Camp Construction

President Reed wrote to Lt. William Scott of the York County Militia to find a suitable spot to construct a prisoner of war camp. President Reed instructed that it should be well watered and well wooded — a place where the prisoners could build huts, surrounded by a picket. The local militia intended to guard the prisoners, were to receive pay at the rate of three and a half shillings a day in coin – the Continental money was then nearly worthless.

On July 28, 1781, Lt. Scott wrote back to President Reed:

Agreeable to your Excellency’s orders I have found a place for the convention troops to encamp; about four miles and a half southeast of Yorktown, which Colonel Wood had approved as a suitable and convenient place. I have also called the fourth class of the militia, who have furnished upwards of one hundred men to guard them. Colonel Wood is of the opinion it will require near double that number until the necessary works on the encampment are erected.

I have collected all the arms in York and Hanover, which are not half enough for the guards. Therefore I have to request of the Honorable Council to send us arms and ammunition for the use of the guards aforesaid.

The arms which our seven months’ men carried to Philadelphia last year (forty-three in number) were delivered up to a house near the bridge on Water Street where clothing and other military stores were kept, but no receipts passed for them that I can tell.

Colonel Wood has called me for ten or twelve carpenters, and for axes, spades, picks and shovels for the building of the huts and pickets. The carpenters and the smiths who make the tools look to me for their pay; have therefore to beg your Excellency’s directions in this manner, whether it is a county or continental charge and how and when these people are to be paid and by whom.

On August 2nd, 1781, Colonel James Wood stated:

“I have fixed the British troops on good ground, the property of a non-juror, between York and the Susquehanna, so as to be convenient to throw them across the river in any emergency”. The place selected by Colonel Wood as a cantonment for the prisoners was situated in what is now the extreme southwestern portion of Springettsbury Township. The British Convention prisoners numbering about 1,000 to 2,000 (accounts vary) were brought back from Lancaster in August of 1781. They were required to assist the carpenters employed by the government in erecting a stockade of chestnut logs and in building the huts out of stone. This place became known in the Revolutionary annals as “Camp Security”.