The History Of Dartmoor Prison

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    When it was built

    Dartmoor Prison was originally built at Princetown in Devon between 1806 and 1809 to house French captives during the Napoleonic Wars. During the War of 1812 many American prisoners were also confined there. French and American officers were eligible for parole under a system which developed at this time. Under the terms of this system, those of higher rank were able to live within the community, in designated 'parole towns'.
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    American and French prisoners died in Dartmoor prison

    Between 1812 and 1816 about 1,500 American and French prisoners died in Dartmoor prison and were buried in a field beyond the prison walls. The brutal mistreatment of American prisoners of war was investigated after the war by an Anglo-American commission, which awarded compensation to the families of those who had died there. For published material, which has drawn on a great variety of scattered sources, see the list of publications on the history of Dartmoor prison.
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    At one time the prison population numbered almost 6,000. Many prisoners died and were buried on the moor. Both French and American wars were concluded in 1815, and repatriations began.
    The prison then lay empty until 1850, when it was largely rebuilt and commissioned as a convict gaol.
    With the establishment of the prison farm in about 1852, all the prisoners remains were exhumed and re-interred in two cemeteries behind the prison.