Human bones and skulls, bleached by the sun, would be unearthed by tides, washing ashore.
These were the remains of men who died aboard the prison ships—16 rotted, disease-ridden vessels docked near Wallabout Bay, where British soldiers held thousands of captive patriots in horrific conditions.
More than 11,500 prisoners perished on these ships, their bodies thrown overboard or hastily buried in waterside graves.
“For many years after the end of the war, the sandy beaches of Wallabout Bay remained littered with the bones of men who died in the prison ships—one resident of the area described skulls lying about as thick as pumpkins in an autumn cornfield. . . . ” wrote Edwin G. Burrows in his 2008 book Forgotten Patriots.
As decades passed, city leaders called for a more heroic monument to the men known as the prison ship martyrs.
The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park was dedicated in 1908. Twenty-two boxes containing a fraction of the remains of the martyrs are still inside a vault there today.
[A prison ship anchored in the bay; Wallabout Bay, site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in 1851, 70 or so years after the ships occupied the bay]
Tags: Brooklyn Navy Yard Wallabout, Crypts in New York City, Fort Greene Park prison ships, Macabre New York, New York in the Revolutionary War, old maps New York City, patriots of New York City, Prison Ships, Prison Ships Martyrs Monument, Wallabout Bay