Friday, May 21, 2010

The Legend of Hessian Thal

camp security
Camp Security photo by Patrick McIntyre on Preservation Nation

Now partially private property and partially park land in Springettsbury Township, York County, Camp Security was a POW camp during the Revolution. The prisoners were mainly the captured troops of Generals Burgoyne and Cornwallis, taken during the battles of Saratoga and Yorktown.

The camp was loosely guarded by local militiamen, and it's said if you wanted to escape, all you had to do was walk out. But many of the prisoners actually had their families living in the compound in stone huts with them, and several ran cottage industries while imprisoned.

But that doesn't mean life was easy. Although most of the detainees had no desire to escape - they were treated relatively well there and the British Army life wasn't a exactly bed of roses - many perished in camp.

Especially rough was the winter of 1782-83 when fever swept the prison. Many died, and they were buried in a little dale outside Camp Security.

This became the site of its first ghost story, a poem entitled "Hessian Thal" written by Henry L. Fisher that tells of the specters of the dead German and British soldiers arising from the graveyard every Christmas Eve. They come back to mock their commanders for losing the battles that caused them to become prisoners and ultimately meet their death at Camp Security.

The inmates were interned at the camp until the British signed the Treaty of Paris to formally end the war on April 19, 1783. After their release, some of the freed prisoners stayed in America, while the others returned to their former homelands.

But it's said that a select few remained behind - forever. There's a trail that leads through the woods to the small valley graveyard of the soldiers, and several sightings of spook troopers have been reported from there at night, prisoners who can never escape.

No comments: