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Friday, February 24, 2006

Feb. 5 1777
Today is payday for the Bellisle crew. They are not allowed on shore for fear that many will desert once they reach Plymouth. In consequence Captain Brooks has allowed a great market to be held on board ship today. Many local merchants have come out by boat carrying goods and food such as fresh roasted mutton, beef, chicken, bread and drink. Groups of us are sent on deck to take air as usual but we are not allowed to purchase goods at the market, and most of us could not for lack of money. We are confined to the after part of the quarterdeck. Some generous sailors give donations of food which are much appreciated but not nearly enough to fill the holes in our stomachs, a result of partial rations of ships food for more than one month. Along with the merchants have come wives and friends of the crew. It has become a regular party above and below decks. There are also many women from the local brothels dressed in bright colors and painted faces come on board to sell their wares. We are much the spectacle to these people from town; dirty, unshaven Colonials, our clothes are ragged and some of us now half naked. Despite our lowly state some of these women try to offer us their services but are put off by the sentries. This display shocks the pious sensibilities of some of our younger New England men and boys, although there are not a few of our people who would accept these offers but for the restraint of the sentries and want of a shilling in their pocket.

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