A teenage soldier lies in a mass grave on Portland’s Eastern Prom

Sylvanus Sloan
Died 1813 at age 17

Greetings from Portland. Sweater weather is here. Every day this month I’m telling a story that bridges the gap between this world, and the next. I’m resurrecting the memory of Portlanders who’ve crossed over to the other side by posting one video each day, relating the tale of one, interesting “permanent Portlander.”

There once was a hospital on the Eastern Promenade. The only remaining evidence is a little-noticed mass grave. It contains the bones of Pvt. Sylvanus Sloan, of the 23 Infantry, and 20 other American soldiers.

They were all captured by the British in Canada during the War of 1812 and were on their way to Boston for a prisoner exchange aboard the British ship, the H.M.V. Regulus. It pulled into Portland Harbor just before Christmas, 1812, under a flag of truce.

A group of 21 American soldiers, who died during the War of 1812,  lie in a mass grave on Portland's Eastern Prom. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A group of 21 American soldiers, who died during the War of 1812, lie in a mass grave on Portland’s Eastern Prom. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

The American prisoners of war on board were very ill with malnutrition, dysentery and fever — 20 men were already dead. In Portland’s hospital, 21 more died.

Sylvanus Sloan, originally from Rhode Island, had just signed up to serve for five years the previous June. But he died January 19, 1813. He was one the last to be placed here, alongside his comrades. He was just 17 years old.

Today’s story is brought to you, in part, by Scott Leonard’s blog “Old Blue Genes.”

Disclaimer: I’m not a historian. I owe everything I know to the dedicated research of those who have come before me. These character sketches are assembled from multiple (often antique) sources and sprinkled with my own conjecture. I’m happy to be set straight or to learn more.

Flags wave over the graves of 11 of the 21 American soldiers buried in a mass grave on Portland's Eastern Prom. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Flags wave over the graves of 11 of the 21 American soldiers buried in a mass grave on Portland’s Eastern Prom. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Pvt. Sylvanus Sloan was just 17-years-old when he died and was interred in a mass grave on Portland's Eastern Prom with 20 other soldiers.  Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Pvt. Sylvanus Sloan was just 17-years-old when he died and was interred in a mass grave on Portland’s Eastern Prom with 20 other soldiers. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

 

Troy R. Bennett

About Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.