Today, the Prisoner of War Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers the prison at Dartmoor and the freedom of two of its prisoners of war.
The American and Commercial Daily Advertiser of August 19, 1815 included a short article on the release of two of Britain’s American prisoners of war that was first printed in the Providence Patriot.
Mr. Samuel Hopkins, of Foster, and Mr. Henry Stone, of Scituate, in this state, have recently returned home, the first after an absence of 17 years, and the latter of 13 years.
They were impressed into the naval service of Great Britain, from American vessels, and as the rest of their countrymen who were in slavery did, at the commencement of hostilities, gave themselves up as prisoners of war, since which period, they have been immured in the dungeons of Dartmoor.
Mr. Hopkins has a family, who had long since numbered him with the dead; a son, who has nearly attained the age of manhood, during the lingering years of his father’s servitude in the “floating hells of Britain.”
Mr. Stone had repeatedly written to his father while in slavery, and the necessary documents were as often forwarded to procure his release, but in vain.
Their sufferings have been almost beyond endurance; and their joy on finding themselves once more on the soil of liberty nearly overpowered their faculties.
The American Legion Weekly published in July 1922 provided more information on the infamous prison at Dartmoor in an article titled, “The Legion Does Not Forget.”
A cairn and a monument at Princetown, England, mark the graves of 218 Americans who fought in the war of 1812. Until London Post placed a wreath on the historic spot as a part of its Memorial Day exercises this year, the graves had never been decorated by Americans.
These men died while held as prisoners of war at the Dartmoor Prison which stands hardly a stone’s throw away. The parish church in the little village of Princetown was built by the labor of French and American prisoners of war.
His Majesty’s Convict Prison at Dartmoor, as it is now called, is no longer used for military purposes. But it was originally built in 1806 to hold the prisoners taken in the wars with France of that period.
When in the War of 1812 with the United States the prison ships at Plymouth became overcrowded with American sailors, taken from our merchantmen, privateers and men o’ war, they were sent to the Dartmoor Prison.
Stirring tales have been told of the hardships experienced by these countrymen of ours of a hundred years ago.
Many of them had been taken from unarmed merchantmen and were held because of their refusal to be impressed into service against their own country.
The large number who died from disease and were buried in the prison graveyard plainly shows that sanitary conditions at the prison could not have been ideal.
For years the sod which covered the remains of these Americans was unmarked. It was one of the governors of the prison who, many years later, and after it had been converted into a convict prison, paid tribute to England’s worthy enemies by erecting the cairn and monument which now adorn the spot.
Americans first honored them in 1910 when the Daughters of the War of 1812 dedicated a memorial window to their memory in the little parish church which they and their comrades helped to build.
Their graves, however, had never been decorated in the time-honored way that other American heroes’ graves are decorated until London Post placed a wreath over their resting place on last Memorial Day.
The same day on which the wreath was placed over the grave of the heroes of the War of 1812, London Post held dedication exercises at Brookwood Cemetery thirty miles outside of London, where 450 veterans of the World War lie buried.
Memorial Day exercises attended by more than 800 American residents of London were held at St. Margaret’s, Westminster, and the Legion placed wreaths in all England’s principal cemeteries.
The Prisoner of War Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows against an image of the massacre at Dartmoor Prison in April 1815 where guards needlessly killed seven–the youngest 14– and wounded 60 prisoners.