Catalog Archive
Auction 152, Lot 236

The Infamous British Prison Ships of the Revolutionary War

"Die Sussigkeit des Friedens Wird Nur von Denen Verkannt, Welche die Plagen des Kriegs Nicht Erfahren Haben", Anon.

Subject: New York City, New York

Period: 1790 (circa)


Color: Hand Color

10.1 x 6.7 inches
25.7 x 17 cm
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The title of this German engraving translates as: "The sweetness of Freedom will only be undervalued (or unappreciated) by those who have not experienced the pains of war." The scene depicts two British prison ships anchored in the harbor, with a view of New York City in the background. Over 11,000 American prisoners of war are believed to have died upon British prison ships during the Revolutionary War - a death toll higher than in all the battles of the war. The two prison ships depicted here are the Prince of Wales and the Judith. According to the text below the engraving, the man laying down on the ship in the foreground is an American prisoner, who can no longer hope to see his homeland again, has been showered with beatings, and is already half dead due to neglect, and will therefore take his own life. On the ship in the background, several corpses are being pushed off a plank into the bay. The text continues to explain how "apathy for life" is the "British way of thinking," and that stabbing someone to death in cold blood causes him to "climb the highest summit in his superior wildness." The text concludes with the following words of caution: "Blissful freedom! You know the value of blood from every creature. He who interferes with him [freedom], will be indebted to human society."


Condition: B+

Attractive color with wide margins, a few printer's creases, a faint damp stain along right neatline, and light, scattered foxing.

Estimate: $600 - $800

Sold for: $400

Closed on 2/18/2015