their master, the sharp merchant Dylan Chipp, and more likable, though Chipp is immensely entertaining as he is taken among POWS from the ship on which he was just a passenger. Just as entertaining are scenes in the local farmers’ and merchants’ market days in the prison yard with a variety of products and services obtainable from sellers' stalls. The gypsy-type healers have a stall as well and dispense medicine and cures, but tend to whomever summons them on an emergency. They are held in seemingly low esteem, but are well patronized by prisoners, the British military, dignitaries, and others -- Physical suffering trumps prejudicial hatred. Additional scenes portray relationships of all sorts between Americans and British people and are particularly poignant and memorable.

Aside from some good lessons in the uselessness of hatred, Mr. Sclater’s book provides some good history of the prison, its construction and operation, the war, and the aftermath for all sides.

"It is a good read and would make a riveting film."

--Patty Inglish © text, May 2010.

Comment and Opinion

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    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, Patty, this is really interesting, I knew nothing about this at all, this was a big gap in my interest of History. The only time that I knew we were fighting the Americans was when the war of Independance was going on, and afterwards when the British attacked ships from America and spain to release the slaves. I will have to take a look at this. Thanks for the info, this is something I will have a read of. cheers nell

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Hi Nell Rose, thanks for reading the review and commenting -- I knew nothing of Dartmoor Depot before reading this book and was astonished. It led me to learn also that there are two battles called the Battle of Fort Pitt in America, and one is often called the Seige of Fort Pitt. I hope you enjoy the book.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for such an eye opener. I never heard of it as well. I don't think history book included such terrible facts. Well, well, well.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Hello, hello - It seems to be obscure history that the author is bringing to light. Even the museum is not publicized here in America, so Mr. Scalter is bring some of it to us. I'm glad he did.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Hatred and fear are such powerful motivators for evil deeds. I enjoyed (if that's the right word!) this review and will definitely look out for this book. Thanks for the heads up.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      tonymac04 - The characterizations are quite unique and the history is astonishing. Thanks for commenting and I hope you enjoy reading it - I think we can say "enjoy" when we come across something real and substantial. Thanks again.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, again, I just wanted to come back and say something that I thought about afterwards! I is interesting how certain history is lost over time. The main one that I think about is the Turkish Muslims that came over to England in the 1700s and captured thousands of English people to take back to turkey as slaves. Funny how that got lost! I think that is what annoys me when people always say it is the Europeans and Americans who dealt in Slavery. this is not so, what we did was very wrong, but they did it too. i will try and find out more about it. thanks again nell

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Nell Rose - Thank you, because I knew nothing about that history until you displayed it here. I hope you write a Hub that will tell us much more about such lost or hidden history. It's astounding.

    • mquee profile image

      mquee 7 years ago from Columbia, SC

      It's nice to read about the little known events in history, although this should have been known and taught. Tnaks for sharing this information.

    • profile image

      Ron 7 years ago

      Wow, this is very interesting. I thought I pretty much knew the events of the War of 1812, but this is an aspect of it that history books have just not covered. What a shame that part of our history was lost or just plain ignored!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Work is being accomplished toward possible production of a film of the book. It will be exciting and enlightening, should that occur. I look forward to it. Graham Sclater books are moving toward iPad as well, new link listed above in the text.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      I too know little of this. Well I know more now. I think I will look out for this. All countries sadly have some terrible bits of history

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