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Title: Prisoners of War in Britain 1756 to 1815 - A record of their lives, their romance and their sufferings
Author: Abell, Francis
Language: English
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  _From a painting by A. C. Cooke in the Town Hall, Luton_

                      PRISONERS OF WAR IN BRITAIN
                              1756 TO 1815


                             FRANCIS ABELL

                            HUMPHREY MILFORD
                        OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
                        LONDON EDINBURGH GLASGOW


                          OXFORD: HORACE HART
                       PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY



Two influences have urged me to make a study of the subject of the
prisoners of war in Britain.

First: the hope that I might be able to vindicate our country against
the charge so insistently brought against her that she treated the
prisoners of war in her custody with exceptional inhumanity.

Second: a desire to rescue from oblivion a not unimportant and a most
interesting chapter of our national history.

Whether my researches show the foregoing charge to be proven or not
proven remains for my readers to judge. I can only say that I have
striven to the utmost to prevent the entrance of any national bias into
the presentation of the picture.

As to the second influence. It is difficult to account for the fact that
so interesting a page of our history should have remained unwritten.
Even authors of fiction, who have pressed every department of history
into their service, have, with about half a dozen exceptions, neglected
it as a source of inspiration, whilst historical accounts are limited to
Mr. Basil Thomson’s _Story of Dartmoor Prison_, Dr. T. J. Walker’s
_Norman Cross_, and Mr. W. Sievwright’s _Perth Depôt_, all of which I
have been permitted to make use of, and local handbooks.

Yet the sojourn among us of thousands of war prisoners between the years
1756 and 1815 must have been an important feature of our national
life—especially that of officers on parole in our country towns; despite
which, during my quest in many counties of England, Scotland, and Wales,
I have been surprised to find how rapidly and completely the memory of
this sojourn has faded; how faintly even it lingers in local tradition;
how much haziness there is, even in the minds of educated people, as to
who or what prisoners of war were; and how the process of gathering
information has been one of almost literal excavation and disinterment.
But the task has been a great delight. It has introduced me to all sorts
and conditions of interesting people; it has taken me to all sorts of
odd nooks and corners of the country; and it has drawn my attention to a
literature which is not less valuable because it is merely local. I need
not say that but for the interest and enthusiasm of private individuals
I could never have accomplished the task, and to them I hope I have made
sufficient acknowledgement in the proper places, although it is possible
that, from their very multitude, I may have been guilty of omissions,
for which I can only apologize.

                                                           FRANCIS ABELL

 LONDON, 1914.


 CHAPTER                                                            PAGE

      I. INTERNATIONAL RECRIMINATIONS                                  1

     II. THE EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS                                    25

    III. THE PRISON SYSTEM—THE HULKS                                  37

     IV. LIFE ON THE HULKS                                            54

      V. LIFE ON THE HULKS (_continued_)                              75

     VI. PRISON-SHIP SUNDRIES                                         92




           1. SISSINGHURST CASTLE                                    125
      X.   2. NORMAN CROSS                                           133
     XI.   3. PERTH                                                  155
    XII.   4. PORTCHESTER                                            166
   XIII.   5. LIVERPOOL                                              186
    XIV.   6. GREENLAW—VALLEYFIELD                                   196
     XV.   7. STAPLETON, NEAR BRISTOL                                207
    XVI.   8. FORTON, PORTSMOUTH                                     215
   XVII.   9. MILLBAY, PLYMOUTH                                      220
  XVIII.  10. DARTMOOR                                               235

    XIX. SOME MINOR PRISONS                                          262
              WINCHESTER                                             262
              ROSCROW AND KERGILLIACK                                264
              SHREWSBURY                                             266
              YARMOUTH                                               268
              EDINBURGH                                              269

     XX. LOUIS VANHILLE: A FAMOUS ESCAPER                            278

    XXI. THE PRISON SYSTEM—PRISONERS ON PAROLE                       284

   XXII. PAROLE LIFE                                                 299

  XXIII. THE PRISONERS ON PAROLE IN SCOTLAND                         316

   XXIV. PAROLE PRISONERS IN SCOTLAND (_continued_)                  338

    XXV. PRISONERS OF WAR IN WALES                                   357

   XXVI. ESCAPE AGENTS AND ESCAPES                                   365

  XXVII. ESCAPES OF PRISONERS ON PAROLE                              376

 XXVIII. COMPLAINTS OF PRISONERS                                     395

   XXIX. PAROLE LIFE: SUNDRY NOTES                                   412

    XXX. PAROLE LIFE: SUNDRY NOTES (_continued_)                     432


           1. SOME DISTINGUISHED PRISONERS OF WAR                    442
           2. SOME STATISTICS                                        449
           3. EPITAPHS OF PRISONERS                                  451

   INDEX                                                             455

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


   WAR AT NORMAN CROSS                                    _Frontispiece_
 _From a painting by A. C. Cooke, Esq., in the Town
   Hall, Luton; reproduced here by permission of the

 FRENCH SAILORS ON AN ENGLISH PRISON SHIP                             42
 _After Bombled._

 PRISON SHIPS                                                         45
 _From a sketch by the Author._

   BARRACKS, CHATHAM                                     _To face p._ 46

 GARNERAY DRAWING AN ENGLISH SOLDIER                                  62
 _After Louis Garneray._

 THE _CROWN_ HULK SEEN FROM THE STERN                                 67
 _After Louis Garneray._

 EXTERIOR VIEW OF A HULK                                              72
 _After Louis Garneray._

 THE _VENGEANCE_ HULK                                                 74
 _After Louis Garneray._

 _After Colonel Lebertre._

 SISSINGHURST CASTLE                                    _To face p._ 126
 _From an old print in the possession of Henry Neve,
   Esq., by whose permission it is reproduced._

   CASTLE, 1763                                         _To face p._ 132
 _Reproduced by permission of the owner, Henry Neve,

   CROSS. Unveiled July 28, 1914                                     134

 NORMAN CROSS PRISON                                                 137
 _Hill’s Plan_, 1797–1803.

   WAR                                                  _To face p._ 148
 _Presented to the Author by Mrs. Ashley Dodd, of
   Godinton Park, Ashford, Kent._

 THE BLOCK HOUSE, NORMAN CROSS, 1809                    _To face p._ 152
 _From a sketch by Captain George Lloyd in the United
   Service Museum, Whitehall._

 PORTCHESTER CASTLE                                     _To face p._ 166
 _From the ‘Victoria History of England—South
   Hampshire’, by permission of Messrs. Constable &

 PLAN OF PORTCHESTER CASTLE, 1793                                    168

   RATIONS                                              _To face p._ 173
 _In the Author’s possession._

   WAR AT PORTSMOUTH                                    _To face p._ 176
 _In the possession of Messrs. Doxford & Sons, Pallion,
   Sunderland, by whose permission it is reproduced._

 THE OLD TOWER PRISON, LIVERPOOL                                     187
 _From an old Print._


 STAPLETON PRISON                                       _To face p._ 212
 _From the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’_, 1814.

 DARTMOOR WAR PRISON, IN 1812                                        236
 _From a sketch signed ‘John Wethems’ in the Public
   Record Office. Reproduced by permission of Basil
   Thomson, Esq., and Colonel Winn._

 DARTMOOR. THE ORIGINAL MAIN ENTRANCE                                248
 _From a sketch by the Author._

   PRISONERS OF WAR AT DARTMOOR                         _To face p._ 251
 _In the possession of Maberley Phillips, Esq., F.S.A.,
   by whose permission it is reproduced._

   DARTMOOR                                             _To face p._ 256
 _Now in the Museum, Plymouth, and reproduced here by
   permission of the owner, Charles Luxmoore, Esq.,
   from a photograph by Mr. J. R. Browning, Exeter._

 _From Benjamin Waterhouse’s ‘Journal of a Young Man of

 JEDBURGH ABBEY, 1812                                   _To face p._ 347
 _From a painting by Ensign Bazin, a French prisoner of
   war. Reproduced by permission of J. Veitch, Esq._

   PRISONERS OF WAR                                     _To face p._ 416
 _Now in the United Service Museum, Whitehall._

 _From Montorgueil’s ‘La Tour d’Auvergne’._

                               CHAPTER I

He who, with the object of dealing fairly and squarely with that
interesting and unaccountably neglected footnote to British history, the
subject of prisoners of war in Britain, has sifted to the best of his
ability all available sources of information both at home and abroad, as
the present writer has done, feels bound to make answer to the

1. Did we of Britain treat our prisoners of war with the brutality
alleged by foreign writers almost without exception?

2. Did our Government sin in this respect more than did other
Governments in their treatment of the prisoners taken from us?

As an Englishman I much regret to say in reply to the first question,
that, after a very rigorous examination of authorities and weighing of
evidence, and making allowance for the not unnatural exaggeration and
embellishment by men smarting under deprivation of liberty, I find that
foreigners have not unduly emphasized the brutality with which we
treated a large proportion of our prisoners of war, and I am fairly
confident that after a study of the following pages my readers will
agree with me.

Between our treatment of prisoners on parole and in confinement on land,
and foreign treatment of our countrymen similarly situated, the
difference, if any, is very slight, but nothing comparable with the
English prison-ship system existed anywhere else, except at Cadiz after
the battle of Baylen in 1808, and to the end of time this abominable,
useless, and indefensible system will remain a stain upon our national

In reply to the second question, the balance appears to be fairly even
between the behaviour of our own and foreign Governments—at any rate,
between ours and that of France—for Britain and France practically
monopolize the consideration of our subject; the number of prisoners
taken by and from the United States, Spain, Holland, Denmark, and other
countries, is comparatively insignificant.

Each Government accused the other. Each Government defended itself. Each
Government could bring forward sufficient evidence to condemn the other.
Each Government, judging by the numerous official documents which may be
examined, seems really to have aimed at treating its prisoners as
humanely and as liberally as circumstances would allow. Each Government
was badly served by just those sections of its subordinates which were
in the closest and most constant contact with the prisoners. It is
impossible to read the printed and written regulations of the two
Governments with regard to the treatment of war-prisoners without being
impressed by their justness, fairness, and even kindness. The French
rules published in 1792, for instance, are models of humane
consideration; they emphatically provided that foreign prisoners were to
be treated exactly as French soldiers in the matter of sustenance,
lodging, and care when sick.

All this was nullified by the behaviour of subordinates. It is equally
impossible to read the personal narratives of British prisoners in
France and of French prisoners in Britain without being convinced that
the good wills of the two Governments availed little against the
brutality, the avarice, and the dishonesty of the officials charged with
the carrying out of the benevolent instructions.

It may be urged that Governments which really intended to act fairly
would have taken care that they were suitably served. So we think
to-day. But it must always be borne in mind that the period covered in
this book—from 1756 to 1815—cannot be judged by the light of to-day. It
was an age of corruption from the top to the bottom of society, and it
is not to be wondered at that, if Ministers and Members of Parliament,
and officers of every kind—naval, military, and civil—were as
essentially objects of sale and purchase as legs of mutton and suits of
clothes, the lower orders of men in authority, those who were in most
direct touch with the prisoners of war, should not have been immune from
the contagion.

Most exactly, too, must it be remembered by the commentator of to-day
that the age was not only corrupt, but hard and brutal; that beneath the
veneer of formal politeness of manner there was an indifference to human
suffering, and a general rudeness of tastes and inclinations, which make
the gulf separating us from the age of Trafalgar wider than that which
separated the age of Trafalgar from that of the Tudors.

It is hard to realize that less than a century ago certain human
beings—free-born Britons—were treated in a fashion which to-day if it
was applied to animals would raise a storm of protest from John o’
Groats to the Land’s End: that the fathers of some of us who would
warmly resent the aspersion of senility were subject to rules and
restrictions such as we only apply to children and idiots; that at the
date of Waterloo the efforts of Howard and Mrs. Fry had borne but little
fruit in our prisons; and that thirty years were yet to pass ere the
last British slave became a free man. Unfortunates were regarded as
criminals, and treated accordingly, and the man whose only crime was
that he had fought for his country, received much the same consideration
as the idiot gibbering on the straw of Bedlam.

It could not be expected that an age which held forgery and
linen-stealing to be capital offences; which treated freely-enlisted
sailors and soldiers as animals, civil offenders as lunatics, and
lunatics as dangerous criminals; of which the social life is fairly
reflected in the caricatures of Gillray and Rowlandson; which extolled
much conduct which to-day we regard as base and contemptible as actually
deserving of praise and admiration, should be tenderly disposed towards
thousands of foreigners whose enforced detention in the land added
millions to taxation, and caused a constant menace to life and property.

So, clearly bearing in mind the vast differences between our age and
that covered in these pages, let us examine some of the recriminations
between Britain and France, chiefly on the question of the treatment of
prisoners of war, as a preparation for a more minute survey of the life
of these unfortunates among us, and an equitable judgement thereon.

In Britain, prisoners of war were attended to by ‘The Commissioners for
taking care of sick and wounded seamen and for exchanging Prisoners of
War’, colloquially known as ‘The Sick and Hurt’ Office, whose business
was, ‘To see the sick and wounded seamen and prisoners were well cared
for, to keep exact accounts of money issued to the receiver, to disburse
in the most husbandly manner, and in all things to act as their
judgements and the necessities of the service should require.’ John
Evelyn, Samuel Pepys, and Home, the author of _Douglas_, had been
Commissioners. On December 22, 1799, the care of prisoners of war was
transferred to the Transport Office, and so remained until 1817. In 1819
the Victualling Office took over the duty.

Throughout the period of the Seven Years’ War—that is, from 1756 to
1763—there was a constant interchange of letters upon the subject of the
treatment of prisoners of war. The French king had made it a rule to
distribute monthly, from his private purse, money for the benefit of his
subjects who were prisoners in Britain; this was called the Royal
Bounty. It was applied not merely to the relief and comfort of the
prisoners while in confinement, but also to the payment of their
homeward passages when exchanged, and of certain dues levied on them by
the British Government upon entering and leaving the country. The
payment was made on a graduated scale, according to rank, by regularly
appointed French agents in England, whose exact and beautifully kept
accounts may be examined at the Archives Nationales in Paris.

This Royal Bounty, the French Government asserted, had been inspired by
the continual complaints about the bad treatment of their countrymen,
prisoners of war in England. To this it was replied that when the French
prisoners arrived it was determined and arranged that they should have
exactly the same victualling both in quality and quantity as British
seamen, and this was actually increased by half a pound of bread per man
per diem over the original allowance. It was asserted that all the
provisions issued were good, although the bread was not always fresh
baked. This should be remedied. The meat was the same in quality as that
served out to British seamen—indeed it was better, for orders were
issued that the prisoners should have fresh meat every meat day (six in
the week) whereas British seamen had it only twice a week, and sometimes
not so often.

The Commissioners of the Admiralty expressed their difficulty in
believing that the French prisoners were really in need of aid from
France, but said that if such aid was forthcoming it should be justly
distributed by appointed agents.

They appended a _Table d’Avitaillement_ to this effect:

Every day except Saturday every man received one and a half pounds of
bread, three-quarters of a pound of beef, and one quart of beer. On
Saturday instead of the beef he got four ounces of butter or six ounces
of cheese. Four times a week each man was allowed in addition half a
pint of peas.

For money allowance officers of men-of-war received one shilling a day,
officers of privateers and merchant ships sixpence. These officers were
on parole, and in drawing up their report the Admiralty officials remark
that, although they have to regret very frequent breaches of parole,
their standard of allowances remains unchanged.

With regard to the prison accommodation for the rank and file, at
Portchester Castle, Forton Prison (Portsmouth), Millbay Prison
(Plymouth), the men slept on guard-beds, two feet six inches in breadth,
six feet in length, provided with a canvas case filled with straw and a
coverlid. Sick prisoners were treated precisely as were British.

At Exeter, Liverpool, and Sissinghurst—‘a mansion house in Kent lately
fitted up for prisoners’—the men slept in hammocks, each with a flock
bed, a blanket, and a coverlid.

All this reads excellently, but from the numberless complaints made by
prisoners, after due allowance has been made for exaggeration, I very
much doubt if the poor fellows received their full allowance or were
lodged as represented.

This was in 1757. As a counterblast to the French remonstrances, our
Admiralty complained bitterly of the treatment accorded to British
prisoners in French prisons, especially that at Dinan. We quote the
reply of De Moras, the French Administrator, for comparison. The French
scale of provisioning prisoners was as follows:

On Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday each prisoner received one and
a half pounds of bread, one pint of beer at least, one pound of good,
fresh meat, well cooked, consisting of beef, mutton, or veal, ‘without
heads and feet’, soup, salt, and vinegar. On Wednesday, Friday, and
Saturday, and ‘maigre’ days, half a pound of beans or peas well cooked
and seasoned, and two ounces of butter. The same allowance was made in
all prisons, except that in some wine took the place of beer.

The Administrator complained that he had great difficulty in getting
contractors for provisioning prisoners—a fact not without significance
when we note how eagerly the position of contractor for prisoners of war
was competed for in England.

De Moras further stated that prisoners when sick were sent to the
regular Service Hospitals, where they received the same attention as
Frenchmen. Each officer prisoner received a money allowance of thirty
sous—one shilling and threepence—a day, and renewed clothing when

The following remonstrance, dated 1758, is one of many relating to
alleged British peculation in the matter of the French Royal Bounty.

‘Plusieurs Français enfermés dans le château de Portchester représentent
l’excessive longueur de leur détention et ont fait connoître une
manœuvre qui les prive d’un secours en argent que le Roy leur fait
donner tous les mois; après avoir changé l’or et l’argent qui leur a été
donné pour une monnoie de cuivre nommée _half pens_ on en a arrêté le
cours et on les a mis dans l’impossibilité de jouir du soulagement que
le Roy avoit voulu leur accorder.’

Commenting upon this De Moras adds:

‘Je suis instruit que les châtiments les plus rigoureux sont employés à
l’égard des Français prisonniers pour la faute la plus légère et que
celui qui cherche à s’évader est chargé de fers, mis en cachot, et perd
toute espérance de liberté. Je sais que quelques paroles inconsidérées
lâchées contre votre agent à Portsmouth ont excité sa colère au point de
faire dépouiller 150 Français et de leur faire donner la bastonnade avec
si peu de ménagements que quelques-uns sont morts des suites de cette
barbare punition. Quant à la nourriture elle est assés décriée par tous
les Français qui reviennent d’Angleterre, et il est vray que si on leur
distribue souvent du biscuit aussy mal fabriqué que celuy que
quelques-uns d’eux out raporté, et que j’ay veu, l’usage n’en peut estre
que désagréable et pernicieux. Ils disent aussy que la viande ne vaut
pas mieux, et qu’il en est de même de toutes les espèces de denrées.

‘Je ne l’attribue qu’à l’infidélité et à l’avidité des entrepreneurs.’

In 1758, as a reply to complaints made to the British Government about
the treatment of prisoners at Portchester, a report to the following
effect was made by De Kergan, an officer of the French East India
Company on parole.

1. The chief punishment is the _cachot_, which is wholesomely situated
above ground near the entrance gate. It is untrue that prisoners are
placed there in irons.

2. Prisoners recaptured after escape are put in the _cachot_ upon
half-rations until the expenses of recapture and the reward paid for the
same are made up, but prisoners are never deprived of the French King’s
Bounty or debarred the market.

3. Only three men have lost everything as a result of recapture: one was
a lieutenant who had broken parole from Petersfield; the others were two
sailors who defended themselves against Hambledon people who tried to
capture them, and killed one.

4. It is utterly untrue that 150 prisoners have been flogged.

5. The biscuit sent to M. de Moras as a specimen of the prison food did
not come from Portchester.

6. He reports well upon the food served out to the prisoners.

7. All complaints are listened to.

From the fact that De Kergan was shortly afterwards allowed to go home
to France with his servant, it is difficult to resist the conclusion
that it had been ‘arranged’ by the British authorities that he should
have been selected to make the above report under promise of reward.

De Moras adds that although the number of English prisoners multiplies
continually, it is owing to the slackness of exchange. On the part of
France, he declares that they are all well treated, and asserts that the
balance of prisoners due to France is 800. Complaints from France about
the non-distribution of the King’s Bounty are continued during the year
1758 and the following years, and a proposal is made that agents should
be stationed in each county to attend solely to the proper arrangement
and distribution of all charitable contributions, for the benefit of the

‘C’est le seul moyen,’ says De Moras, ‘qui puisse faire goûter aux
officiers et aux soldats que le sort des armes a privés de la liberté
quelqu’apparence des avantages de la Paix au milieu même des malheurs de
la guerre.’

More complaints from our side brought an answer in which lay the kernel
of the whole matter: ‘L’exactitude des inférieurs demande à estre
souvent réveillée.’

In 1759 the care of the French prisoners in England practically devolved
entirely upon us, as their Government unaccountably withdrew all
support. The natural consequence was that their condition became
pitiable in the extreme—so much so that public subscriptions were opened
on behalf of the poor fellows. A London Committee sat at the _Crown and
Anchor_ in the Strand, and the sum of £7,000 was collected. With this
sum were sent to different prisons 3,131 great coats, 2,034 waistcoats,
3,185 pairs of shoes, 3,054 pairs of breeches, 6,146 shirts, 3,006 caps,
and 3,134 pairs of stockings. Letters of grateful acknowledgement and
thanks were received from most of the dépôts. The following will serve
as a specimen.

                           ‘_Cornwall_ Man-of-War at Chatham, 13.1.1760.

‘Nous les prisonniers de guerre à bord du vaisseau du Roi le “Cornwall”,
dans la rivière de Chatham, reconnoissons d’avoir reçu chacun par les
mains de notre bon commandant Guillaume Lefebre des hardes, consistant
d’un surtout, une chemise, un bonnet, une paire de bas, de souliers et
de coulottes. Nous prions MM. les Anglais qui out eu cette bonté pour
infortunés presque dépourvus auparavant de quoi se garantir de la
sévérité de la saison, et de grandes souffrances par le froid, d’être
persuadés de notre vive reconnoissance qui ne s’oubliera pas.’

The letter of thanks from Sissinghurst contains excuses for some men who
had sold the clothes thus supplied for urgent necessaries, such as
tobacco and the postage of letters, and praying for the remission of
their punishment by being put on half-rations. From Helston, the
collector, W. Sandys, wrote that ‘in spite of vulgar prejudices which
were opposed to this charity, and the violent clamours raised against it
by the author of a letter who threw on its promoters the accumulated
reproach of Traitors, Jacobites and Enemies to their country,’ he sent

It was in allusion to the above act of public benevolence that Goldsmith
wrote in the twenty-third letter of the _Citizen of the World_: ‘When I
cast my eye over the list of those who contributed on this occasion, I
find the names almost entirely English; scarce one foreigner appears
among the number.... I am particularly struck with one who writes these
words upon the paper enclosing his benefaction: “The mite of an
Englishman, a citizen of the world, to Frenchmen, prisoners of war, and

Even abroad this kindly spirit was appreciated, as appears from the
following extract from a contemporary Brussels gazette:

‘The animosity of the English against the French decreases. They are now
supposed to hate only those French who are in arms. A subscription is
opened in the several towns and countries for clothing the French
prisoners now in England, and the example has been followed in the

In 1760 the French Government thus replied to complaints on our side
about the ill-treatment of British prisoners at Brest.

‘The castle at Brest has a casemate 22 feet high, 22 feet broad, and 82
long. It is very dry, having been planked especially and has large
windows. Prisoners are allowed to go out from morning till evening in a
large “meadow” [probably an ironical fancy name for the exercising yard,
similar to the name of “Park” given to the open space on the prison
hulks]. They have the same food as the men on the Royal ships: 8 ounces
of meat—a small measure but equal to the English prison ration—the same
wine as on the Royal ships, which is incomparably superior to the small
beer of England. Every day an examination of the prisoners is made by
the Commissioner of the Prison, an interpreter and a representative of
the prisoners. Bedding straw is changed every fifteen days, exactly as
in the Royal Barracks.’

Here it is clear that the Frenchman did exactly as the Englishman had
done. Having to give a reply to a complaint he copied out the Regulation
and sent it, a formal piece of humbug which perhaps deceived and
satisfied such men in the street as bothered their heads about the fate
of their countrymen, but which left the latter in exactly the same
plight as before.

At any rate, with or without foundation, the general impression in
England at this time, about 1760, was that such Englishmen as were
unfortunate enough to fall into French hands were very badly treated.
Beatson in his _Naval and Military Memoirs_[1] says:

‘The enemy having swarms of small privateers at sea, captured no less
than 330 of the British ships.... It is to be lamented that some of
their privateers exercised horrid barbarities on their prisoners, being
the crews of such ships as had presumed to make resistance, and who were
afterwards obliged to submit: Conduct that would have disgraced the most
infamous pirate; and it would have redounded much to the credit of the
Court of France to have made public examples of those who behaved in
this manner. I am afraid, likewise, that there was but too much reason
for complaint of ill-treatment to the British subjects, even after they
were landed in France and sent to prison. Of this, indeed, several
affidavits were made by the sufferers when they returned to England.

‘On the contrary, the conduct of Great Britain was a striking example of
their kindness and humanity to such unfortunate persons as were made
prisoners of war. The prisons were situated in wholesome places, and
subject to public inspection, and the prisoners had every favour shown
them that prudence would admit of. From the greatness of their number,
it is true, they frequently remained long in confinement before they
could be exchanged in terms of the cartel, by which their clothes were
reduced to a very bad state, many of them, indeed, almost naked, and
suffered much from the inclemency of the weather. No sooner, however,
was their miserable condition in this respect made known, than
subscriptions for their relief were opened at several of the principal
banking-houses in London, by which very great sums were procured, and
immediately applied in purchasing necessaries for those who stood in the
greatest need of them.

‘The bad state of the finances of France did not permit that kingdom to
continue the allowance they formerly granted for the maintenance of
their subjects who might become prisoners of war; but the nation who had
acquired so much glory in overcoming them, had also the generosity to
maintain such of these unfortunate men as were in her power at the
public expense.’

The American prisoners conveyed to England during the War of
Independence, seem to have been regarded quite as unworthy of proper
treatment. On April 2, 1777, Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane wrote
from Paris to Lord Stormont, British Ambassador in Paris, on the subject
of the ill-treatment of American prisoners in England, and said that
severe reprisals would be justifiable. On this a writer in the
_Gentleman’s Magazine_, October 1777, commented:

‘It must certainly be a matter of some difficulty to dispose of such a
number of prisoners as are daily taken from captured American
privateers; some of whom have from 100 to 300 men on board, few less
than 70 or 80; against whom the Americans can have no adequate number to
exchange.... Were the privateersmen, therefore, to be treated as
prisoners of war, our gaols would be too few to hold them. What then is
to be done? Not indeed to load them with chains, or force them with
stripes, famine, or other cruelties, as the letter charges, to enlist in
Government service; but to allow them the same encouragement with other
subjects to enter on board the King’s ships, and then they would have no
plea to complain of hard usage.’

The letter referred to, sent on by Stormont to Lord North, contained the
chief grievance that ‘stripes had been inflicted on some to make them
commit the deepest of all crimes—the fighting against the liberties of
their country’. The reply to this was the stereotyped one ‘that all
possible was done for the prisoners: that they were permitted to receive
charitable donations, and that complaints were attended to promptly’. A
contemporary number of the _London Packet_ contains a list of
subscriptions for the benefit of the American prisoners amounting to
£4,600. The Committee for the collection and administration of this
money, who sat at the _King’s Arms_ at Cornhill, seem to have occupied
themselves further, for in 1778 they call attention to the fact that one
Ebenezer Smith Platt, a Georgia merchant, had been put in Newgate, and
ironed, and placed in that part of the prison occupied by thieves,
highwaymen, housebreakers, and murderers, without any allowance for food
or clothes, and must have perished but for private benevolence.

The most absurd reports of the brutal treatment of French prisoners in
England were circulated in France. It was gravely reported to the
Directory that English doctors felt the pulses of French prisoner
patients with the ends of their canes; that prisoners were killed _en
masse_ when subsistence became difficult; that large numbers were
punished for the faults of individuals; and that the mortality among
them was appalling. The result was that the Directory sent over M.
Vochez to inquire into matters. The gross calumnies were exposed to him;
he was allowed free access to prisons and prison ships; it was proved to
him that out of an average total of 4,500 prisoners on the hulks at
Portsmouth only six had died during the past quarter, and, expressing
himself as convinced, he returned, promising to report to the French
minister the ‘gross misrepresentations which had been made to him’.

A good specimen of the sort of report which sent M. Vochez over to
England is the address of M. Riou to the Council of Five Hundred of the
5th of Pluviôse of the year 6—that is January 25, 1798.

After a violent tirade against England and her evil sway in the world,
he goes into details. He says that when his Government complained of the
promiscuous herding together of officers and men as prisoners of war,
the English reply was: ‘You are republicans. You want equality,
therefore we treat you here equally.’ Alluding to the harsh treatment of
privateersmen taken prisoners, he declares it is because they do more
harm to England by striking at her commerce than any fleets or armies.
He brings up the usual complaints about bad and insanitary prisons,
insufficient food, and the shameful treatment of officers on parole by
the country people. One hundred Nantes captains and officers had told
him that prisoners were confined in parties of seventy-two in huts
seventeen feet long and ten feet high, some of them being merely cellars
in the hillside; that the water soaked through hammocks, straw, and
bread; that there was no air, that all this was light suffering compared
with the treatment they received daily from agents, officers, soldiers,
and jailors, who on the slightest pretext fired upon the prisoners. ‘Un
jour, à Plymouth même, un prisonnier ajusté par un soldat fut tué. On
envoie chercher le commissaire. Il vient: soulève le cadavre: on lui
demande justice; il répond: “C’est un Français,” et se retire!’

Alluding to the precautionary order which had been recently given in
England that all parole should cease, and that all officers on parole
should be sent to prisons and prison ships, he says: ‘There is now no
parole for officers. All are pell-mell together, of all ranks and of
both sexes. A woman was delivered of a child, she was left forty-eight
hours without attention, and even a glass of water was denied her. Even
the body of a dead dog was fought for by the famished prisoners.’

He then describes in glowing terms the treatment of English prisoners in
France; he suggests a tax for the relief of the French prisoners of war,
a ‘taxe d’humanité,’ being one-third of the ordinary sumptuary tax, and
winds up his attack:

‘Français! Vous avez déposé une foule d’offrandes sur l’autel de la
Patrie! Ce ne sera pas tromper vos intentions que de les employer au
soulagement de l’humanité souffrante. Vous voulez combattre
l’Angleterre: eh bien! Soulagez les victimes; conservez 22,000
Républicains qui un jour tourneront contre leurs oppresseurs leurs bras
dirigés par la Vengeance! N’oubliez pas que le Gouvernement anglais
médite la ruine de la République; que, familiarisé avec tous les crimes,
il en inventera de nouveaux pour essayer de la renverser; mais elle
restera triomphante, et le Gouvernement anglais sera détruit! Attaquez
ce monstre! Il expirera sous vos coups! Quirot, Le Clerc
(Maine-et-Loire), Riou.’

_The Times_ of January 8, 1798, comments severely upon the frequent
tirades of the Directory, ridiculing the attitude of a Government
remarkable above all others for its despotic character and its wholesale
violation of the common rights of man, as a champion of philanthropy, of
morals, and of humanity, and its appeal to all nations to unite against
the only country which protects the victims of Directorial anarchy.
After declaring that the prisoners in England are treated better than
prisoners of war ever were treated before, a fact admitted by all
reasonable Frenchmen, the writer says:

‘And yet the Directory dares to state officially in the face of Europe
that the Cabinet of St. James has resolved to withdraw all means of
subsistence from 22,000 Republican prisoners in England, and has shut
them up in dungeons, as if such a measure, supposing it even to be true,
could have any other object than to force the French Government to
provide for the sustenance of the French prisoners in this country in
the same manner as our Government does with respect to the English
prisoners in France.’

In February 1798 the French Directory announced through Barras, the
president, that it would undertake the subsistence of the French
prisoners in England, meaning by subsistence, provisions, clothing,
medical attendance, and to make good all depredations by prisoners.

_The Times_ of February 27 said:

‘The firm conduct of our Government in refusing any longer to make
advances for the maintenance of French prisoners, has had the good
effect of obliging the French Directory to come forward with the
necessary supplies, and as the French agents have now the full
management of this concern, we shall no longer be subject to their
odious calumnies against the humanity of this country.’

Directly the French Government took over the task of feeding and
clothing the prisoners in England, they reduced the daily rations by one
quarter. This irritated the prisoners extremely, and it was said by them
that they preferred the ‘atrocious cruelty of the despot of London to
the humanity and measures of the Five Directors of Paris’. A
correspondent of _The Times_ of March 16, 1798, signing himself
‘Director’, said that under the previous British victualling régime, a
prisoner on his release showed the sum of four guineas which he had made
by the sale of superfluous provisions, and the same writer declared that
it had come to his knowledge that the new French provision agent had
made overtures to the old British contractor to supply inferior meat.

In 1798 it was resolved in the House of Commons that an inquiry should
be made to establish the truth or the reverse of the French complaints
about the treatment of French prisoners in England. It was stated that
the reports spread about in France were purposely exaggerated in order
to inflame national feeling against Britain. Mr. Huskisson confirmed
this and alluded to the abominable treatment of Sir Sydney Smith.

Colonel Stanley affirmed that the prisoners were generally well treated:
he had lately been in Liverpool where 6,000 were confined, and found the
officers had every indulgence, three billiard tables, and that they
often performed plays.

In May 1798 the Report was drawn up. After hearing evidence and making
every inquiry it was found that the French complaints were gross
exaggerations; the Commissioners observed that ‘our prisoners in France
were treated with a degree of inhumanity and rigour unknown in any
former war, and unprecedented in the annals of civilized nations’, and
reiterated the complaint that all British proposals for the exchange of
prisoners were rejected.

The Report stated that there was good medical attendance given to
prisoners in Britain; that there were constant checks on fraud by
contractors and officials; that the prisoners appointed their own
inspector of rations; that fraudulent contractors were proceeded
against, and punished, giving as a recent example, a Plymouth contractor
who, having failed in his engagements to supply the prisons with good
provisions of full weight, was imprisoned for six months and fined £300.

The Report stated that the daily scale of provisions for prisoners in
health was: one and a half pounds of bread, three-quarters of a pound of
beef, one-third of an ounce of salt, and one quart of beer, except on
Saturdays, when four ounces of butter and six ounces of cheese were
substituted; and on four days of the week half a pint of pease, or in
lieu one pound of cabbage stripped from the stalk.

The prisoners selected their own surgeons if they chose, and the same
diet was given to sick prisoners as to sick British seamen. Each man was
provided with a hammock, a palliasse, a bolster and a blanket, the straw
of bolsters and palliasses being frequently changed.

A letter written in 1793 to the Supplement of the _Gentleman’s
Magazine_, holds good for 1798, as to the belief of the man in the
street that the foregoing liberal and humane regulations were worth more
than the paper they were written on:

‘The Sans Culottes we hold in prison never lived so well in their lives
before: they are allowed every day three-quarters of a pound of good
beef, two pounds of bread with all the finest of the flour in it, the
bran alone being extracted, two quarts of strong well-relished soup, one
pound of cabbage with the heart included, and a quart of good beer. As a
Frenchman can live upon one pound of meat for a week, this allowance is
over-plenteous, and the prisoners sell more than half of it. With the
money so obtained they buy as much strong beer as they can get leave to
have brought them.... Such is the manner in which Englishmen are at this
juncture treating their natural, inveterate, and unalterable enemies.’

On December 22, 1799, the French Government—now the Consulate—repudiated
the arrangement made by the Directory for the subsistence of French
war-prisoners in England, and the British Government was obliged to
undertake the task, the Transport Office now replacing the old ‘Sick and
Hurt’ Office. So the prisoner committees in the dépôts and prisons were
abolished, and all persons who, under the previous arrangement, were
under the French agents and contractors, and as such had been allowed
passports, returned to their original prisoner status.

The Duke of Portland wrote thus to the Admiralty:

‘It is less necessary on this occasion to recall the circumstances which
gave rise to the arrangement under which the two Governments agreed to
provide for the wants of their respective subjects during their
detention, as they have been submitted to Parliament and published to
the world in refutation of the false and unwarrantable assertions
brought forward by the French Government on this subject; but His
Majesty cannot witness the termination of an arrangement founded on the
fairest principles of Justice and Protection due by the Powers of War to
their respective Prisoners, and proved by experience to be the best
calculated to provide for their comfort, without protesting against the
departure (on the part of the French Government) from an agreement
entered into between the two countries, and which tended so materially
to mitigate the Calamities of War. To prevent this effect as much as
possible with respect to the British prisoners now in France, it is His
Majesty’s pleasure that Capt. Cotes should be instructed to ascertain
exactly the rate of daily allowance made to each man by the French
Government, and that he should take care to supply at the expense of
this country any difference that may exist between such allowance and
what was issued by him under the late arrangement.

‘With respect to all the prisoners not on Parole in this country, it is
His Majesty’s command that from the date of the French agent ceasing to
supply them, the Commissioners of Transports and for taking care of
prisoners of war shall furnish them immediately with the same ration of
Provisions as were granted before the late arrangement took place.’

(Not clothing, as this had always been supplied by the French

Previous to this repudiatory act of France, the British Government made
a similar proposal to Holland, accompanying it with the following
remarks, which certainly seem to point to a desire to do the best
possible to minimize the misery of the unfortunate men.

‘We trust that your Government will not reject so humane a proposition,
which, if accepted, will, of course, preclude the possibility of
complaints or recriminations between the respective Governments, and
probably meliorate the fate of every individual to which it relates. In
health their mode of living will be more conformable to their former
habits. In sickness they will be less apt to mistrust the skill of their
attendants, or to question the interest they may take in their
preservation. On all occasions they would be relieved from the suspicion
that the Hand which supplies their wants and ministers to their comfort,
is directed by that spirit of Hostility which is too often the
consequence of the Prejudice and Enmity excited by the State of War
between Nations.’

However, the Dutch Government, no doubt acting under orders from
without, replied that it was impossible to comply. So Dutch prisoners
became also the objects of our national charity.

The _Moniteur_ thus defended the Act of Repudiation:

‘The notification of the abandonment by the French Government of the
support of French prisoners in England is in conformity with the common
customs of war, and is an act of wise administration and good policy.
The old Directory is perhaps the first Government which set the example
of a belligerent power supporting its prisoners upon the territories of
its enemies ... Men must have seen in this new arrangement a sort of
insult. The English papers of that time were filled with bitter
complaints, with almost official justification of this conduct,
supported by most authentic proofs. Well-informed men saw with surprise
the French Government abandon itself blindly to these impolitic
suggestions, release the English from the expense and embarrassment of
making burthensome advances, exhaust of its own accord the remains of
its specie in order to send it to England; deprive themselves of the
pecuniary resources of which they stood in such pressing need, in order
to add to the pecuniary resources of its enemies; and, in short, to
support the enormous expenses of administration.

‘The English, while they exclaimed against the injustice of the
accusation, gathered with pleasure the fruits of this error of the
Directory; though our old Monarchical Government left England during the
whole war to support the expenses of the prisoners, and did not
liquidate the balance until the return of Peace, and consequently of
circulation, credit, commerce, and plenty, rendered the payment more
easy. The generally received custom of leaving to the humanity of
belligerent nations the care of protecting and supporting prisoners
marks the progress of civilization.’

The results of repudiation by France of the care of French prisoners in
England were not long in showing themselves.

The agent at Portchester Castle wrote to the Transport Office:

                                                          ‘August, 1800.


‘I am under the necessity of laying before you the miserable situation
of a great number of Prisoners at this Depôt for want of clothing. Many
of them are entirely naked, and others have to cut up their hammocks to
cover themselves. Their situation is such, that if not provided with
these articles before the cold weather commences they must inevitably

‘I beg to observe that it is nearly eighteen months since they were
furnished with any article of wearing apparel by the French Government,
and then only a single shirt to each suit which must necessarily have
been worn out long since.

                                                         JOHN HOLMWOOD.’

And again, later on:

‘The prisoners are reduced to a state of dreadful meagreness. A great
number of them have the appearance of walking skeletons. One has been
found dead in his hammock, and another fell out from mere debility and
was killed by the fall. The great part of those sent to the hospital die
in a short time, others as soon as they are received there.’

These were written in consequence of letters of complaint from
prisoners. The Agent in France for prisoners of war in England, Niou,
was communicated with, but no reply came. Otto, the Commissioner of the
Republic in England, however, said that as the French Government clothed
British prisoners, _although they were not exactly British prisoners but
allies_, it was our duty to clothe French prisoners. The British
Government denied this, saying that _we_ clothed our allies when
prisoners abroad, and ascribed much of the misery among the French
prisoners to their irrepressible gambling habits. Dundas wrote a long
letter to the French Commissioners about the neglect of their
Government, but added that out of sheer compassion the British
Government would supply the French prisoners with sufficient clothing.
Lord Malmesbury hinted that the prisoners were refused the chance of
redress by the difficulty of gaining access to their Commissary, which
Grenville stated was absolutely untrue, and that the commonest soldier
or sailor had entire freedom of access to his representative.

On October 29, 1800, Otto, the French Commissioner in England, wrote:

‘My letter from Liverpool states that the number of deaths during the
past month has greatly exceeded that of four previous months, even when
the depôt contained twice the number of prisoners. This sudden mortality
which commenced at the close of last month, is the consequence of the
first approach of cold weather, all, without exception, having failed
from debility. The same fate awaits many more of these unfortunate
beings, already half starved from want of proper food, and obliged to
sleep upon a damp pavement or a few handfuls of rotten straw. Hunger and
their own imprudence, deprived them of their clothes, and now the effect
of the cold weather obliges them to part with a share of their scanty
subsistence to procure clothing. In one word, their only hope is a
change in their situation or death.’

In this account Otto admits that the prisoners’ ‘imprudence’ has largely
brought about the state of affairs. Rupert George, Ambrose Serle, and
John Schenck, the Transport Office Commissioners who had been sent to
inquire, report confirming the misery, and re-affirm its chief cause.
About Stapleton Prison they say:

‘Those who are not quite ragged and half naked, are generally very dirty
in their scanty apparel, and make a worse appearance as to health than
they would do had they the power in such a dress to be clean. Profligacy
and gambling add to the distress of many, and it is perhaps impossible
to prevent or restrain this spirit, which can exercise itself in
corners. The Dutch prisoners at Stapleton (1800), being clothed by the
Dutch Government are in much better health than the French.’

The Commissioners sent to Otto an extract of a letter from Forton, near
Gosport. Griffin, the prison surgeon, says that ‘several prisoners have
been received into the Hospital in a state of great debility owing to
their having disposed of their ration of provisions for a week, a
fortnight, and in some instances for a month at a time. We have felt it
our duty to direct that such persons as may be discovered to have been
concerned in purchasing any article of provision, clothing or bedding,
of another prisoner, should be confined in the Black Hole and kept on
short allowance for ten days and also be marked as having forfeited
their turn of exchange.’

Callous, almost brutal, according to our modern standards, as was the
general character of the period covered by this history, it must not be
inferred therefrom that all sympathy was withheld from the unfortunate
men condemned to be prisoners on our shores. We have seen how generously
the British public responded to the call for aid in the cases of the
French prisoners of 1759, and of the Americans of 1778; we shall see in
the progress of this history how very largely the heart of the country
people of Britain went out to the prisoners living on parole amongst
them, and I think my readers may accept a letter which I am about to put
before them as evidence that a considerable section of the British
public was of opinion that the theory and practice of our system with
regard to prisoners of war was not merely wrong, but wicked, and that
very drastic reform was most urgently needed.

Some readers may share the opinion of the French General Pillet, which I
append to the letter, that the whole matter—the writing of the anonymous
letter, and the prosecution and punishment of the newspaper editor who
published it, was a trick of the Government to blind the public eye to
facts, and that the fact that the Government should have been driven to
have recourse to it, pointed to their suspicion that the public had more
than an inkling that it was being hoodwinked.

In the _Statesman_ newspaper of March 19, 1812, appeared the following

‘Our unfortunate prisoners in France have now been in captivity nine
years, and, while the true cause of their detention shall remain unknown
to the country there cannot be any prospect of their restoration to
their families and homes. In some journeys I have lately made I have had
repeated opportunities of discovering the infamous practices which
produce the present evil, and render our exiled countrymen the hopeless
victims of misery....’

(The writer then describes the two classes of prisoners of war in

‘They are all under the care of the Transport Office who has the
management of the money for their maintenance, which amounts to an
enormous sum (more than three millions per annum) of which a large part
is not converted to the intended purpose, but is of clear benefit to the
Commissioners and their employers. The prisoners on parole receiving
1_s._ 6_d._ per diem produce comparatively little advantage to the
Commissioners, who are benefited principally by the remittances these
prisoners receive from France, keeping their money five or six months,
and employing it in stock-jobbing. They gain still something from these,
however, by what their agents think proper to send them of the property
of those who die or run away. The prisoners in close confinement are
very profitable. These prisoners are allowed by the Government once in
eighteen months a complete suit of clothing, which however, they never
receive. Those, therefore, among them who have any covering have bought
it with the product of their industry, on which the Agents make enormous
profits. Those who have no genius or no money go naked, and there are
many in this deplorable state. Such a picture Humanity revolts at, but
it is a true one, for the produce of the clothing goes entirely into the
pockets of the Commissioners.

‘A certain amount of bread, meat, &c., of good quality ought to be
furnished to each prisoner every day. They receive these victuals, but
they are generally of bad quality, and there is always something wanting
in the quantity—as one half or one third at least, which is of great
amount. Besides, when any person is punished, he receives only one half
of what is called a portion. These measures, whenever taken, produce
about £250 or £300 a day in each depôt according to the number of
prisoners, and of course, are found necessary very often. These are the
regular and common profits. The Commissioners receive besides large sums
for expenses of every description which have never been incurred in the
course of the year, and find means to clear many hundreds of thousands
of pounds to share with their employers.’

The writer goes on to say that

‘the real reason for bringing so many prisoners into the country is not
military, but to enrich themselves [i.e. the Government]. For the same
reason they keep the San Domingo people of 1803, who, by a solemn
capitulation of Aux Cayes were to be returned to France. So with the
capitulation of Cap François, who were sent home in 1811 as
clandestinely as possible. Bonaparte could say ditto to us if any of
ours capitulated in Spain like the Duke of York in Holland.

‘All this is the reason why our people in France are so badly treated,
and it is not to be wondered at.


The Transport Office deemed the plain-speaking on the part of an
influential journal so serious that the opinion of the Attorney-General
was asked, and he pronounced it to be ‘a most scandalous libel and ought
to be prosecuted’. So the proprietor was proceeded against, found
guilty, fined £500, imprisoned in Newgate for eighteen months, and had
to find security for future good behaviour, himself in £1,000, and two
sureties in £500 each.

I add the remarks of General Pillet, a prisoner on a Chatham hulk, upon
this matter. They are from his book _L’Angleterre, vue à Londres et dans
ses provinces, pendant un séjour de dix années, dont six comme
prisonnier de guerre_—a book utterly worthless as a record of facts, and
infected throughout with the most violent spirit of Anglophobism, but
not without value for reference concerning many details which could only
come under the notice of a prisoner.

‘Mr. Lovel, editor of the _Statesman_, a paper generally inclined in
favour of the French Government, had published in March 19, 1812, a
letter signed “Honestus”, in which the writer detailed with an exactness
which showed he was thoroughly informed, the different sorts of
robberies committed by the Transport Office and its agents upon the
French prisoners, and summed them up. According to him these robberies
amounted to several millions of francs: the budget of the cost of the
prisoners being about 24,000,000 francs. Mr. Lovel was prosecuted.
“Honestus” preserved his anonymity; the editor was, in consequence,
condemned to two years imprisonment and a heavy fine. His defence was
that the letter had been inserted without his knowledge and that he had
had no idea who was the author. I have reason to believe, without being
absolutely sure, that the writer was one Adams, an employé who had been
dismissed from the Transport Office, a rascal all the better up in the
details which he gave in that he had acted as interpreter of all the
prisoners’ correspondence, the cause of his resentment being that he had
been replaced by Sugden, even a greater rascal than he. I wrote to Mr.
Brougham, Lovel’s Solicitor, and sent him a regular sworn statement that
the prisoners did not receive one quarter the clothing nominally served
to them, and for which probably the Government paid; that, estimating an
outfit to be worth £1, this single item alone meant the robbery every
eighteen months of about £1,800,000. My letter, as I expected, produced
no effect; there was no desire to be enlightened on the affair, and the
judicial proceedings were necessary to clear the Transport Office in the
eyes of the French Government. Hence the reason for the severe
punishment of Lovel, whose fine, I have been assured, was partly paid by
the Transport Office, by a secret agreement.’

The General, after some remarks about the very different way in which
such an affair would have been conducted in France, appends a note
quoting the case of General Virion, who, on being accused of cruelty and
rapacity towards the English prisoners in Verdun, blew his brains out
rather than face the disgrace of a trial.

Pillet wrote to Lovel, the editor, thus:

                                  ‘On board the prison ship _Brunswick_,
                                      Chatham, May 19, 1813.


‘Since I have become acquainted with the business of the letter of
“Honestus” I have been filled with indignation against the coward who,
having seemed to wish to expose the horrible truth about the character
and amount of the robberies practised upon prisoners of war, persists in
maintaining his incognito when you have asked him to come forward in
your justification.... Unhappily, we are Frenchmen, and it seems to be
regarded in this country as treason to ask justice for us, and that
because it is not possible to exterminate France altogether, the noblest
act of patriotism seems to consist in assassinating French prisoners
individually, by adding to the torments of a frightful imprisonment
privations of all sorts, and thefts of clothing of which hardly a
quarter of the proper quantity is distributed....

‘We have asked for impartial inquiries to be made by people not in the
pay of the Admiralty; we have declared that we could reveal acts
horrible enough to make hairs stand on end, and that we could bring
unimpeachable witnesses to support our testimony. These demands, even
when forwarded by irreproachable persons, have been received in silence.
Is it possible that there are not in England more determined men to put
a stop to ill-doing from a sense of duty and irrespective of rank or
nation? Is it possible that not a voice shall ever be raised on our

‘Your condemnation makes me fear it is so.

‘If only one good man, powerful, and being resolved to remove shame from
his country, and to wash out the blot upon her name caused by the
knowledge throughout Europe of what we suffer, could descend a moment
among us, and acquaint himself with the details of our miseries with the
object of relieving them, what good he would do humanity, and what a
claim he would establish to our gratitude!’

Pillet adds in a note:

‘Lord Cochrane in 1813 wished to examine the prison ships at Portsmouth.
Although he was a member of Parliament, and a captain in the navy,
permission was refused him, because the object of his visit was to
ascertain the truth about the ill-treatment of the prisoners. Lord
Cochrane is anything but an estimable man, but he is one of those who,
in the bitterness of their hatred of the party in power, sometimes do
good. He complained in Parliament, and the only reply he got was that as
the hulks were under the administration of the Transport Office, it
could admit or refuse whomsoever it chose to inspect them.’

                               CHAPTER II
                       THE EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS

From first to last the question of the Exchange of Prisoners was a
burning one between Great Britain and her enemies, and, despite all
efforts to arrange it upon an equitable basis and to establish its
practice, it was never satisfactorily settled. It is difficult for an
Englishman, reviewing the evidence as a whole and in as impartial a
spirit as possible, to arrive at any other conclusion than that we were
not so fairly dealt with by others as we dealt with them. We allowed
French, Danish, and Dutch officers to go on parole to their own
countries, which meant that they were on their honour to return to
England if they were not exchanged by a certain date, and we continued
to do so in face of the fact that violation of this pledge was the rule
and not the exception, and that prominent officers of the army and navy
were not ashamed thus to sin. Or we sent over shiploads of foreigners,
each of whom had been previously arranged for as exchanged, but so often
did the cartel ships, as they were called, return empty or without
equivalent numbers from the French ports that the balance of exchange
was invariably heavily against Britain. The transport of prisoners for
whom exchanges had been arranged, and of invalids and boys, was by means
of cartel ships which were hired, or contracted for, by Government for
this particular service, and were subject to the strictest regulation
and supervision. The early cartel ports were Dover, Poole, and Falmouth
on this side; Calais, St. Malo, Havre, and Morlaix in France, but during
the Napoleonic wars Morlaix was the French port, Plymouth, Lynn,
Dartmouth, and Portsmouth being those of England. The French ports were
selected with the idea of rendering the marches of exchanged prisoners
to their districts as easy as possible.

A cartel ship was not allowed to carry guns or arms, nor any
merchandise; if it did the vessel was liable to be seized. The national
flag of the port of destination was to be flown at the fore-top-gallant
mast, and the ship’s flag on the ensign staff, and both were to be kept
continually flying. Passengers were not allowed to carry letters, nor,
if from England, gold coin; the latter restriction being imposed so as
partially to check the lucrative trade of guinea-running, as, during the
early nineteenth century, on account of the scarcity of gold in France,
there was such a premium upon British guineas that the smuggling of them
engaged a large section of the English coast community, who were
frequently backed up by London houses of repute. Passengers going to
France on their own account paid £5 5_s._ each, with a deposit against
demurrage on account of possible detention in the French port at one
guinea per day, the demurrage being deducted from the deposit and the
balance returned to the passenger.

The early cartel rates were, from Dover to Calais, 6_s._ per head;
between all the Channel ports 10_s._ 6_d._, and to ports out of the
Channel, £1 1_s._ For this the allowance of food was one and a half
pounds of bread, three-quarters of a pound of meat, and two quarts of
beer or one quart of wine, except between Dover and Calais, where for
the meat was substituted four ounces of butter or six ounces of cheese.
Commanding officers had separate cabins; a surgeon was compulsorily
carried; officers and surgeon messed at the captain’s table. It was
necessary that the ship should be provisioned sufficiently for an
emergency, and it was especially ruled that if a ship should be delayed
beyond sailing time owing to weather or incomplete number of passengers,
nobody upon any pretence was to leave the ship.

In 1808, on account of the discomforts and even the dangers of the
cartel service, as well as the abuse of it by parole-breakers and
others, a request was made that a naval officer should accompany each
cartel ship, but this was refused by the Admiralty upon the ground that
as such he might be arrested upon reaching a French port. As it became
suspected that between the cartel shipowners and captains and the escape
agents a very close business understanding existed, it was ordered in
this same year, 1808, that all foreigners found about sea-port towns on
the plea that they were exchanged prisoners waiting for cartel ships,
should be arrested, and that the batches of exchanged prisoners should
be timed to reach the ports so that they should not have to wait.

Later, when practically Plymouth and Morlaix had a monopoly of the
cartel traffic, the cartel owner received uniformly half a guinea per
man if his carriage-rate was one man per ton of his burthen; and seven
shillings and sixpence if at the more usual rate of three men to two
tons, and for victualling was allowed fourteen pence per caput per diem.

In 1757 much correspondence between the two Governments took place upon
the subjects of the treatment and exchange of prisoners, which may be
seen at the Archives Nationales in Paris, resulting in a conference
between M. de Marmontel and M. de Moras, Minister of Marine and
Controller-General of Finances, and Vanneck & Co., agents in England for
French affairs. Nothing came of it except an admission by the French
that in one respect their countrymen in England were better treated than
were the English prisoners in France, in that whereas the French
prisoners were provided with mattresses and coverlids, the English were
only given straw. England claimed the right of monopolizing the
sea-carriage of prisoners; and this France very naturally refused, but
agreed to the other clauses that king’s officers should be preferred to
all other in exchange, that women and children under twelve should be
sent without exchange, and that in hospitals patients should have
separate beds and coverlids. But after a long exchange of requests and
replies, complaints and accusations, England ceased to reply, and
matters were at a standstill.

In 1758 there was a correspondence between M. de Moras and M. de
Marmontel which shows that in these early days the principle of the
exchange of prisoners possessed honourable features which were
remarkably wanting on the French side during the later struggles between
the two countries. Three French ‘broke-paroles’ who in accordance with
the custom of the time should, when discovered, have been sent back to
England, could not be found. M. de Moras suggested that in this case
they should imitate the action of the British authorities in Jersey,
who, unable to find nine English prisoners who had escaped from Dinan,
stolen a fishing-boat, and got over to Jersey, had sent back the stolen
vessel and nine French prisoners as an equivalent.

The following was the passport form for French prisoners whose exchange
had been effected.

‘By the Commissioners for taking care of sick and wounded seamen, and
for Exchanging Prisoners of War.

‘Whereas the one person named and described on the back hereof is
Discharged from being Prisoner of War to proceed from London to France
by way of Ostend in exchange for the British prisoner also named and
described on the back hereof; you and every of you (_sic_) are hereby
desired to suffer the said Discharged Person to pass from London to
France accordingly without any hindrance or molestation whatever. This
passport to continue in force for six days from the date of these

                                                        ‘June 3rd. 1757.

‘To all and Singular the King’s officers Civil and Military,
and to those of all the Princes and States in Alliance with
His Majesty.’

In 1758 the complaints of the French Government about the unsatisfactory
state of the prisoner exchange system occupy many long letters. ‘Il est
trop important de laisser subsister une pareille inaction dans les
échanges; elle est préjudiciable aux deux Puissances, et fâcheuse aux
familles’, is one remark. On the other hand, the complaint went from our
side that we sent over on one occasion 219 French prisoners, and only
got back 143 British, to which the French replied: ‘Yes: but your 143
were all sound men, whereas the 219 you sent us were invalids, boys, and
strangers to this Department.’ By way of postscript the French official
described how not long since a Dover boat, having captured two
fishing-smacks of Boulogne and St. Valéry, made each boat pay
twenty-five guineas ransom, beat the men with swords, and wounded the
St. Valéry captain, remarking: ‘le procédé est d’autant plus inhumain
qu’il a eu lieu de sang-froid et qu’il a été exercé contre des gens qui
achetoient leur liberté au prix de toute leur fortune’.

This and other similar outrages on both sides led to the mutual
agreement that fishing-boats were to be allowed to pursue their
avocation unmolested—an arrangement which in later times, when the
business of helping prisoners to escape was in full swing, proved to be
a mixed blessing.

I do not think that the above-quoted argument of the French, that in
return for sound men we were in the habit of sending the useless and
invalids, and that this largely compensated for the apparent
disproportion in the numbers exchanged—an argument which they used to
the end of the wars between the two nations—is to be too summarily
dismissed as absurd. Nor does it seem that our treatment of the poor
wretches erred on the side of indulgence, for many letters of complaint
are extant, of which the following from a French cartel-ship captain of
1780 is a specimen:

‘Combien n’est-il pas d’inhumanité d’envoyer des prisonniers les plus
malades, attaqués de fièvre et de dissentoire. J’espère, Monsieur, que
vous, connoissant les sentiments les plus justes, que vous voudriez bien
donner vos ordres à M. Monckton, agent des prisonniers français, pour
qu’il soit donné à mes malades des vivres frais, suivant l’ordinnance de
votre Majesté; ou, qu’ils soient mis à l’hôpital.’

It would seem that during the Seven Years’ War British merchant-ship and
privateer officers were only allowed to be on parole in France if they
could find a local person of standing to guarantee the payment of a sum
of money to the Government in the case of a breach of parole.

The parole rules in France, so far as regarded the limits assigned to
prisoners at their towns of confinement, were not nearly so strict as in
England, but, on the other hand, no system of guarantee money like that
just mentioned existed in England.

On March 12, 1780, a table of exchange of prisoners of war, with the
equivalent ransom rates, was agreed to, ranging from £60 or sixty men
for an admiral or field-marshal to £1 or one man for a common sailor or
soldier in the regular services, and from £4 or four men for a captain
to £1 or one man of privateers and merchantmen.

In 1793 the French Government ordained a sweeping change by abolishing
all equivalents in men or money to officers, and decreed that henceforth
the exchange should be strictly of grade for grade, and man for man, and
that no non-combatants or surgeons should be retained as prisoners of
war. How the two last provisions came to be habitually violated is

On February 4, 1795, the Admiralty authorized the ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office
to send a representative to France, to settle, if possible, the vexed
question of prisoner exchange, and on March 22 Mr. F. M. Eden started
for Brest, but was taken on to Roscoff. A week later a French naval
officer called on him and informed him that only the Committee of Public
Safety could deal with this matter, and asked him to go to Paris. He
declined; so the purport of his errand was sent to Paris. A reply
invited him to go to Dieppe. Here he met Comeyras, who said that the
Committee of Public Safety would not agree to his cartel, there being,
they said, a manifest difference between the two countries in that Great
Britain carried on the war with the two professions—the navy and the
army—and that restoring prisoners to her would clearly be of greater
advantage to her than would be the returning of an equal number of men
to France, who carried on war with the mass of the people. Moreover,
Great Britain notoriously wanted men to replace those she had lost,
whilst France had quite enough to enable her to defeat all her enemies.

So Eden returned to Brighthelmstone. Later, a meeting at the _Fountain_,
Canterbury, between Otway and Marsh for Britain, and Monnerson for
France, was equally fruitless, and it became quite evident that although
France was glad enough to get general officers back, she had no
particular solicitude for the rank and file, her not illogical argument
being that every fighting man, officer or private, was of more value to
Britain than were three times their number of Frenchmen to France.

In 1796 many complaints were made by the British cartel-ship masters
that upon landing French prisoners at Morlaix their boats were taken
from them, they were not allowed to go ashore, soldiers were placed on
board to watch them; that directly the prisoners were landed, the ships
were ordered to sea, irrespective of the weather; and that they were
always informed that there were no British prisoners to take back.

In this year we had much occasion to complain of the one-sided character
of the system of prisoner exchange with France, the balance due to
Britain in 1796 being no less than 5,000. Cartel after cartel went to
France full and came back empty; in one instance only seventy-one
British prisoners were returned for 201 French sent over; in another
instance 150 were sent and nine were returned, and in another 450 were
sent without return.

From the regularity with which our authorities seem to have been content
to give without receiving, one cannot help wondering if, after all,
there might not have been some foundation for the frequent French retort
that while we received sound men, we only sent the diseased, and aged,
or boys. Yet the correspondence from our side so regularly and
emphatically repudiates this that we can only think that the burden of
the prisoners was galling the national back, and that the grumble was
becoming audible which later broke out in the articles of the
_Statesman_, the _Examiner_, and the _Independent Whig_.

From January 1, 1796, to March 14, 1798, the balance between Britain and
Holland stood thus:

               Dutch officers returned 316, men 416  732
               British officers returned 64, men 290 354
                         Balance due to us           378

Just at this time there were a great many war-prisoners in England.
Norman Cross and Yarmouth were full, and new prison ships were being
fitted out at Chatham. The correspondence of the ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office
consisted very largely of refusals to applicants to be allowed to go to
France on parole, so that evidently the prisoner exchange was in so
unsatisfactory a condition that even the passage of cartel loads of
invalids was suspended.

In 1798 an arrangement about the exchange of prisoners was come to
between England and France. France was to send a vessel with British
prisoners, 5 per cent of whom were to be officers, and England was to do
the same. The agents on each side were to select the prisoners. It was
also ruled that the prisoners in each country were to be supported by
their own country, and that those who were sick, wounded, incapacitated,
or boys, should be surrendered without equivalent.

But in 1799 the French Republican Government refused to clothe or
support its prisoners in Britain, so that all exchanges of prisoners
ceased. Pending the interchange of correspondence which followed the
declaration of this inhuman policy, the French prisoners suffered
terribly, especially as it was winter, so that in January 1801, on
account of the fearful mortality among them, it was resolved that they
should be supplied with warm clothing at the public expense, and this
was done, the cost being very largely defrayed by voluntary
subscriptions in all parts of the Kingdom.

This was not the first or second time that British benevolence had
stepped in to stave off the results of French inhumanity towards

The letter before quoted from the agent at Portchester (p. 18) and the
report on Stapleton (p. 19) in the chapter on International
Recriminations have reference to this period.

This state of matters continued; the number of French prisoners in
Britain increased enormously, for the French Government would return no
answers to the continued representations from this side as to the
unsatisfactory character of the Exchange question. Yet in 1803 it was
stated that although not one British prisoner of war, and only five
British subjects, had been returned, no less than 400 French prisoners
actually taken at sea had been sent to France.

In 1804 Boyer, an officer at Belfast, wrote to his brother the general,
on parole at Montgomery, that the Emperor would not entertain any
proposal for the exchange of prisoners unless the Hanoverian army were
recognized as prisoners of war. This was a sore topic with Bonaparte. In
1803 the British Government had refused to ratify the condition of the
Treaty of Sublingen which demanded that the Hanoverian army, helpless in
the face of Bonaparte’s sudden invasion of the country, should retire
behind the Elbe and engage not to serve against France or her Allies
during the war, in other words to agree to their being considered
prisoners of war. Bonaparte insisted that as Britain was intimately
linked with Hanover through her king she should ratify this condition.
Our Government repudiated all interest in Hanover’s own affairs: Hanover
was forced to yield, but Britain retaliated by blockading the Elbe and
the Weser, with the result that Hamburg and Bremen were half ruined.

A form of exchange at sea was long practised of which the following is a

‘We who have hereunto set our names, being a lieutenant and a master of
H.B.M.’s ship _Virgin_, do hereby promise on our word of honour to cause
two of His Christian Majesty’s subjects of the same class who may be
Prisoners in England to be set at liberty by way of Exchange for us, we
having been taken by the French and set at liberty on said terms, and in
case we don’t comply therewith we are obliged when called on to do so to
return as Prisoners to France. Given under our hands in port of Coruña,
July 31, 1762.’

As might be supposed, this easy method of procuring liberty led to much
parole breaking on both sides, but it was not until 1812 that such
contracts were declared to be illegal.

During 1805 the British Government persisted in its efforts to bring
about an arrangement for the exchange of prisoners, but to these efforts
the extraordinary reply was:

‘Nothing can be done on the subject without a formal order from the
Emperor, and under the present circumstances His Imperial Majesty cannot
attend to this business.’

The Transport Board thus commented upon this:

‘Every proposal of this Government relative to the exchanging of
prisoners has been met by that of France with insulting evasion or
contemptuous silence. As such [_sic_] it would be derogatory to the
honour of the Kingdom to strive further in the cause of Humanity when
our motives would be misnamed, and the objects unattained.

‘This Board will not take any further steps in the subject, but will
rejoice to meet France in any proposal from thence.’

In the same year the Transport Office posted as a circular the
Declaration of the French Government not to exchange even aged and
infirm British prisoners in France.

In 1806 the Transport Office replied as follows to the request for
liberation of a French officer on parole at Tiverton, who cited the
release of Mr. Cockburn from France in support of his petition:

‘Mr. Cockburn never was a prisoner of war, but was detained in France at
the commencement of hostilities contrary to the practise of civilized
nations, and so far from the French Government having released, as you
say, many British prisoners, so that they might re-establish their
health in their own country, only three persons coming under the
description have been liberated in return for 672 French officers and
1,062 men who have been sent to France on account of being ill. Even the
favour granted to the above mentioned three persons was by the interest
of private individuals, and cannot be considered as an act of the
Government of that country.’

(A similar reply was given to many other applicants.)

Denmark, like Holland, made no replies to the British Government’s
request for an arrangement of the exchange of prisoners, and of course,
both took their cue from France. In the year 1808 the balance due from
Denmark to Britain was 3,807. There were 1,796 Danish prisoners in
England. Between 1808 and 1813 the balance due to us was 2,697. As
another result of the French policy, the Transport Office requested the
Duke of Wellington in Spain to arrange for the exchange of prisoners on
the spot, as, under present circumstances, once a man became a prisoner
in France, his services were probably lost to his country for ever. Yet
another result was that the prisoners in confinement all over Britain in
1810, finding that the exchange system was practically suspended, became
turbulent and disorderly to such an extent, and made such desperate
attempts to break out, notably at Portchester and Dartmoor, that it was
found necessary to double the number of sentries.

At length in 1810, soon after the marriage of Bonaparte with Marie
Louise, an attempt was made at Morlaix to arrange matters, and the Comte
du Moustier met Mr. Mackenzie there. Nothing came of it, because of the
exorbitant demands of Bonaparte. He insisted that all prisoners—English,
French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians—should be exchanged, man for man,
rank for rank, on the same footing as the principal power under whom
they fought; in other words, that for 50,000 Frenchmen, only 10,000
British would be returned, the balance being made up of Spanish and
Portuguese more or less raw levies, who were not to be compared in
fighting value with Englishmen or Frenchmen.

The second section of the fourth article of Mr. Mackenzie’s note was:

‘All the French prisoners, of whatever rank and quality, at present
detained in Great Britain, or in the British possessions, shall be
released. The exchange shall commence immediately after the signature of
this convention, and shall be made by sending successively to Morlaix,
or to any other port in the British Channel that may be agreed on, or by
delivering to the French Commissioners, a thousand French prisoners for
a thousand English prisoners, as promptly and in the same proportion as
the Government shall release the latter.’

As neither party would yield, the negotiations were broken off. The
_Moniteur_ complained that some one of higher rank than Mr. Mackenzie
had not been sent as British representative, and the British paper _The
Statesman_ commented strongly upon our non-acceptance of Bonaparte’s
terms, although endorsing our refusal to accede to the particular
article about the proportion of the exchange.

General Pillet, before quoted, criticizes the British action in his
usual vitriolic fashion. After alluding bitterly to the conduct of the
British Government in the matters of San Domingo and the Hanoverian
army—both of which are still regarded by French writers as eminent
instances of British bad faith, he describes the Morlaix meeting as an
‘infamous trap’ on the part of our Government.

‘We had the greater interest in this negotiation,’ he says; we desired
exchange with a passion difficult to describe. Well! we trembled lest
France should accept conditions which would have returned to their homes
all the English prisoners without our receiving back a single Frenchman
who was not sick or dying ... it was clearly demonstrated that the one
aim of the London Cabinet was to destroy us all, and from this moment it
set to work to capture as many prisoners as possible, so that it might
almost be said that this was the one object of the War!’

Las Cases quotes Bonaparte’s comments in this matter:

‘The English had infinitely more French than I had English prisoners. I
knew well that the moment they had got back their own they would have
discovered some pretext for carrying the exchange no further, and my
poor French would have remained for ever in the hulks. I admitted,
therefore, that I had much fewer English than they had French prisoners:
but then I had a great number of Spanish and Portuguese, and by taking
them into account, I had a mass of prisoners considerably greater than
theirs. I offered, therefore, to exchange the whole. This proposition at
first disconcerted them, _but at length they agreed to it_. But I had my
eye on everything. I saw clearly that if they began by exchanging an
Englishman against a Frenchman, as soon as they got back their own they
would have brought forward something to stop the exchanges. I insisted
therefore that 3,000 Frenchmen should be exchanged against 1,000 English
and 2,000 Spaniards and Portuguese. They refused this, and so the
negotiations broke off.’

Want of space prevents me from quoting the long conversation which was
held upon the subject of the Exchange of Prisoners of War between
Bonaparte and Las Cases at St. Helena, although it is well worth the

As the object of this work is confined to prisoners of war in Britain,
it is manifestly beyond its province to discuss at length the vexed
questions of the comparative treatment of prisoners in the two
countries. I may reiterate that on the whole the balance is fairly even,
and that much depended upon local surroundings. Much evidence could be
cited to show that in certain French seaports and in certain inland
towns set apart for the residence of Bonaparte’s _détenus_ quite as much
brutality was exercised upon British subjects as was exercised upon
French prisoners in England. Much depended upon the character of the
local commandant; much depended upon the behaviour of the prisoners;
much depended upon local sentiment. Bitche, for instance, became known
as ‘the place of tears’ from the misery of the captives there; Verdun,
on the other hand, after the tyrannical commandant Virion had made away
with himself, was to all appearances a gay, happy, fashionable
watering-place. Bitche had a severe commandant, and the class of
prisoner there was generally rough and low. Beauchêne was a genial
jailer at Verdun, and the mass of the prisoners were well-to-do. So in
Britain. Woodriff was disliked at Norman Cross, and all was unhappiness.
Draper was beloved, and Norman Cross became quite a place of captivity
to be sought after.

                              CHAPTER III
                      THE PRISON SYSTEM—THE HULKS

The foreign prisoner of war in Britain, if an ordinary sailor or
soldier, was confined either on board a prison ship or in prison ashore.
Officers of certain exactly defined ranks were allowed to be upon parole
if they chose, in specified towns. Some officers refused to be bound by
the parole requirements, and preferred the hulk or the prison with the
chance of being able to escape.

Each of these—the Hulks, the Prisons, Parole—will be dealt with
separately, as each has its particular characteristics and interesting

The prison ship as a British institution for the storage and maintenance
of men whose sole crime was that of fighting against us, must for ever
be a reproach to us. There is nothing to be urged in its favour. It was
not a necessity; it was far from being a convenience; it was not
economical; it was not sanitary. Man took one of the most beautiful
objects of his handiwork and deformed it into a hideous monstrosity. The
line-of-battle ship was a thing of beauty, but when masts and rigging
and sails were shorn away, when the symmetrical sweep of her lines was
deformed by all sorts of excrescences and superstructures, when her
white, black-dotted belts were smudged out, it lay, rather than floated,
like a gigantic black, shapeless coffin. Sunshine, which can give a
touch of picturesqueness, if not of beauty, to so much that is bare and
featureless, only brought out into greater prominence the dirt, the
shabbiness, the patchiness of the thing. In fog it was weird. In
moonlight it was spectral. The very prison and cemetery architects of
to-day strive to lead the eye by their art away from what the mind
pictures, but when the British Government brought the prison ship on to
the scene they appear to have aimed as much as possible at making the
outside reflect the life within.

No amount of investigation, not the most careful sifting of evidence,
can blind our eyes to the fact that the British prison hulks were hells
upon water. It is not that the mortality upon them was abnormal: it was
greater than in the shore prisons, but it never exceeded 3 per cent upon
an average, although there were periods of epidemic when it rose much
higher. It is that the lives of those condemned to them were lives of
long, unbroken suffering. The writer, as an Englishman, would gladly
record otherwise, but he is bound to tell the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth. True it is that our evidence is almost
entirely that of prisoners themselves, but what is not, is that of
English officers, and theirs is of condemnation. It should be borne in
mind that the experiences we shall quote are those of officers and
gentlemen, or at any rate educated men, and the agreement is so
remarkable that it would be opening the way to an accusation of national
partiality if we were to refuse to accept it.

The only palliating consideration in this sad confession is that the
prisoners brought upon themselves much of the misery. The passion for
gambling, fomented by long, weary hours of enforced idleness, wrought
far more mischief among the foreign prisoners in England, than did the
corresponding northern passion for drink among the British prisoners
abroad, if only from the fact that whereas the former, ashore and
afloat, could gamble when and where they chose, drink was not readily
procurable by the latter. The report of a French official doctor upon
prison-ship diseases will be quoted in its proper place, but the two
chief causes of disease named by him—insufficient food and insufficient
clothing—were very largely the result of the passion for gambling among
the prisoners.

A correspondent of _The Times_, December 16, 1807, writes:

‘There is such a spirit of gambling existing among the French prisoners
lately arrived at Chatham from Norman Cross, that many of them have been
almost entirely naked during the late severe weather, having lost their
clothes, not even excepting their shirts and small clothes, to some of
their fellow prisoners: many of them also are reduced to the chance of
starving by the same means, having lost seven or eight days’ provisions
to their more fortunate companions, who never fail to exact their
winnings. The effervescence of mind that this diabolical pursuit gives
rise to is often exemplified in the conduct of these infatuated
captives, rendering them remarkably turbulent and unruly. Saturday last,
a quarrel arose between two of them in the course of play, when one of
them, who had lost his clothes and food, received a stab in the back.’

‘Gambling among the French prisoners on the several prison-ships in the
Medway has arrived at an alarming height. On board the _Buckingham_,
where there are nearly 600 prisoners, are a billiard table, hazard
tables, &c.; and the prisoners indulge themselves in play during the
hours they are allowed for exercise.’

For the chief cause of suffering, medical neglect, there is, unhappily,
but little defence, for, if the complaints of neglect, inefficacy, and
of actual cruelty, which did manage to reach the august sanctum of the
Transport Office were numerous, how many more must there have been which
were adroitly prevented from getting there.

Again, a great deal depended upon the prison-ship commander. French
writers are accustomed to say that the lieutenants in charge of the
British prison ships were the scum of the service—disappointed men, men
without interest, men under official clouds which checked their advance;
and it must be admitted that at first sight it seems strange that in a
time of war all over the world, when promotion must have been rapid, and
the chances of distinction frequent, officers should easily be found
ready, for the remuneration of seven shillings per diem, plus
eighteenpence servant allowance, to take up such a position as the
charge of seven or eight hundred desperate foreigners.

But that this particular service was attractive is evident from the
constant applications for it from naval men with good credentials, and
from the frequent reply of the authorities that the waiting list was
full. If we may judge this branch of the service by others, and reading
the matter by the light of the times, we can only infer that the
Commander of a prison hulk was in the way of getting a good many
‘pickings’, and that as, according to regulation, no lieutenant of less
than ten years’ service in that rank could apply for appointment, the
berth was regarded as a sort of reward or solatium.

Be that as it may have been, the condition of a prison ship, like the
condition of a man-of-war to-day, depended very largely upon the
character of her commander. It is curious to note that most of the few
testimonies extant from prisoners in favour of prison-ship captains date
from that period of the great wars when the ill-feeling between the two
countries was most rancorous, and the poor fellows on parole in English
inland towns were having a very rough time.

In 1803 the Commandant at Portsmouth was Captain Miller, a good and
humane man who took very much to heart the sufferings of the war
prisoners under his supervision. He happened to meet among the French
naval officers on parole a M. Haguelin of Havre, who spoke English
perfectly, and with whom he often conversed on the subject of the hard
lot of the prisoners on the hulks. He offered Haguelin a place in his
office, which the poor officer gladly accepted, made him his chief
interpreter, and then employed him to visit the prison ships twice a
week to hear and note complaints with the view of remedying them.

Haguelin held this position for some years. In 1808 an English frigate
captured twenty-four Honfleur fishing-boats and brought them and their
crews into Portsmouth. Miller regarded this act as a gross violation of
the laws of humanity, and determined to undo it. Haguelin was employed
in the correspondence which followed between Captain Miller and the
Transport Office, the result being that the fishermen were well treated,
and finally sent back to Honfleur in an English frigate. Then ensued the
episode of the _Flotte en jupons_, described in a pamphlet by one
Thomas, when the women of Honfleur came out, boarded the English
frigate, and amidst a memorable scene of enthusiasm brought their
husbands and brothers and lovers safe to land. When Haguelin was
exchanged and was leaving for France, Miller wrote:

‘I cannot sufficiently express how much I owe to M. Haguelin for his
ceaseless and powerful co-operation on the numerous occasions when he
laboured to better the condition of his unfortunate compatriots. The
conscientiousness which characterized all his acts makes him deserve
well of his country.’

In 1816, Captain (afterwards Baron) Charles Dupin, of the French Corps
of Naval Engineers, placed on record a very scathing report upon the
treatment of his countrymen upon the hulks at Chatham. He wrote:

‘The Medway is covered with men-of-war, dismantled and lying in
ordinary. Their fresh and brilliant painting contrasts with the hideous
aspect of the old and smoky hulks, which seem the remains of vessels
blackened by a recent fire. It is in these floating tombs that are
buried alive prisoners of war—Danes, Swedes, Frenchmen, Americans, no
matter. They are lodged on the lower deck, on the upper deck, and even
on the orlop-deck.... Four hundred malefactors are the maximum of a ship
appropriated to convicts. From eight hundred to twelve hundred is the
ordinary number of prisoners of war, heaped together in a prison-ship of
the same rate.’

The translator of Captain Dupin’s report[2] comments thus upon this part
of it:

‘The long duration of hostilities, combined with our resplendent naval
victories, and our almost constant success by land as well as by sea,
increased the number of prisoners so much as to render the confinement
of a great proportion of them in prison-ships a matter of necessity
rather than of choice; there being, in 1814, upwards of 70,000 French
prisoners of war in this country.’

About Dupin’s severe remarks concerning the bad treatment of the
prisoners, their scanty subsistence, their neglect during sickness and
the consequent high rate of mortality among them, the translator says:

‘The prisoners were well treated in every respect; their provisions were
good in quality, and their clothing sufficient; but, owing to their
unconquerable propensity to gambling, many of them frequently deprived
themselves of their due allowance both of food and raiment. As to fresh
air, wind-sails were always pointed below in the prison ships to promote
its circulation. For the hulks themselves the roomiest and airiest of
two and three deckers were selected, and were cleared of all

‘Post-captains of experience were selected to be in command at each
port, and a steady lieutenant placed over each hulk. The prisoners were
mustered twice a week; persons, bedding, and clothing were all kept
clean; the decks were daily scraped and rubbed with sand: they were
seldom washed in summer, and never in winter, to avoid damp. Every
morning the lee ports were opened so that the prisoners should not be
too suddenly exposed to the air, and no wet clothes were allowed to be
hung before the ports.



  (_After Bombled._)

‘The provisions were minutely examined every morning by the lieutenant,
and one prisoner from each mess was chosen to attend to the delivery of
provisions, and to see that they were of the right quality and weight.
The allowance of food was:

‘Each man on each of five days per week received one and a half pounds
of wheaten flour bread, half a pound of good fresh beef with cabbage or
onions, turnips and salt, and on each of the other two days one pound of
good salted cod or herrings, and potatoes. The average number of
prisoners on a seventy-four was from six to seven hundred, and this, it
should be remembered, on a ship cleared from all encumbrances such as
guns, partitions, and enclosures.’

Dupin wrote:

‘By a restriction which well describes the mercantile jealousy of a
manufacturing people, the prisoners were prohibited from making for sale
woollen gloves and straw hats. It would have injured in these petty
branches the commerce of His Britannic Majesty’s subjects!’

to which the reply was:

‘It was so. These “petty branches” of manufactures were the employment
of the wives and children of the neighbouring cottagers, and enabled
them to pay their rent and taxes: and, on a representation by the
magistrates that the vast quantities sent into the market by the French
prisoners who had neither rent, nor taxes, nor lodging, firing, food or
clothes to find, had thrown the industrious cottagers out of work, an
order was sent to stop this manufacture by the prisoners.’

As to the sickness on board the hulks, in reply to Dupin’s assertions
the Government had the following table drawn up relative to the hulks at
Portsmouth in a month of 1813:

               _Ship’s Name._ _Prisoners     _Sick._

               Prothée               583      10 }
               Crown                 608       3 }
               San Damaso            726      32 }
               Vigilant              590       8 }
               Guildford             693       8 }
               San Antonio           820       9 }
               Vengeance             692       7 }
               Veteran               592       7 } = 1½%
               Suffolk               683       6 }
               Assistance            727      35 }
               Ave Princessa         769       9 }
               Kron Princessa        760       4 }
               Waldemar              809       1 }
               Negro                 175       0 }
                                   —————     ———
                                   9,227     139
                                   =====     ===

Dupin also published tables of prison mortality in England in
confirmation of the belief among his countrymen that it was part of
England’s diabolic policy to make prisoners of war or to kill or
incapacitate them by neglect or ill-treatment. Between 1803 and 1814,
the total number of prisoners brought to England was 122,440. Of these,
says M. Dupin,

 There died in English prisons                                    12,845
 Were sent to France in a dying state                             12,787
 Returned to France since 1814, their health more or less
   debilitated                                                    70,041

leaving a balance of 26,767, who presumably were tough enough to resist
all attempts to kill or wreck them.

To this our authorities replied with the following schedule:

 Died in English prisons                                          10,341
 Sent home sick, or on parole or exchanged, those under the two
   last categories for the most part perfectly sound men          17,607

leaving a balance of at least 94,492 sound men; for, not only, as has
been said above, were a large proportion of the 17,607 sound men, but no
allowance was made in this report for the great number of prisoners who
arrived sick or wounded.

The rate of mortality, of course, varied. At Portsmouth in 1812 the
mortality on the hulks was about 4 per cent. At Dartmoor in six years
and seven months there were 1,455 deaths, which, taking the average
number of prisoners at 5,000, works out at a little over 4 per cent
annually. But during six months of the years 1809–1810 there were 500
deaths out of 5,000 prisoners at Dartmoor, due to an unusual epidemic
and to exceptionally severe weather. With the extraordinary healthiness
of the Perth dépôt I shall deal in its proper place.

I have to thank Mr. Neves, editor of the _Chatham News_, for the
following particulars relative to Chatham.

‘The exact number of prisoners accommodated in these floating prisons
cannot be ascertained, but it appears they were moored near the old
Gillingham Fort (long since demolished) which occupied a site in the
middle of what is now Chatham Dockyard Extension. St. Mary’s Barracks,
Gillingham, were built during the Peninsular War for the accommodation
of French prisoners. There is no doubt that the rate of mortality among
the prisoners confined in the hulks was very high, and the bodies were
buried on St. Mary’s Island on ground which is now the Dockyard Wharf.



  (_From a sketch by the author._)

‘In the course of the excavations in connexion with the extension of the
Dockyard—a work of great magnitude which was commenced in 1864 and not
finished until 1884, and which cost £3,000,000, the remains of many of
the French prisoners were disinterred. The bones were collected and
brought round to a site within the extension works, opposite Cookham
Woods. A small cemetery of about 200 feet square was formed, railed in,
and laid out in flower-beds and gravelled pathways. A handsome monument,
designed by the late Sir Andrew Clarke, was erected in the centre—the
plinth and steps of granite, with a finely carved figure in armour and
cloaked, and holding an inverted torch in the centre, under a canopied
and groined spire terminating in crockets and gilt finials. In addition
to erecting this monument the Admiralty allotted a small sum annually
for keeping it in order.

‘The memorial bore the following inscription, which was written by the
late Sir Stafford Northcote, afterwards Lord Iddesleigh:

                       Here are gathered together

The remains of many brave soldiers and sailors, who, having been once
the foes, and afterwards captives, of England, now find rest in her
soil, remembering no more the animosities of war or the sorrows of
imprisonment. They were deprived of the consolation of closing their
eyes among the countrymen they loved; but they have been laid in an
honoured grave by a nation which knows how to respect valour and to
sympathize with misfortune.

‘The Government of the French Republic was deeply moved by the action of
the Admiralty, and its Ambassador in London wrote:

The Government of the Republic has been made acquainted through me with
the recent decision taken by the Government of the Queen to assure the
preservation of the funeral monument at Chatham, where rest the remains
of the soldiers and sailors of the First Empire who died prisoners of
war on board the English hulks. I am charged to make known to your
lordship that the Minister of Marine has been particularly affected at
the initiative taken in this matter by the British Administration. I
shall be much obliged to you if you will make known to H.M’s Government
the sincere feelings of gratitude of the Government of the Republic for
the homage rendered to our deceased soldiers.

                                                    (Signed) WADDINGTON.

‘In 1904 it became necessary again to move the bones of the prisoners of
war and they were then interred in the grounds of the new naval
barracks, a site being set apart for the purpose near the chapel, where
the monument was re-erected. It occupies a position where it can be seen
by passers-by. The number of skulls was 506. Quite recently (1910) two
skeletons were dug up by excavators of the Gas Company’s new wharf at
Gillingham, and, there being every reason to believe that they were the
remains of French prisoners of war, they were returned to the little
cemetery above mentioned.’



That a vast system of jobbery and corruption prevailed among the
contractors for the food, clothing, and bedding of the prisoners, and,
consequently, among those in office who had the power of selection and
appointment; and more, that not a tithe of what existed was expressed,
is not the least among the many indictments against our nation at this
period which bring a flush of shame to the cheek. As has been before
remarked, all that printed regulations and ordinance could do to keep
matters in proper order was done. What could read better, for instance,
than the following official Contracting Obligations for 1797:

 ‘Beer:   to be equal in quality to that issued on H.M.’s ships.

 Beef:    to be good and wholesome fresh beef, and delivered in clean

 Cheese:  to be good Gloucester or Wiltshire, or equal in quality.

 Pease:   to be of the white sort and good boilers.

 Greens:  to be stripped of outside leaves and fit for the copper.

 Beer:    every 7 barrels to be brewed from 8 bushels of the strongest
            amber malt, and 6 or 7 lb. of good hops at £1 18s. per ton.

 Bread:   to be equal in quality to that served on H.M.’s ships.’

As if there was really some wish on the part of the authorities to have
things in order, the custom began in 1804 for the Transport Board to
send to its prison agents and prison-ship commanders this notice:

‘I am directed by the Board to desire that you will immediately forward
to this office by coach a loaf taken indiscriminately from the bread
issued to the prisoners on the day you receive this letter.’

In so many cases was the specimen bread sent pronounced ‘not fit to be
eaten’, that circulars were sent that all prisons and ships would
receive a model loaf of the bread to be served out to prisoners, ‘made
of whole wheaten meal actually and bona fide dressed through an eleven
shilling cloth’.

Nor was the regulation quantity less satisfactory than the nominal
quality. In 1812 the scale of victualling on prison ships according to
the advertisement to contractors was:

 Sunday.     1½ lb. bread.

 Monday.      ½ lb. fresh beef.

 Tuesday.     ½ lb. cabbage or turnip.

 Thursday.   1 ounce Scotch barley.

 Saturday.    ⅓ ounce salt.

              ¼ ounce onions.

 Wednesday.  1½ lb. bread, 1 lb. good sound herrings, 1 lb. good sound

 Friday.     1½ lb. bread, 1 lb. good sound cod, 1 lb. potatoes.

In the year 1778 there were 924 American prisoners of war in England. It
has been shown before (p. 11) how the fact of their ill-treatment was
forcibly taken up by their own Government, but the following extract
from a London newspaper further shows that the real cause of their
ill-treatment was no secret:

‘As to the prisoners who were kept in England’ (this is the sequel of
remarks about our harsh treatment of American prisoners in America),
‘their penury and distress was undoubtedly great, and was much marked
_by the fraud and cruelty of those who were entrusted with their
government, and the supply of their provisions_. For these persons, who
certainly never had any orders for ill-treatment of the prisoners by
countenance in it, having, however, not been overlooked with the utmost
vigilance, besides their prejudice and their natural cruelty,
_considered their offices as only lucrative jobs which were created
merely for their emolument_. Whether there was not some exaggeration, as
there usually is in these accounts, it is certain that though the
subsistence accorded them by Government would indeed have been
sufficient, if honestly administered, to have sustained human nature, in
the respect to the mere articles of foods, yet the want of clothes,
firing, and bedding, with all the other various articles which custom or
nature regards as conducive to health and comfort, became practically
insupportable in the extremity of the winter. In consequence of the
complaint by the prisoners, the matter was very humanely taken up in the
House of Peers by Lord Abingdon ... and soon after a liberal
subscription was carried on in London and other parts, and this provided
a sufficient remedy for the evil.’

On April 13, 1778, a Contractors’ Bill was brought in to Parliament by
Sir Philip Jenning Clarke ‘for the restraining of any person being a
Member of the House of Commons, from being concerned himself or any
person in trust for him, in any contract made by the Commissioners of
H.M.’s Navy or Treasury, the Board of Ordnance, or by any other person
or persons for the public service, unless the said contract shall be
made at a public bidding’.

The first reading of the Bill was carried by seventy-one to fifty, the
second reading by seventy-two to sixty-one. Success in the Lords was
therefore regarded as certain. Yet it was actually lost by two votes
upon the question of commitment, and the exertion of Government
influence in the Bill was taken to mean a censure on certain Treasury

So things went on in the old way. Between 1804 and 1808 the evil state
of matters was either so flagrant that it commanded attention, or some
fearless official new broom was doing his duty, for the records of these
years abound with complaints, exposures, trials, and judgements.

We read of arrangements being discussed between contractors and the
stewards of prison ships by which part of the statutory provisions was
withheld from the prisoners; of hundreds of suits of clothing sent of
one size, of boots supposed to last eighteen months which fell to pieces
during the first wet weather; of rotten hammocks, of blankets so thin
that they were transparent; of hundreds of sets of handcuffs being
returned as useless; of contractors using salt water in the manufacture
of bread instead of salt, and further, of these last offenders being
prosecuted, not for making unwholesome bread, but for defrauding the
Revenue! Out of 1,200 suits of clothes ordered to be at Plymouth by
October 1807, as provision for the winter, by March 1808 only 300 had
been delivered!

Let us take this last instance and consider what it meant.

It meant, firstly, that the contractor had never the smallest intention
of delivering the full number of suits. Secondly, that he had, by means
best known to himself and the officials, received payment for the whole.
Thirdly, that hundreds of poor wretches had been compelled to face the
rigour of an English winter on the hulks in a half naked condition, to
relieve which very many of them had been driven to gambling and even
worse crimes.

And all the time the correspondence of the Transport Office consists to
a large extent of rules and regulations and provisions and safeguards
against fraud and wrong-doing; moral precepts accompany inquiry about a
missing guard-room poker, and sentimental exhortations wind up
paragraphs about the letting of grazing land or the acquisition of new
chimney-pots. Agents and officials are constantly being reminded and
advised and lectured and reproved. Money matters of the most trifling
significance are carefully and minutely dealt with. Yet we know that the
war-prison contract business was a festering mass of jobbery and
corruption, that large fortunes were made by contractors, that a whole
army of small officials and not a few big ones throve on the ‘pickings’
to be had.

Occasionally, a fraudulent contractor was brought up, heavily fined and
imprisoned; but such cases are so rare that it is hard to avoid the
suspicion that their prominence was a matter of expediency and policy,
and that many a rascal who should have been hanged for robbing
defenceless foreigners of the commonest rights of man had means with
which to defeat justice and to persist unchecked in his unholy calling.
References to this evil will be made in the chapter dealing with prisons
ashore, in connexion with which the misdeeds of contractors seem to have
been more frequent and more serious than with the hulks.

If it is painful for an Englishman to be obliged to write thus upon the
subject of fraudulent contractors, their aiders and abettors, still more
so is it to have to confess that a profession even more closely
associated with the cause of humanity seems to have been far too often
unworthily represented.

Allusion has been made to the unanimity of foreign officer-prisoners
about the utter misery of prison-ship life, but in nothing is their
agreement more marked than their condemnation, not merely of our methods
of treatment of the sick and wounded, but of the character of the
prison-ship doctors. Always bearing in mind that Britain treated her own
sailors and soldiers as if they were vicious animals, and that the
sickbay and the cockpit of a man-of-war of Nelson’s day were probably
not very much better than those described by Smollett in _Roderick
Random_, which was written in 1748, there seems to have been an amount
of gratuitous callousness and cruelty practised by the medical officers
attached to the hulks which we cannot believe would have been permitted
upon the national ships.

And here again the Government Regulations were admirable on paper: the
one point which was most strongly insisted upon being that the doctors
should live on board the vessels, and devote the whole of their time to
their duties, whereas there is abundant evidence to show that most of
the doctors of the Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Chatham hulks carried on
private practices ashore and in consequence lived ashore.

More will be found upon this unhappy topic in the next chapter of
records of life on the hulks, but we may fittingly close the present
with the report upon hulk diseases by Dr. Fontana, French Officer of
Health to the Army of Portugal, written upon the _Brunswick_ prison ship
at Chatham in 1812, and published as an appendix to Colonel Lebertre’s
book upon English war-prison life.

He divides the diseases into three heads:

(1) _External_, arising from utter want of exercise, from damp, from
insufficient food—especially upon the ‘maigre’ days of the week—and from
lack of clothing. Wounds on the legs, which were generally bare, made
bad ulcers which the ‘bourreaux’ of English doctors treated with quack
remedies such as the unguent basilicon. He describes the doctor of the
_Fyen_ prison hospital-ship as a type of the English ignorant and brutal
medical man.

(2) _Scorbutic diathesis_, arising from the ulcers and tumours on the
lower limbs, caused by the breathing of foul air from twelve to sixteen
hours a day, by overcrowding, salt food, lack of vegetables, and
deprivation of all alcohol.

(3) _Chest troubles_—naturally the most prevalent, largely owing to
moral despair caused by humiliations and cruelties, and deprivations
inflicted by low-born, uneducated brutes, miserable accommodation, the
foul exhalations from the mud shores at low water, and the cruel
treatment by doctors, who practised severe bleedings, prescribed no
dieting except an occasional mixture, the result being extreme weakness.
When the patient was far gone in disease he was sent to hospital, where
more bleeding was performed, a most injudicious use of mercury made, and
his end hastened.

The great expense of the hulks, together with the comparative ease with
which escape could be made from them, and the annually increasing number
of prisoners brought to England, led to the development of the Land
Prison System. It was shown that the annual expense of a seventy-four,
fitted to hold 700 prisoners, was £5,869. Dartmoor Prison, built to hold
6,000 prisoners, cost £135,000, and the annual expense of it was £2,862:
in other words, it would require eight seventy-fours at an annual
expense of £46,952 to accommodate this number of prisoners.

The hulks were retained until the end of the great wars, and that they
were recognized by the authorities as particular objects of aversion and
dread seems to be evident from the fact that incorrigible offenders from
the land prisons were sent there, as in the case of the wholesale
transfer to them in 1812 of the terrible ‘Romans’ from Dartmoor, and
from the many letters written by prisoners on board the hulks praying to
be sent to prison on land, of which the following, from a French officer
on a Gillingham hulk to Lady Pigott, is a specimen:

                                                       H.M.S. _Sampson_.


‘Je crains d’abuser de votre bonté naturelle et de ce doux sentiment de
compation qui vous fait toujours prendre pitié des malheureux, mais,
Madame, un infortuné sans amis et sans soutiens se réfugie sous les
auspices des personnes généreuses qui daignent le plaindre, et vous avez
humainement pris part à mes maux. Souffrez donc que je vous supplie
encore de renouveler vos demandes en ma faveur, si toutefois cette
demande ne doit pas être contraire à votre tranquillité personnelle.
Voilà deux ans que je suis renfermé dans cette prison si nuisible à ma
santé plus chancellante et plus débile que jamais. Voilà six ans et plus
que je suis prisonnier sans espoir qu’un sort si funeste et si peu
mérité finisse. Si je n’ai pas mérité la mort, et si on ne veut pas me
la donner, il faut qu’on me permette de retourner m’isoler à terre, où
je pourrais alors dans la tranquillité vivre d’une manière plus
convenable à ma faible constitution, et résister au malheur, pour vous
prouver, my lady, que quand j’ai commis la faute pour laquelle je
souffre tant, ce fut beaucoup plus par manque d’expérience que par vice
du cœur.

                                                   ‘JEAN-AUGUSTE NEVEU.’


This letter was accompanied by a certificate from the doctor of the
_Trusty_ hospital ship, and the supplicant was noted to be sent to
France with the first batch of invalids.

Many of the aforementioned letters are of the most touching description,
and if some of them were shown to be the clever concoctions of desperate
men, there is a genuine ring about most which cannot fail to move our
pity. Lady Pigott was one of the many admirable English women who
interested themselves in the prisoners, and who, as usual, did so much
of the good work which should have been done by those paid to do it. It
is unfortunate for our national reputation that so many of the
reminiscences of imprisonment in England which have come down to us have
been those of angry, embittered men, and that so little written
testimony exists to the many great and good and kindly deeds done by
English men and women whose hearts went out to the unfortunate men on
the prison ships, in the prisons, and on parole, whose only crime was
having fought against us. But that there were such acts is a matter of

                               CHAPTER IV
                           LIFE ON THE HULKS

From a dozen accounts by British, American, and French writers I have
selected the following, as giving as varied a view as possible of this
phase of the War Prison system.

The first account is by the Baron de Bonnefoux, who was captured with
the _Belle Poule_ in the West Indies by the _Ramillies_, Captain
Pickmore in 1806, was allowed on parole at Thame and at Odiham, whence
he broke parole, was captured, and taken to the _Bahama_ at Chatham.

When Bonnefoux was at Chatham, there were five prison ships moored under
the lee of Sheppey between Chatham and Sheerness. He describes the
interior arrangements of a hulk, but it resembles exactly that of the
painter Garneray whose fuller account I give next.

Writing in 1835, the Baron says:

‘It is difficult to imagine a more severe punishment; it is cruel to
maintain it for an indefinite period, and to submit to it prisoners of
war who deserve much consideration, and who incontestably are the
innocent victims of the fortune of war. The British prison ships have
left profound impressions on the minds of the Frenchmen who have
experienced them; an ardent longing for revenge has for long moved their
hearts, and even to-day when a long duration of peace has created so
much sympathy between the two nations, erstwhile enemies, I fear that,
should this harmony between them be disturbed, the remembrance of these
horrible places would be reawakened.’

Very bitterly does the Baron complain of the bad and insufficient food,
and of the ill-fitting, coarse, and rarely renewed clothing, and he is
one of those who branded the commanders of the prison ships as the
‘rebuts’—the ‘cast-offs’ of the British navy.

The prisoners on the _Bahama_ consisted largely of privateer captains,
the most restless and desperate of all the prisoners of war, men who
were socially above the common herd, yet who had not the _cachet_ of the
regular officers of the navy, who regarded themselves as independent of
such laws and regulations as bound the latter, and who were also
independent in the sense of being sometimes well-to-do and even rich
men. At first there was an inclination among some of these to take
Bonnefoux down as an ‘aristo’; they ‘tutoyer’d’ him, and tried to make
him do the fagging and coolie work which, on prison ships as in schools,
fell to the lot of the new-comer.

But the Baron from the first took up firmly the position of an officer
and a gentleman, and showed the rough sea-dogs of the Channel ports that
he meant it, with the result that they let him alone.

Attempted escapes were frequent. Although under constant fear of the
lash, which was mercilessly used in the British army at this time, the
soldiers of the guard were ready enough to sell to the prisoners
provisions, maps, and instruments for effecting escape. One day in 1807
five of the prisoners attempted to get off in the empty water casks
which the Chatham contractor took off to fill up. They got safely enough
into the water boat, unknown of course to its occupants (so it seems, at
any rate, in this case, although there was hardly a man who had dealings
with the hulks who would not help the prisoners to escape for money),
but at nightfall the boat anchored in mid-stream; one of the prisoners
got stuck in his water-cask and called for aid; this was heard by the
cabin-boy, who gave the alarm, the result being that the prisoners were
hauled out of their hiding places, taken on board, and got ten days
Black Hole. The Black Hole was a prison six feet square at the bottom of
the hold, to which air only came through round holes not big enough for
the passage of a mouse. Once and once only in the twenty-four hours was
this _cachot_ visited for the purpose of bringing food and taking away
the latrine box. Small wonder that men often went mad and sometimes died
during a lengthened confinement, and that those who came out looked like

The above-mentioned men were condemned to pay the cost of their capture,
and, as they had no money, were put on half rations!

The time came round for the usual sending of aged and infirm prisoners
to shore prisons. One poor chap sold his right to go to Bonnefoux, and
he and his friend Rousseau resolved to escape en route. Bonnefoux,
however, was prevented from going, as his trunk had arrived from Odiham
and he was required to be present to verify its contents.

In December 1807, three Boulogne men cut a hole just above the water
near the forward sentry box on the guard gallery which ran round the
outside of the ship, and escaped. Others attempted to follow, but one of
them cried out from the extreme cold, was fired at and hauled on board.
Three managed to get off to Dover and Calais, one stuck in the mud and
was drowned, and the Baron says that the captain of the _Bahama_ allowed
him to remain there until he rotted away, as a deterrent to would-be

Milne, captain of the _Bahama_, the Baron says, was a drunken brute who
held orgies on board at which all sorts of loose and debased characters
from the shore attended. Upon one occasion a fire was caused by these
revels, and the captain, who was drunk, gave orders that the prisoners
should be shot at should the fire approach them, rather than that they
should escape.

A rough code of justice existed between the prisoners for the settlement
of differences among themselves. One Mathieu, a privateersman, kept a
small tobacco stall. A soldier, who already had a long bill running with
him, wanted tobacco on credit. Mathieu refused; the soldier snatched
some tobacco off the stall, Mathieu struck him with a knife and wounded
him badly. Mathieu was a very popular character, but justice had to be
done, even to a captive. Luckily the soldier recovered, and Mathieu got
off with indemnification.

During the very bad weather of March 1808, the sentries ordinarily on
the outer gallery were taken on board. To this gallery a boat was always
made fast, and the Baron, Rousseau, and another resolved to escape by
it. So they cut the painter and got off, using planks for oars, with
holes in them for handhold. They reached land safely, and hid all day in
a field, feeding on provisions they had brought from the _Bahama_. At
nightfall they started, and, meeting a countryman, asked the way to
Chatham. ‘Don’t go there,’ he replied, ‘the bridge is guarded, and you
will be arrested.’ One of the prisoners, not knowing English, only
caught the last word, and, thinking it was ‘arrêtez’, drew a piece of
fencing foil, with which each was armed, and threatened the man. The
others saved him, and in recognition he directed them to a village
whence they could cross the Medway. They walked for a long time until
they were tired, and reaching a cottage, knocked for admission. A big
man came to the door. They asked hospitality, and threatened him in case
of refusal. ‘My name is Cole,’ said the man, ‘I serve God, I love my
neighbour, I can help you. Depend on me.’ They entered and were well
entertained by Cole’s wife and daughter, and enjoyed the luxury of a
night’s rest in a decent bed. Next morning, Cole showed them how to
reach the Dover road across the river, and with much difficulty was
persuaded to accept a guinea for his services.

Such instances of pity and kindness of our country people for escaped
prisoners are happily not rare, and go far to counterbalance the sordid
and brutal treatment which in other cases they received.

That evening the fugitives reached Canterbury, and, after buying
provisions, proceeded towards Dover, and slept in a barn. Freedom seemed
at hand when from Dover they had a glimpse of the French coast, but
fortune still mocked them, for they sought in vain along the beach for a
boat to carry them over. Boats indeed were there, but all oars, sails,
and tackle had been removed from them in accordance with Government
advice circulated in consequence of the frequent escapes of French
officers on parole by stealing long-shore boats.

So they went on to Deal, and then to Folkestone. Here they were
recognized as escaping prisoners and were pursued, but they ran and got
safely away. They held a consultation and decided to go to Odiham in
Hampshire, where all of them had friends among the officers on parole
there, who would help them with money. The writer here describes the
great sufferings they underwent by reason of the continuous bad weather,
their poor clothing, their footsoreness, and their poverty. By day they
sheltered in ditches, woods, and under hedges, and journeyed by night,
hungry, wet to the skin, and in constant dread of being recognized and
arrested. For some unknown reason, instead of pushing westward for their
destination they went back to Canterbury, thence to London, then via
Hounslow Heath to Odiham, where they arrived more dead than alive,
shoeless, their clothing in rags, and penniless. At Odiham they went to
one of the little houses on the outskirts of the town, built especially
for French prisoners. This house belonged to a Mr. R——, and here the
three men remained hidden for eight days. Suddenly the house was
surrounded by armed men, the Baron and his companions were arrested and
put into the lock-up. Céré, a friend of the Baron’s, believed that R——
had betrayed them, and challenged him. A duel was fought in which R——
was badly wounded, and when he recovered he found that feeling among the
Frenchmen in Odiham was so strong, that the Agent sent him away to
Scotland under a false name. At Odiham lock-up, Sarah Cooper, an old
friend of the Baron’s when he was on parole there, who had helped him to
get away, came to see him and left him a note in which she said she
would help him to escape, and would not leave him until she had taken
him to France. The escape was planned, Sarah contrived to get him a rope
ladder and had a conveyance ready to take him away, but just as his foot
was on the ladder the police got the alarm, he was arrested, chained,
and shut up in the _cachot_.

For three days the Baron remained in irons, and then was marched to
Chatham, so closely watched by the guards that every night the
prisoner’s clothes and boots were removed, and were not returned until
the morning. They went to Chatham by way of London where they were
confined in the Savoy prison, then used for British deserters. These men
were friendly to the Frenchmen. All of them had been flogged, one had
received 1,100 lashes, and was to receive 300 more.

On May 1, 1808, the unfortunate men found themselves once more on the
_Bahama_, with a sentence of ten days in the Black Hole.

Captain Milne of the _Bahama_ was exasperated at these escapes, and
attempts to escape, and was brutal in his endeavours to get hold of the
tools with which the prisoners had worked. He tried the effect of
starvation, but this only fanned the spirit of revolt in the ship, the
state of life in which became very bad, threats, disputes, quarrels and
duels being of everyday occurrence. The climax came when bad weather
prevented the delivery of bread, and the prisoners were put on biscuit.
They assembled in the _parc_, the open space between the two batteries,
forty feet square, and declared they would not disperse until other
provisions were served out. Milne was mad with anger and drink, and
ordered the soldiers to fire upon the prisoners, but the young officer
in command would not respect the order, and, instead, counselled a more
moderate action. Bonnefoux managed to calm the prisoners, and determined
personally to interview Milne, and represented to him that to compel
eight hundred desperate, hungry men to descend from the _parc_ would
mean bloodshed. The captain yielded, and peace was temporarily assured.

However, more hole-boring was discovered; Rousseau, the Baron’s friend,
slipped overboard and swam away, but was captured just as he was
landing; the result being that the watch kept was stricter than ever.

The Baron here dilates upon the frightful immorality of the life on the
_Bahama_. He says:

‘Il n’existait ni crainte, ni retenue, ni amour-propre dans la classe
qui n’avait pas été dotée des bienfaits de quelque éducation. On y
voyait donc régner insolemment l’immoralité la plus perverse, les
outrages les plus honteux à la pudeur et les actes les plus dégoûtants,
le cynisme le plus effronté, et dans ce lieu de misère générale une
misère plus grande encore que tout ce qu’on peut imaginer.’

There were three classes of prisoners.

(1) Les Raffalés. (2) Les Messieurs ou Bourgeois. (3) Les Officiers.

The Raffalés were the lowest, and lowest of the Raffalés were the
‘Manteaux impériaux.’ These had nothing in the world but one covering,
which swarmed with lice, hence the facetious allusion in their name to
the bees of the Imperial Mantle. These poor wretches eat nothing during
the day, for their gambling left them nothing to eat, but at night they
crept about picking up and devouring the refuse of the food. They slept
packed closely side by side on the deck. At midnight the officer of the
evening gave the word, ‘Par le flanc droit!’ and all turned on to their
right sides. At 3 a.m. the word rang out ‘Pare à virer!’[3] and all
turned on to their left sides.

They gambled with dice for their rations, hammocks, clothes, anything,
and the winners sold for two sous what often was worth a franc. They had
a chief who was fantastically garbed, and a drummer with a wooden
_gamelle_. Sometimes they were a terror to the other prisoners, but
could always be appeased with something to gamble with.

Bonnefoux’s companions worked in wood and straw. The _Bahama_ had been
captured from the Spaniards and was built of cedar, and the wood
extracted by the prisoners in making escape holes they worked into
razor-boxes and toilette articles. Bonnefoux himself gave lessons in
French, drawing, mathematics, and English, and published an English
Grammar, a copy of which is at Paris, in the Bibliothèque Nationale.

Gradually the spread of the taste for education had a refining and
civilizing effect on board the _Bahama_, and when Bonnefoux finally
obtained parole leave, the condition of affairs was very much improved.

In June 1809 the Baron left the _Bahama_ for Lichfield, and with him was
allowed to go one Dubreuil, a rough typical privateer captain, who never
had any money, but had a constant craving for tobacco. He had been kind
to Colonel and Mrs. Campbell, whom he had taken prisoners, and who had
promised to befriend him should luck turn against him. Bonnefoux had
helped him pecuniarily, and in return Dubreuil promised to teach him how
to smoke through his eyes!

The next relation is that of Louis Garneray, a marine painter of some
note, specimens of whose work during his nine years’ captivity in
England may still be found in Portsmouth and its neighbourhood, and one
at least of whose later pictures is in the Marine Gallery of the Paris

What follows is an analysis in brief of his book _Mes Pontons_ (which
is, so far as I am aware, the most complete picture of life on a prison
ship yet published), and, being but a brief analysis, is incomplete as
to numberless most interesting details, so that I would recommend any
reader who wishes to be minutely informed upon the subject to read the
original volume of 320 pages. It is caustically, even savagely written,
but nine years cut out of a young man’s life cannot serve to sweeten his

In May 1806 Garneray, who had been captured in the West Indies, was
taken on board the hulk _Prothée_ at Portsmouth, stripped, plunged into
a cold bath, and clothed in an ill-fitting orange-yellow suit, on the
back of which the large letters T. O. proclaimed him as under the care
of the Transport Office. He describes the _Prothée_,—as he is hustled
into the mob of ‘dead people come out for a moment from their graves,
hollow-eyed, earthy complexioned, round backed, unshaven, their frames
barely covered with yellow rags, their bodies frightfully thin,’—as a
black, shapeless sarcophagus, of which the only parts open to air was
the space between the fo’c’sle and the poop and the fo’c’sle itself,
which was unbearable from the smoke of the many chimneys on it. Each end
of the ship was occupied by the garrison, the officers aft and the
soldiers forward. A stout barrier divided the guard from the prisoners,
which was so garnished with heavy-headed nails as to seem like iron, and
was fitted with loop-holes for inspection, and, if needs be, for firing
through. On the lower deck and in the lower battery were packed seven
hundred human beings.

Only one ladder communicated between the lower deck and the lower
battery. In the latter the only daylight came through port-holes, in the
former through narrow scuttles, all of which had iron gratings.

All round the ship, just above the water-line, ran a gallery with
open-work floor, and along this paced three sentries by day and seven by
night. The ship was commanded by a lieutenant and a master, and was
garrisoned by forty or fifty soldiers under a marine officer and about
twenty sailors. The day guard consisted of three sentries on the
gallery, one on the ladder communicating with the battery, one on the
fo’c’sle, one on each gangway, and on the poop a dozen armed men ready
for instant action. At night there were seven sentries on the gallery,
one on the battery ladder; an officer, a sergeant, a corporal, and a
dozen sailors were continually moving round, and every quarter of an
hour the ‘All’s well’ rang out.

The ship’s boats were slung ten feet above the water, and one was
chained to the gallery aft.

At 6 a.m. in summer and 8 in winter, the port-holes were opened, and the
air thus liberated was so foul that the men opening the port-holes
invariably jumped back immediately. At 6 p.m. in summer and 2 p.m. in
winter, every wall and grating was sounded with iron bars, and one hour
later all the prisoners were driven on deck and counted.



  (_After Louis Garneray._)

The only furniture in the ship was a bench along each side and four in
the middle, the prisoners squatting on deck at mess time. Each prisoner
on arrival received a hammock, a thin coverlet, and a hair mattress
weighing from two to three pounds. For a long time no distinction was
made between officers and men, but latterly a special ship was allowed
for officers. Some idea of the crowding on board may be gained from the
facts that each battery, 130 feet long, 40 feet broad, and 6 feet high,
held nearly 400 prisoners, and that the hammocks were so closely slung
that there was no room to sleep on deck.

The alimentation of the prisoners, humane and ample as it looks on
paper, seems to have been a gross sham. Not only did the contractors
cheat in quality and quantity, but what with forfeitures on account of
breaches of discipline, and observance of the law imposed by the
prisoners on themselves, that, deductions or no deductions, no man
should have a larger ration than another, and contributions to men
planning to escape, it was impossible for all to touch full rations.

The prisoners elected their own cooks, and nominally a committee of
fifteen prisoners was allowed to attend at the distribution to see that
quality and quantity were just, but the guards rarely allowed them to do
so. Six men formed a mess; no spoons, knives or forks were supplied,
merely bowls and pannikins. The fish supplied on ‘maigre’
days—Wednesdays and Fridays—was usually uneatable, and the prisoners
often sold the herrings at a penny each to the purveyors, who kept them
for redistribution, so that it was said that some herrings had done duty
for ten years! With the money thus made the prisoners bought butter or
cheese. The cod they re-cooked; the bread was filthy and hard.
Complaints were useless, and the result was constant hunger.

All but the Raffalés, the scum, occupied themselves with trades or
professions. There were tobacco manufacturers, professors of dancing,
fencing, and stick-play, who charged one sou for a lesson, which often
lasted an hour. Mathematics and languages were taught at the same rate.
Whilst these and many other occupations were busy, up and down the
battery passed the ‘merchants’ crying their wares, hungry men who
offered their rags for sale, menders of shoes, and the occupants of
favourable positions in the battery inviting bids for them, so that
despite the rags and the hunger and the general misery, there was plenty
of sound and movement, and general evidence of that capability for
adapting themselves to circumstance which so invariably distinguished
the French prisoners in England from the British prisoners in France.

Garneray’s chief friend on board was a sturdy Breton privateer Captain
named Bertaud. Bertaud hated the English fiercely, and, being somewhat
of a bruiser, had won the esteem of his companions quite as much by his
issue of the following challenge as by his personal qualities.

‘Challenge to the English! Long live French Brittany! The undersigned
Bertaud, native of Saint-Brieuc, annoyed at hearing the English boast
that they are the best boxers in the world, which is a lie, will fight
any two of them, in any style with fists, but not to use legs.

‘He will also, in order to prove his contempt for these boasters,
receive from his two adversaries ten blows with the fist before the
fight wherever his adversaries choose, and afterwards he will thrash
them. Simply, he stipulates that as soon as he has received the ten
blows and before the fight begins he shall be paid two pounds sterling
to compensate him for the teeth which shall have been broken.

‘Done on board the _Prothée_ where Bertaud mopes himself to death!’

Garneray calls him a madman, and says that the ten blows alone will do
for him. What is his game?

‘I shall pocket two pounds, and that will go into our escape fund,’
replied the Breton laughing.

Garneray and Bertaud had been saving up for some time for the escape
they resolved to attempt, and, although Bertaud’s challenge was not
taken up, they at last owned forty-five shillings, to which Garneray’s
writing lessons at a shilling each to the little girl of the _Prothée’s_
commander chiefly contributed. Each made himself a bag of tarred cloth
to hold clothes and provisions, they had bored a hole through the ship’s
side large enough to slip through, and only waited for a dark quiet
night. As it was the month of July this soon came. Bertaud got through
first, Garneray was on the point of following when a challenge rang out,
followed by a musket-shot, and peeping through the hole, to his horror
he saw poor Bertaud suspended over the water by the cord of his bag
which had caught in an unnoticed nail in the ship’s side. Then was a
terrible thing done. The soldiers hammered the helpless Frenchman with
their musket butts, Garneray heard the fall of something heavy in the
water; there was silence; then as if by magic the whole river was lit
up, and boats from all the other vessels put off for the _Prothée_.
Garneray slipped back to his hammock, but was presently turned out with
all the other prisoners to be counted. His anxiety about the fate of his
friend made him ask a sailor, who replied brutally, ‘Rascal, how should
I know? So far as I am concerned I wish every Frenchman was at the
bottom of the sea!’ For a consideration of a shilling, however, the man
promised to find out, and told Garneray that the poor Breton had
received three bayonet thrusts, a sabre-cut on the head, and musket-butt
blows elsewhere, but that the dog still breathed! For twenty days the
man gave his shilling bulletins, and then announced that the Breton was

Garneray and Bertaud made another attempt some months later. Garneray
had saved money he had earned by drawing designs for the straw-workers
among the prisoners, who had hitherto not gone beyond birds and flowers,
and who readily paid for his ships in full sail and other marine

It was mid-winter and bitterly cold, so the two adventurers prepared
themselves by rubbing themselves with oil saved from the little lamp by
which Garneray taught his pupils. Without attracting notice they slipped
overboard, and swam for the muddy shore of an island. This they crossed
on _patins_ which Bertaud had provided, and reached the river by
Gosport. Only occasional pulls at the rum flask prevented them from
perishing with cold, and their second swim nearly cost both of them
their lives. Each in turn had to support the other, and they were on the
point of giving up when they reached an anchored vessel. Here a watchdog
greeted them, and kept up his barking until he aroused the crew, who
hailed them in what they thankfully recognized to be broken English.
Alas! Their joy was short-lived. The skipper of the vessel was a Dane,
and so far from promising to help them declared he would send them back
to the hulk, abusing them violently. This was too much for the fiery
Breton, who, seizing a knife, sprang upon the Dane and bore him to the
ground. They tied and gagged him, and, said Bertaud, ‘Now let us be

But Garneray declared himself too exhausted to attempt another swim,
even for liberty, and said he would go back to the hulk. The prospect of
this was too horrible for Bertaud. ‘Better be drowned and be done with
it,’ said he, ‘than live to be killed by inches,’ and before Garneray
could remonstrate, to the amazement of the Danish sailors, he sprang

At four the next morning the Danes brought Garneray back to the
_Prothée_. Instantly, although he was wet through and half dead with
cold, he was put into the _cachot_, and but for the fact that the
carpenters had been working there and had left a pile of shavings,
amongst which he nestled, he could not have lived through the night.
Next day he was released and sent back to the battery, but no fresh
clothes were issued to him, and but for the charity of his fellow
prisoners he would have gone naked.

Seeing all the prisoners peering excitedly through the grated
port-holes, Garneray, sick in his hammock, asked the reason: ‘See, the
crows!’ was the reply.

He joined the onlookers, and describes his feelings when he saw
stretched on the mud of the Portchester river the body of Bertaud,
already an attraction for the crows. On the brutal scene which followed,
the dragging of the body to the ship, and the utterly inhuman response
made to Garneray’s prayer for the decent treatment of his friend’s
remains, it is as unnecessary as it is distasteful to dwell.

Garneray was now changed from the _Prothée_ to the _Crown_—a ship with a
bad reputation among the prisoners.

Captain R—— of the _Crown_ was a brute in every sense of the word, and
the prisoners maddened him by winning for the _Crown_ the reputation of
being the most unmanageable, because the worst managed, hulk in
Portchester River. Bully, sot, and coward as he was, he by no means had
his own way. On one occasion five prisoners escaped. Although it was
mid-winter and snowing, R—— had the muster of half-clad wretches made in
the open. The number could never be made right, and count after count
was made, during a space of three days. The whole affair was a cleverly
concocted device to gain for the escaped men time to get safely away. A
master-carpenter among the prisoners had cut a means of communication
between two of the batteries, through which, unseen by the authorities,
men could slip from one to the other, get on deck, and so swell or
diminish the muster roll as arranged. The trick was not discovered, but
that there was a trick was evident, and R—— was determined to be
revenged. He summoned the floating fire-engines in harbour, and,
although it was mid-winter, actually pumped icy water into the lower
deck and batteries until they were drenched, as well as the prisoners,
their hammocks, and their clothes.



  (_After Louis Garneray._)

On another occasion when for counting purposes those on the _Crown_ were
transferred _en masse_ on board the _San Antonio_, they returned to find
that during their temporary absence R—— had actually, ‘as a measure of
precaution,’ he said, destroyed all the tools and implements and books
which the prisoners used in their poor little occupations and trades,
and among them Garneray’s canvases, easels, brushes, and colours. The
immediate result was a stupor of impotent rage; this gave way to open
insubordination, insult, and such a universal paroxysm of indignation
that even R—— was cowed, and actually made a show of leniency, offering
terms of mediation which were scornfully rejected.

Garneray relates another boxing episode with great gusto. A certain
Colonel S——, belonging to a well-known English family, came to visit
Captain R—— accompanied by a colossal negro, gorgeously arrayed, called
Little White, and a splendid Danish hound. His purpose was to match
Little White against a French boxer for the entertainment of his
fashionable friends ashore. At first sight there would seem to be very
poor sport in the pitting of a well-fed, well-trained giant against even
the fittest champion of a crowd of half-clad, half-starved, wholly
untrained prisoners of war. Although the real object of the gallant
Colonel was to show off his black pet, and to charm the beauty and
fashion of Portsmouth with an exhibition of prowess, to prove that he
was simply animated by a love of sport, he had the consent of R—— that
the prisoner champion should be prepared in some way for the contest by
extra feeding and so forth.

Robert Lange, a quiet, inoffensive Breton with a quenchless hatred of
the English, and a reputed athlete, at once accepted the challenge,
especially as the (to him) enormous prize of twenty guineas was being

The day appointed for the contest came. Great preparations had been made
on the poop of the _Crown_ for the reception of the fashionable company
invited to assist at the spectacle of Colonel S——‘s black knocking out
in the first round, and probably killing, a Frenchman.

Colonel S—— arrived, and with him Little White and the big dog, and
flotillas of boats brought out the company, largely consisting of
ladies, ‘parées avec ce luxe éclatant et de mauvais goût si
essentiellement britannique,’ who settled themselves on the stand rigged
up for the occasion, in laughing and chattering anticipation of
something funny.

Robert Lange was playing cards below when he was told that the
entertainment was only wanting him. Very coolly he sent word back that
he would come as soon as he had finished his hand, and nothing would
induce him to hurry. Captain R—— wanted to put Lange into the _cachot_
at once for this impertinence, but Colonel S—— calmed him by assuring
him that it was the custom in England to grant any indulgence to a man
condemned to die.

Meanwhile Little White divested himself of his gorgeous flunkey dress,
and the appearance of his magnificent physique caused a chorus of
admiration for him, and of pity for the presumptuous Frenchman, to burst
from the company.

In due course Robert Lange slouched up, his hands in his pockets, a pipe
in his mouth, and his cotton cap on the back of his head. His appearance
brought out a murmur of disappointment from the visitors, who considered
they were being made the victims of one of Colonel S——‘s famous hoaxes.
The murmurs turned to smiles when Robert confessed ignorance about
seconds, and asked what a watch was wanted for. However, these things
being explained to him, he chose Garneray and a fellow Breton as
seconds, told Garneray to pocket the magnificent watch which the Colonel
offered him, said he was ready for the dance to begin, and placed
himself in a fighting position which occasioned roars of laughter from
the polite crowd.

‘I’m beginning to lose my temper at the mockery of these fools,’ said
Lange to Garneray; ‘what are they waiting for?’

‘Colonel,’ said Garneray, ‘my man is ready. May we begin?’

‘There is just one formality customary on these occasions,’ replied the
Colonel. ‘The combatants ought to shake hands to show there is no
ill-feeling between them.’

The big black thrust forward his hand saying, ‘Shake my hand with
respect. It has bowled over many a Frenchman.’

At this gratuitous insult, which the English applauded, a thrill of
indignation agitated the crowd of French prisoners.

‘What does this chap say?’ asked Lange of Garneray.

Garneray told him. Instantly there sprang into his face and into his
eyes a light of anger very unusual to him, and what Garneray feared was
that the furious Breton would violate the laws of combat and spring upon
the negro before the latter had taken up his fighting position. But it
was not so. Let me translate Garneray’s description of what followed:
‘At length Robert Lange seized the negro’s hand. Their hands entwined,
their gaze fixed, their inflamed faces close together, the two
combatants motionless, resembled a marble group. By degrees, it seemed
to me that on the face of Little White there was a look of pain. I was
not wrong. Suddenly with a cry of pain which he had been suppressing the
negro bit his lip with passion, half closed his eyes, threw his head
back as he raised his shoulder convulsively, and seemed to lose
consciousness. All this time the Breton was as calm and motionless as a
statue. What was going on was something so unforeseen, so extraordinary
that we did not know what to think of it. Robert Lange solved the

‘“Wretch!” he cried with a resounding voice. “This hand which has done
for so many Bretons shall not henceforth frighten a child!”

‘In fact, the hand of the Breton had gripped the negro’s with such force
that the blood sprang from its fingers.

‘“Stop! stop!” cried the black in his agony. But Robert was pitiless,
and did not loosen his grasp until the giant was on his knees before

An enthusiastic burst of cheering rose from the French prisoner
spectators, and, to cut the story short, the Colonel handed Robert Lange
the twenty guineas, and was obliged to apologize to the gay company
assembled to see the triumph of the negro, for the unexpected and brief
character of the entertainment.

Then he called his big Danish hound and prepared to embark. But the dog
did not appear and could not be found. Somebody said he had last been
seen going into the battery. Captain R—— started, and his face reddened
deeply. ‘Then—then,’ he stammered. ‘If your dog has got into the
battery, you will never see him again!’

‘Never see him again! What do you mean?’ roared the Colonel.

‘I mean that by this time he represents two legs of mutton, several
dishes of “ratatouille”, and any number of _beeftaks_! In other words,
the prisoners have eaten him!’

It was even so. The vision of a large plump dog had been too much for
the Raffalés, and as the irate Colonel was rowed shorewards from the
ship, he saw the skin of his pet nailed on to the outer side of it.

Captain R—— revenged himself for the double fiasco by a series of brutal
persecutions and punishments which culminated in open rebellion, severe
fighting, much bloodshed, and at last in a proclamation by the Captain
that unless the ringleaders were delivered up to him, imploring pardon
for what had happened, he would have every man shot.

In the meanwhile the long duration and intensity of Captain R——‘s
persecution had reached the ears of the authorities, and just at the
expiration of the hour which he had given the prisoners for decision,
the great folk of the Admiralty arrived, and the result of a court of
inquiry which lasted the whole day, and which even Garneray admits was
conducted with impartiality, was that he was removed.

A few weeks later Garneray observed two of the worst of the Raffalés
seated on a bench playing ecarté very seriously, and surrounded by a
silent and equally serious crowd. Suspecting that this was no ordinary
gambling bout, he inquired, and was told that by a drawing of lots these
two men had been left to decide who should kill the ship’s master, one
Linch, the worst type of hulk tyrant. In vain Garneray exerted himself
to prevent the committal of so terrible a crime. The game was played
out, and five minutes later the master was stabbed to the heart as he
stood on the upper deck.

Towards the end of 1811 the _Vengeance_, to which hulk Garneray had been
shifted from the _Crown_, received her quota of the unfortunate
Frenchmen who, after the capitulation of Baylen in 1808, had been
imprisoned by the Spaniards on the island of Cabrera, where they had
been submitted to the most terrible sufferings and hardships, and had
died like flies. Garneray describes the appearance of thirty of these
poor creatures who had been apportioned to the _Vengeance_, as they came

‘The poor wretches, lying at the bottom of the boat, cried aloud in
their agony and tossed in the delirium of fever; thin as skeletons, pale
as corpses, scarcely covered, although the cold was intense, by their
miserable rags.... Of these thirty only about ten had strength enough to
get on board.’

The doctor of the _Vengeance_ refused to receive them on board, saying
that by their infection they would in a fortnight’s time turn the ship
into one great tomb, and they were ordered to be put on board the
_Pegasus_ hospital ship. While the arrangements for their reception were
being made, the unfortunates were kept in their agony in the boat
alongside, for the captain of the _Vengeance_ said it was not worth
while to disarrange his ship for such men, for so short a time.



  (_After Louis Garneray._)

More brutality followed. The captain of the _Pegasus_ sent word that the
poor wretches should be bathed before being sent to him, saying that his
hospital was so full that he had no accommodation of this sort. And this
was actually done; they were plunged into icy cold water, and then
packed off to the _Pegasus_, the result being that many of them were
hauled on board dying.

As the doctor of the _Vengeance_ predicted, the infection brought by the
survivors of Cabrera spread through the ship with terrible severity, and
Garneray himself was seized with fever, and was sent on board the
_Pegasus_. He tells how by the intervention of a fellow-countryman who
was a hospital assistant, he contrived to avoid the horrors of the
compulsory cold bath on entrance, and proceeds to relate a circumstance
which, horrible as it is, I give for what it is worth.

A neighbour invalid had a diamond ring on his finger. He was a soldier
of Spain, and the ring no doubt had been obtained, as Garneray says, ‘by
the luck of war’. He was very far gone; indeed his death could only be a
matter of a few hours. Garneray, rapidly becoming convalescent, heard
two English attendants conspire to take the dying man away at once to
the mortuary and there to relieve him of his ring. They carried him
away; Garneray called for his French friend, and bid him go at once and
prevent the brutal deed. He did so, and the man actually recovered, but
he told Garneray that it was quite the rule in this crowded hospital
ship for patients to be hurried away before they were dead into the
mortuary in order to make room for others!

Garneray says:

‘It is difficult to give the reader an idea of the barbarous manner in
which the French were treated on this hospital ship. I will only give
one more instance, for my aim is not to horrify, and there were acts of
cruelty which the pen hesitates to describe. One day the English doctor
was asked to authorize wine to be given to a young officer, grievously
ill, in order to strengthen him. “Are you mad?” replied the doctor. “To
dare to ask me to give strength to an enemy? Get out! You must be a

When Garneray returned to the _Vengeance_ he had news of the Baron de
Bonnefoux—extracts from whose life upon the Chatham hulks have already
been given,—and speaks of him as bent upon escaping, and fears he would
be shot one of these days.

Garneray later is allowed to go on parole to Bishop’s Waltham, about his
sojourn at which place something will be said when the story of the
Prisoners on Parole comes to be told. Suffice it therefore to say that
Garneray got away from Bishop’s Waltham to Portsmouth, and well across
the Channel on a smuggling vessel, when he was recaptured by a British
cruiser, and once again found himself a prisoner on the _Vengeance_.
After more sufferings, brutal treatment, and illness, Garneray was at
length made free by the Treaty of Paris in 1814.



  (_After Louis Garneray._)

                               CHAPTER V
                    LIFE ON THE HULKS—(_continued_)

I next give the remarks of Colonel Lebertre, who, having broken his
parole by escaping from Alresford, was captured, and put on the _Canada_
hulk at Chatham. This was in 1811. He complains bitterly that officers
in the hulks were placed on a level with common prisoners, and even with
negroes, and says that even the _Brunswick_, which was considered a
better hulk than the others, swarmed with vermin, and that although
cleanliness was strongly enjoined by the authorities, no allowance for
soap was made, no leave given to bathe even in summer, and that fresh
clothing was very rarely issued.

But most strongly does he condemn the conduct of the idle curious who
would come off from the shore to see the prisoners on the hulks.

‘Les femmes même ont montré une indifférence vraiment choquante. On en a
vu rester des heures entières les yeux fixés sur le Parc où se tiennent
les prisonniers, sans que e spectacle de misère qui affecterait si
vivement une Française ait fait couler une seule larme; le rire
insultant était, au contraire, sur leurs lèvres. Les prisonniers n’ont
connu qu’un seul exemple d’une femme qui s’évanouît à la vue du Parc.’

In the House of Commons on December 26, 1812, during a debate upon the
condition of the foreign prisoners of war in England, Croker, Secretary
to the Admiralty, declared that he had inspected the hulks at
Portsmouth, and had found the prisoners thereon ‘comfortable and happy
and well provided with amusement’, and Sir George Warrender said much
the same about Chatham.

Colonel Lebertre remarks on this:

‘Men sensual and hardened by pleasures! You who in full Parliament
outrage your victims and declare that the prisoners are happy! Would you
know the full horror of their condition, come without giving notice
beforehand; dare to descend before daylight into the tombs in which you
bury living creatures who are human beings like yourselves; try to
breathe for one minute the sepulchral vapour which these unfortunates
breathe for many years, and which sometimes suffocates them; see them
tossing in their hammocks, assailed by thousands of insects, and wooing
in vain the sleep which could soften for one moment their sufferings!’

He describes, as did the Baron de Bonnefoux, the Raffalés who sold all
their clothes, and went naked in obedience to one of the laws of their
_camaraderie_, who slept huddled together for warmth in ranks which
changed position by words of command. He says that some of the prisoners
were so utterly miserable that they accepted pay from the authorities to
act as spies upon their fellows. He describes the rude courts of justice
held, and instances how one man who stole five louis received thirty
blows with a rope’s end; he refers to the terrible vice prevalent upon
the prison ships, and remarks that ‘life on them is the touchstone of a
man’s character’.

When he arrived on the _Canada_ there was no vacant sleeping place, but
for 120 francs he bought a spot in the middle of the battery, not near a
port, ‘just big enough to hold his dead body’. Still, he admits that the
officers treated him with as much consideration as their orders would

On August 11, 1812, in response to many urgent remonstrances from
influential prisoners against the custom of herding officers and men
together, all the officers on the hulks at Chatham were transferred to
the lower or thirty-six gun battery of the _Brunswick_, in number 460.
Here they had to submit to the same tyranny as on the other ships,
except that they were allowed to have wine if they could afford to pay
six francs a bottle for it, which few of them could do. Later, General
Pillet and other ‘broke paroles’, on account of the insulting letters
they wrote on the subject of being allowed rum or other spirits, were
confined to the regulation small beer. The Transport Office wrote:
‘Indeed, when the former unprincipled conduct of these officers is
considered, with their present combination to break through the rules,
obviously tending to insurrection and a consequent renewal of bloodshed,
we think it proper that they should immediately be removed to separate
prison ships.’

We now come to the most rabid of the Frenchmen, General Pillet. Pillet
was severely wounded and taken prisoner at Vimiero in 1808, and—in
violation, he says, of the second article of the Convention of Cintra,
which provided that no French should be considered prisoners of war, but
should be taken out of Portugal with arms, &c., by British ships—was
brought to England, with many other officers. He was at once allowed to
be on parole at Alresford, but, not considering himself bound by any
parole terms, attempted to escape with Paolucci, Captain of the
_Friedland_ captured in 1808 by the _Standard_ and _Active_, but was
recaptured and sent to the dépôt at Norman Cross. Here his conduct was
so reprehensible that he was sent to the _Brunswick_ at Chatham. From
the _Brunswick_ he tried to escape in a vegetable boat, but this attempt
failed, and it is to the subsequent rigour of his treatment that must be
attributed his vitriolic hatred of Britain.

General Pillet is of opinion that the particular branch of the Navy told
off for duty on the prison ships was composed of the most miserable scum
of English society; of men who have either been accomplices in or guilty
of great crimes, and who had been given by the magistrates the
alternative of being marines or of being hanged!

He speaks of the Chatham hulks as abominably situated near foul
marshes—which is undeniably true. The quarters of the prisoners were in
no place high enough for a man to stand upright; fourteen little ports,
unglazed but barred, of seventeen inches square, on each side of the
deck, gave all the light and air obtainable. When they were shut they
were fast shut, so that during the winter months the prisoners breathed
foul air for sixteen hours a day. Hence they went naked, and so, when
the cold air was admitted the results were fatal. The overcrowding of
the hulks, says Pillet, was part of the great Government design of
killing the prisoners, and asserts that even a London newspaper, quoting
the opinion of a medical board in London, said that the strongest of
men, after six years’ life on the hulks, must be physically wrecked for

The hammock space allowed was six feet in length, but swinging reduced
them to four and a half. Newcomers were often obliged to sleep on the
bare deck, as there was no other vacant space, and there was no
distinction of ranks. However, officers were generally able to buy
spaces, upon which practice Pillet remarks:

‘C’est une misérable spéculation pour un pauvre prisonnier affamé; il
consent à vendre sa place afin de se procurer un peu plus de vivre
pendant quelques jours, et afin de ne pas mourir de faim il accélère la
destruction de sa santé, et se réduit dans cette horrible situation à
coucher sur un plancher ruisselant d’eau, l’évaporisation des
transpirations forcées qui a lieu dans ce séjour d’angoisses et de la

He declares that the air is so foul when the decks are shut up that the
candles will not burn, and he has heard even the guards call for help
when they have opened the hatches and the air has escaped. The food he
describes as execrable, so that the two boats which had the monopoly of
coming alongside to sell butter, tea, coffee, sugar, potatoes, candles,
and tobacco at a price one-third above that on land, did a roaring
trade. The general reply to complaints was that any food was good enough
for French dogs.

If they were badly fed, says Pillet, they were worse clothed. Nominally
they received every eighteen months a coat, waistcoat, breeches, two
pairs of stockings, two shirts, a pair of shoes, and a cap. He declares
he can prove that the prisoners did not receive this complete rig-out
once in four years, and that if a prisoner had any rags of his own, or
received any money, he got no clothes! What clothes they did get were so
badly made that they generally had to be re-made. He says that at
Portsmouth, where the hulk agent Woodriff was at any rate conscientious
enough to issue the clothes on the due dates, his secretary would buy
back the shirts at one shilling each, and so, as Government paid three
shillings each for them, and there were at Portsmouth, Forton, and
Portchester some twelve thousand prisoners on the average, his
‘pickings’ must have been considerable!

In a note he gives the instance of the reply of Commander Mansell, who
commanded the prison-ship police at Chatham in 1813, when the fact that
not one quarter of the clothing due to the prisoners had been delivered
to them, was proved clearly: ‘I am afraid it is too true, but I have
nothing to do with it. I cannot help it.’

From the _Carnet d’Étapes du Sergt.-Maj. Beaudouin, 31^e demi-brigade de
ligne_, I take the following account of life on the hulks.

‘On October 31st, 1809, Beaudouin left Valleyfield where he had been
confined since June 10th, 1804, and came on board the _Bristol_ hulk at
Chatham. At this time the hulks were the _Glory_, three decker,
_Bristol_, _Crown Prince_, _Buckingham_, _Sampson_ (_mauvais sujets_),
_Rochester_, _Southwick_, _Irresistible_, _Bahama_ (Danes), and
_Trusty_, hospital ship, holding in all 6,550 prisoners.’

Beaudouin says:

‘The difference between the land prisons and the hulks is very marked.
There is no space for exercise, prisoners are crowded together, no
visitors come to see them, and we are like forsaken people. There is no
work but the _corvées_ to get our water, and to scrape in winter and
wash in summer our sleeping place. In a word, only to see them is to be
horrified. The anchorage at Chatham is bounded by low and ill-cultured
shores; the town is two miles away—a royal dockyard where there is much
ship-building. At the side of it is a fine, new, well-armed fort, and
adjoining it a little town named Rochester, where there are two
windmills, and two more in Chatham. By the London road, three miles off,
there are four windmills. The people of this country are not so pleasant
and kind as in Scotland, in fact I believe “the sex” is not so

Very soon the _Bristol_ was condemned and its prisoners transferred to
the _Fyen_, and at the same time the _Rochester_ and _Southwick_ were
replaced by the _Canada_ and _Nassau_. On the _Fyen_ were 850 prisoners,
but during 1810 and 1811 a great many Chatham prisoners were sent to
Norman Cross and Scotland.

Beaudouin comments thus bitterly:

‘It is unfortunate for me that my circle of acquaintances is so limited,
and that I cannot therefore make sufficiently known the crimes of a
nation which aims at the supremacy in Europe. It poses as an example
among nations, but there are no brigands or savages as well versed in
wickedness as it is. Day by day they practise their cruelties upon us,
unhappy prisoners. That is where they are cowardly fighters! against
defenceless men! Half the time they give us provisions which the very
dogs refuse. Half the time the bread is not baked, and is only good to
bang against a wall; the meat looks as if it had been dragged in the mud
for miles. Twice a week we get putrid salt food, that is to say,
herrings on Wednesday, cod-fish on Saturday. We have several times
refused to eat it, and as a result got nothing in its place, and at the
same time are told that anything is good enough for a Frenchman. Therein
lies the motive of their barbarity.’

A short description of the terrible _Sampson_ affair is given elsewhere
(p. 93), but as Beaudouin was evidently close by at the time, his more
detailed account is perhaps worth quoting.

‘On the _Sampson_ the prisoners refused to eat the food. The English
allowed them to exist two days without food. The prisoners resolved to
force the English to supply them with eatable provisions. Rather than
die of hunger they all went on deck and requested the captain either to
give them food or to summon the Commandant of the anchorage. The brute
replied that he would not summon the Commandant, and that they should
have no other provisions than those which had been served out to them
two days previously. The prisoners refused to touch them. The “brigand”
then said: “As you refuse to have this food, I command you to return
below immediately or I will fire upon you.” The prisoners could not
believe that he really meant what he said and refused to go below.

‘Hardly had they made this declaration, when the Captain gave the word
to the guard to fire, which was at once done, the crowd being fired
upon. The poor wretches, seeing that they were being fired upon without
any means of defence, crowded hastily down, leaving behind only the
killed and wounded—fifteen killed and some twenty wounded! Then the
Captain hoisted the mutiny signal which brought reinforcements from the
other ships, and all were as jubilant as if a great victory had been

‘I do not believe that any Frenchman lives who hates this nation more
than I do; and all I pray for is that I may be able to revenge myself on
it before I die.’

Beaudouin wrote a poem of 514 alexandrines, entitled:

                         _Les Prisons d’Albion.
       Ou la malheureuse situation des prisonniers en Angleterre.
                     Bellum nobis haec mala fecit._

I give in the original the first and last ‘chants’ of this embittered


         ‘Tu veux, mon cher ami, que ranimant ma verve
         Je te peigne sans fard, sans crainte, et sans réserve,
         Le Tableau des tourmens et de l’affliction
         Sous lesquels sont plongés les captifs d’Albion.
         J’obéis à la voix, et ma muse craintive,
         Entonnant à regret la trompette plaintive,
         Va chanter sur des tons, hélas! bien douloureux,
         Les maux, les maux cuisans de bien des malheureux.’


         ‘Je t’ai dépeint sans fard l’exacte vérité,
         Tels sont les maux cruels de la captivité.
         O vous qui de bonheur goûtez en paix les charmes,
         Si vous lisez mes vers, donnez-nous quelques larmes;
         S’ils n’impriment chez vous une tendre affection,
         Vous êtes, plus que nous, dignes de compassion!’

Speaking of the horrible moral effects of the bad treatment he says:

‘The ruin of their comrades and the depravities which were daily
committed in public, impressed right thinking men with so frightful
force that this place means a double suffering to them.’

In 1812 it was reported that a batch of incurables would be sent home to
France, and Beaudouin resolved to get off with them by making himself
ill. He starved himself into such a condition that he was sent into
hospital, but the doctor would not pass him as an incurable. He
swallowed tobacco juice, and at last, in a miserable state, turned up
with the candidates. Then it was announced that no privateersmen, but
only regular seamen, would be sent. Beaudouin, being a soldier, and
being among the privateersmen, was in despair. However, a kindly English
doctor pitied him, cured him of his self-inflicted illness, and got him
leave to go.

On June 2, 1812, he was ready to sail, but was searched first for
letters. Luckily none were discovered, although he had sixty sewn
between the soles of his shoes, and 200 in a box with a double bottom.
He sailed on June 4, the king’s birthday—that day eight years previously
he had arrived at Greenock amidst the Royal salutes—arrived at Morlaix,
and so home to Boiscommun (Loiret), canton of Beaune-la-Rolande,
arrondissement of Pithiviers.

The following experiences of an American prisoner of war are from _The
Journal of a Young Man of Massachusetts_, (1816), who was a surgeon, by
name Benjamin Waterhouse, captured at sea in May 1813, and confined on
Melville Island, Halifax, whence he was transported to Chatham, and then
to Dartmoor. The account is interesting as showing the very marked
difference between the American and the French prisoners of war, and is
otherwise remarkable for the hatred and contempt of the writer for
Britons in general and for Scotsmen in particular, entire pages being
devoted to their vilification. Waterhouse, with a hundred of his
countrymen, was shipped to England on the _Regulus_, and his complaints
are bitter about the shameful treatment on board—the filth, the
semi-starvation, the vermin, the sleeping on stone ballast, the lack of
air owing to the only opening to the lower deck being a hatchway two
feet square, the brutal rule of allowing only two prisoners to go on
deck at a time, and the presence in their midst of the only latrine. The
captain, a Scotsman, would only yield to constant petitions and
remonstrances so far as to sanction the substitution of iron bars for
the hatchway.

After a miserable voyage the prisoners reached Portsmouth, and, starved,
vermin-eaten, and in rags, were shipped off to the _Crown Prince_,
Captain Hutchison, at Chatham, where were thirteen other prison ships
and some 1,200 Americans. On this hulk, Waterhouse says, they fared ‘as
well as could be expected ... not that we fared so well as British
prisoners fare in America’, the daily allowance being half a pound of
beef, one gill of barley, one and a half pounds of bread, on five days
of the week, and on the others one pound cod fish, and one pound
potatoes, or one pound smoked herring, porter and beer being
purchasable. He dilates bitterly on the extraordinary lack of humanity
in John Bull, as evidenced by the hard fare of soldiers and sailors, the
scoundrelism of some officers, especially those of the provisioning
departments, and, above all, the shockingly cruel punishments in the
Army and Navy. During the daytime, he says, life on a prison ship was
not so unpleasant, but at night the conditions were very bad—especially
as American prisoners were more closely watched and guarded than were
men of other nationalities. ‘The French were always busy in some little
mechanical employ, or in gaming, or in playing the fool, but the
Americans seemed to be on the rack of invention to escape.’

Amongst themselves, the Americans elected by voting, every four weeks, a
President, and twelve Committee men, whose functions were to make
wholesome laws, to define crimes and award punishments, and particularly
to insist upon personal cleanliness. The punishments were fines,
whippings, and in very extreme cases the Black Hole. The volubility and
the eloquence of the orators at these Committee Meetings very much
impressed the British officers. The Frenchmen, Waterhouse says, were
almost to a man gamblers:

‘Their skill and address at these games of apparent hazard were far
superior to the Americans. They seemed calculated for gamesters; their
vivacity, their readiness, and their everlasting professions of
friendship were nicely adapted to inspire confidence in the unsuspecting
American Jack Tar, who has no legerdemain about him. Most of the
prisoners were in the way of earning a little money; but almost all of
them were deprived of it by the French gamesters. Our people stood no
chance with them, but were commonly stripped of every cent, whenever
they set out seriously to play with them. How often have I seen a
Frenchman capering, singing, and grinning in consequence of his
stripping one of our sailors of all his money; ... the officers among
them are the most adroit gamesters. We have all tried hard to respect
them; but there is something in their conduct so much like swindling,
that I hardly know what to say of them. When they knew that we had
received money for the work we had been allowed to perform, they were
very attentive, and complaisant and flattering.... They would come round
and say: “Ah! Boston fine town, very pretty—Cape Cod fine town, very
fine! Town of Rhode Island superb! Bristol Ferry very pretty! General
Washington _très grand homme_, General Madison _brave homme_!” With
these expressions and broken English, they would accompany, with their
monkey tricks, capering and grinning and patting us on the shoulder,
with: “The Americans are brave men—fight like Frenchmen;” and by their
insinuating manners allure our men once more to their wheels of fortune
and billiard-tables, and as sure as they did, so sure did they strip
them of all their money.’

Waterhouse adds that ‘if an American, having lost all his money, wanted
to borrow of a Frenchman under promise of repayment, the latter would
say: “Ah mon ami! I am sorry, very sorry, indeed; it is _la fortune de
guerre_. If you have lost your money you must win it back again; that is
the fashion in my country—we no lend, that is not the fashion!”...

‘There were here some Danes as well as Dutchmen. It is curious to
observe their different looks and manners.... Here we see the
thick-skulled plodding Dane, making a wooden dish; or else some of the
most ingenious making a clumsy ship; while others submitted to the
dirtiest drudgery of the hulk, for money; and there we see a Dutchman,
picking to pieces tarred ropes ... or else you see him lazily stowed
away in some corner, with his pipe ... while here and there and every
where, you find a lively singing Frenchman, working in hair, or carving
out of a bone, a lady, a monkey, or the central figure of the
crucifixion! Among the specimens of American ingenuity I most admired
their ships, which they built from three to five feet long.... Had not
the French proved themselves to be a very brave people, I should have
doubted it by what I have observed of them on board the prison-ship.
They would scold, quarrel and fight, by slapping each other’s chops with
the flat hand, and cry like so many girls.... Perhaps such a man as
Napoleon Bonaparte could make any nation courageous.’

Very bitter were the complaints of the Americans about the supine and
indifferent attitude towards them of Beasley, their agent, who was
supposed to keep constant watch and ward over the interests of his
unfortunate countrymen. He lived in London, thirty-two miles away, paid
no attention to complaints forwarded to him, and was heartily hated and
despised. Once he paid a visit to the hulks in Gillingham Creek, but
seemed anxious to avoid all interviews and questionings, and left amidst
a storm of hisses and jeers.

Waterhouse dwells severely on the fact that the majority of the
Americans on the _Crown Prince_ and the other hulks were not men who had
been fairly taken in open combat on the high seas, but men who had been
impressed into the British Navy from American merchant ships previous to
the war between the two countries and who, upon the Declaration of War,
had given themselves up as prisoners of war, being naturally unwilling
to fight against their own country, but who had been kept prisoners
instead of being exchanged. This had been the British practice since
1755, but after the War of Independence it had ceased. All the same the
British authorities had insisted upon the right of search for British
subjects on American ships, and to the arbitrary and forcible exercise
of this ‘right’ was very largely owing the War of 1812.

Waterhouse admits that on the whole he was treated as well on the _Crown
Prince_ as were the British prisoners at Salem or Boston. Recruiting
sergeants for the British service came on board and tried to tempt
Americans with a bounty of sixteen guineas, but they were only chaffed
and sent off.

Later on, 500 more prisoners arrived from America in a pitiable
condition, mostly Maryland and Pennsylvania men—‘Colonel Boerstler’s men
who had been deceived, decoyed and captured near Beaver Dams on January
23rd, 1813’. With their cruel treatment on board the _Nemesis_ on their
trans-Atlantic voyage, Waterhouse contrasts favourably the kind
treatment of the prisoners brought by the _Poictiers 74_, Captain
Beresford, after his capture of the American _Wasp_ and her prize the

The author gives a glaring instance of provision cheating. By the terms
of his contract, if the bread purveyor failed to send off to the hulks
fresh bread when the weather was favourable, he forfeited half a pound
of bread to each man. For a long time the prisoners were kept in
ignorance of this agreement, but they found it out, and on the next
occasion when the forfeit was due, claimed it. Commodore Osmore refused
it, and issued hard ship’s bread. The prisoners refused to take it.
Osmore was furious, and ordered his marines to drive the prisoners, now
in open mutiny, below. A disturbance was imminent, but the Americans
remained firm, and the commodore gave way.

The American prisoners took in newspapers, as they were mostly
intelligent and well-educated men, but paid dearly for them.

The papers were the _Statesman_, _Star_, _Bell’s Weekly Messenger_, and
_Whig_. The _Statesman_ cost 28_s._ a month, plus 16_s._ a month for
conveyance on board.

As the weather grew milder, matters were more comfortable on board until
small-pox broke out. Vaccination was extensively employed, but many
prisoners refused to submit to it, not from unbelief in its efficacy,
but from misery and unwillingness to live! Then came typhus, in April
1814. There were 800 prisoners and 100 British on the ship. The hospital
ship being crowded, part of the _Crown Prince_ was set apart for
patients, with the result that the mortality was very high. Still
Beasley, the American agent, never came near the ship to inquire into

The gambling evil had now assumed such proportions that the Americans
determined to put it down. In spite of the vigorous opposition of the
Frenchmen, the ‘wheels of fortune’ were abolished, but the
billiard-tables remained, it being urged by the Frenchmen that the rate
of a halfpenny per game was not gambling, and that the game afforded a
certain amount of exercise. There remained, however, a strong
pro-gambling party among the Americans, and these men insisted upon
continuing, and the committee sent one of them to the Black Hole without
a trial. This angered his mates; a meeting was held, violent speeches
were made in which the names of Hampden, Sidney, and Wilkes were
introduced, and he was brought out. He was no ordinary rough tar, but a
respectable well-educated New England yeoman, with the ‘gift of the
gab’; and the results of his harangue were that the committee admitted
their error, and he was released.

Finally the billiard-tables were abolished; a great improvement was soon
manifest among the captives, education was fostered, and classes formed,
although a few rough characters still held aloof, and preferred
skylarking, and the slanging and chaffing of passers-by in boats on the

In May 1814 four men went on deck and offered themselves for British
service. Two got away, but two were caught by their mates, tried, and
sentenced to be marked with indian ink on their foreheads with the
letter T (= Traitor). The Frenchmen were now being shipped home. Some of
them had been prisoners since 1803. Waterhouse comments upon the
appalling ignorance among English people in the educated class of all
matters American, and quotes the instance of the lady who, wishing to
buy some of the articles made by the American prisoners, was confronted
by the difficulty of ‘not knowing their language’!

Waterhouse describes the surroundings of the _Crown Prince_ thus:

‘The Medway is a very pleasant river ... its banks are rich and
beautiful.... The picture from the banks of the river to the top of the
landscape is truly delightful, and beyond any thing I ever saw in my own
country, and this is owing to the hedges.... Nearly opposite our doleful
prison stands the village of Gillingham, adorned with a handsome church;
on the side next Chatham stands the castle, defended by more than an
hundred cannon.... This place is noted for making sulphate of iron....
Near to this village of Gillingham is a neat house with a good garden,
and surrounded by trees, which was bequeathed by a lady to the oldest
boatswain in the Royal Navy.’

Waterhouse complains strongly of the immorality on board: ‘Such a sink
of vice, I never saw, or ever dreamt of, as I have seen here,’ He
relates a daring escape. A hole was cut through the ship’s side near the
stern, the copper being removed all round except on one side so as to
lap over and be opened or closed at will. Sixteen men escaped through
this, and swam ashore one dark night, the sentry on duty close by being
allured away by the singing of droll songs and the passing of a can of
grog. At the numbering of the prisoners next morning, the correct tale
was made up by the passing through a hole cut in the bulk-head of
sixteen men who had been already counted. At another attempt two men
slipped into the water; one of them got tired and benumbed with cold,
and turned back. The sentry heard him breathing and said: ‘Ah! Here is a
porpoise, and I’ll stick him with my bayonet,’ and only the crying out
of the poor would-be refugee saved him. The ship’s officers on examining
the hole were amazed, and one of them remarked that he did not believe
that the Devil himself could keep these fellows in hell if they made up
their minds to get out. The next day the other poor chap was seen lying
dead on the beach, and to the disgust of the prisoners was allowed to
remain there two days before he was buried.

Commodore Osmore was always the butt of the American prisoners. A yarn
got about that he had procured a sheep from a farmer ashore without
paying for it. Thereupon his appearance was the signal for a chorus of
‘Baa! Baa!’ He was mad with rage, and ordered the port through which the
insulting chorus had been made to be closed. The Americans forced it
open. The marines drove the prisoners from the fo’c’sle into the
‘Pound’. As more ‘Baa!’s resounded, they were driven below decks, and
all market boats were stopped from approaching the ship, so that for two
days the prisoners were without extra food. However, Captain Hutchison
instituted an inquiry, and peace was arranged.

In June 1814 three men escaped in a water tank. Others would have
followed, but one of the former party had stupidly written an ironical
letter of thanks to Captain Hutchison, in which he described the method
of escape.

A daring escape was made from the _Irresistible_ in broad daylight. Four
Americans saw a jolly-boat made fast to the accommodation-ladder under
the charge of a sentry. One of them was a big, strong Indian of the
Narragansett tribe from Rhode Island. The four men dashed down, seized
the sentry, disarmed him, threw him into the boat, and pulled off. They
were fired at from all sides, and boats put off from all the ships to
chase them, but only one man was wounded. They reached shore and struck
across the fields, which were soon covered by people in chase from the
farms and brickfields, who soon ran all the prisoners down except the
Indian, who out-distanced the prisoners, and would have got away had he
not sprained his ankle in getting over a fence, and even then, as he was
sitting down, none of the country folk would approach him, until the
marines came up. The chase had been closely followed with great
excitement on the ship, and on the arrival of the captured men
alongside, they were loudly cheered, their healths drunk, and the Indian
at once dubbed ‘Baron Trenck’. Said the boys: ‘If it took 350 British
seamen and marines to capture four Yankees, how many British sailors and
marines would it take to catch ten thousand of us?’

Two Scotsmen Waterhouse excepted from his condemnation of their nation:
Galbraith, the master-at-arms, and Barnes, the sailing-master, who was
wont to reprove them for misdeeds, saying: ‘I expect better things of
you as Americans, I consider you all in a different light from that of a
d—d set of French monkeys.’

The British officers were clearly uneasy about their custody of the
Americans, and felt it to be an ignoble business. Said they: ‘The
Yankees seemed to take a pleasure in making us uneasy, and in exciting
our apprehensions of their escape, and then they laugh and make
themselves merry at our anxiety. In fact, they have systematized the art
of tormenting.’

The Government, too, appreciated ‘the difficult task which the miserable
officers of this miserable Medway fleet had to perform’. It did not wish
them to be more rigorous, yet knew that more rigour was necessary.
Rumours got about that in desperation the Government was about to
transfer all the Americans from the prison ships to Dartmoor—the place
which, _it was said_, had been lost by the Duchess of Devonshire at a
game of hazard to the Prince of Wales, who determined to utilize it
profitably by making a prison there.

The national festival on July 4 was duly celebrated on board the two
prison ships _Crown Prince_ and _Nassau_. An additional allowance of
drink was sanctioned, but the American flag was only allowed to be flown
as high as the ‘railings’. There were drums and pipes which played
Yankee Doodle on the fo’c’sle: cheers were exchanged between the ships,
and the toast of the day was drunk in English porter. There was, of
course, much speechifying, especially on the _Nassau_, where one orator
declaimed for half an hour, and another recited a poem, ‘The Impressment
of an American Sailor Boy’, which is too long to be quoted, but which,
says our author, brought tears into many eyes. All passed off quietly,
and acknowledgement is made of the ‘extraordinary good behaviour of all
the British officers and men on board the _Crown Prince_‘.

Although Commodore Osmore was unpopular with the Americans, his charming
wife exercised a good influence in the ship by her amiability and
appreciation of the fact that American prisoners were not all a gang of
vagabonds; and gradually a better feeling developed between captors and

In August 1814 the news of the transfer to Dartmoor was confirmed, and,
says Waterhouse, was received with regret on the _Crown Prince_—the ship
being ‘actually viewed with feelings of attachment’. The last scene,
however, was marked by a disturbance.

Thirty prisoners had been told off to prepare for embarkation on a
tender. At the appointed hour no tender appeared, and the embarkation
was put off. But all hammocks had been packed, and upon application to
Osmore for hammocks, the prisoners were told to shift as they could for
the night, as the tender would arrive early the next morning, and it was
not worth while to unpack the hammocks. Upon hearing this the prisoners
resolved that if they were to be deprived of their night’s rest, nobody
else should have any. So they harnessed themselves to benches, and ran
about the deck, shouting and singing, and bumping the benches against
everything which would make a noise, jammed down the marines’ crockery
and brought into play every article which could add to the pandemonium.
Osmore sent a marine down to quiet them. The marine returned,
dishevelled, and disarmed. Osmore was furious. ‘I’ll be d—d if I do not
fire on them!’ he roared: ‘Fire, and be d—d,’ was the response. As it
was useless to attempt to quiet them, and to fire would have been
criminal, the commodore retired, and did what he could to sleep amid the
infernal din of bumping benches, jangling metal, shouts and songs, which
lasted throughout the night.

When the tender took the men off in the morning it was to the
accompaniment of a great roar of ‘Baa! Baa!’ as a parting shot.

The remainder of the _Crown Prince_ Americans were transferred to the
_Bahama_ on October 15, 1814. Here they found 300 of their countrymen of
the vicious, baser sort, gamblers all, and without any men of influence
to order them. Danes occupied the main deck and Americans the lower.
Jail fever had played havoc among Danes and Americans—no less than 84 of
the latter being buried in the marshes in three months.

Next to the _Bahama_ lay the _Belliqueux_ hulk, full of harmless and
dull Scandinavians, so that the captain thereof, having nothing to do in
his own ship, started to spy upon the doings aboard the _Bahama_, and
succeeded in getting a marine punished for smuggling liquor. Next day,
the rations were fish and potatoes. The Americans collected all their
potatoes, and watched for the appearance of the _Belliqueux_ commander
for his spying promenade on his quarter deck, the result being that when
he did appear, he was greeted with such a hail of potatoes that he was
fain to beat an undignified retreat. Soon he came off in his boat to
complain to Commander Wilson of the _Bahama_ of his treatment. Wilson, a
passionate, hot-tempered, but just and humane man, said he was very
sorry, but could do nothing, so back the discomfited officer had to go,
pelted with more potatoes and some coals. Said Wilson: ‘These Americans
are the sauciest dogs I ever saw; but d—n me if I can help liking them,
nor can I ever hate men who are so much like ourselves.’

In October 1814 two hundred Americans were sent to Plymouth, where they
were at once boarded by an army of loose women.

With Waterhouse’s experiences at Dartmoor I deal in the chapter devoted
to that prison.

                               CHAPTER VI
                          PRISON-SHIP SUNDRIES

Under this heading are included various reminiscences of, and
particulars about, the prison ships which could not be conveniently
dealt with in the foregoing chapters.

In April 1759 five French prisoners from the _Royal Oak_ hulk at
Plymouth were executed at Exeter for the murder of Jean Maneaux, who had
informed the agent that his comrades had forged passports in order to
facilitate their escape to France. Finding this out, they got Maneaux
into an obscure corner of the ship, tied him to a ringbolt, and gave him
sixty lashes with a rope to the end of which was fastened an iron
thimble as thick as a man’s wrist. He got loose, and fell back; they
jumped on him till they broke his neck, then cut his body into small
pieces, and conveyed them through a waste pipe overboard. The next day
twenty-seven prisoners were arrested, and one of them pointed out the
actual murderers.

In 1778 two prisoners escaped from the _San Rafael_ at Plymouth, swam
off to a lighter full of powder, overpowered the man in charge, ran down
through all the ships in Hamoaze, round Drake’s Island, and got safely
away to France, where they sold the powder at a handsome price.

Even more daring was the deed of eleven Frenchmen who, early in the
morning of April 7, 1808, made their escape from the hulk _Vigilant_ at
Portsmouth, by cutting a hole, and swimming to the _Amphitrite_, a ship
in ordinary, fitted up as the abode of the Superintendent Master. They
boarded a boat, hanging on the davits, clothed themselves in the
greatcoats of the boat’s crew, lowered her, and in the semi-darkness
pulled away to the Master Attendant’s buoy boat, one of the finest
unarmed crafts in the harbour, valued at £1,000. They boarded her,
immediately got under way at about five a.m., and successfully navigated
her to Havre, or Cherbourg, which they reached in the evening, and sold
her for £700. She was fitted out, armed with eight six-pounders, and
went forth as a privateer under the name of _Le Buoy Boat de
Portsmouth_. Her career, however, was short, for in November she was
captured by the _Coquette_.

The above-mentioned prison ship _Vigilant_ seems to have hardly deserved
her name, for in the year 1810 alone no less than thirty-two prisoners
escaped from her, and of these only eight were recaptured.

On another occasion three prisoners escaped from a hulk, got a small
skiff, rowed to Yantlett Creek, where they boarded a fishing-smack of
which the master and boy were asleep. The master made a stout resistance
and called on the boy to help him, but he was too terrified to do so.
The master was overpowered and severely beaten, and then managed to jump
overboard. The Frenchmen got off, taking the boy with them.

The _Sampson_ at Chatham was evidently an ill-omened ship. It was on
board her that occurred the disastrous event of May 31, 1811, when the
half-starved prisoners, upon being docked of half their rations for the
misdeeds of a few of their number, broke out into open mutiny, which was
only quelled at the cost of six prisoners being killed and a great many
wounded. On the _Sampson_, also, was fought a particularly terrible duel
in 1812. Two prisoners quarrelled and determined to settle their
difference quietly. So, attended only by their seconds, they betook
themselves to the ordinary ship prison, which happened to be empty, and,
armed with sticks to which scissor-blades had been fastened, fought. One
of them received a mortal thrust in the abdomen, but, although his
bowels were protruding, he continued to parry his opponent’s blows until
he was exhausted. He died in spite of the surgeon’s attentions.

On board the same ship in 1813, three prisoners decided to murder the
master’s mate and the sergeant of marines—men universally detested for
their brutal behaviour—and drew lots as to who should do it. The lot
fell upon Charles Manseraux. But he had ‘compunction of conscience’
because the sergeant was a married man with a family. However, he had to
kill some one, and fixed on a private of the Marines. He took the
opportunity when the unfortunate man was doing duty on the fo’c’sle and
drove a knife into his back. Another prisoner saw the deed done, knocked
Manseraux down and secured him. Manseraux and the others were tried at
the Maidstone Assizes, found guilty, and executed.

Duelling and crimes of violence seem to have been rampant on certain
ships more than on others. The _San Damaso_ at Portsmouth was one of
these, although on the Chatham hulks the unnatural deaths were so
frequent that the Coroner of Rochester in 1812 claimed special fees from
the Transport Office on account of the trebling of his duties, a claim
which was not granted.

A very bold attempt at escape in broad daylight was made by some
desperate prisoners of the _Canada_ hulk at Chatham in 1812. Beef was
being hoisted on board the prison ship from a lighter alongside, on
board of which were half a dozen American prisoners who were assisting
in the operation. Suddenly, they cut the painter, and, helped by a stiff
breeze, actually sailed off, and, although the guards on all the prison
ships fired at them, would have escaped if they had not run aground off
Commodore’s Hard, Gillingham. They sprang ashore here, and ran, but the
mud was too much for them and they were captured.

The Americans, whether ashore or afloat, were the hardest prisoners to
guard of any. They seem never to have relaxed in their plans and
attempts to escape, and as they were invariably better supplied with
money than Frenchmen and Spaniards, they could add the power of the
bribe to the power which knowledge of their captors’ language gave them.
Hence no estimate can be formed of the real number of Americans who got
away from the hulks, for, although a very exact system of roll call was
in use, the ingenuity of the Americans, immensely backed by their
purses, contrived matters so that not merely were the numbers on board
always complete at each roll call, but upon more than one occasion, by
some over-exercise of ingenuity, the captain of a hulk actually found
himself commanding more prisoners than there were!

By way of relief to the monotony of this _guerre à outrance_ between
captors and captives we may quote instances when the better humanity of
the hapless ones came to the fore.

In 1812 a prisoner made an attempt to set the hulk _Ganges_ on fire at
Plymouth, and a large hole was burned in her side. The other prisoners
helped to extinguish the flames, and were so angry with the incendiary
that they were with difficulty prevented from tearing him to pieces.

Three officers of the Inverness Militia were sailing in the harbour at
Portsmouth in the same year, when a squall upset their boat, and they
were thrown into the water. One of the officers could not swim, and
seeing him struggling for life, a French prisoner on the _Crown_ hulk at
once sprang overboard and brought him safely to the ship. He was at once
liberated and returned to France.

But even heroism became a cloak for trickery among these weary,
hopeless, desperate exiles ever on the watch for a chance of escaping.
In 1810 a French prisoner at Plymouth obtained his freedom by saving a
British sentry from drowning, but the number of British sentries who,
after this, met with accidents which tumbled them overboard, and the
unfailing regularity with which heroic prisoner-rescuers appeared on the
scene, awakened the suspicions of the authorities, who found out that
these occurrences were purely commercial transactions. So they stopped

It is equally pleasing to come across, in this continually dreary record
of crime and misery, a foreign testimony to English kindness. The
following letter was kindly lent to me by Mr. J. E. Mace, of Tenterden,
Kent, to whose grandfather it was addressed:

                                          ‘Chatham. Le 10 janvier, 1798.

 ‘_A Monsieur Mace, Tenterden._


‘S’il est cruel d’être livré aux dégoûts et aux peines que cause la
captivité la plus dure, il est bien doux de trouver des êtres sensibles
qui, comme vous, cher Monsieur, savent plaindre le sort rigoureux des
victimes de la guerre. Ce que vous avez eu la bonté de m’envoyer, plus
encore, l’expression des beaux sentiments me touche, me pénètre de la
plus vive reconnaissance, et me fait sentir avec une nouvelle force
cette vérité constante:—L’Humanité rapproche et unit tous les cœurs
faits pour elle. Comme vous, cher Monsieur, et avec vous, je désire avec
ferveur que les principes de notre Divin Législateur reprennent leur
Empire sur la terre, la conséquence en est si belle!

                         ‘Dieu vous garde beaucoup d’années.
                                 ‘FARBOURIET, Colonel 12^{me} Hussards.’

In 1807, as a consequence of the bombardment of Copenhagen and the
subsequent surrender to England of the Danish fleet, there were 1,840
Danish prisoners in England, who received double the allowance of French
prisoners, inasmuch as they were rather hostages than prisoners—hostages
for the good behaviour of Denmark as regards Napoleon;—the captain of a
man-of-war got four shillings per diem, a commanding officer two
shillings, the captain of an Indiaman three shillings, and so on. In
other respects they were treated as prisoners of war.

These Danes were largely taken from the hulks to man our merchant navy,
and one Wipperman, a Danish clerk on H.M.S. _Utile_, seems to have made
this transfer business a very profitable one, until the accusation
brought against him by a Danish prisoner of war of having obtained a
watch and some money under false pretences, brought to light the fact
that his men rarely if ever joined the British merchant service except
to desert at the first opportunity, and generally went at large as free
men. He was severely punished, and his exposure brought to an end an
extensive crimping system by which hundreds of dangerous foreigners had
been let loose from the prison ships, many of them spies and

Foreign writers have included among their various complaints against the
British Government its reluctance to allow religious ministration among
the prisoners of war. But the Transport Office, as we shall see later,
had learned by experience that the garb of sanctity was by no means
always the guarantee of sanctity, and so when in 1808 a Danish parson
applied to be allowed on the prison ships at Chatham, he got his
permission only on the condition that ‘he does not repeat, the old
offence of talking upon matters unconnected with his mission and so
cause much incorrect inferences’—a vague expression which probably meant
talking about outside affairs to prisoners, who had no other source of

In 1813 the Transport Office replied to the Bishop of Angoulême, who
requested that a priest named Paucheron might minister on the prison
ships at Chatham, that they could not accede inasmuch as Paucheron had
been guilty ‘of highly improper conduct in solemnizing a marriage
between a prisoner of war and a woman in disguise of a man’.

In no branch of art did French prisoners show themselves more proficient
than in that of forgery, and, although when we come to treat of the
prisons ashore we shall find that, from the easier accessibility to
implements there, the imitation of passports and bank notes was more
perfectly effected than by the prisoners on the hulks, the latter were
not always unsuccessful in their attempts.

In 1809 Guiller and Collas, two prisoners on _El Firme_ at Plymouth,
opened negotiations with the captain’s clerk to get exchanged to the
_Généreux_, telling him what their object was and promising a good
reward. He pretended to entertain their proposals, but privately told
the captain. Their exchange was effected, and their ally supplied them
with paper, ink, and pencils of fine hair, with which they imitated
notes of the Bank of England, the Naval and Commercial Bank, and an
Okehampton Bank. Not having the official perforated stamp, they copied
it to perfection by means of smooth halfpennies and sail-makers’
needles. When all was ready, the clerk gave the word to the authorities,
and the clever rascals got their reward on the gallows at Exeter in
1810, being among the first war prisoners to be executed for forgery.

In 1812 two French prisoners on a Portsmouth hulk, Dubois and Benry,
were condemned to be hanged at Winchester for the forgery of a £1 Bank
of England note. Whilst lying in the jail there they tried to take their
own lives by opening veins in their arm with broken glass and enlarging
the wounds with rusty nails, declaring that they would die as soldiers,
not as dogs, and were only prevented by force from carrying out their
resolve. They died crying ‘Vive l’Empereur!’

In 1814 six officers were found to have obtained their liberty by forged
passports. These men were, in their own vernacular, ‘Broke-Paroles’—men
who had been sent from parole places to prison ships, for the crime of
forging passports. Further investigation caused suspicion to be fixed
upon a woman calling herself Madame Carpenter, who was ostensibly a tea
and sugar dealer at 46 Foley Street, Portland Chapel, London, but who
had gained some influence at the Transport Office through having
rendered services to British prisoners in France, which enabled her to
have access to the prison ships in her pretended trade, although she was
a Frenchwoman. I cannot discover what punishment she received. We shall
hear more of her in the chapter upon Stapleton Prison.

A clever quibble saved the life of a prisoner on the _San Rafael_ hulk
at Plymouth. He was tried at Exeter for imitating a £2 note with indian
ink, but pleaded that as he was under the protection of no laws he had
not broken any, and was acquitted. This was before cases of murder and
forgery were brought under the civil jurisdiction.

Well-deserved releases of prisoners in recognition of good actions done
by them in the past were not rare. In 1808 a prisoner on the _Sampson_
at Chatham, named Sabatier, was released without exchange on the
representation of the London Missionary Society, who acted for Captain
Carbonel of the famous privateer _Grand Bonaparte_, who had shown great
kindness to the crew and passengers of the ship _Duff_ which he had

In the same year a prisoner at Plymouth, named Verdie, was released
unconditionally on the petition of Lieut. Ross, R.N., for having kindly
treated the Lieutenant’s father when the latter was a prisoner in

In 1810 a Portsmouth prisoner was unconditionally liberated upon his
proving satisfactorily that he had helped Midshipman Holgate of the
_Shannon_ to escape from imprisonment in France.

Almost to the very last the care of sick prisoners on the hulks seems to
have been criminally neglected. For instance, the In-letters to the
Transport Office during the year 1810 are full of vehement or pathetic
complaints about the miserable state of the sick on the _Marengo_ and
_Princess Sophia_ hospital ships at Portsmouth. Partly this may be due
to an economical craze which affected the authorities at this time, but
it must be chiefly attributed to medical inefficiency and neglect. Most
of the chief medical officers of the prison ships had their own private
practices ashore, with what results to the poor foreigners, nominally
their sole care, can be imagined, and all of them resented the very
necessary condition that they should sleep on the ships.

In this year 1810, Dr. Kirkwood, of the _Europe_ hospital ship at
Plymouth, was convicted of culpable neglect in regularly sleeping
ashore, and was superseded. As a result of an inquiry into the causes of
abnormal sickness on the _Vigilant_ and at Forton Prison, Portsmouth,
the surgeons were all superseded, and the order was issued that all
prison-ship surgeons should daily examine the healthy prisoners so as to
check incipient sickness. I append the States of the _Renown_ hospital
ship at Plymouth for February 1814:

 ‘Staff:  2 surgeons, 1 assistant surgeon, 1 matron, 1 interpreter, 1
            cook, 1 barber, 1 mattress maker, 1 tailor, 1 washerwoman,
            and 10 nurses.

          Received 141. Discharged 69. Died 19. Remaining 53.

‘Fever and dysentery have been the prevalent complaints among the
prisoners from Pampelune, whose deplorable state the Board of Inspection
are in full possession of. (Among these were some forty women “in so
wretched a state that they were wholly destitute of the appropriate
dress of their sex”. Two of the British officers’ wives collected money
for the poor creatures and clothed them.) Pneumonia has recently
attacked many of these ill-conditioned men termed _Romans_, many of whom
were sent here literally in a state of nudity, an old hammock in the
boat to cover them being excepted.’

(The _Romans_ above mentioned were the most degraded and reckless of the
Dartmoor prisoners, who had been sent to the hulks partly because there
was no power in the prison that could keep them in order, and partly
because their filthy and vicious habits were revolting to the other and
more decent prisoners.)

The horrors of the English prison ships were constantly quoted by French
commanders as spurs to the exertions of their men. Bonaparte more than
once dwelt on them. Phillipon, the gallant defender of Badajos,
afterwards a prisoner on parole in England, reminded his men of them as
they crowded to hurl our regiments from the breaches. ‘An appeal’, says
Napier, ‘deeply felt, for the annals of civilized nations furnish
nothing more inhuman towards captives of war than the prison ships of

The accompanying drawing from Colonel Lebertre’s book may give some idea
of the packing process practised on the hulks. It represents a view from
above of the orlop deck of the _Brunswick_ prison ship at Chatham—a ship
which was regarded as rather a good one to be sent to. The length of
this deck was 125 feet, its breadth 40 feet in the widest part, and its
height 4 feet 10 inches, so that only boys could pass along it without
stooping. Within this space 460 persons slept, and as there was only
space to swing 431 hammocks, 29 men had to sleep as best they could
beneath the others.

Something with an element of fun in it may serve as a relief to the
prevalent gloom of this chapter. It has been shown how largely gambling
entered into the daily life of the poor wretches on the hulks, and how
every device and excuse for it were invented and employed, but the
instance given by Captain Harris in his book upon Dartmoor is one of the

‘When the lights were extinguished’, he says, ‘and the ship’s lantern
alone cast a dim glimmer through the long room, the rats were accustomed
to show themselves in search of the rare crumbs to be found below the
hammocks. A specially tempting morsel having been placed on an open
space, the arrival of the performers was anxiously looked for. They were
all known by name, and thus each player was able to select his champion
for the evening. As soon as a certain number had gained the open space,
a sudden whistle, given by a disinterested spectator, sent them back to
their holes, and the first to reach his hole was declared the winner. An
old grey rat called “Père Ratapon” was a great favourite with the
gamblers, for, though not so active as his younger brethren, he was
always on the alert to secure a good start when disturbed.’

In justice to our ancient foe I give here a couple of extracts, for
which I have to thank Mr. Gates of Portsmouth, from the _Hampshire
Telegraph_, illustrative of generous behaviour towards Englishmen who
had been forced to aid prisoners to escape.



  (_After Colonel Lebertre._)

  Length, 125 feet. Breadth in widest part, 40 feet. Height, 4 feet 10
    inches. Number of prisoners, 460.

‘July 20th, 1801. In a cartel vessel which arrived last week from
France, came over one Stephen Buckle, a waterman of this town. Three
gentlemen had hired this waterman to take them to the Isle of Wight, and
they had not proceeded farther than Calshot Castle when they rose upon
him, gagged him, tied him hand and foot, and threatened him with instant
death if he made the slightest noise or resistance. The boatman begged
for mercy, and promised his assistance in any undertaking if they would
spare his life; on which he was released, and was told they were French
prisoners, and ordered to make for the nearest port in France, at his
peril. The darkness of the night, and the calmness of the wind, favoured
their intentions, for after rowing two days and nights in a small, open
skiff, without having the least sustenance, they arrived safe at
Cherbourg. The waterman was interrogated at the Custom House as to the
prisoners’ escape; when, after giving the particulars and identifying
the persons, saying they threatened to murder him, the officers took the
three Frenchmen into custody, to take their respective trials. The poor
man’s case being made known to the Government, he was ordered to be
liberated, and his boat restored.’

‘September 21st, 1807. Between 9 and 10 o’clock on the evening of last
Sunday three weeks, two men engaged Thomas Hart, a ferryman, to take
them from Gosport beach to Spithead, to go on board a ship there, as
they said. When the boat reached Spithead they pretended the ship had
gone to St. Helens, and requested the waterman to go out after her.
Having reached that place, one of them, who could speak English, took a
dagger from under his coat, and swore he would take the life of the
waterman if he did not land them in France.

‘Under this threat the man consented to follow their directions, and
landed them at Fécamp. The men appeared to be in the uniform of officers
of the British Navy. The waterman was lodged in prison at Havre de
Grâce, and kept there for ten days. He was then released on representing
himself to be a fisherman, his boat was returned to him, and the
Frenchmen gave him six or seven pounds of bread, some cyder, and a
pocket compass, and a pass to prevent his being interrupted by any
French vessel he might meet with. In this state they set him adrift; he
brought several letters from English prisoners in France, and from
French persons to their friends in prison in this country.’

                              CHAPTER VII
                              TOM SOUVILLE
                      A FAMOUS PRISON-SHIP ESCAPER

In old Calais there is or was a _Rue Tom Souville_. No foreigners and
not many Calaisiens know who Tom Souville was, or what he had done to
deserve to have a street named after him. The answer to these questions
is so interesting that I do not hesitate to allow it a chapter.

About the year 1785, Tom Souville, aged nine, was, in accordance with a
frequent custom of that day, sent to England for the purpose of learning
English in exchange for a little English boy who came over to France. He
was quartered in the house of the Rev. Mr. Wood, of Dover, whose sailor
brother took a great fancy to the little stranger, and made him his
constant companion on cruises up and down the Channel, with the result
that Tom Souville got to know the Channel coasts thoroughly, a stock of
learning which he afterwards made use of in a fashion little dreamed of
by the old salt, his mentor.

At Christmas 1786, after eighteen months’ happiness at Dover, he
returned to Calais, and in obedience to his irresistible bent, joined
the navy. In 1795, the _Formidable_, with Tom Souville on board, was
taken by H.M.S. _Queen Charlotte_, off Isle-Croix, after a fight in
which she lost 320 killed and wounded out of her complement of 717, and
Tom with his Captain, Linois, of whom mention will be made later in this
work, were taken to Portsmouth. Tom Souville refused to sign a parole
form, so was put into the _cachot_ of the _Diamond_ hulk; but only for a
short time, as he was soon exchanged. However, in 1797 he was again
captured, this time on the _Actif_, and was confined on the _Crown_

Of life on the _Crown_ he gives the usual description. He speaks of the
prisoner professors (who were known as the ‘Académiciens’) being obliged
to give their lessons at night, as the noise during the daytime made
teaching impossible. But as no lights were allowed ‘tween decks after a
certain hour, they saved up the fat of their ration meat, and put it
into an oyster-shell with a wick of cotton threads, fencing it round
with clothes. Sometimes the air was so foul that the light went out. If
they were discovered, the guards destroyed everything, books, paper,
slates, pens, &c.

Souville mentions one thing I have not noticed in any account of
prison-ship life, that there were French women on board, ‘de basse
extraction et extrêmement grossières’.

He emphasizes the incapacity and brutality of the British doctors, and
particularizes one Weiss (not a British name, one is thankful to note!)
as a type. He says that the orthodox treatment of the prisoners from San
Domingo, who were suffering from the _vomito negro_, was to plunge them
into icy water!

A system of signalling and holding conversation between one prison ship
and another was carried out by the carpenters, who had their benches on
the upper deck, a regular alphabet being arranged by means of hammer
knocks and shifting the position of the benches. He is the first also to
mention that theatricals were performed on a prison ship; the pieces
given being a two-act vaudeville, _Les Aventures d’une voyageuse
sensible_, and a drama in five acts, _La Fiancée du Corsaire_. The
orchestra consisted of a flute and a violin; the female dresses were
lent by the ladies of Portsmouth and Gosport, who also came as
spectators. But the chief amusement, he says, was to vex the authorities
as much as possible, to call the captain, who had an inflated sense of
his own importance, a mere turnkey, to make songs on him, and above all
to play tricks at the roll call, so as to create confusion and

The attempts to escape were very frequent, and this in spite of a recent
savage threat that for every prisoner who escaped two should be hanged.
Souville describes a daring escape which inspired him to action. A
cutter laden with powder was alongside one of the hulks, waiting for
morning to discharge into the _Egmont_ man-of-war. Lieutenant Larivière
and four or five other prisoners managed to slip out of the _Crown_ and
board her. They found the crew fast asleep, tied and gagged them
securely, and adopted their clothes. At daybreak they hoisted their
sail, Larivière giving loud commands in English, and passed by the
_Egmont_, waiting for her powder. She hailed them to stop, but they
crowded on all sail, and although the alarm was signalled, and they were
pursued, they crossed safely to Roscoff.

As Souville, when he refused to be put on parole, had openly declared
that he would escape at the first opportunity, he was carefully guarded.
Thanks to his excellent knowledge of English he made friends among the
bluejackets of the guard, and especially with one Will, whom he had
helped with money when his mother’s home was threatened to be broken up
for debt.

So he started the delicate and difficult operation of boring a hole in
the ship’s side, large enough to admit the passage of a human body,
above the water line, yet not too near the grated platform running round
the ship, continually patrolled by guards. He counted on Will’s aid, and
confided his scheme to him.

The very next morning he was conducted to the Black Hole, and was
informed that his design had been betrayed, and he instantly guessed
that his supposed friend Will was the betrayer, as he alone was in the
secret. Whilst in the _cachot_ he found a mysterious note merely saying
that at a certain hour on a certain day the high tide would be over the
mud-banks which had proved fatal to so many fugitives from the hulks. In
the _cachot_ with him were three men who had successfully shammed
madness in order to get sent to France, and who were about to be
liberated. One of them, whose form of assumed madness had been to crow
day and night like a cock, gave Tom a clue to a hole he had commenced to
bore in the event of his sham madness failing.

Souville found the hole, finished it, and on the date named in the note
slipped out, and started for a three-mile swim towards a light ashore.
After much labour, he negotiated the mud-banks, and landed. Exhausted,
he fell asleep, and was awakened by a man. He sprang to his feet and
prepared to defend himself from arrest; but the man impressed silence,
and pointed to a fisher-hut whence a light shone, evidently that to
which he had steered at first, but of which he had lost sight during his
long struggle in the water.

He entered the hut and found Will! The whole affair, the arrest, the
_cachot_, and the mysterious note turned out to be Will’s plot, who
explained that if he had not divulged the secret of Souville’s first
escape-hole when it was known that he had discovered it, he would
probably have got a thousand lashes at the triangles, and that to atone
for it he had conveyed to the _cachot_ the note which was the means of
Tom’s escape.

No time was lost in completely disguising him, and he started. As he
passed along the smuggler’s cliff path he heard the guns which
proclaimed the escape of a prisoner. At 9 a.m. he passed Kingston, and
got to Farlington on the Chichester road. Here he put up at a lodging
house, replying to suspicious inquiries that he was from London, bound
for an American ship coming from Dover. From here he took coach to
Brighton, and in two days was at Dover. At Dover he waited two more days
before he could find a neutral ship to take him across, and then quietly
smuggled himself on to a Danish brig bound for Calais, and hid under a
coil of rope on deck. Whilst here the Admiralty people came on board to
search for fugitives, and one of them actually sat on the heap of rope
under which he was. The brig sailed, and then, to the astonishment of
the master and crew, Tom presented himself. At first the master was
disposed to put back and give Tom up, for the penalties were heavy for
harbouring escaped prisoners, but the promise of a handsome reward and
Tom’s mention of influential friends overcame his scruples and Tom was
safely landed.

He went home, got the money, of which he gave 1,000 francs to the
skipper, 500 francs to the crew, and 500 to the fisherman who landed

Souville now started the privateering business which was to make him
famous, and during the years 1806 and 1807 won for his _Glaneur_ a
reputation on both sides of the Channel. At Dunkirk he distinguished
himself on shore by saving two lives from a runaway carriage which had
been upset into the port. He then changed to the _Général Paris_, and
made a number of rich captures, but on November 30, 1808, was captured
off Folkestone by two corvettes and a cutter, and found himself on the
_Assistance_ prison ship at Portsmouth. On the _Assistance_ he made so
many attempts to escape that he was changed to the _Crown_. Here he met
an old shipmate, Captain Havas, of the _Furet_ privateer, but from
policy they agreed not to let it be seen that they were friends, and
they lost no time in setting to work with saws made of barrel-hoops, and
bits of fencing foils for gimlets, to make a hole a square foot in size
through the nine inches of the wooden ship’s side, and, to avoid the
noise they made being heard, they worked while the English soldiers were
scrubbing the decks.

By the beginning of January 1809 the hole was ready. January 9 was a
suitable day for this project, being foggy, and the only obstacle was
the bitter cold of the water. They had saved up rum, and grease
wherewith to rub themselves, and had a compass, a knife, a flask for the
rum, and a waterproof fishing-basket to hold a change of clothes. At
midnight they opened the hole; Havas slipped out, and Souville followed,
but in doing so made a slight noise, but enough to attract the notice of
the sentry. They swam away amidst a storm of bullets fired at random in
the fog and darkness. Souville was soon caught by one of the boats which
at the first alarm had put out from all the hulks. Havas hung on to the
rudder of a Portuguese ship under repair, and paused to rest. When all
was quiet, he climbed up, boarded the ship, crept down to the hold, got
under a basket, and, utterly worn out, fell asleep.

A cabin boy coming for the basket in the morning, at the appearance of a
strange man under it was terrified and cried out. Havas rushed up on
deck, but at the mouth of the hatchway was met by an English soldier who
promptly knocked him down, and he was secured.

The adventurers got a month’s Black Hole, and when they were released
found the precautions against escape were stricter than ever. In May
1809 the news came that all the prisoners taken at Guadeloupe were to be
exchanged. Havas and Souville determined to profit by the opportunity,
and bought two turns of exchange from soldiers, with the idea of getting
away as Guadeloupe prisoners. But, in order to pass the sentry it was
necessary that they should have the appearance of having served in the
tropics, so they had ‘to make themselves up’, with false moustaches and
stained faces. This was effected, and at the signal of departure the two
adventurers joined the Guadeloupe contingent and were taken ashore. But
on the jetty stood Captain Ross, of the _Crown_, scrutinizing the

‘You didn’t expect me here, my man,’ said he to Havas, at the same time
taking hold of his moustache, which came off in his hand. ‘Never mind;
although I am in duty bound to take you before Commodore Woodriff, I’ll
ask him to let you off; if I don’t you’ll sink my ship with your eternal
hole-boring through her!’

He meant what he said, for, although somewhat of a martinet (so says the
biographer of Souville—Henri Chevalier), he was a good fellow at heart,
but Woodriff, who had been in command at Norman Cross in 1797, was of
another disposition: ‘un de ces moroses Anglais dont l’air sombre cache
un caractère plus dur encore que sévère.’ He refused Ross’s request, and
even admonished him for laxity of vigilance, and so our friends were
sent back to the _Crown_, and got another month’s _cachot_. Then they
were separated, Havas being sent to the _Suffolk_ and Tom Souville to
the _Vengeance_. Six uneventful months passed; then the prisoners of the
_Suffolk_ and _Vengeance_ were transferred to the _San Antonio_, and
Havas and Souville were re-united, and took into partnership Étienne
Thibaut. The commander of the _San Antonio_ was an affable Scot with a
soft heart towards his prisoners. He took a fancy to Havas, often
chatted with him, and at last engaged him as a French teacher. Captain
B. had a pretty wife, ‘belle en tout point, blonde, grande, svelte et
gracieuse,’ and a charming little girl, possessing ‘de bonnes joues
roses, de grands yeux bleus, et des cheveux dorés à noyer sa tête si un
ruban ne les eût captivés sur son cou; enfant pétulante et gaie, fraîche
comme une fleur, vive comme un oiseau’.

Havas makes friends with the child, but aims at the favour of the
mother. Being a dashing, attractive, sailor-like fellow, he succeeds,
and moves her sympathy for his fate. Finally Mrs. B. promises that he
shall go with her to a French theatrical performance ashore, as her
husband rarely quits the ship except on duty. So they go, one fine
spring day, she and Havas, and a Scots Captain R. with them to save
appearances, first to the hulk _Veteran_ where they learn that the play,
to be acted in Portchester Castle, will be Racine’s _Phèdre_, and that
it will commence at 4 p.m.

They attended the play. An old caulker played Theseus, Phèdre was
presented by a novice, and Hippolyte by a top-man, which probably means
that it was ludicrous. After the play, Captain R. went into the town,
leaving Havas and Mrs. B. to enjoy a beautiful springtime walk together,
winding up with refreshments in an arbour which Mrs. B. had engaged. All
this time, however, Havas was not so intoxicated with the delightful
novelty of a _tête-à-tête_ walk with a pretty Englishwoman on a lovely
day in a fair country, as not to be making mental notes of the local

During the long continuance of the fine weather, which was all against
their project, the three men made preparations for escape, and
particularly in the manufacture of wooden skates for use over the two
great mud-banks which separated the hulks from the shore, and which had
always been fatal obstacles to escaping prisoners. At length the
long-looked-for change in the weather came, and at 1 a.m. on a wild,
stormy morning Havas and Souville got off (in the French original I find
no allusion to Thibaut), well furnished with necessaries, including
complete suits of stylish clothing! Once they were challenged, but the
uproar of the storm saved them, and, moreover, the sea, even in the
land-locked part, was so high that the sentries had been withdrawn from
the external gallery. It was a hard struggle, but they reached the first
mud-spit safely, got over it on their skates, swam another bit, and at
the second mud-bank had to rest, as Souville was taken with a sudden
vertigo. Finally, after three terrible hours of contest with wind and
wave, they landed. Thence they made their way into the fields, washed
and scraped the mud off, and with the stylish clothes transformed
themselves, as the account says, into ‘elegants’.

For four hours they walked until they struck the London road, along
which they tramped for an hour, that is until about 10 a.m., and
breakfasted at an inn. At 3 p.m. they reached Petersfield, went boldly
to the best hotel, dined as became gentlemen of their appearance, and
ordered a post-chaise to be ready to take them to Brighton at 4 a.m.

They were three days on the journey to Brighton! Souville’s admirable
English was their protection, and the only inconvenience they
experienced was from the remarks of people who contrasted their elegant
appearance with the small amount of luggage they carried, consisting of
a pocket-handkerchief containing their belongings.

They arrived at Brighton at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The Duke of
York had arrived there to review the troops assembled at Brighton Camp
on account of Bonaparte’s threatened invasion, so that the town was
crowded with soldiers and visitors, accommodation was not to be had, and
no chance of sailing to France was likely to be offered. So they decided
to walk on to Hastings, a risky proceeding, as the country swarmed with
soldiers. They walked for a day and a half, and then resolved to drive.
For the night they had lodged at an inn which was full of soldiers, all
of whom were incited by rewards to look out for spies, so they shut
themselves in their room with food and two bottles of port, and busied
themselves with mending and furbishing up the elegant clothes, which
were beginning to show signs of wear and tear. The next day they left by
coach; their fellow passengers included a faded lady of thirty, a
_comédienne_, so she said, with whom Souville soon became on such
excellent terms that she gave him her address at Hastings, and on the
next day he went for a pleasant walk with her, noting carefully the lie
of the country and looking out for a suitable boat on the beach in which
to get over to France. Boats in plenty there were; but, in accordance
with the Admiralty circular, inspired by the frequent appropriations of
boats by escaping foreigners, from all of them masts, oars, and sails
had been removed. So our friends resolved to walk on to Folkestone. They
reached the ‘Bay of Rice’ (Rye Bay?) and had to pass the night in the
open, as there was no inn, and arrived at Folkestone at 6 p.m. the next

During these stirring times of war between Britain and France, the
French privateers and the English smugglers found it to be to their
mutual interests to be good friends, for not only were the smugglers the
chief carriers of escaped French prisoners, many of whom were officers
of privateers, but they were valuable sources of information concerning
the movements of war-ships and likely prizes. In return the French
coastal authorities allowed them free access to their ports for purposes
of the contraband trade. During his career afloat Souville had done a
good turn to Mr. J. P., an English smuggler captain living at
Folkestone, and Mr. J. P. promised that he would requite this at the
first opportunity. And so Tom determined to find him at Folkestone. His
excellent English soon procured him J. P.’s address, and there the
fugitives had a royal reception, dinner, bed, a bath the next morning,
fresh clothes and a change of linen. At breakfast they read the news of
their escape and of the big reward offered for their recapture in the
local newspaper.

They spent five happy days under this hospitable roof, waiting for
favourable weather, and for their host to procure them a suitable boat.
This came about in due course, and after a farewell banquet, the party,
consisting of Souville, arm-in-arm with Mrs. P., Havas with her sister,
J. P., and three friends, proceeded to the beach, and at 9 p.m. Souville
and Havas embarked for Calais, where they arrived after a good passage,
and had an enthusiastic reception, for it had been reported that in
escaping from the _San Antonio_, they had been engulfed in the

Tom Souville lost no time in resuming his privateering life, and
continued to be most successful, amassing money and gaining renown at
the same time, but in 1812, when on the _Renard_, having in tow a brig
prize of 200 tons, he was again captured, and once more found himself on
the _Crown_ prison ship, in ‘Southampton Lake’. The _Crown_ was still
commanded by Ross—called in the original (which is in the form of an
interview with Souville by Eugene Sue) ‘Rosa’, that being the sound of
the name in French ears. Ross was a fine old fellow who had lost an arm
at Trafalgar, but he hated the French. Ross, knowing Tom Souville’s
fame, ironically conducts him personally over the _Crown_, pointing out
all the latest devices for the prevention of escape, and tells Tom that
he will have a corporal specially told off to ‘attend to him’. He offers
to allow Tom to go ashore every day if he will give his parole not to
attempt escape, but Tom refuses.

On the _Crown_ Tom finds an old friend, Tilmont, a privateer captain,
and they at once set to work on a plan for escape. One morning Captain
Ross sends for Tom and quietly informs him that one Jolivet had sold him
the secret of the hole then in the process of being cut by Tom and
Tilmont, and as he tells him this they walk up and down the lower deck
together. Whilst they are walking there is a great noise of tramping
overhead. Ross asks what it is, and Tom replies that the prisoners are
dancing. The captain calls an orderly and tells him to stop the dancing,
‘the noise is distressing to Monsieur here,’ he adds sarcastically. Tom
is annoyed and begs he will allow the poor men to amuse themselves, but
the captain is obdurate. Presently the noise ceases, and to Tom’s horror
he hears in the ensuing silence the sound of Tilmont working away at the
hole. However, it did not attract the captain’s attention. The truth was
that the whole affair, the betrayal of the hole, the dancing on deck,
and the interview with Captain Ross, was of Souville’s arranging.
Jolivet got £10 10_s._ for betraying the secret, which he at once paid
into the ship’s ‘Escape Fund’; he had made it a condition that Souville
and Tilmont should not be punished; the dancing on deck was arranged to
be at the time of the interview between the captain and Tom, so that the
noise of Tilmont’s final touches to the work of boring the hole should
be drowned.

A few days before this, one Dubreuil had attempted to escape, but had
been suffocated in the mud-bank. On the morning after the interview
above described, the bugle sounded for all the prisoners to be paraded
on the upper deck. Here they found the captain and officers, all in full
uniform, the guard drawn up with fixed bayonets, and on the deck in
front of them a long object covered with a black cloth. The cloth was
removed, and the wasted body of Dubreuil, with his eyes picked out, was

Souville was called forward.

‘Do you recognize the body?’ asked the captain.

‘Yes,’ replied Tom, ‘but it does not matter much. He was a bad fellow
who struck his mother.’

The horrible exhibition had been intended as a deterrent lesson to the
prisoners in general and to Souville in particular, especially as it was
known that he and Dubreuil had been lifelong acquaintances in Calais,
but, as far as Tom was concerned, his reply sufficiently proved that it
was thrown away on him, whilst among the other prisoners it excited only
disgust and indignation.

Tom Souville’s escape was arranged for that same night.

It was quite favourable for his enterprise, dark and so stormy that the
hulk rolled heavily. Tilmont made Tom take a good drink of sugar, rum,
and coffee; the two men greased themselves all over thoroughly; round
Tom’s neck was an eelskin full of guineas, in his hat a map of the
Channel, in a ‘boussole’ tinder and steel, a knife in the cord of his
hat, and a change of clothes in a little leather bag on his back.

Overboard he slipped (Tilmont’s name is not again mentioned, although he
greased himself, so I presume he did not start. There are many instances
of poor fellows, after much elaborate preparation, being deterred at the
last moment by the darkness, the black depths below, the long swim, and
the extreme uncertainty of the result). It was a hard, long struggle in
the wild night, and throughout appeared the face of Dubreuil with its
empty orbits before the swimmer. However, in two hours and a half he
reached land. He rested for a while, cleaned the mud off, changed his
clothes and started to walk.

In nine days he reached Winchelsea, walking by night and hiding by day,
for this time his clothes were not of the ‘elegant’ style, and the land
was full of spy-hunters. He went on to Folkestone, and rested by the
garden wall of a villa in the outskirts. As he rested he heard the voice
of a woman singing in the garden. At once he recognized it as the voice
of a captain’s wife who had been of the merry party at J. P.’s house on
the occasion of his last visit to Folkestone, called her by name, and
announced his own. He was warmly welcomed, there was a repetition of the
old festivities, and in due course he was found a passage for Calais,
where he arrived safely. Once more he trod the deck of the famous
_Renard_, and was so successful that he saved money enough to buy a
cutter on his own account. He soon became one of the most famous Channel
_corsaires_; and in addition a popular hero, by his saving many lives at
sea, not only of his own countrymen, but of English fishermen, and in
one case, of the crew of a British ship of war which had been disabled
by foul weather.

Then came the Peace of 1814; and when, after Waterloo, friendly
relationship was solidly established between the two countries, Tom
Souville, only at home on the ocean, obtained command of the
cross-channel packet _Iris_, which he retained almost up to the day of
his death in 1840, at the age of sixty-four.

                              CHAPTER VIII
                           THE PRISON SYSTEM
                     THE PRISONERS ASHORE. GENERAL

During the progress of the Seven Years’ War, from 1756 to 1763, it
became absolutely necessary, from the large annual increase in the
number of prisoners of war brought to England, that some systematic
accommodation for prisoners on land should be provided. Some idea of the
increase may be formed when we find that the number of prisoners of war
in England at the end of 1756 was 7,261, and that in 1763, the last year
of the war, it was 40,000.

The poor wretches for whom there was no room in the already overcrowded
hulks were herded together wherever space could be found or made for

They were in borough jails—veritable hells on earth even when filled
with native debtors and felons: they were in common prisons such as the
Savoy and Wellclose Square in London: they were in hired and adapted
strong houses such as the Wool House at Southampton, and the old pottery
works in Liverpool, or in adapted country houses such as Sissinghurst in
Kent, or in adapted farms like Roscrow and Kergilliack in Cornwall; or
in barracks as at Winchester, Tynemouth and Edinburgh. Portchester
Castle was but an adaptation, so was Forton, near Gosport, and the only
place of confinement built as a prison, and kept exclusively for
prisoners of war, was for a long time the Millbay prison at Plymouth.

In 1760 public attention was drawn to the ‘dangerous spirit’ among the
French prisoners in England. Escapes were frequent, were carried out by
large bodies of men, and in many cases were characterized by open acts
of defiance and violence. Inquiries were made about places which could
be prepared to accommodate, between them, from fifteen to twenty
thousand prisoners of war. No place was too sacred for the
prison-hunters. A report upon the suitability of Kenilworth Castle was
drawn up by a Dr. Palmer, who concluded, ‘If the buildings are
completed, some thousands of prisoners will be so accommodated as I
flatter myself will reflect Honour on the British Nation.’

General Simon, we shall see later, was confined in Dumbarton Castle. The
Royal Palace at Linlithgow only escaped conversion into a war prison by
the exertions of Viscount Dundas, Lord of the Admiralty—a fact to which
Sir Walter Scott thus alludes in _Waverley_:

‘They halted at Linlithgow, distinguished by its ancient palace, which,
Sixty Years since, was entire and habitable, and whose venerable ruins,
_not quite Sixty Years since_, very narrowly escaped the unworthy fate
of being converted into a barrack for French prisoners. May repose and
blessings attend the ashes of the patriotic statesman, who, amongst his
last services to Scotland, interposed to prevent this profanation!’

So the business of searching for suitable places and of adaptation of
unsuitable went on, the prisoners being of course the chief sufferers,
which in that hard, merciless age was not a matter of much concern, and
it was not until 1782 that a move in the right direction seemed to be
made by the abandonment of the old evil place of confinement at Knowle,
near Bristol (visited and commented on by Wesley in 1759 and 1760, and
by Howard in 1779), and the transfer of the prisoners to the ‘Fish
Ponds’ prison, better known later as Stapleton.

In 1779 Howard says, in his General Report upon the prisons on land,
‘The French Government made an allowance of 3_d._ per diem to Captains,
Mates, sailing masters and surgeons; 2_d._ per diem to boatswains,
carpenters, and petty officers generally, and 1_d._ per diem to all
below these ratings (which is almost exactly the same as the allowances
made by the British Government to its prisoners abroad). There is,
besides, a supply from the same Court of clothes, linen, and shoes to
those who are destitute of these articles; a noble and exemplary
provision much to the honour of those who at present conduct public
affairs in France.’

Howard found the American prisoners, except at Pembroke, clean and well
clothed, thanks to liberal supplies from their own country as well as
from England. He noted the care and assiduity of the ‘Sick and Hurt’
Office in London, and decided that England and France treated foreign
prisoners very much alike on the whole.

In 1794 Charles Townshend wrote to the Earl of Ailesbury: ‘The French
prisoners have their quarters in Hillsea Barracks (Portsmouth), find our
biscuit and beef much better than their own, and are astonished at the
good treatment they meet with. Most of them are very young, and were
driven on board by the bayonet.’

I quote this as I am only too glad when I come across any record or
evidence which can serve to brighten the dark dreary record of these
chapters in our national history.

In 1795 there were 13,666 prisoners of war in Britain, of whom 1,357
were officers on parole; of the remainder the largest number, 4,769,
were at Portchester Castle.

In 1796–7 the great dépôt at Norman Cross near Peterborough, to contain
7,000 prisoners, was built and occupied. In 1798, further inquiries were
made by the Government for prison accommodation, as the inflow of
prisoners was unceasing and ever increasing, the total for this year
being 35,000. The advertised specifications give us an idea of the space
then considered sufficient for prisoners. Besides accommodation for a
garrison calculated at the proportion of one guard for every twenty
prisoners, cells were required measuring eight feet by seven, and eleven
feet high, for four or five prisoners, or rooms twenty-four feet by
twenty-two to be divided into nine cells, and replies were received from
Coldbath Fields, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Lancaster
Castle, Shrewsbury, and Dorchester.

In 1799 Stapleton Prison, near Bristol, was to be enlarged so as to be
ready in June 1800, for twice its then complement of prisoners.

In 1803 a very general impression was prevalent in high places that an
invasion of England was imminent from Ireland with which the prisoners
of war all over the country, but especially the Western counties, were
to be associated, and so, at the request of Sir Rupert George of the
Transport Office, a detailed report was drawn up by Mr. Yorke of the
best means to be taken to guard against this. To this was appended a
memorandum of the capacity and condition of various inland prisons, such
as Manchester, Stafford, Shrewsbury, Dorchester, Gloucester, Coldbath
Fields in London, and Liverpool.

In 1806 the great prison at Dartmoor, built to hold 6,000 prisoners, and
thus relieve the dangerous congestion at Plymouth, was founded, but the
first prisoners did not enter it until 1809. In 1811 a large dépôt was
formed at Valleyfield near Penicuik on the Esk, about nine miles south
of Edinburgh, which was gradually enlarged until at the Peace of 1814 it
contained 10,000 prisoners.

So by this time, 1814, there were nine large prisons at Dartmoor, Norman
Cross, Millbay, Stapleton, Valleyfield, Forton, Portchester, Chatham
(where the present St. Mary’s Barracks were first used as a war-prison),
and Perth, holding about 45,000 prisoners; there were about 2,000
officers on parole; the hulks at Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Chatham—about
fifty ships—would hold nearly 35,000 prisoners, and the grand total
would be well in excess of the largest number of war prisoners in
Britain in one year, that is, 72,000 in 1814.

In 1812 the following notification was sent to the Admiralty, who
evidently treated it seriously, as a copy of it was sent to the agents
of all the war prisons in the country:

                      ‘Extra Secret Intelligence.

‘The large fleet here (Boulogne) remain perfectly inactive, but the
Flotilla are only waiting for orders. I was yesterday told by one of the
Captains that 6,000 men would soon be embarked, that the place of
landing was to be as near as possible to Stilton Prison (Norman Cross)
and that every man was to carry two complete sets of arms, &c., in order
to equip the prisoners they may release.’

Three men, named La Ferre, Denisham, and De Mussy, were to land as
American gentlemen, and to take charge quietly and unobtrusively. The
head-quarters were to be near Liverpool, Hull, and between Portsmouth
and Plymouth, whence these emissaries were to gain access to all the
prisons, and prepare the minds of the inmates for the Great Event.

Nothing came of this, but the correspondence of the Transport Office
reveals the fact that by one means or another a more or less regular
correspondence was kept up between France and the prisons, and that
there were concerned in it some very well known officers on parole, and
even some Englishmen.

The captaincy of a war prison was no sinecure, and if history shows that
one or two of the officers occupying the position were ill-fitted for
it, assuredly they had no reason to complain of a lack of rules,
regulations, and instructions from head-quarters, and they were called
to order in no measured terms.

The care of the prisoners themselves, desperate, restless, cunning
rascals as many of them were, seems to have bothered the agent much less
than the care of those who were in any way associated with the working
of the prison—the big and little officials, the officers and soldiers of
the garrison, the contractors, the tradesmen, the workmen, the servants,
the innkeepers, farmers, post-office officials, even the stage coachmen
and guards, not to mention the neighbouring gentry, parsons and old
ladies who, of course, knew very much better how to run a war-prison
than did Captain Pressland, or Captain Cotgrave, or Captain Draper, or
any other selected man.

Another fact which contributed to the irksomeness of the post was that
although a naval captain was always the head of a war prison, and his
turnkeys were generally of the same service, and he was the responsible
head of the establishment, the guardianship of the prisoners was
absolutely in the hands of the military authorities, who were therefore
responsible for the safe-keeping of the prisoners. Any difference
therefore between the naval captain and the military colonel as to the
arrangement and disposal of the guards—and such differences were
frequent—was sure to betray itself in the condition of the prison.

It may be easily understood that although it was the naval captain in
charge of a prison who was held responsible for every escape of a
prisoner, he would be pretty sure to put the _onus_ of it on to the
military commander, who, in turn, would be ready to attribute the mishap
to anything but deficiency in the arrangement of sentries or to any
slackness on the part of his men.

Take again the position of the war prisoner agent, as he was called,
with regard to the numberless appeals to his humanity with which he was
assailed. The period of the Great Wars was not characterized by
hyper-sensitiveness on the score of human suffering and want, although I
thoroughly believe that the men selected for the position of war
prisoner agents were generally as kindly disposed and as sympathetic, as
refined and well-bred Englishmen as could be in an age not remarkable
for gentleness. It must be remembered that they had ever to be on their
guard against ruse and stratagem.

A forcible illustration is afforded by the much vexed question of the
religious condition of the prisoners. In 1798 the Bishop of Léon asked
that French priests should be allowed to minister to the prisoners at
Portchester and Stapleton, and, although it was notorious that by far
the greater number of Frenchmen were not merely indifferent to religion,
but avowed preachers of atheism, the permission was given, and the Abbés
De La Marc and Pasquier were told off for duty. Later on, however, it
would seem that the privilege thus accorded had been grossly abused, and
the permission cancelled, for the Transport Office writes:

‘The T. O. regrets that it is not in their power to permit the _émigré_
priests to visit War Prisons. We feel it our duty, however, to say that
in the present difficult times when pretended Friends are not always
distinguishable from real Foes, we feel it our Duty to be on our guard
respecting Intercourse with all Prisoners of war under our charge, and
though we have a sincere desire to promote the interests of the
Christian Religion under any Denomination, yet where it has been, and is
uniformly, if not universally, insulted by the Republicans of your
Nation who constitute the bulk of our captives, we must be cautious of
every species of Introduction to men so generally unprincipled, and who
are at best the Dupes of an ignorant and insidious Philosophy. We allow
much when we grant permission to your Priests upon the express desire of
the Parties, and we appeal to you whether it be not an indulgence which
would not be conceded to Protestant Divines under similar circumstances
in any Roman Catholic Country, and particularly in France itself under
its ancient Government.’

The bishop also applies to have a priest at Deal. The Transport Office
refuses, saying that Deal is not a dépôt for prisoners, but only a
receiving place, and there are no turnkeys and clerks, such ‘as the
admission of an Ecclesiastic might render necessary’.

In 1801, the same Bishop of Léon had the assurance to request the
release of a French priest taken under arms. To this the Transport
Office replied:

‘The Board is rather surprised that you should apply to them on behalf
of such a person, as they conceive it to be against the spirit of all
Religion that men in Holy Orders should be found in Military Array, and
they are more convinced that they should not comply with such a request,
as no assurance can be given or be relied on that so unprincipled a man
may not put off his Function for his own purposes a second time and
repeat his enormity.’

In 1808, the Bishop of Moulins was chaplain to the prisoners at Norman
Cross, and, according to the Rev. Arthur Brown, author of a little book
about this prison, devoted his life to the spiritual regeneration of the
poor fellows in captivity, although Dr. Walker, of Peterborough,
estimates the bishop somewhat differently.

At any rate, his boy attendant, a prisoner, was found guilty of breaking
one of the prison rules by selling straw hats clandestinely made by the
prisoners, and was ordered back into confinement. The bishop, who did
not live in the prison, but was staying at the _Bell_, in Stilton,
applied for another prisoner attendant, but was refused.

Again, in 1814, the British and Foreign Bible Society asked that the
Transport Office agents should be allowed to distribute New Testaments
among the prisoners at Stapleton and Norman Cross. The Office replied:

‘We cannot impress such a duty on our agents, as they consider it an
impossibility to prevent the prisoners from selling them, as all the
Vigilance exercised by the officers of the Department is insufficient to
prevent the prisoners from making away with the most necessary articles
of clothing and bedding.’

That the Transport Office were justified in their refusal is confirmed
by an incident at the final embarkation of the French prisoners from the
Perth dépôt in July of the same year, 1814. A considerable number of
French Testaments were sent from Edinburgh to be distributed among the
prisoners leaving for France. The distribution was duly made, but by the
time the prisoners had reached the waterside, almost every man had sold
his Testament for a trifling sum.

It cannot be doubted, I think, that the hardships endured by the
prisoners in the war prisons were very much exaggerated, and also that
to a very large extent the prisoners brought them upon themselves.
Especially was this the case in the matter of insufficient food and
clothing. Gambling was the besetting sin of the prisons, and to get the
wherewithal to gamble the prisoners sold clothing, bedding, and not only
their rations for the day, but for days to come. At Dartmoor the evil
occasioned by the existence of the sale of rations by prisoners to
‘brokers’, who resold them at a profit, was so great that Captain
Cotgrave, the Governor, in February 1813, sent a number of the ‘brokers’
to the _cachot_. To their remonstrance he replied, in writing, much as a
sailor man he would have spoken:

‘To the Prisoners in the Cachot for purchasing Provisions. The Orders to
put you on short allowance (2/3rds) from the Commissioners of His
Majesty’s Transport Board is for purchasing the provisions of your
fellow prisoners, by which means numbers have died from want of food,
and the hospital is filled with sick not likely to recover. The number
of deaths occasioned by this inhuman practise occasions considerable
expense to the Government, not only in coffins, but the hospital is
filled with these poor, unhappy wretches so far reduced from want of
food that they linger a considerable time in the hospital at the
Government’s expense, and then fall a victim to the cruelty of those who
have purchased their provisions, to the disgrace of Christians and
whatever nation they belong to.

‘The testimony of the surgeons and your countrymen prove the fact.’

The appeal was useless, and he issued a proclamation a month later,
threatening to stop the markets if the practice was persisted in. This
was equally fruitless. Charitable people pitied the poor half-naked
prisoners in winter, and supplied them abundantly with clothing; but
when the same men were pointed out to them a few days later as naked as
before, and it was represented to them that by their well-meant
benevolence they were actually encouraging that which it was most
desirable to check, they refused to believe it. Hence it became
necessary to punish severely. The most efficacious form of punishment
was to put an offender’s name at the bottom of the list for being
exchanged against British prisoners to be sent from France or whatever
country we happened to be at war with. But even this had no deterrent
effect upon some, and the frenzy for gain was so remarkable that in all
the prisons there was a regular market for the purchase and sale of
places on the Exchange List, until the Government stopped the practice.
The most common form of punishment was putting offenders on short
allowance. For making away with hammock, bed, or blanket, the prisoner
was put on short allowance for ten days; for making away with any two of
these articles he was docked for fourteen days; for cutting or damaging
bedding or clothes, he had half rations for five days and had to make
the damage good.

Acts of violence brought confinement in the _cachot_ or Black Hole. A
prisoner who wounded a turnkey was to be kept handcuffed, with his hands
behind him, for not less than twelve hours, and for not more than

For murder and forgery the prisoners came under the civil law; death was
the penalty for both, but until 1810 no prisoner-forgers, although
convicted, had been punished with death in England, owing to a doubt in
the minds of judges whether prisoners of war were answerable to
municipal tribunals for this sort of offence, which is not against the
law of nations.

Prisoners who were not mentally or physically gifted enough to earn
money by the exercise of their talents or employment in handicraft, had
other opportunities of doing so. For working about the prisons as
carpenters, gardeners, washermen, they were paid threepence a day. As
helpers in the infirmaries—one to every ten patients—they received
sixpence a day. Officers recaptured after breaking their parole or sent
to prison for serious offences were glad, if they had means, to pay
prisoners threepence a day to act as their servants, and do their dirty
work generally. At the same rate sweepers were engaged at the ratio of
one to every hundred men; cooks, in the proportion of one for every 400
men, received 4½_d._ a day, and barbers earned 3_d._ a day. At Dartmoor
some five hundred prisoners were employed in these and other ways, each
man wearing on his cap a tin plate with the nature of his calling
thereon inscribed. A necessarily rough estimate showed that nearly half
of the inmates of the war prisons made honest money in one way or
another; the remainder were gamblers and nothing else. Still, a very
large number of the wage-earners were gamblers also. Of these various
professions and trades much will be said in the accounts of the prison
life which follow, and when comparisons are instituted between the
versatility, the deftness, the ingenuity, the artistic feeling, and the
industry of the French prisoners in Britain, and the helpless indolence
of the British prisoners abroad, testimony is unconsciously given in
favour of that national system by which men of all social grades, of all
professions, and of all trades, are compelled to serve in the defence of
their country, as contrasted with that which, until late years, deemed
only the scum of the population as properly liable to military service.

                               CHAPTER IX
                           THE PRISONS ASHORE
                         1. SISSINGHURST CASTLE

About the Sissinghurst one looks on to-day there is little indeed to
remind us that here stood, one hundred and fifty years ago, a famous war
prison, and it is hard to realize that in this tranquil, picturesque,
out-of-the-way nook of Kent, for seven long years, more than three
thousand captive fighting men dragged out a weary existence.

Originally the splendid seat of the Baker family, and in the heyday of
its grandeur one of the Kentish halting-places of Queen Elizabeth during
her famous progress in 1571, it had far fallen from its high estate
when, in 1756, Government, hard pressed to find accommodation for the
annually increasing numbers of prisoners of war, leased it.

Of the ‘Castle’, as it came to be called, of this period, the
gate-house, a line of outbuildings which were partially used as barracks
for the troops on guard, and a few memories, alone survive. The great
quadrangle has disappeared, but the line of the ancient moat, in parts
still filled with water, in part incorporated with garden ground, still
enables the visitor to trace the original extent of the buildings. Part
of the line of ivy-clad buildings which face the approach are said to
have been used as a small-pox hospital, and the name François may still
be seen carved on the brick; the field known as the ‘Horse Race’ was the
prison cemetery, and human remains have sometimes within living memory
been disturbed therein.

Otherwise, legends of the prison linger but faintly in the
neighbourhood; but from some of these it would seem that
officer-prisoners at Sissinghurst were allowed out on parole. The
place-name ‘Three Chimneys’, at a point where three roads meet, exactly
one mile from Sissinghurst, is said to be a corruption of ‘Trois
Chemins’, so called by the French prisoners whose limit it marked.

Wilsley House, just out of Cranbrook, a fine old residence, formerly
belonging to a merchant prince of the Kentish cloth trade, now occupied
by Colonel Alexander, is said to have been tenanted by French officers
on parole, and some panel paintings in one of the rooms are said to have
been their work, but I think they are of earlier date. The neighbouring
Barrack Farm is said to have been the prison garrison officers’
quarters, and the house next to the Sissinghurst Post Office is by
tradition the old garrison canteen.

The only individual from whom I could gather any recollections of the
French prisoner days was an old farm labourer named Gurr, living at
Goford. He told me that his great-grandfather, ploughing one day near
the prison, suddenly saw three men creeping along a hedgerow close to
him. Recognizing them to be Sissinghurst prisoners, he armed himself
with the coulter of his plough and went up to them. The poor fellows
seemed exhausted and bewildered, and went with him back to the Castle
without offering any resistance, telling him on the way that they had
got out by tunnelling under the moat with small mattocks. Gurr said that
he had often dug up human bones in the meadow opposite the Castle

The following letter, I think, was written from Sissinghurst, but it may
be from Portchester. I insert it here as in all contemporary
correspondence ‘le château’ means Sissinghurst.

                                        ‘Le Château, 30^{me}  mai, 1756.


‘La présente est pour vous prier de nous donner de délargissement,
attendu que nous ne sommes point obligés pour une personne de nous voir
detenus commes nous sommes. Nous vous avertisons que si nous n’avons pas
l’élargissement nous minerons le Château, et nous sommes résolus de nous
battre contre nos ennemis. Nous ne sommes point obligés de souffrir par
raport d’un joli qui ne nous veu que de la peine. Nous avons des armes,
de la Poudre blanche et des Bales (Balles?) pour nous défendre. Nous
vous prions de nous donner la liberté le plus tôt possible, attendu que
nous sommes tout prêst a suivre notre dessein. On nous a déjà tué un
homme dans le prison, et nous aurons la vengeance.

‘Nous avons été tranquille jusqu’aujourdui, mais présentement nous
allons jouer à la Françoise des rigodons sans violons attendu que nous
sommes tous d’un accord.

                                          ‘Jugez de Reste,
                                              ‘Votre très affectionné et
                                                  ‘François en général.’



  _From an old print_

On June 24, 1758, the following complaint was sent up:


‘Nous avons eu l’honneur de vous envoyer un placet en date du 17^{me} de
ce mois, et nous là vous tenus [sic] entre les mains de Mr. Paxton,
Secretaire de Mr. Cook [Cooke] le 18^{me} nous y faisions de justes
plaintes touchant le Gouvernement de Mr. Cook qui n’est rien moins que
tyrannique et capricieuse, et nous vous le posions tout au long sa
dernière injustice. Craignans qu’on ne vous ait pas mis celuy la, nous
avons pris la liberté de vous faire cette lettre pour vous prier de nous
rendre justice. Si Mr. Cook n’avoit rien à se reprocher il ne
retiendrait pas les lettres que nous vous addressons. Tout le monde
scait ce que mérite celuy qui détourne des oreilles de justice, les cris
de ceux qui la réclame et qui n’ont d’autre crime que d’être infortunés,
nous espérons nosseigneurs que vous y aurez egarder que vous nous ferez
justice, nous vous aurons à jamais l’obligation.

                             ‘Vos humbles et très obeisans serviteurs
                                 ‘Pour tous les prisonniers en général.’

At about the same date twenty-seven paroled naval officers at Cranbrook
signed a complaint that they were not allowed by the one-mile limit of
their parole to visit their crews, prisoners at Sissinghurst, two miles
away, to help them in their distress and to prevent them being robbed by
the English who have the monopoly of getting things for sale into the
prison, notably the jailers and the canteen man, not to mention others.
Also that the prisoners at Sissinghurst had no chance of ventilating
their grievances, which were heavy and many:

‘De remédier à une injustice, ou plutôt à une cruauté que les nations
les plus barbares n’exercisions. En effet c’est une tiranie audieuse que
de vouloir forcer des pauvres prisonniers à n’acheter d’autre
marchandises que celles venant des mains de leurs Gardiens, et
d’empécher leurs parens et amis de leur envoyer à beaucoup meilleur
marché aussy bien.’

Many of the letters from relations in France to prisoners at
Sissinghurst are preserved at the Record Office. It is only from
acquaintance with these poor tattered, blotted ebullitions of affection
and despair that the modern Englishman can glean a notion of what
confinement in an English prison of husbands, fathers, brothers, and
lovers meant to hundreds of poor, simple peasant and fisher women of
France. The breath of most of them is religious resignation: in a few, a
very few, a spirit of resentment and antagonism to Britain is prominent;
most of them are humble domestic chronicles blended with prayers for a
speedy liberation and for courage in the meanwhile. There is nothing
quite like these mid-eighteenth century letters in the correspondence of
the succeeding great struggle, when the principles of the Revolution had
penetrated to the homes of the lowliest. One sees reflected in it the
simplicity, the childish confidence in the rightness and fitness of all
in authority, and, above all, the deep sense of religion, which invested
the peasantry of France with a great and peculiar charm.

During this year, 1758, the letters of complaint are many and pitiful,
the chief subject being the non-delivery to prisoners of their letters,
and the undue surveillance exercised over correspondence of the
tenderest private nature. In 1760 the occupants of Sissinghurst received
their share of the clothes provided by English compassion. Many of them
were accused of selling these clothes, to which they replied that it was
to buy necessaries or tobacco, or for postage, and added that they had
been for a long time on half-rations.

On October 14 a desperate attempt to escape was made, and frustrated in
an unnecessarily brutal manner. A prisoner named Artus, his brother, and
other prisoners discovered a disused latrine. Into this they crept,
broke through a brick wall by a drain, and reached the edge of the moat,
and crossed it to the opposite bank close to the first of the three
sentries on duty along it. This was at ten o’clock on a moonlight night.
Two of the prisoners passed the first and second sentries and got some
way into the fields. Artus and his brother were to follow, and were
crawling on hands and knees to avoid being seen. The first sentry, who
was close by, did nothing, having probably been bribed; but the other
two sentries, being alarmed by a fourth sentry, who was on the right
hand of the first, ran up and challenged Artus, who cried: ‘Don’t fire!
Surrender!’ But the sentry disregarded this, wounded him in two places
on the arm, tearing his waistcoat, and then fired at him point blank,
blowing off half his head. Artus’s brother, three yards behind, was
secured by a drummer who was armed with nothing but a drumstick, thus
proving the utterly unnecessary killing of Artus. Two other prisoners
were captured later in the drain, ready to come out.

In the _Annual Register_ we read that on Saturday, July 16, 1760, the
alarm was given that a thousand prisoners had broken out of the Castle
and were abroad in the country. ‘To arms’ was beaten immediately. ‘You
would have been pleased to see with what readiness and alacrity the
Surrey Militia here, universally, officers and men, advanced towards the
place of danger’, says the correspondent, ‘I say, “towards,” because
when they got as far as Milkhouse Street, the alarm was discovered to be
a mistake. Many of the townspeople and countrymen joined them.’

On one Sunday morning in 1761 the good people of Cranbrook were sent
flying out of church by the news that the Sissinghurst prisoners had
broken out and were scouring the country fully armed, but this also was
a false alarm.

It was from the top of the still standing gatehouse-tower that the deed
was perpetrated which caused the following entry in the Cranbrook

‘1761. William Bassuck: killed by a French prisoner.’ Bassuck was on
sentry-go below, and the Frenchman dropped a pail on him.

In 1762 the misery of the prisoners at Sissinghurst culminated in a
Petition to the Admiralty, signed by almost all of them, of so forcible
and circumstantial a character, that in common justice it could not be
overlooked, and so Dr. Maxwell was sent down to examine the charges
against Cooke, the agent.

The Complaints and their replies were as follows:

(1) That the provisions were bad in quality, of short measure and badly

  Reply: Not proved.

(2) That cheese had been stopped four ‘maigre’ days in succession to
make good damage done by prisoners.

  Reply: Only upon two days.

(3) That prisoners had been put upon half allowance in the _cachot_ or
Black Hole for staying in the wards on account of not having sufficient
clothing to leave them.

  Reply: They were not put in the _cachot_, but upon half allowance for
remaining in the wards during the day contrary to the Regulations. There
was no need for them to lack ‘cloaths’.

(4) That they were put upon half allowance for appearing at a sudden
muster without clothes.

  Reply: This muster was ordered by the agent, Cooke, because he
suspected the prisoners of embezzling clothes and of gambling them away.

(5) That the prisoners had been threatened with being deprived of their
turn of Exchange for signing this Petition to the Board of Admiralty.

  Reply: There was no foundation for this statement.

(6) That Cooke had refused to pay them for more than eighteen days’ work
in carrying coals, although they were twenty-eight days.

  Reply: In reality they had only worked for parts of these days, and
had been paid for the work actually done.

(7) That Cooke showed no zeal for the welfare of the prisoners.

  Reply: That there is no foundation for this statement.

(8) That they were ill-treated by the Militia guards.

This last complaint was the most serious of all, and the examination
into it revealed a state of affairs by no means creditable to the
authorities. Here it should be stated that on account of the great
and constant demand made by the war upon the regular troops, the
task of guarding the prisons was universally performed by the
Militia—undesirable men from more than one point of view, especially
from their lack of self-restraint and their accessibility to
bribery. The following cases were cited. On November 28, 1757,
Ferdinand Brehost, or Gratez, was shot dead by a sentry of General
Amherst’s regiment. The sentry in defence said that he had had
orders to fire upon any prisoners who did not take down the clothes
they hung upon the palisades when ordered to.

It was adjudged that the sentry fired too precipitately.

On the night of October 29, 1759, the prisoner Jacobus Loffe was shot
dead in his hammock by a sentry.

In defence the sentry said that he called out several times for the
prisoners to put out their lights. They refused and bid him fire and be
damned. The evidence showed that all the prisoners were asleep, and that
the light seen by the sentry was the reflection on the window of a lamp
outside the building.

The same judgement as in the other case was given.

On July 11, 1760, two prisoners were shot by a sentry. John Bramston,
the sentry, said in defence that a prisoner came too near the forbidden
barrier, refused to keep off when ordered to, with the result that
Bramston fired, killed him, and another prisoner further away.

Bramston was tried at Maidstone and acquitted, the jury finding that he
did no more than his duty in accordance with the general orders at the
Castle. Still, it came out in evidence that orders had been issued that
sentries were not to fire if the object could be secured by the turnkey.
Colonel Fairfax indeed ordered that sentries were not to fire at all. He
had found out that Bramston was sometimes out of his senses, and he had
discharged him from the service, but he was actually on duty after this
affair, was found to have loaded his piece with two balls, and after the
murder on the 11th had threatened to kill more prisoners.

On the same day two other prisoners were stabbed by sentries. In one
case, however, a prisoner gave evidence in favour of the sentry, saying
that he did not believe there was any intention to kill, but that the
sentry being surrounded by a crowd of prisoners, pushed his bayonet to
keep them at a distance for fear that they intended mischief.

It also came out that the soldiers were allowed to strike the prisoners
with the flats of their sabres. This was now forbidden. Also that the
soldiers abused the power they had of taking away the prisoners’ knives
when they made improper use of them, and actually sold the knives thus
confiscated to other prisoners. Also that the soldiers wilfully damaged
forms and tables so that the prisoners should be punished.

The Commissioners of the ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office, in their summing up of
Dr. Maxwell’s evidence, said that, while there was no doubt much
exaggeration by the petitioners, there was too much reason for
complaint, and found that the person in charge was not so much to blame,
but the ‘common centinels’, whose understanding did not enable them to
distinguish between the letter and the meaning of their orders, and that
this arose from the lack of printed standing orders. The officers of the
guard had arbitrary powers independent of the agent, and the latter said
when asked why he did not complain to the Board, that he did not care to
dispute with the officers.

It will be noted that this inquiry was not held until 1762, that is to
say, until seven years of tyranny had been practised upon these
unfortunate foreigners, and seven years of nameless horrors suffered in
forced silence. Small wonder that throughout the correspondence of this
period Sissinghurst is spoken of with disgust and loathing.

The record of only one Sissinghurst prisoner marrying an Englishwoman
exists—that, in 1762, of Laurence Calberte, ‘a prisoner among the French
at Sissinghurst House’, to Mary Pepper.

I have to thank Mr. Neve of the Castle House, Sissinghurst, for his
kindness in allowing me to have the photograph taken of some exquisite
little articles made in wood by Sissinghurst prisoners, and also to
reproduce a picture of the ‘Castle’, as it was when used as a prison.

After its evacuation at the Peace of Paris, in 1763, Sissinghurst Castle
became a workhouse, and when it ceased to be used for this purpose
gradually fell into ruin and was pulled down.



                               CHAPTER X
                           THE PRISONS ASHORE
                            2. NORMAN CROSS

It is just as hard for the visitor to-day to the site of Norman Cross,
to realize that here stood, until almost within living memory, a huge
war-prison, as it is at Sissinghurst. Whether one approaches it from
Peterborough, six miles away, through the semi-rural village of Yaxley,
by which name the prison was often called, or by the Great North Road
from Stilton—famous for the sale, not the manufacture, of the famous
cheese, and for the wreck of one of the stateliest coaching inns of
England, the _Bell_—we see but a large, ordinary-looking meadow, dotted
with trees, with three or four houses on its borders, and except for its
size, which is nearly forty acres, differing in no way from the fields

An examination of the space, however, under the guidance of Dr. Walker,
does reveal remains. We can trace the great ditch which passed round the
prison inside the outer wall; some of the twenty-one wells which were
sunk still remain, and about thirty feet of the original red brick wall,
built in the old ‘English bond’ style, is still above ground. As, with
the exceptions presently to be noted, the prisons proper, with the
offices pertaining thereto, were built entirely of wood, and were sold
and removed when the prison ceased to be, nothing of it remains here,
although some of the buildings were re-erected in Peterborough and the
neighbouring villages, and may still be seen. The only war-time
buildings remaining are the Prison Superintendent’s house, now occupied
by Alderman Herbert, and the agent’s house, now belonging to Mr. Franey,
both, of course, much altered and beautified, and one which has been
variously described to me as the officers’ quarters and the Barrack
Master’s residence. In the Musée Historique Militaire at the Invalides,
in Paris, there is a most minutely and beautifully executed model of the
Norman Cross Prison, the work of one Foulley, who was a prisoner here
for five years and three months. Not only are the buildings, wells,
palisades, pumps, troughs, and other details represented, but tiny
models of prisoners at work and at play are dotted about, and in front
of the chief, the eastern gate, a battalion of Militia is drawn up,
complete to the smallest particulars of arms and equipment.

Not the least interesting relic of the prison days is the prisoners’
burial-ground at the lower end of a field sloping down from the west
side of the Great North Road.

On July 28 of the present year (1914) a memorial to the prisoners of war
who died at Norman Cross was unveiled by Lord Weardale. The idea
originated with Dr. T. J. Walker and Mr. W. H. Sands, and was developed
by the Entente Cordiale Society. The memorial is in the form of a stone
pillar, surmounted by an eagle with outstretched wings, standing upon a
square pedestal approached by steps, the lowermost of which is shaped
like the palisading of the old prison, and faces the Great North Road,
the burial ground being at the bottom of the field behind it. Upon the
monument is inscribed:

‘In Memoriam. This column was erected A.D. 1914 to the memory of 1,770
soldiers and sailors, natives or allies of France, taken prisoners of
war during the Republican and Napoleonic wars with Great Britain, A.D.
1793–1814, who died in the military dépôt at Norman Cross, which
formerly stood near this spot, 1797–1814.

                 Dulce et decorum est pro patriâ mori.

                               Erected by

The Entente Cordiale Society and friends on the initiative of the late
W. H. Sands, Esq., Honorary Secretary of the Society.’

One might expect to find at Yaxley Church, as in so many other places in
England associated with the sojourn of war prisoners, epitaphs or
registry entries of officers who died on parole, but there are none. All
that Yaxley preserves of its old connexion with the war prison are the
stone caps of the prison east gate piers, which now surmount the piers
of the west churchyard entrance, and the tablet in the church to the
memory of Captain Draper, R.N., an agent of the prison, which is thus

‘Inscribed at the desire and the sole Expence of the French Prisoners of
War at Norman Cross, to the memory of Captain John Draper, R.N., who for
the last 18 months of his life was Agent to the Depôt; in testimony of
their esteem and gratitude for his humane attention to their comforts
during that too short period. He died February 23rd, 1813, aged 53



  Unveiled July 28, 1914

The Rev. Arthur Brown, in his little book _The French Prisoners of
Norman Cross_, says that the prisoners asked to be represented at his
funeral, and that their petition concluded with the assurance that,
_mauvais sujets_ as some of them were, not one would take advantage of
the liberty accorded them to attempt to escape. It is gratifying to know
that their request was granted. Other relics of the prisoners, in the
shape of articles made by them for sale with the rudest of tools and the
commonest of materials, are tolerably abundant, although the choicest
are to be seen in museums and private collections, notably those in the
Peterborough Museum and in the possession of Mr. Dack, the curator.
Probably no more varied and beautiful specimens of French prisoner work
in wood, bone, straw, and grass, than these just mentioned, are to be
found in Britain.

The market at which these articles were sold was held daily from 10 a.m.
till noon, according to some accounts, twice a week according to others.
It was important enough, it is said, to have dwarfed that at
Peterborough: as much as £200 was known to have been taken during a
week, and at one time the concourse of strangers at it was so great that
an order was issued that in future nobody was to be admitted unless
accompanied by a commissioned officer. Visitors were searched, and
severe penalties were imposed upon any one dealing in Government stores,
a Yaxley tradesman in whose possession were found palliasses and other
articles marked with the broad arrow being fined heavily, condemned to
stand in the pillory at Norman Cross, and imprisoned for two years.

In the year 1796 it became absolutely necessary that special
accommodation should be provided for the ever-increasing number of
prisoners of war brought to Britain. The hulks were full to congestion,
the other regular prisons,—such as they were,—the improvised prisons,
and the hired houses, were crowded; disease was rife among the captives
on account of the impossibility of maintaining proper sanitation, and
the spirit of revolt was showing itself among men just then in the full
flush of the influences of the French Revolution. Norman Cross was
selected as the site of a prison which should hold 7,000 men, and it was
well chosen, being a tract of land forty acres in extent, healthily
situated on high ground, connected with the sea by water-ways via Lynn
and Peterborough; and with London, seventy-eight miles distant, by the
Great North Road. Time pressed; buildings of stone or brick were not to
be thought of, so it was planned that all should be of wood, surrounded
by a brick wall, but this last was not completed for some time after the
opening of the prison. The skeletons of the prison blocks were framed
and shaped in London, sent down, and in four months, that is to say in
March 1797, the labour of 500 carpenters, working Sundays and week-days,
rendered some of the blocks ready for habitation.

The first agent appointed was Mr. Delafons, but he only acted for a few
days previous to the arrival of Mr. James Perrot from Portchester, on
April 1, 1797. The superintendent of the transport of the prisoners was
Captain Daniel Woodriff, R.N.

On March 23, 1797, Woodriff received notice and instructions about the
first arrival of prisoners. On March 26 they came—934 in number—in
barges from Lynn to Yaxley, at the rate of 1_s._ 10_d._ per man, and
victualling at 7_d._ per man per day, the sustenance being one pound of
bread or biscuit, and three quarters of a pound of beef.

The arrivals came in fast, so that between April 7 and May 18, 1797,
3,383 prisoners (exclusive of seven dead and three who escaped), passed
under the care of the ten turnkeys and the eighty men of the Caithness
Legion who guarded Norman Cross.


  1. Officers’ Barracks.

  2. Field Officers’ Barracks.

  3. Barrack Master’s House.

  4. Soldiers’ Barracks.

  5. Non-Commissioned Officers.

  6. Military Hospital.

  7. Magazines.

  8. Engine-house.

  9. Guard Rooms.

 10. Soldiers’ Cooking-houses,

 11. Canteens.

 12. Military Straw Barn.

 13. Officers’ Privies.

 14. Soldiers’ Privies.

 15. Shed for spare soil carts.

 16. Block House.

 17. Agent and Superintendent’s House.

 18. Prisoners’ Straw Barn.

 19. Dead House.

 20. Prisoners’ Hospitals.

 21. Barracks for Prisoners of War.

 22. Apartments for Clerks and Assistant Surgeons.

 23. Agent’s Office.

 24. Store House.

 25. Prisoners’ Cooking-houses.

 26. Turnkeys’ Lodges.

 27. Prisoners’ Black Hole.

 28. Wash-house to Prisoners’ Hospital.

 29. Building for Medical Stores.

 30. Prisoners’ Privies.

 31. Coal Yards.

 32. Privies.

 33. Ash Pits.

     Wells marked thus o.

  A. Airing Grounds.

  B. Lord Carysfort’s Grounds.

            NORMAN CROSS PRISON. (_Hill’s Plan_, 1797–1803.)


Complaints and troubles soon came to light. A prisoner in 1797, ‘who
appeared above the common class of men’, complained that the bread and
beef were so bad that they were not fit for a prisoner’s dog to eat,
that the British Government was not acquainted with the treatment of the
prisoners, and that this was the agent’s fault for not keeping a
sufficiently strict eye upon his subordinates. This was confirmed, not
only by inquiry among the prisoners, but by the evidence of the petty
officers and soldiers of the garrison, who said ‘as fellow creatures
they must allow that the provisions given to the prisoners were not fit
for them to eat, and that the water they had was much better than the
beer’. In spite of this evidence, the samples sent up by the request of
the ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office in reply to this complaint, were pronounced

In July 1797 the civil officials at Norman Cross complained of
annoyances, interferences, and insults from the military. Major-General
Bowyer, in command, in his reply stated: ‘I cannot conceive the civil
officers have a right to take prisoners out of their prisons to the
canteens and other places, which this day has been mentioned to me.’

By July 18 such parts of the prison as were completed were very full,
and in November the buildings were finished, and the sixteen blocks,
each holding 400 prisoners, were crowded. The packing of the hammocks in
these blocks was close, but not closer than in the men-of-war of the
period, and not very much closer than in the machinery-crowded big ships
of to-day. The blocks, or _casernes_ as they were called, measured 100
feet long by twenty-four feet broad, and were two stories high. On the
ground floor the hammocks were slung from posts three abreast, and there
were three tiers. In the upper story were only two tiers. As to the life
at Norman Cross, it appears to me from the documentary evidence
available to have been more tolerable than at any of the other great
prisons, if only from the fact that the place had been specially built
for its purpose, and was not, as in most other places, adapted. The food
allowance was the same as elsewhere; viz., on five days of the week each
prisoner had one and a half pounds of bread, half a pound of beef,
greens or pease or oatmeal, and salt. On Wednesday and Friday one pound
of herrings or cod-fish was substituted for the beef, and beer could be
bought at the canteen. The description by George Borrow in
_Lavengro_—‘rations of carrion meat and bread from which I have seen the
very hounds occasionally turn away’, is now generally admitted to be as
inaccurate as his other remarks concerning the Norman Cross which he
could only remember as a very small boy.

The outfit was the same as in other prisons, but I note that in the year
1797 the store-keeper at Norman Cross was instructed to supply each
prisoner _as often as was necessary_, and not, as elsewhere, at stated
intervals, with one jacket, one pair of trousers, two pairs of
stockings, two shirts, one pair of shoes, one cap, and one hammock. By
the way, the prisoners’ shoes are ordered ‘not to have long straps for
buckles, but short ears for strings’.

On August 8, 1798, Perrot writes from Stilton to Woodriff:

‘If you remember, on returning from the barracks on Sunday, Captain
Llewellin informed us that a report had been propagated that seven
prisoners intended to escape that day, which we both looked upon as a
mere report; they were counted both that night, but with little effect
from the additions made to their numbers by the men you brought from
Lynn, and yesterday morning and afternoon, but in such confusion from
the prisoners refusing to answer, from others giving in fictitious
names, and others answering for two or three. In consequence of all
these irregularities I made all my clerks, a turnkey, and a file of
soldiers, go into the south east quadrangle this morning at five
o’clock, and muster each prison separately, and found that six prisoners
from the Officers’ Prison have escaped, but can obtain none of their
names except Captain Dorfe, who some time ago applied to me for to
obtain liberty for him to reside with his family at Ipswich where he had
married an English wife. The officers remaining have separately and
conjunctively refused to give the names of the other five, for which I
have ordered the whole to be put on half allowance to-morrow. After the
most diligent search we could only find one probable place where they
had escaped, by the end next the South Gate, by breaking one of the
rails of the picket, but how they passed afterwards is a mystery still

During the years 1797–8 there were many Dutch prisoners here, chiefly
taken at Camperdown.

William Prickard, of the Leicester Militia, was condemned to receive 500
lashes for talking of escape with a prisoner.

On February 21, 1798, Mr. James Stewart of Peterborough thus wrote to
Captain Woodriff:

‘I have received a heavy complaint from the prisoners of war of being
beat and otherwise ill-treated by the officials at the Prison. I can
have no doubt but that they exaggerate these complaints, for what they
describe as a dungeon I have examined myself and find it to be a proper
place to confine unruly prisoners in, being above ground, and appears
perfectly dry. How far you are authorized to chastise the prisoners of
war I cannot take upon me to determine, but I presume to think it should
be done sparingly and with temper. I was in hopes the new system
adopted, with the additional allowance of provisions would have made the
prisoners more easy and contented under their confinement, but it would
appear it caused more turbulence and uneasiness.... That liquor is
conveyed to the prisoners I have no doubt, you know some of the turnkeys
have been suspected.’

Two turnkeys were shortly afterwards dismissed for having conveyed large
quantities of ale into the prison.

Rendered necessary by complaints from the neighbourhood, the following
order was issued by the London authorities in 1798.

‘Obscene figures and indecent toys and all such indecent representations
tending to disseminate Lewdness and Immorality exposed for sale or
prepared for that purpose are to be instantly destroyed.’

Constant escapes made the separation of officers from men and the
suspension of all intercourse between them to be strictly enforced.

Perrot died towards the end of 1798, and Woodriff was made agent in
January 1799. Soon after Woodriff’s assuming office the Mayor of Lynn
complained of the number of prisoners at large in the town, and
unguarded, waiting with Norman Cross passports for cartel ships to take
them to France. To appreciate this complaint we must remember that the
rank and file, and not a few of the officers, of the French
Revolutionary Army and Navy, who were prisoners of war in Britain, were
of the lowest classes of society, desperate, lawless, religionless,
unprincipled men who in confinement were a constant source of anxiety
and watchfulness, and at large were positively dangers to society. If a
body of men like this got loose, as did fifteen on the night of April 5,
1799, from Norman Cross, the fact was enough to carry terror throughout
a countryside.

Yet there was a request made this year from the Norman Cross prisoners
that they might have priests sent to them. At first the order was that
none should be admitted except to men dangerously ill, but later, Ruello
and Vexier were permitted to reside in Number 8 Caserne, under the rule
‘that your officers do strictly watch over their communication and
conduct, lest, under pretence of religion, any stratagems or devices be
carried out to the public prejudice by people of whose disposition to
abuse indulgence there have already existed but too many examples’.

That Captain Woodriff’s position was rendered one of grave anxiety and
responsibility by the bad character of many of the prisoners under his
charge is very clear from the continual tenor of the correspondence
between him and the Transport Board. The old punishment of simple
confinement in the Black Hole being apparently quite useless, it was
ordered that offenders sentenced to the Black Hole should be put on half
rations, and also lose their turn of exchange. This last was the
punishment most dreaded by the majority of the prisoners, although there
was a regular market for these turns of exchange, varying from £40
upwards, which would seem to show that to many a poor fellow, life at
Norman Cross with some capital to gamble with was preferable to a return
to France in exchange for a British prisoner of similar grade, only to
be pressed on board a man-of-war of the period, or to become a unit of
the hundreds and thousands of soldiers sent here and there to be maimed
or slaughtered in a cause of which they knew little and cared less.

It is worthy of note that these increased punishments were made law with
the concurrence, if not at the suggestion, of the French Agent, Niou,
who remarked with respect to the system of buying and selling turns of
exchange, ‘. . . une conduite aussi lâche devant être arrêtée par tous
les moyens possibles. Je viens en conséquence de mettre les Vendéens (I
am inclined to regard ‘Vendéens’ as a mistake for ‘vendants’) à la queue
des échanges.’

The year 1799 seems to have been a disturbed one at Norman Cross. In
August the prisoners showed their resentment at having detailed personal
descriptions of them taken, by disorderly meetings, the result being
that all trafficking between them was stopped, and the daily market at
the prison-gate suspended.

Stockdale, the Lynn manager of the prison traffic between the coast and
Norman Cross, writes on one occasion that of 125 prisoners who had been
started for the prison, ‘there were two made their escape, and one shot
on their march to Lynn, and I am afraid we lost two or three last
night ... there are some very artful men among them who will make their
escape if possible’.

Attempts to escape during the last stages of the journey from the coast
to the prison were frequent. On February 4, 1808, the crews of two
privateers, under an escort of the 77th Regiment, were lodged for the
night in the stable of the _Angel Inn_ at Peterborough. One Simon tried
to escape. The sentry challenged and fired. Simon was killed, and the
coroner’s jury brought in the verdict of ‘Justifiable homicide’.

On another occasion a column of prisoners was crossing the Nene Bridge
at Peterborough, when one of them broke from the ranks, and sprang into
the river. He was shot as he rose to the surface.

On account of the proximity of Norman Cross to a countryside of which
one of the staple industries was the straw manufacture, the prevention
of the smuggling of straw into the prison for the purpose of being made
into bonnets, baskets, plaits, &c., constantly occupied the attention of
the authorities. In 1799 the following circular was sent by the
Transport Board to all prisons and dépôts in the kingdom:

‘Being informed that the Revenues and Manufactures of this country are
considerably injured by the extensive sale of Straw Hats made by the
Prisoners of War in this country, we do hereby require and direct you to
permit no Hat, Cap, or Bonnet manufactured by any of the Prisoners of
War in your custody, to be sold or sent out of the Prison in future,
under any pretence whatever, and to seize and destroy all such articles
as may be detected in violation of this order.’

This traffic, however, was continued, for in 1807 the Transport Board,
in reply to a complaint by a Mr. John Poynder to Lord Liverpool,
‘requests the magistrates to help in stopping the traffic with prisoners
of war in prohibited articles, straw hats and straw plait especially, as
it has been the means of selling obscene toys, pictures, &c., to the
great injury of the morals of the rising generation’.

To continue the prison record in order of dates: in 1801 the Transport
Board wrote to Otto, Commissioner in England of the French Republic,


‘Having directed Capt. Woodriff, Superintendant at Norman Cross Prison,
to report to us on the subject of some complaints made by the prisoners
at that place, he has informed me of a most pernicious habit among the
prisoners which he has used every possible means to prevent, but without
success. Some of the men, whom he states to have been long confined
without receiving any supplies from their friends, have only the prison
allowance to subsist on, and this allowance he considers sufficient to
nourish and keep in health if they received it daily, but he states this
is not the case, although the full ration is regularly issued by the
Steward to each mess of 12 men. There are in these prisons, he observes,
some men—if they deserve that name—who possess money with which they
purchase of some unfortunate and unthinking fellow-prisoner his ration
of bread for several days together, and frequently _both bread and beef
for a month_, which he, the merchant, seizes upon daily and sells it out
again to some other unfortunate being on the same usurious terms,
allowing the former _one half-penny worth of potatoes daily_ to keep him
alive. Not contented with this more than savage barbarity, he purchases
next his clothes and bedding, and sees the miserable man lie naked on
his plank unless he will consent to allow him one half-penny a night to
lie in his own hammock, which he makes him pay by a further deprivation
of his ration when his original debt is paid.... In consequence of this
representation we have directed Capt. Woodriff to keep a list of every
man of this description of merchants above mentioned in order they may
be put at the bottom of the list of exchange.’

In this year a terrible epidemic carried off nearly 1,000 prisoners. The
Transport Board’s Surveyor was sent down, and he reported that the
general condition of the prison was very bad, especially as regarded
sanitation. The buildings were merely of fir-quartering, and
weather-boarded on the outside, and without lining inside, the result
being that the whole of the timbering was a network of holes bored by
the prisoners in order to get light inside. In the twelve solitary cells
of the Black Hole there was no convenience whatever. The wells were only
in tolerable condition. The ventilation of the French officers’ rooms
was very bad. The hospital was better than other parts of the prison.
The report notes that the carpenters, sawyers, and masons were
prisoners, a fact at once constituting an element of uncertainty, if not
of danger. In December 1801 Woodriff found it necessary to post up an
order about shamming ill in order to be changed to better quarters:

‘Ayant connaissance que nombre de prisonniers français recherchent
journellement les moyens de se donner l’air aussi misérable que possible
dans le dessein d’être envoyés à l’Hôpital ou au No. 13 par le
chirurgien de visite, et que s’ils sont reçus, soit pour l’un ou
l’autre, ils vendent de suite leurs effets (s’ils ne l’ont déjà fait
pour se faire recevoir) le Gouvernement done [_sic_] avis de nouveau
qu’aucun prisonnier ne sera reçu pour l’Hôpital ou pour le No. 13 s’il
ne produit ses effets de Literie et les Hardes qu’il peut avoir reçu

Generals Rochambeau and Boyer were paroled prisoners who seem to have
studied how to give the authorities as much trouble and annoyance as
possible. The Transport Board, weary of granting them indulgences which
they abused, and of making them offers which they contemptuously
rejected, clapped them into Norman Cross in September 1804. They were
placed in the wards of the military hospital, a sentinel at their doors,
and no communication allowed between them, or their servants, and the
rest of the prisoners. They were not allowed newspapers, no special
allowance was made them of coals, candles, and wood, they were not
permitted to go beyond the hospital airing ground, and Captain
Pressland, the then agent of the prison, was warned to be strictly on
his guard, and to watch them closely, despite his favourable remarks
upon their deportment. It was at about this time that the alarm was
widespread that the prisoners of war in Britain were to co-operate with
an invasion by their countrymen from without. General Boyer, at Tiverton
in 1803, ‘whilst attentive to the ladies, did not omit to curse, even to
_them_, his fate in being deprived of his arms, and without hope of
being useful to his countrymen when they arrive in England’. Rochambeau
at Norman Cross was even more ridiculous, for when he heard that
Bonaparte’s invasion was actually about to come off, he appeared for two
days in the airing ground in full uniform, booted and spurred. Later
news sent him into retirement.

Extracts from contemporary newspapers show that the alarm was very
general. Said _The Times_:

‘The French prisoners on the prospect of an invasion of this country
begin to assume their Republican _fierté_; they tell their guards—“It is
your turn to guard us now, but before the winter is over it will be our
turn to guard you.”

‘The prisoners already in our hands, and those who may be added, will
occasion infinite perplexity. The known licentiousness of their
principles, the utter contempt of all laws of honour which is so
generally prevalent among the French Republicans, and the audacity of
exertions which may arise from a desire of co-operating with an invading
force, may render them extremely dangerous, especially if left in the
country, where the thinness of the population prevents perpetual
inspection and where alarm flies so rapidly as to double any mischief.’

A suggestion was made that the prisoners should be concentrated in the
prisons of London and neighbourhood, and some newspapers even echoed
Robespierre’s truculent advice: ‘Make no prisoners.’

In 1804, in reply to another application that priests might reside
within the prison boundaries, the authorities said:

‘As to the French priests and the procurement of lodgings at Stilton, we
have nothing to do with them, but with respect to the proposal of their
inhabitation in our Dépôts, we cannot possibly allow of such a measure
at this critical time to _Foreigners of that equivocal description_.’

The ever-recurring question as to the exact lines of demarcation to be
drawn between the two chief men of the prison, the Agent and the
Commander of the garrison, occupies a great deal of Departmental
literature. We have given one specimen already, and in 1804 Captain
Pressland was thus addressed by his masters in London:

‘As the interior regulation and management of the Prison is entirely
under your direction, we do not see any necessity for returns being made
daily to the C.O. of the Guard, and we approve of your reason for
declining to make such returns; but as, on the other hand, the C.O. is
answerable for the security of the Prison, it is not proper that you
should interfere in that respect any further than merely to suggest what
may appear to you to be necessary or proper to be done.’

In the same year a serious charge was brought against Captain Pressland
by the prisoners, that he was in the habit of deducting two and a half
per cent from all sums passing through his hands for payment to the
prisoners. He admitted having done so, and got off with a rebuke. It may
be mentioned here that the pay of a prison agent was thirty shillings
per diem, the same as that of a junior post captain on sea fencible
service—quarters, but no allowances except £10 10_s._ per annum for
stationery. In 1805 the boys’ building was put up. At first the
suggested site was on the old burial ground; but as it was urged that
such a proceeding might produce much popular clamour, as well as ‘other
disagreeable consequences’, it was put outside the outer stockade, north
of the Hospital. It is said that the boys were here brought up as
musicians by the Bishop of Moulins.

At this time escapes seem to have been very frequent, and this in spite
of the frequent changing of the garrison, and the rule that no soldier
knowing French should be on guard duty. All implements and edged tools
were taken from the prisoners, only one knife being allowed, which was
to be returned every night, locked up in a box, and placed in the
Guard-room until the next morning, and failure to give up knives meant
the Black Hole. Any prisoner attempting to escape was to be executed
immediately, but I find no record of this drastic sentence being carried
into effect.

From _The Times_ of October 15, 1804, I take the following:

‘An alarming spirit of insubordination was on Wednesday evinced by the
French prisoners, about 3,000, at Norman Cross. An incessant uproar was
kept up all the morning, and at noon their intention to attempt the
destruction of the barrier of the prison became so obvious that the C.O.
at the Barrack, apprehensive that the force under his command,
consisting only of the Shropshire Militia and one battalion of the Army
of reserve, would not be sufficient in case of necessity to environ and
restrain so large a body of prisoners, dispatched a messenger requiring
the assistance of the Volunteer force at Peterborough. Fortunately the
Yeomanry had had a field day, and one of the troops was undismissed when
the messenger arrived. The troops immediately galloped into the
Barracks. In the evening a tumult still continuing among the prisoners,
and some of them taking advantage of the extreme darkness to attempt to
escape, further reinforcements were sent for and continued on duty all
night. The prisoners, having cut down a portion of the wood enclosure
during the night, nine of them escaped through the aperture. In another
part of the prison, as soon as daylight broke, it was found that they
had undermined a distance of 34 feet towards the Great South Road, under
the fosse which surrounds the prison, although it is 4 feet deep, and it
is not discovered they had any tools. Five of the prisoners have been

A little later in the year, on a dark, stormy Saturday night, seven
prisoners escaped through a hole they had cut in the wooden wall, and
were away all Sunday. At 8 p.m. on that day, a sergeant and a corporal
of the Durham Militia, on their way north on furlough, heard men talking
a ‘foreign lingo’ near Whitewater toll-bar. Suspecting them to be
escaped prisoners, they attacked and secured two of them, but five got
off. On Monday two of these were caught near Ryall toll-bar in a state
of semi-starvation, having hidden in Uffington Thicket for twenty-four
hours; the other three escaped.

One of the most difficult tasks which faced the agents of prisons in
general, and of Norman Cross in particular, was the checking of
contraband traffic between the prisoners and outsiders. At Norman Cross,
as I have said, the chief illicit trade was in straw-plaiting work.
Strange to say, although the interests of the poor country people were
severely injured by this trade, the wealth and influence of the chief
dealers were so great that it was difficult to get juries to convict,
and when they did convict, to get judges to pass deterrent sentences. In
1807, for instance, legal opinion was actually given that a publican
could not have his licence refused because he had carried on the
straw-plait traffic with the prisoners, although it was an open secret
that the innkeepers of Stilton, Wansford, Whittlesea, Peterborough, and
even the landlord of the inn which in those days stood opposite where
now is the present Norman Cross Hotel, were deeply engaged in it.

In 1808, ‘from motives of humanity’, the prisoners at Norman Cross were
allowed to make baskets, boxes, ornaments, &c., of straw, if the
straw-plaiting traffic could be effectually prevented. The manufacture
of these articles, which were often works of the most refined beauty and
delicacy, of course did not harm the poor, rough straw-plaiters of
Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire; but the radius of its sale was
limited, the straw-plaiting meant quick and good returns, and the
difficulty to be faced by the authorities was to ensure the rightful use
of the straw introduced. In 1808 there were many courts-martial upon
soldiers of the garrison for being implicated in this traffic, and in
each case the soldier was severely flogged and the straw bonnet ordered
to be burned. It was no doubt one of these episodes which so aroused
George Borrows ire.[4] The guard of the coach from Lincoln to Stilton
was put under observation by order of the Transport Office, being
suspected of assisting people to carry the straw plait made in the
prison to Baldock to be made into bonnets.

In 1809 Pressland writes thus seriously to the Transport Office:

‘That every step that could possibly be taken by General Williams
[Commander of the Garrison] and myself to prevent this illicit Traffic
[has been taken], the Board will, I trust, readily admit, and I am well
convinced that without the prosecution of those dealers who are
particularized in the documents forwarded by the Lincoln coach this
evening, it will ever continue, to the great injury of the country in
general; for already eight or nine soldiers have deserted from a dread
of punishment, having been detected by those whom they knew would inform
against them, and I shall leave the Board to judge how far the
discipline of the Regiments has been hurt, and the Soldiers seduced from
their duty by the bribes they are constantly receiving from Barnes,
Lunn, and Browne. It now becomes a serious and alarming case, for if
these persons can with so much facility convey into the Prison sacks of
5 and 6 feet in length, they might convey weapons of every description
to annoy those whose charge they are under, to the great detriment of
H.M.’s service, and the lives of His subjects most probably.’



  Made by French prisoners of war

A large bundle of documents contains the trial of Barnes, Lunn, Browne,
and others, for, in conjunction with bribed soldiers of the garrison,
taking straw into the prison and receiving the plaited article in
exchange. The evidence of soldiers of the guard showed that James,
ostler at the _Bell_, Stilton, had been seen many times at midnight
throwing sacks of straw over the palisades, and receiving straw plait in
return, and also bonnets, and that he was always assisted by soldiers.
Barnes had said that he would get straw into the prison in spite of
General Williams or anybody else, as he had bought five fields of wheat
for the purpose. He was acting for his brother, a Baldock straw-dealer.

The trial came off at Huntingdon on March 20, 1811, the result being
that Lunn got twelve months, and the others six months each. It may be
noted here that so profitable for dealers was this contraband trade in
war-prison manufactured straw articles, that a Bedfordshire man, Matthew
Wingrave, found it to be worth his while to buy up wheat and barley land
in the neighbourhood of the great Scottish dépôt at Valleyfield, near
Penicuik, and carry on business there.

As an instance of the resentment aroused by this judgement among those
interested in the illicit trade, a Sergeant Ives of the West Essex
Militia, who had been especially active in the suppression of the
straw-plait business, was, according to the _Taunton Courier_, stopped
between Stilton and Norman Cross by a number of fellows, who, after
knocking him down and robbing him of his watch and money, forced open
his jaws with savage ferocity and cut off a piece of his tongue.

In November 1807 a brick wall was built round Norman Cross prison; the
outer palisade which it replaced being used to repair the inner.

In 1809 Flaigneau, a prisoner, was tried at Huntingdon for murdering a
turnkey. The trial lasted six hours, but in spite of the instructions of
the judge, the jury brought him in _Not Guilty_.

Forgery and murder brought the prisoners under the Civil Law. Thus in
1805 Nicholas Deschamps and Jean Roubillard were tried at Huntingdon
Summer Assizes for forging £1 bank notes, which they had done most
skilfully. They were sentenced to death, but were respited during His
Majesty’s pleasure, and remained in Huntingdon gaol for nine years,
until they were pardoned and sent back to France in 1814.

From the _Stamford Mercury_ of September 16, 1808, I take the following:

‘Early on Friday morning last Charles François Maria Boucher, a French
officer, a prisoner of war in this country, was conveyed from the County
Gaol at Huntingdon to Yaxley Barracks where he was hanged, agreeable to
his sentence at the last assizes, for stabbing with a knife, with intent
to kill Alexander Halliday, in order to effect his escape from that
prison. The whole garrison was under arms and all the prisoners in the
different apartments were made witnesses of the impressive scene.’

I shall deal later in detail with the subject of prisoners on parole, so
that it suffices here to say that every care was taken to avoid the just
reproach of the earlier years of the great wars that officer prisoners
of war in England were promiscuously herded on hulks and in prisons with
the rank and file, and it was an important part of Prison Agent’s duties
to examine each fresh arrival of prisoners with a view to selecting
those of character and the required rank qualifying them for the
privileges of being allowed on parole in certain towns and villages set
apart for the purpose.

In 1796 about 100 Norman Cross prisoners were out on parole in
Peterborough and the neighbourhood. The _Wheatsheaf_ at Stibbington was
a favourite house of call with the parole prisoners, says the Rev. A.
Brown in the before-quoted book, and this, when afterwards a farmhouse,
belonged to an old man, born before the close of the war, who told Dr.
Walker that as a child he had often seen the prisoners regale themselves
here with the excellent cooking of his grandmother, the milestone which
was their limit from Wansford, where they lodged, being just outside the

The parole officers seem to have been generally received with kindness
and hospitality by the neighbouring gentry, and a few marriages with
English girls are recorded, although when it became known that such
unions were not recognized as binding by the French Government, and that
even the English wives of Frenchmen were sent back from Morlaix, the
cartel port, the English girls became more careful. Some of the gentry,
indeed, seem to have interested themselves too deeply in the exiles, and
in 1801 the Transport Office requests the attention of its Agent ‘to the
practices of a person of some property near Peterborough, similar to
those for which Askew was convicted at the Huntingdon Assizes’—which was
for aiding prisoners to escape.

By the Treaty of Paris, May 30, 1814, Peace was declared between France
and Britain, and in the same month 4,617 French prisoners at Norman
Cross were sent home via Peterborough and Lynn unguarded, but the prison
was not finally evacuated until August. It was never again used as a
prison, but was pulled down and sold.

We have already become acquainted with General Pillet as a rabid
chronicler of life on the Chatham hulks; we shall meet him again out on
parole, and now let us hear what he has to say about Norman Cross in his
book on England.

‘I have seen at Norman Cross a plot of land where nearly four thousand
men, out of seven thousand in this prison, were buried. Provisions were
then dear in England, and our Government, it was said, had refused to
pay the balance of an account due for prisoners. To settle this account
all the prisoners were put on half-rations, and to make sure that they
should die, the introduction of food for sale, according to custom, was
forbidden. To reduced quantity was added inferior quality of the
provisions served out. There was distributed four times a week,
worm-eaten biscuit, fish and salt meat; three times a week black, half
baked bread made of mouldy flour or of black wheat. Soon after eating
this one was seized with a sort of drunkenness, followed by violent
headache, diarrhoea, and redness of face; many died from a sort of
vertigo. For vegetables, uncooked beans were served up. In fact,
hundreds of men sank each day, starved to death, or poisoned by the
provisions. Those who did not die immediately, became so weak that
gradually they could digest nothing.’ (Then follow some details, too
disgusting to be given a place here, of the extremities to which
prisoners at Norman Cross were driven by hunger.) ‘Hunger knows no
rules. The corpses of those who died were kept for five or six days
without being given up by their comrades, who by this means received the
dead men’s rations.’

This veracious chronicler continues:

‘I myself took a complaint to Captain Pressland. Next day, the officers
of the two militia battalions on guard at the prison, and some
civilians, arrived just at the moment for the distribution of the
rations. At their head was Pressland who was damning the prisoners
loudly. The rations were shown, and, as the whole thing had been
rehearsed beforehand, they were good. A report was drawn up by which it
was shown that the prisoners were discontented rascals who grumbled at
everything, that the food was unexceptionable, and that some of the
grumblers deserved to be shot, for an example. Next day the food was
just as bad as ever.... Certainly the prisoners had the chance of buying
provisions for themselves from the wives of the soldiers of the garrison
twice a week. But these women, bribed to ruin the prisoners, rarely
brought what was required, made the prisoners take what they brought,
and charged exorbitant prices, and, as payment had to be made in
advance, they settled things just as they chose.’

With reference to the medical attendance at Norman Cross, Pillet says:

‘I have been witness and victim, as prisoner of war, of the false oath
taken by the doctors at Norman Cross. They were supplied with medicines,
flannel, cotton stuffs, &c., in proportion to the number of prisoners,
for compresses, bandages, and so forth. When the supply was exhausted,
the doctor, in order to get a fresh supply, drew up his account of
usage, and swore before a jury that this account was exact. The wife of
the doctor at Norman Cross, like that of the doctor of the _Crown
Prince_ at Chatham, wore no petticoats which were not made of cotton and
flannel taken from the prison stores. So with the medicines and drugs.
The contractor found the supply ample, and that there was no necessity
to replace it, so he shared with the doctor and the apothecary the cost
of what he had never delivered, although in the accounts it appeared
that he had renewed their supplies.’

With George Borrow’s description in _Lavengro_ of the brutalities
exercised upon the prisoners at Norman Cross by the soldiers of the
garrison, many readers will be familiar. As the recollection is of his
early boyhood, it may be valued accordingly.

In 1808 a tourist among the churches of this part of East Anglia remarks
upon the good appearance of the Norman Cross prisoners, particularly of
the boys—the drummers and the ‘mousses’. He adds that many of the
prisoners had learned English enough ‘to chatter and to cheat’, and that
some of them upon release took away with them from two to three hundred
pounds as the proceeds of the sale of their handiwork in drawings, wood,
bone and straw work, chessmen, draughts, backgammon boards, dice, and
groups in wood and bone of all descriptions.



  _From a sketch by Captain George Lloyd_

In 1814 came Peace. The following extracts from contemporary newspapers
made by Mr. Charles Dack, Curator of the Peterborough Museum, refer to
the process of evacuation, Norman Cross Dépôt being also known as
Stilton or Yaxley Barracks.

‘11th April, 1814. The joy produced amongst the prisoners of war at
Norman Cross by the change of affairs in France (the abdication of
Bonaparte) is quite indescribable and extravagant. A large white flag is
set up in each of the quadrangles of the dépôt, under which the
thousands of poor fellows, who have been for years in confinement,
dance, sing, laugh, and cry for joy, with rapturous delight.

‘5th May, 1814. The prisoners at Stilton Barracks are so elated at the
idea of being so soon liberated, that they are all bent on selling their
stock, which they do rapidly at 50 per cent advanced prices. Many of
them have realized fortunes of from £500 to £1,000 each.

‘June 9th, Lynn. Upwards of 1,400 French prisoners of war have arrived
in this town during the last week from Stilton Barracks, to embark for
the coast of France. Dunkirk, we believe, is the place of their
destination. In consequence of the wind having been hitherto
unfavourable, they have been prevented from sailing, and we are glad to
state that their conduct in this town has hitherto been very orderly;
and although they are continually perambulating the street, and some of
them indulging in tolerable libations of ale, we have not heard of a
single act of indecorum taking place in consequence.’

To these notes the late Rev. G. N. Godwin, to whom I am indebted for
many details of life at Norman Cross, added in the columns of the
_Norwich Mercury_:

‘The garrison of the dépôt caught the infection of wild joy, and a party
of them seized the Glasgow mail coach on its arrival at Stilton, and
drew it to Norman Cross, whither the horses, coachman and guard were
obliged to follow. The prisoners were so elated at the prospect of being
liberated that they ceased to perform any work. Many of them had
realized fortunes of £500 to £1,000 each in Bank of England notes.’

The _Cambridge Chronicle_ gives a pleasant picture on May 6th: ‘About
200 prisoners from Norman Cross Barracks marched into this town on
Sunday last ... they walked about the town and ‘Varsity and conducted
themselves in an orderly manner.’

Although it was rumoured that the buildings at Norman Cross were to be
utilized, after the departure of the war prisoners, as a barrack for
artillery and cavalry, this did not come about. The buildings were sold
in lots; in Peterborough some of them were re-erected and still exist,
and a pair of slatted gates are now barn-doors at Alwalton Rectory Farm,
but the very memories of this great prison are fast dying out in this
age of the migration of the countryman.

On October 2, 1818, the sale of Norman Cross Barracks began, and lasted
nine days, the sum realized being about £10,000. A curious comment upon
the condition of the prison is presented by the fact that a house built
from some of it became known as ‘Bug Hall’, which has a parallel in the
case of Portchester Castle; some cottages built from the timber of the
_casernes_ there, when it ceased to be a war prison, being still known
as ‘Bug Row’.

In Shelley Row, Cambridge, is an ancient timbered barn which is known to
have been regularly used as a night-shelter for prisoners on their way
to Norman Cross.

                               CHAPTER XI
                           THE PRISONS ASHORE
                                3. PERTH

The following particulars about the great Dépôt at Perth are largely
taken from Mr. W. Sievwright’s book, now out of print and obtainable
with difficulty.[5] Mr. P. Baxter of Perth, however, transcribed it for
me from the copy in the Perth Museum, and to him my best thanks are due.

The Dépôt at Perth was completed in 1812. It was constructed to hold
about 7,000 prisoners, and consisted of five three-story buildings, each
130 feet long and 30 feet broad, with outside stairs, each with a
separate iron palisaded airing-ground and all converging upon what was
known as the ‘Market Place’. Each of these blocks held 1,140 prisoners.
South of the great square was a building for petty officers,
accommodating 1,100, and north of it the hospital for 150 invalids. Both
of these latter buildings are still standing, having been incorporated
with the present General Prison. The sleeping quarters were very
crowded; so much so, says Sievwright, that the prisoners had to sleep
‘spoon fashion’, (as we have seen on the prison ships), the turning-over
process having to be done by whole ranks in obedience to words of
command; ‘Attention! Squad number so and so! Prepare to spoon! One! Two!

Around the entire space was a deep moat, ten feet broad; beyond this an
iron palisade; beyond this a wall twelve feet six inches high, with a
sentry-walk round it. Three or four regiments of Militia were always
kept in Perth for guard duties, which occupied 300 men. Many acres of
potatoes were planted outside the prison. When peace was finally made,
and the prison was emptied, the owners of these profitable acres were in
despair, until one of them discovered the London market, and this has
been kept ever since.

The first prisoners came from Plymouth via Dundee in August 1812. They
had been lodged the first night in the church of Inchtore.[6] ‘During
the night’, says Penny in his _Traditions of Perth_, ‘the French
prisoners found means to extract the brass nails and purloin the green
cloth from the pulpit and seats in the Church, with every other thing
they could lay their hands on.’ Penny seems to have exaggerated. One
prisoner stole a couple of ‘mort cloths’. This so enraged his fellows
that they tried him by court martial, and sentenced him to twenty-four
lashes. He got seventeen there and then, but fainted, and the remainder
were given him later.

The prisoners were 400 in number, and had some women with them, and were
in tolerably good condition. A great many came in after Salamanca. They
had been marched through Fifeshire in very bad weather. ‘The poor
creatures, many of them half naked, were in a miserable plight; numbers
of them gave up upon the road, and were flung into carts, one above the
other, and when the carts were full, and capable of holding no more, the
others were tied to the backs with ropes and dragged along.’

Kirkcaldy on the Forth was the chief port for landing the prisoners;
from Kirkcaldy they were marched overland to Perth.

The first attempt at escape from the new Dépôt was made in September
1812, there being at this time about 4,000 prisoners there. A prisoner
slipped past the turnkey as the latter was opening a door in the iron
palisading, and got away. The alarm was given; the prisoner had got to
Friarton Toll, half a mile away, but being closely pursued was captured
in a wheat field.

One Petite in this year was a slippery customer. He got out of Perth but
was recaptured, and lodged at Montrose on the march back to gaol. Thence
he escaped by unscrewing the locks of three doors, but was again caught
at Ruthven print-field, and safely lodged in his old quarters in Perth
gaol. Shortly after he was ordered to be transferred to Valleyfield, and
a sergeant and eight men were considered necessary to escort him. They
got him safely as far as Kirkcaldy, where they halted, and M. Petite was
lodged for the night in the local prison; but when they came for him in
the morning, he was not to be found, and was never heard of again!

Here Sievwright introduces a story from Penny, of date previous to the

‘On April 20th, 1811, it was reputed at the Perth Barracks that four
French prisoners had passed through Perth. A detachment of soldiers who
were sent in pursuit on the road to Dundee, found, not those they were
seeking, but four others, whom they conveyed to Perth and lodged in
gaol. On the morning of April 24th, they managed to effect their escape.
By cutting some planks out of the partition of their apartment, they
made their way to the Court Room, from the window of which they
descended to the street. On their table was found a letter expressing
their gratitude to the magistrates and inhabitants of Perth for the
civilities they had received, and promising a return of the kindness to
any Scotsman whom they might find among the British prisoners in

As a supplement to this, it is recorded that two of the original quarry
were afterwards captured, but were released unconditionally later on,
when one of them proved that he had humanely treated General Walker,
when the latter was lying seriously wounded at Badajos, saved him from
being dispatched by a furious grenadier, and had him removed to a
hospital. The General gave him his name and address, and promised to
help him should occasion arise.

In January 1813 three prisoners got off in a thick fog and made their
way as far as Broughty Ferry on the Forth. On their way, it came out
later, they stopped in Dundee for refreshment without any apparent dread
of disturbance, and were later seen on the Fort hill near Broughty
Ferry. In the evening they entered a shop, bought up all the bread in it
and had a leather bottle filled with spirits. At nine the same evening
they boarded Mr. Grubb’s ship _Nancy_, and immediately got under weigh
unnoticed. The _Nancy_ was of fifteen tons burden, and was known to be
provisioned for ten days, as she was going to start the next morning on
an excursion. The prisoners escaped, and a woman and two Renfrewshire
Militiamen were detained in prison after examination upon suspicion of
having concealed and aided the prisoners with information about the
_Nancy_ which they could hardly have obtained ordinarily.

This was on Thursday, January 21. On the night of Monday, 18th, a mason
at the Dépôt, on his way from Newburgh to Perth, was stopped by three
men at the Coates of Fingask on the Rhynd road, and robbed of £1 18_s._
6_d._ The robbers had the appearance of farm servants, but it seems
quite likely that they were the daring and successful abductors of the

On January 21, 1813, there were 6,788 prisoners at the Dépôt. On the
evening of February 22, 1813, seven prisoners bribed a sentinel to let
them escape. He agreed, but at once gave information, and was instructed
to keep up the deception. So, at the fixed hour the prisoners, awaiting
with confident excitement the arrival of their deliverer, were, instead,
found hiding with scaling-ladders, ropes, and all implements necessary
for escape upon them, and a considerable sum of money for their needs.
They were at once conveyed to the punishment cells under the central

At Perth, as elsewhere, the prisoners were allowed to amuse themselves,
and to interest themselves in the manufacture of various knick-knacks,
toys, boxes, and puzzles, from wood, and the bones of their beef; of
these they made a great variety, and many of them are masterpieces of
cunning deftness, and wonderfully beautiful in delicacy and perfection
of workmanship. They made straw plait, a manufacture then in its infancy
in this country; numbers made shoes out of bits of cloth, cutting up
their clothes for the purpose, and it is possible that their hammocks
may have yielded the straw. It is said that after a time straw plait and
shoes were prohibited as traffic. Some of the prisoners dug clay out of
their court-yards and modelled figures of smugglers, soldiers, sailors,
and women. The prisoners had the privilege of holding a market daily, to
which the public were admitted provided they carried no contraband
articles. Potatoes, vegetables, bread, soap, tobacco, and firewood, were
all admitted. Large numbers of the inhabitants went daily to view the
markets, and make purchases. The prisoners had stands set out all round
the railing of the yards, on which their wares were placed. Many paid
high prices for the articles. While some of the prisoners were busy
selling, others were occupied in buying provisions, vegetables and other
necessaries of food. Some of the prisoners played the flute, fiddle, and
other instruments, for halfpence; Punch’s opera and other puppet shows
were also got up in fine style. Some were industrious and saving; others
gambled and squandered the clothes from their bodies, and wandered about
with only a bit of blanket tied round them.

From Penny’s _Traditions of Perth_ comes the following market trick:

‘As much straw plait as made a bonnet was sold for four shillings, and,
being exceedingly neat, it was much inquired after. In this trade many a
one got a bite, for the straw was all made up in parcels, and for fear
of detection smuggled into the pockets of the purchasers.

‘An unsuspecting man having been induced by his wife to purchase a
quantity of straw plait for a bonnet, he attended the market and soon
found a seller. He paid the money, but, lest he should be observed, he
turned his back on the prisoner, and got the things slipped into his
hand, and thence into his pocket. Away he went with his parcel, well
pleased that he had escaped detection (for outsiders found buying straw
plait were severely dealt with by the law), and on his way home he
thought he would examine his purchase, when, to his astonishment and no
doubt to his deep mortification, he found instead of straw plait, a
bundle of shavings very neatly tied up. The man instantly returned, and
told of the deception, and insisted on getting back his money. But the
prisoner from whom the purchase had been made could not be seen. Whilst
trying to get a glimpse of his seller, he was told that if he did not go
away he would be informed against, and fined for buying the supposed
straw plait. He was retiring when another prisoner came forward and said
he would find the other, and make him take back the shavings and return
the money. Pretending deep commiseration, the second prisoner said he
had no change, but if the straw plait buyer would give him sixteen
shillings, he would give him a one pound note, and take his chance of
the man returning the money. The dupe gave the money and took the
note—which was a forgery on a Perth Bank.’

Attempts to escape were almost a weekly occurrence, and some of them
exhibited very notable ingenuity, patience, and daring. On March 26,
1813, the discovery was made of a subterranean excavation from the
latrine of No. 2 Prison, forty-two feet long, and so near the base of
the outer wall that another hour’s work would have finished it.

On April 4, 1813, was found a pit twenty feet deep in the floor of No. 2
Prison, with a lateral cut at about six feet from the bottom. The space
below this cut was to receive water, and the cut was to pass obliquely
upwards to allow water to run down. A prisoner in hospital was suspected
by the others of giving information about this, and when he was
discharged he was violently assaulted, the intention being to cut off
his ears. He resisted, however, so that only one was taken off. Then a
rope was fastened to him, and he was dragged through the moat while men
jumped on him. He was rescued just in time by a Durham Militiaman.

On the 28th of the same month three prisoners got with false keys into
an empty cellar under the central tower. They had provided themselves
with ordinary civilian attire which they intended to slip over their
prison clothes, and mix with the market crowd. They were discovered by a
man going into the cellar to examine the water pipes. Had they succeeded
a great many more would have followed.

On May 5, 1813, some prisoners promised a big bribe to a soldier of the
Durham Militia if he would help them to escape. He pretended to accede,
but promptly informed his superiors, who told him to keep up the
delusion. So he allowed six prisoners to get over the outer wall by a
rope ladder which they had made. Four were out and two were on the
burial ground which was between the north boundary wall and the Cow
Inch, when they were captured by a party of soldiers who had been posted
there. The other two were caught in a dry ditch. They were all lodged in
the _cachot_. It was well for the ‘faithful Durham’, for the doubloons
he got were only three-shilling pieces, and the bank notes were

In June three men escaped by breaking the bar of a window, and dropping
therefrom by a rope ladder. One of them who had got on board a neutral
vessel at Dundee ventured ashore and was captured; one got as far as
Montrose, but was recognized; of the fate of the third we do not hear.

A duel took place between two officers with sharpened foils. The
strictest punctilio was observed at the affair, and after one had badly
wounded the other, hands were shaken, and honour satisfied.

About this time a clerk in the Dépôt was suspended for attempting to
introduce a profligate woman into the prison.

The usual market was prohibited on Midsummer market day, 1813, and the
public were excluded, as it was feared that the extraordinary concourse
of people would afford opportunities for the prisoners to escape by
mixing with them in disguise.

The Medical Report of July 1813 states that out of 7,000 prisoners there
were only twenty-four sick, including convalescents, and of these only
four were confined to their beds.

On August 15, 1813, the prisoners were not only allowed to celebrate the
Emperor’s birthday, but the public were apprised of the fête and invited
to attend a balloon ascent. The crowd duly assembled on the South Inch,
but the balloon was accidentally burst. There were illuminations of the
prisons at night, and some of the transparencies, says the chronicler,
showed much taste and ingenuity. Advantage was taken of the excitement
of this gala day to hurry on one of the most daring and ingenious
attempts to escape in the history of the prison. On the morning of
August 24 it was notified that a number of prisoners had escaped through
a mine dug from the latrine of No. 2 prison to the bottom of the
southern outer wall. It was supposed that they must have begun to get
out at 2 a.m. that day, but one of them, attempting to jump the ‘lade’,
fell into the water with noise enough to alarm the nearest sentry, who
fired in the direction of the sound. The alarm thus started was carried
on by the other sentries, and it was found that no fewer than
twenty-three prisoners had got away. Ten of them were soon caught. Two
who had got on board a vessel on the Perth shore were turned off by the
master. One climbed up a tree and was discovered. One made an attempt to
swim the Tay, but had to give up from exhaustion, and others were
captured near the river, which, being swollen by recent rains, they had
been unable to cross; and thirteen temporarily got away.

Of these the _Caledonian Mercury_ wrote:

‘Four of the prisoners who lately escaped from the Perth Dépôt were
discovered within a mile of Arbroath on August 28th by a seaman
belonging to the Custom House yacht stationed there, who procured the
assistance of some labourers, and attempted to apprehend them, upon
which they drew their knives and threatened to stab any one who lay
[_sic_] hold of them, but on the arrival of a recruiting party and other
assistance the Frenchmen submitted. They stated that on Thursday
night—(they had escaped on Tuesday morning) they were on board of a
vessel at Dundee, but which they were unable to carry off on account of
a neap tide which prevented her floating; other three or four prisoners
had been apprehended and lodged in Forfar Gaol. It has been ascertained
that several others had gone Northwards by the Highland Road in the
direction of Inverness.’

The four poor fellows in Forfar Jail made yet another bold bid for
liberty. By breaking through the prison wall, they succeeded in making a
hole to the outside nearly large enough for their egress before they
were discovered. The only tool they had was a part of the fire-grate
which they had wrenched in pieces. Their time was well chosen for
getting out to sea, for it was nearly high water when they were
discovered. Two others were captured near Blair Atholl, some thirty
miles north of Perth, and were brought back to the Dépôt.

Brief allusion has been made to the remarkable healthiness of the
prisoners at Perth. The London papers of 1813 lauded Portchester and
Portsmouth as examples of sanitary well-being to other prisoner
districts, and quoted the statistics that, out of 20,680 prisoners
there, only 154 were on the sick list, but the average at Perth was
still better. On August 26, 1813, there were 7,000 prisoners at Perth,
of whom only fourteen were sick. On October 28, out of the same number,
only ten were sick; and on February 3, 1814, when the weather was very
severe, there was not one man in bed.

The forgery of bank notes and the manufacture of base coin was pursued
as largely and as successfully at Perth as elsewhere. In the _Perth
Courier_ of September 19, 1813, we read:

‘We are sorry to learn that the forgery of notes of various banks is
carried on by prisoners at the Dépôt, and that they find means to throw
them into circulation by the assistance of profligate people who
frequent the market. The eagerness of the prisoners to obtain cash is
very great, and as they retain all they procure, they have drained the
place almost entirely of silver so that it has become a matter of
difficulty to get change of a note.... Last week a woman coming from the
Market at the Dépôt was searched by an order of Captain Moriarty, when
there was found about her person pieces of base money in imitation of
Bank tokens (of which the prisoners are suspected to have been the
fabricators), to the amount of £5 17_s._ After undergoing examination,
the woman was committed to gaol.’

It was publicly announced on September 16, 1813, that a mine had been
discovered in the floor of the Officers’ Prison, No. 6, at the Dépôt.
This building, a two-story oblong one, now one of the hospitals, still
stands to the south of the General Prison Village Square. An excavation
of sufficient diameter to admit the passage of a man had been cut with
iron hoops, as it was supposed, carried nineteen feet perpendicularly
down-wards and thirty feet horizontally outwards.

A detachment of the guard having been marched into the prison after this
discovery, the men were stoned by the prisoners, among whom the soldiers
fired three shots without doing any injury. At 11 o’clock the next
Sunday morning, about forty prisoners were observed by a sentry out of
their prison, strolling about the airing ground of No. 3. An alarm was
immediately given to the guard, who, fearing a general attempt to
escape, rushed towards the place where the prisoners were assembled,
and, having seized twenty-four of them, drove the rest back into the
prison. In the tumult three of the prisoners were wounded and were taken
to the hospital. The twenty-four who were seized were lodged in the
_cachot_, where they remained for a time, together with eleven retaken

Next morning, on counting over the prisoners in No. 3, twenty-eight were
missing. As a light had been observed in the latrine about 8 o’clock the
preceding evening, that place was examined and a mine was discovered
communicating with the great sewer of the Dépôt. Through this outlet the
absentees had escaped. Two of them were taken on the following Monday
morning at Bridge of Earn, four miles distant, and three more on

A short time previous to this escape, 800 prisoners had been transferred
to Perth from the Penicuik Dépôt, and these, it was said, were of a most
turbulent and ungovernable character, so that the influence of these men
would necessitate a much sterner discipline, and communication between
the prisoners and the public much more restricted than hitherto. In the
foregoing case the punishments had been very lenient, the market being
shut only for one day.

Gradually most of the escaped prisoners were retaken, all in a very
exhausted state.

Not long after, heavy rains increased the waters of the canal so that,
by breaking into it, they revealed an excavation being made from No. 1.

In the same month three prisoners got out, made their way to Findon,
Kincardineshire, stole a fishing-boat, provisioned it by thefts from
other boats, and made off successfully.

Yet another mine was discovered this month. It ran from a latrine, not
to the great sewer, but in a circuitous direction to meet it. The
prisoners while working at this were surrounded by other prisoners, who
pretended to be amusing themselves, whilst they hid the workers from the
view of the sentries. But an unknown watcher through a loophole in a
turret saw the buckets of earth being taken to the well, pumped upon and
washed away through the sewer to the Tay, and he gave information.

Yet again a sentry noticed that buckets of earth were being carried from
No. 6 prison, and informed the officer of the guard, who found about
thirty cartloads of earth heaped up at the two ends of the highest part
of the prison known as the Cock Loft.

On April 11, 1814, the news of the dethronement of Bonaparte reached
Perth, and was received with universal delight. The prisoners in the
Dépôt asked the agent, Captain Moriarty, to be allowed to illuminate for
the coming Peace and freedom, but at so short a notice little could be
done, although the tower was illuminated by the agent himself. That the
feeling among the prisoners was still strong for Bonaparte, however, was
presently shown when half a dozen prisoners in the South Prison hoisted
the white flag of French Royalty. Almost the whole of their fellow
captives clambered up the walls, tore down the flag, and threatened
those who hoisted it with violent treatment if they persisted.

The guard removed the Royalists to the hospital for safety, and later
their opponents wrote a penitential letter to Captain Moriarty. In June
1814 the removal of the prisoners began. Those that went down the river
in boats were heartily cheered by the people. Others marched to
Newburgh, where, on the quay, they held a last market for the sale of
their manufactures, which was thronged by buyers anxious to get
mementoes and willing to pay well for them. ‘All transactions were
conducted honourably, while the additional graces of French politeness
made a deep impression upon the natives of Fife, both male and female,’
adds the chronicler. It was during this march to Newburgh that the
prisoners sold the New Testaments distributed among them by a zealous

Altogether it was a pleasant wind-up to a long, sad period, especially
for the Frenchmen, many of whom got on board the transports at Newburgh
very much richer men than when they first entered the French dépôt, or
than they would have been had they never been taken prisoners.
Especially pleasant, too, is it to think that they left amidst tokens of
goodwill from the people amongst whom many of them had been long

The Dépôt was finally closed July 31, 1814.

During one year, that is between September 14, 1812, and September 24,
1813, there were fourteen escapes or attempted escapes of prisoners. Of
these seven were frustrated and seven were more or less successful, that
is to say, sixty-one prisoners managed to get out of the prison, but of
these thirty-two were recaptured while twenty-nine got clean away.

From 1815 to 1833 the Dépôt was used as a military clothing store, and
eventually it became the General Prison for Scotland.

                              CHAPTER XII
                           THE PRISONS ASHORE
                             4. PORTCHESTER

Of the thousands of holiday-makers and picnickers for whom Portchester
Castle is a happy recreation ground, and of the hundreds of antiquaries
who visit it as being one of the most striking relics of combined Roman
and Norman military architecture in Britain, a large number, no doubt,
learn that it was long used as a place of confinement for foreign
prisoners of war, but are not much impressed with the fact, which is
hardly to be wondered at, not only because the subject of the foreign
prisoners of war in Britain has never received the attention it
deserves, but because the interest of the comparatively modern must
always suffer when in juxtaposition with the interest of the far-away

But this comparatively modern interest of Portchester is, as I hope to
show, very real.

As a place of confinement Portchester could never, of course, compare
with such purposely planned prisons as Dartmoor, Stapleton, Perth, or
Norman Cross. Still, from its position, and its surrounding walls of
almost indestructible masonry, from fifteen to forty feet high and from
six to ten feet thick, it answered its purpose very well. True, its
situation so near the Channel would seem to favour attempts to escape,
but it must be remembered that escape from Portchester Castle by no
means implied escape from England, for, ere the fugitive could gain the
open sea, he had a terrible gauntlet to run of war-shipping and forts
and places of watch and ward, so that although the number of attempted
escapes from Portchester annually was greater than that of similar
attempts from other places of confinement, the successful ones were few.

Portchester is probably the oldest regular war prison in Britain. In
1745 the _Gentleman’s Magazine_ records the escape of Spanish prisoners
from it, taken, no doubt, during the War of the Austrian Succession, but
it was during the Seven Years’ War that it became eminent.


  _An Inside View of PORTCHESTER CASTLE in HAMPSHIRE. Dedicated to the
    Officers of the Militia._

  _Engraved from a Drawing taken on the Spot by an Officer._

In 1756 Captain Fraboulet of the French East India Company’s frigate
_Astrée_, who appears to have been a medical representative of the
Government, reported on the provisions at Portchester as being very good
on the whole, except the small beer, which he described as being very
weak, and ‘apt to cause a flux of blood’, a very prevalent malady among
the prisoners. He complained, and the deficiency was remedied. Of the
hospital accommodation he spoke badly. There was no hospital in the
Castle itself, so that patients had either to be sent to Fareham, two
miles away, where the hospital was badly placed, being built of wood and
partly on the muddy shores of the river, or to Forton, which, he says,
is seven miles off. This distance, he says, could be reduced, if done by
water, but it was found impossible to find boatmen to take the invalids,
the result being that they were carted there, and often died on the way.
He also complained that in the hospital the dying and the convalescent
were in the same wards, and he begged the Government to establish a
hospital at Portchester. He says that he will distribute the King’s
Bounty no more to invalids, as they spend it improperly, bribing
sentries and attendants, and all who have free access and egress, to get
them unfit food, such as raw fruit, salt herrings, &c. He will only pay
healthy men. He has done his best to re-establish order in the Castle;
has asked the Commissioners of the ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office to put down
the public gaming-tables; to imprison those who gamble and sell their
kits and food, and to stop the sale of raw fruit, salt fish, and all
food which promotes flux of blood.

In 1766 Valérie Coffre quarrelled with a fellow prisoner, Nicholas
Chartier, and killed him with a knife. He was found guilty and sentenced
to death. He was attended by a Roman Catholic priest, was very earnest
in his devotions, and was executed at Winchester, the whole of his
fellow prisoners being marched thither under a strong guard to witness
the scene. He was a handsome, well-built man of twenty-two.

In 1784 the Castle was properly fitted up as a War Prison. The ancient
moat outside the walls, which during long years of neglect had become
choked up with rubbish, was filled with water, and the keep was divided
into five stories, connected with a wooden stairway at the side, and the
entire Castle was arranged for the accommodation of about 8,000



  A. Kitchens, B. Hospital. C. Black Hole. D. Caserns. E. Great Tower.

In 1794 the prisoners captured in Howe’s victory of the ‘Glorious First
of June’ were lodged in Portchester. One of the prizes taken, the
_Impétueux_, took fire, and at one time there was danger that the fire
would spread. The prisoners at Portchester were delighted, and danced
about singing the _Ça ira_ and the _Marseillaise_, but happily the ship
grounded on a mud-bank, and no further damage was done.

In 1796 two prisoners quarrelled over politics, one stabbed the other to
death, and was hanged at Winchester.

In 1797 the agent in charge complained that many Portsmouth people,
under pretence of attending Portchester Parish Church, which stood
within the Castle _enceinte_, came really to buy straw hats and other
forbidden articles manufactured by the prisoners.

The inconvenience of the position of this church was further manifested
by a daring escape which was made about this time. One Sunday morning,
just as service had begun, the sentry on duty at the Water Gate saw
three naval officers in full uniform come towards him from the
churchyard. Thinking that they were British officers who had seen their
men into church and were going for a walk, he presented arms and allowed
them to pass. Soon after it was discovered that three smart French
privateer captains had escaped, and without doubt they had contrived to
get second-hand British naval uniforms smuggled in to them by
_soi-disant_ worshippers!

A comical incident is recorded in connexion with Portchester churchyard.
A sentry was always on duty at an angle of the churchyard close to the
South or Water Gate, where there was and still is a remarkable echo.
Upon one wild, stormy night, this position was occupied by a soldier of
the Dorset Militia, which, with the Denbighshire Militia, performed
garrison duty at the Castle. Suddenly the man saw against the wall a
tall, white figure with huge horns. He mastered up courage enough to
challenge it, but the only reply was a distinct repetition of his words.
He fired his piece, but in his agitation evidently missed his aim, for
the figure bounded towards him, and he, persuaded that he had to do with
the Devil, ran, and gave the alarm. Captain M., the officer of the
guard, cursed the man for his fears and, drawing his sword, ran out to
meet the intruder. The figure charged him, bowled him over among the
gravestones, and made for the Landport Gate, the sentry at which had
just opened it at the sound of the disturbance in the churchyard, to see
what was going on. The figure disposed of him as he had done Captain M.,
and made straight away for the door of the Denbighshires’ drum-major’s
quarters, where it proved to be the huge, white regimental goat, who,
when disturbed by the sentry, had been browsing upon his hind legs, on
the pellitory which grows on the Castle walls!

From the Rev. J. D. Henderson’s little book on Portchester I take the

‘One Francis Dufresne, who was confined here for more than five years,
escaped again and again, despite the vigilance of his guards. He seems
to have been as reckless and adventurous as any hero of romance, and the
neighbourhood was full of stories of his wanderings and the tricks he
resorted to to obtain food. Once, after recapture, he was confined in
the Black Hole, a building still to be seen at the foot of the Great
Tower, called the “Exchequer” on plans of the Castle. Outside walked a
sentry day and night, but Dufresne was not to be held. He converted his
hammock into what sailors call a “thumb line”, and at the dead of night
removed a flat stone from under his prison door, crawled out, passed
with silent tread within a few inches of the sentry, gained a winding
stair which led to the summit of the Castle wall, from which he
descended by the cord, and, quickly gaining the open country, started
for London, guiding himself by the stars. Arrived in London, he made his
way to the house of M. Otto, the French Agent for arranging the exchange
of prisoners. Having explained, to the amazement of Otto, that he had
escaped from Portchester, he said:

‘“Give me some sort of a suit of clothes, and a few sous to defray my
expenses to the Castle, and I’ll return and astonish the natives.”

‘Otto, amused at the man’s cleverness and impudence, complied, and
Dufresne in a few days alighted from the London coach at Fareham, walked
over to Portchester, but was refused admission by the guard, until, to
the amazement of the latter, he produced the passport by which he had
travelled. He was soon after this exchanged.

‘Sheer devilment and the enjoyment of baffling his custodians seems to
have been Dufresne’s sole object in escaping. For a trifling wager he
would scale the walls, remain absent for a few days, living on and among
the country folk, and return as he went, so that he became almost a
popular character even with the garrison.’

Much romance which has been unrecorded no doubt is interwoven with the
lives of the foreign prisoners of war in Britain. Two cases associated
with Portchester deserve mention.

The church register of 1812 records the marriage of Patrick Bisson to
Josephine Desperoux. The latter was one of a company of French ladies
who, on their voyage to Mauritius, were captured by a British cruiser,
and sent to Portchester. Being non-combatants, they were of course not
subjected to durance vile in the Castle, but were distributed among the
houses of the village, and, being young and comely, were largely
entertained and fêted by the gentry of the neighbourhood, the result
being that one, at least, the subject of our notice, captivated an
English squire, and married him.

The second case is that of a French girl, who, distracted because her
sailor lover had been captured, enlisted as a sailor on a privateer on
the bare chance of being captured and meeting him. As good luck would
have it, she was captured, and sent to the very prison where was her
sweetheart, Portchester Castle. For some months she lived there without
revealing her sex, until she was taken ill, sent to the hospital, where,
of course, her secret was soon discovered. She was persuaded to return
to France on the distinct promise that her lover should be speedily

An attempt to escape which had fatal results was made in 1797.
Information was given to the authorities that a long tunnel had been
made from one of the prison blocks to the outside. So it was arranged
that, at a certain hour after lock-up time, the guards should rush in
and catch the plotters at work. They did so, and found the men in the
tunnel. Shortly afterwards the alarm was given in another quarter, and
prisoners were caught in the act of escaping through a large hole they
had made in the Castle wall. All that night the prisoners were very
riotous, keeping candles lighted, singing Republican songs, dancing and
cheering, so that ‘it was found necessary’ to fire ball cartridges among
them, by which many men were wounded. But the effect of this was only
temporary. Next morning the tumult and disorder recommenced. The
sentries were abused and insulted, and one prisoner, trying to get out
at a ventilator in the roof of one of the barracks, was shot in the
back, but not mortally. Another was shot through the heart, and the
coroner’s verdict at the inquest held upon him was ‘Justifiable

On another occasion treachery revealed a plot of eighteen Spaniards,
who, armed with daggers which they had made out of horseshoe files,
assembled in a vault under one of the towers with the idea of sallying
forth, cutting down the sentries, and making off; but the guards crawled
in and disarmed them after a short struggle.

In 1798 a brewer’s man, John Cassel, was sentenced to six months’
imprisonment for helping two French captains to escape by carrying them
away in empty beer casks.

In _The Times_ of July 2, 1799, I find the following:

‘Three French prisoners made their escape from Portchester to
Southampton. A party of pleasure seekers had engaged Wassell’s vessel to
go to the Isle of Wight. At an early hour on Saturday morning on
repairing to the Quay, the man could not discover his pleasure boat.
Everyone was concerned for his loss, and many hours elapsed before any
tidings could be heard of her, when some fishing-boats gave information
that they had met her near Calshot Castle about 3 a.m., but had no
suspicion she had been run away with. In the evening news came that in
steering so as to keep as far from Spithead as possible, the Frenchmen
were near running ashore at Ryde. This convinced the pilots that Wassell
was not on board the vessel, when they went to its assistance, secured
the three men and saved the vessel.’

‘The bodies of six drowned Frenchmen were found in Portsmouth Harbour;
their clothes were in bundles on their backs, and their swimming, no
doubt, was impeded thereby.’

‘1800, August: A naked French prisoner was found in a field near
Portchester. He said he had lived on corn for three days, and that the
body of his friend was lying on the beach close by.’

The quiet pathos of the above two bald newspaper announcements must
appeal to everybody who for a moment pictures in his mind what the six
poor, drowned fellows, and the two friends—one taken, the other
left—must have gone through in their desperate bids for liberty. These
are the little by-scenes which make up the great tragedy of the War
Prisoners in England.

In December of this year there was great sickness and mortality at

In the same year a plot to murder sentries and escape was discovered the
day before the date of the arranged deed. Forty men were concerned in
the plot, and upon them were found long knives, sharpened on both sides,
made out of iron hoops.

In 1807 a Portchester prisoner named Cabosas was fined one shilling at
Winchester for killing a fellow prisoner in a duel, and in the same year
one Herquiand was hanged at Winchester for murder in the Castle.



  by French prisoners of war, from bones saved from their rations

In 1810 it was reported that Portchester Castle was too crowded, and
that only 5,900 prisoners could be kept in health there instead of the
usual 7,000.

I will now give some accounts of life at Portchester, and I begin with
one by an English officer, ‘The Light Dragoon,’ as a relief from the
somewhat monotonous laments which characterize the average foreign
chronicler, although it will be noted that our writer does not allow his
patriotism to bias his judgement.

Placed on guard over the prisoners, he says:

‘Whatever grounds of boasting may belong to us as a nation, I am afraid
that our methods of dealing with the prisoners taken from the French
during the war scarcely deserves to be classed among them. Absolute
cruelties were never, I believe, perpetrated on these unfortunate
beings; neither, as far as I know, were they, on any pretence whatever,
stinted in the allowance of food awarded to them. But in other respects
they fared hardly enough. Their sleeping apartments, for instance, were
very much crowded. Few paroles were extended to them (it is past dispute
that when the parole was obtained they were, without distinction of
rank, apt to make a bad use of it), while their pay was calculated on a
scale as near to the line of starvation as could in any measure
correspond with our nation’s renown for humanity. On the other hand,
every possible encouragement was given to the exercise of ingenuity
among the prisoners themselves by the throwing open of the Castle yard
once or twice a week, when their wares were exhibited for sale, amid
numerous groups of jugglers, tumblers, and musicians, all of whom
followed their respective callings, if not invariably with skill, always
with most praiseworthy perseverance. Moreover, the ingenuity of the
captives taught them how on these occasions to set up stalls on which
all manner of trinkets were set forth, as well as puppet shows and
Punch’s opera.... Then followed numerous purchases, particularly on the
part of the country people, of bone and ivory knick-knacks, fabricated
invariably with a common penknife, yet always neat, and not infrequently
elegant. Nor must I forget to mention the daily market which the
peasantry, particularly the women, were in the habit of attending, and
which usually gave scope for the exchange of Jean Crapaud’s manufacture
for Nancy’s eggs, or Joan’s milk, or home-baked loaf....

‘It happened one night that a sentry whose post lay outside the walls of
the old Castle, was startled by the sound as of a hammer driven against
the earth under his feet. The man stopped, listened, and was more and
more convinced that neither his fears nor his imagination had misled
him. So he reported the circumstance to the sergeant who next visited
his post, and left him to take in the matter such steps as might be
expedient. The sergeant, having first ascertained, as in duty bound,
that the man spoke truly, made his report to the captain on duty, who
immediately doubled the sentry at the indicated spot, and gave strict
orders that should as much as one French prisoner be seen making his way
beyond the Castle walls, he should be shot without mercy.

‘Then was the whole of the guard got under arms: then were beacons fired
in various quarters; while far and near, from Portsmouth not less than
from the cantonments more close at hand, bodies of troops marched upon
Portchester. Among others came the general of the district, bringing
with him a detachment of sappers and miners, by whom all the floors of
the several bedrooms were tried, and who soon brought the matter home to
those engaged in it. Indeed one man was taken in the gallery he was
seeking to enlarge, his only instrument being a spike nail wherewith to
labour. The plot thus discovered was very extensive and must, if carried
through, have proved a desperate one to both parties. For weeks previous
to the discovery, the prisoners, it appeared, had been at work, and from
not fewer than seven rooms, all of them on the ground floor, they had
sunk shafts 12 feet in depth, and caused them all to meet at one common
centre, whence as many chambers went off. These were driven beyond the
extremity of the outer wall, and one, that of which the sentry was thus
unexpectedly made aware, the ingenious miners had carried forward with
such skill, that in two days more it would have been in a condition to
be opened.

‘The rubbish, it appeared, which from these several covered ways they
scooped out, was carried about by the prisoners in their pockets till
they found an opportunity of scattering it over the surface of the great
square. Yet the desperate men had a great deal more to encounter than
the mere obstacles which the excavation of the castle at Portchester

‘Their first proceeding after emerging into the upper air must needs
have been to surprise and overpower the troops that occupied the
barracks immediately contiguous, an operation of doubtful issue at the
best, and not to be accomplished without a terrible loss of life,
certainly on one side, probably on both. Moreover, when this was done,
there remained for the fugitives the still more arduous task of making
their way through the heart of the garrison town of Portsmouth, and
seizing a flotilla of boats, should such be high and dry upon the beach.
Yet worse even than this remained, for both the harbour and the roads
wore crowded with men-of-war the gauntlet of whose batteries the
deserters must of necessity have run....’

One wishes that the British officer could have given us some account of
the inner life at Portchester, from his point of view, but the foreign
narratives which follow seem to have been written in a fair and broad
spirit which would certainly have not been manifest had the _genius
loci_ of the hulks been influencing the minds of the writers.

The two following accounts, by St. Aubin and Philippe Gille, were
written by men who were probably in Portchester at the same time, as
both had come to England from Cabrera—that terrible prison island south
of Majorca, to which the Spaniards sent the captives of Baylen in July
1808—unfortunates whose prolonged living death there must ever remain an
indelible stain upon our conduct during the Peninsular War.

St. Aubin describes the Castle as divided into two by a broad road
running between palisades, on the one side of which were a large and a
small tower and nine two-storied wooden buildings, and on the other a
church, kitchens, storehouses, offices, and hospital. It is evident that
what he calls the large tower is the castle keep, for this held from
1,200 to 1,500 prisoners, while each of the nine barracks accommodated

St. Aubin gives us the most detailed account of the Portchester
prisoners and their life. At 6 a.m. in summer, and 7 in winter, the bell
announced the arrival of the soldiers and turnkeys, who opened the doors
and counted the prisoners. At 9 o’clock the market bell rang and the
distributions of bread were made. The prisoners were divided into
_plats_ or messes of twelve, each _plat_ was again subdivided, and each
had two _gamelles_ or soup-pots. At midday the bell announced the
closing of the market to English sellers, who were replaced by French,
and also the distribution of soup and meat. At sunset the bell went
again, jailers and soldiers went through the evening count, all were
obliged to be within doors, and lights were put out.

Occasionally in the _grand pré_, as the enclosure within the walls was
called, there was a general airing of prisons and hammocks, and the
prisoners were obliged to stay out of doors till midday; during this
performance the masons went round to sound walls and floors, to see that
no attempts to escape were being engineered. Each story of the tower and
the prisons had two prison superintendents at eight shillings per month,
who were responsible for their cleanliness, and a barber. The doctor
went through the rooms every day.

The prisoners prepared their own food, the wages of the master cooks
being sevenpence per diem. St. Aubin complains bitterly of the quality
of the provisions, especially of the bread, and says that it was quite
insufficient on account of the avarice of the contractors, but at any
rate, he says, it was regularly distributed.

In spite of all this, Portchester was preferred by the prisoners to
other dépôts, because it was easy to get money and letters from France;
and it may be noted that while we get little or no mention of recreation
and amusement at Norman Cross, or Stapleton, or Perth, unless gambling
comes within the category, we shall see that at Portchester the
prisoners seem to have done their very best to make the long days pass
as pleasantly as possible.

Portchester was a veritable hive of industry. There were manufacturers
of straw hats, stockings, gloves, purses, and braces. There were cunning
artificers in bone who made tobacco boxes, dominoes, chessmen, models of
all kinds, especially of men-of-war, one of which latter, only one foot
in length, is said to have been sold for £26, as well as of the most
artistic ornaments and knick-knacks. There were tailors, goldsmiths (so
says St. Aubin), shoemakers, caterers, limonadiers, and comedians of the
Punch and Judy and marionette class. There were professors of
mathematics, of drawing, of French, of English, of Latin, of fencing, of
writing, of dancing, of the _bâton_, and of _la boxe_. St. Aubin quotes
as a strange fact that most of the prisoners who, on going to
Portchester, knew neither reading nor writing, ‘en sont sortis la tête
et la bourse passablement meublées.’

But the unique feature of Portchester industry was its thread lace



  Made by prisoners of war at Portsmouth

The brilliant idea of starting this belonged to a French soldier
prisoner who had been born and bred in a lace-making country, and had
been accustomed to see all the women working at it. He recalled the
process by memory, took pupils, and in less than a year there were 3,000
prisoners in Portchester making lace, and among these were ‘capitalists’
who employed each as many as from fifty to sixty workmen. So beautiful
was this lace, and so largely was it bought by the surrounding families,
that the English lace-makers protested, its manufacture within the
prison was forbidden, and it is said that the work of suppression was
carried out in the most brutal manner, the machines being broken and all
lace in stock or in process of manufacture destroyed.

Gambling, says St. Aubin, was the all-pervading vice of Portchester, as
in the other prisons. For ‘capitalists’ there was actually a roulette
table, but the rank and file gambled upon the length of straws, with
cards or dominoes, for their rations, their clothes, or their bedding.
The authorities attempted occasionally to check the mania among the most
enslaved by placing them apart from their fellows, reclothing them, and
making them eat their rations, but in vain, for they pierced the walls
of their places of confinement, and sold their clothes through the
apertures. Duels, as a consequence, were frequent, the usual time for
these being the dinner hour, because all the prisoners were then
temporarily in the _salles_.

St. Aubin thus describes his fellow prisoners. Sailors, he says, were
brusque but obliging; soldiers were more honest, softer and less prompt
to help; maîtres d’armes were proud and despotic. The scum of the
community were the Raffalés, who lived in the top story of the tower.
Among the two hundred of these there were only two or three suits of
clothes, which were worn in turn by those who had to go out foraging for
food. These men terrorized the rest, and their captain was even held in
some sort of fear, if not respect, by the authorities.

The prison amusements were various. The prisoners who had no occupations
played draughts, cards, dominoes, and billiards. On Sundays the beer-man
came, and much drunkenness prevailed, especially upon fête days, such as
St. Martin’s, Christmas, and August 15, the Emperor’s birthday: the
principal drinks being compounds of beer and spirits known as ‘strom’
and ‘shum’. On St. Cecilia’s Day the musicians always gave an
entertainment, but the chief form of amusement was the theatre.

This was arranged in the basement of the large tower—that is, the keep,
where three hundred people could be accommodated. Part of the boxes were
set apart for English visitors, who appreciated the French performances
so much that they even said that they were better than what they were
accustomed to in Portsmouth, and flocked to them, much to the disgust of
the native managers, who represented to the authorities that those
untaxed aliens were taking the bread out of their mouths. The Government
considered the matter, and upon the plea that the admission of the
English public to the French theatre was leading to too great intimacy
between the peoples, and thus would further the escapes of prisoners,
took advantage of the actual escape of a prisoner in English dress to
ordain that although the theatre might continue as heretofore, no
English were to be admitted. The result of this was that the receipts
dropped from £12 to £5 a night.

St. Aubin remarks, _en passant_, that Commander William Patterson and
Major Gentz, who were chiefly responsible for the retention of the
theatre, were the only Englishmen he ever met who were worthy of

Of the pieces played, St. Aubin mentions _L’Heureuse Étourderie_ by
himself; the tragedies _Zaïre_, _Mahomet_, _Les Templiers_; the comedies
_Les Deux Gendres_, _Les Folies amoureuses_, _Le Barbier de Séville_,
_Le Tyran domestique_, _Défiance et Malice_; many dramas, and even
vaudevilles and operas such as _Les Deux Journées_, _Pierre le Grand_,
_Françoise de Foix_, of which the music was composed by prisoners and
played by an orchestra of twelve.

A terrible murder is said to have been the outcome of theatricals in the
prison. In describing it St. Aubin starts with the opinion that ‘Les
maîtres d’armes sont toujours fort vilains messieurs’. There was a
quarrel between a gunner and a _maître des logis_; some said it was
about a theatrical part, but others that the gunner, Tardif, had
committed a crime in past days, had described it in writing, that the
paper had fallen from his hammock into that of Leguay, the _maître des
logis_, and that Tardif determined to get the possessor of his secret
out of the way. So he attacked Leguay, who ran bleeding to his hammock,
followed by Tardif, who then dispatched him, and displayed a strange,
fierce joy at the deed when overpowered and tied to a pillar. He was
tried, and condemned to be hanged at Portchester in the sight of all the
prisoners. ‘The scaffold was erected on the Portsmouth road’, says St.
Aubin, not within the Castle precincts, as another account states. He
had previously sold his body for ten francs to a surgeon for dissection.

At the request of the prisoners the body of Leguay was buried in
Portchester churchyard. All joined to raise funds for the funeral, and
the proceeds of a performance of _Robert, chef de brigands_, was devoted
to the relief of the widow and children of the murdered man.

At the funeral of Leguay, sous-officiers of his regiment, the 10th
Dragoons, carried the coffin, which was preceded by a British military
band, and followed by the sous-officiers in uniform, British officers,
and inhabitants of the neighbourhood.

Tardif was conveyed from Winchester to the _King’s Arms_ Inn at
Portchester, where Mr. White, the Roman Catholic priest, tried to get
him to take the last Sacrament, but in vain: Tardif only wanted the
execution to be got over as soon as possible. He was taken in a cart to
the prison yard, where were assembled 7,000 prisoners. Again the priest
urged him to repent, but it was useless. The cap was drawn over his
face, but he tore it away, and died as he had lived. The behaviour of
the spectator prisoners was exemplary.

At the Peace and Restoration of 1814, although the Portchester prisoners
were Bonapartists almost to a man, quite a boyish joy was exhibited at
the approaching liberation: great breakfasts were given in the village,
and by the end of May the Castle was empty.

The notes on Portchester of Philippe Gille, author of _Mémoires d’un
Conscrit de 1798_, are as interesting as those of St. Aubin,
particularly as regards the amusements of the prisoners, and I make no
apology for adding to them his immediately previous experiences, as they
are not distasteful reading.

Gille was taken prisoner in Baylen, and at first was put on board No. 27
Hulk, at Cadiz, in which ship, he says, were crowded no less than 1,824
prisoners! Thence he was sent to Cabrera and relates his frightful
experiences on that prison island.

After a time the prisoners were taken on board British ships, and
learned that their destination was an English prison—perhaps the dreaded

Gille was on board the _Britannia_. Let me tell the effect of the change
in his own words, they are so gratifying:

‘Aux traitements cruels des féroces Espagnols succédaient tout à coup
les soins compatissants des soldats et matelots anglais; ces braves gens
nous témoignaient toutes sortes d’égards. Ils transportèrent à bras
plusieurs de nos camarades malades ou amputés. Les effets qui nous
appartenaient furent aussi montés par leurs soins, sans qu’ils nous
laissaient prendre la peine de rien.’

On board there were cleanliness and space, good food for officers and
men alike, and plenty of it, the allowance being the same for six
prisoners as for four British. Rum was regularly served out, and Gille
lays stress on a pudding the prisoners made, into the composition of
which it entered.

They duly reached Plymouth; the beautiful scenery impressed Gille, but
he was most astonished when the market-boats came alongside to see
fish-women clothed in black velvet, with feathers and flowers in their

Thence to Portsmouth, where they got a first sight of the hulks, which
made Gille shudder, but he was relieved to learn that he and his fellows
were destined for a shore prison.

On September 28, 1810, they arrived at Portchester. Here they were
minutely registered, and clothed in a sleeved vest, waistcoat, and
trousers of yellow cloth, and a blue and white striped cotton shirt, and
provided with a hammock, a flock mattress of two pounds weight, a
coverlet, and tarred cords for hammock lashings.

Gille gives much interesting detail about the theatre. The Agent,
William Patterson, found it good policy to further any scheme by which
the prisoners could be kept wholesomely occupied, and so provided all
the wood necessary for the building of the theatre, which was in charge
of an ex-chief-machinist of the Théâtre Feydau in Paris, Carré by name.
He made a row of boxes and a hall capable of holding 300 people, and
thoroughly transformed the base story of the keep, which was unoccupied
because prisoners confined there in past times had died in great
numbers, and the authorities deemed it unwholesome as a sleeping-place.

Carré’s Arabian _Féerie_ was a tremendous success, but it led to the
Governmental interference with the theatre already mentioned. An English
major who took a lively interest in the theatre (probably the Major
Gentz alluded to by St. Aubin) had his whole regiment in to see it at
one shilling a head, and published in the Portsmouth papers a glowing
panegyric upon it, and further invited the directors of the Portsmouth
Theatre to ‘come to see how a theatre should be run’. They came, were
very pleased and polite, but very soon after came an order from the
authorities that the theatre should be shut. However, by the influence
of the Agent, it was permitted to continue, on the condition that no
English people were to be admitted.

Carré painted a drop-scene which was a masterpiece. It was a view of
Paris from a house at the corner of the Place Dauphine on the Pont-Neuf,
showing the Café Paris on the point of the island, the Bridges of the
Arts, the Royal and the Concorde, and the Bains des Bons-Hommes in the
distance, the Colonnade of the Louvre, the Tuileries with the national
flag flying, the Hôtel de Monnaies, the Quatre Nations, and the
‘théatins’ of the Quai Voltaire. It may be imagined how this home-touch
aroused the enthusiasm of the poor exiles!

New plays were received from Paris, amongst them _Le Petit Poucet_, _Le
Diable ou la Bohémienne_, _Les Deux Journées_ and _Adolphe et Clara_.
The musical pieces were accompanied by an orchestra (of prisoners, of
course) under Corret of the Conservatoire, who composed fresh music for
such representations as _Françoise de Foix_ and _Pierre le Grand_, as
their original music was too expensive, and who played the cornet solos,
Gourdet being first violin.

Gille’s own _métier_ was to make artificial flowers, and to give lessons
in painting, for which he took pupils at one franc fifty centimes a
month—the regulation price for all lessons. He also learned the violin,
and had an instrument made by a fellow prisoner.

At Portchester, as elsewhere, a Masonic Lodge was formed among the

In 1812 was brought to light the great plot for the 70,000 prisoners in
England to rise simultaneously, to disarm their guards, who were only
militia men, and to carry on a guerilla warfare, avoiding all towns. At
Portchester the 7,000 prisoners were to overpower the garrison, which
had two cannon and 800 muskets, and march to Forton, where were 3,000
prisoners. The success of the movement was to depend upon the
co-operation of the Boulogne troops and ships, in keeping the British
fleet occupied, but the breaking up of the Boulogne Camp, in order to
reinforce the Grand Army for the expedition to Russia, caused the
abandonment of the enterprise.

The news of the advance of the Allies in France only served to bind the
Imperialists together: the tricolour cockade was universally worn, and
an English captain who entered the Castle wearing a white cockade was
greeted with hisses, groans, and even stone-throwing, and was only saved
from further mischief by the Agent—a man much respected by the
prisoners—who got him away and gave him a severe lecture on his
foolishness. On Easter Day, 1814, the news of Peace, of the accession of
Louis XVIII, and of freedom for the prisoners came. The Agent asked the
prisoners to hoist the white flag as a greeting to the French officer
who was coming to announce formally the great news, and to arrange for
the departure of the prisoners. A unanimous refusal was the result, and
a British soldier had to hoist the flag. Contre-amiral Troude came.
There was a strong feeling against him, inasmuch as it was reported that
in order to gain his present position he had probably given up his fleet
to England, and a resolution was drawn up not to acclaim him. All the
same, Gille says, the speech he made so impressed the prisoners that he
was loudly cheered, and went away overcome with emotion.

The next day his mission took him to the prison ships. Here he did not
succeed so well, for as he approached one of the hulks he had a large
basket of filth thrown over him, and he had to leave without boarding
her. By way of punishment, the prisoners on this ship were made the last
to leave England.

On May 15, 1814, the evacuation of Portchester began. Gille left on the
20th, carrying away the best of feelings towards the Agent and the
Commandant, the former showing his sympathy with the prisoners to the
very last, by taking steps so that the St. Malo men, of whom there were
a great many, should be sent direct to their port instead of being
landed at Calais.

Gille describes a very happy homeward voyage, thanks largely to the
English doctor on the ship, who, finding that Gille was a Mason, had him
treated with distinction, and even offered to help him with a loan of

Pillet, the irrepressible, tells a yarn that ‘Milor Cordower (Lord
Cawdor), Colonel du régiment de Carmarthen’, visiting the Castle one
day, was forgetful enough to leave his horse unattended, tied up in the
courtyard; when he returned there was no horse to be found, and it
turned out that the prisoners, mad with hunger, had taken the horse,
killed it, and eaten it raw. Pillet adds that all dogs who strayed
Portchester way suffered the same fate, and that in support of his
statement he can bring many naval officers of Lorient and Brest.

Pillet’s story, I think, is rather better than Garneray’s about the
great Dane on the prison ship (see pp. 68–71).

The last French prisoners left Portchester at the end of May 1814, but
American prisoners were here until January 1816. After the Peace all the
wooden buildings were taken down and sold by auction (a row of cottages
in Fareham, built out of the material, still enjoys the name of ‘Bug
Row’). Relics of this period of the Castle’s history are very scanty.
The old Guard House at the Land Gate, now the Castle Custodian’s
dwelling, remains much as it was, and a line of white stones on the
opposite side of the approach marks the boundary of the old prison
hospital, which is also commemorated in the name Hospital Lane.

The great tower still retains the five stories which were arranged for
the prisoners, and on the transverse beams are still the hooks to which
the hammocks were suspended. Some crude coloured decoration on the beams
of the lowest story may have been the work of the French theatrical
artists, but I doubt it.

Names of French and other prisoners are cut on many of the walls and
wooden beams, notably at the very top of the great tower, which is
reached by a dark, steep newel stair of Norman work, now almost closed
to the public on account of the dangerous condition of many of the
steps. This was the stair used by Dufresne, and the number of names cut
in the topmost wall would seem to show that the lofty coign, whence
might be seen a widespread panorama, stretching on three sides far away
to the Channel, and to these poor fellows possible liberty, was a
favourite resort. I noted some twenty decipherable names, the earliest
date being 1745 and the latest 1803.

Only one death appears in the Church Register—that of ‘Peter Goston, a
French prisoner’, under date of December 18, 1812.

There seems to have been no separate burial ground for the rank and file
of the prisoners, but it is said that they were shovelled away into the
tide-swept mud-flats outside the South Gate, and that, for economy, a
single coffin with a sliding bottom did duty for many corpses. But human
remains in groups have been unearthed all around the Castle, and, as it
is known that at certain periods the mortality among the prisoners was
very high, it is believed that these are to be dated from the
prisoner-of-war epoch of the Castle’s history.

No descendants of the prisoners are to be traced in or about
Portchester; but Mrs. Durrand, who is a familiar figure to all visitors
to the Castle, believes that her late husband’s grandfather was a French
prisoner of war here.

It may be noted that Arthur Wellesley, afterwards Duke of Wellington,
was at one time an officer of the garrison at Portchester.


A correspondent of the French paper _L’Intermédiaire_, the equivalent of
our _Notes and Queries_, gives some details. The Portchester Theatricals
originated with the prisoners who came from Cabrera and the Isle de
Léon. On these awful islands the prisoners played entirely as amateurs,
but at Portchester the majority of the actors were salaried; indeed,
only three were not.

I give a list of the actors in or about the year 1810:

 1. _Sociétaires_ (salaried subscribers).

 Hanin, an employé in the English prison office, with the purely
   honorary title of Director.
 Breton, Sergeant, 2nd Garde de Paris      Comique.
 Reverdy, Sergeant, 2nd Garde de Paris     père noble.
 Lafontaine, Sergeant, 2nd Garde de Paris  jeune premier.
 Gruentgentz, Sergeant, 2nd Garde de Paris mère  et duègne.
 Moreau, Captain 2nd Garde de Paris        les Colins.
 Blin de Balue, Sergeant, Marine Artillery les tyrans.
 Sutat (?), Maréchal des logis             jeune première.
 Wanthies, Captain, 4th Legion             soubrette et jeune première.
 Defacq, fourrier, chasseurs à cheval      jeune premier en séconde.
 Siutor or Pintor, marin                   jouant les accessoires.
 Palluel, fourrier, 2nd Garde de Paris     bas comique.
 Carré, soldat, 2nd Garde de Paris         machiniste.
 Montlefort, Marine                        artificier.

 2. _Amateurs._

 Gille, fourrier, 1st Legion               jeunes premiers.
 Quantin, fourrier, 1st Legion             les ingénues.
 Iwan, chasseurs à cheval                  les confidents.

The orchestra consisted of four violins, two horns, three clarinets, and
one ‘octave’.

In the above list both Gille and Quantin wrote memoirs of their stay at
Portchester. The former I have quoted.

A French writer thus sarcastically speaks of the dramatic efforts of
these poor fellows:

‘Those who never have seen the performances of wandering _troupes_ in
some obscure village of Normandy or Brittany can hardly form an idea of
these prison representations wherein rough sailors with a few rags
wrapped about them mouth the intrigues and sentiments of our great poets
in the style of the cabaret.’

No doubt the performances on the hulks were poor enough. The wonder to
us who know what life was on the hulks is, not that they were poor, but
that there was any heart to give them at all. But there is plenty of
evidence that the performances in such a prison as Portchester, wherein
were assembled many men of education and refinement, were more than
good. At any rate, we have seen that they were good enough to attract
English audiences to such an extent as to interfere with the success of
the local native theatres, and to bring about the exclusion from them of
these English audiences.

                              CHAPTER XIII
                           THE PRISONS ASHORE
                              5. LIVERPOOL

Liverpool became a considerable dépôt for prisoners of war, from the
force of circumstances rather than from any suitability of its own. From
its proximity to Ireland, the shelter and starting and refitting point
of so many French, and, later, American privateers, Liverpool shared
with Bristol, and perhaps with London, the position of being the busiest
privateering centre in Britain.

Hence, from very early days in its history, prisoners were continually
pouring in and out; in, as the Liverpool privateers, well equipped and
armed by wealthy individuals or syndicates, skilfully commanded and
splendidly fought, swept the narrow seas and beyond, and brought in
their prizes; out, as both sides were ready enough to exchange men in a
contest of which booty was the main object, and because the guarding of
hundreds of desperate seafaring men was a matter of great difficulty and
expense in an open port with no other than the usual accommodation for

Before 1756 the prisoners of war brought into Liverpool were stowed away
in the common Borough Gaol and in an old powder magazine which stood on
the north side of Brownlow Street, where Russell Street now is.
Prisoners taken in the Seven Years’ War and the American War of
Independence were lodged in the Tower Prison at the lower end of Water
Street, on the north side, where now Tower Buildings stand, between
Tower Garden and Stringers Alley, which remained the chief jail of
Liverpool until July 1811. It was a castellated building of red
sandstone, consisting of a large square embattled tower, with
subordinate towers and buildings, forming three sides of a quadrangle of
which the fourth side was occupied by a walled garden, the whole
covering an area of about 3,700 square yards.



  (_From an old print._)

In 1756 the Admiralty had bought the dancing-room and the buildings
adjoining at the bottom of Water Street, and ‘fitted them up for the
French prisoners in a most commodious manner, there being a handsome
kitchen with furnaces, &c., for cooking their provisions, and good
lodging rooms both above and below stairs. Their lordships have ordered
a hammock and bedding (same as used on board our men of war), for each
prisoner, which it is to be hoped will be a means of procuring our
countrymen who have fallen into their hands better usage than hitherto,
many of them having been treated with great inhumanity.’

One of the most famous of the early French ‘corsaires’, Thurot—who
during the Seven Years’ War made Ireland his base, and, acting with the
most admirable skill and audacity, caused almost as much loss and
consternation on this coast as did Paul Jones later—was at last brought
a prisoner into Liverpool on February 28, 1760.

The romance of Felix Durand, a Seven Years’ War prisoner at the Tower,
is almost as interesting as that of Louis Vanhille, to which I devote a
separate chapter.

The wife of one P., an ivory carver and turner in Dale Street, and part
owner of the _Mary Ellen_ privateer, had a curiously made foreign box
which had been broken, and which no local workman could mend. The French
prisoners were famous as clever and ingenious artisans, and to one of
them, Felix Durand, it was handed. He accepted the job, and wanted ample
time to do it in. Just as it should have been finished, fifteen
prisoners, Durand among them, escaped from the Tower, but, having
neither food nor money, and, being ignorant of English and of the
localities round Liverpool, all, after wandering about for some time
half-starved, either returned or were captured.

Says Durand, describing his own part in the affair:

‘I am a Frenchman, fond of liberty and change, and I determined to make
my escape. I was acquainted with Mr. P. in Dale Street; I did work for
him in the Tower, and he has a niece who is _tout à fait charmante_. She
has been a constant ambassadress between us, and has taken charge of my
money to deposit with her uncle on my account. She is very engaging, and
when I have had conversation with her, I obtained from her the
information that on the east side of our prison there were two houses
which opened into a short narrow street [perhaps about Johnson Lane or
Oriel Chambers]. Mademoiselle is very kind and complacent, and examined
the houses and found an easy entrance into one.’

So, choosing a stormy night, the prisoners commenced by loosening the
stone work in the east wall, and packing the mortar under their beds.
They were safe during the day, but once when a keeper did come round,
they put one of their party in bed, curtained the window grating with a
blanket, and said that their compatriot was ill and could not bear the
light. So the officer passed on. At last the hole was big enough, and
one of them crept through. He reported an open yard, that it was raining
heavily, and that the night was _affreuse_. They crept out one by one
and got into the yard, whence they entered a cellar by the window,
traversed a passage or two, and entered the kitchen, where they made a
good supper, of bread and beef. While cutting this, one of them let fall
a knife, but nobody heard it, and, says Durand, ‘Truly you Englishmen
sleep well!’

Finally, as a neighbouring clock struck two, they managed to get past
the outer wall, and one man, sent to reconnoitre, reported: ‘not a soul
to be seen anywhere, the wind rushing up the main street from the sea.’

They then separated. Durand went straight ahead, ‘passed the Exchange,
down a narrow lane [Dale Street] facing it, in which I knew Mademoiselle
dwelt, but did not know the house; therefore I pushed on till I came to
the foot of a hill. I thought I would turn to the left at first, but
went on to take my chance of four cross roads—’ (Old Haymarket, Townsend
Lane, now Byron Street, Dale Street, and Shaw’s Brow, now William Brown

He went on until he came to the outskirts of Liverpool by Townsend Mill
(at the top of London Road), and so on the road to Prescot, ankle-deep
in mud. He ascended Edge Hill, keeping always the right-hand road, lined
on both sides with high trees, and at length arrived at a little village
(Wavertree) as a clock struck three. Then he ate some bread and drank
from a pond. Then onwards, always bearing to the right, on to ‘the
quaint little village of Hale,’ his final objective being Dublin, where
he had a friend, a French priest.

At Hale an old woman came out of a cottage and began to take down the
shutters. Durand, who, not knowing English, had resolved to play the
part of a deaf and dumb man, quietly took the shutters from her, and
placed them in their proper position. Then he took a broom and swept
away the water from the front of the door; got the kettle and filled it
from the pump, the old woman being too astonished to be able to say
anything, a feeling which was increased when her silent visitor raked
the cinders out of the grate, and laid the fire. Then she said something
in broad Lancashire, but he signified that he was deaf and dumb, and he
understood her so far as to know that she expressed pity. At this point
he sank on to a settle and fell fast asleep from sheer exhaustion from
walking and exposure. When he awakened he found breakfast awaiting him,
and made a good meal. Then he did a foolish thing. At the sound of
horses’ hoofs he sprang up in alarm and fled from the house—an act
doubly ill-advised, inasmuch as it betrayed his affliction to be
assumed, and, had his entertainer been a man instead of an old woman,
would assuredly have stirred the hue and cry after him.

He now took a wrong turning, and found himself going towards Liverpool,
but corrected his road, and at midday reached a barn where two men were
threshing wheat. He asked leave by signs to rest, which was granted. We
shall now see how the native ingenuity of the Frenchman stood him in
good stead in circumstances where the average Englishman would have been
a useless tramp and nothing more. Seeing some fresh straw in a corner,
Durand began to weave it into a dainty basket. The threshers stayed
their work to watch him, and, when the article was finished, offered to
buy it. Just then the farmer entered, and from pity and admiration took
him home to dinner, and Durand’s first act was to present the basket to
the daughter of the house. Dinner finished, the guest looked about for
work to do, and in the course of the afternoon he repaired a stopped
clock with an old skewer and a pair of pincers, mended a chair, repaired
a china image, cleaned an old picture, repaired a lock, altered a key,
and fed the pigs!

The farmer was delighted, and offered him a barn to sleep in, but the
farmer’s daughter injudiciously expressed her admiration of him,
whereupon her sweetheart, who came in to spend the evening, signed to
him the necessity of his immediate departure.

For weeks this extraordinary man, always simulating a deaf-mute,
wandered about, living by the sale of baskets, and was everywhere
received with the greatest kindness.

But misfortune overtook him at length, although only temporarily. He was
standing by a very large tree, a local lion, when a party of visitors
came up to admire it, and a young lady expressed herself in very purely
pronounced French. Unable to restrain himself, Durand stepped forward,
and echoed her sentiments.

‘Why!’ exclaimed the lady. ‘This is the dumb man who was at the Hall
yesterday repairing the broken vases!’

The result was that he was arrested as an escaped prisoner of war, sent
first to Ormskirk, and then back to his old prison at the Liverpool

However, in a short time, through the influence of Sir Edward Cunliffe,
one of the members for Liverpool, he was released, and went to reside
with the P.’s in Dale Street. In the following September Mr. Durand and
Miss P. became man and wife, and he remained in Liverpool many years, as
partner in her uncle’s business.

In 1779 Howard the philanthropist, in his tour through the prisons of
Britain, visited the Liverpool Tower. He reported that there were
therein 509 prisoners, of whom fifty-six were Spaniards, who were kept
apart from the French prisoners, on account of racial animosities. All
were crowded in five rooms, which were packed with hammocks three tiers
high. The airing ground was spacious. There were thirty-six invalids in
a small dirty room of a house at some distance from the prison. There
were no sheets on the beds, but the surgeons were attentive, and there
were no complaints.

At the prison, he remarked, the bedding required regulation. There was
no table hung up of regulations or of the victualling rate, so that the
prisoners had no means of checking their allowances. The meat and beer
were good, but the bread was heavy. The late Agent, he was informed, had
been very neglectful of his duties, but his successor bore a good
character, and much was expected of him.

It has been said that most of the prisoners of war in Liverpool were
privateersmen. In 1779 Paul Jones was the terror of the local waters,
and as his continual successes unsettled the prisoners and incited them
to continual acts of mutiny and rebellion, and escapes or attempts to
escape were of daily occurrence, a general shifting of prisoners took
place, many of the confined men being sent to Chester, Carlisle, and
other inland towns, and the paroled men to Ormskirk and Wigan.

In 1779 Sir George Saville and the Yorkshire Militia subscribed £50 to
the fund for the relief of the French and Spanish prisoners in
Liverpool. The appeal for subscriptions wound up with the following
complacent remark:

‘And as the Town of Liverpool is already the Terror of our Foes, they
will by this means (at the time they acknowledge our Spirit and Bravery)
be obliged to reverence our Virtue and Humanity.’

In 1781 the Rev. Gilbert Wakefield wrote:

‘The American and French Wars had now been raging for some months, and
several hundred prisoners of the latter nation had been brought into
Liverpool by privateers. I frequently visited them in their confinement,
and was much mortified and ashamed of their uniform complaints of hard
usage and a scanty allowance of unwholesome provision. What I
occasionally observed in my visits gave me but too much reason to
believe the representations of this pleasing people, who maintained
their national sprightliness and good humour undamped even in captivity.
I was happy to learn later from the prisoners themselves the good
effects of my interference, and the Commissary, the author of their
wrongs, was presently superseded.... When I met him in the street later
there was fire in his eye, and fury in his face.’

In 1793, the New Borough Gaol in Great Howard Street, (formerly Milk
House Lane), which had been built in 1786, but never used, was made
ready for prisoners of war.

The following letter to the _Liverpool Courier_ of January 12, 1798, was
characterized by _The Times_ as ‘emanating from some sanguinary Jacobin
in some back garret of London’:

‘The French prisoners in the dungeons of Liverpool are actually
starving. Some time ago their usual allowance was lessened under
pretence of their having bribed the sentinels with the superfluity of
their provisions. Each prisoner is allowed ½ lb. of beef, 1 lb. bread,
&c., and as much water as he can drink. _The meat is the offal of the
Victualling Office_—the necks and shanks of the butchered; the bread is
so bad and so black as to incite disgust; and the water so brackish as
not to be drunken, and they are provided with straw. The officers,
contrary to the rule of Nations, are imprisoned with the privates, and
are destined with them to experience the dampness and filth of these
dismal and unhealthy dungeons. The privileges of Felons are not allowed
them. Philanthropos.’

So the Mayor and Magistrates of Liverpool made minute inspection of the
prison (which had been arranged in accordance with Howard’s
recommendations), and published a report which absolutely contradicted
the assertions of ‘Philanthropos’. There were, it said, six large
detached buildings, each of three stories, 106 feet long, twenty-three
feet high, and forty-seven feet wide; there were two kitchens, each
forty-eight feet long, twenty feet broad, and thirteen feet high. In the
two upper stories the prisoners slept in cells or separate compartments,
nine feet long, seven feet broad, and eleven feet high, each with a
glazed window, and in each were generally three or four, never more than
five, prisoners. The Hospital occupied two rooms, each thirty-three feet
long, thirty feet broad, and eleven feet high. The officer-prisoners,
seventy in number, occupied a separate building, and the other
prisoners, 1,250 in number, were in the five buildings. The mortality
here, from May 15 to December 31, 1798, among 1,332 prisoners was

Richard Brooke, in _Liverpool from 1775 to 1800_, says:

‘Amongst the amusements some of the French prisoners during their
confinement here performed plays in a small theatre contrived for that
purpose within the walls, and in some instances they raised in a single
night £50 for admission money. Many of my readers will recollect that
with the usual ingenuity of the French the prisoners manufactured a
variety of snuff-boxes, rings, trinkets, crucifixes, card-boxes, and
toys which were exhibited in a stand at the entrance of the Gaol and
sold for their benefit.’

One famous prisoner here was a Pole, named Charles Domery, whose
voracity was extraordinary. He ate anything. After the surrender of the
frigate on which he was captured he was so hungry that he was caught
tearing the mangled limb of one of his fallen comrades. In one year he
ate 174 cats, some of them alive, besides dogs, rats, candles, and
especially raw meat. Although he was daily allowed the rations of ten
men, he was never satisfied. One day the prison doctor tested his
capacity, and at a sitting he ate fourteen pounds of raw meat and two
pounds of candles, and washed it all down with five bottles of porter.
Some of the French prisoners used to upbraid him with his Polish
nationality, and accuse him of disloyalty to the Republic. Once, in a
fit of anger at this, he seized a knife, cut two wide gashes on his bare
arm, and with the blood wrote on the wall ‘Vive la République!’

He stood six feet two inches, was well made, and rather thin, and,
despite the brutality of his taste in food, was a very amiable and
inoffensive man.

The following touching little letter was evidently written by a very
poor prisoner whose wife shared his confinement.

 ‘De Livrepool: Ce 21 Septanbre 1757.

‘Mon cher frere je vous dis ses deux mot pour vous dire que ma tres cher
femme à quitte ce monde pour aller à lotre monde; je vous prit de priyer
pour elle et de la recommender a tous nos bons paran.

                                       ‘Je suis en pleuran votre
                                           ‘Serviteur et frere
                                                       ‘JOSEPH LE BLAN.’

From Brooke’s _Liverpool_ I also take the following:

‘A considerable number of prisoners were confined in the Borough Gaol, a
most ill-judged place of confinement when its contiguity to Coast and
Shipping, and the facilities afforded for escape of prisoners in case of
the appearance of an Enemy off the Coast are considered. In general the
prisoners were ill clad and appeared dispirited and miserable, and the
mortality among them was very considerable; the hearse was constantly in
requisition to convey from the Gaol the corpse of some poor Frenchman to
the public cemetery at St. John’s Church (where they were buried
unmarked in a special corner set apart for felons and paupers). Soon
after the Peace of Amiens, 1802, eleven hundred were liberated, some of
whom had been there for years.’

One of these men had accumulated three hundred guineas by his

As no book alludes to Liverpool as possessing a war-prison after 1802,
it may be concluded that it ceased to have one after that date. This, I
think, is probable, as it was eminently unsuitable owing to its position
and its proximity to disturbed Ireland.[7]

                              CHAPTER XIV
                           THE PRISONS ASHORE
                        6. GREENLAW—VALLEYFIELD

About a mile and a half on the Edinburgh side of Penicuik, on the great
south road leading to Peebles and Dumfries, is the military station of
Glencorse, the dépôt of the Royal Scots Regiment. Until about ten years
ago the place was known as Greenlaw, but the name was changed owing to
postal confusion with Greenlaw in Berwickshire.

In 1804, when, for many reasons, war-prisoners were hurried away from
England to Scotland, the old mansion house of Greenlaw was bought by the
Government and converted into a dépôt for 200 prisoners of war. It was
situated in the south-west corner of a park of sixty acres, and
consisted of a great square building, which was surrounded by a high
wooden palisade, outside which was an airing ground, and space for the
necessary domestic offices, guard rooms, garrison quarters, and so
forth, within an outer stone wall. Other buildings, chiefly in wood,
were added, and until 1811 it was the only Scottish war-prison south of

For a year Greenlaw depended upon regulars from Edinburgh for its
garrison, but after 1805 the drain upon the army for foreign service was
so great, that the Militia was again requisitioned to do duty at the
war-prisons. The garrison at Greenlaw consisted of one captain, four
subalterns, eight sergeants, four drummers, and 155 rank and file, the
head-quarters being at the Old Foundry in Penicuik. Discipline seems to
have been strict, and special attention was given to the appearance and
turn-out of the men. Eleven sentries were on duty night and day, each
man having six blank and six ball cartridges, the latter only to be used
in case of serious need—a very necessary insistance, as the militiamen,
although of a better class generally than their successors of recent
years, were more apt to be carried away by impulse than seasoned
regulars. A private of the Stirling Militia was condemned in 1807 to
receive 800 lashes for being drunk and out of quarters after tattoo, for
having struck his superior officer, and used mutinous language—and this
was a sentence mitigated on account of his previous good conduct and his
expression of regret.

After the Peace of 1814, Greenlaw seems to have remained untenanted
until 1846, when extensive buildings were added—mostly of wood—and it
was made the military prison for Scotland. This it continued to be until
1888. In 1876 still further additions were made in a more substantial
fashion, as it was decided to make it also the Scottish South Eastern
Military Dépôt. In 1899 the old military prisons in wood were
demolished, and with them some of the original war-prison buildings, so
that all at present existing of the latter are the stone octagon Guard
House, in the war-times used as the place of confinement for officers,
and the line of building, now the married men’s quarters, then the
garrison officer’s quarters, and some of the original stone boundary

In 1810 the Government bought the Esk Mills at Valleyfield, and on
February 6, 1811, the first batch of 350 prisoners arrived. Building was
rapidly pushed forward to provide accommodation for 5,000 prisoners at a
cost of £73,000, the new war-prison being known as Valleyfield.

‘About nine miles south of Edinburgh,’ says a writer in _Chambers’s
Journal_ for 1887, ‘on the main road to Peebles, stands the village of
Penicuik, for the most part built on the high road overlooking and
sloping down the valley of the North Esk. Passing through the village,
and down the slope leading to the bridge that spans the Esk and
continues the road, we turn sharply to the left just at the bridge, and
a short distance below are the extensive paper-mills of Messrs.
Alexander Cowan and Sons, called the Valleyfield Paper Mills.’

I followed this direction, and under the courteous guidance of Mr. Cowan
saw what little remains of one of the most famous war-prisons of

Until 1897 one of the original ‘casernes’ was used as a rag store. In
August of that year this was pulled down. It measured 300 feet long,
‘and its walls were eleven feet six inches thick.’[8] It had formed one
of the first buildings at Glencorse. Valleyfield House, now the
residence of Mr. Cowan, was in the days of the war-prison used as the

In 1906, during excavations for the new enamelling house at the Mills, a
dozen coffins were unearthed, all with their heads to the east. The new
buildings of 1812 at Valleyfield consisted of six ‘casernes’, each from
80 to 100 feet long, of three stories, built of wood, with openings
closed by strong wooden shutters. They were without fire-places, as it
was considered that the animal heat of the closely-packed inmates would
render such accessories unnecessary! The whole was surrounded by a stout
wooden stockade, outside which was a carriage-road.

Notwithstanding apparent indifference to the comfort of the prisoners,
the mortality at Valleyfield during three years and four months was but
309, being at the rate of 18·5 per mille, and in this is included a
number of violent deaths from duels, quarrels, and the shooting of
prisoners attempting to escape.

In the beautiful hillside garden of Valleyfield House is a monument,
erected by Mr. Alexander Cowan, to the memory of these prisoners,
inaugurated on June 26, 1830, the day on which George IV died. On it was

‘The mortal remains of 309 prisoners of war who died in this
neighbourhood between 21st March, 1811, and 26th July, 1814, are
interred near this spot.’

‘Grata Quies Patriae: sed et Omnis Terra Sepulchrum.’ ‘Certain
inhabitants of this parish, desiring to remember that all men are
brethren, caused this monument to be erected in the year 1830.’

On the other side:

‘Près de ce Lieu reposent les cendres de 309 Prisonniers de Guerre morts
dans ce voisinage entre le 21 Mars 1811 et le 26 Juillet 1814. Nés pour
bénir les vœux de vieillissantes mères, par le sort appelés à devenir
amants, aimés époux et pères.

‘Ils sont morts exilés. Plusieurs Habitants de cette Paroisse, aimant à
croire que tous les Hommes sont Frères, firent élever ce monument l’an

It may be noted that Sir Walter Scott, who showed a warm interest in the
erection of the monument, suggested the Latin quotation, which is from
Saumazarius, a poet of the Middle Ages. Despite the inscription, the
monument was raised at the _sole expense_ of Mr. Alexander Cowan.



An interesting episode is associated with this monument. In 1845, Mr.
John Cowan of Beeslack, on a visit to the Paris Invalides, found an old
Valleyfield prisoner named Marcher, and on his return home sent the old
soldier a picture of the Valleyfield Memorial, and in the Cowan
Institute at Penicuik, amongst other relics of the war-prison days, is
an appreciative letter from Marcher, dated from the Invalides, December

Marcher, when asked his experience of Valleyfield, said that it was
terribly cold, that there were no windows, no warmth, no fruit, but that
the cabbages were very large. He lost an arm at Waterloo.

The guard consisted of infantry of the Ayr and Kircudbright militia and
artillery, who had their camp on the high ground west of Kirkhill
Village. On one occasion an alarm that prisoners were escaping was
given: the troops hurried to the scene of action, the artillery with
such precipitancy that horses, guns, and men were rolled down the steep
hill into the river, luckily without injuries.

The attempts to escape were as numerous here as elsewhere, and the Black
Hole, made of hewn ashlar work, never lacked occupants. One man, a
sailor, it was impossible to keep within, and, like his fellow
countryman, Dufresne, at Portchester, was used to getting in and out
when he liked, and might have got away altogether, but for his raids
upon farm-houses and cottages around, which caused the natives to give
him up. On one occasion three prisoners rigged a false bottom to the
prison dust-cart, hid themselves therein, and were conveyed out of the
prison. When the cart stopped, the prisoners got out, and were entering
a wood, when a soldier met them. Him they cut at, and he, being unarmed,
let them go. They were, however, recaptured. On December 18, 1811,
fourteen prisoners got out, but were all recaptured. One memorable
attempt to get out by a tunnel from one of the original buildings, to
another in course of erection, and thence to the outer side of the
stockade, was made in the same year. The tunnel was one hundred yards
long, and the enormous quantity of earth excavated was carried out in
the men’s pockets, dropped about on the airing ground, and trodden down.
The venture only failed owing to the first man mistaking the hour of
day, and emerging before sunset, whereupon he was seen by a sentry and
fired on.

It was at the daily market when the country people were brought into
acquaintance with the prisoners, that many attempts to escape were made,
despite the doubling of the guards. One prisoner had arranged with the
carter who came every morning to take away the manure that he would
conceal himself in the cart, keep himself covered up with the filth, and
thus pass the sentries. The field where the rubbish was emptied was just
outside the village, and the prisoner would know that it was time for
him to crawl out and run away when the cart halted. All started well;
the cart passed through the gate, and passed the first, second, and
third sentries, and was close to where the Free Church manse now stands,
when a friend of the carter hailed him in a loud voice. The cart pulled
up, and the poor prisoner, thinking that this was the signal, jumped
out, and was shot down before he had gone many yards.

Another prisoner, by name Pirion, broke his parole, and was making his
way to London by the coach road, and took shelter from the rain when he
had got as far south as Norman Cross, not knowing where he was. He was
recognized as an old Norman Cross prisoner, and was arrested and brought

In 1812 the report upon the condition of Valleyfield was very bad, and
in particular it was recommended that a special stockade should be built
to hide the half-naked prisoners from public view at the market.

In 1813 a Valleyfield prisoner was released in order that he might help
a Mr. Ferguson in the cod and herring fishery: almost as easy a release
as that of the Norman Cross prisoner who was freed because he had
instructed the Earl of Winchester’s labourers at Burleigh, by Stamford,
in the use of the Hainault scythe!

At one time very few of the prisoners at Valleyfield were Frenchmen.
About twenty of them were allowed to live on parole outside the prison,
and some of them enjoyed the friendship of the Cowan family; one in
particular, Ancamp, a Nantes merchant, had been a prisoner nine and a
half years, and had had a son born to him since his capture, whom he had
never seen.

In 1814, Valleyfield was evacuated, and remained unoccupied until 1820,
when, after having been advertised for sale and put up to auction
several times without success, it was purchased by Cowan for £2,200.

In Penicuik many relics of the prisoners’ manufactures may still be
seen, and what is now the public park was formerly the vegetable garden
of the prison.

An elderly lady at Lasswade told Mr. Bresnil of Loanhead that she
remembered in her childhood an old farmer who was pointed out as having
made his fortune by providing oatmeal to the prisoners at Valleyfield of
an inferior quality to that for which he had contracted.

I shall now give two accounts of life at these prisons. The first is by
Sergeant-Major Beaudouin, of the 31st Line Regiment, whom we have met
before in this book on the hulks at Chatham. He was captured off Havana,
26th Germinal, An XII, that is, on April 16, 1804, on board one of the
squadrons from St. Nicholas Mole, San Domingo, and brought via Belfast
to Greenock, at which port he happened to arrive on June 4, in the midst
of the celebrations of the King’s birthday. (It may be mentioned that he
quitted England finally, eight years later, on the same day.) Bonaparte
in effigy, on a donkey, was being paraded through the street preparatory
to being burned, and the natives told him that they hoped some fine day
to catch and burn Bonaparte himself, which upset Beaudouin and made him
retort that despite all England’s strength France would never be
conquered, and that 100,000 Frenchmen landed in England would be
sufficient to conquer it, whereupon a disturbance ensued.

Beaudouin landed at Port Glasgow, and thence to Renfrew and Glasgow, of
which city he remarks:

‘Cette ville paraît très grande et belle; costume très brillant. Ce
qu’il y a de remarquable c’est que les paysans sont aussi bien mis comme
ceux de la ville; on ne peut en faire la différence que par le genre. Ce
qui _jure_ beaucoup dans leur costume, c’est que les femmes marchent
presque toujours nu-pieds. La quantité de belles femmes n’est pas
grande, comme on dit; en outre, en général elles out les bouches commes
des fours.’

From Glasgow the prisoners marched to Airdrie, ten miles, where the
people were affable. For the six prisoners there was an escort of a
sergeant, a corporal, and eight men.

From Airdrie they proceeded to Bathgate, fourteen miles, thence to
Edinburgh, twenty-two miles, where they were lodged for the night in the
guard-house of the Castle. From Edinburgh they came to Greenlaw, ten
miles, June 10, 1804.

Beaudouin thus describes Greenlaw:

‘Cette prison est une maison de campagne. À deux milles où loge le
détachement qui nous garde est Penicuik. Cette maison est entourée de
deux rangs de palissades avec des factionnaires tout autour; à côté est
situé un petit bois qui favorise quelquefois des désertions.’

At first they were quartered with Dutch prisoners, but when peace was
made between Britain and Holland, these latter left.

At Greenlaw there were 106 French and 40 Spanish prisoners. The
Spaniards were very antagonistic to the French, and also among
themselves, quarrelling freely and being very handy with their knives.
Beaudouin gives many instances of their brutality. At call-over a
Spaniard waited for another to come through the door, and stabbed him in
the face. An Italian and a Spaniard fought with knives until both were
helpless. Two Spaniards quarrelled about their soup, and fought in
public in the airing ground. The guard did not attempt to interfere—and

‘Les Espagnols,’ says Beaudouin, ‘possèdent toutes les bonnes qualités.
Premièrement ils sont paresseux à l’excès, sales, traîtres, joueurs, et
voleurs comme des pies.’

He describes Valleyfield as cold, with very little fine weather, but
healthy. At the end of a week or so the newly arrived prisoners settled
to work of different kinds. Some plaited straw for bonnets, some made
_tresse cornue_ for baskets and hats; some carved boxes, games, &c.;
some worked hair watch-chains; some made coloured straw books and other
knick-knacks, all of which they sold at the barriers.

Beaudouin learned to plait straw, and at first found it difficult as his
fingers were so big. The _armateur_, the employer, gave out the straw,
and paid for the worked article three sous per ‘brasse’, a little under
six feet. Some men could make twelve ‘brasses’ a day. Beaudouin set to
work at it, and in the course of a couple of months became an adept.
After four years came the remonstrance of the country people that this
underpaid labour by untaxed men was doing infinite injury to them; the
Government prohibited the manufactures, and much misery among the
prisoners resulted. From this prohibition resulted the outside practice
of smuggling straw into the prison, and selling it later as the
manufactured article, and a very profitable industry it must have been,
for we find that, during the trial of Matthew Wingrave in 1813, for
engaging in the straw-plait trade with the prisons at Valleyfield, it
came out that Wingrave, who was an extensive dealer in the article, had
actually moved up there from Bedfordshire on purpose to carry on the
trade, and had bought cornfields for the purpose. The evidence showed
that he was in the habit of bribing the soldiers to keep their eyes
shut, and that not a few people of character and position were
associated with him in the business.

Beaudouin then learned to make horsehair rings with names worked into
them: these fetched sixpence each: rings in human hair were worth a
shilling. For five years and a half he worked at this, and in so doing
injured his eyesight. ‘However,’ he said, ‘it kept me alive, which the
rations would never have done.’

Nominally the clothing was renewed every year, but Beaudouin declares
that he had only one change in five and a half years. To prevent the
clothes from being sold, they were of a sulphur-yellow colour.

‘En un mot, les Anglais sont tous des brigands,’ he says, and continues:

‘I have described many English atrocities committed in the Colonies;
they are no better here. In the prison they have practised upon us all
possible cruelties. For instance, drum-beat was the signal for all
lights to be put out, and if by chance the drum is not heard and the
lights remain, the prisoners are fired upon without warning, and several
have been shot.’

The prisoners signed a petition about their miserable condition
generally, and this outrage in particular, and sent it up to the
Transport Board. Fifteen days later the Agent entered the prison
furious: ‘I must know who wrote that letter to the Government,’ he
roared, ‘and I will put him into the _blokhall_ (Black Hole) until he
says who put it in the post.’

It ended in his being dismissed and severely punished. Ensign Maxwell of
the Lanark Militia, who had ordered the sentry to fire into the prison
because a light was burning there after drum-beat, whereby a prisoner,
Cotier, was killed, was condemned to nine months’ imprisonment in the
Tolbooth. This was in 1807.[9] Many of the prisoners went to Edinburgh
as witnesses in this case, and thereafter an order was posted up
forbidding any firing upon the prisoners. If lights remained, the guard
was to enter the prison, and, if necessary, put the offenders into the
Black Hole, but no violence was to be used.

On March 30, 1809, all the French prisoners at Greenlaw were ordered to
Chatham, of which place very bad reports were heard from men who had
been on the hulks there.

‘Ils disent qu’ils sont plus mal qu’à Greenlaw. Premièrement, les vivres
sont plus mauvais, excepté le pain qui est un peu meilleur: en outre,
aucun ouvrage ne se fait, et aucun bourgeois vient les voir. Je crains
d’y aller. Dieu merci! Jusqu’à ce moment-ci je me suis monté un peu en
linge, car, quand je suis arrivé au prison mon sac ne me gênait point,
les Anglais, en le prenant, ne m’ont laissé que ce que j’avais sur le
dos. Quand je fus arrivé au prison ma chemise était pourrie sur mon dos
et point d’autre pour changer.’

On October 31, 1809, Beaudouin left Greenlaw, where he had been since
June 10, 1804, for Sheerness, Chatham, and the _Bristol_ prison-ship.

The next reference to Greenlaw is from James Anton’s _A Military Life_.
He thus describes the prison at which he was on guard:

‘The prison was fenced round with a double row of stockades; a
considerable space was appropriated as a promenade, where the prisoners
had freedom to walk about, cook provisions, make their markets and
exercise themselves at their own pleasure, but under the superintendence
of a turnkey and in the charge of several sentries.... The prisoners
were far from being severely treated: no work was required at their
hands, yet few of them were idle. Some of them were occupied in culinary
avocations, and as the guard had no regular mess, the men on duty became
ready purchasers of their _labscuse_, salt-fish, potatoes, and coffee.
Others were employed in preparing straw for plaiting; some were
manufacturing the cast-away bones into dice, dominoes, paper-cutters,
and a hundred articles of toy-work ... and realized considerable sums of
money.... Those prisoners were well provided for in every respect, and
treated with the greatest humanity, yet to the eye of a stranger they
presented a miserable picture of distress, while some of them were
actually hoarding up money ... others were actually naked, with the
exception of a dirty rag as an apron.... And strangers who visited the
prison commiserated the apparent distress of this miserable class, and
charity was frequently bestowed on purpose to clothe their nakedness;
but no sooner would this set of despicables obtain such relief, than
they took to the cards, dice, or dominoes, and in a few hours were as
poor and naked as ever.... When they were indulged with permission to
remain in their hammocks, when the weather was cold, they drew the
worsted out of the rags that covered them, wound it up in balls, and
sold it to the industrious knitters of _mitts_, and left themselves
without a covering by night. The inhabitants of Penicuik and its
neighbourhood, previous to the establishment of this dépôt of prisoners,
were as comfortable and contented a class of people as in any district
in Britain. The steep woody banks of the Esk were lined with prospering
manufactories.... When the militiamen were first quartered here, they
met with a welcome reception; ... in the course of a few years, those
kindly people began to consider the quartering of soldiers upon them
more oppressive than they at first anticipated. Trade declined as
prisoners increased.... One of the principal factories, Valleyfield, was
afterwards converted into another dépôt for prisoners, and Esk Mills
into a barrack for the military; this gave a decisive blow to trade.’

To Mr. Robert Black, and indirectly to Mr. Howden, I am much indebted
for information about Greenlaw. To Mr. Cowan for helping me at
Valleyfield I have already expressed my obligation, but I must not omit
to say that much of the foregoing information about Valleyfield and the
Esk Mills has been taken from _The Reminiscences of Charles Cowan of
Logan House, Midlothian_, printed for private circulation in 1878.

                               CHAPTER XV
                           THE PRISONS ASHORE
                       7. STAPLETON, NEAR BRISTOL

Bristol, as being for so many centuries the chief port of western
England, always had her full quota of prisoners of war, who, in the
absence of a single great place of confinement, were crowded away
anywhere that room could be made for them. Tradition says that the crypt
of the church of St. Mary Redcliff was used for this purpose, but it is
known that they filled the caverns under the cliff itself, and that
until the great Fishponds prison at Stapleton, now the workhouse, was
built in 1782, they were quartered in old pottery works at Knowle, near
Totterdown and Pile Hill, on the right-hand side of the road from
Bristol, on the south of Firfield House.

In volume XI of Wesley’s _Journal_ we read:

‘Monday, October 15, 1759, I walked up to Knowle, a mile from Bristol,
to see the French prisoners. About eleven hundred of them, we were
informed, were confined in that little place, without anything to lie on
but a little dirty straw, or anything to cover them but a few foul thin
rags, either by day or night, so that they died like rotten sheep. I was
much affected, and preached in the evening, Exodus 23, verse 9. £18 was
contributed immediately, which was made up to £24 the next day. With
this we bought linen and woollen cloth, which was made up into shirts,
waistcoats, and breeches. Some dozens of stockings were added, all of
which were carefully distributed where there was the greatest want.
Presently after, the Corporation of Bristol sent a large quantity of
mattresses and blankets, and it was not long before contributions were
set on foot in London and in various parts of the Kingdom.’

But it was to be the same story here as elsewhere of gambling being the
cause of much of the nakedness and want, for he writes:

‘October 24, 1760. I visited the French prisoners at Knowle, and found
many of them almost naked again. In hopes of provoking others to
jealousy I made another collection for them.’

In 1779 John Howard visited Knowle on his tour of inspection of the
prisoners of England. He reported that there were 151 prisoners there,
‘in a place which had been a pottery’, that the wards were more spacious
and less crowded than at the Mill Prison at Plymouth, and that in two of
the day rooms the prisoners were at work—from which remark we may infer
that at this date the industry which later became so notable a
characteristic of the inmates of our war-prisons was not general. The
bread, he says, was good, but there was no hospital, the sick being in a
small house near the prison, where he found five men together in a dirty
and offensive room.

In 1782 the prison at Fishponds, Stapleton, was built. Howard visited it
in that year, and reported that there were 774 Spaniards and thirteen
Dutchmen in it, that there were no chimneys to the wards, which were
very dirty, as they were never washed, and that an open market was held
daily from 10 to 3. In 1794 there were 1,031 French prisoners at
Stapleton, of whom seventy-five were in hospital.

In 1797 the ferment among the prisoners caused by reports of the success
of Tate’s ‘invasion’ at Fishguard, developed into an open riot, during
which a sentry fired and accidentally killed one of his comrades.
Tradition says that when the Bristol Volunteers were summoned to take
the place of the Militia, who had been hurried away to Fishguard, as
there could be found no arms for them, all the mop-sticks in Bristol
were bought up and furnished with iron heads, which converted them into
very respectable pikes. It was on this occasion that, in view of the
desperate feeling among the prisoners and the comparative inefficiency
of their guards, it was suggested that all the prisoners should be
lowered into the Kingswood coal-pits!

In 1799 the prison was enlarged at the contract price of £475; the work
was to be done by June 1800, and no Sunday labour was to be employed,
although Sanders, of Pedlar’s Acre, Lambeth, the contractor, pleaded for
it, as a ship, laden with timber for the prison, had sunk, and so
delayed the work.

In 1800 the following report upon the state of Stapleton Prison was
drawn up and published by two well-known citizens of Bristol, Thomas
Batchelor, deputy-governor of St. Peter’s Hospital, and Thomas Andrews,
a poor-law guardian:

‘On our entrance we were much struck with the pale, emaciated appearance
of almost every one we met. They were in general nearly naked, many of
them without shoes and stockings, walking in the Courtyard, which was
some inches deep in mud, unpaved and covered with loose stones like the
public roads in their worst state. Their provisions were wretched
indeed; the bread fusty and disagreeable, leaving a hot, pungent taste
in the mouth; the meat, which was beef, of the very worst quality. The
quantity allowed to each prisoner was one pound of this infamous bread,
and ½ lb. of the carrion beef weighed with its bone before dressing, for
their subsistence for 24 hours. No vegetables are allowed except to the
sick in the hospital. We fear there is good reason for believing that
the prices given to the butcher and baker are quite sufficient for
procuring provisions of a far better kind. On returning to the outer
court we were shocked to see two poor creatures on the ground leading to
the Hospital Court; the one lying at length, apparently dying, the other
with a horse-cloth or rug close to his expiring fellow prisoner as if to
catch a little warmth from his companion in misery. They appeared to be
dying of famine. The majority of the poor wretches seemed to have lost
the appearance of human beings, to such skeletons were they reduced. The
numbers that die are great, generally 6 to 8 a day; 250 have died within
the last six weeks.’

After so serious a statement made publicly by two men of position an
inquiry was imperative, and ‘all the accusations were [it was said]
shown to be unfounded’. It was stated that the deaths during the whole
year 1800 were 141 out of 2,900 prisoners, being a percentage of 4¾; but
it was known that the deaths in November were forty-four, and in
December thirty-seven, which, assuming other months to have been
healthier would be about 16 per cent., or nearly seven times the
mortality even of the prison ships. The chief cause of disease and death
was said to be want of clothing, owing to the decision of the French
Government of December 22, 1799, not to clothe French prisoners in
England; but the gambling propensities of the prisoners had even more to
do with it. ‘It was true,’ said the Report of the Commission of Inquiry,
‘that gambling was universal, and that it was not to be checked. It was
well known that here, as at Norman Cross, some of the worst gamblers
frequently did not touch their provisions for several days. The chief
forms of gambling were tossing, and deciding by the length of straws if
the rations were to be kept or lost even for weeks ahead. This is the
cause of all the ills, starvation, robbery, suicide, and murder.’ But it
was admitted that the chief medical officer gave very little personal
attention to his duties, but left them to subordinates.

It was found that there was much exaggeration in the statements of
Messrs. Batchelor and Andrews, but from a modern standard the evidence
of this was by no means satisfactory. All the witnesses seem to have
been more or less interested from a mercantile point of view in the
administration of the prison, and Mr. Alderman Noble, of Bristol, was
not ashamed to state that he acted as agent on commission for the
provision contractor, Grant of London.

Messrs. Batchelor and Andrews afterwards publicly retracted their
accusations, but the whole business leaves an unpleasant taste in the
mouth, and one may make bold to say that, making due allowance for the
embellishment and exaggeration not unnaturally consequent upon
deeply-moved sympathies and highly-stirred feelings, there was much
ground for the volunteered remarks of these two highly respectable

In 1801, Lieutenant Ormsby, commander of the prison, wrote to the
Transport Board:

‘Numbers of prisoners are as naked as they were previous to the clothing
being issued. At first the superintendants were attentive and denounced
many of the purchasers of the clothing, but they gradually got careless.
We are still losing as many weekly as in the depth of winter. The
hospital is crowded, and many are forced to remain outside who ought to
be in.’

This evidence, added to that of commissioners who reported that
generally the distribution of provisions was unattended by any one of
responsible position, and only by turnkeys—men who were notoriously in
league with the contractors—would seem to afford some foundation for the
above-quoted report. About this time Dr. Weir, the medical inspection
officer of the Transport Board, tabulated a series of grave charges
against Surgeon Jeffcott, of Stapleton, for neglect, for wrong treatment
of cases, and for taking bribes from the prison contractors and from the
prisoners. Jeffcott, in a long letter, denies these accusations, and
declares that the only ‘presents’ he had received were ‘three sets of
dominoes, a small dressing box, four small straw boxes, and a line of
battle ship made of wood,’ for which he paid. The result of the inquiry,
however, was that he was removed from his post; the contractor was
severely punished for such malpractices as the using of false measures
of the beer quart, milk quart, and tea pint, and with him was implicated
Lemoine, the French cook.

That the peculation at Stapleton was notorious seems to be the case, for
in 1812 Mr. Whitbread in Parliament ‘heartily wished the French
prisoners out of the country, since, under pretence of watching them, so
many abuses had been engendered at Bristol, and an enormous annual
expense was incurred.’

In 1804 a great gale blew down part of the prison wall, and an agitation
among the prisoners to escape was at once noticeable. A Bristol Light
Horseman was at once sent into the city for reinforcements, and in less
than four hours fifty men arrived—evidently a feat in rapid locomotion
in those days!

From the Commissioners’ Reports of these times it appears that the law
prohibiting straw plaiting by the prisoners was much neglected at
Stapleton, that a large commerce was carried on in this article with
outside, chiefly through the bribery of the soldiers of the guard, who
did pretty much as they liked, which, says the report, was not to be
wondered at when the officers of the garrison made no scruple of buying
straw-plaited articles for the use of their families.

As to the frequent escapes of prisoners, one potent cause of this, it
was asserted, was that in wet weather the sentries were in the habit of
closing the shutters of their boxes so that they could only see straight
ahead, and it was suggested that panes of glass be let in at the sides
of the boxes.

The provisions for the prisoners are characterized as being ‘in general’
very good, although deep complaints about the quality of the meat and
bread are made.

‘The huts where the provisions are cooked have fanciful inscriptions
over their entrances, which produce a little variety and contribute to
amuse these unfortunate men.’

All gaming tables in the prison were ordered to be destroyed, because
one man who had lost heavily threw himself off a building and was
killed; but billiard tables were allowed to remain, only to be used by
the better class of prisoners. The hammocks were condemned as very bad,
and the issue of the fish ration was stopped, as the prisoners seemed to
dislike it, and sold it.

In 1805 the new prison at Stapleton was completed, and accommodation for
3,000 additional prisoners afforded, making a total of 5,000. Stapleton
was this year reported as being the most convenient prison in England,
and was the equivalent of eight prison-ships.

In 1807 the complaints about the straw-plaiting industry clandestinely
carried on by the Stapleton prisoners were frequent, and also that the
prison market for articles manufactured by the prisoners was prejudicial
to local trade.

Duelling was very frequent among the prisoners. On March 25, 1808, a
double duel took place, and two of the fighters were mortally wounded. A
verdict of manslaughter was returned against the two survivors by the
coroner’s jury, but at the Gloucester assizes the usual verdict of
‘self-defence’ was brought in. In July 1809 a naval and a military
officer quarrelled over a game of marbles; a duel was the result, which
was fought with sticks to which sharpened pieces of iron had been fixed,
and which proved effective enough to cause the death of one of the
combatants. A local newspaper stated that during the past three years no
less than 150 duels had been fought among the prisoners at Stapleton,
the number of whom averaged 5,500, and that the coroner, like his
_confrères_ at Dartmoor and Rochester, was complaining of the extra work
caused by the violence of the foreigners.

In 1809 a warder at Stapleton Prison was dismissed from his post for
having connived at the conveyance of letters to Colonel Chalot, who was
in prison for having violated his parole at Wantage by going beyond the
mile limit to meet an English girl, Laetitia Barrett. Laetitia’s letters
to him, in French, are at the Record Office, and show that the Colonel
was betrayed by a fellow prisoner, a rival for her hand.

In 1813 the Bristol shoemakers protested against the manufacture of list
shoes by the Stapleton prisoners, but the Government refused to issue
prohibiting orders.



  _From the Gentleman’s Magazine_, 1814

Forgery was largely practised at Stapleton as in other prisons, and in
spite of warnings posted up, the country people who came to the prison
market were largely victimized, but Stapleton is particularly associated
with the wholesale forgery of passports in the year 1814, by means of
which so many officer prisoners were enabled to get to France on the
plea of fidelity to the restored Government. In this year a Mr. Edward
Prothero of 39, Harley Street, Bristol, sent to the Transport Office
information concerning the wholesale forgery of passports, in the sale
of which to French officers a Madame Carpenter, of London (already
mentioned in Chapter VI), was concerned.

The signing of the Treaty of Paris, on May 30, 1814, stopped whatever
proceedings might have been taken by the Government with regard to
Madame Carpenter, but it appears that some sort of inquiry had been
instituted, and that Madame Carpenter, although denying all traffic in
forged passports, admitted that she was on such terms with the Transport
Board on account of services rendered by her in the past when residing
in France to British prisoners there, as to be able to ask favours of
it. The fact is, people of position and influence trafficked in
passports and privileges, just as people in humbler walks of life
trafficked in contracts for prisons and in the escape of prisoners, and
Madame Carpenter was probably the worker, the business transactor, for
one or more persons in high place who, even in that not particularly
shamefaced age, did not care that their names should be openly
associated with what was just as much a business as the selling of legs
of mutton or pounds of tea.

In spite of what we have read about the misery of life at Stapleton, it
seems to have been regarded by prisoners elsewhere as rather a superior
sort of place. At Dartmoor, in 1814, the Americans hailed with delight
the rumour of their removal to Stapleton, well and healthily situated in
a fertile country, and, being near Bristol, with a good market for
manufactures, not to speak of its being in the world, instead of out of
it, as were Dartmoor and Norman Cross; and the countermanding order
almost produced a mutiny.

It appears that dogs were largely kept at Stapleton by the prisoners,
for after one had been thrown into a well it was ordered that all should
be destroyed, the result being 710 victims! They were classed as ‘pet’
dogs, but one can hardly help suspecting that men in a chronic state of
hunger would be far more inclined to make the dogs feed them than to
feed dogs as fancy articles.

It is surprising to read that, notwithstanding the utter irreligion of
so many French prisoners in Britain, in more than one prison, at Millbay
and Stapleton for instance, Mass was never forgotten among them. At
Stapleton an officer of the fleet, captured at San Domingo, read the
prayers of the Mass usually read by the priest; an altar was painted on
the wall, two or three cabin-boys served as acolytes, as they would have
done had a priest been present, and there was no ridicule or laughter at
the celebrations.

After the declaration of peace in 1815, the _raison d’être_ of Stapleton
as a war-prison of course ceased. In 1833 it was bought by the Bristol
Poor-Board and turned into a workhouse.

                              CHAPTER XVI
                           THE PRISONS ASHORE
                       8. FORTON, NEAR PORTSMOUTH

Although the Fortune Prison, as it seems to have been very generally
called, had been used for war-prisoners during the Seven Years’ War, its
regular adaptation to that purpose was probably not before 1761, in
which year 2,000 prisoners were removed thither from Portchester
‘guarded by the Old Buffs’. During the War of American Independence many
prisoners of that nationality were at Forton, and appear to have been
ceaselessly engaged in trying to escape. In 1777 thirty broke out, of
whom nineteen were recaptured and were so harshly punished that they
complained in a letter which somehow found its way into the London
papers. The next year, the Westminster Militia, encamped on Weovil
Common, attracted by alarm guns at Forton, marched thither, and found
American and French prisoners escaping through a hole in the outer wall,
but were too late to prevent five-and-twenty from getting away
altogether. The attempt was supposed to be the sequel of a plot by
which, a fortnight previously, eleven Americans had escaped. On the same
day there was a mutiny in the prison hospital, provoked, it was alleged,
by the neglect and the callous treatment of patients by the doctors and
their subordinates.

In the same year, 1778, another batch of no less than fifty-seven
Americans made a desperate attempt to get out. The Black Hole at Forton
was underneath part of the prisoners’ sleeping quarters. A hole large
enough for the passage of a man was made in the floor of a sleeping
room, being covered by a bed—that is, a mattress—and through this the
earth from a tunnel which led from the Black Hole to beyond the prison
walls, was brought and hidden in the chimney and in hammocks until
opportunities came for its removal elsewhere. As no report was published
of the recapture of these men, we may presume that they got away.

In 1779 Howard made his report upon Forton. He found there 251 Americans
and 177 Frenchmen. The condition of the former, he says, was
satisfactory—probably a result of the generous public subscription of
the previous year in aid of them.

Of the French part of the prison he speaks badly. The meat was bad, the
bread loaves were of short weight, the straw in the mattresses had been
reduced to dust by long use, and many of them had been emptied to clear
them of vermin. The floors of the hospital and the sleeping quarters,
which were laid rough, were dirty and offensive.

The prisoners complained to Howard, who told them to write to the
Commissioners of the ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office. They replied that, as every
letter had to be examined by the Agent, this would be of no good.

Howard emphasizes severely the evident roguery of the contractors
employed in the furnishing of provisions and clothing.

The year 1793 was marked at Forton, as elsewhere, by a general
insubordinate feeling among the Frenchmen, of whom there were 850 in the
prison. In April, a sentry on guard outside the palisade heard a
mysterious scraping sound beneath his feet, and gave the alarm.
Examination revealed two loose planks in one of the sleeping-rooms,
which, being taken up, exposed the entrance to a tunnel, afterwards
found to run twenty-seven feet to the outer side of the palisade. One of
the prisoners confessed that a plot had been made to kill the Agent and
his officers.

In July the following report was made upon Forton:

‘The French at Forton continue extremely restless and turbulent, and
cannot bear their captivity with moderation and temper though they are
exceedingly well supplied with provisions and every necessity their
situation requires. A sailor made a desperate attempt to disarm a
sentinel through the bar of the compartment where he was confined. The
sentry with great exertion disengaged himself, and fired at the
offender, but wounded unfortunately another prisoner, not the aggressor.
Friday se’nnight, the guard discovered a plot by which several prisoners
had planned an escape over the wall by tying together their hammocks and
blankets. The sentry on duty fired in at the windows, and hit one of the
rioters, who is since dead.

‘Three French prisoners were dangerously wounded while endeavouring to
escape from Forton. One of them with a drawn knife rushed upon the
guard, a private of the Anglesea Militia, who fired at him. The
Frenchman seized him by the coat, whereupon the guard ran the offender
through the body.’

General Hyde, the Commandant at Portsmouth, ordered, in consequence of
the insubordination fomented by the French political excitement of the
time, that no prisoners should be allowed to wear the national cockade,
or to scribble seditious statements on the prison walls, or to play any
national music, under penalty of the _cachot_. It is almost unnecessary
to say that the enforcement of these orders was physically impossible.

In 1794 an epidemic at Forton caused the deaths of 200 prisoners in one

In 1806 the great amount of sickness at Forton brought about an official
inquiry, the result of which was the superseding of the head surgeon.

In 1807, a fire broke out one day in the prison at 2 p.m., which
continued until 9 a.m. The prisoners behaved very well, helping to put
the fire out, and not attempting to escape.

In November, 1810, no less than 800 prisoners were on the sick list.

In 1811, Sous-lieutenant Doisy de Villargennes, of the 26th French line
regiment, arrived at Portsmouth, a prisoner of war, taken after Fuentes
d’Oñoro, and was allowed to be on parole ashore pending his dispatch to
an inland parole town. He knew that his foster-brother was in prison at
Forton, and got leave to visit him. I am particularly glad to give the
testimony of a French prisoner of war to the improved state of
affairs—at Forton, at any rate. He says:

‘Il y régnait l’ordre le plus parfait, sous un règlement sévère mais
humain. Nous n’entendîmes pas de sanglots de désespoir, nous ne vîmes
point la tristesse dans les yeux des habitants, mais de tous côtés, au
contraire, c’étaient des éclats de rire ou des chansons patriotiques qui
résonnaient. . . . Mon frère de lait me conduisit vers un petit coin
confortable qu’il occupait en compagnie d’un camarade. J’y remarquai un
lit de bonne apparence, ainsi que d’autres meubles modestes qu’ils
avaient pu acheter avec leur propre argent. La cuisine occupait le
compartiment voisin; elle servait à 200 hommes, et l’odeur qu’elle
répandait ne faisait nullement présumer que les habitants pussent être
affamés. Je restai à dîner. Je ne dirai pas que le repas était
somptueux, mais les mets étaient suffisants et de bonne qualité, et bien
que servis dans des plats et assiettes d’étain, avec des couteaux et des
fourchettes du même métal, ils étaient accompagnés d’une si cordiale
réception que le souvenir de ce dîner m’a toujours laissé sous une
agréable impression.’

There were no wines or liqueurs, but abundance of ‘the excellent ale
which England alone produces’. Doisy asked whence came the money to pay
for all this abundance. His host told him that, being a basket-maker’s
son, and knowing the trade, he got permission to work at it and to sell
his goods. For a time this was very successful, but the large output of
cheap, untaxed work from the prison brought remonstrance from the
straw-workers of Portsmouth, Barnstaple, and other places, with the
result that Government prohibited it. But the ingenious Frenchman soon
found another string for his bow, and he became, with many others, a
manufacturer of ornaments and knick-knacks, boxes, combs, toys, and
especially ship models, from the bones of his food. These beef and
mutton bones were carefully saved on all sides, and those who could not
work them, sold them at good prices to those who could. Germain Lamy,
his foster-brother, told Doisy that he and his comrade worked at the
bone model of a seventy-four, with rigging made of hair, for six months,
and sold it for £40.

Lamy was released at the peace of 1814. He took back to France 16,500
francs; bought a little farm, married, and settled down, but died of
cholera in 1832.

In 1813 took place the ‘Brothers murder,’ a crime which made a very
great and lasting sensation.

Three Frenchmen—François Relif, Jean Marie Dauze, and Daniel du Verge,
escaped from Forton, and engaged George Brothers, a pilot and boatman,
to take them, they said, from the Point to one of the ships at Spithead.
Off the Block-House they told him that they intended to escape, and
proposed that he should take them over to France. He refused: they
threatened, but he persisted and tried to signal the shipping. Whereupon
they attacked him, stabbed him in sixteen places, threw his body
overboard, and set their course seaward. This was seen from the shore, a
fleet of boats set off in pursuit, and, after a smart chase—one account
says of fifteen miles—the fugitives were captured, although it was
thought that they would have escaped had they known how to manage a
sailing boat. They were taken on board H.M.S. _Centaur_, searched, and
upon them were found three knives and a large sum of money. They were
taken then to jail ashore. One of the prisoners was found to have thirty
crown pieces concealed about him, and confessed that having saved up
this money, which he had made by the sale of lace, toys, and other
manufactures, he had bought a suit of decent clothes, and, mixing with
visitors to the dépôt, thus disguised had got off. In the meanwhile the
body of Brothers had been recovered, placed first in one of the
casemates of Point Battery, and then taken amidst an enormous crowd to
his house in Surrey Street, Landport.

The three murderers were executed at Winchester. The funeral of Brothers
in Kingston churchyard was the occasion of a large public demonstration,
and, be it recorded, the prisoners at Forton expressed their abhorrence
of the crime by getting up a subscription for the murdered man’s widow
and children, to which it is said one of the murderers contributed £7.

                              CHAPTER XVII
                           THE PRISONS ASHORE
                       9. MILLBAY, NEAR PLYMOUTH

Saxon prisoners taken at Leuthen were at the ‘New Prison,’ Plymouth, in
1758. In this year they addressed a complaint to the authorities,
praying to be sent elsewhere, as they were ostracized, and even reviled,
by the French captives, and a round-robin to the officer of the guard,
reminding him that humanity should rule his actions rather than a mere
delight in exercising authority, and hinting that officers who had made
war the trade of their lives probably knew more about its laws than Mr.
Tonkin, the Commissioner in charge of them, appeared to know.

In 1760 no less than 150 prisoners contrived to tunnel their way out of
the prison, but all except sixteen were recaptured.

Of the life at the old Mill Prison, as it was then called, during the
War of American Independence, a detailed account is given by Charles
Herbert of Newburyport, Massachusetts, captured in the _Dolton_, in
December 1776, by H.M.S. _Reasonable_, 64.

With his sufferings during the voyage to England we have nothing to do,
except that he was landed at Plymouth so afflicted with ‘itch’, which
developed into small-pox, that he was at once taken to the Royal
Hospital. It is pleasing to note that he speaks in the highest terms of
the care and kindness of the doctor and nurses of this institution.

When cured he was sent to Mill Prison, and here made money by carving in
wood of boxes, spoons and punch ladles, which he sold at the Sunday

Very soon the Americans started the system of tunnelling out of the
prison, and attempting to escape, which only ceased with their final
discharge. Herbert was engaged in the scheme of an eighteen feet long
excavation to a field outside, the earth from which, they rammed into
their sea-chests. By this, thirty-two men got out, but eleven were
captured, he being one.

Men who could make no articles for sale in the market sold their clothes
and all their belongings.

Theft among the prisoners was punished by the offenders being made to
run the gauntlet of their comrades, who were armed with nettles for the

Herbert complains bitterly of the scarcity and quality of the
provisions, particularly of the bread, which he says was full of
straw-ends. ‘Many are tempted to pick up the grass in the yard and eat
it; and some pick up old bones that have been laying in the dirt a week
or ten days and pound them to pieces and suck them. Some will pick
snails out of holes in the wall and from among the grass and weeds in
the yard, boil them, eat them, and drink the broth. Men run after the
stumps of cabbages thrown out by the cooks into the yard, and trample
over each other in the scuffle to get them.’

Christmas and New Year were, however, duly celebrated, thanks to the
generosity of the prison authorities, who provided the materials for two
huge plum-puddings, served out white bread instead of the regulation
‘Brown George’, mutton instead of beef, turnips instead of cabbage, and

Then came a time of plenty. In London £2,276 was subscribed for the
prisoners, and £200 in Bristol. Tobacco, soap, blankets, and extra bread
for each mess were forthcoming, although the price of tobacco rose to
five shillings a pound. Candles were expensive, so marrow-bones were
used instead, one bone lasting half as long as a candle.

On February 1, 1778, five officers—Captains Henry and Eleazar Johnston,
Offin Boardman, Samuel Treadwell, and Deal, got off with two sentries
who were clothed in mufti, supplied by Henry Johnston. On February 17,
the two soldiers were taken, and were sentenced, one to be shot and the
other to 700 lashes, which punishment was duly carried out. Of the
officers, Treadwell was recaptured, and suffered the usual penalty of
forty days Black Hole, and put on half allowance. Continued attempts to
escape were made, and as they almost always failed it was suspected that
there were traitors in the camp. A black man and boy were discovered:
they were whipped, and soon after, in reply to a petition from the
whites, all the black prisoners were confined in a separate building,
known as the ‘itchy yard.’

Still the attempts continued. On one occasion two men who had been told
off for the duty of emptying the prison offal tubs into the river, made
a run for it. They were captured, and among the pursuers was the prison
head-cook, whose wife held the monopoly of selling beer at the prison
gate, the result being that she was boycotted.

Much complaint was made of the treatment of the sick, extra necessaries
being only procurable by private subscription, and when in June 1778,
the chief doctor died, Herbert writes: ‘I believe there are not many in
the prison who would mourn, as there is no reason to expect that we can
get a worse one.’

On Independence Day, July 4, all the Americans provided themselves with
crescent-shaped paper cockades, painted with the thirteen stars and
thirteen stripes of the Union, and inscribed at the top ‘Independence’,
and at the bottom ‘Liberty or Death’. At one o’clock they paraded in
thirteen divisions. Each in turn gave three cheers, until at the
thirteenth all cheered in unison.

The behaviour of a section of blackguards in the community gave rise to
fears that it would lead to the withdrawal of charitable donations. So
articles were drawn up forbidding, under severe penalties, gambling,
‘blackguarding’, and bad language. This produced violent opposition, but
gradually the law-abiders won the day.

An ingenious attempt to escape is mentioned by Herbert. Part of the
prison was being repaired by workmen from outside. An American saw the
coat and tool-basket of one of these men hanging up, so he appropriated
them, and quietly sauntered out into the town unchallenged. Later in the
day, however, the workman recognized his coat on the American in the
streets of Plymouth, and at once had him arrested and brought back.

On December 28, 1778, Herbert was concerned in a great attempt to
escape. A hole nine feet deep was dug by the side of the inner wall of
the prison, thence for fifteen feet until it came out in a garden on the
other side of the road which bounded the outer wall. The difficulty of
getting rid of the excavated dirt was great, and, moreover, excavation
could only be proceeded with when the guard duty was performed by the
Militia regiment, which was on every alternate day, the sentries of the
13th Regular regiment being far too wideawake and up to escape-tricks.
Half the American prisoners—some two hundred in number—had decided to
go. All was arranged methodically and without favour, by drawing lots,
the operation being conducted by two chief men who did not intend to go.

Herbert went with the first batch. There were four walls, each eight
feet high, to be scaled. With five companions Herbert managed these, and
got out, their aim being to make for Teignmouth, whence they would take
boat for France. Somehow, as they avoided high roads, and struck across
fields, they lost their bearings, and after covering, he thinks, at
least twenty miles, sat down chilled and exhausted, under a haystack
until daybreak. They then restarted, and coming on to a high road,
learned from a milestone that, after all, they were only three miles
from Plymouth!

Day came, and with it the stirring of the country people. To avoid
observation, the fugitives quitted the road, and crept away to the
shelter of a hedge, to wait, hungry, wet, and exhausted, during nine
hours, for darkness. The end soon came.

In rising, Herbert snapped a bone in his leg. As it was being set by a
comrade, a party of rustics with a soldier came up, the former armed
with clubs and flails. The prisoners were taken to a village, where they
had brandy and a halfpenny cake each, and taken back to Plymouth.

At the prison they learned that 109 men had got out, of whom thirty had
been recaptured. All had gone well until a boy, having stuck on one of
the walls, had called for help, and so had given the alarm. Altogether
only twenty-two men escaped. Great misery now existed in the prison,
partly because the charitable fund had been exhausted which had hitherto
so much alleviated their lot, and partly on account of the number of men
put on half allowance as a result of their late escape failure, and so
scanty was food that a dog belonging to one of the garrison officers was
killed and eaten.

Herbert speaks in glowing terms of the efforts of two American
‘Fathers’, Heath and Sorry, who were allowed to visit the prison, to
soften the lot of the captives.

Finally, on March 15, 1779, Herbert was exchanged after two years and
four months’ captivity.

In a table at the end of his account, he states that between June 1777,
and March 1779, there were 734 Americans in Mill Prison, of whom
thirty-six died, 102 escaped, and 114 joined the British service. Of
these last, however, the majority were British subjects.

In 1779 Howard reported that there were 392 French and 298 American
prisoners in Millbay. He noted that neither the wards nor the
court-yards apportioned to the Frenchmen were so spacious and convenient
as were those in the American part of the prison, nor were the
provisions so good. In the hospital there were fifty patients; it was
dirty and offensive, and Howard found only three pairs of sheets in use.

(Herbert, above quoted, said that the hospital was not worthy of the
name, that when it rained the wet beat upon the patients as they lay in
their beds.)

A new hospital was building, Howard continues, but he considered the
wards were being made too low and too close, being seventeen feet ten
inches wide, and ten feet high. In the American blocks the regulations
were hung up according to rule, and he notes Article 5 of these to the
effect that: ‘As water and tubs for washing their linen and clothes will
be allowed, the prisoners are advised to keep their persons as clean as
possible, it being conducive to health.’

I now make an extract from _The Memoirs of Commodore Barney_, published
in Boston, 1832, chiefly on account of his stirring escape from Millbay,
therein described.

Barney was captured in December 1780 by H.M.S. _Intrepid_, Captain
Malloy, whom he stigmatizes as the embodiment of all that is brutal in
man. He was carried to England on the _Yarmouth, 74_, with seventy other
American officers. They were confined, he says, in the hold, under three
decks, twelve feet by twenty feet, and three feet high, without light
and almost without air. The result was that during the fifty-three days’
passage in the depths of winter, from New York to Plymouth, eleven of
them died, and that when they arrived at Plymouth, few of them were able
to stand, and all were temporarily blinded by the daylight.

It sounds incredible, but Mrs. Barney, the editress of the volume, says:
‘What is here detailed is given without adornment or exaggeration,
almost in the very words of one who saw and suffered just as he has

Barney was sent first to a hulk, which he describes as a Paradise when
compared with the _Yarmouth_, and as soon as they could walk, he and his
companions went to Mill Prison, ‘as rebels.’

He lost no time in conspiring to escape. With infinite pains he and
others forced their way through the stone walls and iron gratings of the
common sewer, only to find, after wading through several hundred feet of
filth, their exit blocked by a double iron grating. He then resolved to
act independently, and was suddenly afflicted by a sprain which put him
on crutches. He found a sympathetic friend in a sentry who, for some
reason or other, had often manifested friendship for the American
prisoners. This man contrived to obtain for him a British officer’s
undress uniform. One day Barney said to him, ‘To-day?’ to which the
laconic reply was ‘Dinner’, by which Barney understood that his hours on
duty would be from twelve till two.

Barney threw his old great coat over the uniform; arranged with his
friends to occupy the other sentries’ attention by chaff and chat;
engaged a slender youth at roll-call time to carry out the old trick of
creeping through a hole in the wall and answer to Barney’s name as well
as his own; and then jumped quickly on to the shoulders of a tall friend
and over the wall.

Throwing away his great-coat, he slipped four guineas into the
accomplice sentry’s hand, and walked quietly off into Plymouth to the
house of a well-known friend to the American cause. No little alarm was
caused here by the sudden appearance of a visitor in British uniform,
but Barney soon explained the situation, and remained concealed until
night, when he was taken to the house of a clergyman. Here he found two
Americans, not prisoners, desirous of returning to America, and they
agreed to buy a fishing boat and risk the crossing to France.

So the British uniform was exchanged for fisher garb, the boat
purchased, and the three started. As his companions were soon prostrate
from sea-sickness, Barney had to manage the craft himself; passed
through the British war-ships safely, and seemed to be safe now from all
interference, when a schooner rapidly approached, showing British
colours, and presently lowered a boat which was pulled towards them.

Instantly, Barney resolved to play a game of bluff. Luckily, in changing
his attire he had not left the British uniform behind. The boat came
alongside and a privateer officer came aboard and asked Barney his

‘Government business to France,’ replied Barney with dignity—and
displayed the British uniform.

The officer was not satisfied, and said that he must report to his
captain. This he did; the privateer captain was no more satisfied than
his lieutenant, and politely but firmly declared his intention of
carrying Barney back to Plymouth, adding that it must be funny business
to take a British officer in uniform over to France in a fishing boat.

‘Very well,’ said Barney, calm and dignified to the end; ‘then I hold
you responsible, for the interruption of my errand, to Admiral Digby, to
whose flag-ship I will trouble you to take me.’

All the same Barney saw that the game was up, and back towards Plymouth
he had to turn. Barney’s story is not very clear as to how he managed to
escape the notice of the crew of the privateer, on board which he now
was, but he slipped into a boat alongside, cut her adrift, and made for
‘Cawsen’. Landing here, and striking away inland, he thought it best to
leave the high road, and so, climbing over a hedge, he found himself in
Edgcumbe Park. Presently he came upon an old gardener at work. Barney
accosted him, but all the reply he got was: ‘It’s a fine of half a
guinea for crossing a hedge.’ Barney had no money, but plenty of
pleasant talk, the result of which was that the old man passed him out
by a side gate and showed him a by-way towards the river. Barney, for
obvious reasons, wished to avoid the public ferry, so crossed over in a
butcher’s boat, and passing under the very wall of Mill Prison, was soon
in Plymouth and at the clergyman’s house.

He had had a narrow escape, for in less than an hour after Admiral Digby
had received the privateer captain’s report, a guard had been sent off
from Mill Prison to Cawsand, and had he kept to the high road he would
assuredly have been captured. Whilst at the clergyman’s house, the Town
Crier passed under the window, proclaiming the reward of five guineas
for the apprehension of ‘Joshua Barney, a Rebel Deserter from Mill

Barney remained here three days. Then, with a fresh outfit, he took a
post chaise for Exeter. At midnight the Town Gate was reached, and a
soldier closely examined Barney and compared him with his description on
the Apprehension bill. Again his _sang-froid_ came to the rescue, and he
so contorted his face and eyes that he was allowed to proceed, and his
escape was accomplished.

In 1783 Barney was at Plymouth again; this time as a representative of
the Republic in a time of peace, and although an individual of
importance, entertaining all the great officials of the port on the
_George Washington_, and being entertained by them in return, he found
time not only to visit the kindly clergyman who had befriended him, but
to look up the old gardener at Mount Edgcumbe, amply pay the fine so
long due, and discover that the old man was the father of the sentry who
had enabled him to escape from Mill Prison!

An account by another American, Andrew Sherburne, published at Utica, in
1825, of a sojourn in Mill Prison in 1781, is quoted only for his
remarks on the hospital system, which do not accord with those of other
writers. He says:

‘However inhuman and tyrannical the British Government was in other
respects, they were to be praised and respected for the suitable
provision they made for the sick in the hospitals at Mill Prison.’

In 1798 Vochez, the official sent to England by the French Directory to
inquire into the true state of French prisoners under our care, brought
an action against certain provision contractors for astounding breaches
of their engagements, in the shape of a system of short weightage
carried on for years, and of supplying provisions of an inferior
character. In this he was supported by Captain Lane, a travelling
inspector of prisons, and an honest official, and this, wrote Vochez,
‘despite the contradiction by a number of base and interested prisoners
brought to London for that express purpose to attack the unblemished
character of that officer.’

Captain Lane insisted that the Governor of the Prison should give
certificates as to the badness of the provisions supplied; this was
done, and Vochez’s case was established. The Admiralty entirely endorsed
Captain Lane’s recommendation that in every case the Governors of
Prisons should certify as to the character of provisions supplied by
contractors, highly complimented him on his action, and very heavily
mulcted the rascally contractors. Unhappily, the vile system was far
from being abolished. The interests of too many influential people were
linked with those of the contractors for a case such as the above to be
more than a flash in the pan, and the prison contractors continued to
flourish until the very end of the Great War period.

In 1799 Mill Prison was practically rebuilt, and became known as
Millbay. The condition of it at this time seems to have been very bad.
It was said that some of the poor inmates were so weak for lack of
proper food that they fell from their hammocks and broke their necks,
that supplies of bedding and clothing were only to be had from
‘capitalists’ among the prisoners, who had bought them from the
distribution officers and sold them at exorbitant rates.

In 1806, at the instance of some Spanish prisoners in Millbay, a firm of
provision contractors was heavily mulcted upon proof that for a long
time past they had systematically sent in stores of deficient quality.

In 1807 the Commissioners of the Transport Office refused an application
that French prisoners at Millbay should be allowed to manufacture
worsted gloves for H.M.’s 87th Regiment, on the grounds that, if
allowed, it would seriously interfere with our own manufacturing
industry, and further, would lead to the destruction by the prisoners of
their blankets and other woollen articles in order to provide materials
for the work.

I now proceed to give a very interesting account of prisoner life in
Millbay Prison from Édouard Corbière’s book, _Le Négrier_.

When a lad of fifteen, Corbière was captured on the _Val de Grâce_
privateer by H.M.S. _Gibraltar_, in 1807. The _Val de Grâce_ must have
been a very small craft, for not only did she not show fight, but the
_Gibraltar_ simply sent off a boat’s crew, made fast hawsers and
tackles, and hoisted the Frenchman bodily on board. Corbière and his
fellows were sent to Millbay. Before describing his particular
experiences, he gives a page or so to a scathing picture of our shore
prisons, but he impressively accentuates the frightful depravity brought
about by the sufferings endured, and says that nobody who had not lived
in an English war-prison could realize the utter depths of wickedness to
which men could fall. At Millbay, he says, the _forts à bras_ ruled all
by mere brute strength. Victories at fights or wrestling matches were
celebrated by procession round the airing grounds, and the successful
men formed the ‘Government’ of the _Pré_, as the airing ground was
called, regulating the gambling, deciding disputes, officiating at
duels—of which there were many, the weapons being razors or compass
points fixed on the ends of sticks—and generally exercising despotic
sway. They were usually topsmen and sailors. The _Romains_ were the
pariahs at Millbay, and the _Rafalés_ the lowest of all, naked rascals
who slept in ranks, spoon fashion, as described elsewhere.

The usual industries were carried on at Millbay. Much money was made by
the straw plaiters and workers, some of the latter earning 18 sous a
day. But the straw ‘capitalists’, the men who bought straw wholesale
through the soldiers of the guard, and who either employed workers
themselves, or sold the straw to other employers, accumulated fortunes,
says Corbière, of from 30,000 to 40,000 francs. There were teachers of
sciences, languages, music, dancing and fencing. There were
eating-cabins where a ‘beef steak’ could be got for four sous. There
were theatrical performances, but not of the same character or quality
as, for instance, at Portchester.

On Sundays, as at Stapleton, the prayers of the Mass were read. Each
province was particular in observing its own festivals—Basques and
Bretons notably.

A great many ‘broke-paroles’ were here, and, Corbière remarks, the
common sailors took advantage of their fallen position and
ostentatiously treated them as equals, and even as inferiors. Not so the
soldiers, who punctiliously observed the distinctions of rank; and there
were even instances of private soldiers helping officers not used to
manual labour to supplement their daily rations.

Corbière also emphasizes the fact that, notwithstanding the depth of
degradation to which the prisoners sank among themselves, they always
preserved a proud attitude towards strangers, and never begged of
visitors and sight-seers.

In the prison, regular Courts of Justice were held, the chief _maître
d’armes_ being generally elected President _if he could read_. The Court
was held within the space of twelve hammocks, shut in by hangings of old
cloth. The only ordinary punishment was flogging, but a very terrible
exception was made in the following case. One of the grandest and
boldest projects for escape from a war-prison which had ever been
conceived had been secretly proceeded with at Millbay for some time. It
consisted of a tunnel no less than 532 yards long (Corbière’s words are
‘half a quarter league’, and the French league of this time measured 2
miles 743 yards) coming out in a field, by which the whole of the 5,000
prisoners were to get away after overcoming and disarming the guard. The
enormous quantity of earth excavated was carried by the workers in their
pockets and emptied into the latrines, and although I give the account
as written, I cannot repress a doubt that Corbière, who was then but a
boy, may have been mistaken in his figures, for this process alone of
emptying a tunnel, big enough to allow the passage of a man, in
continual fear of detection, must have been very long and laborious.

At any rate one Jean Caffé sold the secret to the authorities, the
result being that on the appointed night, when the tunnel was full of
escaping prisoners, the first man to emerge at the outlet was greeted by
Scots soldiers, and the despairing cry arose, _Le trou est vendu_!

Drums beat, the alarm brought more soldiers from Plymouth, and the
would-be escapers were put back into prison, but, so maddened were they
at the failure at the eleventh hour of their cherished plot, that they
refused to put out the lights, sang songs of defiance, and broke out
into such a riot that the guard fired into them, with what result
Corbière does not state.

The next morning, search was made for Caffé, who no doubt had been
hidden by the authorities, and the miserable man was found with some
guineas in his pocket. The rage of his countrymen was the deeper because
Caffé had always been regarded as a poor, witless sort of fellow, for
whom everybody had pity, and who existed upon the charity of others, and
the cry arose that he should be at once put to death. But the chief of
the _Pré_, who happened to be Corbière’s captain on the _Val de Grâce_,
and of whom more anon, said ‘Non! Il faut auparavant le flétrir!’

So Caffé was dragged before the entire assembly of prisoners. A
professional tattooer then shaved his head, laid him on a table, and
held him down whilst on his forehead was pricked: ‘Flétri pour avoir
VENDU 5000 de ses camarades dans la nuit du 4 Septembre 1807.’

This accomplished, he was taken to a well, thrown down it, and stones
hurled on him until he was hidden from sight, and his cries could be
heard no more. Corbière adds that, so far from the authorities trying to
stop this summary execution, the British commander said that it served
him right, and that he would have done the same.

Ivan, the privateer captain who had been chief official at the foregoing
execution, had won his position as a _Chef de Pré_ in the following way.
He was dancing at a ball in Calais when the news was brought him that a
rich British prize had been sighted, and without stopping to change his
costume, he had hurried on board the _Val de Grâce_, so that the prize
should not escape him. Hence, when captured by the _Gibraltar_, he was
in full dancing kit,—laced coat, ruffles, silk stockings and all—and in
the same garb had been introduced into Millbay Prison, much to the
amusement of his fellow countrymen. Particularly did he attract the
attention of the chief _fort à bras_, who had a good deal to say about
carpet knight and armchair sailor, which was so distasteful to Ivan that
he challenged him, fought him, and half-killed him. The result of which
was that the same night he was elected a _Chef de Pré_ with much pomp
and circumstance. Furthermore, discovering among the prisoners old
comrades of the _Sans Façon_ privateer, they elected him head cook, a
position in the prison of no small consideration.

Now Mr. Milliken, purser of the prison, had a pretty wife who took such
a fancy to the handsome, dashing young French privateer captain that she
made him a present of a New Testament, although it was well she did not
hear his description of it as ‘le beau fichu cadeau’. At the same time
Milliken, socially superior, Corbière remarks, to his wife, pitying the
boy (Corbière himself) thus thrust by fate at the very threshold of his
life into the wild, wicked world of a war-prison, offered him employment
in his office, which he gladly accepted, going there every day, but
returning every night to the prison. Milliken’s office was on the ground
floor of his dwelling-house, and Mrs. Milliken with her servant Sarah
were constantly in and out, the result being that the boy became very
friendly with them, and their chief object seemed to be to make his life
as happy as possible, the only cloud upon it being his separation every
day from Ivan, for whom he had an affection bordering upon idolatry. For
weeks Corbière had the happiest of lives, indulged in every way by Mrs.
Milliken, and made much of by her visitors, to most of whom a lively,
intelligent, French lad was a refreshing novelty. To dress him up in
feminine attire was a favourite amusement of the ladies, ‘and’, says
Corbière, ‘they were good enough to say that, except for my rolling
gait, begot of a lifetime spent afloat, I should pass well for a
distinguished-looking girl.’

One morning Mrs. Milliken gave him bad news. Ivan had escaped from the
prison. He says: ‘Whatever feeling I had of gladness that my dear friend
was out of prison, was smothered not merely by the sense of my own
desolate position, but by surprise that he should have left me.’

A day or two later a young woman appeared at the back door of the
Millikens’ house, which gave on to the street, looked around cautiously
for a few moments, and then rapidly passed down the street. It was
Corbière. It was a daring move, and it was not long before he wished he
had not made it, for Plymouth streets in these piping war-times were no
place for a respectable girl, and no doubt his flurried, anxious look,
and palpable air of being a stranger, commanded unusual attention.
Whither he was going he had no idea, and for an hour he went through
what he confesses to have been one of the severest trials of a life full
of adventure and ordeal. He was on the point of trying to find his way
back to the Millikens’ house, when an old Jew man, with a bag over his
shoulder, brushed against him, and at the same time whispered his name.
It was Ivan. The boy could have shouted for joy, but Ivan impressed
silence, and motioned him to follow. Arrived at Stonehouse, Ivan paused
at a house, whispered to Corbière to walk on, return, and enter, and
went in himself. This was done, and Corbière describes how, when at last
together in the house, they unrestrainedly indulged their joy at being
again together, and Ivan explained how both of their escapes had been
arranged by Mrs. Milliken. Then Ivan detailed his plan for getting out
of England. He had thirty false one-pound notes, manufactured in Millbay
Prison, which he had bought for a guinea, and the next day they would
start off on foot for Bigbury, about fifteen miles distant, on the
coast, near which they would charter a smuggler to take them across.

That evening they went into the town to make a few necessary purchases,
and in his delight at being free again, Ivan proposed that they should
go to the theatre at Plymouth Dock. They did, and it nearly proved the
undoing of them, for some American sailors were there who naturally
regarded as fair game a nice-looking, attractively dressed girl in the
company of a bearded old Jew, and paid Corbière attentions which became
so marked as to provoke Ivan, the result being a row, in the course of
which Ivan’s false beard was torn off, and Corbière’s dress much
deranged, and the cry of ‘Runaway prisoners!’ beginning to be heard, the
two rushed out of the theatre, and through the streets, until they were
in the open country.

They spent the night, which luckily was warm and fine, in a ditch, and
the next morning saw an anchored boat riding close in shore. They swam
out and boarded her, and found that there were rudder and oars chained,
but no sails or mast. Ivan broke the chain, and rigged up some of
Corbière’s female clothes on an oar, for sail and mast. Some days ensued
of much suffering from hunger and thirst, as, being without bearings,
they simply steered by the sun, south-east, and at last they were
sighted and picked up by the _Gazelle_, French ‘aventurier’, of St.
Malo, and in her went to Martinique.

In 1809 the Transport Office, in reply to French prisoners at Millbay
asking leave to give fencing lessons outside the prison, refused, adding
that only officers of the guard were allowed to take fencing lessons
from prisoners, and those in the prison.

In 1811 a dozen prisoners daubed themselves all over with mortar, and
walked out unchallenged as masons. Five were retaken. Another man
painted his clothes like a British military uniform, and got away, as he
deserved to.

In 1812 additional buildings to hold 2,000 persons were erected at

In 1813 a notable scene, indicative of the prevalence occasionally of a
nice feeling between foes, was witnessed at Millbay, at the funeral of
Captain Allen of the United States ship _Argus_, who had died of wounds
received in the action with the _Pelican_. Allen had been first
lieutenant of the _United States_ in her victorious action with the
British _Macedonian_, and had received his promotion for his bravery in
that encounter. Moreover, all the British prisoners taken by him
testified to his humanity and kindness. A contemporary newspaper says:

‘The Funeral Procession as it moved from the Mill Prison to the Old
Church, afforded a scene singularly impressive to the prisoners, who
beheld with admiration the respect paid by a gallant, conquering enemy
to the fallen hero. 500 British Marines first marched in slow time, with
arms reversed; the band of the Plymouth Division of Marines followed,
playing the most solemn tunes. An officer of Marines in military
mourning came after these. Two interesting black boys, the servants of
the deceased, then preceded the hearse. One of these bore his master’s
sword, and the other his hat. Eight American officers followed the
hearse, and the procession was closed with a number of British Naval

‘On the arrival of the body at the Old Church, it was met by the
officiating Minister, and three volleys over the grave closed the

                             CHAPTER XVIII
                           THE PRISONS ASHORE
                              10. DARTMOOR

In July 1805, the Transport Office, impressed by the serious crowding of
war-prisoners on the hulks at Plymouth and in the Millbay Prison,
requested their representative, Mr. Daniel Alexander, to meet the Hon.
E. Bouverie, at the house of Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, warden of the
Stannaries, at Tor Royal, with the view of choosing a site for a great
war-prison to hold 5,000 men.

Mr. Baring-Gould more than hints that the particular spot chosen owed
its distinction entirely to the personal interests of Sir Thomas. Says

‘It is on the most inclement site that could have been selected,
catching the clouds from the South West, and condensing fog about it
when everything else is clear. It is exposed equally to the North and
East winds. It stands over 1,400 feet above the sea, above the sources
of the Meavy, in the highest as well as least suitable situation that
could have been selected; the site determined by Sir Thomas, so as to be
near his granite quarries.’

On March 20, 1806, the first stone was laid; on May 24, 1809, the first
prisoners came to it; in July the first two prisoners got out of it by
bribing the sentries, men of the Notts Militia. The Frenchmen were
recaptured, one at a place called ‘The Jumps’, the other at Kingsbridge.
The soldiers, four in number, confessed they had received eight guineas
each for their help, and two of them were condemned to be shot.



(_Reproduced by kind permission of Mr. Basil Thomson and Col. Winn._)


 1A  Prison.

 2A  Prison.

 3A  Prison.

 4A  Prison.

 5A  Prison.

 6A  Prison. (New Building).

 7A  Prison. (New Building).

 B   Cookeries.

 C   Cachot or Dungeon.

 D   Watch-houses.

 E   Basins.

 F   Petty Officers’ Prison.

 G   Market-place.

 H   Hospital.

 I   Receiving-house.

 J   Pharmacy.

 K   Bathing-place.

 L   Matron’s House.

 M   Washing-house.

 N   Storage.

 N   Store-houses.

 O   Storage.

 P   Jailor’s Lodgings

 Q   Jailor’s Lodge.

 R1  Mr. Holmden’s (Clerk) House.

 R2  Mr. Bennet’s House.

 R3  Mr. Winkworth’s House.

 S   Captain Cotgrave’s House.

 T   Agent’s Office.

 U   Agent’s Garden.

 V   Doctor’s House.

 W   Doctor’s Garden.

 X   Stables.

 Y   Reservoir.

 Z   Barracks.

 1   Mr. Carpenter’s House.

 2   Bakehouse.

 3   Bell.

 4   Miller’s House.

 5   Burial-ground.

 6   Dead-house.

 7   Military Walk.

 8   Ramparts.

 9   Iron Rails, inside of which prisoners are confined.

 10  Streams of water running from the reservoir.

 11  Tavistock Road.

 12  Princetown Road.

 13  Morton Road.

 14  Prison where Mr. V. made his first entry on December 12, 1811, with
       the track.

 15  Prison where Mr. V. lives now, and track of walk allowed.

 16  Mr. V. has liberty to go as far as 5th _Gate_.

 17  New latter wall, is a mile in circumference.


Thirty acres were enclosed by stone walls, the outer of which was
sixteen feet high,[10] and was separated by a broad military way from
the inner wall, which was hung with bells on wires connected with all
the sentry boxes dotted along it. One half of the circle thus enclosed
was occupied by five huge barracks, each capable of holding more than
1,000 men, with their airing grounds and shelters for bad weather, their
inner ends converging on a large open space, where was held the market.
Each barrack consisted of two floors, and above the top floor ran, the
length of the building, a roof room, designed for use when the weather
was too bad even for the outdoor shelters, but, as we shall see,
appropriated for other purposes. On each floor, a treble tier of
hammocks was slung upon cast-iron pillars. Each barrack had its own
airing ground, supply of running water, and Black Hole. The other
half-circle was occupied by two spacious blocks, one the hospital, the
other the petty officers’ prison, by the officials’ quarters, the
kitchen, washing-houses, and other domestic offices, and outside the
main, the Western Gate, the barrack for 400 soldiers and the officers’
quarters. The cost of the prison was £135,000.

By the foreign prisoners of war Dartmoor was regarded, and not without
reason, as the most hateful of all the British prisons. At Norman Cross,
at Stapleton, at Perth, at Valleyfield, at Forton, at Millbay, they were
at any rate within sight and hearing of the outer world. Escape from any
one of these places was, of course, made as difficult as possible, but
when once an exit was effected, the rest was comparatively easy. But
escape from Dartmoor meant very much more than the mere evading of
sentries, the breaching and scaling of walls, or the patient labour of
underground burrowing. When all this was accomplished the fugitive found
himself not in a crowded city, where he could be lost to sight among the
multitude, nor in the open country where starvation was at any rate
impossible, nor by a water highway to freedom, nor, in short, in a world
wherein he could exercise his five senses with at least a chance of
success; but in the wildest, most solitary, most shelterless, most
pathless, and, above all, most weather-tormented region of Britain. Any
one who has tried to take his bearings in a Dartmoor fog, or who has
been caught by a Dartmoor snowstorm at the fall of day can realize this;
those who have not had one or other of these experiences, cannot do
better than read _The American Prisoner_, by Mr. Eden Phillpotts.

More than this: at the other prisons a more or less sympathetic public
was near at hand which kept the prisoners in touch with the free life
without, even if many of its members were merely curious gapers and
gazers, or purchasers of manufactures. At Dartmoor the natives who came
to the prison gates, came only to sell their produce. Being natives of a
remote district, they were generally prejudiced against the prisoners,
and Farmer Newcombe’s speech in Mr. Phillpotts’ _Farm of the Dagger_,
accurately reproduces the sentiments prevalent among them:

‘Dartymoor’s bettern they deserve anyway. I should like to know what’s
too bad for them as makes war on us. ’Tis only naked savages, I should
have thought, as would dare to fight against the most civilized and
God-fearing nation in the world.’

Finally, it is much to be feared that the jacks-in-office and petty
officials at Dartmoor, secure in their seclusion as they thought, were
exacting and tyrannical to a degree not ventured upon in other places of
confinement more easily accessible to the light of inspection, and
unsurrounded by a desert air into which the cries of anguish and
distress would rise in vain.

All the same, it was not long before the condition of prison life in
Dartmoor became known, even in high places.

In July 1811, the _Independent Whig_ published revelations of the state
of Dartmoor which caused Lord Cochrane, member for Westminster, to bring
the facts before the notice of the House of Commons, but he expressed
his disappointment that his exposure had been without result, asserting
that the Government was afraid of losing what little character it had.
He declared that the soil of Dartmoor was one vast marsh, and was most
pestilential. Captivity, said he, was irksome enough without the
addition of disease and torture. He asserted that the prison had been
built for the convenience of the town, and not the town for the
convenience of the prison, inasmuch as the town was a speculative
project which had failed. ‘Its inhabitants had no market, were solitary,
insulated, absorbed, and buried in their own fogs.’ To remedy this it
was necessary to do something, and so came about the building of the

The article in the _Independent Whig_ which attracted Lord Cochrane’s
attention was as follows:

‘To foreigners, bred for the most part in a region the temperature of
which is so comparatively pure to the air of our climate at the best of
times, a transition so dreadful must necessarily have fatal
consequences, and indeed it is related that the prisoners commonly take
to their beds at the first arrival, which nothing afterwards can induce
them to quit.... Can it bear reflection, much less inspection? Six or
seven thousand human beings, deprived of liberty by the chance of war
... consigned to linger out probably many tedious years in misery and

‘While we declaim against the injustice and tyranny of our neighbours,
shall we neglect the common duties of humanity? If we submit to crowd
our dungeons with the virtuous and the just of our country, confounding
moral guilt with unintentional error, and subjecting them to
indiscriminate punishment and the most inhuman privations, though we
submit to this among ourselves, do not let us pursue the same system
towards individuals thrown on our compassion by the casualties of war,
lest we provoke a general spirit of retaliation, and plunge again the
civilized world into the vortex of Barbarism. Let us not forget that the
prisoner is a living trust in our hands, not to be subject to the
wayward fancy of caprice, but a deposit placed at our disposal to be
required at a future hour. It is a solemn charge, involving the care of
life and the principle of humanity.’

‘Humanitas’ wrote in the _Examiner_, commenting upon Whitbread’s defence
and laudation of Dartmoor as a residence, and amazed at the selection of
such a place as the site for a prison:

‘The most inclement climate in England; for nine months there is no sun,
and four and a half times as much rain as in Middlesex. The regiments on
duty there have to be changed every two months. Were not the deaths
during the first three years 1,000 a year, and 3,000 sick? Did not from
500 to 600 die in the winter of 1809? Is it not true that since some
gentlemen visited the prison and published their terrible experiences,
nobody has been allowed inside?’

The writer goes on, not so much to condemn the treatment of the
prisoners as to blame the Government for spending so much money on such
a site.

The Transport Office took counsel’s opinion about prosecuting these two
newspapers for libel. It was as follows:

‘In my opinion both these papers are libellous. The first is the
strongest, but if the statement of deaths in the other is, as I conceive
it is, wholly unsupported by the fact, this is equally mischievous. It
is not, however, by any means clear to me that a jury will take the same
view of the subject, ... but unless some serious consequences are to be
apprehended from suffering these publications to go unnoticed, I should
not be inclined to institute prosecutions upon them.

                                                              V. GIBBS.’

Later on, Vicary Gibbs thinks that they should be prosecuted, but wants
information about the heavy mortality of November 1809 to April 1810,
and also tables of comparison between the deaths in our own barracks and
those in French prisons.

I cannot trace the sequel of this, but, reading by the light of the
times, it is probable that the matter was hushed up in the same way as
were the exposures of Messrs. Batchelor and Andrews at Stapleton a few
years previously. The heavy mortality of the six months of 1809–10 was
due to an epidemic of measles, which carried off no less than 419
persons in the four months of 1810 alone.

Violent deaths among Dartmoor prisoners, whether from suicide or duel or
murder, were so frequent, even in the earliest years of the prison, that
in 1810 the coroner of this division of the county complained, praying
that on account of the large numbers of inquests held—greater, he said,
since the opening of the prison than during the preceding fourteen
years—the ordinary allowance to jurors of 8_d._ per man be increased to
1_s._ He emphasized the difficulty of collecting jurors, these being
principally small farmers and artificers, who had in most cases to
travel long distances. The Parish of Lydford paid the fees, and the
coroner’s request was granted.

From the _Story of Dartmoor Prison_ by Mr. Basil Thomson, I have, with
the kind permission of the author, taken many of the following facts,
and with these I have associated some from the pen of the French writer,

In the preface to the latter’s book we read:

‘About six leagues to the North of Plymouth, under a dark and melancholy
sky, in a cold and foggy atmosphere, a rocky, dry and almost naked soil,
covered eight months of the year with a mantle of snow, shuts in a space
of some square leagues. This appearance strikes the view, and
communicates a sort of bitterness to the soul. Nature, more than
indifferent in complete stagnation, seems to have treated with
avaricious parsimony this corner of land, without doubt the ugliest in
England. It is in this place, where no human thought dare hope for the
smallest betterment, that British philanthropy conceived and executed
the double project of building a prison in time of war for French
prisoners, in time of Peace for her own criminals condemned to penal
servitude. Comment is needless. The reader will appreciate the double
humanitarian thought which is apparent in its conception.’

Mr. Thomson informs us that the present Infirmary was the old petty
officers’ prison. Here were confined officers who had broken their
parole and who had been recaptured. Some of Rochambeau’s San Domingo
officers were here, and the building was known as the ‘Petit
Cautionnement’. As most of the officers here had private means, they
formed a refined little society, dressed and lived well, and had
servants to attend on them, taken from the ordinary prisoners, who were
paid 3_d._ a day. Duels were frequent. In 1809, on the occasion of some
national or provincial festival, there was a procession with band and
banners. One Souville, a _maître d’armes_, felt himself slighted because
he had not been chosen to carry the national flag, and snatched it from
a youth of eighteen, to whom it had been entrusted. The youth attacked
him with his fists and gave him a thrashing, which so enraged the other,
whose _métier_ was that of arms, that he challenged him. The youth could
not fence, but as the weapons were sticks with razor-blades affixed,
this was not of serious moment. Souville, however, cut one of the
youth’s fingers off.

In 1812 two prisoners fought with improvised daggers with such ferocity
that both died before they could be carried to the hospital. In 1814,
two fencing masters, hitherto great friends, quarrelled over the merits
of their respective pupils, and fought with fists. The beaten man, Jean
Vignon, challenged the other to a more real trial by combat, and they
fought in the ‘cock-loft’ of No. 4 Prison—where are now the kitchen and
chapel. Vignon killed his opponent while the latter was stooping to pick
up his foil, was brought up before the civil court, and condemned to six
months for manslaughter.

Every day, except Sunday, a market was held from nine to twelve. Here,
in exchange for money and produce, the prisoners sold the multifarious
articles of their manufacture, excepting woollen mittens and gloves,
straw hats or bonnets, shoes, plaited straw, obscene toys and pictures,
or articles made out of prison stores.

The chief punishment was relegation to the _cachot_ or Black Hole. At
first this was a small building in the Infirmary Yard of such poor
construction that it was frequent for the inmates to break out of it and
mix with the other prisoners. But in 1811 the French prisoners built a
new one, twenty feet square, arch-roofed, and with a floor of granite
blocks weighing a ton each.

Some escapes from Dartmoor were notable, one, indeed, so much so that I
have given the hero of it, Louis Vanhille, a chapter to himself.
Sevegran, a naval surgeon, and Aunay, a naval officer, observing that
fifty men were marched into the prison every evening to help the
turnkeys to get the prisoners into their respective _casernes_, made
unto themselves Glengarry caps and overcoats out of odds and ends of
cloth and blanket and, with strips of tin to look like bayonets, calmly
fell in at the rear of the guard as they left the prison, and, favoured
by rain and darkness, followed out of the prison, and, as the troops
marched into barracks, got away. They had money, so from
Plymouth—whither they tramped that night—they took coach to London. In
order that they should have time to get well away, their accomplices in
the prison at the call-over the next morning got up a disturbance which
put the turnkey out of his reckoning, and so they were not at once

Next evening, three other prisoners, Keronel, Vasselin, and Cherabeau,
tried the same trick. All went well. At the third gate, the keeper asked
if the locking-up was finished, and as there was no reply he said: ‘All
these lobsters are deaf with their caps over their ears.’ The men

Dr. Walker quotes an attempt of a similar character from Norman Cross:

‘A French prisoner made himself a complete uniform of the Hertfordshire
Militia, and a wooden gun, stained, surmounted by a tin bayonet. Thus
equipped, he mixed with the guard, and when they were ordered to march
out, having been relieved, Monsieur fell in and marched out too. Thus
far he was fortunate, but when arrived at the guard room, lo! what
befell him.

‘His new comrades ranged their muskets on the rack, and he endeavoured
to follow their example; but, as his wooden piece was unfortunately a
few inches too long, he was unable to place it properly. This was
observed, so of course his attempt to get away was frustrated.’

The bribing of sentries was a very necessary condition of escape. One or
two pounds would generally do it, and it was through the sky-light of
the ‘cock-lofts’ that the prisoners usually got out of the locked-up

In February 1811, four privates of the Notts Militia were heavily bribed
for the escape of two French officers. One of them, thinking he was
unfairly treated in the division of the money, gave information, and a
picket was in waiting for the escaping Frenchmen. The three men were
sentenced to 900 lashes each. Two were pardoned, but one, who had given
the prisoners fire-arms, got 450.

In March, 1812, Edward Palmer, a ‘moorman,’ was fined £5 and got twelve
months’ imprisonment for procuring a disguise for a French prisoner
named Bellaird.

Early in the same year three prisoners escaped with the connivance of a
Roscommon Militiaman. The sequel moves one’s pity. Pat was paid in
bank-notes. He offered them for exchange, and, to his amazement, was
informed not only that he could receive nothing for them, but that he
must consider himself under arrest for uttering forged notes. It was too
true. The three Frenchmen had paid him handsomely in notes fabricated by
one Lustique. The Irishman would not say where he got the notes, and it
really did not matter, for if he had admitted that he received them as
the price of allowing French prisoners to escape, he would have been
flogged to death: as it was, he and Lustique were hanged.

Forgery was a prominent Dartmoor industry. Bank of England notes were
forged to some extent, but local banks such as Grant, Burbey and Co. of
Portsmouth, Harris, Langholme, and Harris of Plymouth, the Plymouth
Commercial Bank, the Tamar Bank, the Launceston and Totnes Bank, were
largely victimized. To such an extent were these frauds carried out that
it was ordered that an official should attend at the prison market to
write his name on all notes offered by prisoners in payment for goods

It was no doubt with reference to the local knowledge of soldiers on
guard being valuable to intending escapes from the prison that the
authorities refused the application of the 1st Devon Militia to be on
guard at Dartmoor, as there were ‘several strong objections to the men
of that regiment being employed’.

There were distinct grades among the Dartmoor prisoners. First came ‘Les
Lords’—‘broke parole’ officers, and people with money. Next came ‘Les
Laboureurs’, the clever, industrious men who not only lived comfortably
by the sale of the articles they manufactured, but saved money so that
some of them left the prison at the Declaration of Peace financially
very much better off than when they came. These were the ‘respectable
prisoners’. After the labourers came the ‘Indifférents’—loafers and
idlers, but not mischief-makers or harm-workers; the ‘Misérables’,
mischievous rascals for ever plotting and planning; and finally, the
most famous of all, the ‘Romans’, so called because they existed in the
cock-loft, the ‘Capitole’, of one of the barracks. These men, almost
entirely privateersmen, the scum and sweepings of sea-port towns, or
land rascals with nothing to lose and all to gain in this world, formed
a veritable power in the prison. Gamblers to a man, they were mostly
naked, and held so faithfully to the theory of Communism, that when it
was necessary that someone should descend from the cock-loft eyrie in
order to beg, borrow, or, what was more usual, to steal food or rags,
the one pair of breeches was lent to him for the occasion. The only
hammock among them belonged to the ‘General’ or, to be more correct, was
his temporarily, for not even in Hayti were generals made and unmade
with such dispatch. The sleeping arrangement was that, mention of which
has already been made, known as the ‘spoon’ system, by which the naked
men lay so close together for warmth that the turn-over of the ranks had
to be made at certain intervals by word of command. Catel tells an
excellent story of the ‘Romans’. These gentry held a parade on one of
the anniversaries, and were drawn up in order when a fine plump rat
appeared on the airing ground—a new arrival, clearly, or he would have
kept carefully away. This was too much for half-famished men; the ranks
were instantly broken and the chase began. As luck would have it, the
rat ran into the garrison kitchens, where the day’s rations were being
prepared, and in a very few minutes the pots and pans were cleared of
their contents. Soldiers were at once hurried to the scene, but being
few in number they were actually overpowered and disarmed by the
‘Romans’, who marched them to the Governor’s house. Here the ‘General’,
with a profound salute, spoke as follows:

‘Sir, we have come here to deliver over to you our prisoners and their
arms. It is a happy little occurrence this, as regards your soldiers,
quiet now as sheep. We beg, you, therefore, to grant them as reward
double rations, and to make up the loss we have caused in the provisions
of our honoured visitors.’

Catel adds that the rat was caught and eaten raw!

Gradually, their violence and their thieving propensities made them a
terror to the other prisoners; the Americans, in particular, objected to
their filthy habits, and at length their conduct became so intolerable
that they were marched off to the Plymouth hulks, on which they were
kept until the Peace of 1814.

It is an interesting fact that when an epidemic swept the prisons and
carried off the decent and cleanly by hundreds, the impregnable
dirt-armour of the ‘Romans’ kept them unscathed. This epidemic was the
terrible visitation of malignant measles which from November 1809 to
April 1810 inclusive, claimed about 400 victims out of 5,000 prisoners.
The burial-ground was in the present gas-house field; the mortuary,
where the bodies were collected for burial, was near the present General
Hospital. No funeral rites were observed, and not more than a foot of
earth heaped over the bodies.

Catel also relates a very clever and humorous escape. Theatricals were
largely patronized at Dartmoor, as in the other prisons. A piece
entitled _Le Capitaine Calonne et sa dame_ was written in eulogy of a
certain British garrison officer and his lady, and, being shown to them
in manuscript, so flattered and delighted them, that, in order that the
piece should not lack local colour at the opening performance, the
Captain offered to lend a British suit of regimentals, and his lady to
provide a complete toilette, for the occasion.

These, of course, were gladly accepted. The theatre was crowded, and the
new piece was most successful, until the opening of the third act, when
the manager stepped forward, and, amidst whistles and catcalls, said:
‘Messieurs, the play is finished. The English Captain and his lady are
out of the prison.’ This was true. During the second act the
prisoner-Captain and his lady quietly passed out of the prison, being
saluted by guards and sentries, and got away to Tavistock. Catel relates
with gusto the adventure of the real captain and his wife with the said
guards and sentinels, who swore that they had left the prison some time

The delight of the prisoners can be pictured, and especially when it was
rumoured two days later that the real Captain received his uniform, and
his lady her dress, in a box with a polite letter of thanks from the
escaped prisoners.

An escape of a similar character to the foregoing was effected from one
of the Portsmouth hulks. On one occasion a prisoner acted the part of a
female so naturally, that an English naval Captain was deceived
completely. He proposed to the supposed girl to elope. The pseudo-maiden
was nothing loth, and (said the late Rev. G. N. Godwin in a lecture from
which I take this) there is an amusing sketch showing the Captain in
full uniform passing the gangway with the lady on his arm, the sentry
presenting arms meanwhile. Of course, when the gallant officer
discovered his mistake, there was nothing for it but to assist in the
escape of the astute prisoner.

In 1812, Hageman, the bread contractor, was brought up for fraudulent
dealing, and was mulcted in £3,000, others concerned in the transactions
being imprisoned for long terms.

I am glad to be able to ring a change in the somewhat monotonous tone of
the prisoners’ complaints, inasmuch as American prisoners have placed on
record their experiences: one of them, Andrews, in a very comprehensive
and detailed form.

From the autumn of 1812 to April of 1813, there were 900 American
prisoners at Chatham, 100 at Portsmouth, 700 at Plymouth, ‘most of them
destitute of clothes and swarming with vermin.’ On April 2, 1813, the
Transport Board ordered them all to Dartmoor, no doubt because of their
ceaseless attempts to escape from the hulks. They were horrified, for
they knew it to have the reputation of being the worst prison in

From the Plymouth hulks _Hector_ and _Le Brave_, 250 were landed at New
Passage, and marched the seventeen miles to Dartmoor, where were already
5,000 French prisoners. On May 1, 1813, Cotgrave, the Governor, ordered
all the American prisoners to be transferred to No. 4 _caserne_, where
were already 900 French ‘Romans’.



  (_From a sketch by the Author._)

The garrison at Dartmoor consisted of from 1,200 to 1,500 men, who, says
Andrews, without the smallest foundation of fact, had been told off for
this duty as punishment for offences. The truth is, that as our small
regular army was on duty in many places elsewhere, the Militia had to be
drawn upon for the garrisoning of war-prisons, and that on account of
the many ‘pickings’ to be had, war-prison duty was rather sought than
shunned. The garrison was frequently changed at all the war-prisons for
no other reason than that between guards and guarded an undesirable
intimacy usually developed.

The American prisoners, who, throughout the war, were generally of a
superior type to the Frenchmen, very much resented this association of
them with the low-class ruffians in No. 4. I may here quote Mr. Eden
Phillpotts’s remarks in his _Farm of the Dagger_.

‘There is not much doubt that these earlier prisoners of war suffered
very terribly. Their guards feared them more than the French. From the
hulks came warnings of their skill and ingenuity, their courage, and
their frantic endeavours to regain liberty. The American Agent for
Prisoners of War at Plymouth, one Reuben Beasley, was either a knave or
a fool, and never have unhappy sufferers in this sort endured more from
a callous, cruel, or utterly inefficient and imbecile representative.
With sleepless rigour and severity were the Americans treated in that
stern time; certain advantages and privileges permitted to the French at
Princetown were at first denied them, and to all their petitions,
reasonable complaints, and remonstrances, the egregious Beasley turned a
deaf ear, while the very medical officer at the gaol at that season
lacked both knowledge of medicine and humanity, and justified his
conduct with falsehood before he was removed from office.’

Theirs was indeed a hard lot. This last-mentioned brute, Dyer, took note
of no sickness until it was too far gone to be treated, and refused
patients admission to the hospital until the last moment: for fear, he
said, of spreading the disease. They were, as Mr. Phillpotts says,
denied many privileges and advantages allowed to Frenchmen of the lowest
class; they were shut out from the usual markets, and had to buy through
the French prisoners, at 25 per cent. above market prices.

On May 18, 1813, 250 more Americans came from the _Hector_ hulk, and on
July 1, 100 more.

July 4, 1813, was a dark day in the history of the prison. The
Americans, with the idea of getting up an Independence Day celebration,
got two flags and asked permission to hold a quiet festival. Captain
Cotgrave, the Governor, refused, and sent the guard to confiscate the
flags. Resistance was offered; there was a struggle and one of the flags
was captured. In the evening the disturbance was renewed, an attempt was
made to recapture the flag, the guard fired upon the prisoners and
wounded two. The feeling thus fostered burst out into a flame on July
10, when the ‘Romans’ in the two upper stories of No. 4 Prison collected
weapons of all sorts, and attacked the Americans unexpectedly, with the
avowed purpose of killing them all. A terrible encounter was the result,
in the midst of which the guards charged in and separated the two
parties, but not until forty on both sides had been badly wounded. After
this a wall fifteen feet high was built to divide the airing ground of
No. 4.

Andrews describes the clothing of the prisoners as consisting of a cap
of wool, one inch thick and coarser than rope yarn, a yellow jacket—not
large enough to meet round the smallest man, although most of the
prisoners were reduced by low living to skeletons—with the sleeves
half-way up the arms, a short waistcoat, pants tight to the middle of
the shin, shoes of list with wooden soles one and a half inches thick.

An epidemic of small-pox broke out; complaints poured in to Beasley
about the slack attention paid to it, about the overcrowding, the
consequent vermin, and the frauds of the food contractors, but without
results. Then came remonstrances about the partiality shown in giving
all lucrative offices to French prisoners, that is to say, positions
such as one sweeper to every 100 men at threepence a day, one cook to
every 200 at fourpence halfpenny; barber at threepence; nurses in the
hospital at sixpence—all without avail. As a rule the Americans were
glad to sell their ration of bad beef to Frenchmen, who could juggle it
into fancy dishes, and with the money they bought soap and

At length Beasley came to see for himself, but although he expressed
surprise at the crowding of so many prisoners, and said he was glad he
had not to be in Dartmoor, he could promise no redress.

Andrews alludes to the proficiency of the French prisoners in the
science of forging not only bank-notes, but shillings out of Spanish
dollars which they collected from the outside of the market, making
eight full-weight shillings out of every four dollars. The performers
were chiefly officers who had broken parole. The ordinary run of
Dartmoor prisoners, he says, somewhat surprisingly, so far from being
the miserable suffering wretches we are accustomed to picture them, were
light-hearted, singing, dancing, drinking men who in many cases were
saving money.



  Made by prisoners of war at Dartmoor

Isaac Cotgrave he describes as a brutal Governor, who seemed to enjoy
making the lot of the prisoners in his charge as hard as possible, and
he emphasizes the cruelty of the morning out-of-door roll-call parade in
the depth of winter; but he speaks highly of the kindness and
consideration of the guards of a Scottish Militia regiment which took
over the duty.

Hitherto the negroes, who formed no inconsiderable part of American
crews, were mixed with the white men in the prisons. A petition from the
American white prisoners that the blacks should be confined by
themselves, as they were dirty by habit and thieves by nature, was
acceded to.

Gradually the official dread of American determination to obtain liberty
was modified, and a general freedom of intercourse was instituted which
had not been enjoyed before. A coffee-house was established, trades
sprang up, markets for tobacco, potatoes, and butter were carried on,
the old French monopoly of trade was broken down, and the American
prisoners imitated their French companions in manufacturing all sorts of
objects of use and ornament for sale. The French prisoners by this time
were quite well off, the different professors of sciences and arts
having plenty of pupils, straw-plaiting for hats bringing in threepence
a day, although it was a forbidden trade, and plenty of money being
found for theatrical performances and amusements generally.

The condition of the Americans, too, kept pace, for Beasley presently
announced further money allowances, so that each prisoner now received
6_s._ 8_d._ per month, the result being a general improvement in outward

On May 20, 1814, peace with France was announced amidst the frenzied
rejoicings of the French prisoners. All Frenchmen had to produce their
bedding before being allowed to go. One poor fellow failed to comply,
and was so frantic at being turned back, that he cut his throat at the
prison gate. 500 men were released, and with them some French-speaking
American officers got away, and when this was followed by a rumour that
all the Americans were to be removed to Stapleton, where there was a
better market for manufactures, and which was far healthier than
Dartmoor, the tone of the prison was quite lively and hopeful. This
rumour, however, proved to be unfounded, but it was announced that
henceforth the prisoners would be occupied in work outside the prison
walls, such as the building of the new church, repairing roads, and in
certain trades.

On July 3, 1814, two _Argus_ men fought. One killed the other and was
committed to Exeter for manslaughter.

On July 4, Independence Day celebrations were allowed, and money being
comparatively abundant, a most successful banquet on soup and beef was

On July 8, a prisoner, James Hart, died, and over his burial-place the
following epitaph was raised:

                ‘Your country mourns your hapless fate,
                So mourn we prisoners all;
                You’ve paid the debt we all must pay,
                Each sailor great and small.
                Your body on this barren moor,
                Your soul in Heaven doth rest;
                Where Yankee sailors one and all,
                Hereafter will be blest.’

The prison was much crowded in this year, 1814; in No. 4 barrack alone
there were 1,500 prisoners, and yet the new doctor, Magrath, who is
described by Andrews as being both skilful and humane, gave very strong
testimony to its healthiness.

In reply to a general petition from the prisoners for examination into
their grievances, a Commission was sent to Dartmoor in 1813, and the
next year reported that the only complaints partially justifiable were
that of overcrowding, which was largely due to the preference of the
prisoners for the new buildings with wooden floors, which were finished
in the summer of 1812; and that of the ‘Partial Exchange’, which meant
that whereas French privateers when they captured a British ship, landed
or put the crew in a neutral ship and kept the officers, British captors
kept all.

Two desperate and elaborate attempts at escape by tunnelling were made
by American prisoners in 1814. Digging was done in three barracks
simultaneously—from No. 4, in which there were 1,200 men, from No. 5,
which was empty, and from No. 6, lately opened and now holding 800
men—down in each case twenty feet, and then 250 feet of tunnel in an
easterly direction towards the road outside the boundary wall. On
September 2 Captain Shortland, the new Agent, discovered it; some say it
was betrayed to him, but the prisoners themselves attributed it to
indiscreet talking. The enormous amount of soil taken out was either
thrown into the stream running through the prison, or was used for
plastering walls which were under repair, coating it with whitewash.

When the excitement attendant on this discovery had subsided, the
indefatigable Americans got to work again. The discovered shafts having
been partially blocked by the authorities with large stones, the
plotters started another tunnel from the vacant No. 5 prison, to connect
with the old one beyond the point of stoppage. Mr. Basil Thomson has
kindly allowed me to publish an interesting discovery relative to this,
made in December, 1911:

‘While excavating for the foundations of the new hall at Dartmoor, which
is being built on the site of IV. A and B Prison, the excavators broke
into what proved to be one of the subterranean passages which were
secretly dug by the American prisoners in 1814 with a view to escape.
Number IV Prison, then known as Number V, was at that time empty, and,
as Charles Andrews tells us, the plan was to tunnel under the boundary
walls and then, armed with daggers forged at the blacksmith’s shop, to
emerge on a stormy night and make for Torbay, where there were believed
to be fishing boats sufficient to take them to the French coast. No one
was to be taken alive. The scheme was betrayed by a prisoner named
Bagley (of Portsmouth, New Hampshire), who, to save him from the fury of
the prisoners, was liberated and sent home.... One of these tunnels was
disclosed when the foundation of IV. C Hall were dug in 1881. The tunnel
found last month may have been the excavation made after the first shaft
had been filled up. It was 14 feet below the floor of the prison, 3 feet
in height, and 4 feet wide. More than one person explored it on hands
and knees as far as it went, which was about 20 feet in the direction of
the boundary wall. A marlin spike and a ship’s scraper of ancient
pattern were found among the débris, and are now in the Prison Museum.’

At this time (Sept. 1814) there were 3,500 American prisoners at
Dartmoor, and so constant were they in their petty annoyance, almost
persecution, of their guardians; so independent were they of rules and
regulations; so constant with their petitions, remonstrances, and
complaints; so untiring in their efforts to escape; so averse to
anything like settling down and making the best of things, as did the
French, that the authorities declared they would rather be in charge of
20,000 Frenchmen than of 2,000 Americans.

After the above-related attempts to escape, the prisoners were confined
to Nos. 2 and 3 barracks, and put on two-thirds ration allowance to pay
for damage done.

In October, 1814, eight escaped by bribing the sentries to procure them
military coats and caps, and so getting off at night. Much amusement,
too, was caused one evening by the jangling of the alarm bells, the
hurrying of soldiers to quarters, and subsequent firing at a ‘prisoner’
escaping over the inner wall—the ‘prisoner’ being a dummy dressed up.

In November, 5,000 more prisoners came into the prison. There was much
suffering this winter from the cold and scanty clothing. A petition to
have fires in the barracks was refused. A man named John Taylor, a
native citizen of New York City, hanged himself in No. 5 prison on the
evening of December 1.

Peace, which had been signed at Ghent on December 24, 1814, was declared
at Dartmoor, and occasioned general jubilation. Flags with ‘Free Trade
and Sailors’ Rights’ thereon paraded with music and cheering, and
Shortland politely requested that they should be withdrawn, but met with
a flat refusal. Unfortunately much of unhappy moment was to happen
between the date of the ratification of the Treaty of Ghent in March,
1815, and the final departure of the prisoners. Beasley was
unaccountably negligent and tardy in his arrangements for the reception
and disposal of the prisoners, so that although _de jure_ they were free
men, _de facto_ they were still detained and treated as prisoners.
Small-pox broke out, and it was only by the unwearying devotion and
activity of Dr. Magrath, the prison surgeon, that the epidemic was
checked, and that the prisoners were dissuaded from going further than
giving Beasley a mock trial and burning him in effigy.

On April 20, 1815, 263 ragged and shoeless Americans quitted Dartmoor,
leaving 5,193 behind. The remainder followed in a few days, marching to
Plymouth, carrying a huge white flag on which was represented the
goddess of Liberty, sorrowing over the tomb of the killed Americans,
with the legend: ‘Columbia weeps and will remember!’ Before the
prisoners left, they testified their gratitude to Dr. Magrath for his
unvarying kindness to them, by an address.

‘Greenhorn,’ another American, gives little details about prison life at
Dartmoor, which are interesting as supplementary to the fuller book of

‘Greenhorn’ landed at Plymouth on January 30, 1815, after the Treaty of
Ghent had been signed, but before its ratification, and was marched via
Mannamead, Yelverton, and the Dursland Inn to Dartmoor.

He describes the inmates of the American ‘Rough Alleys’ as corresponding
in a minor degree to the French ‘Romans’, the principal source of their
poverty being a gambling game known as ‘Keno’.

He says—and it may be noted—that he found the food at Dartmoor good, and
more abundant than on board ship. The American prisoners kept Sunday
strictly, all buying, selling, and gambling was suspended by public
opinion, and every man dressed in his cleanest and best, and spent the
day quietly. He speaks of the great popularity of Dr. Magrath, although
he made vaccination compulsory. Ship-model making was a chief industry.
The Americans settled their differences in Anglo-Saxon fashion, the
chief fighting-ground being in Bath Alley. Announcements of these and of
all public meetings and entertainments were made by a well-known
character, ‘Old Davis,’ in improvised rhyme. Another character was the
pedlar Frank Dolphin.

In dress, it was the aim of every one to disguise the hideous
prison-garb as much as possible, the results often being ludicrous in
the extreme.

Everybody was more or less busy. There were schoolmasters and music
teachers, a band, a boxing academy, a dancing school, a glee-club, and a
theatre. There were straw-basket making, imitation Chinese wood-carving,
and much false coining, the lead of No. 6 roof coming in very handy for
this trade. Washermen charged a halfpenny a piece, or one penny
including soap and starch.

No. 4 was the bad prison—the Ball Alley of the roughs. Each prison,
except No. 4, was managed by a committee of twelve, elected by the
inmates. From their decisions there was no appeal. Gambling was
universal, ranging from the penny ‘sweet-cloth’ to _Vingt-et-un_. Some
of the play was high, and money was abundant, as many of the
privateersmen had their prize-money. One man possessed £1,100 on Monday,
and on Thursday he could not buy a cup of coffee. The rule which
precluded from the privilege of parole all but the masters and first
mates of privateers of fourteen guns and upwards brought a number of
well-to-do men into the prison, and, moreover, the American Government
allowance of 2½_d._ a day for soap, coffee, and tobacco, circulated

The following notes from the _Journal of a Young Man of Massachusetts_,
Benjamin Waterhouse by name, whom we have already met on the Chatham
hulks, are included, as they add a few details of life at Dartmoor to
those already given.

Waterhouse says:

‘I shall only say that I found it, take it all in all, a less
disagreeable prison than the ships; the life of a prudent, industrious,
well-behaved man might here be rendered pretty easy, for a prison life,
as was the case with some of our own countrymen and some Frenchmen; but
the young, the idle, the giddy, fun-making youth generally reaped such
fruit as he sowed. Gambling was the wide inlet to vice and disorder, and
in this Frenchmen took the lead. These men would play away everything
they possessed beyond the clothes to keep them decent. They have been
known to game away a month’s provision, and when they had lost it, would
shirk and steal for a month after for their subsistence. A man with some
money in his pocket might live pretty well through the day in Dartmoor
Prison, there being shops and stalls where every little article could be
obtained; but added to this we had a good and constant market, and the
bread and meat supplied by Government were not bad; and as good I
presume as that given to British prisoners by our own Government.’



  Made by prisoners of war at Dartmoor

He speaks very highly of the tall, thin, one-eyed Dr. Magrath, the
prison doctor, but of his Scots assistant, McFarlane, as a rough,
inhuman brute. Shortland, the governor, he describes as one who
apparently revelled in the misery and discomfort of the prisoners under
his charge, although in another place he defines him as a man, not so
much bad-hearted, as an ill-educated, tactless boor.

Waterhouse describes the peculiarly harsh proceeding of Shortland after
the discovery of the tunnel dug from under No. 6 caserne. All the
prisoners with their baggage were driven into the yard of No. 1: thence
in a few days to another yard, and so on from yard to yard, so that they
could not get time to dig tunnels; at the same time they were subjected
to all kinds of petty bullyings, such as being kept waiting upon
numbering days in the open, in inclement weather, until Shortland should
choose to put in an appearance. On one of these occasions the Americans
refused to wait, and went back to their prisons, for which offence the
market was stopped for two days.

At the end of 1814 there were at Dartmoor 2,350 Americans. There seemed
to be much prosperity in the prison: the market was crowded with food,
and hats and boots and clothes; Jew traders did a roaring trade in
watches, seals, trinkets, and bad books; sharp women also were about,
selling well-watered milk at 4_d._ a gallon; the ‘Rough Alleys’ were in
great strength, and kept matters lively all over the prison.

Number 4 caserne was inhabited by black prisoners, whose ruler was ‘King
Dick,’ a giant six feet five inches in height, who, with a huge bearskin
hat on head, and a thick club in hand, exercised regal sway, dispensing
justice, and, strange to say, paying strict attention to the cleanliness
of his subjects’ berths. Nor was religion neglected in No. 4, for every
Sunday ‘Priest Simon’ preached, assisted by ‘Deacon John’, who had been
a servant in the Duke of Kent’s household, and who at first urged that
Divine Service should be modelled on that customary on British
men-of-war and in distinguished English families, but was overruled by
the decision of a Methodist preacher from outside. ‘King Dick’ always
attended service in full state. He also kept a boxing school, and in No.
4 were also professors of dancing and music and fencing, who had many
white pupils, besides theatricals twice a week, performed with ludicrous
solemnity by the black men, whose penchant was for serious and tragical
dramas. Other dramatic performances were given by an Irish Regular
regiment from Spain, which relieved the Derby Militia garrison, in the
cock-loft of No. 6 caserne, the admission thereto being 6_d._

Still, there was much hunger, and when it was rumoured that Jew
clothes-merchants in the market were dealing with undue sharpness with
unfortunate venders, a raid was made by the Americans upon their stalls
and booths which wrought their destruction.

Beasley was still a _bête noire_. His studied neglect of the interests
of those whose interests were in his charge, his failure to acquaint
himself by personal attention with their complaints, made him hated far
more than were the British officials, excepting Shortland. One day he
was tried in effigy, and sentenced to be hung and burnt. A pole was
rigged from the roof of No. 7 caserne, Beasley’s effigy was hung
therefrom, was cut down by a negro, taken away by the ‘Rough Alleys’,
and burnt. On the same day, ‘Be you also ready’ was found painted on the
wall of Shortland’s house. He said to a friend:

‘I never saw or ever read or heard of such a set of Devil-daring,
God-provoking fellows, as these same Yankees. I had rather have the
charge of 5,000 Frenchmen, than 500 of these sons of liberty; and yet I
love the dogs better than I do the d——d frog-eaters.’

On March 20, 1815, came the Ratification of Peace, but, although this
made the Americans virtually free men, much of a lamentable nature was
to happen ere they practically became so.

As is so often the case in tragedy, a comparatively trifling incident
brought it about.

On April 4, 1815, the provision contractors thought to get rid of their
stock of hard bread (biscuit) which they held in reserve by serving it
out to the prisoners instead of the fresh bread which was their due. The
Americans refused to have it, swarmed round the bakeries on mischief
intent, and refused to disperse when ordered to. Shortland was away in
Plymouth at the time, and the officer in charge, seeing that it was
useless to attempt to force them with only 300 Militia at his command,
yielded, and the prisoners got their bread. When Shortland returned, he
was very angry at what he deemed the pusillanimous action of his
subordinate, swore that if he had been there the Yankees should have
been brought to order at the point of the bayonet, and determined to
create an opportunity for revenge.

This came on April 6. According to the sworn testimony of witnesses at
the subsequent inquiry, some boys playing at ball in the yard of No. 7
caserne, knocked a ball over into the neighbouring barrack yard, and,
upon the sentry on duty there refusing to throw it back, made a hole in
the wall, crept through it, and got the ball. Shortland pretended to see
in this hole-making a project to escape, and made his arrangements to
attract all the prisoners out of their quarters by ringing the alarm
bell, and, in order to prevent their escape back into them, had ordered
that one of the two doors in each caserne should be closed, although it
was fifteen minutes before the regulation lock-up time at 6 o’clock. It
was sworn that he had said: ‘I’ll fire the d——d rascals presently.’

At 6 p.m. the alarm bell brought the prisoners out of all the
casernes—wherein they were quietly settled—to see what was the cause. In
the market square were ‘several hundred’ soldiers, with Shortland at
their head, and at the same time many soldiers were being posted in the
inner wall commanding the prison yards. One of these, according to a
witness, called out to the crowd of prisoners to go indoors as they
would be charged on very soon. This occasioned confusion and alarm and
some running about. What immediately followed is not very clear, but it
was sworn that Shortland ordered the soldiers to charge the prisoners
huddled in the market square; that the soldiers—men of the Somerset
Militia—hesitated; that the order was repeated, and the soldiers charged
the prisoners, who retreated into the prison gates; that Shortland
ordered the gates to be opened, and that the consequent confusion among
hundreds of men vainly trying to get into the casernes by the one door
of each left open, and being pushed back by others coming out to see
what was the matter, was wilfully magnified by Shortland into a
concerted attempt to break out, and he gave the word to fire.

It was said that, seeing a hesitation among his officers to repeat the
command, Shortland himself seized a musket from a soldier and fired the
first shot. Be that as it may, the firing became general from the walls
as well as from the square; soldiers came to the doors of two of the
casernes and fired through them, with the result, according to American
accounts, that seven men were killed, thirty were dangerously wounded,
and thirty slightly wounded; but according to the Return signed by
Shortland and Dr. Magrath, five were killed and twenty-eight wounded.

A report was drawn up, after the inquiry instituted directly following
the event, by Admiral Duckworth and Major-General Brown, and signed by
the Assistant Commissioners at the Inquiry, King for the United States,
and Larpent for Great Britain, which came to no satisfactory conclusion.
It was evident, it said, that the prisoners were in an excited state
about the non-arrival of ships to take them home, and that Shortland was
irritated about the bread affair; that there was much unauthorized
firing, but that it was difficult exactly to apportion blame. This
report was utterly condemned by the committee of prisoners, who resented
the tragedy being styled ‘this unfortunate affair’, reproached King for
his lack of energy and unwarrantable self-restraint, and complained of
the hurried and imperfect way in which the inquiry was conducted and the
evidence taken. At this distance of time an Englishman may ask: ‘If it
was known that peace between the two countries had been ratified on
March 20, how came it that Americans were still kept in confinement and
treated as prisoners of war on April 6?’ On the other hand, it is hardly
possible to accept the American view that the tragedy was the deliberate
work of an officer of His Majesty’s service in revenge for a slight.

By July, 1815, all the Americans but 450 had left, and the last Dartmoor
war-prisoners, 4,000 Frenchmen, taken at Ligny, came in. These poor
fellows were easy to manage after the Americans; 2,500 of them came from
Plymouth with only 300 Militiamen as guard, whilst for Americans the
rule was man for man.



  Illustrating the ‘Massacre’ of 1815

  A. Surgeon’s House. B. Captain Shortland’s House. C. Hospital. D.
    Barracks. E. _Cachot_, or Black Hole. F. Guard Houses. G. Store

The last war-prisoners left Dartmoor in December, 1815, and from this
time until 1850 it was unoccupied, which partially accounts for the
utter desecration of the burial-ground, until, under Captain Stopforth,
it was tidied up in garden fashion, divided into two plots, one for
Americans, the other for Frenchmen, in the centre of each of which was
placed a memorial obelisk in 1865.

The present church at Princetown was built by war-prisoners, the
stone-work being done by the French, the wood-work by the Americans. The
East Window bears the following inscription:

‘To the Glory of God and in memory of the American Prisoners of War who
were detained in the Dartmoor War Prison between the years 1809 and
1815, and who helped to build this Church, especially of the 218 brave
men who died here on behalf of their country. This Window is presented
by the National Society of United States Daughters of 1812. Dulce est
pro patria mori.’

                              CHAPTER XIX
                           SOME MINOR PRISONS

As has been already stated, before the establishment of regular prisons
became a necessity by the increasing flow of prisoners of war into
Britain, accommodation for these men had to be found or made wherever it
was possible. With some of these minor prisons I shall deal in this


Measured by the number of prisoners of war confined here, Winchester
assuredly should rank as a major establishment, but it seems to have
been regarded by the authorities rather as a receiving-house or a
transfer office than as a real prisoner settlement, possibly because the
building utilized—a pile of barracks which was originally intended by
Charles the Second to be a palace on the plan of Versailles, but which
was never finished, and which was known as the King’s House Prison—was
not secure enough to be a House of Detention. It was burned down in

In 1756 there were no less than 5,000 prisoners at Winchester. In 1761
the order for the withdrawal of the military from the city because of
the approaching elections occasioned much alarm, and brought vigorous
protests from leading inhabitants on account of the 4,000 prisoners of
war who would be left practically unguarded, especially as these men
happened to be just then in a ferment of excitement, and a general
outbreak among them was feared. Should this take place, it was
represented that nothing could prevent them from communicating with the
shipping in Southampton River, and setting free their countrymen
prisoners at Portchester and Forton Hospital, Gosport.

In 1779 Howard visited Winchester. This was the year when the patients
and crew of a captured French hospital ship, the _Ste. Julie_, brought
fever into the prison, causing a heavy mortality.

Howard reported that 1,062 prisoners were confined here, that the wards
were lofty and spacious, the airing yards large, that the meat and beer
were good, but that the bread, being made with leaven, and mixed with
rye, was not so good as that served out to British prisoners. He
recommended that to prevent the prisoners from passing their days lying
indolently in their hammocks, work-rooms should be provided. Several
prisoners, at the time of his visit, were in the Dark Hole for
attempting to escape, and he observed that to be condemned to forty
days’ confinement on half-rations in order to pay the ten shillings
reward to the men who apprehended them seemed too severe. The hospital
ward was lofty and twenty feet wide. Each patient had a cradle, bedding,
and sheets, and the attendance of the doctor was very good. He spoke
highly of Smith, the Agent, but recommended a more regular system of
War-Prison inspection.

Forgery was a prevalent crime among the Winchester prisoners. In 1780
two prisoners gave information about a systematic manufacture of false
passports in the prison, and described the process. They also revealed
the existence of a false key by which prisoners could escape into the
fields, the maker of which had disappeared. They dared not say more, as
they were suspected by their fellow-prisoners of being informers, and
prayed for release as reward.

To the letter conveying this information the Agent appended a note:

‘I have been obliged this afternoon to take Honoré Martin and Apert out
of the prison that they may go away with the division of prisoners who
are to be discharged to-morrow, several prisoners having this morning
entered the chamber in which they sleep, with naked knives, declaring
most resolutely they were determined to murder them if they could find
them, to prevent which their liberty was granted.’

In 1810 two prisoners were brought to Winchester to be hanged for
forging seven-shilling pieces. I think this must be the first instance
of prisoners of war being hanged for forgery.


In spite of the great pains I have taken to get information about these
two neighbouring prisons, the results are most meagre. Considering that
there were war-prisoners there continuously from the beginning of the
Seven Years’ War in 1756 until the end of the century, that there were
900 prisoners at Roscrow, and 600 at Kergilliack, it is surprising how
absolutely the memory of their sojourn has faded away locally, and how
little information I have been able to elicit concerning them from such
authorities on matters Cornish as Mr. Thurstan Peter, Sir Arthur
Quiller-Couch, Mr. Otho Peter, and Mr. Vawdrey of St. Budock. The
earliest document referring to these prisoners which I have found is a
letter of thanks from the prisoners at Kergilliack in 1757, for the
badly needed reform of the hospital, but I do not think that the two
places ranked amongst the regular war-prisons until twenty years later.
At no time were they much more than adapted farms. Roscrow consisted of
a mansion, in a corner of which was a public-house, to which a series of
substantial farm-buildings was attached, which, when surrounded by a
wall, constituted the prison. Kergilliack, or Regilliack, as I have seen
it written, was of much the same character.[11]

In 1797 the Roscrow prisoners, according to documents I found at the
Archives Nationales in Paris, were nearly all privateersmen. Officers
and men were herded together, which the former deeply resented; as they
did much else, such as being bullied by a low class of jailers, the
badness of the supplies, the rottenness of the shoes served out to them,
the crowded sleeping accommodation, the dirt, and lastly the fact that
pilchards formed a chief part of their diet.

In this year a Guernsey boy named Hamond revealed to the authorities a
mine under the foundation of the house, five feet below the ground and
four feet in diameter, going out twenty yards towards the inside fence.
He had found the excavated earth distributed among the prisoners’
hammocks, and told the turnkey. He was instantly removed, as he would
certainly have been murdered by the other prisoners.

The tunnel was a wonder of skill and perseverance. It was said that the
excavators had largely worked with nothing but their hands, and that
their labour had been many times increased by the fact that in order to
avoid the constant occurrence of rock they had been obliged to make a
winding course.

Complaints increased: the bad bread was often not delivered till 5 p.m.
instead of 8 a.m., the beer was undrinkable, and the proportion of bone
to meat in the weighed allowance ridiculous. The Agent paying no
attention to reiterated complaints, the following petition, signed at
Kergilliack as well as at Roscrow, was sent to the Transport Office
Commissioners for

‘that redress which we have a right to expect from Mr. Bannick’s [the
Agent] exertions on our behalf; but, unfortunately for us, after making
repeated applications to him whenever chance threw him in our way, as he
seldom visited the prison, we have the mortification of finding that our
reasonable and just remonstrances have been treated with the most
forbidding frowns and the distant arrogance of the most arbitrary Despot
when he has been presented with a sample of bread delivered to us, or
rather, rye, flour, and water cemented together, and at different times,
and as black as our shoes.

                                    ‘THE GENERAL BODY OF FRENCH OFFICERS
                                        CONFINED IN ROSCROW PRISON.’

A further remonstrance was set forth that the Agent and his son, who was
associated with him, were bullies; that the surgeon neglected his
duties; and that the living and sleeping quarters were bad and damp.

The only result I can find of these petitions, is a further exasperation
of the prisoners by the stopping of all exchange privileges of those who
had signed them.

The following complaints about the hospital at Falmouth in the year 1757
I have placed at the end of this notice, as I cannot be sure that they
were formulated by, or had anything to do with, foreign prisoners of
war. From the fact that they are included among a batch of documents at
the Record Office dealing with prisoners of war, I think it is quite
possible that they may be associated with them, inasmuch as Falmouth,
like Dover, Deal, and other coast ports, was a sort of receiving office
for prisoners captured on privateers, previous to their disposal

It was complained that:

  1. No bouillon was served if no basin was brought: the allowance being
       one small basin in 24 hours.

  2. Half the beds had no sheets, and what sheets there were had not
       been changed for six months.

  3. Beds were so scarce that new arrivals were kept waiting in the open

  4. The attendants were underpaid, and therefore useless.

  5. No bandages were supplied, so that the patients’ own shirts had to
       be torn up to make them.

  6. Stimulants and meat were insufficient, and the best of what there
       was the attendants secured beforehand.

  7. Half-cured patients were often discharged to make room for others.

From what Mr. Vawdrey, the Vicar of St. Budock, Falmouth, has written to
me, it is certain that French officers were on parole in different
places of this neighbourhood. Tradition says that those who died were
buried beneath a large tree on the right hand of the north entrance of
the church. There are entries in the registers of the deaths of French
prisoners, and, if there is no evidence of marriages, there is that
‘some St. Budock girls appear to have made captivity more blessed for
some of them’. Some people at Meudon in Mawnan, named Courage, farmers,
trace their descent from a French lieutenant of that name. Mawnan
registers show French names. Pendennis Castle was used as a war-prison,
both for French from the Peninsula, and for Americans during the war of


I am indebted to Mr. J. E. Anden, M.A., F.R. Hist. S., of Tong, Shifnal,
for the following extracts from the diary of John Tarbuck, a shoemaker,
of Shrewsbury:

‘September, 1783. Six hundred hammocks were slung in the Orphan
Hospital, from which all the windows were removed, to convert it into a
Dutch prison, and as many captive sailors marched in. Many of the
townspeople go out to meet them, and amongst the rest Mr. Roger Yeomans,
the most corpulent man in the country, to the no small mirth of the
prisoners, who, on seeing him, gave a great shout: “Huzza les Anglais!
Roast beef for ever!” This exclamation was soon verified to their
satisfaction, as the Salop gentry made a subscription to buy them some
in addition to that allowed by their victors, together with shoes,
jackets, and other necessaries. ’Twas pleasing to see the poor
creatures’ gratitude, for they’d sing you their songs, tho’ in a foreign
land, and some companies of their youth would dance with amazing
dexterity in figures totally unlike the English dances with a kind of
regular confusion, yet with grace, ease, and truth to the music. I
remember there was one black boy of such surprising agility that, had
the person seen him, who, speaking against the Abolition of the
slave-trade, said there was only a link between the human and the brute
creation, it would have strengthened his favourite hypothesis, for he
leaped about with more of the swiftness of the monkey than the man.

‘I went one Sunday to Church with them, and I came away much more
edified than from some sermons where I could tell all that was spoken.
The venerable appearance and the devotion evident in every look and
gesture of the preacher, joined to the grave and decent deportment of
his hearers ... had a wonderful effect on my feelings and tended very
much to solemnize my affections.

‘May, 1785. Four of the Dutch prisoners escape by means of the privy and
were never retaken. Many others enlist in the English service, and are
hissed and shouted at by their fellows, and deservedly so. The Swedes
and Norwegians among them are marched away (being of neutral nations) to
be exchanged.’

A newspaper of July 1784 (?) says:

‘On Thursday last an unfortunate affair happened at the Dutch Prison,
Shrewsbury. A prisoner, behaving irregular, was desired by a guard to
desist, which was returned by the prisoner with abusive language and
blows, and the prisoner, laying hold of the Centinel’s Firelock, forced
off the bayonet, and broke the belt. Remonstrance proving fruitless, and
some more of the Prisoners joining their stubborn countryman, the
Centinel was obliged to draw back and fire among them, which killed one
on the spot. The Ball went through his Body and wounded one more. The
man that began the disturbance escaped unhurt.’

The prisoners left Shrewsbury about November 1785.

A correspondent of a Shrewsbury newspaper in 1911 writes:

‘A generation ago there were people living who remembered the rebuilding
of Montford Bridge by prisoners of war. They went out each Monday,
tradition says, in carts and wagons, and were quartered there during the
week in farm-houses and cottages near their work, being taken back to
Shrewsbury at the end of each week.’

The correspondence evoked by this letter, however, sufficiently proved
that this was nothing more than tradition.


Prisoners were confined here during the Seven Years’ War, although no
special buildings were set apart for their reception, and, as elsewhere,
they were simply herded with the common prisoners in the ordinary
lock-up. In 1758 numerous complaints came to the ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office
from the prisoners here, about their bad treatment, the greed of the
jailer, the bad food, the lack of medical attendance and necessaries,
and the misery of being lodged with the lowest class of criminals.
Prisoners who were seriously ill were placed in the prison hospital; the
jailer used to intercept money contributed by the charitable for the
benefit of the prisoners, and only paid it over after the deduction of a
large commission. The straw bedding was dirty, scanty, and rarely
changed; water had to be paid for, and there was hardly any airing

After the building of Norman Cross Prison, Yarmouth became, like Deal
and Falmouth, a mere receiving port, but an exceedingly busy one, the
prisoners being landed there direct from capture, and generally taken on
by water to Lynn, whence they were conveyed by canal to Peterborough.

From the _Norwich Mercury_ of 1905 I take the following notes on
Yarmouth by the late Rev. G. N. Godwin:

‘Columns of prisoners, often 1,000 strong, were marched from Yarmouth to
Norwich, and were there lodged in the Castle. They frequently expressed
their gratitude for the kindness shown them by the Mayor and citizens.
One smart privateer captain coolly walked out of the Castle in the
company of some visitors, and, needless to say, did not return.

‘From Yarmouth they were marched to King’s Lynn, halting at Costessy,
Swanton Mosley (where their “barracks” are still pointed out), East
Dereham, where some were lodged in the detached church tower, and thence
to Lynn. Here they were lodged in a large building, afterwards used as a
warehouse, now pulled down. [For a further reference to East Dereham and
its church tower, see p. 453.]

‘At Lynn they took water, and were conveyed in barges and lighters
through the Forty Foot, the Hundred Foot, the Paupers’ Cut, and the Nene
to Peterborough, whence they marched to Norman Cross.

‘In 1797, 28 prisoners escaped from the gaol at Yarmouth by undermining
the wall and the row adjoining. All but five of them were retaken. In
the same year 4 prisoners broke out of the gaol, made their way to
Lowestoft, where they stole a boat from the beach, and got on board a
small vessel, the crew of which they put under the hatches, cut the
cable, and put out to sea. Seven hours later the crew managed to regain
the deck, a rough and tumble fight ensued, one of the Frenchmen was
knocked overboard, and the others were ultimately lodged in Yarmouth


For the following details about a prison which, although of importance,
cannot from its size be fairly classed among the chief Prisoners of War
dépôts of Britain, I am largely indebted to the late Mr. Macbeth Forbes,
who most generously gave me permission to use freely his article in the
_Bankers’ Magazine_ of March 1899. I emphasize his liberality inasmuch
as a great deal of the information in this article is of a nature only
procurable by one with particular and peculiar facilities for so doing.
I allude to the system of bank-note forgery pursued by the prisoners.

Edinburgh Castle was first used as a place of confinement for prisoners
of war during the Seven Years’ War, and, like Liverpool, this use was
made of it chiefly on account of its convenient proximity to the waters
haunted by privateers. The very first prisoners brought in belonged to
the _Chevalier Bart_ privateer, captured off Tynemouth by H.M.S.
_Solebay_, in April 1757, the number of them being 28, and in July of
the same year a further 108 were added.

‘In the autumn of 1759 a piteous appeal was addressed to the publishers
of the _Edinburgh Evening Courant_ on behalf of the French prisoners of
war in Edinburgh Castle by one who “lately beheld some hundreds of
French prisoners, many of them about naked (some without any other
clothing but shirts and breeches and even these in rags), conducted
along the High Street to the Castle.” The writer says that many who saw
the spectacle were moved to tears, and he asked that relief might be
given by contributing clothing to these destitute men. This letter met
with a favourable response from the citizens, and a book of
subscriptions was opened forthwith. The prisoners were visited and found
to number 362. They were reported to be “in a miserable condition, many
almost naked,” and winter approaching. There were, however, revilers of
this charitable movement, who said that the public were being imposed
upon; that the badly clothed were idle fellows who disposed of their
belongings; that they had been detected in the Castle cutting their
shoes, stockings, and hammocks into pieces, in the prospect of getting
these articles renewed. “One fellow, yesterday, got twenty bottles of
ale for a suit of clothes given him by the good people of the town in
charity, and this he boasted of to one of the servants in the sutlery.”

‘The promoters of the movement expressed their “surprise at the
endeavours used to divert the public from pursuing so humane a
design.”.... They also pointed out that the prisoners only received an
allowance of 6_d._ a day, from which the contractor’s profit was taken,
so that little remained for providing clothes. An estimate was obtained
of the needs of the prisoners, and a list drawn up of articles wanted.
Of the 362 persons confined 8 were officers, whose subsistence money was
1s. a day, and they asked no charity of the others; no fewer than 238
had no shirt, and 108 possessed only one. Their other needs were equally
great. The “City Hospitals for Young Maidens” offered to make shirts for
twopence each, and sundry tailors to make a certain number of jackets
and breeches for nothing. The prisoners had an airing ground, but as it
was necessary to obtain permission before visiting them, the chance they
had of disposing of any of their work was very slight indeed.’

William Fergusson, clerk to Dr. James Walker, the Agent for the
prisoners of war in the Castle, described as a man of fine instincts,
seems to have been one of the few officials who, brought into daily
contact with the prisoners, learned to sympathize with them, and to do
what lay in their power to mitigate the prisoners’ hard lot.

Early in May 1763, the French prisoners in the Castle, numbering 500,
were embarked from Leith to France, the Peace of Paris having been

During the Revolutionary War with France, Edinburgh Castle again
received French prisoners, mostly, as before, privateersmen, the number
between 1796 and 1801 being 1,104. In the later Napoleonic wars the
Castle was the head-quarters of Scotland for distributing the prisoners,
the commissioned officers to the various parole towns of which notice
will be taken in the chapters treating of the paroled prisoners in
Scotland, and the others to the great dépôts at Perth and Valleyfield.
We shall see when we come to deal with the paroled foreign officers in
Scotland in what pleasant places, as a rule, their lines were cast, and
how effectively they contrived to make the best of things, but it was
very much otherwise with the rank and file in confinement.

‘An onlooker’, says Mr. Forbes, ‘has described the appearance of the
prisoners at Edinburgh Castle. He says:—These poor men were allowed to
work at their tasteful handicrafts in small sheds or temporary workshops
at the Castle, behind the palisades which separated them from their free
customers outside. There was just room between the bars of the palisade
for them to hand through their exquisite work, and to receive in return
the modest prices which they charged. As they sallied forth from their
dungeons, so they returned to them at night. The dungeons, partly rock
and partly masonry, of Edinburgh Castle, are historic spots which appeal
alike to the sentiment and the imagination. They are situate in the
south and east of the Castle, and the date of them goes far back.’ It is
unnecessary to describe what may still be seen, practically unchanged
since the great war-times, by every visitor to Edinburgh.

In 1779 Howard visited Edinburgh during his tour round the prisons of
Britain. His report is by no means bad. He found sixty-four prisoners in
two rooms formerly used as barracks; in one room they lay in couples in
straw-lined boxes against the wall, with two coverlets to each box. In
the other room they had hammocks duly fitted with mattresses. The
regulations were hung up according to law—an important fact, inasmuch as
in other prisons, such as Pembroke, where the prison agents purposely
omitted to hang them up, the prisoners remained in utter ignorance of
their rights and their allowances. Howard reported the provisions to be
all good, and noted that at the hospital house some way off, where were
fourteen sick prisoners, the bedding and sheets were clean and
sufficient, and the medical attention good.

This satisfactory state of matters seems to have lasted, for in 1795 the
following letter was written by the French prisoners in the Castle to
General Dundas:

‘Les prisonniers de guerre français détenus au château d’Edinburgh ne
peuvent que se louer de l’attention et du bon traitement qu’ils ont reçu
de Com.-Gén. Dundas et officiers des brigades Écossoises, en foi de quoi
nous livrons le présent.

                                                            ‘FR. LEROY.’

Possibly the ancient _camaraderie_ of the Scots and French nations may
have had something to do with this pleasant condition of things, for in
1797 Dutch prisoners confined in the Castle complained about ill
treatment and the lack of clothing, and the authorities consented to
their being removed to ‘a more airy and comfortable situation at

In 1799 the Rev. Mr. FitzSimmons, of the Episcopal Chapel, an
Englishman, was arraigned before the High Court of Justiciary for aiding
in the escape of four French prisoners from the Castle, by concealing
them in his house, and taking them to a Newhaven fishing boat belonging
to one Neil Drysdale, which carried them to the Isle of Inchkeith,
whence they escaped to France. Two of them had sawn through the dungeon
bars with a sword-blade which they had contrived to smuggle in. The
other two were parole prisoners. He was sentenced to three months’
imprisonment in the Tolbooth.

A French prisoner in 1799, having learned at what hour the dung which
had been collected in the prison would be thrown over the wall, got
himself put into the hand-barrow used for its conveyance, was covered
over with litter, and was thrown down several feet; but, being
discovered by the sentinels in his fall, they presented their pieces
while he was endeavouring to conceal himself. The poor bruised and
affrighted fellow supplicated for mercy, and waited on his knees until
his jailers came up to take him back to prison.

In 1811 forty-nine prisoners contrived to get out of the Castle at one
time. They cut a hole through the bottom of the parapet wall at the
south-west corner, below the ‘Devil’s Elbow,’ and let themselves down by
a rope which they had been smuggling in by small sections for weeks
previously. One man lost his hold, and fell, and was mortally injured.
Five were retaken the next day, and fourteen got away along the Glasgow
road. Some were retaken later near Linlithgow in the Polmount
plantations, exhausted with hunger. They had planned to get to
Grangemouth, where they hoped to get on board a smuggler. They confessed
that the plot was of long planning. Later still, six more were
recaptured. They had made for Cramond, where they had stolen a boat,
sailed up the Firth, and landed near Hopetoun House, intending to go to
Port Glasgow by land. These poor fellows said that they had lived for
three days on raw turnips. Not one of the forty-nine got away.

I now come to the science of forgery as practised by the foreign
prisoners of war in Scotland, and I shall be entirely dependent upon Mr.
Macbeth Forbes for my information.

The Edinburgh prisoners were busy at this work between 1811 and the year
of their departure, 1814.

The first reputed case was that of a Bank of Scotland one-guinea note,
discovered in 1811. It was not a very skilful performance, for the
forged note was three-fourths of an inch longer than the genuine, and
the lettering on it was not engraved, but done with pen and printing
ink. But this defect was remedied, for, three weeks after the discovery,
the plate of a guinea note was found by the miller in the mill lade at
Stockbridge (the north side of Edinburgh), in cleaning out the lade.

In 1812 a man was tried for the possession of six one-pound forged notes
which had been found concealed between the sole of his foot and his
stocking. His story as to how he came into possession of them seems to
have satisfied the judge, and he was set free; but he afterwards
confessed that he had received them from a soldier of the Cambridge
Militia under the name of ‘pictures’ in the house of a grocer at
Penicuik, near the Valleyfield Dépôt, and that the soldier had, at his,
the accused man’s, desire, purchased them for 2_s._ each from the

In July 1812 seven French prisoners of war escaped from Edinburgh
Tolbooth, whither they had been transferred from the Castle to take
their trial for the forgery of bank-notes. ‘They were confined’, says a
contemporary newspaper, ‘in the north-west room on the third story, and
they had penetrated the wall, though very thick, till they got into the
chimney of Mr. Gilmour’s shop (on the ground floor), into which they
descended by means of ropes. As they could not force their way out of
the shop, they ascended a small stair to the room above, from which they
took out half the window and descended one by one into the street, and
got clear off. In the course of the morning one of them was retaken in
the Grass Market, being traced by the sooty marks of his feet. We
understand that, except one, they all speak broken English. They left a
note on the table of the shop saying that they had taken nothing away.’

Afterwards three of the prisoners were taken at Glasgow, and another in

From the first discoveries of forgeries by prisoners of war, the
Scottish banks chiefly affected by them had in a more or less
satisfactory way combined to take steps to prevent and to punish
forgeries, but it was not until they offered a reward of £100 for
information leading to the discovery of persons forging or issuing their
notes that a perceptible check to the practice was made. This
advertisement was printed and put outside the dépôt walls for the
militia on guard, a French translation was posted up inside for the
prisoners, and copies of it were sent to the Agents at all parole towns.
With reference to this last, let it be said to the credit of the foreign
officers on parole, both in England and Scotland, that, although a
Frenchman has written to the contrary, there are no more than two
recorded instances of officers on parole being prosecuted or suspected
of the forgery of bank-notes. (See pp. 320 and 439.) Of passport
forgeries there are a few cases, and the forgery mentioned on p. 439 may
have been of passports and not of bank-notes.

In addition, says Mr. Macbeth Forbes, the military authorities were
continually on the _qui vive_ for forgers. The governors of the
different dépôts ordered the turnkeys to examine narrowly notes coming
in and out of prison. The militiamen had also to be watched, as they
acted so frequently as intermediaries, as for instance:

‘In November 1813 Mr. Aitken, the keeper of the Canongate Tolbooth,
detected and took from the person of a private soldier in a militia
regiment stationed over the French prisoners in Penicuik, and who had
come into the Canongate Prison to see a friend, forged guineas and
twenty-shilling notes on two different banks in this city, and two of
them in the country, amounting to nearly £70. The soldier was
immediately given over to the civil power, and from thence to the
regiment to which he belonged, until the matter was further

In July 1813 the clerk of the Valleyfield Dépôt sent to the banks
twenty-six forged guinea notes which were about to be sold, but were
detected by the turnkey.

The Frenchmen seem to have chiefly selected for imitation the notes of
the Bank of Scotland, and the Commercial Banking Company of Scotland, as
these had little or no pictorial delineation, and consisted almost
entirely of engraved penmanship. The forgers had to get suitable paper,
and, as there were no steel pens in those days, a few crow quills served
their purpose. They had confederates who watched the ins and outs of the
turnkey; and, in addition to imitating the lettering on the face of the
note, they had to forge the watermark, the seals of the bank, and the
Government stamp. The bones of their ration food formed, literally, the
groundwork of the forger’s productions, and as these had to be properly
scraped and smoothed into condition before being in a state to be worked
upon with ordinary pocket-knives, if the result was often so crude as to
deceive only the veriest yokel, the Scottish banks might be thankful
that engraving apparatus was unprocurable.

The following advertisement of the Bank of Scotland emphasizes this
crudity of execution:

‘Several forged notes, in imitation of the notes of the governor and
company of the Bank of Scotland, having appeared, chiefly in the
neighbourhood of the dépôts of French prisoners of war, a caution is
hereby, on the part of the said governors and company, given against
receiving such forged notes in payment. And whoever shall, within three
months from the date hereof, give such information as shall be found
sufficient, on lawful trial, to convict any one concerned in forging or
feloniously uttering any of the said notes, shall receive a reward of a
hundred pounds sterling. These forged notes are executed by the hand
with a pen or pencil, without any engraving. In most of them the body of
the note has the appearance of foreign handwriting. The names of the
bank officers are mostly illegible or ill-spelled. The ornamental
characters of the figures generally ill-executed. The seals are very
ill-imitated. To this mark particular attention is requested.’

The seals, bearing the arms of the Bank of Scotland, are of sheep’s
bone, and were impressed upon the note with a hammer, also probably of
bone, since all metal tools were prohibited. The partially executed
forgery of a Bank of Scotland guinea note shows the process of imitating
the lettering on the note in dotted outline, for which the forgers had
doubtless some good reason, which is not at once patent to us.

Until 1810 the punishment for forgery was the hulks. During that year
the law in England took a less merciful view of the crime, and offenders
were sentenced to death; and until 1829, when the last man was hanged
for forgery, this remained the law.

As to Scotland Mr. Forbes says: ‘The administration was probably not so
severe as in England ... no French prisoner suffered anything more than
a slight incarceration, and a subsequent relegation to the prison ships,
where some thousands of his countrymen already were.’

Armed with a Home Office permit I visited the prisons in the rock of
Edinburgh Castle. Owing to the facts that most of them have been
converted into military storerooms and that their substance does not
lend itself readily to destruction, they remain probably very much as
when they were filled with the war-prisoners, and, with their heavily
built doors and their strongly barred apertures, which cannot be called
windows, their darkness and cold, the silence of their position high
above even the roar of a great city, convey still to the minds of the
visitors of to-day a more real impression of the meaning of the word
‘imprisonment’ than does any other war-prison, either extant or
pictured. At Norman Cross, at Portchester, at Stapleton, at Dartmoor, at
Perth, there were at any rate open spaces for airing grounds, but at
Edinburgh there could have been none, unless the narrow footway, outside
the line of caverns, from the wall of which the precipice falls sheer
down, was so utilized.

Near the entrance to the French prisons the following names are visible
on the wall:

Charles Jobien, Calais, 1780.

Morel de Calais, 1780.

1780. Proyol prisonnier nee natif de bourbonnais (?).

With the Peace of 1814 came the jail-delivery, and it caused one of the
weirdest scenes known in that old High Street so inured to weird scenes.
The French prisoners were marched down by torchlight to the transport at
Leith, and thousands of citizens lined the streets. Down the highway
went the liberated ones, singing the war-songs of the Revolution—the
_Marseillaise_ and the _Ça ira_. Wildly enthusiastic were the pale,
haggard-looking prisoners of war, but the enthusiasm was not exhausted
with them, for they had a great send-off from the populace.

In Sir T. E. Colebrooke’s _Life of Mountstuart Elphinstone_, Mr. John
Russell of Edinburgh writes that when he first knew Mountstuart, his
father, Lord Elphinstone, was Governor of Edinburgh Castle, in which
were confined a great number of French prisoners of war. With these
prisoners the boy Mountstuart loved to converse, and, learning from them
their revolutionary songs, he used to walk about singing the
_Marseillaise_, _Ça ira_, and _Les Aristocrates à la Lanterne_, much to
the disgust of the British officers, who, however, dared not check such
a proceeding on the part of the son of the Governor. Mountstuart also
wore his hair long in accordance with the revolutionary fashion.

                               CHAPTER XX

I devoted Chapter VII to the record of Tom Souville, a famous
ship-prison-breaker, and in this I hope to give quite as interesting and
romantic an account of the career of Louis Vanhille, who was remarkable
in his method in that he seemed never to be in a hurry to get out of
England, but actually to enjoy the power he possessed of keeping himself
uninterfered with for a whole year in a country where the hue and cry
after him was ceaseless.

At the outset I must make my acknowledgement to M. Pariset of the
University of Nancy, for permission to use his monograph upon this
really remarkable man.

Louis Vanhille, purser of the _Pandour_ privateer, was sent to
Launceston on parole May 12, 1806. He is described as a small man of
thirty-two, of agreeable face and figure, although small-pox marked,
fair as befitted his Flemish origin, and speaking English almost
perfectly. He was socially gifted, he painted and caricatured, could
dress hair, and could make mats, and weave bracelets in seventeen
patterns. He was well-off to boot, as the _Pandour_ had been a
successful ship, and he had plenty of prize money.

In Launceston he lodged with John Tyeth, a pious Baptist brewer. Tyeth
had three married daughters and two unmarried, Fanny and a younger, who
kept the Post Office at Launceston. Although Tyeth was a Baptist, one of
his daughters was married to Bunsell, the Rector of Launceston, so that
decorum and preciseness prevailed in the local atmosphere, to which
Vanhille politically adapted himself so readily as to become a convert
to Tyeth’s creed. In addition he paid marked attention to Miss Fanny,
who was plain-looking but kept the Post Office; an action which
occasioned watchfulness on the part of Tyeth _père_, who, in common with
most Englishmen of his day, regarded all Frenchmen as atheists and
revolutionaries. Vanhille’s manner and accomplishments won him friends
all round. Miss Johanna Colwell, an old maid, a sentimental worker of
straw hats, who lived opposite the brewery, pitied him. Further on, at
Mr. Pearson’s, lodged Vanhille’s great friend, Dr. Derouge, an army
surgeon, who cured Vanhille of small-pox. Then there was Dr. Mabyn of
Camelford, Dr. Frankland, R.N., John Rowe the tailor, Dale the
ironmonger, who, although tradesmen, were of that well-to-do, highly
respectable calibre which in old-time country towns like Launceston
placed them on a footing of friendliness with the ‘quality’. Vanhille
seems to have settled himself down to become quite Anglicized, and to
forget that he was a prisoner on parole, and that any such individual
existed as Mr. Spettigue, the Agent. He went over to Camelford to dine
with Dr. Mabyn; he rode to Tavistock on the Tyeth’s pony to visit the
Pearces, ironmongers of repute, and particularly to see the Misses Annie
and Elizabeth Penwarden, gay young milliners who spoke French. He was
also much in the society of Fanny Tyeth, made expeditions with her to
see ‘Aunt Tyeth’ at Tavistock, and was regarded as her _fiancé_.

Dr. Derouge began to weary of captivity, and tried without success to
get exchanged. The reason given for his non-success was that he had got
a girl with child. Launceston was scandalized; only a Frenchman could do
such a thing. The authorities had to find some one to pay for the
child’s subsistence as the mother could not afford to, and so Proctor,
Guardian of the Poor, and Spettigue, the Agent, fastened it on Dr.
Derouge, and he was ordered to pay £25. But he could not; so Vanhille,
who had come into some money upon the death of his mother, paid it. What
followed is not quite clear. In a letter dated December 5, 1811,
Spettigue, in a letter to the Admiralty, says that Derouge and Vanhille
tried to escape, but were prevented by information given by one
Burlangier, ‘garde-magasin des services réunis de l’armée de Portugal.’
He reported their absences at Camelford, and finally they were ordered
to Dartmoor on December 12, 1811. The Transport Office instructed
Spettigue to keep a watch on Tyeth and others. Launceston was angry at
this; it missed Derouge and Vanhille, and went so far as to get the
Member of Parliament, Giddy, to address the Transport Office on the
matter, and request their reinstatement on parole, but the reply was

At Dartmoor, Vanhille and Derouge were sent to the subalterns’ quarters.
Very soon the attractive personality of Vanhille led him to an
influential position among the prisoners, and he was elected their
representative in all matters of difference between them and the
authorities, although Cotgrave, the Governor, refused to acknowledge him
as such, saying that he preferred a prisoner of longer standing, and one
whom he knew better.

Vanhille now determined to get out of Dartmoor. To reach France direct
was difficult, but it was feasible by America, as he had a sister well
married in New Orleans who could help him.

At the daily market held at the prison gate Vanhille became acquainted
with Mary Ellis. Piece by piece she brought him from Tavistock a
disguise—an old broad-brimmed hat, big boots, and brown stockings, and
by August 21, 1812, he was ready. On that day he received from his
comrades a sort of testimonial or letter of recommendation for use after
his escape at any place where there might be Frenchmen:

‘Le comité représentant les officiers militaires et marchands détenus
dans la prison Royale de Dartmoor certifient que Louis Vanhille est un
digne et loyal Français, et un compagnon d’infortune digne de tous les
égards de ses compatriotes . . . pour lui servir et valoir ce que de
raison en cas de mutation de prison.’

The next day he put on his disguise, mixed with the market folk, crossed
the court of his quarter, and the market place, passed two sentries who
took him for a potato merchant, got to the square in the middle of which
were the Agent’s house and offices, passed another gate, the sentry at
which took no notice of him, turned sharp to the right by the stables
and the water reservoir, and got on to the main road. He walked rapidly
on towards Tavistock, and that night slept under the Tyeth roof at
Launceston—a bold policy and only to be adopted by one who knew his
ground thoroughly well, and who felt sure that he was safer, known in
Launceston, than he would be as a stranger in Plymouth or other ports.

Next day he went to Camelford, and called on Dr. Mabyn, who said:
‘Monsieur Vanhille, comme ami je suis heureux de vous voir, mais à
présent je ne puis vous donner asile sous mon toit,’ Thence he went to
Padstow, but no boatman would take him to Bristol or Cork, so he
returned to Launceston and remained there two days. Here he bought a
map, changed his disguise, and became Mr. Williams, a pedlar of odds and
ends. Thence he went on to Bideford, Appledore, and by boat to Newport,
thence to Abergavenny, a parole town, where he met Palierne, an old
Launceston comrade; thence back to Launceston, where he rested a couple
of days. Then, always on foot, he went to Exeter, Okehampton, and
Tawton, took wagon to London, where he only stayed a night, then on to
Chatham—a dangerous neighbourhood on account of the hulks, and back to
Abergavenny via Guildford, Petersfield, Alresford, Winchester,
Salisbury, Warminster, Bath, and Bristol, arriving at Abergavenny on
September 21, 1812.[12]

From Abergavenny Vanhille went by Usk to Bristol, but could find no
suitable ship to take him to America, so he took coach back to
Launceston, and spent two weeks there with the Tyeths, which would seem
to show that Spettigue was either purposely blind or very stupid.
Vanhille then crossed Cornwall rapidly to Falmouth—always, be it
remembered, as a pedlar. Falmouth was a dangerous place, being the chief
port for the Cartel service with Morlaix, and a strict look-out was kept
there for passengers intending to cross the Channel. Vanhille went to
the _Blue Anchor_ Inn, and here he met the famous escape agent, Thomas
Feast Moore, _alias_ Captain Harman, &c., who at once recognized what he
was, and proffered his services, stating that he had carried many French
officers over safely. This was true, but what he omitted to state was
that he was at present in the Government service, having been pardoned
for his misdeeds as an escape agent on condition that he made use of his
experience by giving the Government information about intending

Vanhille wanted no aid to escape, but he cleared out from Falmouth at
once, was that evening at Wadebridge, the next day at Saltash, then,
avoiding Launceston, went by Okehampton, Moreton-Hampstead, and Exeter
to Cullompton, and thence by coach to Bristol, where he arrived on
October 15, 1812.

After his escape from Dartmoor, this extraordinary man had been
fifty-five days travelling on foot, in carriage, and by boat, and had
covered 1,238 miles, by far the greater number of which he tramped, and
this with the hue and cry after him and offers of reward for his arrest
posted up everywhere.

He now dropped the pedlar pretence and became an ordinary Briton. At
Bristol he learned that the _Jane_, Captain Robert Andrews, would leave
for Jamaica next month. He corresponded with his Launceston friends, who
throughout had been true to him, and, in replying, the Tyeths had to be
most careful, assuming signatures and disguising handwriting, and Miss
Fanny at the Post Office would with her own hands obliterate the
post-mark. Old Tyeth sent him kind and pious messages. On November 10
the _Jane_ left Bristol, but was detained at Cork a month, waiting for a
convoy, and did not reach Montego Bay, Jamaica, until January 2, 1813.
From Jamaica there were frequent opportunities of getting to America,
and Vanhille had every reason to congratulate himself at last on being a
free man.

Unfortunately the Customs people in Jamaica were particularly on the
alert for spies and runaways, especially as we were at war with the
United States. Vanhille was suspected of being what he was, and the
examination of his papers not being satisfactory, he was arrested and
sent home, and on May 20, 1813, found himself a prisoner at Forton. He
was sent up to London and examined by Jones, of Knight and Jones,
solicitors to the Admiralty, with a view of extracting from him
information concerning his accomplices in Launceston, a town notorious
for its French proclivities.

Jones writes under date of June 14, 1813, to Bicknell, solicitor to the
Transport Office, that he has examined Vanhille, who peremptorily
refuses to make any disclosures which may implicate the persons
concerned in harbouring him after he had escaped from Dartmoor, and who
ultimately got him out of the kingdom. He hopes, however, to reach them
by other means.

Harsh treatment was now tried upon him, he was half starved, and as he
was now penniless could not remedy matters by purchase. In three weeks
he was sent on board the _Crown Prince_ hulk at Chatham, and later to
the _Glory_. Correspondence between him and Dr. Derouge at Launceston
was discovered, and Derouge was sent to a Plymouth hulk. Dale, the
Launceston ironmonger, who had been one of the little friendly circle in
that town, had fallen into evil ways, and was now starving in Plymouth.
Jones, the Admiralty lawyer, received a communication from him saying
that for a consideration he would denounce all Vanhille’s friends. He
was brought up to London, and he told all their names, with the result
that they were summoned. But nothing could be got out of them. Mrs.
Wilkins at the inn, who for some reason disliked Vanhille, would have
given information, but she had none to give.

Dale was sent back to Plymouth, saying that if he could see Dr. Derouge,
who would not suspect him, he would get the wanted information. So the
two men met in a special cabin, and rum was brought. Derouge,
unsuspecting, tells all the story of the escape from Dartmoor, and
brings in the name of Mary Ellis, who had provided Vanhille with his
disguise. Then he begins to suspect Dale’s object, and will not utter
another word.

Dale is sent to Launceston to get more information, but fails; resolves
to find out Mary Ellis at Tavistock, but five weeks elapse, and no more
is heard of him, except that he arrived there half dead with wet and

The Peace of 1814 brought release to Vanhille, and on April 19 he
reached Calais.

M. Pariset concludes his story with the following remark: ‘Vanhille
avait senti battre le cœur anglais qui est, comme chacun sait,
bienveillant et fidèle, après qu’il s’est donné.’

I should here say that M. Pariset’s story does not go further than the
capture of Vanhille in Jamaica. The sequel I have taken from the
correspondence at the Record Office. I have been told that the name of
Vanhille is by no means forgotten in Launceston.

                              CHAPTER XXI
                           THE PRISON SYSTEM
                          PRISONERS ON PAROLE

When we come to the consideration of the parole system, we reach what is
for many reasons the most interesting chapter in a dark history. Life on
the hulks and in the prisons was largely a sealed book to the outside
public, and, brutal in many respects as was the age covered by our
story, there can be little question that if the British public had been
made more aware of what went on behind the wooden walls of the prison
ships and the stone walls of the prisons, its opinion would have
demanded reforms and remedies which would have spared our country from a
deep, ineffaceable, and, it must be added, a just reproach.

But the prisoners on parole played a large part in the everyday social
life of many parts of England, Wales, and Scotland, for at least sixty
years—a period long enough to leave a clear impression behind of their
lives, their romances, their virtues, their vices, of all, in fact,
which makes interesting history—and, although in one essential
particular they seem to have fallen very far short of the traditional
standard of honour, the memory of them is still that of a polished,
refined, and gallant race of gentlemen.

The parole system, by which officers of certain ratings were permitted,
under strict conditions to which they subscribed on their honour, to
reside in certain places, was in practice at any rate at the beginning
of the Seven Years’ War, and in 1757 the following were the parole

In the West: Redruth, Launceston, Callington, Falmouth, Tavistock,
Torrington, Exeter, Crediton, Ashburton, Bideford, Okehampton, Helston,
Alresford, Basingstoke, Chippenham, Bristol, Sodbury (Gloucestershire),
and Bishop’s Waltham. In the South: Guernsey, Ashford, Tenterden,
Tonbridge, Wye (Kent), Goudhurst, Sevenoaks, Petersfield, and Romsey. In
the North: Dundee and Newcastle-on-Tyne. Kinsale in Ireland, Beccles in
Suffolk, and Whitchurch in Shropshire. At first I had doubts if
prisoners on parole were at open ports like Falmouth, Bristol, and
Newcastle-on-Tyne, but an examination of the documents at the Record
Office in London and the Archives Nationales in Paris established the
fact, although they ceased to be there after a short time. Not only does
it seem that parole rules were more strictly enforced at this time than
they were later, but that violation of them was regarded as a crime by
the Governments of the offenders. Also, there was an arrangement, or at
any rate an understanding, between England and France that officers who
had broken their parole by escaping, should, if discovered in their own
country, either be sent back to the country of their imprisonment, or be
imprisoned in their own country. Thus, we read under date 1757:

‘René Brisson de Dunkerque, second capitaine et pilote du navire _Le
Prince de Soubise_, du dit port, qui étoit détenu prisonnier à Waltham
en Angleterre, d’où il s’est évadé, et qui, étant de retour à Dunkerque
le 16ème Oct. 1757, y a été mis en prison par ordre du Roy.’

During 1778, 1779, and six months of 1780, two hundred and ninety-five
French prisoners alone had successfully escaped from parole places, the
greatest number being, from Alresford forty-five, Chippenham
thirty-three, Tenterden thirty-two, Bandon twenty-two, Okehampton
nineteen, and Ashburton eighteen.

In 1796 the following ratings were allowed to be on parole: 1. Taken on
men-of-war: Captain, lieutenant, ensign, surgeon, purser, chaplain,
master, pilot, midshipman, surgeon’s mate, boatswain, gunner, carpenter,
master-caulker, master-sail-maker, coasting pilot, and gentleman

2. Taken on board a privateer or merchantman: Captain, passenger of
rank, second captain, chief of prizes, two lieutenants for every hundred
men, pilot, surgeon, and chaplain.

No parole was to be granted to officers of any privateer under eighty
tons burthen, or having less than fourteen carriage guns, which were not
to be less than four-pounders.

In 1804 parole was granted as follows:

1. All commissioned officers of the Army down to sous-lieutenant.

2. All commissioned officers of the Navy down to gardes-marine

3. Three officers of privateers of a hundred men, but not under fourteen

4. Captains and next officers of merchant ships above fifty tons.

The parole form in 1797 was as follows:

‘By the Commissioners for conducting H.M’s. Transport Service, and for
the care and custody of Prisoners of War.

‘These are to certify to all H.M’s. officers, civil and military, and to
whom else it may concern, that the bearer ... as described on the back
hereof is a detained (French, American, Spanish or Dutch) prisoner of
war at ... and that he has liberty to walk on the great turnpike road
within the distance of one mile from the extremities of the town, but
that he must not go into any field or cross road, nor be absent from his
lodging after 5 o’clock in the afternoon during the six winter months,
viz. from October 1st to March 31st, nor after 8 o’clock during the
summer months. Wherefore you and everyone of you [_sic_] are hereby
desired and required to suffer him, the said ... to pass and repass
accordingly without any hindrance or molestation whatever, he keeping
within the said limits and behaving according to law.’

The form of parole to be signed by the prisoner was this:

‘Whereas the Commissioners for conducting H.M’s. Transport service and
for the care and custody of French officers and sailors detained in
England have been pleased to grant ... leave to reside in ... upon
condition that he gives his parole of honour not to withdraw one mile
from the boundaries prescribed there without leave for that purpose from
the said Commissioners, that he will behave himself decently and with
due regard to the laws of the kingdom, and also that he will not
directly or indirectly hold any correspondence with France during his
continuance in England, but by such letter or letters as shall be shown
to the Agent of the said Commissioners under whose care he is or may be
in order to their being read and approved by the Superiors, he does
hereby declare that having given his parole he will keep it inviolably.’

In all parole towns and villages the following notice was posted up in
prominent positions:

‘Notice is hereby given,

‘That all such prisoners are permitted to walk or ride on the great
turnpike road within the distance of one mile from the extreme parts of
the town (not beyond the bounds of the Parish) and that if they shall
exceed such limits or go into any field or cross-road they may be taken
up and sent to prison, and a reward of Ten Shillings will be paid by the
Agent for apprehending them. And further, that such prisoners are to be
in their lodgings by 5 o’clock in the winter, and 8 in the summer
months, and if they stay out later they are liable to be taken up and
sent to the Agent for such misconduct. And to prevent the prisoners from
behaving in an improper manner to the inhabitants of the town, or
creating any riots or disturbances either with them or among themselves,
notice is also given that the Commissioners will cause, upon information
being given to their Agents, any prisoners who shall so misbehave to be
committed to prison. And such of the inhabitants who shall insult or
abuse any of the Prisoners of War on parole, or shall be found in any
respect aiding or assisting in the escape of such prisoners shall be
punished according to law.’

The rewards offered for the conviction of prisoners for the violation of
any of the conditions of their parole, and particularly for recapturing
escaped prisoners and for the conviction of aiders in escape, were
liberal enough to tempt the ragamuffins of the parole places to do their
utmost to get the prisoners to break the law, and we shall see how this
led to a system of persecution which possibly provoked many a foreign
officer, perfectly honourable in other respects, to break his parole. I
do not attempt to defend the far too general laxity of principle which
made some of the most distinguished of our prisoners break their
solemnly pledged words by escaping or trying to escape, but I do believe
that the continual dangling before unlettered clowns and idle town
loafers rewards varying from ten guineas for recapturing an escaped
prisoner to ten shillings for arresting an officer out of his lodging a
few minutes after bell ringing, or straying a few yards off the great
turnpike, was putting a premium upon a despicable system of spying and
trapping which could not have given a pleasurable zest to a life of

Naturally, the rules about the correspondence of prisoners on parole
were strict, and no other rules seem to have been more irksome to
prisoners, or more frequently violated by them. All letters for
prisoners on parole had to pass through the Transport Office.
Remittances had to be made through the local agent, if for an even sum
in the Bank of England notes, if for odd shillings and pence by postal
orders. It is, however, very certain that a vast amount of
correspondence passed to and from the prisoners independently of the
Transport Office, and that the conveyance and receipt of such
correspondence became as distinctly a surreptitious trade called into
existence by circumstances as that of aiding prisoners to escape.

Previous to 1813 the money allowance to officers on parole above and
including the rank of captain was ten shillings and sixpence per week
per man, and below that rank eight shillings and ninepence. In that
year, complaints were made to the British Government by M. Rivière, that
as it could be shown that living in England was very much more expensive
than in France, this allowance should be increased. Our Government
admitted the justice of the claim, and the allowances were accordingly
increased to fourteen shillings, and eleven shillings and eightpence. It
may be noted, by the way, that this was the same Rivière who in 1804 had
denied our right to inquire into the condition of British prisoners in
France, curtly saying: ‘It is the will of the Emperor!’

The cost of burying the poor fellows who died in captivity, although
borne by the State, was kept down to the most economical limits, for we
find two orders, dated respectively 1805 and 1812, that the cost was not
to exceed £2 2_s._, that plain elm coffins were to be used, and that the
expense of gloves and hat-bands must be borne by the prisoners. Mr.
Farnell, the Agent at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, was called sharply to order for
a charge in his accounts of fourteen shillings for a hat-band!

In 1814 funerals at Portsmouth were cut down to half a guinea, but I
presume this was for ordinary prisoners. The allowances for surgeons in
parole places in 1806 were:

For cures when the attendance was for more than five days, six shillings
and eightpence, when for less, half that sum. Bleeding was to be charged
sixpence, and for drawing a tooth, one shilling. Serious sick cases were
to be sent to a prison hospital, and no allowance for medicines or extra
subsistence was to be made.

We must not allow sentimental sympathy with officers and gentlemen on
parole to blind our eyes to the fact constantly proved that it was
necessary to keep the strictest surveillance over them. Although, if we
except their propensity to regard lightly their parole obligations,
their conduct generally may be called good, among so many men there were
necessarily some very black sheep. At one time their behaviour in the
parole towns was often so abominable as to render it necessary to place
them in smaller towns and villages.

In 1793 the Marquis of Buckingham wrote thus to Lord Grenville from
Winchester (_Dropmore MSS._):

‘I have for the last week been much annoyed by a constant inundation of
French prisoners who have been on their route from Portsmouth to
Bristol, and my officers who, during the long marches have had much of
their conversation, all report that the language of the common men was,
with very few exceptions, equally insolent, especially upon the subject
of monarchy. The orders which we received with them were so perfectly
proper that we were enabled to maintain strict discipline among them,
but I am very anxious that you should come to some decisions about your
_parole prisoners_ who are now nearly doubled at Alresford and
(Bishop’s) Waltham, and are hourly more exceptionable in their language
and in their communication with the country people. I am persuaded that
some very unpleasant consequences will arise if this practice is not
checked, and I do not know how it is to be done. Your own good heart
will make you feel for the French priests now at Winchester to whom
these people (230 at Alresford, 160 at Waltham) have openly avowed
massacre whenever the troops are removed.... Pray think over some
arrangement for sending your parole prisoners out of England, for they
certainly serve their country here better than they could do at sea or
in France (so they say openly).’

The authorities had to be constantly on their guard against deceptions
of all kinds practised by the paroled prisoners, in addition to the
frequent breaches of parole by escape. Thus applications were made
almost daily by prisoners to be allowed either to exchange their places
of residence for London, or to come to London temporarily ‘upon urgent
private affairs’. At first these permissions were given when the
applicants were men whose positions or reputations were deemed
sufficient guarantees for honourable behaviour, but experience soon
taught the Transport Office that nobody was to be trusted, and so these
applications, even when endorsed by Englishmen of position, were
invariably refused.

For instance, in 1809, the Office received a letter from one Brossage,
an officer on parole at Launceston, asking that he might be removed to
Reading, as he was suffering from lung disease. The reply was that as a
rule people suffering from lung disease in England were only too glad to
be able to go to Cornwall for alleviation or cure. The truth was that M.
Brossage wanted to exchange the dullness of a Cornish town for the life
and gaiety of Reading, which was a special parole town reserved for
officers of distinction.

Another trick which the authorities characterized as ‘an unjustifiable
means of gaining liberty’, was to bribe an invalid on the roster for
France to be allowed to personate him. Poor officers were as glad to
sell their chance in this way, as were poor prisoners on hulks or in

In 1811 some officers at Lichfield obtained their release because of
‘their humane conduct at the late fire at Mr. Lee’s house’. But so many
applications for release on account of similar services at fires came in
that the Transport Office was suspicious, and refused them, ‘especially
as the French Government does not reward British officers for similar

In the same year one Andoit got sent to Andover on parole in the name of
another man, whom no doubt he impersonated, although he had no right to
be paroled, and at once made use of the opportunity and escaped.

Most touching were some of the letters from paroled officers praying to
have their places of parole changed, but when the Transport Office found
out that these changes were almost invariably made so that old comrades
and friends could meet together to plan and arrange escapes, rejection
became the invariable fate of them. For some time many French officers
on parole had been permitted to add to their incomes by giving lessons
in dancing, drawing, fencing, and singing in English families, and for
these purposes had special permits to go beyond the usual one mile
limit. But when in 1811, M. Faure applied to go some distance out of
Redruth to teach French, and M. Ulliac asked to be allowed to exceed
limits at Ashby-de-la-Zouch to teach drawing, the authorities refused,
and this despite the backing up of these requests by local gentry,
giving as their reason: ‘If complied with generally the prisoners would
become dispersed over all parts of the country without any regular
control over their conduct.’ Prisoners were not even allowed to give
lessons away from their lodgings out of parole hours.

Very rarely, except in the cases of officers of more than ordinarily
distinguished position, were relaxations of parole rules permitted.
General Pillet at Bishop’s Waltham in 1808, had leave to go two miles
beyond the usual one mile limit two or three times a week, ‘to take the
air.’ General Pageot at Ashbourne was given eight days’ leave to visit
Wooton Lodge in 1804, with the result related elsewhere (p. 414).

In 1808 General Brenier, on parole at Wantage, was allowed 3_s._ a day
‘on account of the wound in his thigh’, so unusual a concession as to
cause the Transport Office to describe it as ‘the greatest rate of
allowance granted to any prisoner of war in this country under any
circumstances’. Later, however, some prisoners at Bath were made the
same allowance.

At first sight it seems harsh on the part of the Transport Office to
refuse permission for a prisoner at Welshpool to lodge with the
postmistress of that place, but without doubt it had excellent reason to
think that for purposes of escape as well as for carrying on an
unsuspected correspondence, the post-office would be the very place for
a prisoner to live at. Again, the forgery of documents was very
extensively carried on by the prisoners, and in 1803 the parole agents
were advised:

‘With respect to admitting prisoners of war at Parole we beg to observe
that we think it proper to adhere to a regulation which from frequent
abuses we found it absolutely necessary to adopt last war; namely, that
no blank form of parole certificates be sent to the agents at the
depots, but to transmit them to the Agents, properly filled up whenever
their ranks shall have been ascertained at this office, from lists sent
by the agents and from extracts from the _Rôle d’Équipage_ of each
vessel captured.’

Of course, the reason for this was that blank parole forms had been
obtained by bribery, had been filled up, and that all sorts of
undesirable and dangerous rascals got scattered among the parole places.

So long back as 1763 a complaint came from Dover that the Duc de
Nivernois was in the habit of issuing passes to prisoners of war on
parole in England to pass over to Calais and Boulogne as ordinary
civilians, and further inquiry brought out the fact that he was not the
only owner of a noble name who trafficked in documents which, if they do
not come under the category of forgeries, were at any rate false.

In 1804 a letter from France addressed to a prisoner on parole at
Tiverton was intercepted. It was found to contain a blank printed
certificate, sealed and signed by the Danish vice-consul at Plymouth.
Orders were at once issued that no more certificates from him were to be
honoured, and he was accused of the act. He protested innocence, and
requested that the matter should be examined, the results being that the
documents were found to be forgeries.

Of course, the parole agents, that is to say, the men chosen to guard
and minister to the wants of the prisoners in the parole towns, occupied
important and responsible positions. At first the only qualifications
required were that they should not be shopkeepers, but men fitted by
their position and their personality to deal with prisoners who were
officers, and therefore _ipso facto_, gentlemen. But during the later
years of the great wars they were chosen exclusively from naval
lieutenants of not less than ten years’ standing, a change brought about
by complaints from many towns and from many prisoners that the agents
were palpably underbred and tactless, and particularly perhaps by the
representation of Captain Moriarty, the agent at Valleyfield near
Edinburgh, and later at Perth, that ‘the men chosen were attorneys and
shopkeepers for whom the French officers have no respect, so that the
latter do just what they like’, urging that only Service men should
occupy these posts.

The duties of the parole agent were to see that the prisoners under his
charge fulfilled all the obligations of their parole, to muster them
twice a week, to minister to their wants, to pay them their allowances,
to act as their financial agents, to hear and adjust their complaints,
to be, in fact, quite as much their guide, philosopher, and friend as
their custodian. He had to keep a strict account of all receipts and
payments, which he forwarded once a month to the Transport Office: he
had to keep a constant watch on the correspondence of the prisoners, not
merely seeing that they held and received none clandestinely, but that
every letter was to pass the examination of the Transport Office; and
his own correspondence was voluminous, for in the smallest parole places
there were at least eighty prisoners, whilst in the larger, the numbers
were close upon four hundred.

For all this the remuneration was 5 per cent. upon all disbursements for
the subsistence of the prisoners with allowances for stationery and
affidavits, and it may be very naturally asked how men could be found
willing to do all this, in addition to their own callings, for such pay.
The only answer is that men were not only willing but anxious to become
parole agents because of the ‘pickings’ derivable from the office,
especially in connexion with the collection and payment of remittances
to prisoners. That these ‘pickings’ were considerable there can be no
doubt, particularly as they were available from so many sources, and as
the temptations were so many and so strong to accept presents for
services rendered, or, what was more frequent, for duty left undone.

On the whole, and making allowance for the character of the age and the
numberless temptations to which they were exposed, the agents of the
parole towns seem to have done their hard and delicate work very fairly.
No doubt in the process of gathering in their ‘pickings’ there was some
sharp practice by them, and a few instances are recorded of criminal
transactions, but a comparison between the treatment of French prisoners
on parole in England and the English _détenus_ in France certainly is
not to our discredit.

The Transport Office seems to have been unremitting in its watchfulness
on its agents, if we are to judge by the mass of correspondence which
passed between the one and the others, and which deals so largely with
minutiae and details that its consideration must have been by no means
the least heavy of the duties expected from these gentlemen.

Mr. Tribe, Parole Agent at Hambledon, seems to have irritated his
superiors much by the character of his letters, for in 1804 he is told:

‘As the person who writes your letters does not seem to know how to
write English you must therefore in future write your own letters or
employ another to write them who can write intelligibly.’

And again:

‘If you cannot really write more intelligibly you must employ a person
to manage your correspondence in future, but you are not to suppose that
he will be paid by us for his trouble.’

Spettigue, Parole Agent at Launceston, got into serious trouble in 1807
for having charged commissions to prisoners upon moneys paid to them,
and was ordered to refund them. He was the only parole agent who was
proved to have so offended.

Smith, Parole Agent at Thame, was rebuked in February, 1809, for having
described aloud a prisoner about to be conveyed from Thame to Portsmouth
under escort as a man of good character and a gentleman, the result
being that the escort were put off their guard, and the prisoner
escaped, Smith knowing all the time that the prisoner was the very
reverse of his description, and that it was in consequence of his having
obtained his parole by a ‘gross deception’, that he was being conveyed
to the hulks at Portsmouth. However, Kermel, the prisoner, was

Enchmarsh, Parole Agent at Tiverton, was reprimanded in July 1809 for
having been concerned in the sale, by a prisoner, of a contraband
article, and was reminded that it was against rules for an agent to have
any mercantile transactions with prisoners.

Lewis, Parole Agent at Reading, was removed in June 1812, because when
the dépôt doctor made his periodical round in order to select invalids
to be sent to France, he tried to bribe Dr. Weir to pass General Joyeux,
a perfectly sound man, as an invalid and so procure his liberation.

Powis, Parole Agent at Leek in Staffordshire, son of a neighbouring
parson, was removed in the same year, having been accused of withholding
moneys due to prisoners, and continually failing to send in his

On the other hand, Smith, the Agent at Thame, was blamed for having
shown excessive zeal in his office by hiring people to hide and lie in
wait to catch prisoners committing breaches of parole. Perhaps the
Transport Office did not so much disapprove of his methods as un-English
and mean, but they knew very well that the consequent fines and
stoppages meant his emolument.

That parole agents found it as impossible to give satisfaction to
everybody as do most people in authority is very clear from the
following episodes in the official life of Mr. Crapper, the Parole Agent
at Wantage in 1809, who was a chemist by trade, and who seems to have
been in ill odour all round. The episodes also illustrate the keen
sympathy with which in some districts the French officers on parole were

On behalf of the prisoners at Wantage, one Price, J.P., wrote of
Crapper, that ‘being a low man himself, he assumes a power which I am
sure is not to your wish, and which he is too ignorant to exercise’. It
appears that two French officers, the generals Maurin and Lefebvre, had
gone ten miles from Wantage—that is, nine miles beyond the parole
limit—to dine with Sir John Throckmorton. Crapper did his duty and
arrested the generals; they were leniently punished, as, instead of
being sent to a prison or a hulk, they were simply marched off to
Wincanton. The magistrates refused to support Crapper, but, despite
another letter in favour of the generals by another J.P., Goodlake, who
had driven them in his carriage to Throckmorton’s house, and who
declared that Crapper had a hatred for him on account of some
disagreement on the bench, the Transport Office defended their agent,
and confirmed his action.

From J. E. Lutwyche, Surveyor of Taxes, in whose house the French
generals lodged, the Transport Office received the following:


‘I beg leave to offer a few remarks respecting the French generals
lately removed from Wantage. Generals Lefebvre and Maurin both lodged at
my house. The latter always conducted himself with the greatest
Politeness and Propriety, nor ever exceeded the limits or time
prescribed by his parole until the arrival of General Lefebvre. Indeed
he was not noticed or invited anywhere till then, nor did he at all seem
to wish it, his time being occupied in endeavouring to perfect himself
in the English language. When General Lefebvre arrived, he, being an
object of curiosity and a man of considerable rank, was invited out, and
of course General Maurin (who paid him great attention) with him, which
certainly otherwise would never have been the case. General Lefebvre has
certainly expressed himself as greatly dissatisfied with the way in
which he had been taken, making use of the childish phrase of his being
entrapped, and by his sullen manner and general conduct appeared as if
he was not much inclined to observe the terms of his parole.’

Another anti-Crapperist writes:


‘I take this liberty in informing you that in case that the Prisoners of
War residing here on Parole be not kept to stricter orders, that they
will have the command of this Parish. They are out all hours of the
night, they do almost as they have a mind to do: if a man is loaded ever
so hard, he must turn out of the road for them, and if any person says
anything he is reprimanded for it.

‘They have too much liberty a great deal.

                           ‘I am, Gentlemen,
                               ‘With a good wish to my King and Country,
                                       ‘A TRUE ENGLISHMAN.’

Another correspondent asserted that although Mr. Crapper complained of
the generals’ breach of parole, he had the next week allowed thirty of
the French prisoners to give a ball and supper to the little tradesmen
of the town, which had been kept up till 3 a.m.

Crapper denied this, and said he had refused the application of the
prisoners for a dance until 10 p.m., given at an inn to the ‘ladies of
the town—the checked apron Ladies of Wantage’.

Yet another writer declared that Crapper was a drunkard, and drank with
the prisoners. To this, Crapper replied that if they called on him as
gentlemen, he was surely entitled to offer them hospitality. The same
writer spoke of the French prisoners being often drunk in the streets,
of Crapper fighting with them at the inns, and accused him of
withholding money from them. Crapper, however, appears as Parole Agent
for Wantage, with 340 prisoners in his charge, some time after all this.

I have given Crapper’s case at some length merely as an instance of what
parole agents had to put up with, not as being unusual. Ponsford at
Moreton-Hampstead, Smith at Thame, and Eborall at Lichfield, seem to
have been provoked in much the same way by turbulent and defiant

For very palpable reasons the authorities did not encourage close
_rapprochements_ between parole agents and the prisoners under their
charge. At Tavistock in 1779, something wrong in the intercourse between
Ford, the Agent, and his flock, had led to an order that not only should
Ford be removed, but that certain prisoners should be sent to
Launceston. Whereupon the said prisoners petitioned to be allowed to
remain at Tavistock under Ford:

‘A qui nous sommes très sincèrement attachés, tant par les doux façons
qu’il a scu toujours avoir pour nous, même en exécutant ses ordres, que
par son honnêteté particulière et la bonne intelligence qu’il a soin de
faire raigner autant qu’il est possible entre les différentes claces de
personnes qui habitent cette ville et les prisonniers qu’y sont;—point
sy essentiel et sy particulièrement bien ménagé jusqu’à ce jour.’

On the other hand, one Tarade, a prisoner, writes describing Ford as a
‘petit tyran d’Afrique’, and complains of him, evidently because he had
refused Tarade a passport for France. Tarade alludes to the petition
above quoted, and says that the subscribers to it belong to a class of
prisoners who are better away. Another much-signed petition comes from
dislikers of Ford who beg to be sent to Launceston, so we may presume
from the action of the authorities in ordering Ford’s removal, that he
was not a disinterested dispenser and withholder of favours.

In Scotland the agents seem generally to have been on very excellent
terms with the prisoners in their charge, and some friendships were
formed between captors and captives which did not cease with the release
of the latter. Mr. Macbeth Forbes relates the following anecdote by way
of illustration:

‘The late Mr. Romanes of Harryburn (whose father had been Agent at
Lauder) says about M. Espinasse, for long a distinguished French teacher
in Edinburgh, who was for some time a parole prisoner at Lauder: “When I
was enrolled as a pupil with M. Espinasse some fifty years ago, he said:
‘Ah! your fader had _me_!’ supplying the rest of the sentence by
planting the flat part of his right thumb into the palm of his left
hand—‘Now I have _you_!’ repeating the operation. And when my father
called to see M. Espinasse, he was quite put out by M. Espinasse seizing
and hugging and embracing him, shouting excitedly: ‘Ah, mon Agent! mon

Smith at Kelso, Nixon at Hawick, Romanes at Lauder, and Bell at
Jedburgh, were all held in the highest esteem by the prisoners under
them, and received many testimonials of it.

The following were the Parole Towns between 1803 and 1813:

 Bishop’s Castle.
 Bishop’s Waltham.
 North Tawton.
 South Molton.

                              CHAPTER XXII
                              PAROLE LIFE

The following descriptions of life in parole towns by French writers may
not be entirely satisfactory to the reader who naturally wishes to get
as correct an impression of it as possible, inasmuch as they are from
the pens of men smarting under restrictions and perhaps a sense of
injustice, irritated by ennui, by the irksomeness of confinement in
places which as a rule do not seem to have been selected because of
their fitness to administer to the joys of life, and by the occasional
evidences of being among unfriendly people. But I hope to balance this
in later chapters by the story of the paroled officers as seen by the

The original French I have translated literally, except when it has
seemed to me that translation would involve a sacrifice of terseness or

Listen to Lieutenant Gicquel des Touches, at Tiverton, after Trafalgar:

‘A pleasant little town, but which struck me as particularly monotonous
after the exciting life to which I was accustomed. My pay, reduced by
one-half, amounted to fifty francs a month, which had to satisfy all my
needs at a time when the continental blockade had caused a very sensible
rise in the price of all commodities.... I took advantage of my leisure
hours to overhaul and complete my education. Some of my comrades of more
literary bringing-up gave me lessons in literature and history, in
return for which I taught them fencing, for which I always had much
aptitude, and which I had always practised a good deal. The population
was generally kindly disposed towards us; some of the inhabitants urging
their interest in us so far as to propose to help me to escape, and
among them a young and pretty _Miss_ who only made one condition—that I
should take her with me in my flight, and should marry her when we
reached the Continent. It was not much trouble for me to resist these
temptations, but it was harder to tear myself away from the
importunities of some of my companions, who, not having the same ideas
as I had about the sacredness of one’s word, would have forced me to
escape with them.

‘Several succeeded: I say nothing about them, but I have often been
astonished later at the ill-will they have borne me for not having done
as they did.’

Gicquel was at Tiverton six years and was then exchanged.

A Freemasons’ Lodge, _Enfants de Mars_, was opened and worked at
Tiverton about 1810, of which the first and only master was Alexander de
la Motte, afterwards Languages Master at Blundell’s School. The Masons
met in a room in Frog Street, now Castle Street, until, two of the
officers on parole in the town escaping, the authorities prohibited the
meetings. The Tyler of the Lodge, Rivron by name, remained in Tiverton
after peace was made, and for many years worked as a slipper-maker. He
had been an officer’s servant.

The next writer, the Baron de Bonnefoux, we have already met in the
hulks. His reminiscences of parole life are among the most interesting I
have come across, and are perhaps the more so because he has a good deal
of what is nice and kind to say of us.

On his arrival in England in 1806, Bonnefoux was sent on parole to Thame
in Oxfordshire. Here he occupied himself in learning English, Latin, and
drawing, and in practising fencing. In the Mauritius, Bonnefoux and his
shipmates had become friendly with a wealthy Englishman settled there
under its French Government at l’Île de France. This gentleman came to
Thame, rented the best house there for a summer, and continually
entertained the French officer prisoners. The Lupton family, of one son
and two daughters, the two Stratford ladies, and others, were also kind
to them, whilst a metropolitan spirit was infused into the little
society by the visits of a Miss Sophia Bode from London, so that with
all these pretty, amiable girls the Baron managed to pass his unlimited
leisure very pleasantly. On the other hand, there was an element of the
population of Thame which bore a traditional antipathy to Frenchmen
which it lost no opportunity of exhibiting. It was a manufacturing
section, composed of outsiders, between whom and the natives an
ill-feeling had long existed, and it was not long before our Baron came
to an issue with them. One of these men pushed against Bonnefoux as he
was walking in the town, and the Frenchman retaliated. Whereupon the
Englishman called on his friends, who responded. Bonnefoux, on his side,
called up his comrades, and a regular _mêlée_, in which sticks, stones,
and fists were freely used, ensued, the immediate issue of which is not
reported. Bonnefoux brought his assailant up before Smith, the Agent,
who shuffled about the matter, and recommended the Baron to take it to
Oxford, he in reality being in fear of the roughs. Bonnefoux expressed
his disgust, Smith lost his temper, and raised his cane, in reply to
which the Baron seized a poker. Bonnefoux complained to the Transport
Office, the result of which was that he was removed to Odiham in
Hampshire, after quite a touching farewell to his English friends and
his own countrymen, receiving a souvenir of a lock of hair from ‘la
jeune Miss Harriet Stratford aux beaux yeux bleus, au teint éblouissant,
à la physionomie animée, à la taille divine’.

The populace of Odiham he found much pleasanter than that of Thame, and
as the report of the part he had taken in the disturbance at Thame had
preceded him, he was enthusiastically greeted. The French officers at
Odiham did their best to pass the time pleasantly. They had a
Philharmonic Society, a Freemasons’ Lodge, and especially a theatre to
which the local gentry resorted in great numbers, Shebbeare, the Agent,
being a good fellow who did all in his power to soften the lot of those
in his charge, and was not too strict a construer of the laws and
regulations by which they were bound.

Bonnefoux made friends everywhere; he seems to have been a light-hearted
genial soul, and did not spare the ample private means he had in helping
less fortunate fellow prisoners. For instance, a naval officer named Le
Forsiney became the father of an illegitimate child. By English law he
had to pay six hundred francs for the support of the child, or be
imprisoned. Bonnefoux paid it for him.

In June 1807, an English friend, Danley, offered to take him to Windsor,
quietly of course, as this meant a serious violation of parole rules.
They had a delightful trip: Bonnefoux saw the king, and generally
enjoyed himself, and got back to Odiham safely. He said nothing about
this escapade until September, when he was talking of it to friends, and
was overheard by a certain widow, who, having been brought up in France,
understood the language, as she sat at her window above. Now this widow
had a pretty nurse, Mary, to whom Bonnefoux was ‘attracted’, and
happening to find an unsigned letter addressed to Mary, in which was:
‘To-morrow, I shall have the grief of not seeing you, but I shall see
your king,’ she resolved upon revenge. A short time after, there
appeared in a newspaper a paragraph to the effect that a foreigner with
sinister projects had dared to approach the king at Windsor. The widow
denounced Bonnefoux as the man alluded to: the Agent was obliged to
examine the matter, the whole business of the trip to Windsor came out,
and although Danley took all the blame on himself, and tried to shield
Bonnefoux, the order came that the latter was at once to be removed to
the hulks at Chatham.

In the meanwhile a somewhat romantic little episode had happened at
Odiham. Among the paroled prisoners there was a lieutenant (_Aspirant de
première classe_) named Rousseau, who had been taken in the fight
between Admiral Duckworth and Admiral Leissegnes off San Domingo in
February, 1806. His mother, a widow, was dying of grief for him, and
Rousseau resolved to get to her, but would not break his parole by
escaping from Odiham. So he wrote to the Transport Office that if he was
not arrested and put on board a prison ship within eight days, he would
consider his parole as cancelled, and would act accordingly, his
resolution being to escape from any prison ship on which he was
confined, which he felt sure he could do, and so save his parole.
Accordingly, he was arrested and sent to Portsmouth.

Bonnefoux, pending his removal to Chatham, was kept under guard at the
_George_ in Odiham, but he managed to get out, hid for the night in a
new ditch, and early the next morning went to a prisoner’s lodging-house
in the outskirts of Odiham, and remained there three days. Hither came
Sarah Cooper, daughter of a local pastry-cook, no doubt one of the
dashing young sailor’s many _chères amies_. She had been informed of his
whereabouts by his friends, and told him she would conduct him to

The weather was very wet, and Sarah was in her Sunday best, but said
that she did not mind the rain so long as she could see Bonnefoux. Says
the latter:

‘Je dis alors à Sara que je pensais qu’il pleuvrait pendant la nuit.
Elle répliqua que peu lui importait; enfin j’objectai cette longue
course à pied, sa toilette et ses capotes blanches, car c’était un
dimanche, et elle leva encore cette difficulté en prétendant qu’elle
avait du courage et que dès qu’elle avait appris qu’elle pouvait me
sauver elle n’avait voulu ni perdre une minute pour venir me
chercher. . . . Je n’avais plus un mot à dire, car pendant qu’elle
m’entraînait d’une de ses petites mains elle me fermait gracieusement la

They reached Guildford at daybreak, and two carriages were hired, one to
take Bonnefoux to London, the other to take Sarah back to Odiham. They
parted with a tender farewell, Bonnefoux started, reached London safely,
and put up at the Hôtel du Café de St. Paul.

In London he met a Dutchman named Vink, bound for Hamburg by the first
vessel leaving, and bought his berth on the ship, but had to wait a
month before anything sailed for Hamburg. He sailed, a fellow passenger
being young Lord Onslow. At Gravesend, officers came on board on the
search for Vink. Evidently Vink had betrayed him, for he could not
satisfactorily account for his presence on the ship in accordance with
the strict laws then in force about the embarkation of passengers for
foreign ports; Bonnefoux was arrested, for two days was shut down in the
awful hold of a police vessel, and was finally taken on board the
_Bahama_ at Chatham, and there met Rousseau, who had escaped from the
Portsmouth hulk but had been recaptured in mid-Channel.

Bonnefoux remained on the Chatham hulk until June 1809, when he was
allowed to go on parole to Lichfield. With him went Dubreuil, the rough
privateer skipper whose acquaintance he made on the _Bahama_, and who
was released from the prison ship because he had treated Colonel and
Mrs. Campbell with kindness when he made them prisoners.

Dubreuil was so delighted with the change from the _Bahama_ to
Lichfield, that he celebrated it in a typical sailor fashion, giving a
banquet which lasted three days at the best hotel in Lichfield, and
roared forth the praises of his friend Bonnefoux:

                  De Bonnefoux nous sommes enchantés,
                  Nous allons boire à sa santé!

Parole life at Lichfield he describes as charming. There was a nice,
refined local society, pleasant walks, cafés, concerts, réunions, and
billiards. Bonnefoux preferred to mix with the artisan class of
Lichfield society, admiring it the most in England, and regarding the
middle class as too prejudiced and narrow, the upper class as too
luxurious and proud. He says:

‘Il est difficile de voir rien de plus agréable à l’œil que les réunions
des jeunes gens des deux sexes lois [_sic_] des foires et des marchés.’

Eborall, the Agent at Lichfield, the Baron calls a splendid chap: so far
from binding them closely to their distance limit, he allowed the French
officers to go to Ashby-de-la-Zouch, to the races at Lichfield, and even
to Birmingham. Catalini came to sing at Lichfield, and Bonnefoux went to
hear her with Mary Aldrith, his landlord’s daughter, and pretty Nancy

And yet Bonnefoux resolved to escape. There came on ‘business’ to
Lichfield, Robinson and Stevenson, two well-known smuggler
escape-agents, and they made the Baron an offer which he accepted. He
wrote, however, to the Transport Office, saying that his health demanded
his return to France, and engaging not to serve against England.

With another naval officer, Colles, he got away successfully by the aid
of the smugglers and their agents, and reached Rye in Sussex. Between
them they paid the smugglers one hundred and fifty guineas. At Rye they
found another escaped prisoner in hiding, the Captain of the _Diomède_,
and he added another fifty guineas. The latter was almost off his head,
and nearly got them caught through his extraordinary behaviour. However,
on November 28, 1809, they reached Boulogne after a bad passage.

Robinson with his two hundred guineas bought contraband goods in France
and ran them over to England. Stevenson was not so lucky, for a little
later he was caught at Deal with an escaped prisoner, was fined five
hundred guineas, and in default of payment was sent to Botany Bay.

General d’Henin was one of the French generals who were taken at San
Domingo in 1803. He was sent on parole to Chesterfield in Derbyshire,
and, unlike several other officers who shared his fate, was most popular
with the inhabitants through his pleasing address and manner. He married
whilst in Chesterfield a Scots lady of fortune, and for some years
resided with her at Spital Lodge, the house of the Agent, Mr. Bower. He
and Madame d’Henin returned to Paris in 1814, and he fought at Waterloo,
where his leg was torn off by a cannon shot.

His residence in England seems to have made him somewhat of an
Anglophile, for in Horne’s _History of Napoleon_ he is accused of
favouring the British at Waterloo, and it was actually reported to
Napoleon by a dragoon that he ‘harangued the men to go over to the
enemy’. This, it was stated, was just before the cannon shot struck him.

From Chesterfield, d’Henin wrote to his friend General Boyer at
Montgomery, under date October 30, 1804. After a long semi-religious
soliloquy, in which he laments his position but supposes it to be as
Pangloss says, that ‘all is for the best in this best of worlds’, he
speaks of his bad health, of his too short stay at ‘Harrowgate’ (from
which health resort, by the way, he had been sent, for carrying on
correspondence under a false name), of his religious conversion, and of
his abstemious habits, and finishes:

‘Rien de nouveau. Toujours la même vie, triste, maussade, ennuyeuse,
déplaisante et sans fin, quand finira-t-elle? Il fait ici un temps
superbe, de la pluie, depuis le matin jusqu’au soir, et toujours de la
pluie, et du brouillard pour changer. Vie de soldat! Vie de chien!’

All the same, it is consoling to learn from the following letters
written by French officers on parole to their friends, that compulsory
exile in England was not always the intolerable punishment which so many
authors of reminiscences would have us believe. Here is one, for
instance, written from a prisoner on parole at Sevenoaks to a friend at
Tenterden, in 1757:

‘I beg you to receive my congratulations upon having been sent into a
country so rich in pretty girls: you say they are unapproachable, but it
must be consoling to you to know that you possess the trick of winning
the most unresponsive hearts, and that one of your ordinary looks
attracts the fair; and this assures me of your success in your secret
affairs: it is much more difficult to conquer the middle-class sex....
Your pale beauty has been very ill for some weeks, the reason being that
she has overheated herself dancing at a ball with all the Frenchmen with
whom she has been friendly for a certain time, which has got her into
trouble with her mother.... Roussel has been sent to the “Castle”
(Sissinghurst) nine days ago, it is said for having loved too well the
Sevenoaks girls, and had two in hand which cost him five guineas, which
he had to pay before going. Will you let me know if the country is
suitable for you, how many French there are, and if food and lodgings
are dear?

              ‘To Mr. Guerdon. A French surgeon on parole at Tenterden.’

The next is from a former prisoner, then living at Dunkirk, to Mrs.
Miller at the Post Office, Leicester, dated 1757. Note the spelling and


Vous ne scaurié croire quell plaisire j’ai de m’entretenir avec vous mon
cœur ne peut s’acoutumer à vivre sans vous voire. Je nait pas encore
rencontré notre chère compagnon de voyage. Ne m’oublié point, ma chère
Elizabeth vous pouvé estre persuadé du plaisire que j’auré en recevant
de vos nouvelles. Le gros Loys se porte bien il doit vous écrire aussi
qu’à Madame Covagne. Si vous voye Mrs. Nancy donne luy un baisé pour

A prisoner writes from Alresford to a friend in France:

‘I go often to the good Mrs. Smith’s. Miss Anna is at present here. She
sent me a valentine yesterday. I go there sometimes to take tea where
Henrietta and Betsi Wynne are. We played at cards, and spent the
pleasantest evening I have ever passed in England.’

A Captain Quinquet, also at Alresford, thus writes to his sister at

‘We pass the days gaily with the Johnsons, daughters and brother, and I
am sure you are glad to hear that we are so happy. Come next Friday! Ah!
If that were possible, what a surprise! On that day we give a grand ball
to celebrate the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of papa and mamma.
There will be quite twenty people, and I flatter myself we shall enjoy
ourselves thoroughly, and if by chance on that day a packet of letters
should arrive from you—Mon Dieu! What joy!’

He adds, quite in the style of a settled local gossip, scraps of news,
such as that Mrs. Jarvis has a daughter born; that poor Mr. Jack Smith
is dead; that Colonel Lewis’s wife, a most amiable woman, will be at the
ball; that Miss Kimber is going to be married; that dear little Emma
learns to speak French astonishingly well; that Henrietta Davis is quite
cured from her illness, and so forth.

There is, in fact, plenty of evidence that the French officers found the
daughters of Albion very much to their liking. Many of them married and
remained in England after peace was declared, leaving descendants who
may be found at this day, although in many cases the French names have
become anglicized.

In Andover to-day the names of Jerome and Dugay tell of the paroled
Frenchmen who were here between 1810 and 1815, whilst, also at Andover,
‘Shepherd’ Burton is the grandson of Aubertin, a French prisoner.

At Chesterfield (Mr. Hawkesly Edmunds informs me), the names of Jacques
and Presky still remain.

Robins and Jacques and Etches are names which still existed in Ashbourne
not many years ago, their bearers being known to be descended from
French prisoners there.

At Odiham, Alfred Jauréguiberry, second captain of the _Austerlitz_
privateer, married a Miss Chambers. His son, Admiral Jauréguiberry,
described as a man admirable in private as in public life, was in
command of the French Squadron which came over to Portsmouth on the
occasion of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Naval Review in 1887, and he found
time to call upon an English relative.

Louis Hettet, a prisoner on parole at Bishop’s Castle, Montgomeryshire,
in 1814, married Mary Morgan. The baptism of a son, Louis, is recorded
in the Bishop’s Castle register, March 6, 1815. The father left for
France after the Peace of 1814; Mrs. Hettet declined to go, and died at
Bishop’s Castle not many years ago. The boy was sent for and went to

Mrs. Lucy Louisa Morris, who died at Oswestry in 1908, aged 83, was the
second daughter of Lieutenant Paris, of the French Navy, a prisoner on
parole at Oswestry.

In 1886 Thomas Benchin, descendant of a French prisoner at Oswestry,
died at Clun, in Shropshire, where his son is, or was lately, living.
Benchin was famed for his skill in making toys and chip-wood ornaments.

Robinot, a prisoner on parole at Montgomery, married, in June 1807, a
Miss Andrews, of Buckingham.

At Wantage, in 1817, General de Gaja, formerly a prisoner on parole,
married a grand-daughter of the first Duke of Leicester, and his
daughter married, in 1868, the Rev. Mr. Atkinson, vicar of East Hendred.

At Thame, François Robert Boudin married Miss Bone, by banns, in 1813;
in the same year Jacques Ferrier married Mary Green by banns; Prévost de
la Croix married Elizabeth Hill by licence; and in 1816 Louis-Amédée
Comte married Mary Simmons, also by licence. All the bridegrooms were or
had been prisoners on parole.

In the register of Leek I find that J. B. B. Delisle, Commandant of the
port of Caen, married Harriet Sheldon; François Néan married Mary Lees,
daughter of the landlord of the _Duke of York_; Sergeant Paymaster
Pierre Magnier married Frances Smith, who died in 1874, aged 84; Joseph
Vattel, cook to General Brunet, married Sarah Pilsbury. Captains
Toufflet and Chouquet left sons who were living in Leek in 1880 and 1870
respectively, and Jean Mien, servant to General Brunet, was in Leek in

Notices of other marriages—at Wincanton, for instance—will be found

Against those who married English girls and honourably kept to them,
must, however, be placed a long list of Frenchmen who, knowing well that
in France such marriages were held invalid, married English women, and
basely deserted them on their own return to France, generally leaving
them with children and utterly destitute. The correspondence of the
Transport Office is full of warnings to girls who have meditated
marriage with prisoners, but who have asked advice first. As to the
subsistence of wives and children of prisoners, the law was that if the
latter were not British subjects, their subsistence was paid by the
British Government, otherwise they must seek Parish relief. In one of
the replies the Transport Office quotes the case of Madame Berton, an
Englishwoman who had married Colonel Berton, a prisoner on parole at
Chesterfield, and was permitted to follow her husband after his release
and departure for France, but who, with a son of nineteen months old, on
arrival there, was driven back in great want and distress by the French

In contrast with the practice of the British Government in paying for
the subsistence of the French wives and children of prisoners of war, is
that of the French Government as described in the reply of the Transport
Office in 1813 to a Mrs. Cumming with a seven-year-old child, who
applied to be allowed a passage to Morlaix in order to join her husband,
a prisoner on parole at Longwy:

‘The Transport Office is willing to grant you a passage by Cartel to
Morlaix, but would call your attention to the situation you will be
placed in, on your arrival in France, provided your husband has not by
his means or your own the power of maintaining you in France, as the
French Government make no allowance whatever to wives and children
belonging to British prisoners of war, and this Government has no power
to relieve their wants. Also to point out that Longwy is not an open
Parole Town like the Parole Towns in England, but is walled round, and
the prisoners are not allowed to proceed beyond the walls, so that any
resources derivable from your own industry appears to be very

The Transport Office were constantly called upon to adjudicate upon such
matters as this:

‘In 1805, Colonel de Bercy, on parole at Thame, was “in difficulty”
about a girl being with child by him. The Office declined to interfere,
but said that if the Colonel could not give sufficient security that
mother and child should not be a burden upon the rates, he must be
imprisoned until he did.’

By a rule of the French Government, Englishwomen who had already lived
in France with their husbands there as prisoners of war could not return
to France if once they left it. This was brought about by some English
officers’ wives taking letters with them on their return from England,
and, although as a matter of policy it could not be termed tyrannical,
it was the cause naturally of much distress and even of calamity.

The next account of parole life in England is by Louis Garneray, the
marine painter, whose description of life on the hulks may be remembered
as being the most vivid and exact of any I have given.

After describing his rapture at release from the hulk at Portsmouth and
his joyous anticipation of comparative liberty ashore, Garneray says:

‘When I arrived in 1811 under escort at the little village (Bishop’s
Waltham in Hampshire) which had been assigned to me as a place of
residence, I saw with some disillusion that more than 1,200 [_sic_]
French of all ranks [_sic_] had for their accommodation nothing but some
wretched, tumble-down houses which the English let to them at such an
exorbitant price that a year’s rent meant the price of the house itself.
As for me, I managed to get for ten shillings a week, not a room, but
the right to place my bed in a hut where already five officers were.’

The poor fellow was up at five and dressed the next morning:

‘What are you going to do?’ asked one of my room mates. ‘I’m going to
breathe the morning air and have a run in the fields,’ I replied.

‘Look out, or you’ll be arrested.’

‘Arrested! Why?’

‘Because we are not allowed to leave the house before six o’clock.’

Garneray soon learned about the hours of going out and coming in, about
the one-mile limit along the high road, that a native finding a prisoner
beyond the limit or off the main road had not only the right to knock
him down but to receive a guinea for doing so. He complained that the
only recreations were walking, painting, and reading, for the Government
had discovered that concerts, theatricals, and any performances which
brought the prisoners and the natives together encouraged familiarity
between the two peoples and corrupted morals, and so forbade them.
Garneray then described how he came to break his parole and to escape
from Bishop’s Waltham.

He with two fellow-prisoner officers went out one hot morning with the
intention of breakfasting at a farm about a mile along the high road.
Intending to save a long bit they cut across by a field path. Garneray
stumbled and hurt his foot and so got behind his companions. Suddenly,
hearing a cry, he saw a countryman attack his friends with a bill-hook,
wound one of them on the arm, and kill the other, who had begun to
expostulate with him, with two terrible cuts on the head. Garneray,
seizing a stick, rushed up, and the peasant ran off, leaving him with
the two poor fellows, one dead and the other badly wounded. He then saw
the man returning at the head of a crowd of countrymen, armed with
pitchforks and guns, and made up his mind that his turn had come.
However, he explained the situation, and had the satisfaction of seeing
that the crowd sided with him against their brutal compatriot. They
improvised a litter and carried the two victims back to the cantonment,
whilst the murderer quietly returned to his work.

When the extraordinary brutality of the attack and its unprovoked nature
became known, such indignation was felt among the French officers in the
cantonment that they drew up a remonstrance to the British Government,
with the translation of which into English Garneray was entrusted.
Whilst engaged in this a rough-mannered stranger called on him and
warned him that he had best have nothing to do with the remonstrance.

He took the translated document to his brother officers, and on his way
back a little English girl of twelve years quietly and mysteriously
signed to him to follow her. He did so to a wretched cottage, wherein
lived the grandmother of the child. Garneray had been kind to the poor
old woman and had painted the child’s portrait for nothing, and in
return she warned him that the constables were going to arrest him.
Garneray determined to escape.

He got away from Bishop’s Waltham and was fortunate enough to get an
inside place in a night coach, the other places being occupied by an
English clergyman, his wife, and daughter. Miss Flora soon recognized
him as an escaped prisoner and came to his rescue when, at a halting
place, the coach was searched for a runaway from Bishop’s Waltham.
Eventually he reached Portsmouth, where he found a good English friend
of his prison-ship days, and with him he stayed in hiding for nearly a
year, until April 1813.

Longing to return to France, he joined with three recently-escaped
French officers in an arrangement with smugglers—the usual
intermediaries in these escapes—to take them there. To cut short a long
story of adventure and misadventure, such as we shall have in plenty
when we come to that part of this section which deals with the escapes
of paroled prisoners, Garneray and his companions at last embarked with
the smugglers at an agreed price of £10 each.

The smugglers turned out to be rascals; and a dispute with them about
extra charges ended in a mid-Channel fight, during which one of the
smugglers was killed. Within sight of the French coast the British ship
_Victory_ captured them, and once more Garneray found himself in the
_cachot_ of the Portsmouth prison-ship _Vengeance_.

Garneray was liberated by the Treaty of Paris in 1814, after nine years’
captivity. He was then appointed Court Marine Painter to Louis XVIII,
and received the medal of the Legion of Honour.

The Marquis d’Hautpol was taken prisoner at Arapiles, badly wounded, in
July 1812, and with some four hundred other prisoners was landed at
Portsmouth on December 12, and thence sent on parole to ‘Brigsnorth,
petite ville de la Principauté de Galles’, clearly meant for Bridgnorth
in Shropshire. Here, he says, were from _eight to nine hundred_ other
prisoners, some of whom had been there eight or nine years, but
certainly he must have been mistaken, for at no parole place were ever
more than four hundred prisoners. The usual rules obtained here, and the
allowance was the equivalent of one franc fifty centimes a day.

Wishing to employ his time profitably he engaged a fellow-prisoner to
teach him English, to whom he promised a salary as soon as he should
receive his remittances. A letter from his brother-in-law told him that
his sisters, believing him dead, as they had received no news from him,
had gone into mourning, and enclosed a draft for 4,000 francs, which
came through the bankers Perregaux of Paris and ‘Coutz’ of London. He
complains bitterly of the sharp practices of the local Agent, who paid
him his 4,000 francs, but in paper money, which was at the time at a
discount of twenty-five per cent, and who, upon his claiming the
difference, ‘me répondit fort insolemment que le papier anglais valait
autant que l’or français, et que si je me permettais d’attaquer encore
le crédit de la banque, il me ferait conduire aux pontons’. So he had to
accept the situation.

The Marquis, as we shall see, was not the man to invent such an
accusation, so it may be believed that the complaints so often made
about the unfair practice of the British Government, in the matter of
moneys due to prisoners, were not without foundation. The threat of the
Agent to send the Marquis to the hulks if he persisted in claiming his
dues, may have been but a threat, but it sounds as if these gentlemen
were invested with very great powers. The Marquis and a fellow prisoner,
Dechevrières, adjutant of the 59th, messed together, modestly, but
better than the other poorer men, who clubbed together and bought an ox
head, with which they made soup and ate with potatoes.

A cousin of the Marquis, the Comtesse de Béon, knew a Miss Vernon, one
of the Queen’s ladies of honour, and she introduced the Marquis to Lord
‘Malville’, whose seat was near Bridgnorth, and who invited him to the
house. I give d’Hautpol’s impression in his own words:

‘Ce lord était poli, mais, comme tous les Anglais, ennemi mortel de la
France. J’étais humilié de ses prévenances qui sentaient la protection.
Je revins cependant une seconde fois chez lui; il y avait ce jour-là
nombreuse compagnie; plusieurs officiers anglais s’y trouvaient. Sans
égards pour ma position et avec une certaine affectation, ils se mirent
à déblatérer en français contre l’Empereur et l’armée. Je me levai de
table indigné, et demandai à Lord Malville la permission de me retirer;
il s’efforce de me retenir en blâmant ses compatriotes, mais je
persistai. Je n’acceptai plus d’invitations chez lui.’

All good news from the seat of war, says the Marquis, was carefully
hidden from the prisoners, so that they heard nothing about Lützen,
Bautzen, and Dresden. But the news of Leipsic was loudly proclaimed. The
prisoners could not go out of doors without being insulted. One day the
people dressed up a figure to represent Bonaparte, put it on a donkey,
and paraded the town with it. Under the windows of the lodging of
General Veiland, who had been taken at Badajos, of which place he was
governor, they rigged up a gibbet, hung the figure on it, and afterwards
burned it.

At one time a general uprising of the prisoners of war in England was
seriously discussed. There were in Britain 5,000 officers on parole, and
60,000 men on the hulks and in prisons. The idea was to disarm the
guards all at once, to join forces at a given point, to march on
Plymouth, liberate the men on the hulks, and thence go to Portsmouth and
do the same there. But the authorities became suspicious, the generals
were separated from the other officers, and many were sent to distant
cantonments. The Marquis says that there were 1,500 at Bridgnorth, and
that half of these were sent to Oswestry. This was in November, 1813.

So to Oswestry d’Hautpol was sent. From Oswestry during his stay escaped
three famous St. Malo privateer captains. After a terrible journey of
risks and privations they reached the coast—he does not say where—and
off it they saw at anchor a trading vessel of which nearly all the crew
had come ashore. In the night the prisoners swam out, with knives in
their mouths, and boarded the brig. They found a sailor sleeping on
deck; him they stabbed, and also another who was in the cabin. They
spared the cabin boy, who showed them the captain’s trunks, with the
contents of which they dressed themselves. Then they cut the cable,
hoisted sail and made off—all within gunshot of a man-of-war. They
reached Morlaix in safety, although pursued for some distance by a
man-of-war. The brig was a valuable prize, for she had just come from
the West Indies, and was richly laden. This the Frenchmen at Oswestry
learned from the English newspapers, and they celebrated the exploit

Just after this the Marquis received a letter from Miss Vernon, in which
she said that if he chose to join the good Frenchmen who were praying
for restoration of the Bourbons, she would get him a passport which
would enable him to join Louis XVIII at Hartwell. To this the Marquis
replied that he had been made prisoner under the tricolour, that he was
still in the Emperor’s service, and that for the moment he had no idea
of changing his flag, adding that rather than do this he preferred to
remain a prisoner. Miss Vernon did not write again on this topic until
the news came of the great events of 1814—the victories of the British
at San Sebastian, Pampeluna, the Bidassoa, the Adur, Orthez and
Toulouse, when she wrote:

‘I hope that now you have no more scruples; I send you a passport for
London; come and see me, for I shall be delighted to renew our

He accepted the offer, went to London, and found Miss Vernon lodged in
St. James’s Palace. Here she got apartments for him; he was fêted and
lionized and taken to see the sights of London in a royal carriage. At
Westminster Hall he was grieved to see the eagle of the 39th regiment,
taken during the retreat from Portugal, and that of the 101st, taken at
Arapiles. Then he returned to France.

                             CHAPTER XXIII

With the great Scottish prisons at Perth, Valleyfield, and Edinburgh I
have dealt elsewhere, and it is with very particular pleasure that I
shall now treat of the experiences of prisoners in the parole towns of
Scotland, for the reason that, almost without exception, our involuntary
visitors seem to have been treated with a kindness and forbearance not
generally characteristic of the reception they had south of the Tweed,
although of course there were exceptions.

As we shall see, Sir Walter Scott took kindly notice of the foreigners
quartered in his neighbourhood, but that he never lost sight of the fact
that they were foreigners and warriors is evident from the following
letter to Lady Abercorn, dated May 3, 1812:

‘I am very apprehensive of the consequences of a scarcity at this
moment, especially from the multitude of French prisoners who are
scattered through the small towns in this country; as I think, very
improvidently. As the peace of this county is intrusted to me, I thought
it necessary to state to the Justice Clerk that the arms of the local
militia were kept without any guard in a warehouse in Kelso; that there
was nothing to prevent the prisoners there, at Selkirk, and at Jedburgh,
from joining any one night, and making themselves masters of this dépôt:
that the sheriffs of Roxburgh and Selkirk, in order to put down such a
commotion, could only command about three troops of yeomanry to be
collected from a great distance, and these were to attack about 500
disciplined men, who, in the event supposed, would be fully provided
with arms and ammunition, and might, if any alarm should occasion the
small number of troops now at Berwick to be withdrawn, make themselves
masters of that sea-port, the fortifications of which, although ruinous,
would serve to defend them until cannon was brought against them.’

The Scottish towns where prisoners of war on parole were quartered, of
which I have been able to get information, are Cupar, Kelso, Selkirk,
Peebles, Sanquhar, Dumfries, Melrose, Jedburgh, Hawick, and Lauder.

By the kind permission of Mrs. Keddie (‘Sarah Tytler’) I am able to give
very interesting extracts from her book, _Three Generations: The Story
of a Middle-Class Scottish Family_, referring to the residence of the
prisoners at Cupar, and the friendly intercourse between them and Mrs.
Keddie’s grandfather, Mr. Henry Gibb, of Balass, Cupar.

‘Certainly the foreign officers were made curiously welcome in the
country town, which their presence seemed to enliven rather than to
offend. The strangers’ courageous endurance, their perennial
cheerfulness, their ingenious devices to occupy their time and improve
the situation, aroused much friendly interest and amusement. The
position must have been rendered more bearable to the sufferers, and
perhaps more respectable in the eyes of the spectators, from the fact,
for which I am not able to account, that, undoubtedly, the prisoners had
among themselves, individually and collectively, considerable funds.

‘The residents treated the jetsam and flotsam of war with more than
forbearance, with genuine liberality and kindness, receiving them into
their houses on cordial terms. Soon there was not a festivity in the
town at which the French prisoners were not permitted—nay, heartily
pressed to attend. How the complacent guests viewed those rejoicings in
which the natives, as they frequently did, commemorated British
victories over the enemy is not on record.

‘But there was no thought of war and its fierce passions among the youth
of the company in the simple dinners, suppers, and carpet-dances in
private houses. There were congratulations on the abundance of pleasant
partners, and the assurance that no girl need now sit out a dance or
lack an escort if her home was within a certain limited distance beyond
which the prisoners were not at liberty to stray.

‘I have heard my mother and a cousin of hers dwell on the courtesy and
agreeableness of the outlanders—what good dancers, what excellent
company, as the country girls’ escorts.... As was almost inevitable, the
natural result of such intimacy followed, whether or not it was
acceptable to the open-hearted entertainers. Love and marriage ensued
between the youngsters, the vanquished and the victors. A Colonel, who
was one of the band, married a daughter of the Episcopal clergyman in
the town, and I am aware of at least two more weddings which eventually
took place between the strangers and the inhabitants. (These occurred at
the end of the prisoners’ stay.)’

Balass, where the Gibbs lived, was within parole limits. One day Gibb
asked the whole lot of the prisoners to breakfast, and forgot to tell
Mrs. Gibb that he had done so.

‘Happily she was a woman endowed with tranquillity of temper, while the
ample resources of an old bountiful farmhouse were speedily brought to
bear on the situation, dispensed as they were by the fair and capable
henchwomen who relieved the mistress of the house of the more arduous of
her duties. There was no disappointment in store for the patient,
ingenious gentlemen who were wont to edify and divert their nominal
enemy by making small excursions into the fields to snare larks for
their private breakfast-tables.

‘Another generous invitation of my grandfather’s ran a narrow risk of
having a tragic end. Not all his sense of the obligation of a host nor
his compassion for the misfortunes of a gallant foe could at times
restrain race antagonism, and his intense mortification at any
occurrence which would savour of national discomfiture. Once, in
entertaining some of these foreign officers, among whom was a _maître
d’armes_, Harry Gibb was foolish enough to propose a bout of fencing
with the expert. It goes without saying that within the first few
minutes the yeoman’s sword was dexterously knocked out of his hand....
Every other consideration went down before the deadly insult. In less
time than it takes to tell the story the play became grim earnest. My
grandfather turned his fists on the other combatant, taken unawares and
not prepared for the attack, sprang like a wild-cat at his throat, and,
if the bystanders had not interposed and separated the pair, murder
might have been committed under his own roof by the kindest-hearted man
in the countryside.’

This increasing intimacy between the prisoners and the inhabitants
displeased the Government, and the crisis came when, in return for the
kindness shown them, the prisoners determined to erect a theatre:

‘The French prisoners were suffered to play only once in their theatre,
and then the rout came for them. Amidst loud and sincere lamentation
from all concerned, the officers were summarily removed in a body, and
deposited in a town at some distance ... from their former guardians. As
a final _gage d’amitié_ ... the owners of the theatre left it a a gift
to the town.’

Later—in the ‘thirties—this theatre was annexed to the Grammar School to
make extra class-rooms, for it was an age when Scotland was opposed to


For some of the following notes, I am indebted to the late Mr. Macbeth
Forbes, who helped me notably elsewhere, and who kindly gave me
permission to use them.

Some of the prisoners on parole at Kelso were sailors, but the majority
were soldiers from Spain, Portugal, and the West Indies, and about
twenty Sicilians. The inhabitants gave them a warm welcome, hospitably
entertained them, and in return the prisoners, many of whom were men of
means, gave balls at the inns—the only establishments in these
pre-parish hall days where accommodation for large parties could be
had—at which they appeared gaily attired with wondrous frills to their
shirts, and white stockings.

‘The time of their stay’, says Mr. Forbes, ‘was the gayest that Kelso
had ever seen since fatal Flodden.’

Here as elsewhere there were artists among them who painted miniatures
and landscapes and gave lessons, plaiters of straw and manufacturers of
curious beautiful articles in coloured straw, wood-carvers, botanists,
and fishermen. These last, it is said, first introduced the sport of
catching fish through holes in the ice in mid-winter. Billiards, also,
are said to have been introduced into Scotland by the prisoners. They
mostly did their own cooking, and it is noted that they spoiled some of
the landladies’ tables by chopping up frogs for fricassees. They bought
up the old Kelso ‘theatre’, the occasional scene of action for wandering
Thespians, which was in a close off the Horse-Market, rebuilt and
decorated it, some of the latter work still being visible in the ceiling
of the ironmongery store of to-day. One difficulty was the very scanty
dressing accommodation, so the actors often dressed at home, and their
passage therefrom to the theatre in all sorts of garbs was a grand
opportunity for the gibes of the youth of Kelso. Kelso was nothing if
not ‘proper’, so that when upon one occasion the postmistress, a married
woman, was seen accompanying a fantastically arrayed prisoner-actor to
the theatre from his lodging, Mrs. Grundy had much to say for some time.
On special occasions, such as when the French play was patronized by a
local grandee like the Duchess of Roxburgh, the streets were carpeted
with red cloth.

Brément, a privateer officer, advertised: ‘Mr. Brément, Professor of
Belles-Lettres and French Prisoner of War, respectfully informs the
ladies and gentlemen of Kelso that he teaches the French and Latin
languages. Apply for terms at Mrs. Matheson’s, near the Market Place.’
He is said to have done well.

Many of the privateersmen spoke English, as might be expected from their
constant intercourse with men and places in the Channel.

One prisoner here was suspected of being concerned with the manufacture
of forged bank-notes, so rife at this time in Scotland, as he ordered of
Archibald Rutherford, stationer, paper of a particular character of
which he left a pattern.

Escapes were not very frequent. On July 25, 1811, Surgeon-Major
Violland, of the _Hebe_ corvette, escaped. So did Ensign Parnagan, of
the _Hautpol_ privateer, on August 5, and on 23rd of the same month
Lieutenant Rossignol got away. On November 11 one Bouchart escaped, and
in June 1812 Lieutenant Anglade was missing, and a year later several
got off, assisted, it was said, by an American, who was arrested.

In November 1811 the removal of all ‘midshipmen’ to Valleyfield, which
was ordered at all Scottish parole towns, took place from Kelso.

Lieutenant Journeil, of the 27th Regiment, committed suicide in
September 1812 by swallowing sulphuric acid. He is said to have become
insane from home-sickness. He was buried at the Knowes, just outside the
churchyard, it being unconsecrated ground.

A Captain Levasseur married an aunt of Sir George Harrison, M.P., a
former Provost of Edinburgh, and the Levasseurs still keep up
correspondence with Scotland.

On May 24, 1814, the prisoners began to leave, and by the middle of June
all had gone. The _Kelso Mail_ said that ‘their deportment had been
uniformly conciliatory and respectable’.

In Fullarton’s _Imperial Gazetteer_ of Scotland we read that:

‘From November 1810 to June 1814, Kelso was the abode of a body, never
more than 230 in number, of foreign prisoners of war, who, to a very
noticeable degree, inoculated the place with their fashionable follies,
and even, in some instances tainted it with their laxity of morals.’

Another account says:

‘Their stay here seems to have been quiet and happy, although one man
committed suicide. They carried on the usual manufactures in wood and
bone and basket work; gave performances in the local theatre, which was
decorated by them; were variously employed by local people, one man
devoting his time to the tracking and snaring of a rare bird which
arrived during severe weather.’

Rutherford’s _Southern Counties Register and Directory_ for 1866 says:

‘The older inhabitants of Kelso remember the French prisoners of war
quartered here as possessed of many amiable qualities, of which “great
mannerliness” and buoyancy of spirits, in many instances under the
depressing effects of great poverty, were the most conspicuous of their
peculiarities; the most singular to the natives of Kelso was their habit
of gathering for use different kinds of wild weeds by the road side, and
hedge-roots, and killing small birds to eat—the latter a practise
considered not much removed from cannibalism. That they were frivolous
we will admit, as many of them wore ear-rings, and one, a Pole, had a
ring to his nose; while all were boyishly fond of amusement, and were
merry, good-natured creatures.’

One memorable outbreak of these spirits is recorded in the _Kelso Mail_
of January 30, 1812:

‘In consequence of certain riotous proceedings which took place in this
town near the East end of the Horn Market on Christmas last, by which
the peace of the neighbourhood was very much disturbed, an investigation
of the circumstances took place before our respectable magistrate,
Bailie Smith. From this it appeared that several of the French prisoners
of war here on parole had been dining together on Christmas Day, and
that a part of them were engaged in the riotous proceedings.’

These ‘riotous proceedings’ are said to have amounted to little more
than a more or less irregular arm-in-arm procession down the street to
the accompaniment of lively choruses. However, the Agent reported it to
the Transport Office, who ordered each prisoner to pay £1 1_s._ fine, to
be deducted from their allowance. The account winds up:

‘It is only an act of justice, however, to add that in so far as we have
heard, the conduct of the French prisoners here on parole has been
regular and inoffensive.’

On the anniversary of St. Andrew in 1810, the Kelso Lodge of Freemasons
was favoured with a visit from several French officers, prisoners of
war, at present resident in the town. The Right Worshipful in addressing
them, expressed the wishes of himself and the Brethren to do everything
in their power to promote the comfort and happiness of the exiles. After
which he proposed the health of the Brethren who were strangers in a
foreign land, which was drunk with enthusiastic applause.

There is frequent mention of their appearance at Masonic meetings, when
the ‘harmony was greatly increased by the polite manners and the vocal
power of our French Brethren’.

There are a great many of their signatures on the parchment to which all
strangers had to subscribe their names by order of the Grand Lodge.[15]

The only war-prisoner relics in the museum are some swords.

I have to thank Sir George Douglas for the following interesting letters
from French prisoners in Kelso.

The first is in odd Latin, the second in fair English, the third in
French. The two latter I am glad to give as additional testimonies to
the kindly treatment of the enforced exiles amongst us.

The first is as follows:

‘Kelso: die duodecima mensis Augusti anni 1811.

‘Honorifice Praefecte:

‘Monitum te facio, hoc mane, die duodecima mensis Augusti, hora decima
et semi, per vicum transeuntem vestimenta mea omnino malefacta fuisse
cum aqua tam foetida ac mulier quae jactavit illam.

‘Noxia mulier quae vestimenta mea, conceptis verbis, abluere noluit,
culpam insulsitate cumulando, uxor est domino Wm. Stuart Lanio

‘Ut persuasum mihi est hanc civitatem optimis legibus nimis constitutam
esse ut ille eventus impunitus feratur, de illo certiorem te facio,
magnifice Praefecte, ut similis casus iterum non renovetur erga captivos
Gallos, quorum tu es curator, et, occurente occasione, defensor.

‘Quandoquidem aequitas tua non mihi soli sed cunctis plane nota est, spe
magna nitor te jus dicturam expostulationi meae, cogendo praedictam
mulierem et quamprimum laventur vestimenta mea. In ista expectatione
gratam habeas salutationem illius qui mancipio et nexo, honoratissime
praefecte, tuus est.


 ‘Honorato, Honoratissimo Domino Smith,
   ‘Captivorum Gallorum praefecto. Kelso.’

The gist of the above being that Mrs. Stuart threw dirty water over M.
Matrien as he passed along the street in Kelso, and he demands her
punishment and the cleansing of his clothes.

The second letter runs:

                                    ‘Paris, on the 6th day of May, 1817.


‘I have since I left Kelso wrote many letters to my Scots friends, but I
have been unfortunate enough to receive no answer. The wandering life I
have led during four years is, without doubt, the cause of that silence,
for my friends have been so good to me that I cannot imagine they have
entirely forgotten me. In all my letters my heart has endeavoured to
prove how thankful I was, but my gratitude is of that kind that one may
feel but cannot express. Pray, my good Sir, if you remember yet your
prisonner, be so kind as to let him have a few lignes from you and all
news about all his old good friends.

‘The difficulty which I have to express myself in your tongue, and the
countryman of yours who is to take my letter, compel me to end sooner
than I wish, but if expressions want to my mouth, be assure in revange
that my heart shall always be full of all those feelings which you
deserve so rightly.

‘Farewell, I wish you all kind of happiness.

                                             ‘Your friend for ever,
                                      ‘LE CHEVALIER LEBAS DE STE. CROIX.

‘My direction: à Monsieur le Chevalier Lebas de Ste. Croix, Capitaine à
la légion de l’Isère, caserne de La Courtille à Paris. P.S.—All my
thanks and good wishes first to your family, to the family Waldie,
Davis, Doctor Douglas, Rutherford, and my good landlady Mistress Elliot.

                                  ‘To Mister John Smith Esq.,
                                                  ‘bridge street,
                                                      ‘Kelso, Scotland.’

(In Kelso, towards the end of 1912, I had the pleasure of making the
acquaintance of Mr. Provost Smith, grandson of the gentleman to whom the
foregoing two letters were addressed, and Mr. Smith was kind enough to
present me with a tiny ring of bone, on which is minutely worked the
legend: ‘I love to see you’, done by a French officer on parole in Kelso
in 1811.)

The third letter is as follows:

‘Je, soussigné officier de la Légion d’Honneur, Lieutenant Colonel au
8^e Régiment de Dragons, sensible aux bons traitements que les
prisonniers français sur parole en cette ville reçoivent journellement
de la part de Mr. Smith, law agent, invite en mon nom et en celui de mes
compagnons d’infortune ceux de nos compatriotes entre les mains desquels
le hasard de la guerre pourroit faire tomber Mesdemoiselles St. Saure
(?) d’avoir pour elles tous les égards et attentions qu’elles méritent,
et de nous aider par tous les bons offices qu’ils pourront rendre à ces
dames à acquitter une partie de la reconnaissance que nous devons à leur

 ‘Kelso. 7 Avril, 1811.



In 1811, ninety-three French prisoners arrived at Selkirk, many of them
army surgeons. Their mile limits from the central point were, on the
Hawick road, to Knowes; over the bridge, as far as the Philiphaugh
entries; and towards Bridgehead, the ‘Prisoners’ Bush’. An old man named
Douglas, says Mr. Craig-Brown (from whose book on Selkirk, I take this
information, and to whom I am indebted for much hospitality and his many
pains in acting as my mentor in Selkirk), remembered them coming to his
father’s tavern at Heathenlie for their morning rum, and astonishing the
people with what they ate. ‘They made tea out of dried whun blooms and
skinned the verra paddas. The doctor anes was verra clever, and some of
them had plenty o’ siller.’

On October 13, 1811, the prisoners constructed a balloon, and sent it up
amidst such excitement as Selkirk rarely felt. Indeed, the Yeomanry then
out for their training could not be mustered until they had seen the

A serious question came up in 1814 concerning the public burden which
the illegitimate children of these gentlemen were causing, and
complaints were sent to the Transport Office, whose reply was that the
fathers of the children were liable to the civil law, and that unless
they should provide for their maintenance, they should go to prison.

Two of the prisoners quarrelled about a girl and fought a bloodless duel
at Linglee for half an hour, when the authorities appeared upon the
scene and arrested the principals, who were sent to jail for a month.

Mr. J. John Vernon wrote:

‘In an article upon the old Selkirk Subscription Library, reference is
made to the use of the Library by the officers who were confined in
Selkirk and district during the Napoleonic wars.

‘Historical reference is furnished incidentally in the pages of the Day
Book—the register of volumes borrowed and returned. There is no mention
of such a privilege being conferred by the members or committee, but, as
a matter of fact, all the French officers who were prisoners in Selkirk
during the Napoleonic wars were allowed to take books from the Library
as freely and as often as they chose. Beginning with April 5th, 1811,
and up to May 4th, 1814, there were no less than 132 closely written
foolscap pages devoted exclusively to their book-borrowing transactions.
They were omnivorous readers, with a _penchant_ for History and
Biography, but devouring all sorts of literature from the poetical to
the statistical. Probably because the Librarian could not trust himself
to spell them, the officers themselves entered their names, as well as
the names of books. Sometimes, when they made an entry for a comrade
they made blunders in spelling the other man’s name: that of Forsonney,
for instance, being given in four or five different ways. As the total
number of prisoners was 94, it can be concluded from the list appended
that only two or three did not join the Library.

‘Besides the French prisoners, the students attending Professor Lawson’s
lectures seem to have had the privilege of reading, but for them all
about two pages suffice. It is said that, moved by a desire to bring
these benighted foreigners to belief in the true faith, Doctor Lawson
added French to the more ancient languages he was already proficient in,
but the aliens were nearly all men of education who knew their Voltaire,
with the result that the Professor made poor progress with his well
meant efforts at proselytism, if he did not even receive a shock to his
own convictions.’

There were several Masonic Brethren among the foreign prisoners at
Selkirk, and it is noteworthy that on March 9, 1812, it was proposed by
the Brethren of this Lodge that on account of the favour done by some of
the French Brethren, they should be enrolled as honorary members of the
Lodge, and this was unanimously agreed to.

It should be noted that the French Brethren were a numerous body,
twenty-three of their names being added to the roll of St. John’s; and
we find that, as at Melrose, they formed themselves into a separate
Lodge and initiated their fellow countrymen in their own tongue.

In what was known as Lang’s Barn, now subdivided into cottages, the
French prisoners extemporized a theatre, and no doubt some of their
decorative work lies hidden beneath the whitewash. The barn was the
property of the grandfather of the late Andrew Lang.

The experiences of Sous-lieutenant Doisy de Villargennes, of the 26th
French line regiment, I shall now relate with particular pleasure, not
only on account of their unusual interest, but because they reflect the
brightest side of captivity in Britain. Doisy was wounded after Fuentes
d’Oñoro in May 1811, and taken prisoner. He was moved to hospital at
Celorico, where he formed a friendship with Captain Pattison, of the
73rd. Thence he was sent to Fort Belem at Lisbon, which happened to be
garrisoned by the 26th British Regiment, a coincidence which at once
procured for him the friendship of its officers, who caused him to be
lodged in their quarters, and to be treated rather as an honoured guest
than as a prisoner, but with one bad result—that the extraordinary good
living aggravated his healing wound, and he was obliged to return to
hospital. These were days of heavy drinking, and Lisbon lay in the land
of good and abundant wine; hosts and guest had alike fared meagrely and
hardly for a long time, so that it is not difficult to account for the
effect of the abrupt change upon poor Doisy. However, he pulled round,
and embarked for Portsmouth, not on the ordinary prisoner transport, but
as guest of Pattison on a war-ship. Doisy, with sixty other officers,
were landed at Gosport, and, contrary to the usual rule, allowed to be
on parole in the town previous to their dispatch to their

At the Gosport prison—Forton—whither he went to look up comrades, Doisy
was overjoyed to meet with his own foster-brother, whom he had persuaded
to join his regiment, and whom he had given up as lost at Fuentes
d’Oñoro, and he received permission to spend some time with him in the
prison. I give with very great pleasure Doisy’s remarks upon captivity
in England in general, and in its proper place under the heading of
Forton Prison (see pp. 217–18) will be found his description of that
place, which is equally pleasant reading.

‘I feel it my duty here, in the interests of truth and justice, to
combat an erroneous belief concerning the hard treatment of prisoners of
war in England.... No doubt, upon the hulks they led a very painful
existence; execrable feeding, little opportunity for exercise, and a
discipline extremely severe, even perhaps cruel. Such was their fate.
But we must remember that only refractory prisoners were sent to the

(Here we must endorse a note of the editor of Doisy’s book, to the
effect that this is inaccurate, inasmuch as there were 19,000 prisoners
upon the hulks, and they could not all have been ‘refractory’.)

‘These would upset the discipline of prisons like Gosport. Also we must
remember that the inmates of the hulks were chiefly the crews of
privateers, and that privateering was not considered fair warfare by
England.’ (Strange to say, the editor passes over this statement without
comment.) ‘At Forton there reigned the most perfect order, under a
discipline severe but humane. We heard no sobbings of despair, we saw no
unhappiness in the eyes of the inmates, but, on the contrary, on all
sides resounded shouts of laughter, and the chorus of patriotic songs.’

In after years, when Germain Lamy, the foster-brother, was living a free
man in France, Doisy says that in conversation Lamy never alluded to the
period of his captivity in England without praising warmly the integrity
and the liberality of all the Englishmen with whom as a prisoner-trader
he had business relations. ‘Such testimonies,’ says Doisy, ‘and others
of like character, cannot but weaken the feelings of hatred and
antagonism roused by war between the two nations.’

In a few days Doisy was marched off to Odiham, but, on account of the
crowded state of the English parole towns, it was decided to send the
newcomers to Scotland, and so, on October 1, 1811, they landed at Leith,
190 in number, and marched to Selkirk, via Edinburgh and the dépôt at

There was some difficulty at first in finding lodgings in the small
Scottish town for so large a number of strangers, but when it was
rumoured that they were largely gentlemen of means and likely to spend
their money freely, accommodation was quickly forthcoming.

Living in Scotland Doisy found to be very much cheaper than in England,
and the weekly pay of half a guinea, regularly received through Coutts,
he found sufficient, if not ample. His lodging cost but half a crown a
week, and as the prisoners messed in groups, and, moreover, had no local
hindrance to the excellent fishing in Ettrick and Tweed, board was
probably proportionately moderate. As the French prisoners in Selkirk
spent upon an average £150 a week in the little town, and were there for
two years and a half, no less a sum than £19,500 was poured into the
local pocket.

The exiles started a French café in which was a billiard table brought
from Edinburgh, to which none but Frenchmen were admitted; gathered
together an orchestra of twenty-two and gave Saturday concerts, which
were extensively patronized by the inhabitants and the surrounding
gentry; and with their own hands built a theatre accommodating 200

‘Les costumes,’ said Doisy, ‘surtout ceux des rôles féminins, nous
nécessitaient de grands efforts d’habilité. Aucun de nous n’avait
auparavant exercé le métier de charpentier, tapissier, de tailleur,
ou . . . fait son apprentissage chez une couturière. L’intelligence,
toutefois, stimulée par la volonté, peut engendrer de petits miracles.’

They soon had a répertoire of popular tragedies and comedies, and gave a
performance every Wednesday.

On each of the four main roads leading out of the town there was at the
distance of a mile a notice-board on which was inscribed: ‘Limite des
Prisonniers de Guerre.’ As evidence of the goodwill generally borne
towards the foreigners by the country folk, when a waggish prisoner
moved one of these boards a mile further on, no information was lodged
about it, and although a reward of one guinea was paid to anybody
arresting a prisoner beyond limits, or out of his lodgings at forbidden
hours, it was very rarely claimed. Some of the prisoners indeed were
accustomed daily to go fishing some miles down the rivers.

The French prisoners did not visit the Selkirk townsfolk, for the
‘classy’ of the latter had come to the resolution not to associate with
them at all; but the priggish exclusiveness or narrow prejudice, or
whatever it might have been, was amply atoned for by the excellent
friendships formed in the surrounding neighbourhoods. There was Mr.
Anderson, a gentleman farmer, who invited the Frenchmen to fish and
regaled them in typical old-time Scots fashion afterwards; there was a
rich retired lawyer, whose chief sorrow was that he could not keep sober
during his entertainment of them: there was Mr. Thorburn, another
gentleman farmer, who introduced them to grilled sheep’s head,
salmagundi, and a cheese of his own making, of which he was particularly

But above all there was the ‘shirra’, then Mr. Walter Scott, who took a
fancy to a bright and lively young Frenchman, Tarnier by name, and often
invited him and two or three friends to Abbotsford—Doisy calls it
‘Melrose Abbey’. This was in February 1812. Mrs. Scott, whom, Doisy
says, Scott had married in _Berlin_—was only seen some minutes before
dinner, never at the repast itself. She spoke French perfectly, says
Doisy. Scott, he says, was a very different man as host in his own house
from what they judged him to be from his appearance in the streets of
Selkirk. ‘Un homme enjoué, à la physionomie ordinaire et peu
significative, à l’attitude même un peu gauche, à la démarche vulgaire
et aux allures à l’avenant, causées probablement par sa boiterie.’ But
at Abbotsford his guests found him, on the contrary, a gentleman full of
cordiality and gaiety, receiving his friends with amiability and
delicacy. The rooms at Abbotsford, says Doisy, were spacious and well
lighted, and the table not sumptuous, but refined.

Doisy tells us that what seemed to be the all-absorbing subject of
conversation at the Abbotsford dinner-table was Bonaparte. No matter
into what other channel the talk drifted, their host would hark back to
Bonaparte, and never wearied of the anecdotes and details about him
which the guests were able to give. Little did his informants think
that, ten years later, much that they told him would appear, as Doisy
says, in a distorted form rarely favourable to the great man, in Scott’s
_Life of Bonaparte_. He quotes instances, and is at no pains to hide his
resentment at what he considers a not very dignified or proper
proceeding on the part of Sir Walter.

Only on one prominent occasion was the friendly feeling between the
prisoners and the Selkirk people disturbed.

On August 15, 1813, the Frenchmen, in number ninety, united to celebrate
the Emperor’s birthday at their café, the windows of which opened on to
the public garden. They feasted, made speeches, drank numberless toasts,
and sang numberless patriotic songs. As it was found that they had a
superabundance of food, it was decided to distribute it among the crowd
assembled in the public garden, but with the condition that every one
who accepted it should doff his hat and cry ‘Vive l’Empereur Napoléon!’
But although a couple of Frenchmen stood outside, each with a viand in
one hand and a glass of liquor in the other, not a Scotsman would comply
with the condition, and all went away. One man, a sort of factotum of
the Frenchmen, who made a considerable deal of money out of them in one
way and another, and who was known as ‘Bang Bay’, from his habit, when
perplexed with much questioning and ordering, of replying ‘by and by’,
did accept the food and drink, and utter the required cry, and his
example was followed by a few others, but the original refusers still
held aloof and gathered together in the garden, evidently in no
peaceable mood.

Presently, as the feast proceeded and the celebrants were listening to a
song composed for the occasion, a stone was thrown through the window,
and hit Captain Gruffaud of the Artillery. He rushed out and demanded
who had thrown it. Seeing a young man grinning, Gruffaud accused him,
and as the youth admitted it, Gruffaud let him have the stone full in
the face. A disturbance being at once imminent, the French officers
broke up chairs, &c., to arm themselves against an attack, and the
crowd, seeing this, dispersed. Soon after, the Agent, Robert Henderson,
hurried up to say that the crowd had armed themselves and were
re-assembling, and that as the Frenchmen were in the wrong, inasmuch as
they had exceeded their time-limit, nine o’clock, by an hour, he
counselled them to go home quietly. So the matter ended, and Doisy
remarks that no evil resulted, and that Scots and French became better
comrades than ever.

Another event might have resulted in a disturbance. At the news of a
victory by Wellington in Spain, the Selkirk people set their bells
ringing, and probably rejoiced with some ostentation. A short time
after, says Doisy, came the news of a great French victory in Russia
(?). The next day, Sunday, some French officers attended a Quakers’
meeting in their house, and managed to hide themselves. At midnight a
dozen of their comrades were admitted through the window, bringing with
them a coil of rope which they made fast to that of the meeting-house
bell, and rang vigorously, awakening the town and bringing an amazed
crowd to the place, and in the confusion the actors of the comedy
escaped. Then came the Peace of 1814, and the Frenchmen were informed
that on April 20 a vessel would be at Berwick to take them to France.
The well-to-do among them proposed to travel by carriage to Berwick, but
it was later decided that all funds should be united and that they
should go on foot, and to defray expenses £60 was collected. Before
leaving, it was suggested that a considerable increase might be made to
their exchequer if they put up to auction the structure of the theatre,
as well as the properties and dresses, which had cost £120. Tarnier was
chosen auctioneer, and the bidding was started at £50, but in spite of
his eloquence the highest bid was £40. So they decided to have some fun
at the last. All the articles were carried to the field which the
prisoners had hired for playing football, and a last effort was made to
sell them. But the highest bid was only £2 more than before. Rather than
sell at such a ridiculous price, the Frenchmen, armed with sticks and
stones, formed a circle round the objects for sale, and set fire to
them, a glorious bonfire being the result.

The day of departure came. Most of the Frenchmen had passed the previous
night in the Public Garden, singing, and drinking toasts, so that all
were up betimes, and prepared for their tramp. Their delight and
astonishment may be imagined when they beheld a defile of all sorts of
vehicles, and even of saddle-horses, into the square, and learned that
these had been provided by the people of Selkirk to convey them to
Kelso, half way to Berwick.

Says Doisy: ‘Nous nous séparâmes donc de nos amis de Selkirk sans garder
d’une part et d’autre aucun des sentiments de rancune pouvant exister

Mr. Craig-Brown relates the following anecdote:

‘Many years after the war, in the Southern States of America, two young
Selkirk lads were astonished to see themselves looked at with evident
earnestness by two foreigners within earshot of them. At last one of the
latter, a distinguished-looking elderly gentleman, came up and said:
“Pardon, I think from your speech you come from Scotland?”

‘“We do.”

‘“Perhaps from the South of Scotland?”

‘“Yes, from Selkirk.”

‘“From Selkirk! Ah! I was certain: General! It is true. They are from
Selkirk.” Upon which his companion came up, who, looking at one of the
lads for a while, exclaimed:

‘“I am sure you are the son of ze, ze, leetle fat man who kills ze

‘“Faith! Ye’re recht!” said the astonished Scot. “My father was Tudhope,
the flesher!”

‘Upon which the more effusive of the officers fairly took him round the
neck, and gave him a hearty embrace. Making themselves known as two of
the old French prisoners, they insisted on the lads remaining in their
company, loaded them with kindness, and never tired of asking them
questions about their place of exile, and all its people, particularly
the sweethearts they and their comrades had left behind them.’


Although Peebles was not established as a parole town until 1803, a
great many French prisoners, not on parole, were here in 1798–9, most of
them belonging to the thirty-six-gun frigates _Coquille_ and _Résolue_,
belonging to the Brest squadron of the expedition to Ireland, which was
beaten by Sir John Warren. They were probably confined in the town jail.

The first parole prisoners were Dutch, Belgians, and Danes, ‘all of whom
took to learning cotton hand-loom weaving, and spent their leisure time
in fishing’, says Mr. W. Chambers. In 1810 about one hundred French,
Poles, and Italians came: ‘Gentlemanly in manner, they made for
themselves friends in the town and neighbourhood, those among them who
were surgeons occasionally assisting at a medical consultation. They set
up a theatre in what is now the public reading-room, and acted Molière
and Corneille. In 1811 all the “midshipmen” (gardes-marines) among them
were suddenly called to the Cross, and marched away to Valleyfield,
possibly an act of reprisal for Bonaparte’s action against English

Shortly after their removal, all the other prisoners were sent away from
Peebles, chiefly to Sanquhar. This removal is _said_ to have been
brought about by the terror of a lady of rank in the neighbourhood at so
many enemies being near Neidpath Castle, where were deposited the arms
of the Peeblesshire Militia.

Mr. Sanderson, of the Chambers Institute at Peebles, my indefatigable
conductor about and around the pleasant old Border town, told me that
there is still in Peebles a family named Bonong, said to be descended
from a French prisoner; that a Miss Wallink who went to Canada some
years ago as Mrs. Cranston, was descended from a Polish prisoner; that
there was recently a Mr. Lenoir at the Tontine Hotel (traditionally the
‘hotle’ which was Meg Dodd’s bugbear in _St. Ronan’s Well_), and that a
drawing master named Chastelaine came of French prisoner parentage.

In the Museum of the Chambers Institute are four excellent specimens of
French prisoner-made ship models, and on the plaster walls of a house
are a couple of poorly executed oil frescoes said to have been painted
by prisoners.

I have the kind permission of Messrs. Chambers to quote the following
very complete descriptions of French prisoner life at Peebles from the
_Memoirs of William and Robert Chambers_ by Mr. William Chambers.

‘1803. Not more than 20 or 30 of these foreign exiles arrived at this
early period. They were mostly Dutch and Walloons, with afterwards a few
Danes. These men did not repine. They nearly all betook themselves to
learn some handicraft to eke out their scanty allowance. At leisure
hours they might be seen fishing in long leather boots as if glad to
procure a few trout and eels. Two or three years later came a _détenu_
of a different class. He was seemingly the captain of a ship from the
French West Indies, who brought with him his wife and a negro
servant-boy named Jack. Black Jack, as we called him, was sent to the
school, where he played with the other boys on the town green, and at
length spoke and read like a native. He was a good-natured creature, and
became a general favourite. Jack was the first pure negro whom the boys
at that time had ever seen.

‘None of these classes of prisoner broke his parole, nor ever gave any
trouble to the authorities. They had not, indeed, any appearance of
being prisoners, for they were practically free to live and ramble about
within reasonable bounds where they liked.

‘In 1810 there was a large accession to this original body of prisoners
on parole. As many as one hundred and eleven were already on their way
to the town, and might be expected shortly. There was speedily a vast
sensation in the place. The local Militia had been disbanded. Lodgings
of all sorts were vacant. The new arrivals would on all hands be
heartily welcomed. On Tuesday, the expected French prisoners in an
unceremonious way began to drop in. As one of several boys, I went out
to meet them coming from Edinburgh. They came walking in twos and
threes, a few of them lame. Their appearance was startling, for they
were in military garb in which they had been captured in Spain. Some
were in light blue hussar dress, braided, with marks of sabre wounds.
Others were in dark blue uniform. Several wore large cocked hats, but
the greater number had undress caps. All had a gentlemanly air,
notwithstanding their generally dishevelled attire, their soiled boots,
and their visible marks of fatigue.

‘Before night they had all arrived, and, through the activity of the
Agent appointed by the Transport Board, they had been provided with
lodgings suitable to their slender allowance. This large batch of
prisoners on parole were, of course, all in the rank of naval or
military officers. Some had been pretty high in the service and seen a
good deal of fighting. Several were doctors, or, as they called
themselves, _officiers de santé_. Among the whole there were, I think,
about half a dozen midshipmen. A strange thing was their varied
nationality. Though spoken of as French, there was in the party a
mixture of Italians, Swiss, and Poles; but this we found out only after
some intercourse. Whatever their origin, they were warm adherents of
Napoleon, whose glory at this time was at its height. Lively in manner,
their minds were full of the recent struggle in the Peninsula.

‘Through the consideration of an enterprising grocer, the prisoners were
provided with a billiard table at which they spent much of their time.
So far well. But how did these unfortunate exiles contrive to live? How
did they manage to feed and clothe themselves, and pay for lodgings? The
allowance from Government was on a moderate scale. I doubt if it was
more than one shilling per head per diem. In various instances two
persons lived in a single room, but even that cost half-a-crown per
week. The truth is they must have been half starved, but for the
fortunate circumstance of a number of them having brought money—foreign
gold-pieces, concealed about their persons, which stores were
supplemented by remittances from France; and in a friendly way, at least
as regards the daily mess, or _table d’hôte_, the richer helped the
poorer, which was a good trait in their character. The messing together
was the great resource, and took place in a house hired for the purpose,
in which the cookery was conducted under the auspices of M. Lavoche, one
of the prisoners who was skilled in _cuisine_. My brother and I had some
dealings with Lavoche. We cultivated rabbits in a hutch built by
ourselves in the backyard, and sold them for the Frenchmen’s mess; the
money we got for them, usually eighteenpence a pair, being employed in
the purchase of books.

‘Billiards were indispensable, but something more was wanted. Without a
theatre, life was felt to be unendurable. But how was a theatre to be
secured? There was nothing of the kind in the place. The more eager of
the visitors managed to get out of the difficulty. There was an old and
disused ball-room. It was rather of confined dimensions, and low in the
roof, with a gallery at one end, over the entrance, for the
musicians.... Walter Scott’s mother, when a girl, (I was told,) had
crossed Minchmoor, a dangerously high hill, in a chaise, from the
adjacent country, to dance for a night in that little old ball-room. Now
set aside as unfashionable, the room was at anybody’s service, and came
quite handily for the Frenchmen. They fitted it up with a stage at the
inner end, and cross benches to accommodate 120 persons, independently
of perhaps 20 more in the musicians’ gallery. The thing was neatly got
up with scenery painted by M. Walther and M. Ragulski, the latter a
young Pole. No licence was required for the theatre, for it was
altogether a private undertaking. Money was not taken at the door, and
no tickets were sold. Admission was gained by complimentary billets
distributed chiefly among persons with whom the actors had established
an intimacy.

‘Among these favoured individuals was my father, who, carrying on a
mercantile concern, occupied a prominent position. He felt a degree of
compassion for these foreigners, constrained to live in exile, and,
besides welcoming them to his house, gave them credit in articles of
drapery of which they stood in need; and through which circumstance they
soon assumed an improved appearance in costume. Introduced to the family
circle, their society was agreeable, and in a sense instructive. Though
with imperfect speech, a sort of half-English, half-French, they related
interesting circumstances in their careers.

‘How performances in French should have had any general attraction may
seem to require explanation. There had grown up in the town among young
persons especially, a knowledge of familiar French phrases; so that what
was said, accompanied by appropriate gestures, was pretty well guessed
at. But, as greatly contributing to remove difficulties, a worthy man,
of an obliging turn and genial humour, volunteered to act as
interpreter. Moving in humble circumstances as hand-loom weaver, he had
let lodgings to a French captain and his wife, and from being for years
in domestic intercourse with them, he became well acquainted with their
language. William Hunter, for such was his name, besides being of ready
wit, partook of a lively musical genius. I have heard him sing _Malbrook
s’en va t’en guerre_ with amazing correctness and vivacity. His services
at the theatre were therefore of value to the natives in attendance.
Seated conspicuously at the centre of what we may call the pit, eyes
were turned on him inquiringly when anything particularly funny was said
requiring explanation, and for general use he whisperingly communicated
the required interpretation. So, put up to the joke, the natives
heartily joined in the laugh, though rather tardily.... As for the
French plays, which were performed with perfect propriety, they were to
us not only amusing but educational. The remembrance of these dramatic
efforts of the French prisoners of war has been through life a continual
treat. It is curious for me to look back on the performances of the
pieces of Molière in circumstances so remarkable.

‘My mother, even while lending her dresses and caps to enable performers
to represent female characters, never liked the extraordinary intimacy
which had been formed between the French officers and my father. Against
his giving them credit she constantly remonstrated in vain. It was a
tempting but perilous trade. For a time, by the resources just
mentioned, they paid wonderfully well. With such solid inducements, my
father confidingly gave extensive credit to these strangers—men who, by
their positions, were not amenable to the civil law, and whose
obligations, accordingly, were altogether debts of honour. The
consequence was that which might have been anticipated. An order
suddenly arrived from the Government commanding the whole of the
prisoners to quit Peebles, and march chiefly to Sanquhar in
Dumfriesshire: the cause of the movement being the prospective arrival
of a Militia Regiment.

‘The intelligence came one Sunday night. What a gloom prevailed at
several firesides that evening!

‘On their departure the French prisoners made many fervid promises that,
should they ever return to their own country, they would have pleasure
in discharging their debt. They all got home in the Peace of 1814, but
not one of them ever paid a farthing, and William Chambers was one of
the many whose affairs were brought to a crisis therefrom.’

It will be seen later that this was not the uniform experience of
British creditors with French debtors.

                              CHAPTER XXIV
               PAROLE PRISONERS IN SCOTLAND (_continued_)


The first prisoners came here in March 1812. They were chiefly some of
those who had been hurried away from Wincanton and other towns in the
west of England at the alarm that a general rising of war-prisoners in
those parts was imminent, and on account of the increasing number of
escapes from those places; others were midshipmen from Peebles. In all
from sixty to seventy prisoners were at Sanquhar. A letter from one of
the men removed from Peebles to Mr. Chambers of that town says that they
were extremely uncomfortable; such kind of people as the inhabitants had
no room to spare; the greater part of the Frenchmen were lodged in barns
and kitchens; they could get neither beef nor mutton, nothing but salted
meat and eggs. They applied to the Transport Office, in order to be
removed to Moffat.

The prisoners at Sanquhar left behind them, when discharged at the Peace
of 1814, debts amounting to £160, but these were paid by the French
Commissioners charged with effecting the final exchanges in that year.

One duel is recorded. It was fought on the Washing Green, and one of the
combatants was killed. Mr. Tom Wilson, in his _Memorials of Sanquhar
Kirkyard_, identifies the victim as Lieutenant Arnaud, whose grave bears
the inscription:

‘In memory of J. B. Arnaud, aged 27 years, Lieutenant in the French
Navy, prisoner of war on parole at Sanquhar. Erected by his companions
in arms and fellow prisoners as a testimony of their esteem and
attachment. He expired in the arms of friendship, 9th November, 1812.’

It had been announced that he died of small-pox, but Mr. Wilson thinks
this was put out as a blind.

Some changes of French names into English are to be noted here as
elsewhere. Thus, Auguste Gregoire, cabin boy of the _Jeune Corneille_
privateer, captured in 1803, was confined at Peebles, and later at
Sanquhar. He married a Peebles girl, but as she absolutely refused to go
with him to France when Peace was declared in 1814 he was obliged to
remain, and became a teacher of dancing and deportment under the name of
Angus MacGregor. So also one Etienne Foulkes became Etney Fox; Baptiste
became Baptie, and Walnet was turned into Walden.

There was a Masonic Lodge at Sanquhar—the ‘Paix Désirée’.

The banks of Crawick were a favourite resort of the prisoners, and on a
rock in the Holme Walks is cut ‘Luego de Delizia 1812’, and to the
right, between two lines, the word ‘Souvenir’. The old bathing place of
the prisoners, behind Holme House, is still known as ‘The Sodger’s

Hop-plants are said to have been introduced hereabouts by the
prisoners—probably Germans.

Mr. James Brown thus writes about the prisoners at Sanquhar:

‘They were Frenchmen, Italians and Poles—handsome young fellows, who had
all the manners of gentlemen, and, living a life of enforced idleness,
they became great favourites with the ladies with whose hearts they
played havoc, and, we regret to record, in some instances with their

‘This’, says the Rev. Matthew Dickie, of the South United Free Church,
Sanquhar, ‘is only too true. John Wysilaski, who left Sanquhar when
quite a youth and became a “settler” in Australia, was the illegitimate
son of one of the officers. This John Wysilaski died between 25 and 30
years of age, and left a large fortune. Of this he bequeathed £60,000 to
the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, and over £4,000 to the church with
which his mother had been connected, viz. the South Church, Sanquhar,
and he directed the interest of this sum to be paid to the Minister of
the South Church over and above his stipend. The same Polish officer had
another son by another woman, Louis Wysilaski, who lived and died in his
native town. I remember him quite well.’


The first detachment of officer-prisoners arrived at Dumfries in
November 1811, from Peebles, whence they had marched the thirty-two
miles to Moffat, and had driven from there. The agent at Dumfries was
Mr. Francis Shortt, Town Clerk of the Burgh, and brother of Dr. Thomas
Shortt, who, as Physician to the British Forces at St. Helena, was to
assist, ten years later, at the post-mortem examination of Bonaparte.

At first the prices asked by the inhabitants for lodgings somewhat
astonished the prisoners, being from fifteen to twenty-five shillings a
week, but in the end they were moderately accommodated and better than
in Peebles. Their impressions of Dumfries were certainly favourable, for
not only had they in Mr. Shortt a just and kindly Agent, but the
townsfolk and the country gentry offered them every sort of hospitality.
In a letter to Mr. Chambers of Peebles, one of them says: ‘The
inhabitants, I think, are frightened with Frenchmen, and run after us to
see if we are like other people; the town is pretty enough, and the
inhabitants, though curious, seem very gentle.’

Another, after a visit to the theatre, writes in English:

‘I have been to the theatre of the town, and I was very satisfied with
the actors; they are very good for a little town like Dumfries, where
receipts are not very copious, though I would have very much pleasure
with going to the play-house now and then. However, I am deprived of it
by the bell which rings at five o’clock, and if I am not in my lodging
by the hour appointed by the law, I must at least avoid to be in the
public meeting, at which some inhabitants don’t like to see me.’

It was long before the natives could get used to certain peculiarities
in the Frenchmen’s diet, particularly frogs. A noted Dumfries character,
George Hair, who died a few years ago, used to declare that ‘the first
siller he ever earned was for gatherin’ paddocks for the Frenchmen’, and
an aged inmate of Lanark Poorhouse, who passed his early boyhood at
Dumfries, used to tell a funny frog story. He remembered that fifteen or
sixteen prisoners used to live together in a big house, not far from his
father’s, and that there was a meadow near at hand where they got great
store of frogs. Once there was a Crispin procession at Dumfries, and a
Mr. Renwick towered above all the others as King.

‘The Crispin ploy, ye ken, cam frae France, an’ the officers in the big
hoose askit the King o’ the cobblers tae dine wi’ them. They had a gran’
spread wi’ a fine pie, that Maister Renwick thocht was made o’ rabbits
toshed up in some new fangled way, an’ he didna miss tae lay in a guid
stock. When a’ was owre, they askit him how he likit his denner, an’ he
said “First rate”. Syne they lauched and speered him if he kent what the
pie was made o’, but he said he wasna sure. When they tell’t him it was
paddocks, it was a’ ane as if they had gien him a dose of pizzen. He
just banged up an’ breenged oot the hoose. Oor bit winnock lookit oot on
the Frenchmen’s backyaird, an’ we saw Maister Renwick sair, sair
forfochen, but after a dainty bit warsle, he an’ the paddocks pairtit

It is recorded that the French prisoners considered a good fat cat an
excellent substitute for a hare.

At a fire, two French surgeons who distinguished themselves in fighting
it, were, on a petition from the inhabitants to the Transport Board,
allowed to return immediately to France. But another surgeon who applied
to be sent to Kelso as he had a relative there, was refused permission—a
refusal, which, it is quite possible, was really a compliment, for the
records of parole life in Britain abound with evidence of the high
estimation in which French prisoner-surgeons were held in our country

Between thirty and forty officers tried to escape from Dumfries during
the three years of its being a Parole Town; most of these were
recaptured, and sent to Valleyfield Prison. Four officers took advantage
of the fishing-licence usually extended to the officers on parole here,
by which strict adherence to the mile limit was not insisted upon, and
gradually got their belongings away to Lochmaben, eight miles distant,
where were also parole prisoners. One of them actually wrote to the
Colonel of the Regiment stationed in Dumfries, apologizing for his
action, explaining it, promising that he would get an English
officer-prisoner in France exchanged, and that he would not take up arms
against her, and that he would repay all the civilities he had received
in Scotland. But all were recaptured and sent to Valleyfield.

As instances of the strictness with which even a popular agent carried
out his regulations, may be cited that of the officer here, who was sent
to Valleyfield because he had written to a lady in Devonshire, enclosing
a letter to a friend of his. a prisoner on parole there, without first
showing it to the Agent. In justice to Mr. Shortt, however, it is right
to say that had the letter been a harmless one, and not, as was
generally the case, full of abuse of the Government and the country, so
extreme a view would not have been taken of the breach. Another instance
was the refusal by the Agent of a request in 1812 from the officers to
give a concert. In this case he was under orders from the Transport

In March 1812, a number of the prisoners had at their own request copies
of the Scriptures supplied them in English, French, German, Italian, and

That the French officers on parole in Britain politically arranged their
allegiance to the Powers that were, is exemplified by the following
incidents at Dumfries. On the re-establishment of the Bourbon Dynasty,
the following address was drawn up and sent to the French Commissioners
for the release of prisoners:

                                               ‘Dumfries, le 6 Mai 1814.

‘Les officiers détenus sur parole donnent leur adhésion aux actes du
Gouvernement Français qui rappelle l’illustre sang des Bourbons, au
trône de ses ancêtres. Puissent les Français compter une longue suite de
rois du sang de Saint Louis et de Henri IV, qui a toujours fait leur
gloire et assuré leur bonheur! Vive Louis XVIII! Vivent les Bourbons!’

On the 24th of the same month a French officer, seeing in the window of
a bookseller’s shop a ludicrous caricature of Bonaparte, went into the
shop in a violent passion, bought two copies, and tore them in pieces
before a crowd of people, uttering dreadful imprecations against those
who dared to insult ‘his Emperor’. The fact is that the army to a man
was Bonapartist at heart, as after events showed, but at Dumfries, as
elsewhere, personal interests rendered it politic to assume loyalty and
devotion to the re-established Royalty. Most of the prisoners, however,
who elected to remain in Britain after the Declaration of Peace were
unswerving Royalists. Lieutenant Guillemet at Dumfries was one of these.
He became a professor of French at Dumfries Academy and also gave
lessons in fencing, and was a great favourite with his pupils and the
public. His son was for many years a chemist at Maxwelltown.

The average number of prisoners was about 100: they were mostly
soldiers, and not sailors, on account of the proximity of Dumfries to
the sea. I cannot refrain from adding to the frequent testimonies I have
quoted as illustrating the good understanding which existed between
captors and captives in Scotland, the following extract from a Farewell
Letter which appeared in the _Dumfries Courier_, April 26, 1814,
contributed by Lieutenant De Montaignac of the ‘Parisian Guard’.

‘I should indeed be very ungrateful were I to leave this country without
publicly expressing my gratitude to the inhabitants of Dumfries. From
the moment of my arrival in Scotland, the vexations indispensable in the
situation of a prisoner have disappeared before me. I have been two
years and five months in this town, prisoner on my parole of honour; and
it is with the most lively emotion that I quit a place where I have
found so many alleviations to my melancholy situation. I must express my
thanks to the generous proceedings with which I have been loaded by the
most part of the inhabitants of Dumfries during my captivity,
proceedings which cannot but give an advantageous opinion of the
Scottish nation. I will add that the respectable magistrates of this
town have constantly given proofs of their generous dispositions to
mitigate the situation of the prisoners; and that our worthy Agent, Mr.
Shortt, has always softened our lot by the delicate manner in which he
fulfilled the duty of his functions. It is then with a remembrance full
of gratitude, esteem, and consideration for the honest inhabitants of
Dumfries, that I quit the charming banks of the Nith to return to the
capital of France, my beloved country, from which I have been absent
seven years.’

For the following romantic incidents I am indebted to Mr. William
McDowell’s _Memorials of St. Michael’s, Dumfries_.

Polly Stewart, the object of one of Burns’s minor poems, married a
Dumfries prisoner of war. She lived at Maxwelltown, and her father was a
close friend of Burns. A handsome young Swiss prisoner, Fleitz by name,
loved her and married her, and when Louis XVIII came to the French
throne, he, being in the Swiss Guard, took her to France. When Louis
Philippe became king, the Swiss body-guard was disbanded, and Mr. and
Mrs. Fleitz went to Switzerland. It is said that poor Polly had an
unhappy married life, but at any rate nothing was heard of her for
thirty years, when she returned to Scotland, and not long after her
husband died and she went to a cousin in France. Here her mind gave way,
and she was placed in an asylum, where she died in 1847, aged 71.

On the tombstone, in St. Michael’s churchyard, of Bailie William
Fingass, who died in 1686, is an inscription to a descendant, Anna
Grieve, daughter of James Grieve, merchant, who died in 1813, aged 19,
with the following lines subjoined:

               ‘Ta main, bienfaisante et chérie,
               D’un exil vient essuyer les pleurs,
               Tu me vis loin de parens, de patrie,
               Et le même tombeau, lorsque tu m’as ravie,
               Renferme nos deux cœurs.’

The story is this. One of the French prisoners on parole at Dumfries
fell in love with pretty Anna Grieve, and she regarded his suit with
kindness. Had she lived they would probably have been married, for he
was in a good position and in every way worthy of her hand. When she
died in the flower in her youth, he was overwhelmed with grief, and
penned the above-quoted epitaph. After a lapse of about forty-six years,
a gentleman of dignified bearing and seemingly about seventy years old,
entered St. Michael’s churchyard, and in broken English politely
accosted Mr. Watson, who was busy with his chisel on one of the
monuments. He asked to be shown the spot where Mademoiselle Grieve was
buried, and on being taken to it exhibited deep emotion. He read over
the epitaph, which seemed to be quite familiar to him, and it was
apparent that it was engraved upon the tablets of his memory, he being
none other than the lover of the lady who lay below, and for whom,
although half a century had elapsed, he still retained his old

(I should say here that for many of the details about Sanquhar and
Dumfries I am indebted in the first place to Mrs. Macbeth Forbes, for
permission to make use of her late husband’s notes on the prisoner-life
at these places, and in the second to the hon. secretary of the
Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, for
the use of a résumé by him of those notes.)


In the life of Dr. George Lawson, of Selkirk, the French prisoners on
parole at Melrose are alluded to. The doctor astonished them with his
knowledge of the old-world French with which they were unacquainted, and
several pages of the book are devoted to the eloquent attempts of one of
the prisoners to bring him to the Roman Catholic communion.

Appended to the minutes of the Quarterly Meeting of the Melrose
Freemasons on September 25, 1813, in an account of the laying the
foundation-stone of a public well, there is the following reference to
the French prisoners interned at Melrose (the minutes of the Kelso,
Selkirk, and other lodges record the fraternal exchange of courtesies,
and the reception of these alien Brethren into the lodges, but at
Melrose it would seem that these Brethren held a lodge of their own,
which they no doubt worked in their native tongue and style, by leave
and warrant of the Melrose Lodge):

‘The French Brethren of the Lodge of St. John under the distinctive
appellation of _Benevolence_ constituted by the French prisoners of war
on parole here, were invited to attend, which the Master,
office-bearers, and many of the Brethren accordingly did.’

The lodge has preserved in its archives a document with the names of the
French prisoners, adhibited to an expression of their appreciation of
the kindness they had received during their sojourn at Melrose, which
was given to the Brethren at the conclusion of the war when they were
permitted to return to their own country and homes.


Mr. Maberley Phillips, F.S.A., from whose pamphlet on prisoners of war
in the North I shall quote later (pp. 388–9) a description of an escape
of paroled prisoners from Jedburgh, says:

‘Jedburgh had its share of French prisoners. They were for the most part
kindly treated, and many of them were permitted a great amount of
liberty. One of these had a taste for archaeology and visited all the
ruins within the precincts of his radius, namely, a mile from the Cross.
There is a tradition that on one of his excursions, he was directed to a
ruin about a quarter of a mile beyond his appointed mark, which happened
to be a milestone. He asked the Provost for permission to go beyond;
that worthy, however, refused, but he quietly added: “If Mr. Combat did
walk a short distance beyond the mile and nobody said anything, nothing
would come of it.” But the Frenchman had given his word of honour, and
he could not break it. A happy thought struck him. He borrowed a barrow
one afternoon, and with it and the necessary implements proceeded out to
the obnoxious milestone. Having “unshipped” the milestone, he raised it
on to the barrow, and triumphantly wheeled it to the required distance,
where he fixed it.... For a generation the stone stood where the
Frenchman placed it, no one being any the worse for the extra extent of
the Scotch mile.’

Many of the prisoners were naval officers and were deeply versed in
science, including navigation and astronomy. A favourite resort of these
was Inchbonny, the abode of James Veitch, the self-taught astronomer.
Inchbonny is situated up the Jed about half a mile from Jedburgh. Among
the prisoners who made a point of visiting Veitch’s workshop we may
mention Scot, an old naval lieutenant, who with a long grey coat was to
be seen at every gleam of sunshine at the Meridian line with compasses
in hand, resolving to determine the problem of finding the longitude,
and M. Charles Jehenne, who belonged to the navy, and who was captured
at the battle of Trafalgar. He on that memorable day from the masthead
of his vessel observed the British fleet under Nelson bearing down upon
the French and Spanish vessels. ‘They saw us’, he was wont to say,
‘before we saw them.’ He was a constant visitor to the workshop, and
constructed a telescope there for his own use. He was most agreeable in
his manner, and careful not to give any trouble when doing any work for
himself with Veitch’s tools. He also was an astronomer, and would often
stay out at Inchbonny, in order to view the stars through Veitch’s
telescopes, until long after the tolling of the bell which warned the
prisoners that the daily period of liberty had again expired. In order
that he might escape being noticed by the observant eyes of any who
might be desirous of obtaining the reward given for a conviction, he
usually got the loan of Veitch’s plaid, and, muffled in this, reached
his quarters undetected.



  _From a painting by Ensign Bazin, a French prisoner of war_

Billeted along with Jehenne, and staying in the same room, was Ensign
Bazin, of St. Malo, a man of quiet demeanour, captured on the _Torche_
corvette in 1805. He was very talented with his pencil, and fond of
drawing sketches of Jedburgh characters, many of which are preserved at
Inchbonny. He made a painting of Jedburgh Abbey, which he dedicated to
Mr. Veitch, dated 1812. In this picture the French prisoners are seen
marching on the ramparts, and, in the original, their faces and forms,
as also those of many local characters, are so admirably sketched as to
be easily recognizable. A duplicate of this picture he sent home to his
mother. Mrs. Grant of Laggan perhaps had Bazin in view when in her
_Memoir of a Highland Lady_, she wrote:

‘A number of French prisoners, officers, were on parole at Jedburgh.
Lord Buchanan, whom we met there, took us to see a painting in progress
by one of them; some battlefield, all the figures portraits from memory.
The picture was already sold and part paid for, and another ordered,
which we were very glad of, the handsome young painter having interested
us much.’

In October 1813, Bazin received a pass to be sent to Alresford, and he
was noted, ‘to be exchanged at the first opportunity. Has been long
imprisoned, and is a great favourite.’ He was of wealthy parents, and
got back to France some time before his fellow prisoners were released.

Mrs. Grant thus spoke of the Jedburgh prisoners:

‘The ingenuity of the French prisoners of all ranks was amazing, only to
be equalled by their industry; those of them unskilled in higher arts
earned for themselves most comfortable additions to their allowance by
turning bits of wood, bones, straw, almost anything in fact, into neat
toys of many sorts, eagerly bought up by all who met with them.’

At Mr. Veitch’s house, Inchbonny, may be seen by those fortunate enough
to have a personal introduction, much of the French prisoner
handiwork—sketches, telescopes, and an electric machine with which the
poor fellows had much fun, connecting it with wires to a plate on the
window-sill below, whereto they would invite passers-by—generally
girls—for a chat and a joke, the result being a shock which sent them

It is stated that when the word came that the Frenchmen were to be
allowed to return to their native land, they caused their manufactures
and other articles to be ‘rouped’. One of the prisoners whose knowledge
of the English language, even after his prolonged stay in this quarter,
was very limited, was delegated to obtain the sanction of the Provost of
the Burgh to hold such roup. He who at this time graced the office of
provostship had a draper’s shop in Canongate, and hither the Frenchman
went on his errand. His lack of knowledge of the popular tongue,
however, proved to be an inconvenience, for, on arriving at the shop, he
could only request ‘A rope! A rope!’ The draper had his customary supply
of old ropes, and, willing to oblige, brought them out, to the
perplexity of the visitor, and commenced to ‘wale out the best of them’.
Seeing that his would-be benefactor was obviously mistaken, the French
envoy reiterated his former request, and supplemented this by adding in
a style which would have done credit to any auctioneer, ‘One, Two,
Tree!’ Light dawned upon the Provost’s comprehension, and the necessary
permission was not long in being granted.

Many of the prisoners are supposed to have rejoined Bonaparte on his
return from Elba, and to have fallen at Waterloo.

The officers were billeted among private citizens, says Mr. Forbes,
while several occupied quarters immediately under the Clock Tower. Being
young and lusty, they were dowered with an exceedingly good appetite,
and as they got little to eat so far as their allowance went, some of
them used to have a pulley and hoist their loaves of bread to near the
ceiling to prevent themselves from devouring them all, and to ensure
something being left over for next repast.

The prisoners were not commonly spoken of by name, but were known by the
persons with whom they resided, e.g., ‘Nannie Tamson’s Frenchman’,
‘Widow Ross’s Frenchman’. The boys were a great plague to the Frenchmen,
for when a great victory was announced their dominie gave them a
holiday, and the youngsters celebrated it too frequently by jeering the
prisoners, and by shouting and cheering. The boys at a school then
beside the road at No. 1 Milestone, were prominent in these triumphant
displays, and sometimes pelted the prisoners with stones.

The manners of the Jedburgh prisoners are thus alluded to in the _False
Alarm_, a local pamphlet:

‘They were very polite, and not infrequently put us rough-spun Scotchmen
to the blush with their polished manners. They came in course of time to
be liked, but it seems some of the older members of the community could
never be brought to fraternize with them. One old man actually pointed
his gun at them, and threatened to fire because they had exceeded their
walking limit.’

An aged Jedburgh lady’s reminiscences are interesting. She says:

‘Among the officers was M. Espinasse, who settled in Edinburgh after the
Peace and engaged in teaching; Baron Goldshord or Gottshaw, who married
a Jedburgh lady, a Miss Waugh; another, whose name I do not remember,
married a Miss Jenny Wintrope, who went with him to the South of France.
There was a Captain Rivoli, also a Captain Racquet, and a number of
others who were well received by the townspeople, and frequently invited
to parties in their homes, to card-clubs, etc. They were for the most
part pleasant, agreeable gentlemen, and made many friends. Almost all of
them employed themselves in work of some kind, besides playing at
different kinds of games, shooting small birds, and fishing for trout.
They much enjoyed the liberty granted them of walking one mile out of
the town in any direction, as within that distance there were many
beautiful walks when they could go out one road, turn, and come back by
another. During their stay, when news had been received of one great
British victory, the magistrates permitted rejoicing, and a great
bonfire was kindled at the Cross, and an effigy of Napoleon was set on a
donkey and paraded round the town by torchlight, and round the bonfire,
and then cast into the flames. I have often heard an old gentleman, who
had given the boots and part of the clothing, say he never regretted
doing anything so much in his life, as helping on that great show, when
he saw the pain it gave to these poor gentlemen-prisoners, who felt so
much at seeing the affront put upon their great commander.

‘The French prisoners have always been ingenious in the use they made of
their meat bones ... they took them and pounded them into a powder which
they mixed with the soft food they were eating. It is even said that
they flourished on this dissolved phosphate of lime and gelatine.

‘There was an old game called “cradles” played in those days. Two or
three persons clasp each other’s hands, and when their arms are held
straight out at full length, a person is placed on these stretched
hands, who is sent up in the air and down again, landing where he
started from. A farmer thought he would try the experiment on the
Frenchmen. Some buxom lassies were at work as some of them passed, and
he gave the girls the hint to treat the foreigners to the “cradles”.
Accordingly two of them were jerked well up in the air to fall again on
the sturdy hands of the wenches. The experiment was repeated again and
again until the Frenchmen were glad to call a halt.’

Parole-breaking was rather common, and began some months after the
officers arrived in the town. A party of five set out for Blyth in
September 1811, but were brought to Berwick under a military escort, and
lodged in jail. Next day they were marched to Penicuik under charge of a
party of the Forfarshire Militia. Three of them were good-looking young
men; one in particular had a very interesting countenance, and, wishing
one day to extend his walk, in order to get some watercress for salad,
beyond the limit of the one-mile stone, uprooted it, and carried it in
his arms as far as he wished to go.

Three other officers were captured the same year, and sent to Edinburgh
Castle, and in 1813 occurred the escape and capture to be described
later (p. 388).

The highest number of prisoners at Jedburgh was 130, and there were
three deaths during their stay.


I owe my best thanks to Mr. J. John Vernon, hon. secretary of the Hawick
Archaeological Society, for the following note on Hawick:

‘Not many of Napoleon’s officers were men of means, so to the small
allowance they received from the British Government, they were permitted
to eke out their income by teaching, sketching, or painting, or by
making little trifles which they disposed of as best they could among
the townspeople. At other times they made a little money by giving
musical and dramatic entertainments, which proved a source of enjoyment
to the audience and of profit to themselves.

‘Though “prisoners”, they had a considerable freedom, being allowed to
go about as they pleased anywhere within a radius of a mile from the
Tower Knowe. During their residence in Hawick they became very popular
among all classes of the people and much regret was expressed when the
time came for their returning to the Continent. Hawick society was
decidedly the poorer by their departure. Paradoxical it may seem, but
most of those who were termed “French Prisoners” were in reality of
German extraction: Fifteen of their number became members of the
Freemasons, St. John’s Lodge, No. 111. They were lodged in private
houses throughout the towns. No. 44 High Street was the residence of a
number of them, who dwelt in it from June 1812 to June 1814.’

Speaking of Freemasonry in Hawick, Mr. W. Fred Vernon says:

‘Each succeeding year saw the Lodge more thinly attended. An impetus to
the working and attendance was given about 1810 by the affiliation and
initiation of several of the French prisoners of war who were billeted
in the town, and from time to time to the close of the war in 1815, the
attendance and prosperity of the Lodge was in striking contrast to what
it had been previously.’

The following extracts are from a book upon Hawick published by Mr. J.
John Vernon in November 1911.

‘One of Bonaparte’s officers, compelled to reside for nearly two years
in Hawick, thus expressed himself regarding the weather during the
winter, and at the same time his opinion of the people. In reply to a
sympathetic remark that the weather must be very trying to one who had
come from a more genial climate, the officer said:

‘“It is de devil’s wedder, but you have de heaven contré for all dat.
You have de cold, de snow, de frozen water, and de sober dress; but you
have de grand constitution, and de manners and equality that we did
fight for so long. I see in your street de priest and de shoemaker; de
banker and de baker, de merchant and de hosier all meet together, be
companions and be happy. Dis is de equality dat de French did fight for
and never got, not de ting de English newspapers say we want. Ah!
Scotland be de fine contré and de people be de wise, good men.... De
English tell me at Wincanton dat de Scots be a nation of sauvages. It
was a lie. De English be de sauvages and de Scots be de civilized
people. De high Englishman be rich and good; de low Englishman be de
brute. In Scotland de people be all de same! Oh! Scotland be a fine

‘The fact that so many of the French prisoners of war were quartered in
Hawick from 1812–14 did much towards brightening society during that
time. Pity for their misfortunes prevailed over any feeling that the
name “Frenchman” might formerly have excited, and they were welcomed in
the homes of the Hawick people. It heartened them to be asked to dinner;
as one of them remarked: “De heart of hope do not jump in de hungry
belly”, and many valued friendships were thus formed.’

‘The presence of so many well-dressed persons for so long a period
produced a marked reform in the costume of the inhabitants of Hawick,’
says James Wilson in his _Annals of Hawick_.

The first prisoners came to Hawick in January 1812. Of these,
thirty-seven came from Wincanton, forty-one came direct from Spain a
little later, thirty-seven from Launceston. The prisoners had been sent
hither from such distant places as Launceston and Wincanton on account
of the increasing number of escapes from these places, the inhabitants
of both of which, as we have seen, were notoriously in sympathy with the
foreigners. Two surgeons came from the Greenlaw dépôt to attend on them.
Mr. William Nixon, of Lynnwood, acted as agent, or commissary, and by
the end of 1812 he had 120 prisoners in his charge. A few of the Hawick
prisoners were quite well-to-do. There is a receipt extant of a Captain
Grupe which shows that he had a monthly remittance from Paris of £13
4_s._ 6_d._, in addition to his pay and subsistence money as a prisoner
of war.

In the _Kelso Mail_ of June 20, 1814, is the following testimony from
the prisoners, on leaving, to the kind and hospitable treatment they had
so generally received:

                                                   ‘Hawick, May 2, 1814.

‘The French officers on parole at Hawick, wishing to express their
gratitude to the inhabitants of the town and its vicinity for the
liberal behaviour which they have observed to them, and the good opinion
which they have experienced from them, unanimously request the
Magistrates and Mr. Nixon, their Commissary, to be so kind as to allow
them to express their sentiments to them, and to assure them that they
will preserve the remembrance of all the marks of friendship which they
have received from them. May the wishes which the French officers make
for the prosperity of the town and the happiness of its inhabitants be
fully accomplished. Such is the most ardent wish, the dearest hope of
those who have the honour to be their most humble servants.’

In some cases intercourse did not cease with the departure of the
prisoners, and men who had received kindnesses as aliens kept up
correspondence with those who had pitied and befriended them.

On May 18, 1814, the officers at Hawick, mostly, if not entirely,
Bonaparte’s soldiers, drifted with the Royalist tide, and sent an
address to Louis XVIII, conceived in much the same terms as that from
Dumfries already quoted, speaking of ‘the happy events which have taken
place in our country, and which have placed on the throne of his
ancestors the illustrious family of Bourbon’, and adding, ‘we lay at the
feet of the worthy descendant of Henry IV the homage of our entire
obedience and fidelity’.

The prisoners were always welcome visitors at the house of Goldielands
adjoining the fine old peel tower of that name, and I give the following
pleasant testimony of one of them:

                    ‘To Mr. Elliott of Goldielands:


‘Very sorry that before my leaving Scotland I could not have the
pleasure of passing some hours with you. I take the liberty of
addressing you these few lines, the principal object of which is to
thank you for all the particular kindness and friendship you honoured me
with during my stay in this country. The more lively I always felt this
your kindness since idle prejudices had not the power over you to treat
us with that coldness and reserve which foreigners, and the more so,
prisoners of war in Britain, so often meet with.

‘If in the case only that my conduct whilst I had the honour of being
acquainted with you, has not met with your disapproval, I pray you to
preserve me, even so far off, your friendship. To hear sometimes of you
would certainly cause me great pleasure.

‘Pray acquaint Mrs. Elliott and the rest of your family of the high
esteem with which I have the honour to be, Sir,

                                            ‘Your humble servant,
                                                  ‘G. DE TALLARD, Lieut.

 ‘Hawick, March 11, 1814.’


I am indebted to the late Mr. Macbeth Forbes for these notes.

There hangs in one of the rooms of Thirlestane Castle, the baronial
residence of the Earls of Lauderdale, an oil-painting executed by a
French prisoner of war, Lieutenant-Adjutant George Maurer of the
Hesse-Darmstadt Infantry. He is described in the Admiralty Records as a
youth of twenty, with hazel eyes, fresh complexion, five feet nine and
three-quarter inches in height, well made, but with a small sword scar
on his left cheek. Although his production is by no means a striking
work of art, it is nevertheless cherished as a memento of the time
when—a hundred years ago—French prisoners were billeted in Lauder,
Berwickshire, and indulged in pleasant intercourse with the inhabitants
of this somewhat remote and out-of-the-way country town. In the left
corner of the painting, which represents Lauder as seen from the west,
is a portrait, dated August 1813, of the artist decked in a sort of
Tam-o’-Shanter bonnet, swallow-tailed coat, and knee breeches, plying
his brush.

The average number of prisoners at Lauder was between fifty and sixty,
and the average age was twenty-six. They appear to have conducted
themselves with great propriety in the quiet town; none of them was ever
sent to the Tolbooth. They resided for the most part with burgesses, one
of whom was James Haswell, a hairdresser, whose son remembered two of
the prisoners who lived in his father’s house, and who made for him and
his brothers, as boys, suits of regimentals with cocked hats, and
marched them through the town with bayonets at their sides.

About the end of January 1812, Captain Pequendaire, of _L’Espoir_
privateer, escaped. At Lauder he never spoke a word of English to any
one, and about six weeks after his arrival he disappeared. It came out
that he had walked to Stow, near Lauder, and taken the coach there, and
that he had got off because he spoke English so perfectly as to pass for
a native!

Angot, second captain of _L’Espoir_, was released upon the
representation of inhabitants of St. Valery, that he with others had
saved the lives of seventy-nine British seamen wrecked on the coast.

A duel took place on a terrace on the east side of Lauderdale Castle
between two prisoners armed with razors fastened to the end of
walking-sticks. No harm was done on this occasion.

The prisoners were always kindly and hospitably treated by the
inhabitants. On one occasion some of them were at a dinner-party at Mr.
Brodie’s, a farmer of Pilmuir. The farm was beyond the one-mile limit,
but no notice would have been taken if the prisoners had duly reported
themselves and enabled the Agent to make the necessary declaration, but,
unfortunately, a heavy snowstorm prevented them from getting back to
Lauder, and the report went in that So-and-so had not appeared. The
Transport Board at once dealt with the matter, and the parish Minister,
the Rev. Peter Cosens, who had been one of the party at Pilmuir, wrote
to the authorities by way of explaining, and the reply received was very
severe, the authorities expressing surprise that one in his position
should have given countenance to, and should seek to palliate or excuse,
the offence. The result to the prisoners is not known, but they were
probably let off with a fine stopped out of their allowance.

Many of the prisoners knew little or no English when they came to
Lauder. On the occasion of a detachment coming into the town, some of
the baggage had not arrived, and the interpreter of the party appeared
before the Agent, and made a low bow, and held up a finger for each
package that was wanting, and uttered the only appropriate English word
he knew, ‘Box’. Another, who wished to buy eggs, went into a shop, and,
drawing his cloak around him, sat down and clucked like a hen.

Many of the prisoners in the Scottish towns were Germans in French
service. In January 1813, the Lauder St. Luke’s Lodge of Freemasons
admitted eight Germans and one Frenchman, and it is related that on the
occasion of their induction, when the time for refreshments after
business came, the foreign installations delighted the company with
yarns of their military experiences. When the great movement for German
liberty got into full swing, Britain encouraged the French prisoners of
German nationality to fight for their own country. Accordingly the
eleven German prisoners in Lauder, belonging to the Hesse-Darmstadt
regiment, received £5 each at the end of February 1814, to pay their
expenses to Hawick, whence to proceed to the seat of war. It is related
that the joy they felt at their release was diminished by their regret
at leaving the town where they had been treated by the inhabitants with
so much marked hospitality and kindness. The evening previous to their
departure, the magistrates gave them an entertainment at the _Black
Bull_ Inn, and wished them all success in their efforts to restore
liberty and prosperity. The remaining twenty-two prisoners finally left
Lauder, June 3, 1814; others having been previously removed to Jedburgh,
Kelso, and Dumfries. While they were in Lauder some of the merchants
gave them credit, and they were honourably repaid on the prisoners’
return to their own country. Maurer, the artist before alluded to, often
revisited his friends in Lauder, and always called on and dined with the
Agent, and talked over old times.

                        LOCKERBIE AND LOCHMABEN

About a score of prisoners were at each of these places, but as the
record of their lives here is of very much the same character as of
prisoner life elsewhere, it hardly makes a demand upon the reader’s
attention. In both places the exiles conducted themselves peaceably and
quietly, and they, especially the doctors, were well liked by the

                              CHAPTER XXV
                       PRISONERS OF WAR IN WALES

                           IN MONTGOMERYSHIRE

I am indebted to Canon Thomas of Llandrinio Rectory, Llanymynech, for
information which led me to extract the following interesting details
from the Montgomeryshire Archaeological Collections.

Batches of French officers were on parole during the later years of the
Napoleonic wars at Llanfyllin, Montgomery, Bishop’s Castle, Newtown, and


About 120 French and Germans were quartered here during the years 1812
and 1813. Many of them lived together in a large house, formerly the
Griffith residence, which stood where is now Bachie Place. Others were
at the ‘Council House’ in High Street. In a first-floor room of this
latter may still be seen thirteen frescoes in crayon executed by the
prisoners, representing imaginary mountain scenery. Formerly there were
similar frescoes in a neighbouring house, once the _Rampant Lion_ Inn,
now a tailor’s shop, but these have been papered over, and according to
the correspondent who supplies the information, ‘utterly destroyed’.
These prisoners were liberally supplied with money, which they spent
freely. An attachment sprang up between a prisoner, Captain Angerau, and
the Rector’s daughter, which resulted in their marriage after the Peace
of 1814. It is interesting to note that in 1908 a grandson of Captain
Angerau visited Llanfyllin.

The following pleasing testimony I take from _Bygones_, October 30,

‘The German soldiers from Hessia, so well received by the inhabitants of
Llanfyllin during their captivity, have requested the undersigned to
state that the kindness and the favour shewn them by the esteemed
inhabitants of Llanfyllin will ever remain in their thankful

                                                        ‘C. W. WEDIKIND.

 ‘Newtown, June 17, 1817.’


A correspondent of the _Gentleman’s Magazine_ contributed a notice of
the death at Montgomery of an old gentleman named Chatuing who had been
nearly four years a prisoner in that town, and who had preferred to
remain there after the Peace of 1814.

Occasionally we come across evidence that there were men among the
prisoners on parole who were not above acting as Government spies among
their fellows. One Beauvernet at Montgomery was evidently one of these,
for a Transport Office letter to the Agent in that town in 1806 says:

‘Mr. Beauvernet may rest perfectly satisfied that any information
communicated by him will not in any way be used to his detriment or

Allen, the Montgomery Agent, is directed to advance Beauvernet £10, as
part of what ultimately would be given him. One Muller was the object of
suspicion, and he was probably an escape agent, as in later letters
Beauvernet is to be allowed to choose where he will ‘work’, and
eventually, on the news that Muller has gone to London, is given a
passport thither, and another £10. Of course it does not follow from
this that Beauvernet was actually a prisoner of war, and he may have
been one of the foreign agents employed by Government at good pay to
watch the prisoners more unostentatiously than could a regular prisoner
agent, but the opening sentence of the official letter seems to point to
the fact that he was a prisoner.

A French officer on parole at Montgomery, named Dumont, was imprisoned
for refusing to support an illegitimate child, so that it came upon the
rates. He wrote, however, to Lady Pechell, declaring that he was the
victim ‘of a sworn lie of an abandoned creature’, complaining that he
was shut up with the local riff-raff, half starved, and penniless, and
imploring her to influence the Transport Board to give him the
subsistence money which had been taken from him since his committal to
prison to pay for the child. What the Transport Board replied does not
appear, but from the frequency of these complaints on the part of
prisoners, there seems no doubt that, although local records show that
illicit amours were largely indulged in by French and other officers on
parole, in our country towns, much advantage of the sinning of a few was
taken by unprincipled people to blackmail others.

In the _Cambrian_ of May 2, 1806, is the following:

‘At the last Quarter Sessions for Montgomeryshire, a farmer of the
neighbourhood of Montgomery was prosecuted by order of the Transport
Office for assaulting one of the French prisoners on parole, and,
pleading guilty to the indictment, was fined £10, and ordered to find
sureties for keeping the peace for twelve months. This is the second
prosecution which the Board has ordered, it being determined that the
prisoners shall be protected by Government from insult while they remain
in their unfortunate position as Prisoners of War.’

                           _Bishop’s Castle_

At Bishop’s Castle there were many prisoners, and in _Bygones_ Thomas
Caswell records chats with an old man named Meredith, in the workhouse,
who had been servant at the _Six Bells_, where nine officers were
quartered. ‘They cooked their own food, and I waited upon them. They
were very talkative ... they were not short of money, and behaved very
well to me for waiting upon them.’

The attempted escape of two Bishop’s Castle prisoners is described on
page 391.


‘Mr. David Morgan of the Canal Basin, Newtown, who is now (February
1895) 81 years of age, remembers over 300 prisoners passing through
Kerry village on their way from London via Ludlow, to Newtown. He was
then a little boy attending Kerry school, and the children all ran out
to see them. All were on foot, and were said to be all officers. A great
number of them were billeted at various public-houses, and some in
private houses in Newtown. They exerted themselves greatly in putting
out a fire at the _New Inn_ in Severn Street, and were to be seen, says
my informant, an aged inhabitant, “like cats about the roof “. When
Peace was made, they returned to France, and many of them were killed at
Waterloo. The news of that great battle and victory reached Newtown on
Pig Fair Day, in June 1815. I have a memorandum book of M. Auguste
Tricoche, one of the prisoners, who appears to have served in the French
fleet in the West Indies, and to have been taken prisoner at the capture
of Martinique in 1810.’


‘On the occasion of a great fire at the corner shop in December 1813,
there was a terrific explosion of gunpowder which hurled portions of
timber into the Vicarage garden, some distance off. The French prisoners
were very active, and some of them formed a line to the Lledan brook
(which at that time was not culverted over), whence they conveyed water
to the burning building to others of their comrades who courageously
entered it.

‘Dr. P. L. Serph, one of the prisoners, settled down at Welshpool, where
he obtained a large practice as a physician and surgeon, and continued
to reside there until the time of his death. Dr. Serph married Ann, the
daughter of John Moore, late of Crediton in the county of Devon,
gentleman, by Elizabeth his wife. Mrs. Serph died in 1837, and there is
a monument to their memory in Welshpool churchyard.

‘There is at Gungrog a miniature of Mrs. Morris Jones painted by a
French prisoner; also a water colour of the waterfall at Pystyl Rhaiadr,
which is attributed to one of them. I recollect seeing in the possession
of the late Mr. Oliver E. Jones, druggist, a view of Powis Castle,
ingeniously made of diverse-coloured straws, the work of one of the

‘It is said that French blood runs in the veins of some of the
inhabitants of each of these towns where the prisoners were located.

                                                          ‘R. WILLIAMS.’

                            IN PEMBROKESHIRE


In 1779 Howard the philanthropist visited Pembroke, and reported to this

He found thirty-seven American prisoners of war herded together in an
old house, some of them without shoes or stockings, all of them scantily
clad and in a filthy condition. There were no tables of victualling and
regulations hung up, nor did the prisoners know anything more about
allowances than that they were the same as for the French prisoners. The
floors were covered with straw which had not been changed for seven
weeks. There were three patients in the hospital house, in which the
accommodation was very poor.

Fifty-six French prisoners were in an old house adjoining the American
prison. Most of them had no shoes or stockings, and some had no shirts.
There was no victualling table and the prisoners knew nothing about
their allowance. Two or three of them had a money allowance, which
should have been 3/6 per week each, for aliment, but from this 6_d._ was
always deducted. They lay on boards without straw, and there were only
four hammocks in two rooms occupied by thirty-six prisoners. There was a
court for airing, but no water and no sewer. In two rooms of the town
jail were twenty French prisoners. They had some straw, but it had not
been changed for many weeks. There was no supply of water in the jail,
and as the prisoners were not allowed to go out and fetch it, they had
to do without it. On one Sunday morning they had had no water since
Friday evening. The bread was tolerable, the beer very small, the
allowance of beef so scanty that the prisoners preferred the allowance
of cheese and butter. In the hospital were nine French prisoners,
besides five of the _Culloden’s_ crew, and three Americans. All lay on
straw with coverlets, but without sheets, mattresses, or bedsteads.

This was perhaps the worst prison visited by Howard, and he emphatically
recommended the appointment of a regular inspector. In 1779 complaints
came from Pembroke of the unnecessary use of fire-arms by the militiamen
on guard, and that 150 prisoners were crowded into one small house with
an airing yard twenty-five paces square—this was the year of Howard’s
visit. His recommendations seem to have had little effect, for in 1781
twenty-six prisoners signed a complaint that the quantity and the
quality of the provisions were deficient; that they had shown the Agent
that the bread was ill-baked, black, and of bad taste, but he had taken
no notice; that he gave them cow’s flesh, which was often bad, thinking
that they would refuse it and buy other at their own expense; that he
vexed them as much as he could, telling them that the bread and meat
were too good for Frenchmen; that on their complaining about short
measure and weight he refused to have the food measured and weighed in
their presence in accordance with the regulations; that he tried to get
a profit out of the straw supplied by making it last double the
regulation time without changing it, so that they were obliged to buy it
for themselves; and that he had promised them blankets, but, although it
was the raw season of the year, none had yet been issued.

In 1797 the Admiralty inspector reported that the condition of the dépôt
at Pembroke was very unsatisfactory; the discipline slack, as the Agent
preferred to live away at Hubberstone, and only put in an occasional
appearance; and that the state of the prisoners was mutinous to a
dangerous degree.

                     _The Fishguard affair of 1797_

If the Great Western Railway had not brought Fishguard into prominence
as a port of departure for America, it would still be famous as the
scene of the last foreign invasion of England. On February 22, 1797,
fifteen hundred Frenchmen, half of whom were picked men and half galley
slaves, landed from four vessels, three of which were large frigates,
under an Irish General Tate, at Cerrig Gwasted near Fishguard. They had
previously been at Ilfracombe, where they had burned some shipping.
There was a hasty gathering of ill-armed pitmen and peasants to
withstand them, and these were presently joined by Lord Cawdor with
3,000 men, of whom 700 were well-trained Militia. Cawdor rode forward to
reconnoitre, and General Tate, deceived, as a popular legend goes, into
the belief that he was opposed by a British military force of great
strength, by the appearance behind his lordship of a body of Welshwomen
clad in their national red ‘whittles’ and high-crowned hats,

Be the cause what it might, by February 24, without a shot being fired,
700 Frenchmen were lodged in Haverfordwest Jail, 500 in St. Mary’s
Church, and the rest about the town. Later on, for security, 500
Frenchmen were shut up in the Golden Tower, Pembroke, and with this last
body a romance is associated. Two girls were daily employed in cleaning
the prison, and on their passage to and fro became aware of two handsome
young Frenchmen among the prisoners selling their manufactures at the
daily market, who were equally attracted by them. The natural results
were flirtation and the concoction of a plan of escape for the
prisoners. The girls contrived to smuggle into the prison some shin
bones of horses and cows, which the prisoners shaped into digging tools,
and started to excavate a passage sixty feet long under the prison walls
to the outer ditch which was close to the harbour, the earth thus dug
out being daily carried away by the girls in the pails they used in
their cleaning operations. Six weeks of continuous secret labour saw the
completion of the task, and all that now remained was to secure a vessel
to carry the performers away. Lord Cawdor’s yacht at anchor offered the
opportunity. Some reports say that a hundred prisoners got out by the
tunnel and boarded the yacht and a sloop lying at hand; but at any rate,
the two girls and five and twenty prisoners secured the yacht, and,
favoured by a thick fog, weighed anchor and got away. For three days
they drifted about; then, meeting a brig, they hailed her, represented
themselves as shipwrecked mariners, and were taken aboard. They learned
that a reward of £500 was being offered for the apprehension of the two
girls who had liberated a hundred prisoners, and replied by clapping the
brig’s crew under hatches, and setting their course for St. Malo, which
they safely reached.

The girls married their lovers, and one of them, Madame Roux, ci-devant
Eleanor Martin, returned to Wales when peace was declared, and is said
to have kept an inn at Merthyr, her husband getting a berth at the

Another of General Tate’s men, a son of the Marquis de Saint-Amans,
married Anne Beach, sister-in-law of the Rev. James Thomas, Vicar of St.
Mary’s, Haverfordwest, and head master of the Grammar School. General
Tate himself was confined in Portchester Castle.

                            IN MONMOUTHSHIRE


There were some two hundred officers on parole here, but the only memory
of them extant is associated with the Masonic Lodge, ‘Enfants de Mars et
de Neptune’, which was worked by them about 1813–14. Tradition says that
the officers’ mess room, an apartment in Monk Street, remarkable for a
handsome arched ceiling, also served for Lodge meetings. De Grasse
Tilly, son of Admiral De Grasse, who was defeated by Rodney in the West
Indies, was a prominent member of this Lodge. At the present
‘Philanthropic’ Lodge, No. 818, Abergavenny, are preserved some collars,
swords, and other articles which belonged to members of the old French
prisoners’ Lodge.

                           IN BRECKNOCKSHIRE

Prisoners were at Brecon; tombs of those who died may be seen in the old
Priory Churchyard, and ‘The Captain’s Walk’ near the County Hall still
preserves the memory of their favourite promenade.

In 1814 the Bailiff of Brecon requested to have the parole prisoners in
that town removed. The reason is not given, but the Transport Office
refused the request.

                              CHAPTER XXVI
                       ESCAPE AGENTS AND ESCAPES

To the general reader some of the most interesting episodes of the lives
of the paroled prisoners of war in Britain are those which are
associated with their escapes and attempts to escape. Now, although, as
has been already remarked, the feeling of the country people was almost
unanimously against the prisoners during the early years of the parole
system, that is, during the Seven Years’ War, from 1756 to 1763, during
the more tremendous struggles which followed that feeling was apparently
quite as much in their favour, and the authorities found the
co-operation of the inhabitants far more troublous to combat than the
ingenuity and daring of the prisoners. If the principle governing this
feeling among the upper classes of English society was one of chivalrous
sympathy with brave men in misfortune, the object of the lower
classes—those most nearly concerned with the escapes—was merely gain.

There were scores of country squires and gentlemen who treated the
paroled officers as guests and friends, and who no doubt secretly
rejoiced when they heard of their escapes, but they could not forget
that every escape meant a breach of solemnly-pledged honour, and I have
met with very few instances of English ladies and gentlemen aiding and
abetting in the escapes of paroled prisoners.

So profitable an affair was the aiding of a prisoner to escape that it
soon became as regular a profession as that of smuggling, with which it
was so intimately allied. The first instance I have seen recorded was in
1759, when William Scullard, a collar-maker at Liphook, Hampshire, was
brought before the justices at the Guildford Quarter Sessions, charged
with providing horses and acting as guide to assist two French prisoners
of distinction to escape—whence is not mentioned. After a long
examination he was ordered to be secured for a future hearing, and was
at length committed to the New Jail in Southwark, and ordered to be
fettered. The man was a reputed smuggler, could speak French, and had in
his pocket a list of all the cross-roads from Liphook round by Dorking
to London.

In 1812 Charles Jones, Solicitor to the Admiralty, describes the various
methods by which the escapes of paroled prisoners are effected. They are
of two kinds, he says:

‘1. By means of the smugglers and those connected with them on the
coast, who proceed with horses and covered carriages to the dépôts and
by arrangement rendezvous about the hour of the evening when the
prisoners ought to be within doors, about the mile limit, and thus carry
them off, travelling through the night and in daytime hiding in woods
and coverts. The horses they use are excellent, and the carriages
constructed for the purpose. The prisoners are conveyed to the coast,
where they are delivered over to the smugglers, and concealed until the
boat is ready. They embark at night, and before morning are in France.
These escapes are generally in pursuance of orders received from France.

‘2. By means of persons of profligate lives who, residing in or near the
Parole towns, act as conductors to such of the prisoners as choose to
form their own plan of escape. These prisoners generally travel in
post-chaises, and the conductor’s business is to pay the expenses and
give orders on the road to the innkeepers, drivers, &c., to prevent
discovery or suspicion as to the quality of the travellers. When once a
prisoner reaches a public-house or inn near the coast, he is considered
safe. But there are cases when the prisoners, having one among
themselves who can speak good English, travel without conductors. In
these cases the innkeepers and post-boys alone are to blame, and it is
certain that if this description of persons could be compelled to do
their duty many escapes would be prevented.... The landlord of the
_Fountain_ at Canterbury has been known to furnish chaises towards the
coast for six French prisoners at a time without a conductor.’

The writer suggested that it should be made felony to assist a prisoner
to escape, but the difficulty in the way of this was that juries were
well known to lean towards the accused. In the same year, 1812, however,
this came about. A Bill passed the Commons, the proposition being made
by Castlereagh that to aid in the escape of a prisoner should cease to
be misdemeanour, and become a felony, punishable by transportation for
seven or fourteen years, or life. Parole, he said, was a mere farce;
bribery was rampant and could do anything, and an organized system
existed for furthering the escape of prisoners of rank. Within the last
three years 464 officers on parole had escaped, but abroad _not one
British officer_ had broken his parole. The chief cause, he continued,
was the want of an Agent between the two countries for the exchange of
prisoners, and it was an extraordinary feature of the War that the
common rules about the exchange of prisoners were not observed.

The most famous escape agent was Thomas Feast Moore, _alias_ Maitland,
_alias_ Herbert, but known to French prisoners as Captain Richard Harman
of Folkestone. He was always flush of money, and, although he was known
to be able to speak French very fluently, he never used that language in
the presence of Englishmen. He kept a complete account of all the dépôts
and parole places, with the ranks of the principal prisoners thereat,
and had an agent at each, a poor man who was glad for a consideration to
place well-to-do prisoners in communication with Harman, and so on the
road to escape. Harman’s charge was usually £100 for four prisoners. As
a rule he got letters of recommendation from the officers whose escapes
he safely negotiated, and he had the confidence of some of the principal
prisoners in England and Scotland. He was generally in the neighbourhood
of Whitstable and Canterbury, but, for obvious reasons, owned to no
fixed residence. He seems to have been on the whole straight in his
dealings, but once or twice he sailed very closely in the track of
rascally agents who took money from prisoners, and either did nothing
for them, or actually betrayed them, or even murdered them.

On March 22, 1810, General Pillet, ‘Adjudant Commandant, Chef de
l’État-Major of the First Division of the Army of Portugal,’ and
Paolucci, commander of the _Friedland_, taken by H.M.S. _Standard_ and
_Active_ in 1808, left their quarters at Alresford, and were met half a
mile out by Harman with a post-chaise, into which they got and drove to
Winchester, alighting in a back street while Harman went to get another
chaise. Thence they drove circuitously to Hastings via Croydon,
Sevenoaks, Tunbridge, Robertsbridge, and Battle, Harman saying that this
route was necessary for safety, and that he would get them over, as he
had General Osten, in thirty-four hours.

They arrived at Hastings at 7 p.m. on March 23, and alighted outside the
town, while Harman went to get lodgings. He returned and took them to
the house of Mrs. Akers, a one-eyed woman; they waited there four days
for fair weather, and then removed to the house of one Paine, for better
concealment as the hue and cry was after them. They hid here two days,
whilst the house was searched, but their room was locked as an empty
lumber room. Pillet was disgusted at the delays, and that evening wanted
to go to the Mayor’s house to give himself up, but the landlord brought
them sailor clothes, and said that two women were waiting to take them
where they pleased. They refused the clothes, went out, met Rachael
Hutchinson and Elizabeth Akers, and supposed they would be taken to the
Mayor’s house, but were at once surrounded and arrested. All this time
Harman, who evidently saw that the delay caused by the foul weather was
fatal to the chance that the prisoners could get off, had disappeared,
but was arrested very shortly at the inn at Hollington Corner, three
miles from Hastings. He swore that he did not know them to be escaped
prisoners, but thought they were Guernsey lace-merchants.

During the examination which followed, the Hastings town crier said that
he had announced the escape of the prisoners at forty-three different
points of the eight streets which composed Hastings.

Pillet and Paolucci were sent to Norman Cross, and Harman to Horsham

At the next examination it came out that Harman had bought a boat for
the escape from a man who understood that it was to be used for
smuggling purposes by two Guernsey lace men. The Mayor of Hastings gave
it as his opinion that no Hastings petty jury would commit the prisoners
for trial, although a grand jury might, such was the local interest in
the escape-cum-smuggling business. However, they were committed. At
Horsham, Harman showed to Jones, the Solicitor to the Admiralty, an iron
crown which he said had been given him by the French Government for
services rendered, but which proved to have been stolen from Paolucci’s
trunk, of which he had the key.

Harman, on condition of being set free, offered to make important
disclosures to the Government respecting the escape business and its
connexion with the smugglers, but his offer was declined, and, much to
his disgust, he was sent to serve in the navy. ‘He could not have been
disposed of in a way less expected or more objectionable to himself,’
wrote the Admiralty Solicitor, Jones, to McLeay, the secretary.

But Harman’s career was by no means ended. After serving on the
_Enterprise_, he was sent to the _Namur_, guardship at the Nore, but for
a year or more a cloud of mystery enveloped him, and not until 1813 did
it come out that he must have escaped from the _Namur_ very shortly
after his transfer, and that during the very next year, 1811, he was
back at his old calling.

A man giving the name of Nicholas Trelawney, but obviously a Frenchman,
was captured on August 24, 1811, on the Whitstable smack _Elizabeth_,
lying in Broadstairs Roads, by the _Lion_ cutter. At his examination he
confessed that he was a prisoner who had broken parole from Tiverton,
and got as far as Whitstable on July 4. Here he lodged at an inn where
he met Mr. ‘Feast’ of the hoy _Whitstable_. In conversation the
Frenchman, not knowing, of course, who Mr. ‘Feast’ really was, described
himself as a Jerseyman who had a licence to take his boat to France, but
she had been seized by the Customs, as she had some English goods in
her. He told ‘Feast’ that he much wanted to get to France, and ‘Feast’
promised to help him, but without leading the Frenchman to suppose that
he knew him to be an escaped prisoner of war.

He paid ‘Feast’ £10 10_s._, and went on board the _Elizabeth_ to get to
Deal, as being a more convenient port for France. ‘Feast’ warned him
that he would be searched, and persuaded him to hand over his watch and
£18 for safe keeping. He saw nothing more of Mr. ‘Feast’ and was

When the above affair made it clear that Harman, alias Feast Moore, was
at work again, a keen servant of the Transport Office, Mantell, the
Agent at Dover, was instructed to get on to his track. Mantell found
that Harman had been at Broadstairs, to France, and in Dover, at which
place his well-known boat, the _Two Sisters_, was discovered, untenanted
and with her name obliterated. Mantell further learned that on the very
night previous to his visit Harman had actually been landed by
Lieutenant Peace of the armed cutter _Decoy_, saying that he bore
important dispatches from France for Croker at the Admiralty. The
lieutenant had brought him ashore, and had gone with him to an inn
whence he would get a mail-coach to London. Mantell afterwards heard
that Harman went no farther than Canterbury.

Mantell described Harman’s usual mode of procedure: how, the French
prisoners having been duly approached, the terms agreed upon, and the
horses, chaises, boats with sails, oars, charts and provisions arranged
for, he would meet them at a little distance outside their place of
confinement after dark, travel all night, and with good luck get them
off within two days at the outside. Mantell found out that in August
1811 Harman got four prisoners away from Crediton; he lived at Mr.
Parnell’s, the _White Lion_, St. Sidwell’s, under the name of Herbert,
bought a boat of Mr. Owen of Topsham, and actually saw his clients safe
over Exmouth bar.

His manner, said Mantell, was free and open; he generally represented
his clients to be Guernseymen, or _émigrés_, or Portuguese, and he
always got them to sign a paper of recommendation.

In July 1813 news came that Harman was at work in Kelso, Scotland. A
stranger in that town had been seen furtively carrying a trunk to the
_Cross Keys_ inn, from which he presently went in a post-chaise to
Lauder. He was not recognized, but frequent recent escapes from the town
had awakened the vigilance of the Agent, and the suspicious behaviour of
this stranger at the inn determined that official to pursue and arrest
him. The trunk was found to belong to Dagues, a French officer, and
contained the clothes of three other officers on parole, and from the
fact that the stranger had made inquiries about a coach for Edinburgh,
it was clear that an arrangement was nipped in the bud by which the
officers were to follow, pick up the trunk at Edinburgh, and get off
from Leith.

Harman was disguised, but the next morning the Kelso Agent saw at once
that he answered the description of him which had been circulated
throughout the kingdom, and sent him to Jedburgh Jail, while he
communicated with London.

The result of Harman’s affair was that the Solicitor-General gave it as
his opinion that it was better he should be detained as a deserter from
the navy than as an aider of prisoners to escape, on the ground that
there were no sufficiently overt acts on the parts of the French
prisoners to show an intention to escape! What became of Harman I cannot
trace, but at any rate he ceased to lead the fraternity of escape

Waddell, a Dymchurch smuggler, was second only to Harman as an extensive
and successful escape agent. In 1812 he came to Moreton-Hampstead, ‘on
business’, and meeting one Robins, asked him if he was inclined to take
part in a lucrative job, introducing himself, when in liquor afterwards
at the inn, as the author of the escape of General Lefebvre-Desnouettes
and wife from Cheltenham, for which he got £210, saying that while in
France he engaged to get General Reynaud and his aide-de-camp away from
Moreton-Hampstead for £300 or 300 guineas, which was the reason of his
presence there. He added that he was now out on bail for £400 about the
affair of Lefebvre-Desnouettes, and was bound to appear at Maidstone for
trial. If convicted he would only be heavily fined, so he was anxious to
put this affair through.

Robins agreed, but informed the Agent, and Waddell was arrested. As
regards General Reynaud, above alluded to, that officer wrote to the
Transport Office to say that the report of his intention to abscond was
untrue. The Office replied that it was glad to hear so, but added, ‘In
consequence of the very disgraceful conduct of other French officers of
high rank, such reports cannot fail to be believed by many.’

As a rule the prisoners made their way to London, whence they went by
hoy to Whitstable and across the Channel, but the route from Dymchurch
to Wimereux was also much favoured. Spicer of Folkestone, Tom Gittens
(known as Pork Pie Tom), James King, who worked the western ports; Kite,
Hornet, Cullen, Old Stanley, Hall, Waddle, and Stevenson of Folkestone;
Yates, Norris, Smith, Hell Fire Jack, old Jarvis and Bates of Deal;
Piper and Allen of Dover; Jimmy Whather and Tom Scraggs of Whitstable,
were all reported to be ‘deep in the business’, and Deal was described
as the ‘focus of mischief’. The usual charge of these men was £80 per
head, but, as has been already said, the fugitives ere they fairly set
foot on their native soil were usually relieved of every penny they

An ugly feature about the practice of parole-breaking is that the most
distinguished French officers did not seem to regard it seriously. In
1812 General Simon escaped from Odiham and corresponded with France; he
was recaptured, and sent to Tothill Fields Prison in London, and thence
to Dumbarton Castle, where two rooms were furnished for him exactly on
the scale of a British field officer’s barrack apartment; he was placed
on the usual parole allowance, eighteenpence per day for himself, and
one shilling and threepence per day for a servant, and he resented very
much having to give up a poniard in his possession. From Dumbarton he
appears to have carried on a regular business as an agent for the escape
of paroled prisoners, for, at his request, the Transport Office had
given permission for two of his subalterns, also prisoners on parole,
Raymond and Boutony by name, to take positions in London banks as French
correspondents, and it was discovered that these men were actually
acting as Simon’s London agents for the escape of prisoners on parole.
It was no doubt in consequence of this discovery that in 1813 orders
were sent to Dumbarton that not only was Simon to be deprived of
newspapers, but that he was not to be allowed pens and ink, ‘as he makes
such a scandalous and unbecoming use of them.’

In May 1814 Simon, although he was still in close confinement, was
exchanged for Major-General Coke, it being evidently considered by the
Government that he could do less harm fighting against Britain than he
did as a prisoner.

The frequent breaches of parole by officers of distinction led to severe
comments thereon by the Transport Board, especially with regard to
escapes. In a reply to General Privé, who had complained of being
watched with unnecessary rigour, it was said: ‘With reference to the
“eternal vigilance” with which the officers on parole are watched, I am
directed to observe that there was a little necessity for this, as a
great many Persons who style themselves Men of Honour, and some of them
members of the Legion of Honour, have abandoned all Honour and Integrity
by running from Parole, and by bribing unprincipled men to assist in
their Escape.’


‘Certain measures have been regarded as expedient in consequence of the
very frequent desertions of late of French officers, not even excepting
those of the highest rank, so that their Parole of Honour has become of
little Dependence for their Security as Prisoners of War. Particularly
do we select General Lefebvre-Desnouettes, an officer of the Legion of
Honour, a General of Division, Colonel commanding the Chasseurs à cheval
de la Garde. He was allowed unusually great privileges on parole—to
reside at Cheltenham, to go thence to Malvern and back to Cheltenham as
often as he liked; his wife was allowed to reside with him, and he was
allowed to have two Imperial Guardsmen as servants. Yet he absconded,
May 1, 1812, with his servants and naval lieutenant Armand le Duc, who
had been allowed as a special favour to live with him at Cheltenham.’

Lord Wellington requested that certain French officers should be given
their parole, but in reply the Transport Office declined to consent, and
as a reason sent him a list of 310 French officers who had broken their
parole during the current year, 1812.

The _Moniteur_ of August 9, 1812, attempted to justify these breaches of
parole, saying that Frenchmen only surrendered on the condition of
retaining their arms, and that we had broken that condition.

At the Exeter Assizes, in the summer of 1812, Richard Tapper of
Moreton-Hampstead, carrier, Thomas and William Vinnacombe of Cheriton
Bishop, smugglers, were convicted and sentenced to transportation for
life for aiding in the attempted escape of two merchant captains, a
second captain of a privateer, and a midshipman from Moreton-Hampstead,
from whom they had received £25 down and a promise of £150. They went
under Tapper’s guidance on horseback from Moreton to Topsham, where they
found the Vinnacombes waiting with a large boat. They started, but
grounded on the bar at Exmouth, and were captured.

In the same year, acting upon information, the Government officers
slipped quietly down to Deal, Folkestone, and Sandgate, and seized a
number of galleys built specially for the cross-Channel traffic of
escaped prisoners. They were beautifully constructed, forty feet long,
eight-oared, and painted so as to be almost invisible. It was said that
in calm weather they could be rowed across in _two hours_!

The pillory was an additional punishment for escape-aiders. Russel, in
his _History of Maidstone_, says that ‘the last persons who are
remembered to have stood in the pillory were two men, who in the first
decade of the present (nineteenth) century, had assisted French
prisoners of War to escape while on Parole’.

But I find that in 1812, seven men were condemned at Maidstone, in
addition to two years’ imprisonment, to stand in the pillory on every
market-day for a month, for the same offence. In this year, Hughes,
landlord of the _Red Lion_ and postmaster at Rye, Hatter, a fisherman,
and Robinson, of Oswestry, were sentenced to two years in Horsham Jail,
and in the first month to be pilloried on Rye Coast, _as near France as
possible_, for aiding in the escape of General Phillipon and Lieutenant

Men, not regular escape agents, as well as the latter, often victimized
the poor Frenchmen under pretence of friendship.

One Whithair, of Tiverton, was accused, at the Exeter Summer Assizes of
1812, by French prisoners of having cheated them. He had obtained £200
from six officers on parole at Okehampton—he said to purchase a boat to
get them off, and horses to carry them to the coast—through the medium
of Madame Riccord, the English wife of one of the French officers.
Whithair had also persuaded them to send their trunks to Tiverton in
readiness. They waited four months, and then suspected that Whithair was
tricking them, and informed the Agent. Whithair was arrested, and
condemned to pay £200, and to be imprisoned until he did so. Later,
Whithair humbly petitioned to be released from Newgate on the plea that
during his imprisonment he would have no chance of paying the fine, and
the Superintendent recommended it.

It may be imagined that the profession of escape-aiding had much the
same fascination for adventurous spirits as had what our forefathers
called ‘the highway’. So we read of a young gentleman of Rye, who,
having run through a fortune, determined to make a trial of this career
as a means of restoring his exchequer, but he was evidently too much of
an amateur in a craft which required the exercise of a great many
qualities not often found in one man’s composition. His very first
venture was to get off two officers of high rank from Reading, for which
he was to receive three hundred guineas, half paid down. He got them in
a post-chaise as far as the inn at Johns Cross, Mountfield, about
fourteen miles from Hastings, but here the Excise officers dropped upon
them, and there was an end of things.

At Ashbourne in Derbyshire, a young woman was brought up on March 13,
1812, charged with aiding prisoners on parole to escape, and evidently
there had been hints about improper relationship between her and the
Frenchmen, for she published the following:

‘_To the Christian Impartial Reader._

‘I the undernamed Susanna Cotton declares she has had nothing to do with
the escape of the French prisoners, although she has been remanded at
Stafford, and that there has been no improper relationship as rumoured.

‘Judge not that ye be not judged. Parents of female children should not
readily believe a slander of their sex, nor should a male parent listen
to the vulgar aggravation that too often attends the jocular whispering
report of a crime so important. For it is not known what Time, a year or
a day, may bring forth.

‘Misses Lomas and Cotton take this opportunity (tho’ an unpleasant one)
of returning their grateful acknowledgement of Public and Individual
Favours conferred on them in their Business of Millinery, and hope for a
continuance of them, and that they will not be withheld by reason of any
Prejudices which may have arisen from the Slander above alluded to.’

The prosecution was withdrawn, although Miss Cotton’s denials were found
to be untrue.

                             CHAPTER XXVII

The newspapers of our forefathers during the eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries contained very many advertisements like the two
following. The first is from the _Western Flying Post_, of 1756, dated
from Launceston, and offering Two Guineas reward for two officers, who
had broken their parole, and were thus described:

‘One, Mons. Barbier, a short man, somewhat pock-marked, and has a very
dejected look, and wore a snuff-coloured coat; the other, Mons. Beth, a
middle-aged man, very strongly set, wore his own hair and a blue coat.
The former speaks no English, but the latter very well. They were both
last seen near Exeter, riding to that city.’

The second is from the London _Observer_ of April 21, 1811:

     BREACH OF PAROLE OF HONOUR.—Transport Office, April 12, 1811.

‘Whereas the two French Officers, Prisoners of War, named and described
at the foot hereof, have absconded from Chesterfield in violation of
their Parole of Honour; the Commissioners for conducting His Majesty’s
Transport Service, etc., do hereby offer a Reward of Five Guineas for
the recapture of each of the said Prisoners, to any Person or Persons
who shall apprehend them, and deliver them at this office, or otherwise
cause them to be safely lodged in any of the Public Gaols. Joseph
Exelman, General of Brigade, age 36, 5 feet 11½ inches high, stout, oval
visage, fresh complexion, light brown hair, blue eyes, strong features.

‘Auguste de la Grange, Colonel, age 30, 6 feet high, stout, round
visage, fair complexion, brown hair, dark eyes, no mark in particular.’

Excelmans was one of Bonaparte’s favourites. He and De la Grange induced
Jonas Lawton, an assistant to Doctor John Elam, the surgeon at
Chesterfield, to make the necessary arrangements for escape, and to
accompany them. They left Chesterfield concealed in a covered cart, and
safely reached Paris. Here Lawton was liberally rewarded, and provided
with a good post as surgeon in a hospital, and retained the position
long after the conclusion of peace.

Merely escaping from the parole town did not become frequent until it
was found necessary to abolish virtually the other method of returning
to France which we allowed. By this, an officer on parole upon signing a
declaration to the effect that unless he was exchanged for a British
officer of similar rank by a certain date he would return to England on
that date, was allowed to go to France, engaging, of course, not to
serve against us. But when it became not a frequent but a universal rule
among French officers to break their honour and actually to serve
against us during their permitted absence, the Government was obliged to
refuse all applications, with the result that to escape from the parole
town became such a general practice as to call into existence that
profession of escape-aiding which was dealt with in the last chapter.

The case of Captain Jurien, now to be mentioned, is neither better nor
worse than scores of others.

On December 10, 1803, the Transport Office wrote to him in Paris:

‘As the time allowed for your absence from this Kingdom expired on
November 22nd, and as Captain Brenton, R.N., now a prisoner of war in
France, has not been released in exchange for you agreeably to our
proposal, you are hereby required to return to this country according to
the terms of your Parole Agreement.’

But on March 16, 1804, Jurien had not returned. One result was that when
a Colonel Neraud applied to be sent to France upon his giving his word
to have a British officer exchanged for him, the Transport Office
reminded him that Jurien had been released on parole, August 22, 1803,
on the promise that he would return in three months, if not exchanged
for Captain Brenton, and that seven months had passed and he was still
away. They added that the French Government had not released one British
officer in return for 500 French, who had been sent on parole to France,
some of whom, furthermore, in violation of their parole, were in arms
against Britain. ‘Hence your detention is entirely owing to the action
of your own Government.’

As time went on, and Jurien and the others did not return, the Transport
Office, weary of replying to the frequent applications of French
officers to go to France on parole, at last ceased to do so, with the
result that attempted escapes from parole places became frequent.

At the same time it must not be understood that laxity of honour as
regards parole obligation of this kind was universal. When in 1809 the
Transport Office, in reply to a request by General Lefebvre to be
allowed to go to France on parole, said that they could not accede
inasmuch as no French officer thus privileged had been _allowed_ to
return, they italicized the word ‘allowed’, and cited the case of
General Frescinet, ‘who made most earnest but ineffectual Intreaty to be
allowed to fulfil the Parole d’Honneur’ he had entered into, by
returning to this country.

Thame seems to have been a particularly turbulent parole town, and one
from which escapes were more than usually numerous. One case was
peculiar. Four prisoners who had been recaptured after getting away
justified their attempt by accusing Smith, the Agent, of ill-behaviour
towards them. Whereupon the other prisoners at Thame, among them
Villaret-Joyeuse, testified against them, and in favour of Smith.

The experiences of Baron Le Jeune are among the most interesting, and
his case is peculiar inasmuch as although he was nominally a prisoner on
parole, he was not so in fact, so that his escape involved no breach. In
1811 he was taken prisoner by Spanish brigands, who delivered him to the
English garrison at Merida. Here he was treated as a guest by
Major-General Sir William Lumley and the officers, and when he sailed
for England on H.M.S. _Thetis_ he had a state-cabin, and was regarded as
a distinguished passenger. On arriving at Portsmouth his anxiety was as
to whether the hulks were to be his fate. ‘And our uneasiness
increased’, he writes in the _Memoirs_, whence the following story is
taken, ‘when we passed some twenty old vessels full of French prisoners,
most of them wearing only yellow vests, whilst others were perfectly
naked. At this distressing sight I asked the captain if he was taking us
to the hulks. To which he replied with a frown: “Yes, just as a matter
of course.” At the same moment our boat drew up alongside the _San
Antonio_, an old 80–gun ship. We ascended the side, and there, to our
horror, we saw some five to six hundred French prisoners, who were but
one-third of those on board, climbing on to each other’s shoulders, in
the narrow space in which they were penned, to have a look at the
newcomers, of whose arrival they seemed to have been told. Their
silence, their attitude, and the looks of compassion they bestowed on me
as I greeted them _en passant_ seemed to me omens of a terrible future
for me.’

The captain of the hulk apologized to the baron for having no better
accommodation. Le Jeune, incredulous, made him repeat it, and flew into
a rage. He snatched a sword from an Irishman and swore he would kill any
one who would keep him on a hulk. The French prisoners shouted: ‘Bravo!
If every one behaved as you do, the English would not dare treat us so!’

The captain of the hulk was alarmed at the possible result of this with
1,500 desperate prisoners, and hurried the baron into his boat.

Thus Baron Le Jeune escaped the hulks!

He was then taken to the Forton Dépôt, where he remained three days, and
was then ordered to Ashby-de-la-Zouch. So rapidly was he hurried into a
coach that he had not time to sign his parole papers and resolved to
profit by the omission. He passed many days on a very pleasant journey
via Andover and Blenheim, for he paused to see all that was interesting
on the way, and even went to theatres. He found about a hundred French
prisoners at Ashby (some of whom, he says, had been there fifteen
years!), and reported himself to the Agent, Farnell, a grocer,
‘certainly the tallest, thinnest, most cadaverous seller of dry goods in
the world.’

At Ashby he found old friends, and passed his time with them, and in
learning English. He was invited to Lord Hastings’ house about a mile
from Ashby. Hastings was brother to Lord Moira, a friend of the Prince
of Wales, and here he met the orphan daughter of Sir John Moore. He was
most kindly treated, and Lord Hastings said he would try to get leave
for him to live in London.

Then came a change.

‘A man came to me one morning, and said to me privately that the Duke of
Rovigo, minister of Police in France, authorized by the Emperor, had
sent him to propose to me that I should let him arrange for me to get
out of England, and return to France. I distrusted him, for I had heard
of the tricks of escape Agents, and said I would first consult my
friend, Colonel Stoffel. I did so. Stoffel said it was a _bonâ fide_
offer, but the emissary had brought no money with him, and it would cost
probably 200 guineas.’

Where was the baron to get such a sum? He went to Baudins, a merchant,
and asked him for a loan, and at a ball that night Baudins signalled
that the loan was all right. Farnell was at the ball, and the baron
describes his comical assumption of dignity as the guardian of the
French prisoners. Baudins lent Baron Le Jeune the money in gold without
asking interest on it.

‘I was invited to a grand dinner by General Hastings the very evening we
were to start, and I duly appeared at it. The evening passed very
brightly, and at dessert, after the ladies had retired, the men remained
behind to drink wine together, beginning with a toast to the ladies. As
a matter of taste, as well as of design, I kept my head clear, and when
my companions were sufficiently exhilarated by the fumes of the claret
they had drunk, they returned with somewhat unsteady steps to the
drawing-room, where tea had been prepared by the ladies.’

The baron won the goodwill of all and was invited to return the next

At 11 p.m., it being very dark, he slipped out through the park to meet
Colonel Stoffel and a guide. He waited an hour, but at last they arrived
in a post-chaise, and they drove off. Passing through Northants, North
Middlesex [_sic_], London, and Reigate, they came to Hythe, where they
stopped the next night. They pretended to be invalids come for a course
of sea baths, and the baron was actually assisted out of the carriage by
Custom-house officers. The chaise dismissed, tea was ordered while the
guide went to make inquiries about Folkestone. He returned with a
horror-struck face, and wrote on a slate: ‘Pay at once and let us be
off.’ Le Jeune gave the girl of the house a guinea, and told her to keep
the change, which made her look suspicious, as if the money had not been
honestly come by. No time was to be lost, for Hythe was full of troops.
The guide advised the baron to drop the erect bearing of a soldier, and
assume a stoop. They got away, and hid in a wheat-field during the day
while the guide again went into Folkestone. He was away seventeen hours.
At length they got to Folkestone, and Le Jeune was introduced to a
smuggler named Brick, a diabolical-looking man, who said he would take
them safely over to France.

Brick asked the Baron for 200 guineas, and got them. The wind was
contrary, he said, but he would lodge them well. A decent room was hired
with a trap-door under the bed for escape, and here they remained
thirteen days. Le Jeune became impatient, and at last resolved to risk
weather and everything else and go. ‘Well! follow me! like the others!’
growled Brick ferociously to the sailor with him. But the woman of the
house implored Le Jeune and Stoffel not to go with Brick: they remained
determined, but she persisted and held them back, and so, now persuaded
that she had good reasons for her action, and she seeming a decent body,
they remained. Later on they learned how close to danger they had been,
for the woman told them that Brick had taken the money of a score of
fugitives like themselves, promising to land them in France, hiding them
under nets to avoid the coast-guard, and as soon as they were well out,
murdering them and flinging their bodies overboard with stones tied to
them, knowing that transportation awaited him if he was caught aiding
prisoners to escape.

They asked the woman to help them, for now they had no money. The baron
told the sailor that he would give him fifty livres at Boulogne, if he
landed them there. He was an honest fellow, brought them a sailor’s
clothes, and went along the beach with them, replying, ‘Fishermen’ to
the many challenges they got. Finding a small boat, they shoved it off,
and got in, so as to board a fishing-smuggling smack riding outside. It
was a foul night, and three times they were hurled back ashore, wet to
the skin; so they returned. The next day the weather moderated and they
got off, under the very lee of a police boat, which they deceived by
pretending to get nets out. In six hours they were within sight of
Boulogne, but were obliged to keep off or they would be fired upon,
until they had signalled and were told to come in.

At this time England sent by smugglers a quantity of incendiary
pamphlets which the French coast-guard had orders to seize, so that Le
Jeune and Stoffel were searched and, guarded by armed men, marched to
the Commissary of Police, ‘just as if’, Le Jeune said, ‘we were infected
with the plague.’

Luckily, the Commissary was an old friend of the baron, so they had no
further trouble, but paid the sailor his fifty livres, and went to
Paris. At an interview with the Emperor, the latter said to Le Jeune,
‘And did you see Lefebvre-Desnouettes?’

‘No, sire, but I wrote to him. He is extremely anxious to get back to
you, and is beginning to lose hope of being exchanged. He would do as I
have done if he were not afraid of your Majesty’s displeasure.’

‘Oh! Let him come! Let him come! I shall be very glad to see him,’ said
the Emperor.

‘Does your Majesty give me leave to tell him so in your name?’

‘Yes, yes. Don’t lose any time.’

So Madame Lefebvre-Desnouettes got a passport, and went over to England,
and her presence did much to distract the attention of the general’s
guardians, and made his escape comparatively easy. The general, as a
German or Russian Count, Madame in boy’s clothes as his son, and an
A.D.C. got up as a valet-de-chambre, went in a post-chaise from
Cheltenham to London, where they rested for a couple of hours at
Sablonière’s in Leicester Square, then at midnight left for Dover and
thence to Paris.

General Osten, second in command at Flushing, on parole at Lichfield,
was another gentleman who was helped to get off by a lady member of his
family. His daughter had come with him from Flushing, and in December
1809 went away with all her father’s heavy baggage. In February 1810,
Waddell, the escape agent, met the general and two other officers in
Birmingham, and forty-six hours later landed with them in Holland.

In this year, 1810, the escapes were so numerous by boats stolen from
the shores that the Admiralty issued a warning that owners of boats on
beaches should not leave masts, oars, and tackle in them, and in 1812
compensation was refused to a Newton Abbot and to a Paignton fisherman,
because prisoners had stolen their boats, which had been left with their
gear on the beach, despite warning, and when the prisoners were
recaptured it was found that they had destroyed the boats.

In October 1811, six French officers—Bouquet, army surgeon, Leclerc,
lieutenant of hussars, Denguiard, army surgeon, Jean Henry, ‘passenger’
on privateer, Gaffé, merchant skipper, and Glenat, army lieutenant,
under the guidance of one Johns, left Okehampton, crossed the moor to
Bovey Tracey, where they met a woman of whom they asked the way to
Torbay. She replied, and while they consulted together, gave the alarm
so that the villagers turned out and caught three of the runaways. The
other three ran and were pursued. Johns turned on the foremost pursuer
and stabbed him so that he died, and two others were wounded by the
Frenchmen, but the latter were caught at Torquay. Johns got off, but on
November 2 was seen at Chesterfield, where he got work on a Saturday;
instead of going to it on Monday morning, however, he decamped, and was
seen on the Manchester road, eight miles from Chesterfield. In 1812 a
man named Taylor, of Beer Alston, said to be Johns, was arrested, but
proved an alibi and was discharged.

In 1812 General Maurin, who may be remembered in connexion with the
Crapper trouble at Wantage, escaped with his brother from Abergavenny,
whither he had been sent, the smuggler Waddell being paid £300 for his
help. At the same time General Brou escaped from Welshpool. Both these
officers had been treated with particular leniency and had been allowed
unusual privileges, so that the Transport Office comments with great
severity upon their behaviour.

On November 8, 1812, a girl named Mary Clarke went in very foggy weather
from Wolverhampton to Bridgnorth to meet a friend. She waited for some
time, but he did not come; so she turned back towards her inn, where her
chaise was waiting. Here was Lieutenant Montbazin, a French naval
officer, who had broken his parole from Lichfield, who politely accosted
her and asked her if she was going to Wolverhampton. She replied that
she was. Was she going to walk? No; she had her chaise. Would she let
him have a seat if he paid half expenses? She agreed, and went back for
the chaise while he walked on, and she picked him up half a mile on,
between some rocks by the roadside. So they went on to Wolverhampton—and
to Birmingham. In the meantime he had been missed at Lichfield, and
followed, and in the back parlour of the _Swan_ at Birmingham was
arrested with the girl.

This was Mary Clarke’s evidence in court.

In defence, Montbazin said that he had been exchanged for four British
seamen, who had been landed from France, but that the Transport Office
had refused to let him go, so he had considered himself absolved from
his parole.

It is hardly necessary to say that the girl’s story was concocted, that
her meeting with Montbazin was part of a prearranged plan, and the Court
emphasized their opinion that this was the case by sending the
lieutenant to a prison afloat, and Mary Clarke to one ashore.

In October 1812, eight French officers left Andover quietly in the
evening, and, a mile out, met two mounted escape-aiders. Behind each of
them a prisoner mounted, and all proceeded at a walk for six miles, when
they met another man with three horses. On these horses the remaining
six prisoners mounted, and by daybreak were at Ringwood, thirty-six
miles on their road to liberty. All the day they remained hidden in the
forest, living upon bread, cheese, and rum, which their guides procured
from Ringwood. At nightfall they restarted, passed through Christchurch
to Stanpit, and thence to the shore, where they found a boat waiting for
them; but the wind being contrary and blowing a gale, they could not
embark, and were obliged to remain hidden in the woods for three days,
suffering so much from exposure and want that they made a bargain with a
Mrs. Martin to lodge in her house for £12 until the weather should
moderate sufficiently for them to embark. They stayed here for a week,
and then their suspense and anxiety, they knowing that the hue and cry
was after them, became unbearable, and they gave the smuggler-skipper of
the _Freeholder_ a promissory note for six hundred guineas to hazard
taking them off. He made the attempt, but the vessel was driven ashore,
and the Frenchmen were with difficulty landed at another spot on the
coast; here they wandered about in the darkness and storm, until one of
them becoming separated from the others gave himself up, and the
discovery of his companions soon followed.

The result of the trial was that the officers were, of course, sent to
the hulks, the master of the _Freeholder_ was transported for life, four
of his men for seven years, and the _aiders acquitted_. This appears
curious justice, which can only be explained by presuming that the
magistrates, or rather the Admiralty, often found it politic to get
escape-aiders into their service in this way.

Of course, all ‘escapes’ were bad offences from an honourable point of
view, but some were worse than others. For instance, in 1812, the Duc de
Chartres wrote a strong letter of intercession to the Transport Office
on behalf of one Du Baudiez. This man had been sent to Stapleton Prison
for having broken his parole at Odiham, and the duke asked that his
parole should be restored him. The Transport Office decidedly rejected
the application, and in their reply to the duke quoted a letter written
by Du Baudiez to his sister in France in which he says that he has given
his creditors in Odiham bills upon her, but asks her not to honour them,
because ‘Les Anglais nous ont agonis de sottises, liés comme des bêtes
sauvages, et traités toute la route comme des chiens. Ce sont des
Anglais; rien ne m’étonne de ce qu’ils ont fait ... ce sont tous des
gueux, des scélérats depuis le premier jusqu’au dernier. Aussi je vous
prie en grâce de protester ces billets ... je suis dans la ferme
résolution de ne les point payer.’

On one occasion an unexpected catch of ‘broke-paroles’ was made. The
Revenue Officers believed that two men who were playing cards in an inn
near Canterbury were escaped prisoners, and at 8 p.m. called on a
magistrate to get help. The magistrate told them that it was of no use
to get the constable, as at that hour he was usually intoxicated, but
authorized them to get the military.

This they did, but the landlord refused to open the door and, during the
parleying, two men slipped out by the back door, whom the officers
stopped, and presently two others, who were also stopped. All four were
French ‘broke-paroles’ from Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and the card-players
within were not prisoners at all. The captured men said that on
Beckenham Common they had nearly been caught, for the driver of the cart
stopped there at 10 p.m. to rest the horse. The horse-patrol, passing
by, ordered him to move on. As he was putting the horse to, the
Frenchmen, all being at the back of the cart, tilted it up and cried
out. However, the horse-patrol had passed on and did not hear.

In the two next cases English girls play a part. In 1814 Colonel Poerio
escaped from Ashbourne with an English girl in male attire, but they
were captured at Loughborough. At the trial an Ashbourne woman said that
one day a girl came and asked for a lodging, saying that she was a
worker at ‘lace-running’; she seemed respectable, and was taken in, and
remained some days without causing any suspicion, although she seemed on
good terms with the French prisoners on parole in the town. One evening
the woman’s little girl met the lodger coming downstairs, and said:
‘Mam! _she_ has got a black coat on!’ When asked where she was going,
she replied, ‘To Colonel Juliett’s. Will be back in five minutes.’
(Colonel Juliett was another prisoner.) She did not return, and that was
the last witness saw of her.

Upon examination, the girl said that she kept company with Poerio, but
as her father did not approve of her marrying him she had resolved to
elope. She took with her £5, which she had saved by ‘running’ lace. They
were arrested at the _Bull’s Head_, Loughborough, where the girl had
ordered a chaise. Counsel decided that there was no case for

I am not sure if this Colonel Poerio is identical with the man of that
name who, in 1812, when on a Chatham hulk, applied to be put on parole,
the answer being a refusal, inasmuch as he was a man of infamous
character, and that when in command of the island of Cerigo he had
poisoned the water there in order to relieve himself of some 600
Albanian men, women, and children, many of whom died—a deed he
acknowledged himself by word and in writing.

Colonel Ocher in 1811 got off from Lichfield with a girl, was pursued by
officers in a chaise and four, and was caught at Meriden, on the
Coventry road, about two miles beyond Stone Bridge. Upon examination,
Ann Green, spinster, lodging at 3, Newman Street, Oxford Street, London,
said that she came to Birmingham by the ‘Balloon’ coach, according to
instructions she had received from a Baron Ferriet, whom she knew. He
had given her £6, paid her fare, and sent her to the _Swan with two
Necks_ in Ladd Lane, where she was given a letter, which, as she could
not read, the waiter read to her. The letter told her to go to Lichfield
to the _St. George_ hotel, as the baron had business to attend to which
kept him in London. At the Lichfield hotel there was a letter which told
her to go to Mr. Joblin’s, where Colonel Ocher lodged. Here she left
word she would meet him in the fields, which she did at 9 p.m., when
they went off, and were captured as above.

In defence, ‘Baron Ferriet’ told a strange story. He said he had been in
the British Secret Service in France. He lived there in constant danger
as there was a reward of 40,000 francs offered for him by the French
Government. At Sables d’Olonne, Colonel Ocher’s family had hidden him
when the authorities were after him, and had saved him, and Madame Ocher
had looked after his wife and family. So, in a long letter he explains
in very fair English that he determined to repay the Ochers in France
for their kindness to him by procuring the escape of General Ocher, a
prisoner on parole in England, and regarded him as ‘his property’.

Although the prisoners on parole had no lack of English sympathizers,
especially if they could pay, a large section of the lower class of
country folk were ever on the alert to gain the Government reward for
the detection and prevention of parole-breaking. The following is a
sample of letters frequently received by the ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office and
its agents:


‘This informs your lordships that on ye 30th July 1780, I was on
Okehampton road leading to Tavistock, saw four French prisoners, on
horseback without a guide. They signified to me that they had leave to
go to Tavistock from there company at Okehampton. After I was past
Tavistock four miles they came galloping on towards Buckland Down Camp.
I kept in sight of them and perceived them to ride several miles or
above out of the Turnpike Road taking of what view they could of
Gentlemen’s seats, and ye Harbour and Sound and Camp, and I thought
within myself it was very strange that these profest Enemies should be
granted such Libertys as this, by any Company whatever. Accordingly came
to a Resolution as soon as they came within the lines of the Camp ride
forward and stopt them and applyd to the Commanding Officer which was
Major Braecher of the Bedfordshire Militia, who broke their letter, and
not thinking it a proper Passport the Major ordered them under the care
of the Quarter Guard.

[Winds up with a claim for reward.]

                                                  ‘JOSEPH GILES,
                                          ‘Near ye P.O., Plymouth Dock.’

It turned out in this case that the Agent at Okehampton had given the
Frenchmen permission to go to Tavistock for their trunks, so they were
released and returned. The ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office said that to allow
these prisoners to ride unguarded to Tavistock was most improper, and
must, under no circumstances, be allowed to occur again.

From a paper read by Mr. Maberley Phillips, F.S.A., before the Newcastle
Society of Antiquaries, I take the following instances of escapes of
parole prisoners in the North.

In 1813 there were on parole at Jedburgh under the Agent, George Bell,
about a hundred French prisoners. At the usual Saturday muster-call on
June I, all were present, but at that of June 4, Benoît Poulet and
Jacques Girot were missing. From the evidence at the trial of the
accomplices in this escape, all of whom except the chief agent, James
Hunter of Whitton, near Rothbury, were arrested, and three of whom
turned King’s evidence, the story was unfolded of the flight of the
men—who were passed off as Germans on a fishing excursion—across the
wild, romantic, historic fell-country between the Border and Alwinton on
the Coquet; and so by Whitton, Belsay, and Ponteland, to the _Bird in
Bush_ inn, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle; whence the Frenchmen were supposed
to have gone to Shields, and embarked in a foreign vessel for France.

I quote this and the following case as instances of the general sympathy
of English country people with the foreign prisoners amongst them. The
_Courant_ of August 28, 1813, says: ‘The trial of James Hunter occupied
the whole of Monday, and the court was excessively crowded; when the
verdict of Not Guilty was delivered, clapping of hands and other noisy
symptoms of applause were exhibited, much to the surprise of the judge,
Sir A. Chambers, who observed that he seemed to be in an assembly of
Frenchmen, rather than in an English court of justice. The other
prisoners charged with the same offence, were merely arraigned, and the
verdict of acquittal was recorded without further trial.’

Hunter had been arrested in Scotland, just before the trial. Quoting
from Wallace’s _History of Blyth_, Mr. Phillips says:

‘One Sunday morning in the year 1811, the inhabitants were thrown into a
state of great excitement by the startling news that five Frenchmen had
been taken during the night and were lodged in the guard-house. They
were officers who had broken their parole at Edinburgh Castle [?
Jedburgh], and in making their way home had reached the neighbourhood of
Blyth; when discovered, they were resting by the side of the Plessy
wagon-way beside the “Shoulder of Mutton” field.

‘A party of countrymen who had been out drinking, hearing some persons
conversing in an unknown tongue, suspected what they were, and
determined to effect their capture. The fugitives made some resistance,
but in the end were captured, and brought to Blyth, and given into the
charge of the soldiers then quartered in the town. _This act of the
countrymen met with the strongest reprobation of the public_’ (the
italics are mine). ‘The miscarriage of the poor fellows’ plan of escape
through the meddling of their captors, excited the sympathy of the
inhabitants; rich and poor vying with each other in showing kindness to
the strangers. Whatever was likely to alleviate their helpless condition
was urged upon their acceptance; victuals they did not refuse, but
though money was freely offered them, they steadily refused to accept
it. The guard-house was surrounded all day long by crowds anxious to get
a glimpse of the captives. The men who took the prisoners were rewarded
with £5 each, but doubtless it would be the most unsatisfactory wages
they ever earned, for long after, whenever they showed their faces in
the town, they had to endure the upbraiding of men, women, and children;
indeed, it was years before public feeling about this matter passed

The continuance and frequency of escapes by prisoners on parole
necessitated increased rigidity of regulations. The routes by which
prisoners were marched from place to place were exactly laid down, and
we find numberless letters of instruction from the Transport Office like

‘Colonel X having received permission to reside on parole at
Ashby-de-la-Zouch, his route from Chatham is to be: Chatham, Sevenoaks,
Croydon, Kingston, Uxbridge, Wendover, Buckingham, Towcester, Daventry,
and Coleshill.’

The instructions to conductors of prisoners were as follows:

Prisoners were to march about twelve miles a day. Conductors were to pay
the prisoners sixpence per day per man before starting. Conductors were
to ride ahead of prisoners, so as to give notice at towns of their
coming, and were to see that the prisoners were not imposed upon.
Conductors (who were always mounted), were to travel thirty miles a day
on the return journey, and to halt upon Sundays.

Of course, it was in the power of the conductors to make the journeys of
the prisoners comfortable or the reverse. If the former, it was the
usual custom to give a certificate of this kind:

‘_April 1798._ This is to certify that Mr. Thomas Willis, conductor of
134 Dutch and Spanish prisoners of war from the _Security_ prison ship
at Chatham, into the custody of Mr. Barker, agent for prisoners of war
at Winchester, has provided us with good lodgings every night, well
littered with straw, and that we have been regularly paid our
subsistence every morning on our march, each prisoner sixpence per day
according to the established allowance.


The ill-treatment of prisoners on the march was not usual, and when
reported was duly punished. Thus in 1804 a Coldstream guardsman on
escort of prisoners from Reading to Norman Cross, being convicted of
robbing a prisoner, was sentenced to 600 lashes, and the sentence was
publicly read out at all the dépôts.

In 1811 posters came out offering the usual reward for the arrest of an
officer who had escaped from a Scottish parole town, and distinguished
him as lacking three fingers of his left hand. A year later Bow Street
officers Vickary and Lavender, ‘from information received’, followed a
seller of artificial flowers into a public-house in ‘Weston Park,
Lincolns Inn Fields.’ The merchant bore the distinctive mark of the
wanted foreigner, and, seeing that the game was up, candidly admitted
his identity, said that he had lived in London during the past twelve
months by making and selling artificial flowers, and added that he had
lost his fingers for his country, and would not mind losing his head for

In the same year a militia corporal who had done duty at a prisoner
dépôt, and so was familiar with foreign faces, saw two persons in a
chaise driving towards Worcester, whom he at once suspected to be
escaped prisoners. He stopped the chaise, and made the men show their
passports, which were not satisfactory, and, although they tried to
bribe him to let them go, he refused, mounted the bar of the chaise, and
drove on. One of the men presently opened the chaise-door with the aim
of escaping, but the corporal presented a pistol at him, and he
withdrew. At Worcester they confessed that they had escaped from
Bishop’s Castle, and said they were Trafalgar officers.

In 1812 prisoners broke their parole in batches. From Tiverton at one
time, twelve; from Andover, eight (as recorded on pp. 384–5); from
Wincanton, ten; and of these, four were generals and eighteen colonels.

In the _Quarterly Review_, December 1821, the assertion made by M.
Dupin, in his report upon the treatment of French prisoners in Britain,
published in 1816, and before alluded to in the chapter upon
prison-ships, that French officers observed their parole more faithfully
than did English, was shown to be false. Between May 1803, and August
1811, 860 French officers had attempted to escape from parole towns. Of
these, 270 were recaptured, and 590 escaped. In 1808 alone, 154 escaped.
From 1811 to 1814, 299 army officers escaped, and of this number 9 were
generals, 18 were colonels, 14 were lieutenant-colonels, 8 were majors,
91 were captains, and 159 were lieutenants. It should be noted that in
this number are not included the many officers who practically
‘escaped’, in that they did not return to England when not exchanged at
the end of their term of parole.

From the Parliamentary Papers of 1812, I take the following table:

                                        Transport Office, June 25, 1812.

                   │ _Total │        │         │          │
                   │No. Com.│  _No.  │         │          │
                   │Officers│  that  │         │          │
                   │   on   │ broke  │  _Been  │          │
 Year ending 5th   │        │        │         │          │N.B. The numbers
   June 1810       │   1,685│     104│       47│        57│stated in this
 Year ending 5th   │        │        │         │          │account include those
   June 1811       │   2,087│     118│       47│        71│persons only who have
 Year ending 5th   │        │        │         │          │actually absconded
   June 1812       │   2,142│     242│       63│       179│from the places
                   │   —————│     ———│      ———│       ———│appointed for their
                   │   5,914│     464│      157│       307│residence.
 Besides the above,│        │        │         │          │
   the following   │        │        │         │          │A considerable number
   other prisoners │        │        │         │          │of officers have been
   of rank         │        │        │         │          │ordered into
   entitling them  │        │        │         │          │confinement for
   to be on parole,│        │        │         │          │various other
   have broken it  │        │        │         │          │breaches of their
   during the three│        │        │         │          │parole engagements.
   years above     │        │        │         │          │  (Signed)
   mentioned.      │        │     218│       85│       133│      RUP. GEORGE.
                   │   —————│     ———│      ———│       ———│      J. BOWEN.
                   │        │     682│      242│       440│      J. DOUGLAS.

During the above-quoted period, between 1803 and 1811, out of 20,000
British _détenus_, not prisoners of war, in France, it cannot be shown
that more than twenty-three broke their parole, and even these are

Sometimes the epidemic of parole-breaking was severe enough to render
drastic measures necessary. In 1797 orders were issued that all French
prisoners, without distinction of rank, were to be placed in close

In 1803, in consequence of invasion alarms, it was deemed advisable to
remove all prisoners from the proximity of the coast to inland towns,
the Admiralty order being:

‘At the present conjunction all parole prisoners from the South and West
towns are to be sent to North Staffordshire, and Derbyshire—that is, to
Chesterfield, Ashbourne, and Leek.’

General Morgan at Bishop’s Waltham resented this removal so far away, in
a letter to the Transport Office, to which they replied:

‘This Board has uniformly wished to treat Prisoners of War with every
degree of humanity consistent with the public safety: but in the present
circumstances it has been judged expedient to remove all Prisoners of
War on Parole from places near the Coast to Inland towns. You will
therefore observe that the order is not confined to you, but relates
generally to all Prisoners on Parole: and with regard to your comparison
of the treatment of prisoners in this country with that of British
prisoners in France, the Commissioners think it only necessary to remark
that the distance to which it is now proposed to remove you does not
exceed 170 miles, whereas British prisoners in France are marched into
the interior to a distance of 500 miles from some of the ports into
which they are carried.’

Morgan was allowed eventually his choice of Richmond or Barnet as a
place of parole, a privilege accorded him because of his kindness to a
Mr. Hurry, during the detention of the latter as a prisoner in France.

In 1811, so many prisoners escaped from Wincanton that all the parole
prisoners in the place were marched to London to be sent thence by sea
to Scotland for confinement. ‘Sudden and secret measures’ were taken to
remove them, all of the rank of captain and above, to Forton for
embarkation, except General Houdetôt, who was sent to Lichfield. From
Okehampton sixty were sent to Ilfracombe, and thence to Swansea for
Abergavenny, and from Bishop’s Waltham to Oswestry in batches of twelve
at intervals of three days.

Many parole towns petitioned for the retention of the prisoners, but all
were refused; the inhabitants of some places in Devon attempted to
detain prisoners for debts; and Enchmarsh, the Agent at Tiverton, was
suspended for not sending off his prisoners according to orders. Their
departure was the occasion in many places for public expressions of
regret, and this can be readily appreciated when it is considered what
the residence of two or three hundred young men, some of whom were of
good family and many of whom had private means, in a small English
country town meant, not merely from a business but from a social point
of view.

In _The Times_ of 1812 may be read that a French officer, who had been
exchanged and landed at Morlaix, and had expressed disgust at the
frequent breaches of parole by his countrymen, was arrested and shot by
order of Bonaparte. I merely quote this as an example that even British
newspapers of standing were occasionally stooping to the vituperative
level of their trans-Channel _confrères_.

                             CHAPTER XXVIII
                        COMPLAINTS OF PRISONERS

It could hardly be expected that a uniform standard of good and
submissive behaviour would be attained by a large body of fighting men,
the greater part of whom were in vigorous youth or in the prime of life,
although, on the whole, the conduct of those who honourably observed
their parole seems to have been admirable—a fact which no doubt had a
great deal to do with the very general display of sympathy for them
latterly. In some places more than others they seem to have brought upon
themselves by their own behaviour local odium, and these are the places
in which were quartered captured privateer officers, wild, reckless
sea-dogs whom, naturally, restraint galled far more deeply than it did
the drilled and disciplined officers of the regular army and navy.

In 1797, for instance, the inhabitants of Tavistock complained that the
prisoners went about the town in female garb, after bell-ringing, and
that they were associated in these masquerades with women of their own
nation. So they were threatened with the Mill Prison at Plymouth.

In 1807 complaints from Chesterfield about the improper conduct of the
prisoners brought a Transport Office order to the Agent that the
strictest observation of regulations was necessary, and that the mere
removal of a prisoner to another parole town was no punishment, and was
to be discontinued. In 1808 there was a serious riot between the
prisoners and the townsfolk in the same place, in which bludgeons were
freely used and heads freely broken, and from Lichfield came complaints
of the outrageous and insubordinate behaviour of the prisoners.

In 1807 Mr. P. Wykeham of Thame Park complained of the prisoners
trespassing therein; from Bath came protests against the conduct of
General Rouget and his A.D.C.; and in 1809 the behaviour of one
Wislawski at Odiham (possibly the ‘Wysilaski’ already mentioned as at
Sanquhar) was reported as being so atrocious that he was at once packed
off to a prison-ship.

In 1810, at Oswestry, Lieutenant Julien complained that the Agent,
Tozer, had insulted him by threatening him with his cane, and accusing
him of drunkenness in the public-houses. Tozer, on the other hand,
declared that Julien and others were rioting in the streets, that he
tried to restore order, and raised his cane in emphasis, whereupon
Julien raised his with offensive intent.

Occasionally we find complaints sent up by local professionals and
tradesmen that the prisoners on parole unfairly compete with them. Here
it may be remarked that the following of trades and professions by
prisoners of war was by no means confined to the inmates of prisons and
prison-ships, and that there were hundreds of poor officers on parole
who not only worked at their professions (as Garneray the painter did at
Bishop’s Waltham) and at specific trades, but who were glad to eke out
their scanty subsistence-money by the manufacture of models, toys,
ornaments, &c.

In 1812 a baker at Thame complained that the prisoners on parole in that
town baked bread, to which the Transport Office replied that there was
no objection to their doing it for their own consumption, but not for
public sale. It is to be hoped the baker was satisfied with this very
academic reply!

So also the bootmakers of Portsmouth complained that the prisoners on
parole in the neighbourhood made boots for sale at lower than the
current rates. The Transport Office replied that orders were strict
against this, and that the master bootmakers were to blame for
encouraging this ‘clandestine trade.’

In 1813 the doctors at Welshpool complained that the doctors among the
French parole prisoners there inoculated private families for small-pox.
The Transport Office forbade it.

In the same year complaints came from Whitchurch in Shropshire of the
defiant treatment of the limit-rules by the prisoners there; to which
the Transport Office replied that they had ordered posts to be set up at
the extremities of the mile-limits, and printed regulations to be posted
in public places; that they were fully sensible of the mischief done by
so many prisoners being on parole, but that they were unable to stop it.

Still in 1813, the Transport Office commented very severely upon the
case of a Danish officer at Reading who had been found guilty of forging
a ‘certificate of succession’, which I take to be a list of prisoners in
their order for being exchanged. I quote this case, as crimes of this
calibre were hardly known among parole prisoners; for other instances,
see pages 320 and 439.

Many complaints were made from the parole towns about the debts left
behind them by absconded prisoners. The Transport Office invariably
replied that such debts being private matters, the only remedy was at
civil law.

When we come to deal with the complaints made by the prisoners—be they
merely general complaints, or complaints against the people of the
country—the number is so great that the task set is to select those of
the most importance and interest.

Complaints against fellow prisoners are not common.

In 1758 a French doctor, prisoner on parole at Wye in Kent, complains
that ten of his countrymen, fellow prisoners, wanted him to pay for
drinks to the extent of twenty-seven shillings. He refused, so they
attacked him, tore his clothes, stole thirty-six shillings, a
handkerchief, and two medals. He brought his assailants before the
magistrates, and they were made to refund twenty-five shillings. This so
enraged them that they made his life a burden to him, and he prayed to
be removed elsewhere.

In 1758 a prisoner on parole at Chippenham complained that he was
subjected to ill treatment by his fellow prisoners. The letter is

‘Mr. Trevanion (the local Agent) is directed to publish to all the
prisoners that if any are guilty of misbehaviour to each other, the
offenders will immediately be sent to the Prison, and particularly that
if any one molests or insults the writer of this letter, he shall
instantly be confined upon its being proved.’

Later, however, the writer complains that the bullying is worse than
ever, and that the other prisoners swear that they will cut him in
pieces, so that he dare not leave his lodgings, and has been besieged
there for days.

In the same year Dingart, captain of the _Deux Amis_ privateer, writes
from confinement on the _Royal Oak_ prison-ship at Plymouth that he had
been treated unjustly. He had, he says, a difference with Feraud,
Captain of _Le Moras_ privateer, at Tavistock, during which the latter
struck him, ran away, and kept out of sight for a fortnight. Upon his
reappearance, the complainant returned him the blow with a stick,
whereupon Feraud brought him up for assault before the Agent,
Willesford, who sent him to a prison-ship.

At Penryn in the same year, Chevalier, a naval lieutenant, complained of
being insulted and attacked by another prisoner with a stick, who,
‘although only a privateer sailor, is evidently favoured by Loyll’
(Lloyd?) the Agent.

In 1810 one Savart was removed from Wincanton to Stapleton Prison at the
request of French superior officers who complained of his very violent

These complaints were largely due to the tactless Government system of
placing parole prisoners of widely different ranks together. There are
many letters during the Seven Years’ War period from officers requesting
to be removed to places where they would be only among people of their
own rank, and not among those ‘qui imaginent que la condition de
prisonnier de guerre peut nous rendre tous égaux.’

Nor was this complaint confined to prisoners on parole, but even more
closely affected officers who, for breaches of parole, were sent to
prisons or to prison-ships. There are strong complaints in 1758 by
‘broke-paroles’, as they were termed, of the brutal class of prisoners
at Sissinghurst with whom they were condemned to herd; and in one case
the officer prisoners actually petitioned that a prison official who had
been dismissed and punished for cutting and wounding an ordinary
prisoner should be reinstated, as the latter richly deserved the
treatment he had received.

Latterly the authorities remedied this by setting apart prison-ships for
officers, and by providing separate quarters in prisons. Still, in
dealing with the complaints, they had to be constantly on their guard
against artifice and fraud, and if the perusal of Government replies to
complaints makes us sometimes think that the complainants were harshly
and even brutally dealt with, we may be sure that as a rule the
authorities had very sufficient grounds for their decisions. For
example, in 1804, Delormant, an officer on parole at Tiverton, was sent
to a Plymouth hulk for some breach of parole. He complained to Admiral
Colpoys that he was obliged there to herd with the common men. Colpoys
wrote to the Transport Board that he had thought right to have a
separate ship fitted for prisoner officers, and had sent Delormant to
it. Whereupon the Board replied that if Admiral Colpoys had taken the
trouble to find out what sort of a man Delormant really was, he would
have left him where he was, but that _for the present_ he might remain
on the special ship.

One of the commonest forms of complaint from prisoners was against the
custom of punishing a whole community for the sins of a few, or even of
a single man. In 1758 a round-robin signed by seventy-five prisoners at
Sissinghurst protested that the whole of the inmates of the Castle were
put upon half rations for the faults of a few ‘impertinents’.

At Okehampton in the same year, upon a paroled officer being sent to a
local prison for some offence, and escaping therefrom, the whole of the
other prisoners in the place were confined to their lodgings for some
days. When set free they held an indignation meeting, during which one
of the orators waved a stick, as the mayor said, threateningly at him.
Whereupon he was arrested and imprisoned at ‘Coxade’, the ‘Cockside’
prison near Mill Bay, Plymouth.

We see an almost pathetic fanning and fluttering of that old French
aristocratic plumage, which thirty years later was to be bedraggled in
the bloody dust, in the complaints of two highborn prisoners of war in
1756 and 1758. In the former year Monsieur de Béthune strongly resented
being sent on parole from Bristol into the country:

‘Ayant appris de Mr. Surgunnes (?) que vous lui mandé par votre lettre
du 13 courant si Messire De Béthune, Chevalier de St. Simon, Marquis
d’Arbest, Baron de Sainte Lucie, Seigneur haut, et bas justicier des
paroisses de Chateauvieux, Corvilac, Lâneau, Pontmartin, Neung et autres
lieux, étoit admis à la parole avec les autres officiers pour lesquels
il s’intéresse, j’aurai l’avantage de vous répondre, qu’un Grand de la
trempe de Messire De Béthune, qui vous adresse la présente, n’est point
fait pour peupler un endroit aussi désert que la campagne, attendu
qu’allié du costé paternel et maternel à un des plus puissans rois que
jamais terre ait porté, Londres, comme Bristol ou autre séjour qu’il
voudra choisir, est capable de contenir celui qui est tout à vous.

                                         ‘De Bristol; le 15 Xbre. 1756.’

Later he writes that he hears indirectly that this letter has given
offence to the gentlemen at the ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office on Tower Hill,
but maintains that it is excusable from one who is allied to several
kings and sovereign princes, and he expects to have his passport for

The Prince de Rohan, on parole at Romsey, not adapting himself easily to
life in the little Hampshire town, although he had the most rare
privilege of a six-mile limit around it, wrote on July 4, 1758,
requesting permission for self and three or four officers to go to
Southampton once a week to make purchases, as Romsey Market is so
indifferent, and to pass the night there. The six-mile limit, he says,
does not enable him to avail himself of the hospitality of the people of
quality, and he wants leave to go further with his suite. He adds a
panegyric on the high birth and the honour of French naval officers,
which made parole-breaking an impossibility, and he resents their being
placed in the same category with privateer and merchant-ship captains.

However, the Commissioners reply that no exceptions can be made in his
favour, and that as Southampton is a sea-port, leave to visit it cannot
be thought of.

In 1756 twenty-two officers on parole at Cranbrook in Kent prayed to be
sent to Maidstone, on the plea that there were no lodgings to be had in
Cranbrook except at exorbitant rates; that the bakers only baked once or
twice a week, and that sometimes the supply of bread ran short if it was
not ordered beforehand and an extra price paid for it; that vegetables
were hardly to be obtained; and that, finally, they were ill-treated by
the inhabitants. No notice was taken of this petition.

In 1757 a prisoner writes from Tenterden:

‘S’il faut que je reste en Angleterre, permettez-moi encore de vous
prier de vouloir bien m’envoier dans une meilleure place, n’ayant pas
déjà lieu de me louer du peuple de ce village. Sur des plaintes que
plusieurs Français ont portées au maire depuis que je suis ici, il a
fait afficher de ne point insulter aux Français, l’affiche a été le même
jour arrachée. On a remis une autre. Il est bien désagréable d’être dans
une ville où l’on est obligé de défendre aux peuples d’insulter les
prisonniers. J’ai ouï dire aux Français qui ont été à Maidstone que
c’était très bien et qu’ils n’ont jamais été insultés ... ce qui me fait
vous demander une autre place, c’est qu’on déjà faillit d’être jeté dans
la boue en passant dans les chemins, ayant eu cependant l’intention de
céder le pavé.’

In reply, the Commissioners of the ‘Sick and Hurt’ Office ask the Agent
at Tenterden why, when he heard complaints, he did not inform the Board.
The complainant, however, was not to be moved, as he had previously been
sent to Sissinghurst for punishment.

In 1758, twenty officers at Tenterden prayed for removal elsewhere,
saying that as the neighbourhood was a residential one for extremely
rich people, lodgings at moderate prices were not to be had, and that
the townspeople cared so little to take in foreign guests of their
description, that if they were taken ill the landlords turned them out.
This application was ear-marked for inquiry.

No doubt the poor fellows received but scanty courtesy from the rank and
file of their captors, and the foreigner then, far more than now, was
deemed fair game for oppression and robbery. In support of this I will
quote some remarks by Colonel Thierry, whose case certainly appears to
be a particularly hard one.

Colonel Thierry had been sent to Stapleton Prison in 1812 for having
violated his parole by writing from Oswestry to his niece, the Comtesse
de la Frotté, without having submitted the letter, according to parole
rule, to the Agent. He asks for humane treatment, a separate room, a
servant, and liberty to go to market.

‘Les vexations dont on m’a accablé en route sont révoltantes. Les
scélérats que vos lois envoyent à Tyburn ne sont pas plus mal traités;
une semblable conduite envers un Colonel, prisonnier de guerre, est une
horreur de plus que j’aurai le droit de reprocher aux Anglais pour
lesquels j’ai eu tant de bontés lorsqu’ils sont tombés en mon pouvoir.
Si le Gouvernement français fût instruit des mauvais traitements dont on
accable les Français de touts grades, et donnait des ordres pour user de
représailles envers les Anglais détenus en France ... le Gouvernement
anglais ordonnerait-il à ses agents de traiter avec plus d’égards, de
modération, d’humanité ses prisonniers.’

In a postscript the Colonel adds that his nephew, the Comte de la
Frotté, is with Wellington, that another is in the Royal Navy, and that
all are English born. One is glad to know that the Colonel’s prayer was
heard, and that he was released from Stapleton.

In 1758 a prisoner writes from Tenterden:

‘Last Thursday, March 16th, towards half-past eight at night, I was
going to supper, and passed in front of a butcher’s shop where there is
a bench fixed near the door on which three or four youths were sitting,
and at the end one who is a marine drummer leaning against a wall
projecting two feet on to the street. When I came near them I guessed
they were talking about us Frenchmen, for I heard one of them say: “Here
comes one of them,” and when I was a few paces beyond them one of them
hit me on the right cheek with something soft and cold. As I entered my
lodging I turned round and said: “You had better be careful!” Last
Sunday at half-past eight, as I was going to supper, being between the
same butcher’s shop and the churchyard gate, some one threw at me a
stick quite three feet long and heavy enough to wound me severely....’

Also at Tenterden, a prisoner named D’Helincourt, going home one night
with a Doctor Chomel, met at the door of the latter’s lodging a youth
and two girls, one of whom was the daughter of Chomel’s landlord, ‘avec
laquelle il avait plusieurs fois poussé la plaisanterie jusqu’à
l’embrasser sans qu’elle l’eût jamais trouvé mauvais, et ayant engagé M.
Chomel à l’embrasser aussi.’ But the other girl, whom they would also
kiss, played the prude; the youth with her misunderstood what
D’Helincourt said, and hit him under the chin with his fist, which made
D’Helincourt hit him back with his cane on the arm, and all seemed at an
end. Not long after, D’Helincourt was in the market, when about thirty
youths came along. One of them went up to him and asked him if he
remembered him, and hit him on the chest. D’Helincourt collared him, to
take him to the Mayor, but the others set on him, and he certainly would
have been killed had not some dragoons come up and rescued him.

Apparently the Agents and Magistrates were too much afraid of offending
the people to grant justice to these poor strangers.

At Cranbrook a French officer was assaulted by a local ruffian and hit
him back, for which he was sent to Sissinghurst.

In 1808 and 1809 many complaints from officers were received that their
applications to be allowed to go to places like Bath and Cheltenham for
the benefit of their health were too often met with the stereotyped
reply that ‘your complaint is evidently not of such a nature as to be
cured by the waters of Bath or Cheltenham’. Of course, the Transport
Office knew well enough that the complaints were not curable by the
_waters_ of those places, but by their life and gaiety: by the change
from the monotonous country town with its narrow, _gauche_ society, its
wretched inns, and its mile limit, to the fashionable world of gaming,
and dancing, and music, and flirting; but they also knew that to permit
French officers to gather at these places in numbers would be to
encourage plotting and planning, and to bring together gentlemen whom it
was desirable to keep apart.

So in the latter year the Mayor of Bath received an order from the Earl
of Liverpool that all prisoners of war were to be removed from the city
except those who could produce certificates from two respectable doctors
of the necessity of their remaining, ‘which must be done with such
caution as, if required, the same may be verified on oath.’ The officers
affected by this order were to go to Bishop’s Waltham, Odiham,
Wincanton, and Tiverton.

Of complaints by prisoners on parole against the country people there
must be many hundreds, the greater number of them dating from the period
of the Seven Years’ War. During this time the prisoners were largely
distributed in Kent, a county which, from its proximity to France, and
its consequent continuous memory of wrongs, fancied and real, suffered
at the hands of Frenchmen during the many centuries of warfare between
the two countries, when Kent bore the brunt of invasion and fighting,
may be understood to have entertained no particular affection for
Frenchmen, despite the ceaseless commerce of a particular kind which the
bitterest of wars could not interrupt.

A few instances will suffice to exemplify the unhappy relationship which
existed, not in Kent alone, but everywhere, between the country people
and the unfortunate foreigners thrust among them.

In 1757 a prisoner on parole at Basingstoke complained that he was in
bed at 11 p.m., when there came ‘7 ou 8 drôles qui les défièrent de
sortir en les accablant d’injures atroces, et frappant aux portes et aux
fenêtres comme s’ils avoient voulu jeter la maison en bas.’ Another
prisoner here had stones thrown at him ‘d’une telle force qu’elles
faisoient feu sur le pavé,’ whilst another lot of youths broke windows
and almost uprooted the garden.

From Wye in Kent is a whole batch of letters of complaint against the
people. One of them is a round-robin signed by eighty prisoners
complaining of bad and dear lodgings, and praying to be sent to Ashford,
which was four times the size of Wye, and where there were only
forty-five prisoners, and lodgings were better and cheaper.

At Tonbridge, in the same year, two parole officers dropped some milk
for fun on the hat of a milk-woman at the door below their window. Some
chaff ensued which a certain officious and mischief-making man named
Miles heard, who threatened he would report the Frenchmen for _improper
conduct_, and get them sent to Sissinghurst! The authors of the ‘fun’
wrote to the authorities informing them of the circumstances, and asking
for forgiveness, knowing well that men had been sent to Sissinghurst for
less. Whether the authorities saw the joke or not does not appear.

The rabble of the parole towns had recourse to all sorts of devices to
make the prisoners break their paroles so that they could claim the
usual reward of ten shillings. At Helston, on August 1, 1757, Hingston,
the Parole Agent, sent to Dyer, the Agent at Penryn, a prisoner named
Channazast, for being out of his lodgings all night. At the examination,
Tonken, in whose house the man was, and who was liable to punishment for
harbouring him, said, and wrote later:

‘I having been sent for by the mayor of our town this day to answer for
I cannot tell what, however I’ll describe it to you in the best manner I
am able. You must know that last Friday evening, I asked Monsieur
Channazast to supper at my house who came according to my request. Now I
have two Frenchmen boarded at my house, so they sat down together till
most ten o’clock. At which time I had intelligence brought me that there
was a soldier and another man waiting in the street for him to come out
in order to get the ten shillings that was orders given by the Mayor for
taking up all Frenchmen who was seen out of their Quarters after 9
o’clock. So, to prevent this rascally imposition I desired the man to go
to bed with his two countrymen which he did accordingly altho’ he was
not out of my house for the night——’

Reply: ‘Make enquiries into this.’

From Torrington in the same year eighteen prisoners pray to be sent

‘Insultés à chaque instant par mille et millions d’injures ou menaces,
estre souvent poursuivis par la popullace jusqu’à nos portes à coups de
roches et coups de bâtons. En outre encore, Monseigneur, avant hier il
fut tirré un coup de fusil à plomb à cinque heures apres midy n’etant
distant de notre logement que d’une portée de pistolet, heureusement
celuy qui nous l’envoyoit ne nous avoit point assez bien ajusté . . .
qu’il est dans tous les villages des hommes proposés pour rendre justice
tres surrement bien judiscieux mais il est une cause qui l’empeche de
nous prouver son equité comme la crainte de detourner la populasce
adverse . . . nous avons été obligés de commettre à tous moments à
suporter sans rien dire ce surcrois de malheurs. . . .’

Two more letters, each signed by the same eighteen prisoners, follow to
the same intent. The man who fired the shot was brought up, and
punishment promised, but nothing was done. Also it was promised that a
notice forbidding the insulting of prisoners should be posted up, but
neither was this done. The same letters complain also of robbery by
lodging keepers, for the usual rate of 4_s._ a week was raised to 4_s._
6_d._, and a month later to 5_s._ One prisoner refused to pay this. The
woman who let the lodging complained to ‘Enjolace,’ the Agent, who tells
the prisoner he must either pay what is demanded, or go to prison.

A prisoner at Odiham in the same year complained that a country girl
encouraged him to address her, and that when he did, summoned him for
violently assaulting her. He was fined twelve guineas, complains that
his defence was not heard, and that ever since he had been insulted and
persecuted by the country people.

In 1758 a letter, signed by fifty-six prisoners at Sevenoaks, bitterly
complains that the behaviour of the country people is so bad that they
dare not go out. In the same year a doctor, a prisoner in Sissinghurst
Castle, complains of a grave injustice. He says that when on parole at
Sevenoaks he was called in by a fellow countryman, cured him, and was
paid his fee, but that ‘Nache’, the Agent at Sevenoaks, demanded half
the fee, and upon the prisoner’s refusal to pay him, reported the case
to the Admiralty, and got him committed to Sissinghurst.

A disgraceful and successful plot to ruin a prisoner is told from
Petersfield in 1758.

Fifteen officers on parole appealed on behalf of one of their number
named Morriset. He was in bed on December 22, at 8 a.m., in his lodging
at one ‘Schollers’, a saddler, when Mrs. ‘Schollers’ came into the room
on the pretext of looking for a slipper, and sat herself on the end of
the bed. Suddenly, in came her husband, and, finding his wife there,
attacked Morriset cruelly. Morriset to defend himself seized a knife
from a waistcoat hanging on the bed, and ‘Schollers’ dropped his hold of
him, but took from the waistcoat three guineas and some ‘chelins’, then
called in a constable, accused Morriset of behaving improperly with his
wife, and claimed a hundred pounds, or he would summons him. Morriset
was brought up before the magistrates, and, despite his protestations of
innocence, was sent to Winchester Jail. In reply to the appeal, the
Commissioners said that they could not interfere in what was a private

In the same year a prisoner wrote from Callington:

‘Lundy passé je fus attaqué dans mon logement par Thomas, garçon de Mr.
Avis qui, après m’avoir dit toutes les sottises imaginables, ne s’en
contenta pas, sans que je luy répondis à aucune de ses mauvaises
parolles, il sauta sur moy, et me frapa, et je fus obligé de m’en
défendre. Dimance dernier venant de me promener à 8 heures du soir, je
rancontray dans la rue près de mon logement une quarantaine d’Anglois
armés de bâtons pour me fraper si je n’avois peu me sauver à la faveur
de mes jambes. Mardy sur les 7 heures de soir je fus attaqué en pleine
place par les Anglois qui me donnèrent beaucoup de coups et m’étant
défait d’eux je me sauvai à l’oberge du _Soleil_ ou j’ai été obligé de
coucher par ordre de Mr. Ordon, veu qu’il y avoit des Anglois qui
m’attendoient pour me maltraiter.’

But even in 1756, when the persecution of prisoners by the rural
riff-raff was very bad, we find a testimony from the officers on parole
at Sodbury in Gloucestershire to the kindly behaviour of the
inhabitants, saying that only on holidays are they sometimes jeered at,
and asking to be kept there until exchanged.

Yet the next year, eighteen officers at the same place formulate to the
Commissioners of the Sick and Wounded the following complaints:

1. Three Englishmen attacked two prisoners with sticks.

2. A naval doctor was struck in the face by a butcher.

3. A captain and a lieutenant were attacked with stones, bricks, and
sticks, knocked down, and had to fly for safety to the house of Ludlow
the Agent.

4. A second-captain, returning home, was attacked and knocked down in
front of the _Bell_ inn by a crowd, and would have been killed but for
the intervention of some townspeople.

5. Two captains were at supper at the _Bell_. On leaving the house they
were set on by four men who had been waiting for them, but with the help
of some townspeople they made a fight and got away.

6. Between 10 and 11 p.m. a lieutenant had a terrible attack made on his
lodging by a gang of men who broke in, and left him half dead. After
which they went to an inn where some French prisoners lodged, and tried
to break in ‘jusqu’au point, pour ainsy dire, de le demolir,’ swearing
they would kill every Frenchman they found.

From Crediton a complaint signed by nearly fifty prisoners spoke of
frequent attacks and insults, not only by low ruffians and loafers, but
by people of social position, who, so far from doing their best to
dissuade the lower classes, rather encouraged them. Even Mr. David, a
man of apparently superior position, put a prisoner, a Captain Gazeau,
into prison, took the keys himself, and kept them for a day in spite of
the Portreeve’s remonstrance, but was made to pay damages by the effort
of another man of local prominence.

The men selected as agents in the parole towns too often seem to have
been socially unfitted for their positions as the ‘guides, philosophers,
and friends’ of officers and gentlemen. At Crediton, for instance, the
appointment of a Mr. Harvey called forth a remonstrance signed by sixty
prisoners, one of whom thus described him:

‘Mr. Harvey à son arrivée de Londres, glorieux d’être exaucé, n’eut rien
de plus pressé que de faire voir dans toutes les oberges et dans les
rues les ordres dont il était revetu de la part des honorables
Commissaires; ce qui ne pourra que nous faire un très mauvais effet, veu
que le commun peuple qui habite ce pays-ci est beaucoup irrité contre
les Français, à cause de la Nation et sans jusqu’au présent qu’aucun
Français n’est donné aucun sujet de plainte.’

Again, in 1756 the _aumonier_ of the Comte de Gramont, after complaining
that the inhabitants of Ashburton are ‘un peuple sans règle et sans
éducation’, by whom he was insulted, hissed, and stoned, and when he
represented this to the authorities was ‘garrotté’ and taken to Exeter
Prison, ridicules the status of the agents—here a shoemaker, here a
tailor, here an apothecary, who dare not, for business reasons, take the
part of the prisoners. He says he offered his services to well-to-do
people in the neighbourhood, but they were declined—deceit on his part
perhaps being feared.

From Ashford, Kent, a complainant writes, in 1758, that he was rather
drunk one evening and went out for a walk to pick himself up. He met a
mounted servant of Lord Winchilsea with a dog. He touched the dog,
whereupon the servant dismounted and hit him in the face. A crowd then
assembled, armed with sticks, and one man with a gun, and ill-treated
him until he was unconscious, tied his hands behind him, emptied his
pockets, and took him before Mr. Tritton. Knowing English fairly well,
the prisoner justified himself, but he was committed to the _cachot_. He
was then accused of having ill-treated a woman who, out of pity, had
sent for her husband to help him. He handed in a certificate of injuries
received, signed by Dr. Charles Fagg. His name was Marc Layne.

Complaints from Goudhurst in Kent relate that on one occasion three men
left their hop-dressing to attack passing prisoners. Upon another, the
French officers were, _mirabile dictu_, playing ‘criquet’, and told a
boy of ten to get out of the way and not interfere with them, whereupon
the boy called his companions, and there ensued a disturbance. A
magistrate came up, and the result was that a Captain Lamoise had to pay
£1 1_s._ or go to Maidstone Jail.

That the decent members of the community reprobated these attacks on
defenceless foreigners, although they rarely seem to have taken any
steps to stop them, is evident from the following story. At Goudhurst,
some French prisoners, coming out of an inn, were attacked by a mob.
Thirty-seven paroled officers there signed a petition and accompanied it
with this testimony from inhabitants, dated November 9, 1757:

‘We, the inhabitants of the Parish of Goudhurst, certifie that we never
was insulted in any respect by the French gentlemen, nor to their
knowledge have they caused any Riot except when they have been drawn in
by a Parcel of drunken, ignorant, and scandalous men who make it their
Business to ensnare them for the sake of a little money.


               W. HUNT. JOHN BUNNELL. ZACH. SIMS.’

The complainants made declaration:

1. That the bad man Rastly exclaimed he would knock down the first
Frenchman he met.

2. Two French prisoners were sounding horns and hautboys in the fields.
The servant of the owner ordered them to go. They went quietly, but the
man followed them and struck them. They complained to Tarith, the Agent,
but he said that it did not concern him.

3. This servant assembled fifteen men with sticks, and stopped all exit
from Bunnell’s inn, where five French prisoners were drinking. The
prisoners were warned not to leave, and, although ‘remplis de boisson’,
they kept in. Nine o’clock, ten o’clock came; they resolved to go out,
one of them being drunk; they were attacked and brutally ill-used.

The Agent assured them that they should have justice, but they did not
get it.

As physical resistance to attacks and insults would have made matters
worse for the Frenchmen, besides being hopeless in the face of great
odds of numbers, it was resolved in one place at any rate, the name of
which I cannot find, to resort to boycotting as a means of reprisal. I
give the circulated notice of this in its original quaint and illiterate

‘En conséquence de la délibération faite et teneu par le corps de
François deteneus en cette ville il a esté ordonné qu’après qu’il aura
cette Notoire, que quelque Marchand, Fabriquant, Boutiquier etcetera de
cette ville aurons insulté, injurié, ou comis quelque _aiesais_ (?) au
vis à vis de quelque François tel que puis être, et que le fait aura été
averée, il sera mis une affiche dans les Lieus les plus aparants portant
proscription de sa Maison, Boutique, Fabrique etcetera, et ordonné et
defendeu à tout François quelque qualité, condition qu’il soy sous Paine
d’être regardé et déclaré traité à la Patrie et de subire plus grande
Punition suivent l’exsigence du cas et qu’il en sera decidé.

                                                            ‘LA FRANCE.’

The above is dated 1758.

In 1779 the parole prisoners at Alresford complained of being constantly
molested and insulted by the inhabitants, and asked to be sent
elsewhere. Later, however, the local gentry and principal people
guarantee a cessation of this, and the prisoners pray to be allowed to
stay. The officer prisoners asked to be allowed to accept invitations at
Winchester, but were refused. In the same year prisoners at Redruth
complained of daily insults at the hands of an uncivilized populace, and
from Chippenham twenty-nine officers signed a complaint about insults
and attacks, and stated that as a result one of them was obliged to keep
his room for eight days.

On the other hand, prisoners under orders to leave Tavistock for another
parole town petition to be allowed to remain there, as the Agent has
been so good to them; and as a sign that even in Kent matters were
changing for the better, the prayer of some parole prisoners at
Tenterden to be sent to Cranbrook on account of the insults by the
people, is counterbalanced by a petition of other prisoners in the same
town who assert that only a few soldiers have insulted them, and asking
that no change be made, as the inhabitants are hospitable and kindly,
and the Agent very just and lenient.

Much quiet, unostentatious kindness was shown towards the prisoners
which has not been recorded, but in the Memoir of William Pearce of
Launceston, in 1810, it is written that he made the parole prisoners in
that town the objects of his special attention; that he gave them
religious instruction, circulated tracts among them in their own
language, and relieved their necessities, with the result that many
reformed and attended his services. One prisoner came back after the
Peace of 1815, lived in the service of the chapel, and was buried in its
grave-yard. _En parenthèse_ the writer adds that the boys of Launceston
got quite into the habit of ejaculating ‘Morbleu!’ from hearing it so
constantly on the lips of the French prisoners.

In the _Life of Hannah More_, written by William Roberts, we read:

‘Some French officers of cultivated minds and polished manners being on
their parole in the neighbourhood of Bristol, were frequent guests at
Mr. More’s house, and always fixed upon Hannah as their interpreter, and
her intercourse with their society is said to have laid the ground of
that free and elegant use of their language for which she was afterwards

                              CHAPTER XXIX
                       PAROLE LIFE. SUNDRY NOTES

In this and the succeeding chapter I gather together a number of notes
connected with the life of the paroled prisoners in Britain, which could
not conveniently be classed under the headings of previous chapters.

                           BEDALE, YORKSHIRE

During the Seven Years’ War prisoners were on parole at Bedale in
Yorkshire. The following lines referring to them, sent to me by my
friend, Mrs. Cockburn-Hood, were written by Robert Hird, a Bedale
shoemaker, who was born in 1768:

 ‘And this one isle by Frenchmen then in prisoners did abound,
 ’Twas forty thousand Gallic men. Bedale its quota found:
 And here they were at liberty, and that for a long time,
 Till Seventeen Hundred and Sixty Three, they then a Peace did sign,
 But though at large, they had their bound, it was a good walk out,
 Matthew Masterman in their round, they put him to the rout;
 This was near to the Standing Stone: at Fleetham Feast he’d been,
 And here poor Matthew they fell on. He soon defeated them;
 His arms were long, and he struck hard, they could not bear his blows,
 The French threw stones, like some petard; he ran, and thus did lose.
 James Wilkinson, he lived here then, he’d sons and daughters fair,
 Barber he was in great esteem, the Frenchmen oft drew there.’

To this the sender appended a note:

‘In the houses round Bedale there are hand-screens decorated with
landscapes in straw, and I have a curious doll’s chair in wood with
knobs containing cherry stones which rattle. These were made by French
prisoners, according to tradition.’


I am indebted to Mr. P. H. Currey, F.R.I.B.A., of Derby, for the
following extract, dated June 20, 1763, from All Saints’ Parish Book,
quoted in Simpson’s _History of Derby_:

‘These men (the prisoners during the Seven Years’ War), were dispersed
into many parts of the nation, 300 being sent to this town on parole
about July 1759, where they continued until the end of the War in 1763.
Their behaviour at first was impudent and insolent, at all times vain
and effeminate, and their whole deportment light and unmanly, and we may
venture to say from our observation and knowledge of them, that in any
future war this nation has nothing to fear from them as an enemy. During
their abode here, the road from this place to Nottingham was by act of
Parliament repaired, the part from St. Mary’s Bridge (which by reason of
the floods was impassable) being greatly raised. Numbers of these people
were daily employed, who worked in their _bag-wigs_, _pig-tails_,
_ruffles_, etc., etc., a matter which afforded us much merriment. But,
to their honour let it be remembered, that scarce _one_ act of fraud or
theft was committed by any of them during their stay among us. These men
were allowed 6_d._ a day each by the British Government.’

We read that an Italian prisoner on parole at Derby in 1797 went to
Leicester and bought a pair of pistols, thus committing a double breach
of his parole by going beyond the limit, and by possessing himself of
arms. ‘It is presumed,’ remarks the chronicler, ‘from the remarkable
anxiety he showed to procure possession of these offensive weapons, that
he has some particular object to accomplish by them—perhaps his

It is much more likely that his object was to fight a duel.

                         ASHBOURNE, DERBYSHIRE

Mr. Richard Holland, of Barton under Needwood, Staffordshire, has
favoured me with this note about Ashbourne.

‘Here in 1803 were Rochambeau and 300 of his officers. The house where
the general resided is well known, and a large building was erected in
which to lodge the prisoners who could not afford to find their own
houses or apartments. I have heard that the limit of parole was two
miles.... I never heard of any breaches of parole or crimes committed by
the prisoners....

I have often heard that the prisoners made for sale many curious
articles, models, etc., ... but I remember a fine drawing of a
man-of-war on the outside wall of the prison referred to, which now
happens to belong to me.... Even fifty years ago very little was
remembered of the prisoners. One of them was a famous runner, and I knew
an old man who told me he ran a race with the Frenchman, and beat him

In 1804 General Pageot was on parole at Ashbourne. Here he seems to have
been received, like so many of his countrymen prisoners, on a footing of
friendship at the houses of the neighbouring gentry, for he received
permission to live for eight days at Wooton Lodge, the seat of Colonel
Wilson. In granting this unusual indulgence the Commissioners remark
that ‘as our people are very strictly treated in France, it is improper
that unusual indulgences be given to French prisoners, and we hope that
no other applications will be made’.

Later on the Commissioners wrote to Colonel Wilson:

‘As it appears by letters between General Pageot and some of his
countrymen that he is paying his addresses to a Lady of Respectability
in or near Ashbourne, the Board think it proper that you should be
informed that they have good authority for believing that he is actually
a married man, and has a family in France.’

Still later, writing to Mr. Bainbrigge, the Commissioners say that
General Pageot has been sent to Montgomery, and they recommend Mr.
Bainbrigge to take measures to prevent him having any communication with
the lady, Mr. Bainbrigge’s niece.

Say they:

‘From Motives of Public Duty the Commissioners, when they first heard of
the intended connexion between General Pageot and Miss Bainbrigge, they
caused such suspicious circumstances respecting the General as came to
their knowledge to be communicated to the young lady’s mother, and that
it affords them very much satisfaction now to find that her Friends are
disposed to prevent an union which could promise very little comfort to
her or Honour to her Family.’


My best thanks are due to Mr. W. Hawkesly Edmunds, Scarsdale House,
Chesterfield, for these notes:

‘Mrs. Roberts, widow of Lieutenant Roberts, R.N., left some interesting
reminiscences among her papers. She says:

‘Different indeed was the aspect of the town from what one sees to-day.
Grim visages and whiskered faces met one at every turn, to say nothing
of moustaches, faded uniforms, and rusty cocked hats. At certain hours
of the day it was difficult to walk along the High Street or the middle
Causeway, for these were the favourite promenades of the officers on
parole. When the weather permitted, they assembled each morning and
evening to the number of 200 to exchange friendly greetings with all the
extravagance of gesture and high-pitched voice for which the Frenchman
is remarkable.’

The French prisoners in Chesterfield in the years around 1806 were for
the most part, if not wholly, officers and their servants, and their
treatment by the English Government was liberal and mild. All officers
down to the rank of Captain, inclusive, were allowed ten shillings per
week, and all below that rank, seven shillings each. On giving their
parole they were allowed the greatest freedom; had permission to walk
one mile from the town in any direction, but had to be in their lodgings
at 8 each evening. At that hour a bell rang, known as the Frenchman’s
Bell. It was, in fact, the very bell in the tower of the church formerly
used as the curfew bell. It was in connexion with this mile regulation
that a little fraud was perpetrated by Sir Windsor Hunloke, Bart., which
was winked at by the authorities. Wingerworth Hall, the residence of Sir
Windsor, was just outside the mile limit, but with the desire that many
of the prisoners, who, like himself, were Roman Catholics, should visit
him, he caused the milestone to be removed along the road to the other
side of the hall, and so brought his residence within the mile limit.
This old milestone is still to be seen.

The prisoners were first in charge of a Commissary, a local solicitor,
Mr. John Bower, of Spital Lodge, but later the Government appointed
superannuated lieutenants in the Navy. The first of these, Lieutenant
Gawen, found that there had been so many escapes during Mr. Bower’s
kindly but lax régime that he instituted more stringent regulations, and
mustered the men twice a week instead of once, and he inspected all
correspondence both to and from the prisoners. The first detachment of
prisoners arrived in 1803, officers both of the Army and Navy; most of
them had undergone the greatest privations. These were the prisoners
from San Domingo, whose sufferings during the sieges of the blacks, and
from sickness, famine, and sword, are matters of history. Indeed, had
not the British squadron arrived, it is certain all their lives would
have been sacrificed by the infuriated blacks in revenge for the
barbarities practised on them by the French Commander-in-Chief General
Rochambeau, who, with Generals D’Henin, Boyer, and Lapoype, Commodore
Barré, and the other naval officers, with the staffs of the generals,
were all at Chesterfield.

The successes of Wellington in Spain brought many more prisoners to
Chesterfield, and a great number captured at San Sebastian and

Most of the prisoners in the town managed to add to the Government
allowance by teaching languages, drawing, and music. Others produced
various articles for sale. Many of them were excellent ornamental
workers in hair and bone, and there were not a few who were adept
wood-carvers. Making bone models of men-of-war was a favourite
occupation, and the more elaborate of these models were disposed of by
means of lotteries. Another of their industries was the working of
straw, which they dyed in gay colours, or plaited. Silk-hat making and
silk-weaving they are said to have introduced into the town. They were
also experts at making woollen gloves, &c., with a bone crook. One
Bourlemont opened a dépôt for British wines. One prisoner got employment
as a painter, but another had to seek work as a banksman at the Hady

Several of the prisoners were surgeons, and practised in the town, and
it is reported that so great were the services some of these gentlemen
rendered the poor of the town gratuitously, that representations were
made to the Government, and they were given free pardons and
safe-conducts back to France.

Some prisoners married, one the daughter of Turner the Parish Clerk, but
generally beneath them.



  Made by prisoners of war

The Abbé Legoux tried to have religious services in a private house, but
they were poorly attended, the Republicans nearly all being atheists,
and preferring to pass their Sundays at card-tables and billiards.

Mrs. Roberts thus describes some peculiarities of the prisoners’ dress
and manners:

‘Their large hooped gold ear-rings, their pink or sky-blue umbrellas,
the Legion of Honour ribbons in their button holes; their profuse
exchange of embraces and even kisses in the public street; their
attendant poodles carrying walking-sticks in their mouths, and their
incessant and vociferous talking. A great source of amusement was the
training of birds and dogs.

‘There were few instances of friction between the prisoners and the
townsfolk, but there was one angry affray which led to six of the
prisoners being sent to Norman Cross to be kept in close confinement.
The wives of some of the prisoners had permission to join their husbands
in confinement, but “they were very dingy, plain-looking women.”

‘Colonel Fruile married a Miss Moore, daughter of a Chesterfield cabinet
maker, and she, like the English wives of other of the prisoners, went
to France when Peace was proclaimed. Rank distinctions between officers
were rigidly observed, and the junior officers always saluted their
superiors who held levées on certain days of the week. The fortunes of
Napoleon were closely followed; defeats and victories being marked.
During the sojourn of the French prisoners at Chesterfield, took place
the battles of Wagram, Jena, Vienna, Berlin, and the Russian campaign.
The news of Trafalgar produced great dismay, and the sight of
rejoicings—of sheep and oxen roasted whole, of gangs of men yoked
together bringing wood and coals for bonfires, was too much to bear, and
most of them shut themselves up in their lodgings until the rejoicings
were over.

‘After the Peace a few of the prisoners remained in Chesterfield, and
some of their descendants live in the town to-day. Many died, and were
buried in the “Frenchmen’s Quarter” of the now closed Parish


Oswestry, in Shropshire, was an important parole town. In 1803, when
rumours were afloat that a concerted simultaneous rising of the French
prisoners of war in the Western Counties was to be carried out, a
hurried transfer of these latter was made to the more inland towns of
Staffordshire and Shropshire. and it has been stated that Oswestry
received no less than 700, but this has been authentically contradicted,
chiefly by correspondents to _Bygones_, a most complete receptacle of
old-time information concerning Shropshire and the Welsh border, access
to which I owe to the kindness of Mr. J. E. Anden of Tong, Shifnal.

Among the distinguished prisoners at Oswestry were the Marquis
d’Hautpol, on whose _Memories of Captivity in England_ I have already
drawn largely; General Phillipon, the able defender of Badajos, who
escaped with Lieut. Garnier from Oswestry; and Prince Arenburg, who was
removed thither to Bridgnorth upon suspicion of having aided a fellow
prisoner to escape.

The prisoners were, as usual, distributed in lodgings about the town;
some were at the _Three Tuns_ inn, where bullet marks in a wall are said
to commemorate a duel fought between two of them.

From the _London Chronicle_ of May 20, 1813, I take the following:

‘There is in this town (Oswestry) a French officer on parole who is
supposed by himself and countrymen to possess strength little inferior
to Samson. He is Monsieur Fiarsse, he follows the profession of a
fencing-master, and is allowed to have considerable skill in that way.
He had been boasting that he had beat every Englishman that opposed him
in the town where he was last on parole (in Devonshire), and he sent a
challenge the other day to a private of the 64th Regiment to a
boxing-match. It was accepted. The Frenchman is a very tall, stout-built
man, of a most ferocious countenance; the soldier is a little,
round-faced man, as plump as a partridge. Five rounds were fought; the
first, I understand, the Frenchman threw a blow at his adversary with
all his strength which brought him down; he rose, however, in a moment,
and played his part so well that I think M. Fiarsse will never like to
attack a British soldier again! The little fellow made him spin again,
he dealt his blows with such judgement. After the fifth round, Fiarsse
said: “It is ‘nough! I vill no moe!”’

There were French Royalist refugees at Oswestry as elsewhere, and one of
the hardest tasks of local parole agents was to prevent disturbances
between these men and their bitter opponents the Bonapartist officer
prisoners, dwelling in the same towns. In fact, the presence of large
numbers of French Royalists in England, many of them very highly
connected, brought about the very frequent attacks made on them in
contemporary French literature and journalism for playing the parts of
spies and traitors, and originated the parrot-cry at every French
diplomatic or military and naval reverse, ‘Sold by the princes in

There are graves of French prisoners in Oswestry churchyard. Upon one is
‘Ci-gît D. J. J. J. Du Vive, Capitaine-Adjudant aux États-Majors
généraux: prisonnier de guerre sur parole; né à Pau, Dép^t des
Basses-Pyrénées, 26 Juillet 1762; décédé à Oswestry, 20 Juillet 1813.’


Leek, in Staffordshire, was also an important parole centre.

‘The officer prisoners at Leek received all courtesy and hospitality at
the hands of the principal inhabitants, with many of whom they were on
the most intimate terms, frequenting the assemblies, which were then as
gay and as well attended as any within a circuit of 20 miles. They used
to dine out in full uniform, each with his body-servant behind his
chair.’ (Sleigh’s _History of Leek_.)

The first prisoners came here in 1803 from San Domingo. In 1809 and 1812
many more arrived—some accounts say as many as 200, and one fact
considered worthy of record is that they were to be met prowling about
early in the morning in search of snails!

A correspondent to _Notes and Queries_ writes:

‘All accounts agree that these unfortunates conducted themselves with
the utmost propriety and self-respect during their enforced sojourn
among us; endearing themselves to the inhabitants generally by their
unwonted courtesy and strictly honourable behaviour. But as to their
estimate of human life, it was unanimously remarked that they seemed to
value it no more than we should crushing a fly in a moment of

The Freemasons had a Lodge ‘Réunion Désirée,’ and a Chapter ‘De
l’Amitié,’ working at Leek in 1810–11.


At Alresford the prisoners were at first unpopular, but their exertions
at a fire in the town wrought a change of feeling in their favour. It is
interesting to note that when the Commune in Paris in 1871 drove many
respectable people abroad, quite a number came to Alresford (as also to
Odiham), from which we may deduce that they were descendants of men who
had handed down pleasant memories of parole life in these little
Hampshire towns.

The Rev. Mr. Headley, Vicar of Alresford, kindly allowed me to copy the
following from his Parish Records:

‘1779. The Captain and officers of the Spanish man-of-war who behaved so
gallantly in the engagement with the _Pearl_, and who are prisoners of
war at Alresford, lately gave an elegant entertainment and ball in
honour of Capt. Montagu and his officers, in testimony of the high sense
they entertain of the polite and most generous treatment they received
after their capture. Capt. Montagu and his officers were present, also
Capt. Oates and officers of the 89th Regiment, and many of the most
respectable families from the neighbourhood of Alresford.’

I am indebted also to Mr. Headley for the following entries in the
registers of his church:


 1794.  July 21. St. Aubin, a French prisoner on parole.

 1796.  July 11. Baptiste Guillaume Jousemme; aged 21, born at
          Castillones in France. A prisoner on parole.

 1803.  June 27. Thomas Monclerc. Aged 42. A French servant.

 1809.  Dec. 12. Jean Charbonier. A French prisoner.

 1810.  Dec. 14. Hypolite Riouffe. A French prisoner.

 1811.  Aug. 2. Pierre Garnier. A French prisoner.

 1811.  Dec 25. Ciprian Lavau. A French prisoner. Aged 29.

 1812.  Feb. 7. Louis de Bousurdont. A French prisoner. Aged 44.

 1812.  April 13. Marie Louise Fournier. A French prisoner. Aged 44.

 1812.  Aug. 8. Jean de l’Huille. A French prisoner. Aged 51.

Mr. Payne of Alresford told me that the clock on the church tower, which
bears the date 1811, is said to have been presented by the French
prisoners on parole in the town in gratitude for the kindly treatment
they received from the inhabitants.


At Thame, in 1809, Israel Eel was charged at the Oxford Quarter Sessions
with assaulting Ravenau, a French prisoner on parole. To the great
surprise of all, _not a true bill_ was returned.

Some of the prisoners at Thame were lodged in a building now called the
‘Bird Cage’, once an inn. A memory of the prisoners lingers in the name
of ‘Frenchman’s Oak’ still given to a large tree there, it having marked
their mile boundary.

General Villaret-Joyeuse, Governor of Martinique, was one of the many
prisoners of fame or rank at Thame. He brought upon himself a rebuke
from the Transport Office in 1809, for having said in a letter to his
brother, ‘Plusieurs Français se sont détruits ne pouvant supporter plus
longtemps l’humiliation et l’abjection où ils étaient réduits.’ The
Transport Office told him that he had been grossly misinformed, and that
during the past war only two prisoners were known to have destroyed
themselves: one was supposed to have done so in consequence of the
deranged state of his account with the French Government, and the other,
having robbed his brother prisoner of a large amount, when detected,
dreading the consequence. ‘When you shall have better informed yourself
and altered the said letter accordingly, it will be forwarded to

General Privé, one of Dupont’s officers, captured at Baylen, was called
to order for making false statements in a letter to the French minister
of war, in an offensive manner: ‘The Board have no objection of your
making representations you may think proper to your Government
respecting the Capitulation of Baylen, and transmitting as many Truths
as you please to France, but indecent Abuse and reproachful Terms are
not to be suffered.’


To Mr. George Sweetman I am indebted for some interesting particulars
about parole prisoner life at Wincanton in Somersetshire. The first
prisoners came here in 1804, captured on the _Didon_, and gradually the
number here rose to 350, made up of Frenchmen, Italians, Portuguese, and
Spaniards. In 1811 the census showed that nineteen houses were occupied
by prisoners, who then numbered 297 and 9 women and children. An ‘oldest
inhabitant’, Mr. Olding, who died in 1870, aged eighty-five, told Mr.
Sweetman that at one time there were no less than 500 prisoners in
Wincanton and the adjacent Bayford. Some of them were men of good
family, and were entertained at all the best houses in the

‘After the conquest of Isle of France,’ said Mr. Olding, ‘about fifty
French officers were sent here, who were reputed to have brought with
them half a million sterling.... They lived in their own hired houses or
comfortable lodgings. The poorer prisoners took their two meals a day at
the _Restaurant pour les Aspirants_. The main staple of their diet was
onions, leeks, lettuce, cucumbers, and dandelions. The richer, however,
ate butchers’ meat plentifully.’

Altogether the establishment of Wincanton as a parole town must have
been of enormous benefit to a linen-weaving centre which was feeling
severely the competition of the great Lancashire towns, and was fast
losing its staple industry.

Mr. Sweetman introduces an anecdote which illustrates the great trading
difficulties which at first existed between foreigners who knew nothing
of English, and natives who were equally ignorant of French.

One of the many butchers who attended the market had bought on one
occasion some excellent fat beef to which he called the attention of a
model French patrician, and, confusing the Frenchman’s ability to
understand the English language with defective hearing, he shouted in
his loudest tones, which had an effect contrary to what he expected or
desired. The officer (noted for his long pig-tail, old round hat, and
long-waisted brown coat), to all the jolly butcher’s earnest appeals to
him to buy, answered nothing but ‘Non bon, non bon!’

‘Well, Roger,’ said a brother butcher, ‘If I were you, he should have
bone enough next time!’

‘So he shall,’ said Roger, and on the next market-day he brought a fine
neck and chine of bull beef, from which lots of steaks were cut, and
soon sold.

Presently the old officer came by, and Roger solicited his custom for
his line show of bones. The indignant Frenchman again exclaimed, ‘Non
bon! non bon!’

‘Confound the fellow,’ said Roger, ‘what can he want, why, ’tis a’al
booin, idden it?’

Both men were becoming really angry, when a boy standing by, who had
speedily acquired some knowledge of French, explained the matter to both
men. When at length they understood each other they both laughed
heartily at the misunderstanding, but the incident became a standing
joke against Roger as long as he lived.

The mile boundaries of the prisoners were Bayford Elm on the London
road; Anchor Bridge on the Ilchester road; Abergavenny Gate on the
Castle Cary road; and Gorselands on the Bruton road. The prisoners
frequently promenaded the streets in great numbers, four abreast. The
large rooms in the public-houses were often rented for holding meetings
of various kinds. On one occasion the large room at the _Swan_ Inn was
used for the lying in state of a Freemason, who was buried in a very
imposing manner. Two other great officers lay in state at the
_Greyhound_ and _The Dogs_. Many died from various causes incidental to
captivity. They were buried in the churchyard, and a stone there marks
the resting-place of a Russian or a Pole who was said to have died of
grief.[17] One of them committed suicide. Another poor fellow became
demented, and every day might have been heard playing on a flute a
mournful dirge, which tune he never changed. Others bore their
estrangement from home and country less sorrowfully, and employed their
time in athletic sports or in carving various articles of different
kinds of wood and bone. Some were allowed to visit friends at a
distance, always returning faithfully to their parole.

During the winter months they gave, twice a week, musical and theatrical
entertainments. Many of the captives, especially those of the upper
ranks, were good musicians. These held concerts, which were attended by
the people of the town.

Sunday was to them the dullest day of the week; they did not know what
to make of it. Some of them went to the parish church and assisted in
the instrumental part of the service. A few attended the Congregational,
or as it was then called, the Independent Chapel. The majority of them
were, in name at least, Roman Catholics; whatever they were, they spent
Sundays in playing chess, draughts, cards and dominoes,—indeed, almost
anything to while the time away.

The prisoners used to meet in large rooms which they hired for various
amusements. Some of them were artists, and Mr. Sweetman speaks of many
rooms which they decorated with wall-pictures. In one—the ‘Orange Room’
at _The Dogs_ in South Street—may still be seen wall-paintings done by
them; also in the house of Mr. James, in the High Street, three panels
of a bedroom are painted with three of the Muses. Miss Impey, of Street,
has some drawings done by a prisoner, Charles Aubert, who probably did
the paintings above alluded to.

As time went on and the prisoners became more homesick and more
impatient of restraint, desertions became frequent, and it was necessary
to station a company of infantry in Wincanton, and they were ‘kept
lively’. One night a party was escaping and the constable of the town,
attempting to prevent them, was roughly handled. The soldiers were on
guard all night in the streets, but nevertheless some prisoners managed
even then to escape.

‘In 1811’, said the _Salisbury Journal_, ‘Culliford, a notorious
smuggler, was committed to Ilchester Gaol for conveying from Wincanton
several of the prisoners there to the Dorsetshire coast, whence they
crossed to Cherbourg. Culliford was caught with great difficulty, and
then only because of the large reward offered.’

There was at Wincanton, as in other parole towns, a Masonic Lodge among
the prisoners; it was called (as was also the Lodge at Sanquhar) ‘La
Paix Désirée’. There were English members of it. Mr. Sweetman
reproduces, in the little book upon which I have drawn for my
information, the certificate of Louis Michel Duchemin, Master Mason in
1810. This M. Duchemin married Miss Clewett of Wincanton, and settled in
England, dying in Birmingham in 1854 or 1855. His widow only survived
him a week, but he left a son who in 1897 lived in Birmingham, following
his father’s profession as a teacher of French. M. Duchemin was
evidently much esteemed in Wincanton, as the following testimonial

                                                  ‘Wincanton, June 1821.

‘I, the undersigned, having been His Majesty’s Agent for Prisoners of
War on Parole in this place during the late war, do certify that Monsr.
L. M. Duchemin was resident for upwards of six years on his Parole of
Honour in this Town, from the time [1805] of the capture of the French
frigate _La Torche_ to the removal of the Prisoners to Scotland, and
that in consequence of his universal good conduct, he was excepted (on a
memorial presented by Inhabitants to the Commissioners of H. M.
Transport Service) from a previous Order of Removal from this place with
other prisoners of his rank. Monsr. Duchemin married while resident in
this place into a respectable family, and, having known him from 1806 to
the present time, I can with much truth concur in the Testimonial of his
Wells friends.

                                                          ‘G. MESSITER.’

This Mr. George Messiter, a solicitor, was one of the best sort of
parole agents, and is thus eulogized by Mr. Sweetman:

‘He was a gentleman well qualified for the office he held: of a noble
mien, brave, and held in respect by all who knew him. Under his
direction the captives were supplied with every accommodation he could
give them. Several years after his death one of the survivors, an army
surgeon, came to the scene of his former captivity, when he paid a high
tribute to the Commissary, and spoke in terms of affection of the
townspeople amongst whom he had sojourned.’

When it is remembered that Messiter had to deal with such troublesome
fellows as Generals Rochambeau and Boyer (who were actually sent away
from Wincanton, as they had already been sent away from other parole
places, on account of their misdeeds), the worth of this testimony may
be appreciated.

Not many marriages between prisoners and Englishwomen are recorded at
Wincanton, for the same reason that ruled elsewhere—that the French law
refused to regard such marriages as valid.

Alberto Bioletti, an Italian servant to a French officer, married and
settled in the town as a hairdresser. He married twice, and died in
1869, aged ninety-two. William Bouverie, known as ‘Billy Booby’, married
and settled here. John Peter Pichon is the very French name of one who
married Dinah Edwards, both described as of Wincanton, in 1808. In 1809
Andrée Joseph Jantrelle married Mary Hobbs.

Mr. Sweetman says:

‘Here, as in all other parole towns, a large number of children were
born out of wedlock whose fathers were reputed to be our visitors. Some
indeed took French names, and several officers had to pay large sums of
money to the parish authorities before they left. One of the drawbacks
to the sojourn of so many strangers among us was the increase of
immorality. One informant said: “Not the least source of attraction to
these gallant sons of France, were the buxom country maidens, who found
their way into the town, but lost their way back. I regret to say that
our little town was becoming a veritable hotbed of vice.”’

The prisoners were suddenly withdrawn from Wincanton, on account of the
alarm, to which I have alluded elsewhere, that a general rising of the
prisoners of war all over England, but chiefly in the west, had been
concerted, and partly on account of the large numbers of escapes of
prisoners, favoured as they were by the proximity of the Dorsetshire
coast with its gangs of smugglers.

Mr. Sweetman continues:

‘In February 1812, a company of infantry and a troop of cavalry arrived
at the South Gate, one morning at roll-call time. Before the roll had
been completed the troop entered the town and surrounded the captives.
The infantry followed, and those who had not presented themselves at
roll-call were sent for. So sudden had been the call, that although many
had wished for years to leave, they were unprepared when the time came.
At 4 o’clock those who were ready departed; some had not even
breakfasted, and no one was allowed to have any communication with them.
They were marched to Mere, where they passed the night in the church.
Early next morning, those who were left behind, after having bestowed
their goods (for many of them had furnished their own houses), followed
their brethren, and, joining them at Mere, were marched to Kelso. Deep
was the regret of many of the inhabitants at losing so many to whom they
had become endeared by ties of interest and affection. A great gap was
made in the life of the town which it took years to fill.’

Seventeen burials are recorded in the Wincanton registers from the end
of July 1806 to the end of May 1811.

Prominent prisoners at Wincanton were M. de Tocqueville, Rear-Admiral de
Wailly-Duchemin, and Rochambeau, whom Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, in his
story _The Westcotes_, the scene of which he lays at ‘Axcester’—i.e.
Wincanton—paints as quite an admirable old soldier. It was the
above-named rear-admiral who, dying at Wincanton, lay in state in the
panelled ‘Orange Room’ of _The Dogs_. This is now the residence of Dr.
Edwards, who kindly allowed me to inspect the paintings on the panels of
this and the adjoining room, which were executed by French officers
quartered here, and represent castles and landscapes, and a caricature
of Wellington, whose head is garnished with donkey’s ears.

The ‘Orange Room’ is so called from the tradition that Dutch William
slept here on his way from Torbay to London to assume the British crown.

Later on a hundred and fifty of the French officers captured at
Trafalgar and in Sir Richard Strachan’s subsequent action, were
quartered here, and are described as ‘very orderly, and inoffensive to
the inhabitants’.

The suicide mentioned above was that of an officer belonging to a highly
respectable family in France, who, not having heard from home for a long
time, became so depressed that he went into a field near his lodgings,
placed the muzzle of a musket in his mouth, and pushed the trigger with
his foot. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict of ‘Lunacy’.

I have said that the frequency of escapes among the prisoners was one of
the causes of their removal from Wincanton. The Commissary, Mr. George
Messiter, in November 1811 asked the Government to break up the Dépôt,
as, on account of the regularly organized system established between the
prisoners and the smugglers and fishermen of the Dorsetshire coast, it
was impossible to prevent escapes. Towards the close of 1811 no fewer
than twenty-two French prisoners got away from Wincanton. The
Commissary’s request was at once answered, and the _Salisbury Journal_
of December 9, 1811, thus mentions the removal:

‘On Saturday last upwards of 150 French prisoners lately on their parole
at Wincanton were marched by way of Mere through this city under an
escort of the Wilts Militia and a party of Light Dragoons, on their way
to Gosport, there to be embarked with about 50 superior officers for
some place in Scotland. Since Culliford, the leader of the gang of
smugglers and fishermen who aided in these escapes, was convicted and
only sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, they have become more and
more daring in their violations of the law.’


Ashby occupies an interesting page in that little-known chapter of
British history which deals with the prisoners of war who have lived
amongst us, and I owe my cordial thanks to the Rev. W. Scott, who has
preserved this page from oblivion, for permission to make use of his

In September 1804, the first detachment of prisoners, forty-two in
number, reached Ashby, and this number was gradually increased until it
reached its limit, 200. The first arrivals were poor fellows who had to
board and lodge themselves on about ten shillings and sixpence a week;
but the later officers from Pampeluna had money concealed about their
clothing and in the soles of their boots.

On the whole, Mr. Scott says, they seem to have had a tolerably good
time in Ashby. Their favourite walk was past the Mount Farm near the
Castle, along the Packington Road, then to the left to the Leicester
Road, across the fields even now sometimes called ‘The Frenchman’s
Walk’, but more generally, Packington Slang. The thirty-shilling reward
offered to any one who should report a prisoner as being out of bounds
was very rarely claimed, for the officers were such general favourites
that few persons could be found who, even for thirty shillings, could be
base enough to play the part of informer.

An indirect evidence of the good feeling existing between the
townspeople and their guests is afforded by the story of two dogs. One
of these, named Mouton, came with the first prisoners in 1804, spent ten
years in Ashby, and returned with the men in 1814. The other dog came
with the officers from Pampeluna, and was the only dog who had survived
the siege. Both animals were great pets with the people of Ashby.

There seem to have been at least two duels. Mr. Measures, a farmer of
Packington, on coming to attend to some cattle in Packington Slang, saw
a cloak lying on the ground, and upon removing it was horrified to see
the body of a French officer. It proved to be that of Captain Colvin. He
was buried in the churchyard of Packington, and, honour being satisfied,
the man who had slain him was one of the chief mourners. There is a
brief entry of another duel in Dr. James Kirkland’s records: ‘Monsieur
Denègres, a French prisoner, killed in a duel, Dec. 6th, 1808.’

Good friends as the prisoners were with the male inhabitants of the
town, and with the neighbouring farmers, who on more than one occasion
lent horses to officers who wished to escape, it was with the ladies
that they were prime favourites. One of the prisoners, Colonel Van Hoof,
was the admirer of Miss Ingle, the reigning beauty of Ashby. The
courtesy and good nature of the prisoners bore down all obstacles; and
the only ill-wishers they had were the local young dandies whose noses
they put out of joint. The married dames were also pleased and
flattered: many of the prisoners were excellent cooks, and one who made
a soup which was the envy and despair of every housekeeper in Ashby,
when asked by a lady the secret of it, said: ‘I get some pearl barley
and carry it here several days,’ placing his hand melodramatically over
his heart.

In spite of the mile-limit regulation, they went to picnics in Ashby Old
Parks, riding in wagons, and going along the tram road which ran from
Willesley to Ticknall. On these occasions the officers were accompanied
by the better class girls of the town and their admirers. Music was
supplied by one of the Frenchmen who played a violin. For this or for
some other reason he seems to have been a first favourite. When passing
through the tunnel underneath Ashby Old Parks Hill, it was no unusual
thing for him to lay aside his fiddle to kiss the girls. Of course, they
always asked him to play while in the tunnel in order to keep him from
obliging them in this manner, and of course he would know what they

The permanent result of this love-making is shown by the parish register
of Ashby; from 1806 to June 1, 1814, the following weddings took place
between local girls and French ‘Prisoners of War resident in this
Parish’, or ‘on parole in this Parish’:

 1806.  Francis Robert to Jane Bedford.

  〃     Pierre Serventie to Elizabeth Rowbottom.

  〃     Anthony Hoffmann to Elizabeth Peach.

 1809.  Louis Jean to Elizabeth Edwards.

 1810.  Francis Picard to Charlotte Bedford.

  〃     Henry Antoine to Sarah Roberts.

  〃     Pierre Geffroy to Phillis Parkins

 1812.  Casimir Gantreuil to Elizabeth Adcock.

  〃     Louis François Le Normand Kegrist to Mary Ann Kirkland.

  〃     Louis Adoré Tiphenn to Ann Vaun.

  〃     Frederic Rouelt to Ann Sharp.

 1813.  Auguste Louis Jean Segoivy to Elizabeth Bailey.

  〃     Francis Peyrol to Martha Peach.

 1814.  Francis Victor Richard Ducrocq to Sarah Adcock.

  〃     Richard le Tramp to Mary Sharpe.

Two Masonic Lodges and a Rose Croix Chapter were established in
Ashby—the above-mentioned Louis Jean was a member of the ‘Vrais Amis de
l’Ordre’ Lodge, and four relics of his connexion are still preserved.
Tradition says that the constitution of the Lodge was celebrated by a
ball given by the French officers, the hosts presenting to each lady two
pairs of white gloves, one pair long, the other short.

The second Lodge was ‘De la Justice et de l’Union’.

When Peace was declared, the French Masons at Ashby disposed of their
Lodge furniture to the ‘Royal Sussex’, No. 353, of Repton, in
Derbyshire. In 1869 the Lodge removed to Winshill, Burton-on-Trent,
where the furniture is still used.

There is the register of three burials:

 1806.  Étienne Lenon.

 1807.  François Rabin.

 1808.  Xavier Mandelier.

Here, as elsewhere, the Frenchmen gave proofs of their skill in fine
handiwork. They did ornamental work in several new houses; they taught
the townsfolk the art of crochet-work (I quote from Mr. Scott); they
were artists, carvers, &c. Some of the officers worshipped in the
Baptist Church, and became members of it. The conversion of Captain Le
Jeune is an interesting little story. Shocked by certain phases and
features of the Roman Catholic religion, he became a deist and finally
an atheist, and during the Revolution joined readily in the
ill-treatment of priests. At San Domingo he was taken prisoner in 1804,
and sent to Ashby on parole. Four years later the death of his father
very deeply impressed him, and he began to think seriously about the
existence of God. A fellow prisoner, De Serre, a member of the Baptist
Church in Ashby, a devout Christian, became intimate with him, persuaded
him to join the Church, and he finally became an active and zealous
missionary in his own country; and until his death corresponded with the
Ashby pastors, and particularly with the Rev. Joseph Goadly, who
exercised an wholesome and powerful influence among the French prisoners
of war.

                              CHAPTER XXX
                PAROLE LIFE: SUNDRY NOTES (_continued_)

                            ASHBURTON, DEVON

Mr. J. H. Amery says in _Devon Notes and Queries_:

‘We can hardly credit the fact that so little reliable information or
even traditional legend, remains in the small inland market towns where
so many officers were held prisoners on parole until as recently as
1815. It certainly speaks well for their conduct, for had any tragedy
been connected with their stay, tradition would have preserved its
memory and details. For several years prior to 1815 a number of educated
foreigners formed a part of the society of our towns. At one time they
were lively Frenchmen, at others sober Danes or spendthrift Americans.
They lodged and boarded in the houses of our tradesmen; they taught the
young people modern languages, music and dancing; they walked our
streets and roads, and took a general interest in passing events; yet
to-day hardly a trace can be discovered of their presence beyond a few
neglected mile-stones on our country roads, and here and there a grave
in our Parish churchyards. This is particularly the case with

He goes on to say that he got more information about the American
prisoners at Ashburton from a Bostonian who was at the post-office
there, making inquiries, than from anyone else. This Bostonian’s
grandfather was a naval surgeon who had been captured on the _Polly_;
had been sent to Dartmoor, but was released on parole to Ashburton.

Mr. Amery gives as an instance of this local indifference to the past
the fact that the family of Mr. Joseph Gribble, solicitor and county
coroner, who had been prisoner agent at Ashburton, had lived opposite to
the entrance to the vicarage until 1899, but that by that time
everything about the prisoners had been forgotten by them.

Mr. Amery writes to me:

‘I have heard our people say that my great-uncle who lived here at that
time used to have open house for the prisoners on parole. The French
were very nice and gentlemanly, but the Americans were a much rougher
lot, and broke up things a good deal. The French used to teach French
and dancing in the town.’

The following Masonic Petition from Ashburton is interesting:

‘Ashburton, April 6, 1814, of our Lord, and in Masonry 5814. To the
Grand Master, Grand Wardens, and Members of the Grand Lodge, London.


‘We, the undersigned, being Ancient York Masons, take the liberty of
addressing you with this Petition for our Relief, being American
prisoners of war on parole at this place. We are allowed 10_s._ 6_d._
per week for our support. In this place we cannot get lodgings for less
than 3_s._ per week, and from that to 5_s._ per week. Meat is constantly
from 9_d._ to 1_s._ per lb., and other necessaries in proportion. Judge,
brethren, how we live, for none of us have any means of getting money.
Our clothes are wearing out, and God knows how long we shall be kept
here; many of us have been captured 9 or 10 months, as you will see
opposite our signatures. We form a body in this place by ourselves for
the purpose of lecturing each other once a week, and have had this in
contemplation for some time, but have deferred making application until
absolute want has made it necessary. We therefore pray that you will
take into consideration and provide some means for our relief. You will
please address your letter to Edwin Buckannon.

‘We humbly remain your pennyless brethren.


There was also a French Lodge at Ashburton, ‘Des Amis Réunis’, but the
only record of its existence is a certificate granted to Paul Carcenac,
an initiate. It is roughly drawn by hand on parchment, and is entirely
in French, and, as the recipient is under obligation to affiliate
himself to some regularly warranted French Lodge immediately on his
return to his native land, it would seem that the Lodge at Ashburton was
only of a temporary or irregular character.

The foregoing references to Freemasonry remind us that this universal
brotherhood was the occasion of many graceful acts during the Great Wars
between men of opposing sides.


There were upon an average 150 prisoners here. The Prison Commissioners

‘Some of them have made overtures of marriage to women in the
neighbourhood, which the magistrates very properly have taken pains to

This, of course, refers to the ruling of the French Government that it
would regard such marriages as invalid. That French women sometimes
accompanied their husbands into captivity is evident from not infrequent
petitions such as this:

‘The French woman at Tavistock requests that Sir Rupert George (Chairman
to the Transport Office) will interest himself to procure rations for
her child who was born at the Dépôt, and is nearly five months old.’


Here, very little information is obtainable, as very few of the ‘oldest
inhabitant’ type are to be found, and there are very few residents whose
parents have lived there for any length of time—a sign of these
restless, migrating days which makes one regret that the subject of the
foreign prisoners of war in Britain was not taken up before the movement
of the rural world into large towns had fairly set in. One old resident
could only say that his father used to talk of from five to six hundred
prisoners being at Okehampton, but in the rural mind numbers are handled
as vaguely as is time, for assuredly in no single parole town in Britain
were there ever so many prisoners. Another aged resident said:

‘They were all bettermost prisoners: the rough ones were kept at
Princetown, but these were quartered in various houses, and paid very
well for it. Their bounds were a mile out of town, but I have heard they
were very artful, and shifted the milestones and borough stones. My
father told me that one escaped, but he was shot down in the
neighbourhood of the Bovey Clay Works. There was a riot in the town one
day amongst them, and old Dr. Luxmoore, who was a big, tall man, mounted
his big horse, and, armed with his hunting whip, rode down through the
prisoners, who were fighting in the town, and with the cracks of it
dispersed them in every direction.... The Mess Room was the St. James’
Street schoolroom, and stood opposite the South entrance of the Arcade
which was pulled down a few years ago. In their spare time the prisoners
made many small articles such as cabinets, chairs, cribbage-boards, and
various models of churches and houses. Some taught their languages to
the inhabitants.’


General Simon was at Odiham. We have had to do with him before, and he
seems to have been thoroughly bad. He had been concerned with Bernadotte
and Pinoteau in the Conspiracy of Rennes against Bonaparte’s Consular
Government, had been arrested, and exiled to the Isle of Rhé for six
years. When Bonaparte became emperor he liberated Simon and gave him a
command. At the battle of Busaco, September 27, 1810, Simon’s brigade
led the division of Loison in its attack on the British position, and
Simon was first man over the entrenchments. ‘We took some prisoners,’
says George Napier, ‘and among them General Simon. He was horribly
wounded in the face, his jaw being broken and almost hanging on his
chest. Just as myself and another officer came to him a soldier was
going to put his bayonet into him, which we prevented, and sent him up
as prisoner to the General.’

Simon reached England in October 1810, and was sent on parole to Odiham.
The prisoners lived in houses in Bury Square, opposite the stocks and
the church, and some old redbrick cottages on the brink of the chalk-pit
at the entrance to the town, all of which are now standing. They
naturally made the fine old _George_ Inn their social centre, and to
this day the tree which marked their mile limit along the London road is
known as ‘Frenchman’s Oak’. Simon absconded from Odiham, and the
advertisement for him ran:

‘One hundred pounds is offered for the capture of the French general
Simon, styled a baron and a chevalier of the Empire, who lately broke
his parole and absconded from Odiham.’

_The Times_ of Jan. 20, 1812, details his smart capture by the Bow
Street officers. They went first to Richmond, hearing that two
foreigners of suspicious appearance were there. The information led to
nothing, so they went on to Hounslow, thinking to intercept the
fugitives on their way from Odiham to the Kent Coast, and here they
heard that two Frenchmen had hired a post-chaise to London. This they
traced to Dover Street, Piccadilly, but the clue was lost. They
remembered that there was a French doctor in Dover Street, but an
interview with him revealed nothing. On they went to the house of a
Madame Glion, in Pulteney Street, late owner of a Paris diligence, and,
although their particular quarry was not there, they ‘ran in’ three
other French ‘broke-paroles’. Information led them to Pratt Street,
Camden Town. A female servant appeared in the area of No. 4 in reply to
their knocks, denied that there was any one in the house, and refused
them admittance. The officers, now reinforced, surrounded the house, and
some men were seen sitting in a back-parlour by candle-light. Suddenly
the candles were put out. Lavender, the senior officer, went again to
the front door and knocked. The servant resisted his pretext of having a
letter for a lady in the house, and he threatened to shoot her if she
still refused admission. She defied him. Other officers had in the
meanwhile climbed over the back garden wall and found Simon and another
officer, Surgeon Boiron, in the kitchen in darkness.

The mistress and servant of the house were both Frenchwomen, and they
were carried off with Simon and Boiron: altogether a capital haul, as
the women were found upon examination to be ‘deep in the business’ of
aiding and abetting in the escape of prisoners. With Simon’s subsequent
career I have dealt in the chapter upon Escapes and Escape Agents.


To Mr. John Thorp of this town I am indebted for the following notes:

‘In 1756 Count Benville and 30 other French officers were on parole at
Leicester. Most of them were men of high rank, and were all well
received by the townpeople.[18] They were polite and agreeable in
manner, and as they expended about £9,000 during their stay in the town
it was of benefit to a large part of the inhabitants.

‘A number of French prisoners came from Tavistock in 1779, and remained
in the town about six months. They behaved well and produced agreeable
impressions upon the inhabitants by their light-hearted and amiable
manners, and, in consequence, were very civilly treated. They were free
from boasting, temperate, and even plain in living, and paid the debts
they had contracted during their residence in the town.’

                             TRAGIC EVENTS

Tragic events were by no means so common among the prisoners on parole
as in the prisons, no doubt because of the greater variety in their
lives, and of their not being so constantly in close company with each

A French officer, on parole at Andover in 1811, at what is now Portland
House in West Street, fell in love with the daughter of his host, and
upon her rejection of his suit, retired to a summer-house in the garden,
opened a vein in his arm, and bled to death.

Duels were frequent, and not only would there have been more, had
weapons of offence been procurable, but the results would have been more
often fatal.

In 1812 two French officers at Reading fought in a field near the _New
Inn_ on the Oxford road. They could not get pistols, but one gun. They
tossed for the first shot with it at fifty paces, and the winner shot
his opponent through the back of the neck so that he died.

At Leek in Staffordshire in the same year, a Captain Decourbes went out
fishing and came in at curfew. At 8 p.m. in the billiard-room of the
_Black’s Head_, a Captain Robert chaffed him about his prowess as an
angler, words were exchanged, and Robert insulted and finally struck
him. Decourbes, of course, challenged him. The only weapon they could
get was a cavalry horse-pistol which they borrowed from a yeomanry
trooper. They met at Balidone on October 17. Decourbes won the toss for
first shot and hit Robert in the breech. Robert, who had come on to the
ground on crutches, then fired and hit Decourbes in the nape of the
neck. Decourbes managed to walk back to Leek, but he died in ten days.

A very different version of this affair was given in a contemporary
_Times_. According to this, Decourbes, about ten days before the duel,
was out of his lodgings after the evening bell had rung, and the boys of
Leek collected and pelted him with stones. His behaviour caused one of
his brother officers to say that he was ‘soft’ and would faint at the
sight of his own blood. Decourbes gave him the lie, the other struck
him, and the result was a challenge and the duel as described. But the
verdict, ‘Died by the visitation of God,’ was questioned, and the writer
of a letter to _The Times_ declared that there was no evidence of a
duel, as Decourbes’ body was in a putrid state, and that three French
and two English surgeons had declared that he had died from typhus.

In 1807 a tragedy was enacted at Chesterfield which caused much stir at
the time. Colonel Richemont and Captain Méant were fellow prisoners,
released from the Chatham hulks, and travelling together to Chesterfield
where they were to live on parole. On the road thither they slept at
Atherstone. When Richemont arrived at the Falcon Hotel at Chesterfield
he found that his trunk had been robbed of a quantity of gold dust, a
variety of gold coins, and of some gold and silver articles. Suspecting
that it had been done at the inn in Atherstone, he caused inquiry to be
made, but without result. He then suspected his fellow traveller Méant,
caused his box to be searched, and in it found silver spoons and other
of his missing property.

Méant, on being discovered, tried to stab himself, but, being prevented,
seized a bottle of laudanum and swallowed its contents. Then he wrote a
confession, and finding that the laudanum was slower in action than he
expected, tried to stab himself again. A struggle took place; Méant
refused the emetic brought, and died. Méant’s brother-in-law brought an
action against Richemont, declaring that the latter in reality owed the
dead man a large sum of money, and that Méant had only taken his due.
During the trial Colonel Richemont was very violent against the British,
and especially when the jury decided the case against him, and found
that the dead man was his creditor, although, of course, the means he
employed to get what was his were illegal.

Méant was buried, according to usage, at the union of four cross roads
just outside the borough boundary, with a stake driven through his body.
The funeral took place on a Sunday, and great crowds attended.

On April 13, 1812, Pierre de Romfort or De la Roche, a prisoner on
parole at Launceston, was hanged at Bodmin for forgery. ‘He behaved very
penitently, and was attended to at the last moment by Mr. Lefers, a
Roman Catholic priest living at Lanhearne.’

I quote this because it is one of the very few instances of this crime
being committed by a prisoner on parole.

                        INTERNATIONAL COURTESIES

It is gratifying to read testimonies such as the following, taken out of
many, to chivalry and kindness on the part of our enemies, and to note
practical appreciations of such conduct.

In 1804 Captain Areguandeau of the _Blonde_ privateer, captured at sea
and put on the parole list, was applied for by late British prisoners of
his to whom he had been kind, to be returned to France unconditionally.
The Commissioners of the Transport Board regretted that under existing
circumstances they could not accede to this, but allowed him a choice of
parole towns—Tiverton, Ashbourne, Chesterfield, Leek, or Lichfield.

In 1806, Guerbe, second captain of a transport, was allowed to be on
parole although he was not so entitled by his rank, because of his
humane treatment of Colonel Fraser and other officers and men, lately
his prisoners.

Lefort, on parole at Tiverton, was allowed to go to France on parole
because of his kindly treatment of the wounded prisoners on the
_Hannibal_ (which, after a heroic resistance, ran aground in 1801 at
Algeciras and was captured).

In 1813 Captain Collins of H.M.S. _Surveillante_ successfully obtained
the unconditional release of Captain Loysel because of the splendid
manner in which the latter had risked his life in protecting two British
officers, who were wounded in the unsuccessful first attack on San
Sebastian, from being killed by some drunken or infuriated French

A French marine officer named Michael Coie, a prisoner on parole, died
at Andover, November 9, 1813. It happened that the 2nd battalion, 5th
Regiment was halting on the march in the town, and the commanding
officer, Captain Boyle, at once offered to attend the funeral, with the
battalion, the regimental band at the head. This was done, all the
French officers in Andover being present. The act of grace was much
appreciated by the prisoners.

So also when General Rufin—a great favourite of Bonaparte, captured at
Barossa in 1811—died in the May of that year on his passage to England,
his body was interred in the Garrison Chapel at Portsmouth, with every
rank of honour and distinction, minute guns, flags half-mast high, and
three rounds of nine pieces of cannon at the close.

In 1814, an officer on parole at Oswestry was liberated for having
rescued an infant from the paws of a lion.

The following is pleasing reading:

General Barraguay-Hilliers, who with his suite was captured in the
_Sensible_ by H.M.S. _Seahorse_ in June 1798, arrived at Portsmouth in
August, and on the very day after his arrival was allowed to go on
parole to France with his aides-de-camp, Lamotte and Vallie. But before
they could get out of England an amusing incident occurred which
afforded an English gentleman an opportunity for displaying a graceful
courtesy. The officers reached Lewes _en route_ for Dover, where they
hoped to get a neutral vessel to France, but, as Brighton races were on,
not for love or money could they get a conveyance to carry them on their
journey. None of them could speak English; they were not allowed by the
terms of their parole to go to London, which they might have done by
mail-coach, so they resolved to send their baggage on by cart, and
themselves proceed on foot. Sir John Shelley of Maresfield Park heard of
their predicament, and at once sent carriages to take them on to Dover.

It is also pleasant to read that at Tiverton the French officers on
parole there, with scarcely an exception, conducted themselves in such a
way as to win the esteem and regard of their hosts, and in many cases
lasting friendships were formed with them. After the establishment of
Peace in 1815, some, rather than return to France, remained. Among these
was M. Alexandre de la Motte, who lived at Tiverton, acquired property
there, and gained much respect as French master at Blundell’s School.

That so gregarious a race as the French should form clubs and
associations for social purposes among themselves in all circumstances
can be readily understood, and in almost every parole town some such
institution existed, and in no small degree contributed to the
enlivenment of local social life. There were also no less than
twenty-five lodges and chapters of Freemasons in England, and others in
Scotland. Still, the Government, from politic motives, warned their
Agents to keep these institutions under observation, and were disposed
to regard with suspicion such clubs as the ‘Des Amis Réunis’ at
Ashburton and Plymouth, the ‘Enfants de Mars et de Neptune’ at
Abergavenny and Tiverton, and others of like character, as being
institutions for the fomentation _sub rosâ_ of agitation and
disaffection. For the same reasons all amusements which gathered crowds
were discouraged among the prisoners.

                              CHAPTER XXXI


When the roll of the 46th Regiment (or, as it was, the 46th
demi-brigade), of the French Army is called, the name of La Tour
d’Auvergne brings forward the sergeant-major of the Grenadier Company,
who salutes and replies: ‘Dead upon the field of honour!’

This unique homage to Théophile de La Tour d’Auvergne—who won the
distinguishing title of ‘First Grenadier of the Republican Armies’ in an
age and an army crowded with brave men, quite as much, so says history,
by his modesty as by his bravery in action—was continued for some time
after his death in 1800, was discontinued, was revived in 1887, and has
been paid ever since.

In 1795, after the taking of San Sebastian by the French, he applied for
leave of absence on account of his health, and started by sea for his
native Brittany, but the ship in which he sailed was captured by British
cruisers. He was brought to England and sent to Bodmin on parole. Here
he insisted upon wearing his Republican cockade, a silly, unnecessary
act of bravado which so annoyed some English soldiers that they mobbed
him, and, as he showed a disposition to resent the attack, matters would
have gone hard with him but for timely rescue. (I reproduce a picture of
one of these attacks from his biography by Montorgueil, not on account
of its merit, but of its absurdity. La Tour d’Auvergne, it will be
noted, uses his sword toasting-fork wise. Not even the most
distinguished of parole prisoners was ever allowed to wear his sword,
although some were not required to give them up according to rule.) This
inspired the following letter from him to the Agent at Bodmin:



                                                     ‘1st October, 1795.


‘I address myself to you as the Agent entrusted by your Government with
the immediate care of the French prisoners at Bodmin, to acquaint you
with the outrage just perpetrated upon me by some soldiers of the
garrison in this town, who, on their return from drill, attacked me with
their arms, and proceeded to violent extremes with the object of
depriving me of my cockade, a distinctive part of my military uniform. I
have always worn it during my detention in England, just as your
officers, prisoners in my country, have always worn theirs without being
interfered with. It is impossible, Sir, that such behaviour towards an
officer of the French Republic should have been encouraged by your
Government, or that it should countenance any outrage upon peaceable
prisoners who are here under your protection. Under these circumstances,
Sir, I beg you without delay to get to the root of the insult to which I
have been subjected, so that I may be able to adapt my conduct in future
accordingly. Into whatever extremity I may find myself reduced by my
determination not to remove my distinctive badge, I shall never regard
as a misfortune the ills and interferences of which the source will have
been so honourable to me.’

The reply of the Agent was probably much the same as the Transport
Office made in 1804 to a letter from the Agent at Leek, in
Staffordshire, to whom a French midshipman had complained of similar

‘We think the French midshipman very imprudent in wearing his Cockade,
as it could answer no good purpose, and might expose him to evils
greater than he has already experienced from the rage of the populace,
and you are to inform him if he persists he must not expect protection
from the consequences.’

In 1797 the inhabitants of Bishop’s Waltham complained of the constant
wearing by the prisoners there of Republican cockades, and the reply was
exactly as above.

In Cornwall La Tour d’Auvergne occupied himself with literary pursuits,
especially with philology, and was pleased and interested to find how
much there was in common between phrases and words of Cornwall, and
those of Brittany. Concerning his captivity he wrote thus to Le Coz,
Archbishop of Besançon:

‘I will not bother you with an account of all I have had to suffer from
the English during a year of captivity, they being no doubt egged on by
our French é[migrés] and p[rinces]. My Republican spirit finds it hard
to dissemble and to adapt itself to circumstances, so I shall show
myself to be what I always have been, Frenchman and patriot. The revered
symbol of my nation, the tricolour cockade, was always on my hat, and
the dress I wore _dans les fers_ was that which I wore in battle. Hence
the hatred let loose against me and the persecutions which I have had to

He returned to France from Penryn, February 19, 1796, and was killed at
Oberhausen in Bavaria in June 1800.

From the following extract from Legard’s biography, and from the phrase
_dans les fers_ which I have italicized above, La Tour d’Auvergne would
seem to have been in prison, possibly for persistent adherence to

‘It was horrible to see the misery of so many brave Frenchmen, crammed
into unwholesome dungeons, struggling against every sort of want,
exposed to every rigour and every vexation imaginable, and devoured by
cruel maladies. La Tour d’Auvergne kept up their courage, helped them in
every way, shared his money with them, and was indignant to hear how
agents of the Government tried to seduce them from their fidelity,
corrupt them, and show them how hateful was the French Government.’

After Trafalgar the Spanish prisoners were confined at Gibraltar, the
French, numbering 210 officers and 4,589 men, were brought to England.
The rank and file who were landed at Portsmouth were imprisoned at
Forton, Portchester, and in seven hulks; those at Plymouth in the
Millbay Prison and eight hulks; those at Chatham in four hulks. The
officers from the captured ships _Fougueux_, _Aigle_, _Mont-Blanc_,
_Berwick_, _Scipion_, _Formidable_, _Intrépide_, _Achille_, and _Duguay
Trouin_, were sent to Crediton and Wincanton.

Admiral Villeneuve and his suite were first at Bishop’s Waltham, where
he was bound by the ordinary rules of a prisoner on parole, except that
his limits were extended; he was allowed to visit Lord Clanricarde, and
to retain, but not to wear, his arms.

He had asked to be sent to London, but, although this was not granted
him, he was allowed to choose any town for parole, north or west of
London, but not within thirty miles.

He had leave to visit any of the neighbouring nobility and gentry, and
his lieutenants could go three miles in any direction. He chose Reading,
which was not then a regular parole town, although it became one later.
Hither he went with Majendie, his captain, whose third experience it was
of captivity in England (he had been actually taken prisoner five times,
and had served two years, one month, twenty-five days as prisoner in
England), Lucas of the _Redoutable_, and Infernet of the _Intrépide_.
Villeneuve and Majendie attended Nelson’s funeral in London, and a
little later Majendie had permission to go to France to try to arrange
some definite system of prisoner-exchange between the two countries. In
March 1806 Villeneuve was exchanged for four post-captains, and went to
France with his officers and suite on the condition that once in every
two months he gave notice to a British agent of his place of residence,
and was not to change the same without notifying it.

Upon his arrival in Paris Villeneuve found that Lucas and Infernet had
been much honoured by Bonaparte and made rear-admirals. No notice was
taken of him by Bonaparte, who had always disliked and despised him, and
one day he was found stabbed at the Hôtel de la Patrie, Rennes.
Bonaparte was suspected of foul play, and again was heard the saying,
‘How fortunate Napoleon is! All his enemies die of their own accord!’ At
St. Helena, however, Bonaparte strenuously denied the imputation.

Lucas, captain of the _Redoutable_, the ship whence Nelson received his
death-shot, was at Tiverton. His heroic defence, his fight against the
_Téméraire_ and the _Victory_ at the same time, resulting in a loss out
of 645 men of 300 killed and 222 wounded, are among the immortal deeds
of that famous day. Only 169 of his men were made prisoners, and of
these only 35 came to England; the rest, being wounded, went down with
the ship.

Villeneuve said when he wrote to congratulate Lucas upon being honoured
by Bonaparte:

‘Si tous les capitaines de vaisseaux s’étaient conduits comme vous, à
Trafalgar, la victoire n’eût pas été un instant indécisive, certainement
personne ne le sait aussi bien que moi.’

His conduct was so much appreciated in England, that at a supper given
him by Lady Warren his sword was returned to him.

Rear-Admiral Dumanoir of the _Formidable_ was also at Tiverton. Although
he fought at Trafalgar, he was not captured there, as it was thought in
many quarters he should have been or have died with his ship. From
Tiverton he wrote, with permission, under date of January 2, 1806, to
_The Times_, replying to some rather severe remarks which had been made
in that paper concerning his behaviour at Trafalgar, tantamount to
saying that during the greater part of the battle he had remained a mere
passive spectator. It is not necessary to relate the facts, which are
fully given by James, the naval historian.

In 1809 he had special leave to go on parole to France to defend
himself, but the Transport Office refused to allow three captains and
two adjutants to go with him, because of the continual refusal of the
French Government to release British prisoners. At first he was not
allowed to take even his secretary, a non-combatant, but later this was
permitted. The Court Martial in France acquitted him, and in 1811 he was
made a vice-admiral and Governor of Danzig, and behaved with great
credit during the siege of that city by the Allies in 1814. In connexion
with this, it is interesting to note that the only British naval flag
trophy at the Invalides in Paris was captured by Dumanoir at Danzig.

It is not out of place here to note that Cartigny, the last French
survivor of Trafalgar, who died at Hyères in 1892, aged 101, had a
considerable experience of war-prisoner life, for, besides having been
on a Plymouth hulk, he was at Dartmoor and at Stapleton. He attended the
Prince Imperial’s funeral at Chislehurst in 1879.

Marienier, a black general, captured at San Domingo, was, with his four
wives, brought to Portsmouth. The story is that, being entitled to
parole by his rank, when the Agent presented him the usual form for
signature, he said: ‘Je ne connais pas le mystère de la plume; c’est par
ceci (touching the hilt of his sword) que je suis parvenu au grade que
je tiens. Voilà mon aide-de-camp; il sait écrire, et il signera pour

Tallien, Revolutionist writer, prominent Jacobin, agent of the Terror in
Bordeaux, and largely responsible for the downfall of Robespierre, was
captured on his way home from Egypt, whither he had gone with
Bonaparte’s expedition. As he was a non-combatant he was only a prisoner
a short time, and went to London, where he was lionized by the Whig
party. He married Madame de Fontenai, whose salon in Paris was the most
brilliant of the Directory period, and where Bonaparte first met Madame
de Beauharnais.

In 1809 François, nephew of the great actor Talma, was taken prisoner.
He was nobody in particular, but his case is interesting inasmuch as his
release on January 1, 1812, was largely brought about by the interest of
Talma’s great friend, John Kemble.

Admiral Count Linois was as worthy a prisoner as he had proved himself
many times a worthy foe. A French writer describes him as having
displayed during his captivity a philosophic resignation; and even the
stony-hearted Transport Board, in acceding to his request that his wife
should be allowed to join him at Bath, complimented him on his behaviour
‘which has formed a very satisfactory contrast to that of many officers
of high rank, by whom a similar indulgence has been abused.’

Lucien, Bonaparte’s second brother, was a prisoner in England, but very
nominally, from 1810 to 1814. He could not fall in with the grand and
ambitious ideas of his brother so far as they touched family matters.
Bonaparte, having made his brothers all princes, considered that they
should marry accordingly. Lucien married the girl he loved; his brother
resented it, and passed the Statute of March 30, 1806, by which it was
enacted that ‘Marriages of the Imperial Family shall be null and void if
contracted without the permission of the Emperor, as the princes ought
to be devoted without reserve to the great interests of the country, and
the glory of our house.’ He wanted Lucien to marry the Queen of Etruria,
widow of Louis I, Prince of Parma, a match which, when Tuscany should be
annexed to the Empire, would mean that their throne would be that of
Spain and the Indies.

So Lucien sailed for the United States, but was captured by a British
cruiser carried to Malta, and thence to England. He was sent on parole
to Ludlow, where he lived at Dinham House. Then he bought Thorngrove,
near Worcester, where he lived until 1814, and where he wrote
_Charlemagne, ou l’Église sauvée_.

Cambronne, wounded at the head of the Imperial Guard at Waterloo, and
reputed author of a famous _mot_ which he never uttered, was for two
hours on a Portsmouth hulk, but was soon placed on parole, and was at
Ashburton in Devonshire until November 1815. The grand-daughter of Mrs.
Eddy, at whose house Cambronne lodged, still preserves at the _Golden
Lion_ a portrait of the general, given by him to Mrs. Eddy. From England
he wrote to Louis XVIII, professing loyalty, and offering his services,
but on his arrival in Paris was brought up for trial on these counts:

(1) Having betrayed the King. (2) Having made an armed attack on France.
(3) Having procured aid for Bonaparte by violence. He was adjudged Not
Guilty on all three.

Admiral De Winter, Commander of the Dutch fleet at Camperdown, was a
prisoner for a year in England, but I cannot learn where. It is
gratifying to read his appreciation of the kindly treatment he received,
as expressed in his speech at his public entry into Amsterdam after his
release in December 1798.

‘The fortune of war previously forced me to live abroad, and, being
since then for the first time vanquished by the enemy, I have
experienced a second state of exile. However mortifying to the feelings
of a man who loves his country, the satisfactory treatment I met with on
the part of the enemy, the English, and the humane and faithful support
and assistance they evinced towards my worthy countrymen and fellow
sufferers, have considerably softened the horrors of my situation. Nay!
Worthy burghers! I must not conceal from you that the noble liberality
of the English nation since this bloody contest justly entitles them to
your admiration.’

De Winter’s flag-ship, the _Vryheid_, was for many years a hulk at

                          (2) SOME STATISTICS

Statistics are wearisome, but, in order that readers may form some idea
of the burden cast on the country by the presence of prisoners of war, I
give a few figures.

During the Seven Years’ War the annual average number of prisoners of
war in England was 18,800, although the total of one year, 1762, was
26,137. This, it must be remembered, was before the regular War Prison
became an institution, so that the burden was directly upon the people
among whom the prisoners were scattered. Of these, on an average, about
15,700 were in prisons healthy, and 1,200 sick; 1,850 were on parole
healthy, and 60 sick. The total net cost of these prisoners was
£1,174,906. The total number of prisoners brought to Britain between the
years 1803 and 1814 was 122,440. Of these 10,341 died whilst in
captivity, and 17,607 were exchanged or sent home sick or on parole. The
cost of these was £6,800,000.

The greatest number of prisoners at one time in Britain was about 72,000
in 1814.

The average mortality was between one and three per cent., but epidemics
(such as that which at Dartmoor during seven months of 1809 and 1810
caused 422 deaths—more than double the total of nineteen ordinary
months—and that at Norman Cross in 1801 from which, it is said, no less
than 1,000 prisoners died) brought up the percentages of particular
years very notably. Thus, during the six years and seven months of
Dartmoor’s existence as a war-prison, there were 1,455 deaths, which,
taking the average number of prisoners as 5,600, works out at about four
per cent., but the annual average was not more than two and a quarter
per cent., except in the above-quoted years. The average mortality on
the prison ships was slightly higher, working out all round at about
three per cent., but here again epidemics made the percentages of
particular years jump, as at Portsmouth in 1812, when the average of
deaths rose to about four per cent.

Strange to say, the sickness-rate of officers on parole was higher than
that of prisoners in confinement. Taking at random the year 1810, for
example, we find that at one time out of 45,940 prisoners on the hulks
and in prisons, only 320 were in hospital, while at the same time of
2,710 officers on parole no less than 165 were on the sick-list.
Possibly the greater prevalence of duels among the latter may account
for this.

                       (3) EPITAPHS OF PRISONERS

I do not claim completeness for the following list, for neglect has
allowed the obliteration of many stones in our churchyards which
traditionally mark the last resting-places of prisoners of war.

At New Alresford, Hampshire, on the west side of the church:

‘Ici repose le corps de M. Joseph Hypolite Riouffe, enseigne de vaisseau
de la Marine Impériale et Royale qui mourut le 12 Dec. 1810, âgé 28 ans.
Il emporta les regrets de tous ses camarades et personnes qui le

‘Ci-gît le corps de M. P^{re} Garnier, sous-lieut. au 66^{me} régiment
d’Infanterie Française, né le 14 Avril 1773, mort le 31 Juillet 1811.’

‘Ci-gît le corps de M. C. Lavau, officier de commerce, décédé le 25 de
Xbre 1811, et la 29 de son âge.’

‘Ici est le corps de Marie Louise V^{ve} Fournier, épouse de François
Bertet, capitaine au Corps Impérial d’Artillerie Française, décédée le
11^{me} Avril 1812, âgée de 44 ans.’

‘Ci-gît Jean de l’Huille, lieutenant d’Artillerie Française, décédé le 6
Avril 1812, âgé de 51.’

At Leek, Staffordshire:

‘Çy-gît Jean Marie Claude Decourbes, enseigne de vaisseau de la Marine
Impériale de France, décédé 17 Octobre 1812, âgé de 27 ans—Fidelis
Decori Occubuit Patriaeque Deoque.’

‘Jean-Baptiste Milloy. Capitaine 72^{me} cavalerie, décédé 2 Sept. 1811,
âgé de 43 ans.’

‘Joseph Debec, Capitaine du navire “La Sophie” de Nantes. Obiit Sept.
2^{me} 1811, âgé de 54 ans.’

‘Charles Luneaud, Capitaine de la Marine Impériale. Mort le 4^{me} Mars

There also died at Leek, but no stones mark their graves, General Brunet
(captured at San Domingo, with his A.D.C. Colonel Degouillier, and his
Adjutant-General, Colonel Lefevre), Colonel Félix of the Artillery,
Lieut.-Col. Granville, Captain Pouget, Captain Dupuis of the 72nd
Infantry, Captain François Vevelle (1809), Lieut. Davoust of the Navy,
son of the General, and Midshipmen Meunier, Berthot, and Birtin—the
last-named was a prisoner eleven years, and ‘behaved extremely well’.
Also there are registered the burials of Jean le Roche, in 1810, aged
44, J. B. Lahouton, died 1806, aged 28; ‘C.A.G. A French Prisoner’ in
1812, aged 62; and Alexander Gay, in 1850.

At Okehampton, Devon:

‘Cette pierre fut élevée par l’amitié à la mémoire d’Armand Bernard, né
au Havre en Normandie, marié à Calais à Mlle Margot; deuxième officier
de commerce, décédé Prisonnier de Guerre à Okehampton, le 26 Oct. 1815.
Agé 33 ans.

             A l’abri des vertus qui distinguaient la vie,
             Tu reposes en paix, ombre tendre et chérie.’

‘Ci-gît Adelaïde Barrin de Puyleanne de la Commune de Montravers, Dép^t
des Deux-Sèvres, née le 21 Avril 1771, décédée à Okehampton le 18 Fév.
1811. Ici repose la mère et l’enfant.’

In the churchyards of Wincanton and Andover are stones to the memories
of Russian and Polish officers.

In the churchyard at Tenterden, Kent, there is a tomb upon which is
carved a ship and a recumbent figure, with the epitaph:

‘Hier Legt Begraven Schipper Siebe Nannes, Van de Jower in Vriesland, is
in den Heere Gernstden, 8 November, 1781. Oudt 47 Jaren.’ On the other
side is inscribed:

           ‘As he’s the first, the neighbours say, that lies
           First of War captives buried in this place:
           So may he hope to be the first to rise
           And gain the Mansions of Eternal Peace.’

By the way, it may be remarked, in association with the above Dutch
burial, that there are to-day in Tenterden work-people named
Vanlanschorten, who are said to be descended from a prisoner of war.

At Bishop’s Castle church, in Montgomeryshire, there is a stone opposite
the belfry door inscribed:

‘A la Mémoire de Louis Pages, Lieut.-Col. des chevaux-légers; chevalier
des ordres militaires des Deux Siciles et d’Espagne. Mort à Bishop’s
Castle le 1^{er} Mai 1814, âgé de 40 ans.’

In the Register of the same church is recorded the baptism of a son of
Antoine Marie Jeanne Ary Bandart, Captain of the 4th Regiment of Light
Infantry, Member of the Legion of Honour, a prisoner of war; and fifteen
months later the burial of the child. These are in 1813 and 1814. In the
latter year also is recorded the baptism of a son of Joseph and Maria

In the churchyard of Moreton-Hampstead, Devon, are ranged against the
wall stones with the following epitaphs:

‘A la mémoire de Louis Ambroise Quanti, Lieut, du 44 Rég^t du Corps
Impérial d’Artillerie de Marine. Agé de 33 ans. Décédé le 29 Avril
1809.’ The Masonic compass and dividers follow the inscription.

‘Ici repose le corps de M. Armand Aubry, Lieut, du 70^{me} Rég^t
d’Infanterie de Ligne. Agé de 42 ans. Décédé le 10 Juin 1811. Priez Dieu
pour le repos de son âme.’ This is followed by two crossed swords.

‘A la mémoire de Jean François Roil; Aspirant de la Marine Impériale,
âgé de 21 ans. Décédé le 22 Janvier 1811.’ This has as emblem a sword
and anchor crossed.

There are still in Moreton-Hampstead two shops bearing the name of
Rihll. To the register-entries of two of the above deaths is added:
‘These were buried in Wooling, according to Act of Parliament.’

In the churchyard of Ashburton, Devon, is a stone thus inscribed:


Repose François Guidon natif de Cambrai en France, Sous-Lieutenant au
46^{me} Rég^t de Ligne. Décédé le 18 7bre 1815. Agé de 22 ans.
Requiescat in Pace.’

At East Dereham, Norfolk:

‘In memory of Jean de la Narde, son of a notary public of Saint Malo, a
French prisoner of war, who, having escaped from the bell tower of this
Church, was pursued and shot by a soldier on duty. October 6th, 1799.
Aged 28.’

Mr. Webb, of Andover, sends me the following registrations of death:

J. Alline. Prisoner of War. March 18, 1802.

Nicholas Ockonloff. Prisoner of War. March 19, 1808.

Michael Coie. Prisoner of War. November 9, 1813. [For an account of his
funeral see pp. 439–40.]

At Odiham, in Hampshire, are the graves of two French prisoners of war.
When I visited them in August 1913, the inscriptions had been repainted
and a memorial wreath laid upon each grave. The inscriptions are as

‘Cy-gît Piere Feron, Capitaine au 66^e Régiment de Ligne, Chevalier de
l’Empire Français, né à Reims, Départ^t de la Marne, le 15 Août 1766,
décédé à Odiham le 8 Mai 1810.’

‘Pierre Julian Jonneau, son of Jean Joseph Jonneau, de Daure, and of
Marie Charlotte Franquiny de Feux, officer in the administration of the
French Navy. Born in the Isle of Rhé. Died at Odiham, September 4th,
1809, in the 29th year of his age.

‘“He was a Prisoner of War. Death hath made him free.”’

During the Communist trouble in France in 1871, quite a large number of
French people came over to Odiham until order should be restored, and it
was during their stay here, but not by them, that the above-mentioned
graves were put in order. The old houses facing the Church and the
stocks in Bury Close, and those by the large chalk-pit at the entrance
to the town, remain much as when they were the lodgings of the prisoners
of war.


 Abergavenny, 281, 298, 363–4, 383, 393, 423.

 Admiralty, controlling exchange of prisoners, 26, 30;
   responsible for safety of prisoners, 106, 110, 279, 354, 366, 368–9,
      383, 385, 392, 406;
   responsible for well-being of prisoners, 5, 16, 24, 71, 75, 129, 188,

 Agents, Parole, 407–8;
   censured and dismissed, 393;
   their duties and powers, 279, 286–7, 291, 313, 335, 341–2, 358, 370,
      388, 397, 409, 418, 442–4;
   frauds by, 312, 406;
   friendly relations with prisoners, 298, 340, 352–3, 410, 415–16, 425;
   unfriendly relations, 301, 396.

 Agents, War-Prisoner, censured and dismissed, 192, 204;
   their duties, 18, 21, 29, 31, 47, 58, 119–20, 132, 144, 147, 150–1,
      192, 274, 361–2, 369–70;
   friendly relations with prisoners, 135, 164–5, 181, 263;
   unfriendly relations, 12, 216, 265.

 Alresford, 75, 77, 281, 284–5, 289, 298, 306–7, 347, 367, 410, 420,

 Amatory relations of prisoners on parole (_see also_ Marriages _and_
    Illegitimate children), 266, 305–7, 325, 359, 375, 386–7, 402, 405,
    414, 429, 437.

 American prisoners, 2, 11, 48, 82–91, 116, 183, 186, 213, 215–16,
    220–7, 247–61, 266, 286, 361, 432–3.

 Amiens, Peace of, 194–5.

 Andover, 290, 298, 307, 379, 384, 391, 437, 439–40, 452–3.

 Andrews, Charles (American prisoner), 247–8, 250–3.

 Angling, by paroled prisoners, 319, 328–9, 333–4, 341, 349, 437.

 Anton, James, _A Military Life_ (quoted), 205–6.

 Arbroath, 162.

 Arenburg, Prince, 418.

 Articles made by prisoners (_see also_ Paintings, Ship-model making),
    60, 84, 132–5, 148, 153, 158, 173, 176, 181–2, 193, 203–5, 211, 220,
    243, 278, 319, 321, 324, 347, 360, 391, 412, 414, 416, 430, 435.

 Ashbourne, 291, 298, 307, 375, 386, 392, 413–14, 439.

 Ashburton, 284–5, 298, 408, 432–3, 449, 453.

 Ashby-de-la-Zouch, 288, 291, 298, 304, 379, 386, 390, 428–31.

 Ashford, 284, 404, 408.

 _Assistance_ (Portsmouth hulk), 43, 107.

 Auctions, prisoners’, 331–2, 348.

 _Bahama_ (Chatham hulk), 54–6, 58–60, 79, 90–1, 303.

 Barnet, 393.

 Barney, Commodore Joshua, 224–7.

 Basingstoke, 284, 404.

 Bath, 281, 291, 395, 403, 448.

 Bazin, Ensign, 347.

 Beasley, Reuben (Agent for American prisoners), 84, 86, 249–51, 254,

 Beaudouin, Sergeant-Major, 79–82, 202–5.

 Beccles, 285.

 Bedale, 412.

 Belgian prisoners, 333–4.

 Bell, George, agent at Jedburgh, 298, 388.

 Bertaud (Breton privateer prisoner), 64–6.

 Berwick, 316, 331–2, 350.

 Béthune, M. de, 399, 400.

 Bibles among the prisoners, 121–2, 165, 232, 342.

 Bideford, 281, 284.

 Billeting of prisoners on parole, 335, 348, 351, 354, 359, 418, 422,
   of soldiers, 206.

 Billiards, 15, 39, 83, 86, 177, 212, 304, 319, 328, 335, 417.

 Birmingham, 304, 384.

 Bishop’s Castle, 298, 307, 359, 391, 452.

 Bishops, French, and the prisoners, 97, 120–1, 146.

 Bishop’s Waltham, 74, 284–5, 289, 291, 298, 310–11, 393, 396, 403,

 Bitche, 36, 333 _n._

 Black Hole, as punishment for attempted escapes, 6, 7, 55, 58, 66,
    105–8, 158, 160, 163, 170, 200, 221, 263, 312;
   for acts of violence, 123;
   for parole prisoners, 58, 408;
   in shore prisons, 20, 122, 130, 139–41, 143, 146, 204–5, 215, 217,
      238, 243;
   on the hulks, 69, 103.

 Blackmailing of prisoners, 359, 405.

 Blyth, 350, 389.

 Boat-stealing by escaping prisoners, 27–8, 57, 92–3, 110, 161, 164,
    172, 233, 269, 273, 363, 383.

 Bodmin, 439, 442–4.

 Bonaparte, Lucien, 448.

 Bonaparte, Napoleon, 22, 32–6, 84, 99, 110, 144. 153, 164–5, 179, 314,
    330, 333, 342, 380, 382, 394, 435, 446–8.

 Bones, use of, made by prisoners, 135, 176, 205, 218, 221, 275–6, 347,
    349–50, 363.

 Bonnefoux, Baron de, 54–60, 73, 76, 300–304.

 Borough jails, 115, 117–8, 186, 192, 194, 268, 333, 361.

 Borrow, George, 138, 148, 152.

 Botanists among the prisoners, 319, 321, 324.

 Boulogne, 28, 56, 118, 182, 292, 304, 381–2.

 Bounty, French Royal, 4, 6–7, 167.

 Bower, John (agent at Chesterfield), 305, 415.

 Boycotting by prisoners, 222, 410.

 Boyer, General, 32, 144, 305, 416, 425.

 Boys among the prisoners, 121, 146, 152.

 Bread supplied to prisoners, quality of, 4, 5, 12, 15, 21, 42, 47, 49,
    63, 79, 85, 136, 151, 176, 191–3, 205, 208–9, 211, 221, 258, 263,
    265, 361.

 Brecon, 298, 364.

 Brest, 9, 30, 183, 332.

 Breton prisoners, 64–6, 229.

 Bribes from prisoners (_see also_ Collusion), 94–5, 128, 130, 158, 160,
    167, 193, 225, 235, 244, 254, 292, 373;
   other bribery, 148–9, 204, 210–11, 294.

 Bridgnorth, 298, 312, 314, 383, 418.

 Brighton (Brighthelmstone), 30, 106, 110.

 Bristol, 116–7, 186, 207–8, 210–14, 221, 281–2, 284–5, 289, 399–400,

 _Bristol_ (Chatham hulk), 79, 205.

 _Brunswick_ (Chatham hulk), 23–4, 51, 75–77, 100, 101.

 _Buckingham_ (Chatham hulk), 39, 79.

 Cachot; _see_ Black Hole.

 Calais, 25–6, 56, 103, 106, 111, 113, 183, 276, 283, 292.

 Callington, 284, 406.

 Calshot Castle, 102, 172.

 Cambridge, 154.

 Cambronne, 449.

 Camelford, 279–80.

 _Canada_ (Chatham hulk), 75–6, 79, 94.

 Canterbury, 30, 57–8, 366–7, 370, 385.

 ‘Capitalists’ among the prisoners, 177, 203 (_armateurs_), 228–9.

 Carlisle, 192.

 Carpenter, Madame, 98, 213.

 Carré (French prisoner), 181, 185.

 Cartel ports, 25, 150;
   service and cartel ships, 10, 25–7, 29, 30–1, 102, 140, 281, 309.

 Castlereagh, Lord, 366.

 Catel, 241, 245–7.

 Cawdor, Lord, 183, 362–3.

 Chambers, William, 333–8, 340.

 Chartres, Duc de, 385.

 Chatham, 54–6, 58, 79, 87, 118, 247, 281;
   hulks at, 8, 22–4, 31, 38–9, 41, 44, 51–2, 54, 75–9, 82, 84, 87, 89,
      93–8, 100–1, 118, 152, 202, 205, 247, 256, 281, 283, 302–3, 386,
      390, 438, 445, 449.

 Cheltenham, 371, 373, 382, 403.

 Cherbourg, 93, 102, 424.

 Chester, 192.

 Chesterfield, 298, 305, 307, 309, 376–7, 383, 392, 395, 415–17, 438–9.

 Chippenham, 284–5, 298, 397, 410.

 Churches, prisoners lodged in, 156 _n._, 207, 426.

 Civil law, as applying to prisoners of war, 98, 123, 149, 242, 275,
    301, 325, 337, 397, 406.

 Clothing of prisoners (_see also_ Nakedness among prisoners), 6, 8, 14,
    17–19[don’t need the 1?], 21, 24, 32, 38, 49, 51, 54, 60, 75, 78,
    138–9, 180, 204–5, 250, 255, 361, 378.

 Cochrane, Lord, 24, 239.

 Coie, Michael, 439–40, 453.

 Coining by prisoners, 162–3, 250, 255–6, 263, 275.

 Collusion between prisoners and sentries (and other undesirable
    intimacies), 55, 95, 105, 139–40, 146, 178, 221, 225, 227, 245,
    248–9, 273–5, 297, 318.

 Commandants of prison-ship anchorages, 40, 41, 80.

 Commanders of prison-ships, 39–41, 47, 54, 56.

 Competition; _see_ Unfair trading by prisoners.

 Complaints and remonstrances, International, 2, 5–7, 9, 11, 14, 15, 18,

 Complaints by prisoners (_see also_ Inquiries, Petitions,
    Round-robins), 5, 7, 11, 18, 24, 40, 48–9, 126–7, 129, 136, 143,
    151–2, 176, 192–3, 204, 211, 220–2, 251–2, 265, 311, 322–3, 361,
    406, 410.

 Concerts given by prisoners, 178, 301, 304, 310, 328, 342, 350, 423.

 Contraband traffic in prisoners (_see also_ Straw-plaiting, Unfair
    trading), 43, 121, 142, 147–9, 158–9, 169, 203–4, 211–12, 218, 243,
    251, 288, 294.

 Contractors, 6, 14, 47–50, 119, 209–10, 258, 270;
   fraudulent (_see also_ Frauds practised on prisoners), 2, 6, 15,
      47–50, 63, 85, 152, 201–2, 209, 211, 216, 227–8, 247, 250.

 Cooke, agent at Sissinghurst, 127, 129–30.

 Cooper, Sarah, 58, 302–3.

 Corbière, Édouard, 228–33.

 Correspondence of prisoners, 26, 53, 102, 127–8, 132, 194, 322–4, 353;
   clandestine, 81, 118–19, 176, 212, 282, 291–2, 305, 309, 372;
   of parole prisoners, to be submitted to the agent and to Transport
      Office, 286–8, 293, 341–2, 401, 416, 421.

 Corsaires; _see_ Privateers.

 Cost of hulks and prisons, 51–2, 197, 208, 238, 240.

 Cotgrave, Captain Isaac, Governor of Dartmoor Prison, 119, 122, 248–9,
    251, 280.

 Courts and codes of justice among prisoners (_see also_ Self-government
    among prisoners), 56, 76, 83, 86, 156, 221–2, 230.

 Coutts’ Bank, 312, 328.

 Cowan family, 197–9, 201, 206.

 Cranbrook, 126–7, 129, 400, 403, 410.

 Crediton, 284, 298, 370, 407–8, 445.

 Croker, J. W., 75, 370.

 _Crown_ (Portsmouth hulk), 43, 66–71, 95, 103–8, 111–12.

 _Crown Prince_ (Chatham hulk), 79, 82, 84–90, 152, 283.

 Cupar, 298, 317.

 Danish prisoners, 2, 25, 34, 41, 84, 90, 96, 333–4. 396, 432 (_see
    also_ 65–6).

 Dartmoor, 34, 44, 52, 82, 89–90, 99, 100, 118, 122–3, 166, 212–13,
    235–61, 276, 279–80, 283, 432, 447, 450.

 De Winter, Admiral, 449.

 Deal, 57, 120, 266, 268, 304, 369, 371–2, 374.

 Debts of prisoners, 337–8, 356, 385, 393, 397, 437.

 Decourbes, Captain, 437–8, 451.

 Derby, 413.

 Derouge, Dr., 279–80, 283.

 Descendants of prisoners, 184, 307–8, 333, 360, 417, 424, 452.

 Directory, French, 12–14, 16–18, 227.

 Disguise, Escapes in, 92, 102, 107–9, 160–1, 169, 178, 219, 221–2,
    225–6, 232–4, 243–4, 247, 254, 280–1, 368, 381–2, 388.

 Dismissal of officials, 71, 99, 140, 204, 211–12, 217, 294, 297, 393,

 Doctors, prison, 12, 152, 191, 210, 217, 222, 249, 265;
   prison-ship, 51, 52, 72–3,81, 99, 104;
   doctors and surgeons among the prisoners, 30, 306, 324. 333, 335, 341
      356, 360, 383, 396–7, 416, 432.

 Dogs and prisoners, 13, 70–1, 183, 213–14, 223, 428.

 Doisy de Villargennes, Sous-lieut., 217–18, 326–32.

 Dorchester, 117–18.

 Dover, 25–6, 28, 56–7, 103, 106, 266, 292, 369, 371, 382.

 Draper, Captain, agent at Norman Cross, 36, 119, 134–5.

 Dubreuil, prisoner on Portsmouth hulks, 112–3.

 Dubreuil, privateer captain, 60, 303–4.

 Duckworth, Admiral, 260, 302.

 Duels in the prisons, 172, 177, 198, 203, 212, 241, 255;
   between prisoners on parole, 58, 325, 338, 413, 418, 428–9, 437–8,
   on the hulks, 59, 93–4;
   with improvised weapons, 93, 161, 229, 242, 355.

 Dufresne, Francis, 170, 184, 200.

 Dumanoir, Rear-Admiral, 446–7.

 Dumbarton Castle, 116, 372.

 Dumfries, 196, 298, 317, 339–44, 356.

 Dundas, General, 272.

 Dundas, Viscount, 19, 116.

 Dundee, 156–7, 161–2, 285.

 Dunkirk, 106, 153, 204 _n._, 285, 306.

 Dupin, Captain (afterwards Baron), 40, 43–4, 391.

 Durand, Felix, his escape from Liverpool, 188–91.

 Dutch prisoners, 2, 17, 20, 25, 31, 34, 84, 139, 203, 208, 266–7, 272,
    286, 333–4, 390, 449, 452.

 Dyer, agent at Penryn, 404.

 Dyer, doctor at Dartmoor, 249.

 Dymchurch, 371.

 East Dereham, 269, 453.

 Eborall, parole agent at Lichfield, 297, 304.

 Edinburgh, 115, 202, 269–77, 316, 328, 350, 389.

 Elphinstone, Mountstuart, 277.

 Enchmarsh, agent at Tiverton, 294, 393.

 Epidemics, 38, 44, 86, 90, 99, 143, 217, 241, 246, 250, 254, 263, 450.

 Epitaphs on prisoners, 252, 339, 344, 419, 451–4

 Escape agents (_see also_ Smugglers), 26, 29, 281, 304, 365–75, 380,

 Escape-aiders, 29, 57–8, 96, 100, 102, 106, 111, 151, 158, 172, 221,
    244, 247, 272, 281–2, 287–8, 299, 304–5, 311–2, 320, 365–7, 373–7,
    381, 384–5, 418, 424, 429, 436.

 Escape funds, 63–4, 112.

 Escapes and attempted escapes, 27–8;
   from shore prisons, 115;
   Sissinghurst, 128–9;
   Norman Cross, 139–40, 146–7, 150;
   Perth, 156–8, 160–65;
   Portchester, 166, 169–72, 178;
   Liverpool, 188–92;
   Valleyfield, 200–1;
   Stapleton, 211;
   Forton, 215–19;
   Millbay, 220–7, 230–4;
   Dartmoor, 235, 238, 243–4, 246–7, 251–4, 280, 283;
   other prisons, 263, 267, 269, 273–4, 363;
   from the hulks, 51, 55–8, 64–6, 77, 81, 83, 87–8, 92–4, 102, 104–13,
   of prisoners on parole, 54, 57, 74, 77, 242, 278–83, 285, 289–91,
      300, 302–4, 310–12, 314, 341, 352, 365–94, 399, 415, 424, 426–7,
   in Scotland, 316, 320, 341, 350, 354–5, 370, 389;
   in Wales, 363;
   of prisoners on the march, 136, 142, 268, 453.

 Esk Mills, 197, 206.

 Espinasse, M., 297–8, 349.

 Evacuations of prisons, 132, 151, 153, 165, 179, 183, 201, 255, 260,
    268, 270–1, 277;
   of the hulks, 86, 183;
   of parole places, 320–1, 332, 348, 356.

 _Examiner_ (newspaper), 31, 240.

 Excavations by prisoners; _see_ Tunnelling.

 Exchange of prisoners, 7, 10, 11, 15, 25–36, 40, 107, 170, 171, 186,
    224, 252, 265, 267, 341, 347, 367, 372, 377, 382, 384, 391, 394,
   at sea, 33;
   turn of exchange forfeited, 20, 123, 130, 141, 143, 265;
   bought and sold, 107, 123, 141, 290.

 Executions, for forgery, 97, 123, 244, 263, 276, 439;
   for murder or attempted murder, 92, 94, 123, 150, 167–8, 172, 179,
   threatened for attempted escapes, 104, 146.

 Exeter, 5, 92, 97–8, 227, 252, 281–2, 284, 373–4, 376, 408.

 Exmouth, 370, 373.

 Falmouth, 25, 265–6, 268, 281–2, 284–5.

 Fareham, 167, 170, 183.

 Farnell, agent at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, 288, 379–80.

 Feeding of prisoners, 4–7, 14–17, 47;
   in the hulks, 42, 47–8, 82;
   in the prisons, 138, 191;
   on the march, 136;
   on the cartel-ships, 26–7;
   complaints as to food, 4–7, 12, 14, 21, 47, 49, 63, 78–9, 85, 136,
      151–2, 176, 191–3, 204, 209, 211, 216, 221, 258, 263, 265–6, 361.

 Fines and forfeitures, 295, 322, 355, 358, 361.

 Fires on the hulks, 95, 168;
   in the prisons, 217;
   in parole places, 290, 341, 359–60, 420.

 Fishguard, 156 _n._, 208, 362–3.

 Fishing-boats in time of war, 28, 40.

 Fishponds Prison, 116, 207–8.

 Floggings in Army and Navy, 55, 58, 82, 106, 139, 148, 197, 221, 244,
   of prisoners, 6–7, 139–40.

 Folkestone, 57, 107, 110–11, 113, 367, 371, 374, 380–1.

 Forfar, 162.

 Forgery (_see also_ Coining), 123, 263, 439;
   of bank-notes, 97–8, 149, 160, 162–3, 213, 233, 244, 250, 269, 273–6,
   documents, 291–2, 396–7;
   passports, 92, 97–8, 213, 263, 274, 291–2.

 Forton Prison, 5, 20, 78, 99, 115, 118, 167, 182, 215–19, 229, 238,
    262, 282, 327, 379, 393, 445.

 Fournier, Marie Louise, 420, 451.

 Frauds on prisoners by officials (_see also_ Contractors), 2, 6, 15,
    21–4, 47–9, 85, 146, 152, 216, 268, 294, 296, 312, 361–2, 406.

 Freemasons among prisoners, 182–3, 300, 301, 322, 326, 339, 345, 351,
    355, 363–4, 419, 423–4, 430, 433, 441, 453.

 French prisoners, _passim_.

 Friendly feeling towards prisoners (_see also_ Parole prisoners—insults
    and injuries), 20, 150, 319, 352–3, 355–6, 387–9, 395, 411, 420,
    424–5, 428–9, 432–3, 436–7, 439–40.

 Frog- and snail-eating among French prisoners, 221, 319, 340–1, 419.

 _Fyen_ (Chatham hospital-ship), 51, 79.

 Gambling among prisoners, 19;
   on hulks, 38–9, 41, 49, 59–60, 71, 83–4, 86, 90;
   in shore prisons, 100, 122, 124, 130, 141, 159, 167, 176–7, 206–7,
      209–12, 222, 245, 255–6.

 Garneray, Louis, 54, 60–74, 183, 310–12, 396.

 Garnier, Lieut., 374, 418.

 Garnier, Sous-lieut. Pierre, 420, 451.

 Garrison in prisons and prison-ships (_see also_ Floggings, Marines,
    Militia), 61, 77, 119, 126, 136, 146, 148–9, 152–3, 169–70, 196,

 Gentz, Major, 178, 181.

 George, Sir Rupert, 19, 117, 392, 434.

 German prisoners, 220, 339, 342, 351, 355–7.

 Ghent, Treaty of, 254–5.

 Gibb, Henry, 317–18.

 Gibbs, Vicary, 241.

 Gicquel des Touches, Lieut., 299–300.

 Gille, Philippe, at Portchester, 175, 179–83, 185.

 Gillingham, 44, 46, 52, 84, 87, 94.

 _Glory_ (Chatham hulk), 79, 283.

 Gosport, 65, 102, 104, 115, 156 _n._, 262, 327, 427.

 Goudhurst, 284, 408–10.

 Grades among prisoners, 59, 245.

 Gramont, Comte de, 408.

 Grand pré (_see also_ Parc, Pré), 176.

 ‘Greenhorn,’ an American prisoner (quoted), 255–6.

 Greenlaw, 196–206, 352.

 Grenville, Lord, 19, 289.

 Guernsey, 264, 284.

 Guildford, 281, 302–3, 365.

 Half-rations, and other short allowances, as punishments, 7, 8, 20, 21,
    55, 63, 93, 122–3, 128–30, 139, 141, 151, 193, 221, 223, 254, 263,
    283, 399.

 Hambledon, 7, 294, 298.

 Hanoverian army, 32, 35.

 ‘Harman, Captain Richard’ (_see_ Herbert, Feast Moore,) escape agent,
    281, 367–71.

 Hastings, 110, 367–8, 375.

 d’Hautpol, Marquis, 312–15, 418.

 Havas, Captain (privateer), 107–11.

 Haverfordwest, 156 _n._, 362.

 Havre, 25, 40, 93.

 Havre de Grâce, 102.

 Hawick, 298, 317, 324, 350–4, 356.

 _Hector_ (Plymouth hulk), 248–9.

 Helston, 8, 284, 404.

 d’Henin, General, 305, 416.

 Herbert, Charles, American prisoner, 220–4.

 Herbert, _alias_ of Feast Moore (q. v.), 367, 370.

 Hesse-Darmstadt Infantry, 354, 356–7.

 Hole-boring by prisoners (_see also_ Tunnelling), on the hulks, 56, 59,
    60, 64, 66–7, 87, 92, 105, 107–8, 112;
   in shore-prisons, 143, 147, 162, 177, 189, 215, 225, 259, 273–4.

 Hospitals, 6, 18, 20, 27, 29, 51, 122, 144, 155, 167, 183, 191, 193,
    198, 208, 210, 220, 224, 227, 263–6, 272, 288–9, 361, 450;
   hospital ships, 51–2, 72–3, 79, 86, 98–9, 262.

 Howard, John, 116, 191–3, 208, 216, 224, 262–3, 271–2, 360–1.

 l’Huille, Jean de, 420, 451.

 Hulks (_see also_ Chatham, Portsmouth, _and_ Plymouth hulks), 1, 24,
    37–114, 135, 185, 225, 276, 284, 313, 327, 384–5, 395, 398.

 Hunter, James, 388–9.

 Huntingdon, 149–51.

 Hutchison, Captain, 82, 88.

 Hythe, 380–81.

 Ilfracombe, 362, 393.

 Illegitimate children of prisoners on parole, 279, 301, 308–9, 325,
    339, 358–9, 426.

 Immorality among prisoners, 59, 76, 81, 87, 91, 161, 229.

 Impressment of prisoners (_see also_ Recruiting), 11, 84, 89, 96.

 Inchbonny, 346–7.

 Independence Day (American) celebrated in prisons, 89, 222, 249, 252.

 _Independent Whig_ (newspaper), 31, 239.

 Indian (American) prisoner, 88.

 Informers, 92, 160, 230, 253, 263–5, 279, 283, 302, 388.

 Inquests on prisoners, 142, 171, 212, 241, 427, 438.

 Inquiries, Official, into prisoners’ complaints, 14, 15, 19, 71, 88,
    129–30, 138, 209, 252, 260.

 Insubordination and mutiny among prisoners, 34, 93, 115, 136, 141, 146,
    164, 171, 192, 208, 215–7, 262, 314, 362.

 Invalided prisoners, 25, 28–9, 31, 52, 55–6, 81.

 Invasion of England, Rumoured, 117–18, 144–5, 182, 392.

 _Irresistible_ (Chatham hulk), 79, 88.

 Italian prisoners, 34, 203, 333, 335, 339, 342, 413, 422, 425.

 Ivan, privateer captain, 231–3.

 Jedburgh, 298, 316–17, 345–50, 356, 371, 388–9.

 Jew traders in the prisons, 257–8.

 Johns, escape-agent, 383.

 Jones, Charles (Admiralty solicitor), 282–3, 366, 368–9.

 Jones, Paul, privateer, 192.

 Kelso, 298, 316–7, 319–24, 332, 341, 345–356, 370, 426.

 Kemble, John, 448.

 Kergilliack, 115, 264–5.

 King’s Lynn, 25, 136, 139–41, 151, 153, 268–9.

 Kinsale, 285.

 Kirkcaldy, 156–7.

 Knight and Jones, Admiralty solicitors (_see also_ Jones, Charles),

 Knowle, near Bristol, 116, 207, 208.

 La Tour d’Auvergne, 442–5.

 Lace-manufacture at Portchester, 176–7.

 Lamy, Germain, 217–18, 327.

 Lanark, 298.

 Lane, Captain, inspector of prisons, 227–8.

 Language difficulties, 348, 355, 422.

 Larpent, Commissioner, 260.

 Lauder, 297–8, 317, 354–6, 370.

 Launceston, 278, 280–4, 290, 294, 297–8, 352, 376, 411, 439.

 Lavau, Ciprian, 420, 451.

 Lavender, Bow Street officer, 390, 436.

 Lawson, Dr. George, 325–6, 345.

 Lebertre, Colonel, 51, 75, 100, 101.

 Leek (Staffs.), 294, 298, 308, 392, 419, 437, 439, 444, 451–2.

 Lefebvre, General, 295–6, 378.

 Lefebvre-Desnouettes, General, 371, 373, 382.

 Leicester, 306, 413, 436–7.

 Le Jeune, Baron, 378–82.

 Le Jeune, Captain, 430–1.

 Lessons given by prisoners, on the hulks, 60, 63–5, 86, 104, 108;
   in shore prisons, 176, 181, 229, 234;
   in Dartmoor, 242, 251, 255, 257;
   on parole, 290–1, 299, 312, 416, 418, 432–3, 435;
   in Scotland, 319–20, 342, 350;
   after release, 297–8, 300, 342, 349, 440.

 L’Huille, Jean de, 420, 451.

 Lichfield, 60, 290, 297–8, 303–4, 382, 384, 387, 393, 395, 439.

 ‘Light Dragoon, The’, 173–5.

 Linlithgow, 116, 273.

 Linois, Captain (afterwards Admiral Count), 103, 448.

 Liverpool, 5, 15, 19, 115, 117–8, 186–95, 269.

 Liverpool, Lord, 142, 403.

 Llanfyllin, 298, 357–8.

 Lochmaben, 298, 341, 356.

 Lockerbie, 298, 356.

 Lodgings of parole prisoners, 328, 334, 338, 340, 400–1, 404–5, 418,

 Louis XVIII, 182, 312, 314, 342–3, 353, 449.

 Lowestoft, 269.

 Lucas, Captain, of the _Redoutable_, 446.

 Ludlow, 358, 448.

 Lynn; _see_ King’s Lynn.

 Mackenzie, representative of Great Britain, 34–5.

 Magrath, prison doctor at Dartmoor, 252, 254–6, 260.

 Maidstone, 94, 131, 371, 374, 400, 401, 409.

 Majendie, Captain, French prisoner on parole, 446.

 Malingering, 81, 105, 144.

 Manchester, 117–18.

 Mantell, agent at Dover, 369–70.

 Marines on prison-ships, 77, 85, 88, 90, 91, 94.

 Markets in the prisons, 155, 161, 163, 175, 201, 205, 213, 238–9, 245,
    250, 327–8;
   daily markets, 200, 208, 242, 280, 363;
   for foodstuffs, &c., 158–9, 173, 239, 251, 256–7;
   for prisoners’ manufactures, 135, 158–9, 165, 173, 193, 203, 212–13,
      221, 242–3, 252, 270–1, 363;
   Sunday markets, 220;
   markets stopped (or prisoners debarred from market) as punishment, 7,
      88, 122, 141, 164, 249, 257;
   market boats, 78, 88.

 Marriages of prisoners, 97, 132, 150, 170–1, 191, 266, 305, 307–9, 317,
    320, 338, 343–4, 349, 357, 360, 363, 374, 414, 416–17, 424–5,
    429–30, 434.

 Maurer, Lieut., 354, 356.

 Maurin, General, 295–6, 383.

 Maxwell, Dr., Admiralty Commissioner, 129, 131.

 Meadow (_see also_ Grand pré, Parc, Pré), 9.

 Medical attendance (_see also_ Doctors, Epidemics, Hospitals,
    Surgeons), 12, 14–15, 39;
   in the prisons, 5, 122, 152, 161, 176, 191, 210, 222, 249;
   on the hulks, 39, 41, 43, 50–2, 72–3, 98–9, 104;
   on cartel ships, 26;
   for parole prisoners, 288, 352.

 Melrose, 298, 317, 326, 345.

 Memorials to prisoners (_see also_ Epitaphs), 46, 134, 198–9, 261.

 Merchant sailors as prisoners, 5, 29, 84, 285–6, 373, 383, 400.

 ‘Merchants’ in the prisons, 63, 143.

 Mere, Wilts., 156 _n._, 426–7.

 Midshipmen, French and English, 286, 320, 333, 335, 338, 373, 444, 451.

 Milestone stories, 329, 346, 350, 415, 434.

 Military and Naval authority in prisons, Relations of, 119, 132, 138,
    145, 148.

 Militia, 95, 192, 215, 316, 333–4, 337, 362, 388;
   as prison-garrison, at Dartmoor, 235, 243–5, 248, 251, 258–60;
   at Greenlaw and Valleyfield, 196–7, 200, 204, 206;
   at Norman Cross, 134, 146–7, 149, 151;
   at Perth, 155, 158, 160;
   at Portchester, 169, 182;
   at other prisons, 129–30, 208, 217, 223, 273–5, 350, 361, 391.

 Millbay Prison, 5, 115, 118, 208, 214, 220–35, 238, 395, 399, 445.

 Milne, Captain, of the _Bahama_, 56, 58–9.

 Money-allowances to prisoners, 4–6, 16, 96, 116, 143, 173, 251, 256,
    270, 361;
   on parole, 5, 21, 288, 292, 299, 312, 322, 328, 335, 352, 355, 358,
      360–1, 372, 413, 415, 428, 433;
   on the march, 136, 390.

 Money earned or saved by prisoners, 14, 65, 123–4, 130, 153, 165, 176,
    181, 193, 203, 205, 218–20, 229, 242, 245, 250–1, 256;
   on parole, 350;
   on the hulks, 65.

 Monopoly of sales to prisoners, 78, 127, 152, 222, 249.

 Montgomery, 32, 298, 305, 308, 358–9, 414.

 Montrose, 156, 161.

 Moore, Thomas Feast (escape agent), _alias_ Harman, Herbert, q. v.,
    281, 281 _n._, 367–71.

 Moras, De, French Administrator, 5–7, 27.

 More, Hannah, 411.

 Moreton-Hampstead, 282, 297–8, 371, 373, 453.

 Moriarty, Captain, 163–5, 292.

 Morlaix, 25, 27, 30, 34–5, 81, 150, 281, 309, 314, 394.

 Mortality among prisoners, 12, 19, 32, 43–4, 143, 151, 172, 184, 193,
    198, 207, 209, 217, 240–1, 246, 263, 450;
   on parole, 450;
   on the hulks, 12, 38, 41, 43–4, 86, 90, 450.

 Motte, Alexander de la, 300, 440.

 Murders and other crimes of violence by prisoners, 7, 39, 56, 71, 92–4,
    123, 129, 149, 160, 167–8, 172, 178–9, 198, 210, 218–19, 231, 241,
    252, 314.

 Nakedness among prisoners, 9, 10, 18, 21, 49, 66, 77, 99, 156, 172,
    201, 209, 247, 270, 378;
   due to gambling, 19, 38, 122, 130, 205–7, 209–10, 245;
   due to improvidence, 76, 143, 177, 229.

 Napoleon; _see_ Bonaparte.

 Negro prisoners, 75, 221–2, 251, 257–8, 267, 334, 447.

 Newburgh, 158, 165.

 Newcastle-on-Tyne, 285, 388.

 Newtown, 298, 358–60.

 Niou, French agent, 18, 141.

 Nivernois, Duc de, 292.

 Nixon, Agent at Hawick, 298, 352–3.

 Norman Cross, 31, 36, 38, 77, 79, 108, 117–18, 121, 133–54, 144, 166,
    176, 201, 209, 213, 238, 243, 268–9, 276, 368, 390, 417, 450.

 North Tawton, 281, 298.

 Northampton, 298.

 Norwegian prisoners, 90, 267.

 Obscene toys and pictures made by prisoners, 140, 142, 243.

 Odiham, 54, 56–8, 298, 301–3, 307, 328, 372, 385, 395, 403, 405, 420,
    435–6, 453–4.

 Officers and privates imprisoned together, 12, 62–3, 75–7, 140, 150,
    193, 229–30, 264, 398–9.

 Okehampton, 97, 281–2, 284–5, 298, 374, 383, 387–8, 393, 399, 434–5,

 Oratory of American prisoners, 83, 86, 89.

 Ormskirk, 191–2.

 Osmore, Commodore, 85, 87–90.

 Osten, General, 368, 382.

 Oswestry, 298, 307–8, 314, 374, 393, 396, 401, 417–19, 440.

 Otto, French agent in England, 19, 20, 143, 170.

 Overcrowding in prison-ships, 51, 63, 77, 115, 135, 235, 379;
   in prisons, 136, 173, 250, 252, 361.

 Pageot, General, 291, 414.

 Paintings by prisoners, 126, 181, 183, 278, 319, 334, 336, 347, 350,
    354, 357, 360, 414, 424, 427.

 Paolucci, 77, 367–9.

 Parc (_see also_ Grand pré, Meadow, Pré), 9, 59, 75.

 Paris, 382;
   Peace of, 132, 271;
   Treaty of, 74, 151, 213, 312.

 Parole, 58, 60, 74, 125–7, 150, 274, 278, 284–454;
   abuse of parole, 119, 372;
   breaches of parole (_see also Escapes_), 7, 25–7, 29, 33, 54, 57,
      74–7, 98, 201, 212, 229, 242, 250–1, 285, 289–90, 301, 304, 310,
      350, 365–94, 398–9, 413–14, 435–6;
   in Scotland, 271, 316–56;
   in Wales, 357–60, 363–4;
   insults and injuries offered to prisoners on parole, 12, 40, 287,
      299–301, 311, 313, 348–9, 359, 390, 400–10, 421, 437–8, 442–4;
   numbers on parole, 117, 118, 293, 297, 310, 312, 314, 321, 325, 334,
      343, 350, 352, 354, 356–7, 359, 379, 388, 404, 413, 415, 421, 428;
   parole-limits (_see also_ Milestone-stories, Rewards), 126, 150,
      286–7, 291, 295, 310, 317, 324, 328–9, 331, 334, 346, 349, 355,
      366, 396, 400, 412–3, 415, 421, 423, 428–9, 432, 434–5, 445;
   parole relaxations, 289–91, 383, 400;
   parole obligations refused by prisoners, 103, 105, 112, 302;
   parole withdrawn, 13, 320, 333, 392;
   prisoners allowed abroad on parole, 25, 377–8, 391;
   ranks admitted to parole, 5, 37, 256, 285–6, 271, 447.

 Patterson, Commander William, 178, 180, 183.

 Peebles, 196–7, 298, 317, 332–40.

 Pembroke, 116, 271, 360–3.

 Pendennis Castle, 266.

 Penicuik, 118, 149, 164, 196–7, 199, 201–2, 206, 273–4, 328, 350.

 Penryn, 264, 398, 404, 445.

 Perrot, James, agent at Norman Cross, 136, 139–40.

 Perth, 44, 118, 121, 155–66, 176, 238, 271, 276, 292.

 Peterborough, 117, 133, 135–6, 139, 142, 146–7, 150–1, 154, 268–9, 298.

 Petersfield, 7, 110, 281, 284, 406.

 Petitions from prisoners, for change of residence, 289–90, 297, 341,
    397, 403, 405, 410.

 Phillipon, General, 99, 374, 418.

 Phillpotts, Mr. Eden, 238–9, 249.

 Pillet, General, 20, 22–4, 35, 76–8, 151–2, 183, 291, 367–8.

 Pillory, 135, 374.

 Plymouth (_see also_ Millbay), 15, 25, 27, 49, 91–2, 98, 115, 118, 156,
    180, 220, 223–7, 230–3, 243, 247, 258, 283, 292;
   hulks at, 51, 92, 95, 97–9, 118, 235, 246–9, 283, 314, 397, 399, 445,

 Poerio, Colonel, 386.

 Polish prisoners, 194, 321, 333, 335–6, 339, 395, 423, 452.

 Portchester Castle, 5–7, 18, 32, 34, 78, 109, 115, 117–8, 120, 126,
    136, 154, 162, 166–85, 200, 215, 229, 262, 276, 363, 445.

 Portchester River, 66.

 Portsmouth (_see also_ Forton, Gosport, Portchester), 6, 25, 40, 60,
    74, 78, 82, 98, 103–4, 117–18, 162, 168, 172, 174–5, 179, 181,
    217–18, 247, 288–9, 294, 302, 311–12, 327, 396, 440, 445, 447;
   hulks at, 12, 24, 43–4, 51, 60, 75, 78, 92–5, 97–8, 103, 118, 175,
      180, 182–3, 247, 294, 302–3, 310, 312, 314, 378–9, 445, 449–50.

 Portuguese prisoners, 34, 36, 422.

 Pré (_see also_ Grand pré, Meadow, Parc), 229.

 Pressland, Captain, 119, 144–6, 148, 151–2.

 Princetown, 249, 261, 434.

 Prison-hunting, 115–17, 125, 135.

 Privateersmen, on the hulks, 54, 56, 64, 81, 107, 327, 397–8;
   in shore prisons, 142, 170, 192, 231, 245, 256, 264–6, 269–71;
   on parole, 29, 60, 278, 285–6, 303, 314, 320, 354, 373, 383, 395,
      397–8, 400, 439;
   American, 11, 186, 188;
   English, 29, 226;
   French, 10, 12, 93, 98, 106–7, 110–13, 186, 188, 229, 233, 252, 269;
   money allowances to, 5.

 Privé, General, 372, 421.

 _Prothée_ (Portsmouth hulk), 43, 61, 64–6.

 Public works by prisoners, 252, 261, 268, 413.

 Pugilism, 64, 68–70, 242, 255.

 Puppet shows in the prisons, 159, 173, 176.

 Quanti, on parole at Moreton-Hampstead, 453.

 Quantin, prisoner at Portchester, 185.

 Quiller-Couch, Sir A., 264, 427.

 Raffalés, Les, 59, 63, 71, 76, 177, 229.

 Reading, special parole town, 290, 294, 298, 375, 390, 396, 437, 445.

 Recruiting among prisoners, 85–6, 224, 267.

 Redruth, 284, 291, 410.

 Regilliack, 264–5.

 Regulations, Prison-, to be hung in sight of prisoners, 191, 224,
    271–2, 360–1.

 Releases of prisoners, 86, 95, 98, 157, 191, 201, 251, 255, 303, 347,
    355, 356, 402, 416, 439–40.

 Religious ministrations among prisoners, 96–7, 120–1, 140–1, 145, 167,
    179, 214, 224, 229, 257, 267, 411, 417, 424, 430–1, 439.

 Remittances to prisoners, 176, 288, 293, 312–13, 335, 352.

 Residence of prisoners in England after release, 297–8, 300, 307, 339,
    342–3, 349, 358, 360, 411, 417, 424–5, 440.

 Rewards offered, for information as to breaches of parole, 287, 310,
    329, 346–7, 387, 404–5, 428;
   as to escape-aiders, 363, 424;
   as to escaped prisoners, 7, 263, 376, 389, 390, 435;
   as to forgeries, 274–6;
   by French Government, 387.

 Richmond, Surrey, 393, 435.

 Riotous proceedings of prisoners on parole, 321–2, 330–1.

 Riouffe, a French prisoner, 420, 451.

 Rochambeau, General, 144–5, 242, 413, 416, 425–7.

 Rochester, 79, 94, 212.

 Rohan, Prince de, 400.