The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn by Robert Watson

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: This book made me want to punch a British person.

Quick synopsis: A look inside one of the notorious British prison ships used during the American Revolution, the HMS Jersey.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: “HMS” in front of a British ship’s name stands for “His/Her Majesty’s Ship.” It is so obnoxiously simple. And so egocentric.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: Estimates for battle deaths for the American side in the revolution is about 4,500. Estimated number of American deaths aboard British prison ships is about 8,000. Now you know why I want to punch a British person.

My Take: Man, everything with “Jersey” attached to it is terrible. (Just kidding, New Jersey friends! Kinda!)

The HMS Jersey was one of the British prison ships which were in New York during the American Revolution. These ships were much older than the newer battle ships (Jersey was built in 1736). Since they had limited utility then why not put the scummy rebels aboard them and treat them horribly? That’s what the British thought and that’s what they did.

The conditions were atrocious, and Watson puts the reader through the wringer emotionally. He expertly describes the oppressive conditions and weaves a coherent narrative along the way. The ships were so bad even some British higher ups called for investigations.

I will be drinking a few extra beers on July 4th this year. Also, I will be crank calling British people. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Verdict: This is a great book even if you are an American Revolution nut (like me!). This is a little-known part of the revolution and it is done well.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Nathaniel Philbrick, Bunker Hill
  • Nathaniel Philbrick, Valiant Ambition
  • Ron Chernow, George Washington
  • Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World
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The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn by Robert Watson
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