[Dartmoor, Prisoners of 1812]; 1853, v1972.1.1254; Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201; Brooklyn Historical Society.
“It was my fortune,” begins the memoir of Lewis P. Clover, the former New York seaman holding the flagstaff in the above group portrait, “to be taken prisoner in India during the War of 1812.” The portrait shows Clover reunited in 1853 with former inmates of Dartmoor, a “stark, mist-enshrouded” prison located on the southern moors of England where British forces incarcerated captured Americans in the “Second War of Independence.”
In the first decades of the 19th century, British fleets cruised international waters in pursuit of American privateer and merchant vessels, often imprisoning or impressing into service the crewmembers aboard. Clover was seized from the merchant ship Union, near Calcutta, in 1814 and spent the duration of the war confined at Dartmoor prison. In 1844, Clover described the despondency and camaraderie among the American, Dutch, Irish and French prisoners in a five-part memoir published in The Knickerbocker, a New York monthly. An inscription under Clover’s diagram of the prison in the above photo cites “the Massacre… of 1815,” when guards, led by “the monster Shortland,” indiscriminately fired on the unarmed prisoners, killing seven and wounding thirty-one.
According to a 1924 tally conducted by the United States Daughters of 1812, a total of 6,554 Americans were imprisoned at Dartmoor, of which over 270 died before British authorities granted amnesty at the war’s end.
Clover returned to New York, succeeded as a carver and gilder, and lived in “a little frame cottage” at 227 19th Street in Brooklyn. He died at age eighty-eight, and among Clover’s friends attending the funeral was Augustus Toedteberg, the father of former BHS librarian Emma Toedteberg. Clover’s 1879 obituary described him as having been the last American survivor of Dartmoor prison.
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Brooklyn Daily Eagle (1879) “Funeral of a Veteran of the War of 1812.” Jan. 24, 1879.
Carr, Deborah Edith Wallbridge (1924) Index to certified copy of list of American prisoners of war, 1812-1815 as recorded in General entry book, Ottawa, Canada. List of American prisoners of war, who died at Princetown, Dartmoor, England, 1812-1815. Association of State Presidents, Past and Present, and Charter Members, of the National society, United States Daughters of 1812.
Clover, Lewis P. (1844) “Reminiscences of a Dartmoor Prisoner,” The Knickerbocker. Vol. 23, Number 2.
Clover, Henry A. (1850) “Memoir of Lewis P. Clover,” The United States Democratic Review. Vol. 26, Issue 141, Mar. 1850.
Hickey, Donald, ed. (2013) The War of 1812: Writings from America’s Second War of Independence. NY: Penguin Group; Library of America.
Horsman, Reginald (1975) “The Paradox Of Dartmoor Prison.” American Heritage, Feb. 1975, Vol. 26, Issue 2.