Joses Bucknam was a brave man, serving multiple enlistments during the Revolutionary War. His pension file is quite lengthy, but here is a summary of his service:
- March 1776 – served one month under Capt. Hale at Ticonderoga
- Later, served four months at Fort Hill in Boston3.
- March 1777, enlisted for 3 years under Capt. Chiles and was discharged in November 1780 at West Point
- April 1781, enlisted on board a 20 gun ship, but in June 1781, they were defeated by a 36 gun British frigate, taken first to Ireland and then to England. He remained imprisoned until June 1782 until he was part of a prisoner exchange.
War is a scary time for all anyway, but Joses was not only captured, he was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, which was a dangerous trip in and of itself.
I’ve crossed the Atlantic in 3000+ passenger cruise ships with stabilizers. I don’t think I would have cared much for frigate travel, especially being locked in the bottom of the ship.
The trip to England might well have been the less scary event compared to life in Old Mill Prison.
First, colonial prisoners could be charged with treason, which meant facing possible execution.
Captured officers fared better than enlisted men. As Joses was a private, he didn’t enjoy any of the niceties given to those of higher rank. Joses’s daily rations consisted of something like one pound of bread, a quart of beer, 3/4 pound of beef and one cup of peas five times a week. Not only was nutrition there very poor, but the bread was said to have been baked with many straw ends in it.
His bed would have been straw on the ground. If he arrived at the prison with any decent clothes still existing, they would have been taken from him and replaced with wornout rags.
Medical care was almost non-existent. Scourges of smallpox killed some of the prisoners, other maladies and injuries brought on the deaths of others.
The only hope for these men was escape or exchange. Even if they escaped, they faced the huge obstacle of where next to go. With no money and no local family or friends to help them, they had little chance of remaining free and even less of a chance to return to the colonies.
It wasn’t until 1781 that the British recognized men classified as “prisoners of war.” Before then, they were just plain rebels or considered outright criminals. No written record exists today detailing any escape attempts made by Joses, but a year after he was captured, he was part of a prisoner exchange of British and rebel troops. Benjamin Franklin was an integral part of the efforts to successfully implement these exchanges.
Joses stated in his pension affadavit that he was freed in June 1782, but no details are given as to how he arrived back in the colonies and made his way home to his family.
He again had to make the trip across the Atlantic, but he survived capture, imprisonment and return. I can only imagine how happy Joses and his family were to be reunited. He had been listed as a deserter after his capture. When he didn’t return home, they likely thought he had died.