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Q: "revolutionary war prisoners of war" ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: "revolutionary war prisoners of war"
Category: Reference, Education and News > Teaching and Research
Asked by: neilg-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 30 Dec 2002 13:41 PST
Expires: 29 Jan 2003 13:41 PST
Question ID: 135115
I need information about William Clark of Vriginia who was held as a
POW on Prison Island in Canada from 1780 to 1782.  I also need
information about this POW camp.  Known as Prison Island, it was near
Montreal on an island in the St. Lawrence River.

Request for Question Clarification by ericynot-ga on 30 Dec 2002 15:29 PST
Hi neilg,

I have located a reference to a William Clark who escaped from Prison
Island in 1782, but not much detailed information about him. However,
I do have a reference to a book that is available either used or
through the Library of Congress which tells the story of that escape
from Prison Island by Clark and about 19 others in September of 1782.

I also have information about General George Rogers Clark whose
younger brother was also William Clark (later of the Lewis and Clark
expedition). A number of General Clark's men (not including brother
William who was only ten years old at the time) were captured, sent to
Prison Island in 1780, and also escaped in 1782. I considered the
possibility that this was the group to which your question referred
(or it could just be coincidental facts).

If you have any additional information about the source of your
question, and your expectations for an answer, and if what I have
found appears adequate to your needs, I will post my research as an


Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 30 Dec 2002 16:42 PST
Dear neilg-ga:

I have also been researching your question and have found a number of
references to the camp, the camp conditions, the prisoners there and
details of the escape as related by at least two of the acutal
escapees to members of their families (one of which was eventually
published in the 1800's). Also, I have several excerpts from books.

In researching William Clark, the man, however, the information
becomes virtually indistinguishable from other men who share his
relatively common name. If there are any details you can provide
(ideally a date of birth) or some famous or otherwise well known
provenance about the man perhaps I can narrow him down to one of
several or even pinpoint the exact person. I will proceed if you can
assist me further.

Subject: Re: "revolutionary war prisoners of war"
Answered By: ragingacademic-ga on 31 Dec 2002 03:15 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear neilg,

Thanks for your question.  First, let me request that if any of the
following is unclear or if you require any further research – please
don’t hesitate to ask me for a clarification.

You requested information about William Clark of Vriginia who was held
as a
POW on Prison Island in Canada from 1780 to 1782, as well as about the
POW camp known as Prison Island.

Following is the information I have managed to uncover -

From –

“"Sprague Families in America", by Dr. Warren Vincent Sprague, page
John Sprague was of Milton, NY; a farmer. He was captured about 1780
by the British and Indians and imprisoned at Montreal, Canada, until
October, 1781, when he with others was removed to Prison Island, 45
miles above Montreal. From this place he, with about 20 others,
escaped on the night of September 10, 1782, and with William Clark of
Virginia, Simeon Belknap and Azdock Steel, both of Randolph, VT.,
reached Ft. Pittsford, Vt., in October, 1782, after 22 days of
suffering in the wilderness. This episode is fully narrated in the
Steele's Indian Narratives, pub. Claremont, NY 1854.
About 1850 he sailed for Jamica, WI as supercargo and his family heard
no more of him. They dwelt at Milton until 1796-8 and then settled on
Lot no. 17 in Pompey, where Polly died.”

So, there seems to be a manuscript somewhere titled “Indian
Narratives,” written by at least a couple of authors with the last
name Steele and published in Claremont, New York in 1854.  This
manuscript would include considerably more information on this event.

Let’s try and figure out who William Clark is -

From –

We learn that William Clark was born in Hanover County, Virginia on
September 4 of 1760.  He died in 1800.  This snippet of information
also tells us he married one Judith Woodson Cheadle – as it will turn
out, she was his second wife.

From –

The birth date is confirmed.  Note that the age is a perfect fit with
someone who was a soldier circa 1780-82.  We learn that William first
married Elizabeth Allen, and then likely some time in 1782 he married
Judith Woodson Cheadle.

“WILLIAM CLARK, b. September 04, 1760; d. 1800, Albemarle Co. Va.; m.

Another pointer to this second marriage is at –

This last page also provides a key linkage to Francis Scott Key
(national anthem) as well as to Lewis & Clark.

A history of the Clark family of Virginia can be found here –

This is actually quite extensive and will provide you with a lot of
great information about William and his family.

Now that we know something about William Clark, let’s try and
understand something about Prison Island –

One Stephen Hawkins was imprisoned on the island at the same time as
William, although he did not escape, per the account at –

“(A) few days before the expiration of his term of enlistment of six
months, Stephen Hawkins, with his company, was taken prisoner at Fort
Ann by a corps under Maj. Carlton, conveyed to Montreal and kept in
confinement for one year. They were then taken to Prison Island and
confined, part of the time in irons, for another year.  Were then
taken to Boston and set free, having been exchanged at Montreal.”

However, this at least gives some sense of the harshness of
imprisonment on the island.

The story of Joseph Brant provides a brief description of the island –

“In the month of November, 1781, the prisoners were transferred from
Chamblee to an island in the St. Lawrence, called at that time Prison
Island-situated in the rapids some distance above Montreal.”

As well as some accounts of prisoner life on the island and attempted

Here are some additional accounts of Prison Island; mostly, they are
concerned with escapes and attempted escapes –

Account of an escape from Prison Island, July 13th 1782

John Fitch, inventor of the steam boat, was also imprisoned on Prison
Island, albeit several years later

This last account is key, because it provides us with the French name
for the island – Coteau du Lac – that allowed me to identify the
location today (see more below).

This historical sketch of the Fisher families also provides some
account of Prison Island –

As does the account of Frederick Sammons, who was also imprisoned on
Prison Island and eventually managed to escape –

Prison Island Today

According to the Fitch account, Prison Island is also called Coteau du
Lac – the following ties the two together –

“Coteau-du-Lac (National Historic Site)  
(1779 - 1780's, 1813 - 1840's?), Coteau-du-Lac
An earthwork fort with two wooden blockhouses. A new octagonal stone
blockhouse was built in 1813, along with a cloverleaf earthwork
bastion, to protect the canal. Restored in 1965. On Prison Island was
Prison Island Blockhouse (1780, rebuilt 1814), used to guard a POW
camp during the American Revolution and the War of 1812.”

Finally, the Parcs Canada Web site provides a plethora of information
including period paintings and a history of the fort –

I hope this response adequately addresses your request.  Please let me
know if you are in need of additional information concerning this


Search Strategy:

"coteau du lac" prison
"coteau du lac"
"prison island" montreal "st. lawrence"
"prison island" "revolutionary war" montreal st. Lawrence
"prison island" montreal
'Azdock Steel" "william clark"
"Simeon Belknap" "william clark"
"John Sprague" "william clark"
"elizabeth allen" "william clark" Virginia
"judith cheadle"
"judith woodson cheadle"
"william clark" "judith woodson"
"william clark" virginia -"lewis and clark" "hanover county" –caroline
"william clark" Virginia
"william clark" "prison island"

Clarification of Answer by ragingacademic-ga on 03 Jan 2003 10:32 PST
neilg -

Thanks so much for the rating, the feedback and your tip!
I truly appreciate it.

It was fun and interesting tracking this one down!
neilg-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $20.00
Your answer provided me with a wealth of information.  Thank you very much.

There are no comments at this time.

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