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Elizabeth Burgin and the Prison Ships



Elizabeth Burgin and the Prison Ships

A Short Reader

Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.85

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    crypt, untold, pension, smuggle, heroism, suffering, during, flee, harbor, escape, general, officer, capture, amount, such, allow
     content words:    Revolutionary War, HMS Jersey, Wallabout Bay, New York City, Elizabeth Burgin, General George Washington, Continental Congress, In Fort Greene Park, New York, Prison Ship Martyrs Monument


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Elizabeth Burgin and the Prison Ships
By Cindy Grigg
  

1     During the Revolutionary War, the British held many colonists as prisoners-of-war. They put them on ships, which was cheaper than building prisons on land. One such ship was the HMS Jersey in Wallabout Bay. This harbor was close to New York City. The prisoners were treated very badly. They weren't given enough food or water. Diseases like yellow fever and smallpox killed many of the men.
 
2     Elizabeth Burgin was a patriot. We don't know much about her life. We do know that she visited the prisoners on the British prison ships as often as she could. She brought the men food and cheer. An American officer noticed her visits. He wanted to help some of the prisoners escape. He asked Elizabeth for help with his plan. The British did not allow men to visit the ships. Elizabeth agreed to tell the prisoners to be ready. She helped smuggle them off the ship. The winter of 1779-80 was very cold. When the water in the harbor froze, men slipped away from the ships by walking on the ice. That winter, more than two hundred prisoners were led to freedom by Elizabeth Burgin.
 
3     The British were enraged. They offered a reward of two hundred pounds for her capture. This amount was more than most British soldiers were paid in twenty years! Elizabeth was afraid she might be hanged. She had to flee her home, leaving most of her belongings behind. General George Washington wrote to the Continental Congress about Elizabeth's heroism. She was given a pension by the Continental Congress in 1781 for her sacrifice.

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