The doctor spoken of by Jabez Fitch as Dr. Dibuke is perhaps the notorious character described by Mr. Elias Boudinot in the Journal from which we have already quoted. On page 35 of this book he gives us the following:
An Account Of The Frenchman Who Poisoned. American Prisoners In New York, And Was Rewarded For So Doing By General, Howe
"When the British Army took possession of New York they found a Frenchman in Goal, under Condemnation for Burglery and Robbery. He was liberated. He was a very loos, ignorant man. Had been a Servant. This fellow was set over our Prisoners in the Hospital, as a Surgeon, though he knew not the least principle of the Art. Dr. McHenry, a Physician of note in the American Army, and then a Prisoner, finding the extreme ignorance of this man, and that he was really murdering our people, remonstrated to the British Director of the Hospital, and refused visiting our sick Prisoners if this man was not dismissed. A British Officer, convinced that he had killed several of our People, lodged a complaint against him, when he was ordered to be tryed by a Court Martial, but the morning before the Court were to set, this Officer was ordered off to St Johns, and the Criminal was discharged for want of Evidence. During this man having the Charge of our Prisoners in the Hospital, two of our Men deserted from the Hospital and came into our Army when they were ordered to me for Examination. They Joined in this story. That they were sick in the Hospital under the care of the above Frenchman. That he came and examined them, and gave to each of them a dose of Physick to be taken immediately. A Young Woman, their Nurse, made them some private signs not to take the Physick immediately. After the Doctor was gone, she told them she suspected the Powder was poison. That she had several times heard this Frenchman say that he would have ten Rebels dead in such a Room and five dead in such a Room the next morning, and it always so happened. They asked her what they should do: She told them their only chance was to get off, sick as they were, that she would help them out and they must shift for themselves. They accordingly got off safe, and brought the Physick with them. This was given to a Surgeon's Mate, who afterwards reported that he gave it to a Dog, and that he died in a very short time. I afterwards saw an account in a London Paper of this same Frenchman being taken up in England for some Crime and condemned to dye. At his Execution he acknowledged the fact of his having murdered a great number of Rebels in the Hospitals at New York by poyson. That on his reporting to General Howe the number of the Prisoners dead, he raised his pay. He further confessed that he poisoned the wells used by the American Flying Camp, which caused such an uncommon Mortality among them in the year 1776."
Jabez Fitch seems to have been mistaken in thinking that General Robertson instead of Lord Howe was commanding in New York at this time.
We will now give the account written by a Tory gentleman, who lived in New York during a part of the Revolution, of Loring, the Commissary of Prisons, appointed by General Howe in 1776. Judge Thomas Jones was a noted loyalist of the day. Finding it inconvenient to remain in this country after the war, he removed to England, where he died in 1792, having first completed his "History of New York during the Revolution." He gives a much larger number of prisoners in that city in the year 1776 than do any of the other authorities. We will, however, give his statements just as they were written.
"Upon the close of the campaign in 1776 there were not less than 10,000 prisoners (Sailors included) within the British lines in New York. A Commissary of Prisoners was therefore appointed, and one Joshua Loring, a Bostonian, was commissioned to the office with a guinea a day, and rations of all kinds for himself and family. In this appointment there was reciprocity. Loring had a handsome wife. The General, Sir William Howe, was fond of her. Joshua made no objections. He fingered the cash: the General enjoyed Madam. Everybody supposing the next campaign (should the rebels ever risk another) would put a final period to the rebellion. Loring was determined to make the most of his commission and by appropriating to his own use nearly two thirds of the rations allowed the prisoners, he actually starved to death about three hundred of the poor wretches before an exchange took place, and which was not until February, 1777, and hundreds that were alive at the time were so emaciated and enfeebled for the want of provisions, that numbers died on the road on their way home, and many lived but a few days after reaching their habitations. The war continuing, the Commissaryship of Prisoners grew so lucrative that in 1778 the Admiral thought proper to appoint one for naval prisoners. Upon the French War a Commissary was appointed for France. When Spain joined France another was appointed for Spain. When Great Britain made war upon Holland a Commissary was appointed for Dutch prisoners. Each had his guinea a day, and rations for himself and family. Besides, the prisoners were half starved, as the Commissaries filched their provisions, and disposed of them for their own use. It is a known fact, also, that whenever an exchange was to take place the preference was given to those who had, or could procure, the most money to present to the Commissaries who conducted the exchange, by which means large sums of money were unjustly extorted and demanded from the prisoners at every exchange, to the scandal and disgrace of Britons. We had five Commissaries of Prisoners, when one could have done all the business. Each Commissary had a Deputy, a Clerk, a Messenger in full pay, with rations of every kind."
As Judge Jones was an ardent Tory we would scarcely imagine that he would exaggerate in describing the corruptions of the commissaries. He greatly deplored the cruelties with which he taxed General Howe and other officials, and declared that these enormities prevented all hopes of reconciliation with Great Britain.
We will next quote from the "Life of Ethan Allen," written by himself, as he describes the condition of the prisoners in the churches in New York, more graphically than any of his contemporaries.