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1756 TO 1815 













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 Depot, 
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 acknow- 
ledgement 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. 


LONDON, 1914. 






V. LIFE ON THE HULKS (continued) ... 75 


ESCAPER ...... 103 


ASHORE. GENERAL . . . .115 


X. 2. NORMAN CROSS .... 133 

XI. 3. PERTH 155 










SHREWSBURY ..... 266 

YARMOUTH ..... 268 













XXX. PAROLE LIFE : SUNDRY NOTES (continued) . 432 



WAR ...... 442 

2. SOME STATISTICS .... 449 


INDEX 455 




From a painting by A . C. Cooke, Esq., in the Town Hall, Luton ; 

reproduced here by permission of the artist. 

After Bombled. 
PRISON SHIPS ......... 45 

From a sketch by the Author. 

NAVAL BARRACKS, CHATHAM ... .To face p. 46 


After Louis Garneray. 

After Louis Garneray. 

After Louis Garneray. 


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. 152. 

Reproduced by permission of the owner, Henry Neve, Esq. 

NORMAN CROSS. Unveiled July 28, 1914 . . . To face p. 134 

Hill's Plan, 1797-1803. 

OF 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 ... . Tofacep.i66 

From the ' Victoria History of England South Hampshire ', 
by permission of Messrs. Constable 6> Co, 





RATIONS To face p. 173 

In the Author's possession. 

AT PORTSMOUTH ........ To face p. 176 

In the possession of Messrs. Doxford &> Sons, Pallion, Sunder- 

land, by whose permission it is reproduced. 

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. 

From a sketch by the Author. 


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 per- 
mission of the owner, Charles Luxmoore, Esq., from a photo- 
graph by Mr. J. R. Browning, Exeter. 

From Benjamin Waterhouse's 'Journal of a Young Man of 

Massachusetts ' . 
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. 

OF WAR To face p. 416 

Now in the United Service Museum, Whitehall. 


From Montorgueil's 'La Tour d'Auvergne ', 


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 questions : 

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 confine- 
ment 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 inde- 
fensible system will remain a stain upon our national record. 

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 con- 
sideration ; 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 dis- 
honesty 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 
tiave been immune from the contagion. 

Most exactly, too, must it be remembered by the commen- 
tator 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 separ- 
ating us from the age of Trafalgar wider than that which 
separated the age of Trafalgar from that of the TudorsTj 

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 

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 4 The Com- 
missioners for taking care of sick and wounded seamen and for 
exchanging Prisoners of War ', colloquially known as ' The Sick 

B 2 


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 home- 
ward 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 treat- 
ment 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 diffi- 
culty 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 peasj 
^For money allowance officers of men-of-war received one 
shilling a day, officers of privateers and merchant ships six- 
pence. 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. 

LJWith 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 ham- 
mocks, each with a flock bed, a blanket, and a coverlid. 

All this reads excellently, but from the numberless com- 
plaints 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 remon- 
strances, 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 pro- 
visioning 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 c 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 needed. 

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

' Plusieurs Frangais enfermes dans le chateau de Portchester 
representent 1'excessive longueur de leur detention et ont fait 
connoitre une manoeuvre qui les prive d'un secours en argent 
que le Roy leur fait donner tous les mois ; apres avoir change 
Tor et 1'argent qui leur a ete donne pour une monnoie de 
cuivre nommee half pens on en a arrete le cours et on les a mis 
dans rimpossibilite de jouir du soulagement que le Roy avoit 
voulu leur accorder.' 

Commenting upon this De Moras adds : 

' Je suis instruit que les chatiments les plus rigoureux sont 
employes a 1'egard des Frangais prisonniers pour la faute la 
plus legere et que celui qui cherche a s 'evader est charge de 
fers, mis en cachot, et perd toute esperance de liberte. Je sais 
que quelques paroles inconsiderees lachees centre votre agent 
a Portsmouth ont excite sa cole-re au point de faire depouiller 
150 Frangais et de leur faire donner la bastonnade avec si peu 
de managements que quelques-uns sont morts des suites de 
cette barbare punition. Quant a la nourriture elle est asses 
decriee par tous les Francais qui reviennent d'Angleterre, et il 
est vray que si on leur distribue souvent du biscuit aussy mal 
fabrique que celuy que quelques-uns d'eux ont raporte, et que 

1''ay veu, 1'usage n'en peut estre que desagreable et pernicieux. 
Is disent aussy que la viande ne vaut pas mieux, et qu'il en 
est de mme de toutes les especes de denrees. 

' Je ne 1'attribue qu'a 1'infidelite et a 1'avidite des entre- 


In 1758, as a reply to complaints made to the British Govern- 
ment 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 

3. Only three men have lost everything as a result of re- 
capture : one was a lieutenant who had broken parole from 
Petersfield ; the others were two sailors who defended them- 
selves 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 arrange- 
ment and distribution of all charitable contributions, for the 
benefit of the prisoners. 

' C'est le seul mo yen/ says De Moras, ' qui puisse faire gouter 


aux officiers et aux soldats que le sort des armes a prives de la 
liberte quelqu'apparence des avantages de la Paix au milieu 
me'me 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 inferieurs 
demande a estre souvent reveillee.' 

In 1759 the care of the French prisoners in England prac- 
tically devolved entirely upon us, as their Government unac- 
countably 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 waist- 
coats, 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 
depots. The following will serve as a specimen. 

' Cornwall Man-of-War at Chatham, 13. i. 1760. 
' Nous les prisonniers de guerre a bord du vaisseau du Roi 
le "Cornwall", dans la riviere de Chatham, reconnoissons 
d'avoir regu 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 ont eu cette bonte pour 
infortunes presque depourvus auparavant de quoi se garantir 
de la severite de la saison, et de grandes souffrances par le 
froid, d'etre persuades 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 32. 


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 con- 
tributed 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 English- 
man, a citizen of the world, to Frenchmen, prisoners of war, 
and naked." 

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 capital.' 

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 " [pro- 
bably 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 com- 
plaint 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 * 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 bar- 
barities 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 

' On the contrary, the conduct of Great Britain was a strik- 
ing example of their kindness and humanity to such unfor- 
tunate 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 confine- 
ment 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 pur- 
chasing 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 

1 Vol. iii. (1790 ed.), pp. 66-7. 


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 dim- 
cult ; 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 Pluviose 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 Govern- 
ment 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 priva- 
teersmen 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 treat- 
ment 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, a Plymouth merne, un prison- 
nier ajuste par un soldat fut tue. On envoie chercher le com- 


missaire. II vient : souleve le cadavre : on lui demande 
justice ; il repond : " C'est un Francais," 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'humanite,' being one-third 
of the ordinary sumptuary tax, and winds up his attack : 

' Frangais ! Vous avez depose une foule d'offrandes sur 
1'autel de la Patrie ! Ce ne sera pas tromper vos intentions 
que de les employer au soulagement de Thumanite souffrante. 
Vous voulez combattre 1'Angleterre : eh bien ! Soulagez les 
victimes ; conservez 22,000 Republicans qui un jour tourneront 
contre leurs oppresseurs leurs bras diriges par la Vengeance ! 
N'oubliez pas que le Gouvernement anglais medite la ruine 
de la Republique ; que, familiarise avec tous les crimes, il en 
inventera de nouveaux pour essayer de la renverser ; mais 
elle restera triomphante, et le Gouvernement anglais sera 
detruit ! Attaquez ce monstre ! II 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 regime, 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 Commis- 
sioners 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 depots 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 circum- 
stances 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 refuta- 
tion 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 respec- 
tive 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 

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 adminis- 

' 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 Govern- 
ment 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 

'August, 1800. 


'I am under the necessity of laying before you the 
miserable situation of a great number of Prisoners at this 
Depot 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. 


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, sa}dng 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 abso- 
lutely 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 depot contained twice the 
number of prisoners. This sudden mortality which com- 
menced 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 im- 
prudence, 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 Com- 
missioners 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 appear- 
ance 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 in- 
stances 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 w r as 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 

Some readers may share the opinion of the French General 
Fillet, 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 article : 

' 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 oppor- 
tunities 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 England.) 

' 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 is. 6d. 
per diem produce comparatively little advantage to the Com- 
missioners, 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. Be- 
sides, 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 depot 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 Francois, 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 Fillet, a prisoner on a Chatham 
hulk, upon this matter. They are from his book UAngleterre, 
vue a Londres et dans ses provinces, pendant un sejour de dix 
annees, 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 prison- 
ers, 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 imprison- 
ment 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 
employe 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, pro- 
duced 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. 

Fillet wrote to Lovel, the editor, thus : 

' On board the prison ship Brunswick, 

Chatham, May 19, 1813. 
' SIR : 

' 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 behalf ? 

' 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 ! ' 

Fillet 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.' 


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 invari- 
ably 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 Napo- 
leonic 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 

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 nine- 
teenth 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 55. 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, 6s. per 
head ; between all the Channel ports los. 6d., and to ports out 
of the Channel, i is. 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 accom- 
pany each cartel ship, but this was refused by the Admiralty 
upon the ground that as such he might be arrested upon reach- 
ing 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 seaport 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 mono- 
poly 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 surfer the said 
Discharged Person to pass from London to France accordingly 
without any hindrance or molestation whatever. This pass- 
port 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. ' II est trop important de laisser subsister 
une pareille inaction dans les echanges ; elle est prejudiciable 
aux deux Puissances, et facheuse aux families ', 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. Valery, made each boat pay twenty-five guineas 
ransom, beat the men with swords, and wounded the St. Valery 
captain, remarking: 'le precede est d'autant plus inhumain 
qu'il a eu lieu de sang-froid et qu'il a ete exerce contre des gens 
qui achetoient leur liberte 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 argu- 
ment 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'inhumanite d'envoyer des prison- 
niers les plus malades, attaques de fievre et de dissentoire. 
J'espere, Monsieur, que vous, connoissant les sentiments les plus 
justes, que vous voudriez bien donner vos ordres a M. Monck- 
ton, agent des prisonniers francais, pour qu'il soit donne 
a mes malades des vivres frais, suivant 1'ordinnance de votre 
Majeste ; ou, qu'ils soient mis a I'hopital.' 

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 i or one 
man for a common sailor or soldier in the regular services, and 
from 4 or four men for a captain to i 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 history. 

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 

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 founda- 
tion 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 i, 1796, to March 14, 1798, the balance 
between Britain and Holland stood thus : 

Dutch officers returned 316, men 416 . . 732 
British ,, ,, 64, ,, 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 corre- 
spondence 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 unsatis- 
factory 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, incapaci- 
tated, 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 correspon- 
dence 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 Frenchmen. 

The letter before quoted from the agent at Portchester 
(p. 1 8) 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 repre- 
sentations 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 Govern- 
ment 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 specimen : 

' 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 Coruna, 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 exchang- 
ing 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 mis- 
named, 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 prison- 
ers, 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 
fay the interest of private individuals, and cannot be con- 
sidered 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 posses- 
sions, 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 

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 pro- 
portion of the exchange. 

General Fillet, 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 French- 
men 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 conver- 
sation 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 study. 

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 detenus 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 senti- 
ment. 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, fashion- 
able watering-place. Bitche had a severe commandant, and the 
class of prisoner there was generally rough and low. Beau- 
chene 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. 


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 features. 

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-bat tie 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 pic- 
turesqueness, 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 remark- 
able 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 remark- 
ably 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, 
inefhcacy, 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 com- 
mander. 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 eighteen- pence servant allowance, to take up such a posi- 
tion 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 10 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 charac- 
terized 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 1 comments thus 
upon this part of it : 

' The long duration of hostilities, combined with our resplen- 
dent 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 encumbrances. 

' 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 
1 Quarterly Review, vol. xxvi, No. 51, Art. I (December 1821). 

4 2 


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. 

' 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 

(After Bombled.) 

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 pro- 
hibited 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. 



San Damaso 



San Antonio 

Vengeance . 




Ave Princessa 

Kron Princessa 



Prisoners in Health. Sick. 

583 10. 
608 3 

726 32 
590 8 
693 8 
820 9 
692 7 
592 7 . 
683 6 

727 . 35 
769 9 
760 4 
809 i 



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 Eng- 
land 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 ........ 7Q>Q4 I 

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 depot 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 demol- 
ished) which occupied a site in the middle of what is now 
Chatham Dockyard Extension. St. Mary's Barracks, Gilling- 
ham, were built during the Peninsular War for the accom- 
modation 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. 

' 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. 

4 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. 


' 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.' 


p. 46 


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


Pease : to be of the white sort and good boilers. 
Greens : to be stripped of outside leaves and fit for the 

Beer : every 7 barrels to be brewed from 8 bushels of the 

strongest amber malt, and 6 or 7 Ib. of good hops 

at i i8s. 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 Trans- 
port Board to send to its prison agents and prison-ship com- 
manders this notice : 

' I am directed by the Board to desire that you will imme- 
diately forward to this office by coach a loaf taken indis- 
criminately 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. i J Ib. bread. 

Monday. \ Ib. fresh beef. 

Tuesday. J Ib. cabbage or turnip. 

Thursday. I ounce Scotch barley. 
Saturday. ounce salt. 

J- ounce onions. 
Wednesday, ijlb. bread, lib. good sound herrings, lib. 

good sound potatoes. 
Friday. ij Ib. bread, i Ib. good sound cod, i Ib. potatoes. 

In the year 1778 there were 924 American prisoners of war in 
England. It has been shown before (p. n) 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 un- 
doubtedly 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 Trea- 


sury, 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 commit- 
ment, and the exertion of Government influence in the Bill was 
taken to mean a censure on certain Treasury officials. 

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 con- 
tractors 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 re turned 
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 defraud- 
ing 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 pro- 
visions 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 h&d 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 condemna- 
tion, 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 sick- 
bay and the cockpit of a man-of-war of Nelson's day were 
probably not very much better than those described by Smol- 
lett 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 diatesis, 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, 

E 2 


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. 

' MY LADY : 

' Je crains d'abuser de votre bonte naturelle et de ce 
doux sentiment de compation qui vous fait toujours prendre 
pitie des malheureux, mais, Madame, un infortune sans amis 
et sans soutiens se refugie sous les auspices des personnes 
genereuses qui daignent le plaindre, et vous avez humaine- 
ment pris part a mes maux. Souffrez done que je vous supplie 
encore de renouveler vos demandes en ma faveur, si toutefois 
cette demande ne doit pas etre contraire a votre tranquillite 
personnelle. Voila deux ans que je suis renferme dans cette 
prison si nuisible a ma sante plus chancellante et plus debile 
que jamais. Voila six ans et plus que je suis prisonnier sans 
espoir qu'un sort si funeste et si peu merite finisse. Si je 
n'ai pas merite la mort, et si on ne veut pas me la donner, 
il faut qu'on me permette de retourner m'isoler a terre, ou 
je pourrais alors dans la tranquillite vivre d'une maniere plus 
convenable a ma faible constitution, et resister 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'experience que par vice du coeur. 



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 history. 


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 insuffi- 
cient 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 regula- 
tions 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 length- 
ened 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 ex- 
treme 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 imitators. 

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 

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 re- 
covered, 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 hand- 
hold. 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 ' arretez ', 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 threat- 
ened 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 counter- 
balance 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 suffer- 
ings 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 Houn- 
slow 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. Cere, 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 Scot- 
land 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 I, 1808, the unfortunate men found themselves once 
more on the Bahama, with a sentence of ten days in the Black 

Captain Milne of the Bahama was exasperated at these 
escapes, and attempts to escape, and was brutal in his endea- 
vours 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 every- 
day occurrence. The climax came when bad weather pre- 
vented the delivery of bread, and the prisoners were put on 
biscuit. They assembled in the pare, 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 pare 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 : 

' II n'existait ni crainte, ni retenue, ni amour-propre dans la 
classe qui n'avait pas ete dotee des bienfaits de quelque 
education. On y voyait done regner insolemment rimmoralite 
la plus perverse, les outrages les plus honteux a la pudeur et 
les actes les plus degoutants, le cynisme le plus effronte, et 
dans ce lieu de misere generale une misere plus grande encore 
que tout ce qu'on peut imaginer.' 

There were three classes of prisoners. 

(i) Les Raff ales. (2) Les Messieurs ou Bourgeois. (3) Les 

The Raff ales were the lowest, and lowest of the Raff ales were 
the ' Manteaux imperiaux.' 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 a virer ! ' l 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. 
Bonne foux himself gave lessons in French, drawing, mathe- 
matics, and English, and published an English Grammar, a copy 
of which is at Paris, in the Bibliotheque 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 con- 
stant 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. Bonne- 
foux 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 Louvre. 

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 
1 ' Prepare to tack ! ' 


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 Prothee 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 Prothee, 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 lieu- 
tenant 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 con- 
tinually moving round, and every quarter of an hour the 
1 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 

(After Louis Garneray.} 

grating was sounded with iron bars, and one hour later all the 
prisoners were driven on deck and counted. 

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 pan- 
nikins. 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 Raff ales, 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. Wliilst 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 priva- 
teer 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 Prothee 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 Prothee' 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 
thing done. The soldiers hammered the helpless Frenchman 


with their musket butts, Garneray heard the fall of some- 
thing 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 Proihee. 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 else- 
where, but that the dog still breathed ! For twenty days the 
man gave his shilling bulletins, and then announced that the 
Breton was convalescent. 

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 objects. 

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 off ! ' 


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 overboard. 

At four the next morning the Danes brought Garneray back 
to the Prothee. 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 unneces- 
sary as it is distasteful to dwell. 

Garneray was now changed from the Prothee 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 

(After Louis Garneray.) 

pumped icy water into the lower deck and batteries until they 
were drenched, as well as the prisoners, their hammocks, and 
their clothes. 

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 

F 2 


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 im- 
mediate 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 offered. 

The day appointed for the contest came. Great prepara- 
tions 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, ' parees avec ce luxe eclatant et de mauvais 
gout si essentiellement britannique,' who settled themselves 
on the stand rigged up for the occasion, in laughing and chatter- 
ing 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 disap- 
pointment 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. How- 
ever, 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 

'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 conscious- 
ness. 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 riddle. 

' " 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 him.' 

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 

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 

' 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 v\ as even so. The vision of a large plump dog had been 
too much for the Raff ales, 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 cul- 
minated 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 impar- 
tiality, was that he was removed. 

A few weeks later Garneray observed two of the worst of the 
Raffales seated on a bench playing ecarte 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 alongside. 

' The poor wretches, lying at the bottom of the boat, cried 
aloud in their agony and tossed in the delirium of fever ; thin 

7 2 


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 

(After Louis Garneray.) 

to be put on board the Pegasus hospital ship. While the arrange- 
ments 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. 

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 assis- 
tant, 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 hesi- 
tates 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 fool ! " 

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 



Garneray later is allowed to go on parole t o 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 

(After Louis Garneray.} 

a smuggling vessel, when he was recaptured by a British 
cruiser, and once again found himself a prisoner on the Ven- 
geance. After more sufferings, brutal treatment, and illness, 
Garneray was at length made free by the Treaty of Paris 
in 1814. 

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 allow- 
ance for soap was made, no leave given to bathe even in sum- 
mer, 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 mme ont montre une indifference vraiment 
choquante. On en a vu rester des heures entieres les yeux 
fixes sur le Pare oil se tiennent les prisonniers, sans que e 
spectacle de misere qui affecterait si vivement une Francaise 
ait fait couler une seule larme ; le rire insultant etait, au 
contraire, sur leurs levres. Les prisonniers n'ont connu qu'un 
seul exemple d'une femme qui s'evanouit a la vue du Pare.' 

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 some- 
times 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 Raffales 
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 com- 
mand. 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 allow. 

On August n, 1812, in response to many urgent remon- 
strances 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 
Fillet 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 Trans- 
port Office wrote : ' Indeed, when the former unprincipled 
conduct of these officers is considered, with their present com- 
bination 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 
Fillet. Fillet 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, Cap- 
tain of the Friedland captured in 1808 by the Standard and 
Active, but was recaptured and sent to the depot 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 attri- 
buted his vitriolic hatred of Britain. 

General Fillet 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 Fillet, 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 life. 

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 
Fillet remarks : 

' C'est une miserable speculation pour un pauvre prisonnier 
aflame" ; il consent a vendre sa place afm de se procurer un 
peu plus de vivre pendant quelques jours, et arm de ne pas 
mourir de faim il accelere la destruction de sa sante, et se 
reduit dans cette horrible situation a coucher sur un plancher 
ruisselant d'eau, Tevaporisation des transpirations forcees qui 
a lieu dans ce sejour d'angoisses et de la mort.' 

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 Fillet, they were worse clothed. 
Nominally they received every eighteen months a coat, waist- 
coat, 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 Ports- 
mouth, where the hulk agent Woodriff was at any rate con- 
scientious 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 Garnet d'Etapes du Sergt.-Maj. Beaudouin, 31* demi- 
brigade de ligne, I take the following account of life on the 

: On October 3ist, 1809, Beaudouin left Valleyfield where he 
had been confined since June loth, 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 corvees 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 beautiful.' 

Very soon the Bristol was condemned and its prisoners trans- 
ferred 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 

Beaudouin comments thus bitterly : 

1 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 rein- 
forcements from the other ships, and all were as jubilant as if 
a great victory had been won. 

' 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 <T Albion. 

Ou la malheureuse situation des prisonniers en Angletene. 
Bellum nobis haec mala fecit. 

I give in the original the first and last ' chants ' of this 
embittered production. 


' Tu veux, mon cher ami, que ranimant ma verve 
Je te peigne sans fard, sans crainte, et sans reserve, 
Le Tableau des tourmens et de I'afm'ction 
Sous lesquels sont plonges les captifs d' Albion. 
J'obeis a la voix, et ma muse craintive, 
Entonnant a regret la trompette plaintive, 
Va chanter sur des tons, helas ! bien douloureux, 
Les maux, les maux cuisans de bien des malheureux.' 


' Je t'ai depeint sans fard 1'exacte verite, 
Tels sont les maux cruels de la captivite. 
O vous qui de bonheur goutez en paix les charmes, 
Si vous lisez mes vers, donnez-nous quelques larmes ; 
S'ils n'impriment chez vous une tendre affection, 
Vous e"tes, 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 trie 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, arron- 
dissement 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, Water- 
house 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 ever- 
lasting 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 tres 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 Ameri- 
cans 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. ' 

G 2 


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 com- 
plaints 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 prac- 
tice 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 v 
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 Frolic. 

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 favour- 
able, he forfeited half a pound of bread to each man. For 
a long time the prisoners were kept in ignorance of this agree- 
ment, 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 285. a month, plus i6s. a month 
for conveyance on board. 

As the weather grew milder, matters were more comfortable 


on board until small-pox broke out. Vaccination was exten- 
sively employed, but many prisoners refused to submit to it, 
not from unbelief in its efficacy, but from misery and unwilling- 
ness 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 affairs. 

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 meet- 
ing 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 improve- 
ment 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 river. 

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 

' 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 appear- 
ance was the signal for a chorus of c 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 approach- 
ing 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 con- 
sider 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 tor- 
menting.' . 

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 acknow- 
ledgement 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 trans- 
ferred 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. 


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 

In 1778 two prisoners escaped from the San Rafael at Ply- 
mouth, 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 great- 
coats 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 

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 Man- 
seraux. 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 in- 
variably 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 Ameri- 
cans 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 a entrance 
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 automatically. 

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'etre livre aux degouts et aux peines 
que cause la captivite la plus dure, il est bien doux de trouver 
des etres sensibles qui, comme vous, cher Monsieur, savent 
plaindre le sort rigoureux des victimes de la guerre. Ce que 
vous avez eu la bonte de m'envoyer, plus encore, 1'expression 
des beaux sentiments me touche, me penetre de la plus vive 
reconnaissance, et me fait sentir avec une nouvelle force cette 


verite constante : L'Humanite rapproche et unit tous les 
coeurs faits pour elle. Comme vous, cher Monsieur, et avec 
vous, je desire avec ferveur que les principes de notre Divin 
Legislateur reprennent leur Empire sur la terre, la consequence 
en est si belle ! 

' Dieu vous garde beaucoup d'annees. 

' FARBOURIET, Colonel i2 lue Hussards.' 

In 1807, as a consequence of the bombardment of Copen- 
hagen 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 escape-aiders. 

Foreign writers have included among their various com- 
plaints 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 information. 

In 1813 the Transport Office replied to the Bishop of 
Angouleme, 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 Genereux, 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 i&io, 
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 i 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 1'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 captured. 

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 France. 

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 

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, I assistant surgeon, I matron, I inter- 
preter, i cook, i barber, i mattress maker, I tailor, 
i washerwoman, and 10 nurses. 

Received 141. Discharged 69. Died 19. Remain- 
ing 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 
t.iey 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 

(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 

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, 

H 2 


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 England.' 

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 oddest. 

' 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 " Pere 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.. 




' July 2Oth, 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 boat- 
man 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 dark- 
ness 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 French- 
men 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 2ist, 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 Spit- 
head, 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 
wculd take the life of the wateiman if he did not land them 
in France. 

' Under this threat the man consented to follow their direc- 
tions, and landed them at Fecamp. The men appeared to be 
in the uniform of officers of the British Navy. The waterman 
was lodged in prison at Havre de Grace, 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 French- 
men gave him six or seven pounds of bread, some cyder, and 
a pocket compass, and a p ss 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.' 




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 

At Christmas 1786, after eighteen months' happiness at 
Dover, he returned to Calais, and in obedience to his irre- 
sistible 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 hulk. 

Of life on the Crown he gives the usual description. He 
speaks of the prisoner professors (who were known as the 


' Academicians ') being obliged to give their lessons at night, 
as the noise during the day-time 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 extremement grossieres'. 

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 suffer- 
ing 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 Fiancee 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 
Lariviere 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, Lariviere 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 astonish- 
ment 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 him. 

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 General 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 hatch- 
way 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 tne 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 them- 
selves 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 prisoners. 

' 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 marti- 
net (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 1'air sombre cache un carac- 
tere plus dur encore que severe.' 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 Etienne 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 dores a noyer sa tete si un ruban ne les eut 
captives sur son cou ; enfant petulante et gaie, fraiche 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 Phedre, and that 
it will commence at 4 p.m. 

They attended the play. An old caulker played Theseus, 
Phedre 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 intoxi- 
cated with the delightful novelty of a tete-a-tete walk with a. 
pretty Englishwoman on a lovely day in a fair country, as not 
to be making mental notes of the local geography. 

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 I 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 incon- 
venience 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 con- 
taining 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 f adfed 
lady of thirty, a comedienne, 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 day. 

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 valu- 
able 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 recep- 
tion, 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 cours2, 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 mud-banks. 

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 inter- 
view 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 J olivet 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 atten- 
tion. 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. J olivet got 10 IDS. 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 exposed. 

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 life- 
long 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 

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 men- 
tioned, 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 out- 
skirts. 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 



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 them. 

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. Port Chester Castle was but an adaptation, so was 
Fort on, 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 accommo- 
date, between them, from fifteen to twenty thousand prisoners 
~* " T ar. 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 com- 
pleted, 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 con- 
version 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 profana- 
tion ! ' 

So the business of searching for suitable places and of adapta- 
tion 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 rr.ove 
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 $d. 
per diem to Captains, Mates, sailing masters and surgeons ; zd. 
per diem to boatswains, carpenters, and petty officers generally, 
and id. per diem to all below these ratings (which is almost 
exactly the same as the allowances made by the British Govern- 
ment 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 

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 Port Chester Castle. 

In 1796-7 the great depot at Norman Cross near Peter- 
borough, 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 

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 Ply- 
mouth, was founded, but the first prisoners did not enter it 
until 1809. In 1811 a large depot was formed at Valleyfield 
near Penicuik on the Esk, about nine miles south of Edin- 
burgh, 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 Dart- 
moor, 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 Trans- 
port 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 his- 
tory 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 inn-keepers, 
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 Leon 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 Abbes 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 emigre priests to visit War Prisons. We feel it our duty, 
however, to say that in the present difficult times when pre- 
tended 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 Trans- 
port Office refuses, saying that Deal is not a depot for prisoners, 
but only a receiving place, and there are no turnkeys and 
clerks, such ' as the admission of an Ecclesiastic might render 


In 1801, the same Bishop of Leon 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 con- 
vinced 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 

At any rate, his boy attendant, a prisoner, was found guilty 
of breaking one of the prison rules by selling straw hats clandes- 
tinely made by the prisoners, and was ordered back into con- 
finement. 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 distri- 
bute 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 

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 depot 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 pri- 
soners 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 pur- 
chasing 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 twenty-four ! 

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 work- 
ing 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 ^\d. a day, and barbers earned 
3d. 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 com- 
parisons 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. 



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 Francois may 
still be seen carved on the brick ; the field known as the ' Horse 
Race ' was the prison cemetery, and human remains have some- 
times 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 recollec- 
tions 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. Recogniz- 
ing 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 entrance. 

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 chateau ' means Sissinghurst. 

' Le Chateau, 3O me mai, 1756. 


' La presente est pour vous prier de nous donner de 
delargissement, attendu que nous ne sommes point obliges 
pour une personne de nous voir detenus commes nous sommes. 
Nous vous avertisons que si nous n'avons pas 1'elargissement 
nous minerons le Chateau, et nous sommes resolus de nous 
battre centre nos ennemis. Nous ne sommes point obliges 
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 defendre. Nous vous prions de 
nous donner la liberte le plus tot possible, attendu que nous 
sommes tout prest a suivre notre dessein. On nous a deja 
tue un homme dans le prison, et nous aurons la vengeance. 

' Nous avons ete tranquille jusqu'aujourdui, mais presente- 

p. 126 


ment nous allons jouer a la Franco ise des rigodons sans violons 
attendu que nous sommes tous d'un accord. 

' Jugez de Reste, 

' Votre tres affectionne et 
' Fran 90 is en general.' 

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


' Nous avons eu 1'honneur de vous envoyer un placet en 
date du I7 m9 de ce mois, et nous la vous tenus [sic] entre les 
mains de Mr. Paxton, Secretaire de Mr. Cook [Cooke] le i8 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 derniere injustice. 
Craignans qu'on ne vous ait pas mis celuy la, nous avons pris 
la liberte de vous faire cette lettre pour vous prier de nous 
rendre justice. Si Mr. Cook n'avoit rien a se reprocher il ne 
retiendrait pas les lettres que nous vous addressons. Tout le 
monde scait ce que merite celuy qui detourne des oreilles de 
justice, les cris de ceux qui la reclame et qui n'ont d'autre 
crime que d'etre infortunes, nous esperons nosseigneurs que 
vous y aurez egarder que vous nous ferez justice, nous vous 
aurons a jamais 1'obligation. 

' Vos humbles et tres obeisans serviteurs 
' Pour tous les prisonniers en general.' 

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 remedier a une injustice, ou plutot a une cruaute que 
les nations les plus barbares n'exercisions. En effet c'est 
une tiranie audieuse que de vouloir forcer des pauvres prison- 
niers a n'acheter d'autre marchandises que celles venant des 
mains de leurs Gardiens, et d'empecher leurs parens et amis de 
leur envoyer a beaucoup meilleur marche 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 Tightness 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 corre- 
spondence of the tenderest private nature. In 1760 the occu- 
pants 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 neces- 
saries 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 unneces- 
sary 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 dis- 
covered 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 Register : 

' 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 served. 

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 

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 regi- 
ment. 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 n, 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 nth 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 for- 
bidden. 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 

K 2 


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 through- 
out the correspondence of this period Sissinghurst is spoken of 
with disgust and loathing. 

The record of only one Sissinghurst prisoner marrying aa 
Englishwoman exists that, in 1762, of Laurence Calberte, 
' a prisoner among the French at Sissinghurst House ', to Mary 

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, Sissing- 
hurst Castle became a workhouse, and when it ceased to be 
used for this purpose gradually fell into ruin and was pulled 


p. 132 




P 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 around. 

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 Bar- 
rack Master's residence. In the Musee 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 r 
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 depot at Norman Cross, which formerly stood near 
this spot, 1797-1814. 

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. 

Erected by 

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

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 lettered : 


Unveiled July 28, 1914 



' 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 Depot ; 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 years.' 

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 posses- 
sion 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 

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 accom- 
panied by a commissioned officer. Visitors were searched, and 
severe penalties were imposed upon any one dealing in Govern- 
ment 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 Port Chester, on April i, 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 is. lod. per man, and victualling at yd. 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. 

Complaints and troubles soon came to light. A prisoner in 
1797, ' who appeared above the common class of men ', com- 
plained 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 

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 


18. Prisoners' Straw Barn. 

19. Dead House. 

20. Prisoners' Hospitals. 

21. Barracks for Prisoners of War. 

22. Apartments for Clerks and Assis- 

tant Surgeons. 

23. Agent's Office. 

24. Store House. 

25. Prisoners' Cooking-houses. 

26. Turnkeys' Lodges. 

27. Prisoners' Black Hole. 

28. Wash-house to Prisoners' Hos- 


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.) 


inquiry among the prisoners, but by the evidence of the petty 
officers and soldiers of the garrison, who said ' as fellow crea- 
tures 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 good. 

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 codfish 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 addi- 
tions 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 unravelled.' 

During the years 1797-8 there were many Dutch prisoners 
here, chiefly taken at Camper down. 

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 Immor- 
ality 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 

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 appre- 
ciate 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, un- 
principled 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 Woodriffs 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 lache devant etre arretee par tous les moyens possibles. 
Je viens en consequence de mettre les Vendeens (I am inclined 
to regard ' Vendeens ' as a mistake for ' vendants') a la queue 
des echanges.' 

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 dis- 
orderly meetings, the result being that all trafficking between 
them was stopped, and the daily market at the prison-gate 

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 country- 
side of which one of the staple industries was the straw manu- 
facture, 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 depots 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, 
Ave 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 miser- 
able 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 frangais 
recherchent journellement les moyens de se donner 1'air aussi 
miserable que possible dans le dessein d'etre envoyes a 1'Hopital 
ou au No. 13 par le chirurgien de visite, et que s'ils sont regus, 
soit pour Tun ou 1'autre, ils vendent de suite leurs effets (s'ils 
ne 1'ont deja fait pour se faire recevoir) le Gouvernement done 
[sic] avis de nouveau qu'aucun prisonnier ne sera re9U pour 
I'Hopital ou pour le No. 13 s'il ne produit ses effets de Literie 
et les Hardes qu'il peut avoir recu dernierement.' 

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 wide- 
spread 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 fierte ; 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 concen- 
trated 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 Depots, 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 demar- 
cation 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 Cap- 
tain 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 los. 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 im- 
mediately, 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 Volun- 
teer 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 re-taken.' 

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 out- 
siders. 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 

L 2 


Cross were allowed to make baskets, boxes, ornaments, &c., of 
straw, if the straw-plaiting traffic could be effectually pre- 
vented. 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 Borrow's ire. 1 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 

' 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 pro- 
secution of those dealers who are particularized in the docu- 
ments 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/ 

A large bundle of documents contains the trial of Barnes, 
Lunn, Browne, and others, for, in conjunction with bribed 

1 See Lavengro, chap. iv. 

Made by French prisoners of war 

p. 148 


soldiers of the garrison, taking straw into the prison and receiv- 
ing 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 depot 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 i bank 
notes, which they had done most skilfully. They were sen- 
tenced to death, but were respited during His Majesty's plea- 
sure, 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, 180,8, I take 
the following : 

' Early on Friday morning last Charles Francois 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 privi- 
leges 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 Wheat- 
sheaf d 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 out- 
side the house. 

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 Peter- 
borough 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 imme- 
diately, 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, 
Fillet 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 pro- 
portion 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 bru- 
talities 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 

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 

p. 152 


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 

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

' nth 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 depot, 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 gth, 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 pre- 
vented 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 depot 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 

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. 



THE following particulars about the great Depot at Perth 
are largely taken from Mr. W. Sievwright's book, now out of 
print and obtainable with difficulty. 1 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 Depot at Perth was completed in 1812. It was con- 
structed 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, accommo- 
dating 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 ; ' Atten- 
tion ! Squad number so and so ! Prepare to spoon ! One ! 
Two ! Spoon ! ' 

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 

1 Historical Sketch of the old Depot or Prison for French Prisoners of 
War at Perth. By William Sievwright. Perth : 1894. 


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. 1 ' 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 

The first attempt at escape from the new Depot 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 

One Petite in this year was a slippery customer. He got 
out of Perth but was recaptured, and lodged at Montrose on 

1 This is not the only instance of a church being used as a dormitory 
for prisoners on the march. When the officers at Wincanton were 
marched to Gosport en route for Scotland in 1812 they slept in the 
church at Mere, Wiltshire, and the prisoners taken at Fishguard in 
1797 were lodged in the church at Haverfordwest. 

PERTH 157 

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 Depot. 

' On April 2Oth, 1811, it was reputed at the Perth Barracks 
that four French prisoners had passed through Perth. A de- 
tachment 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 France/ 

As a supplement to this, it is recorded that two of the original 
quarry were afterwards captured, but were released uncon- 
ditionally 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 refresh- 
ment 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, 
i8th, a mason at the Depot, on his way from Newburgh to 
Perth, was stopped by three men at the Coates of Fingask on 
the Rhynd road, and robbed of i i8s. 6d. The robbers had 
the appearance of farm servants, but it seems quite likely that 
they were the daring and successful abductors of the Nancy. 

On January 21, 1813, there were 6,788 prisoners at the Depot. 
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 excite- 
ment 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 tower. 

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 woed, 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 work- 
manship. 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 courtyards 
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, 

PERTH 159 

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, riddle, and other instru- 
ments, 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 astonish- 
ment 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 forgeries ! 

In June three men escaped by breaking the bar of 

PERTH 161 

a window, and dropping therefrom by a rope ladder. One of 
them who had got on board a neutral vessel at Dundee ven- 
tured 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 

About this time a clerk in the Depot 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 con- 
valescents, 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 fte and invited to attend a balloon ascent. The crowd 
duly assembled on the South Inch, but the balloon was acci- 
dentally 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 
Depot were discovered within a mile of Arbroath on August 28 _h 
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 assis- 
tance 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 float- 
ing ; 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 Depot. 

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 

PERTH 163 

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 Depot, 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 Depot 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 
5 175. After undergoing examination, the woman was com- 
mitted 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 Depot. 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 n 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 fugitives. 

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 

M 2 


was examined and a mine was discovered communicating with 
the great sewer of the Depot. Through this outlet the ab- 
sentees had escaped. Two of them were taken on the following 
Monday morning at Bridge of Earn, four miles distant, and 
three more on Thursday. 

A short time previous to this escape, 800 prisoners had been 
transferred to Perth from the Penicuik Depot, 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. i. 

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 sur- 
rounded 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 

On April n, 1814, the news of the dethronement of Bona- 
parte reached Perth, and was received with universal delight. 
The prisoners in the Depot asked the agent, Captain Moriarty,. 
to be allowed to illuminate for the coming Peace and freedom-,, 

PERTH 165 

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 dis- 
tributed among them by a zealous missionary. 

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 depot, 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 captive. 

The Depot 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 Depot was used as a military clothing 
store, and eventually it became the General Prison for Scotland. 



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 archi- 
tecture 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 past. 

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. 

In 1756 Captain Fraboulet of the French East India Com- 
pany's frigate Astree, 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 Valerie 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 prisoners. 

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 Impetueux, took fire, and at one time 


A. Kitchens. B. Hospital, c. Black Hole. D. Caserns. 

E. Great Tower. 

there was danger that the fire would spread. The prisoners at 
Portchester were delighted, and danced about singing the fa 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 Ports- 
mouth 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 dis- 
turbed 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 following : 


' 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 adven- 
turous 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 cus- 
todians 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 char- 
acter even with the garrison.' 

Much romance which has been unrecorded no doubt is inter- 
woven 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 feted by the gentry of the neighbourhood, the 
result being that one, at least, the subject of our notice, capti- 
vated 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 exchanged. 

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 after- 
wards 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 
Homicide '. 

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 announce- 
ments 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 Portchester. 

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 

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 praise- 
worthy 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 pen- 
knife, 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 Port- 
chester presented. 

' 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 accom- 
plished 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 influ- 
encing 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 500. 

St. Aubin gives us the most detailed account of the Port- 
chester 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 sobers went through the 
evening count, all were obliged to be within doors, and lights 
were put out. 


Occasionally in the grand pre, 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 con- 
tractors, but at any rate, he says, it was regularly distributed. 

In spite of all this, Port Chester was preferred by the prisoners 
to other depots, 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, 01 
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 

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, gold- 
smiths (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 
baton, 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 tete et la bourse passable- 
men t meublees. 

But the unique feature of Portchester industry was its thread 
lace manufacture. 

Made by prisoners of war at Portsmouth 

p. 176 


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 manu- 
facture 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 ; maitres d'armes were proud 
and despotic. The scum of the communitjT- were the Raff ales, 
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 drunken- 
ness prevailed, especially upon fete 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 accommo- 
dated. 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 respect ! 

Of the pieces played, St. Aubin mentions L'Heureuse Etour- 
derie by himself ; the tragedies Zaire, Mahomet, Les Templiers ; 
the comedies Les Deux Gendres, Les Folies amoureuses, Le 
Barbier de Seville, Le Tyran domestique, Defiance et Malice ; 
many dramas, and even vaudevilles and operas such as Les 
Deux Journees, Pierre le Grand, Francoise 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 maitres d'armes sont toujours fort vilains 
messieurs'. There was a quarrel between a gunner and 
a maitre 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 mattre 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 ham- 
mock, 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 Port Chester 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 

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 loth 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 Port- 
chester 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 Memoir es 
d'un Consent de 779^, 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. 

N 2 


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 

After a time the prisoners were taken on board British ships, 
and learned that their destination was an English prison 
perhaps the dreaded hulks ! 

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 feroces Espagnols succedaient 
tout a coup les soins compatissants des soldats et matelots 
anglais ; ces braves gens nous temoignaient toutes sortes 
d'egards. Us transporterent a bras plusieurs de nos camarades 
malades on amputes. Les effets qui nous appartenaient 
furent aussi monies 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 im- 
pressed 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 hats ! 

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 w r ere 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 build- 


ing of the theatre, which was in charge of an ex-chief-machinist 
of the Theatre Feydau in Paris, Carre 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 unwhole- 
some as a sleeping-place. 

Carre's Arabian F eerie 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. How- 
ever, by the influence of the Agent, it was permitted to continue, 
on the condition that no English people were to be admitted. 

Carre 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 Cafe 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 
Hotel de Monnaies, the Quatre Nations, and the ' theatins ' 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 Bohemienne, Les Deux Journees and 
Adolphe et Clara. The musical pieces were accompanied by an 
orchestra (of prisoners, of course) under Corret of the Conserva- 
toire, who composed fresh music for such representations as 
Francoise 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 metier 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 

At Portchester, as elsewhere, a Masonic Lodge was formed 
among the prisoners. 

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 greet- 
ing 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 punish- 


ment, the prisoners on this ship were made the last to leave 

On May 15, 1814, the evacuation of Portchester began. Gille 
left on the 2Oth, 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 money. 

Pillet, the irrepressible, tells a yarn that ' Milor Cordower 
(Lord Cawdor), Colonel du regiment de Carmarthen ', visiting 
the Castle one day, was forgetful enough to leave his horse un- 
attended, 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 com- 
memorated in the name Hospital Lane. 

The great tower still retains the five stories which were ar- 
ranged 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, 

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 Port- 


A correspondent of the French paper L'Intermediaire, 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 Leon. 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. Societaires (salaried subscribers). 

Hanin, an employe in the English prison office, with the purely 

honorary title of Director. 

Breton, Sergeant, 2nd Garde de Paris Comique. 

Reverdy ,, ,, ,, pere noble. 

Lafontaine ,, ,, ,, jeune premier. 

Gruentgentz ,, ,, ,, mere et duegne. 

Moreau, Captain ,, ,, lesColins. 

Blin de Balue, Sergeant, Marine Artillery les tyrans. 

Sutat (?), Marechal des logis jeune premiere. 

Wanthies, Captain, 4th Legion soubrette et jeune premiere. 

Defacq, fourrier, chasseurs a cheval jeune premier en seconde. 

Siutor or Pintor, marin jouant les accessoires. 

Palluel, fourrier, 2nd Garde de Paris bas comique. 

Carre, soldat ,, ,, machiniste. 

Montlefort, Marine artificier. 

2. Amateurs. 

Gille, fourrier, ist Legion jeunes premiers. 

Quantin ,, les ingenues. 

Iwan, chasseurs a 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 Porchester. 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 
Porchester, 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. 



LIVERPOOL became a considerable depot 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 priva- 
teering 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 hun- 
dreds of desperate seafaring men was a matter of great difficulty 
and expense in an open port with no other than the usual 
accommodation for malefactors. 

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 castel- 
lated 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. 




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 Liver- 
pool 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 deter- 
mined 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 a 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]. Made- 
moiselle 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 Street). 

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 Fresco t, ankle-deep in mud. He ascended Edge Hill, keep- 
ing 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 

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 tem- 
porarily. 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 

' 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 Tower. 

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 

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 sub- 
scribed 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 

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 fre- 
quently 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 Jib. of beef, lib. 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. Philanthropes/ 

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 ' Philanthropes '. 
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 twenty-six. 

Richard Brooke, in Liverpool from ijjj 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 Republique ! ' 

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 a quitte ce monde pour aller a lotre 
monde ; je vous prit da priyer pour elle et de la recommender 
a tous nos bons paran. 

' Je suis en pleuran votre 
' Serviteur et frere 


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 mor- 
tality 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 manufactures. 

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. 1 

1 In addition to other sources of information, the foregoing notes 
on the war-prisoners in Liverpool are taken from Picton's Memorials 
of Liverpool ; the Histories of Muir and Barnes; Stonehouse's Recol- 
lections of Old Liverpool ; Gomer Williams's Liverpool Privateers ; and 
Richard Brooke's Liverpool from 7775 to 1800. 

O 2 




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 depot 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 depot 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 Edinburgh. 

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 requisi- 
tioned 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 migitated 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 Depot. 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 wall. 

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 Britain. 

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.' 1 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 Hospital. 

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 sur- 
rounded by a stout wooden stockade, outside which was a 

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 hill-side 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 inscribed : 

' The mortal remains of 309 prisoners of war who died in 
this neighbourhood between 2ist 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 : 

' Pres 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. Nes pour benir les vceux de vieillissantes 
meres, par le sort appeles a devenir amants, aimes epoux et 

' Us sont morts exiles. Plusieurs Habitants de cette 
Paroisse, aimant a croire que tous les Hommes sont Freres, 
firent elever ce monument 1'an 1830.' 

1 I quote this between inverted commas, as I cannot help question- 
ing its accuracy. 



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. 






TH Y< Aft !?,J<1 


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 1846. 

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 wherfhe 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 back. 

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 Win- 
chester'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 friend- 
ship 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 3ist Line Regi- 
ment, 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 distur- 
bance ensued. 

Beaudouin landed at Port Glasgow, and thence to Renfrew 
and Glasgow, of which city he remarks : 

' Cette ville parait tres grande et belle ; costume tres 
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 difference que par le genre. Ce qui jure beaucoup 
dans leur costume, c'est que les femmes marchent presque 
toujours nu-pieds. La quantite de belles femmes n'est pas 
grande, comme on dit ; en outre, en general elles ont 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. A deux milles 
ou loge le detachement qui nous garde est Penicuik. Cette 


maison est entouree de deux rangs de palissades avec des 
factionnaires tout autour ; a cote est situe un petit bois qui 
favorise quelquefois des desertions.' 

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 wisely. 

' Les Espagnols/ says Beaudouin, ' possedent toutes les 
bonnes qualites. Premierement ils sont paresseux a 1'exces, 
sales, traitres, 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 diffi- 
cult 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 pro- 
hibition 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 Beau- 
douin 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 con- 
dition 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 I807. 1 Many of the prisoners went to Edinburgh 

1 In Glencorse churchyard is a cross upon which is engraved : 
'Ici repose Charles Cotier de Dunquerque, mort 8 Janv., 1807.' 


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. 

' Us disent qu'ils sont plus mal qu'a Greenlaw. Premiere- 
ment, les vivres sont plus mauvais, excepte 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 I 
Jusqua ce moment-ci je me suis monte un peu en linge, 
car, quand je suis arrive au prison mon sac ne me genait point, 
les Anglais, en le prenant, ne m'ont laisse que ce que j'avais sur 
le dos. Quand je fus arrive au prison ma chemise etait 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 depot 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 con- 
sider 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 depot 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 fore- 
going 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. 



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 1783, 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 mat- 
tresses 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 


In 1779 John Howard visited Knowle on his tour of inspec- 
tion 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 char- 
acteristic 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 Staple- 
ton, 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 tne 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 J Ib. 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 4! ; 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 state- 
ments 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 con- 
tractor, 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 volun- 
teered remarks of these two highly respectable gentlemen. 

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 Trans- 
port 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 
4 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 engen- 
dered 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 notice- 
able. 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 Q 
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, 

p 2 


because one man who had lost heavily threw himself off a build- 
ing 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 manu- 
factured 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 confreres 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 be- 
trayed by a fellow prisoner, a rival for her hand. 

In 1813 the Bristol shoemakers protested against the manu- 
facture of list shoes by the Stapleton prisoners, but the Govern- 
ment refused to issue prohibiting orders. 


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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 con- 
cerning 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 Govern- 
ment 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 pass- 
ports 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 else- 
where 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'etre of 
Stapleton as a war-prison of course ceased. In 1833 it was 
bought by the Bristol Poor-Board and turned into a work- 



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 sub- 

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 

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 

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 pro- 
visions 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 month. 

In 1806 the great amount of sickness at Forton brought 
about an official inquiry, the result of which was the super- 
seding 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 Doisyde Villargennes, of the 26th 
French line regiment, arrived at Portsmouth, a prisoner of war, 
taken after Fuentes d'Onoro, 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 : 

' II y regnait 1'ordre le plus parfait, sous un reglement severe 
mais humain. Nous n'entendimes pas de sanglots de deses- 
poir, nous ne vimes point la tristesse dans les yeux des habitants, 
mais de tous cotes, au contraire, c'etaient des eclats de rire ou 
des chansons patriotiques qui resonnaient. . . . Mon frere 
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 occu- 
pait le compartiment voisin; elle servait a 200 hommes, et 
1'odeur qu'elle repandait ne faisait nullement presumer que 
les habitants pussent etre affames. Je restai a diner. Je ne 
dirai pas que le repas etait somptueux, mais les mets etaient 
suffisants et de bonne qualite, et bien que servis dans des plats 
et assiettes d'etain, avec des couteaux et des fourchettes du 
meme metal, ils etaient accompagnes d'une si cordiale reception 
que le souvenir de ce diner m'a toujours laisse sous une agreable 

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 Francois 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 fugi- 
tives 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 depot, 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 con- 
tributed 7. 



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 ostra- 
cized, 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 

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 market. 

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 occasion. 

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 oatmeal. 

Then came a time of plenty. In London 2,276 was sub- 
scribed 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 i, 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 

M1LLBAY 223 

dirt was great, and, moreover, excavation could only be pro- 
ceeded with when the guard duty was performed by the Militia 
regiment, which was on every alternate day, the sentries of 
the I3th 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 opera- 
tion 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. Some- 
how, 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 hay- 
stack until day-break. 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 ex- 
hausted, 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 con- 
sidered 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 adorn- 
ment or exaggeration, almost in the very words of one who saw 
and suffered just as he has described.' 

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 appear- 
ance 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 



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 business. 

' 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 soor 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 Prison '. 

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 Regi- 
ment, on the grounds that, if allowed, it would seriously inter- 
fere 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 fidouard Corbiere's book, Le Negrier. 
When a lad of fifteen, Corbiere was captured on the Val de 


Grace privateer by H.M.S. Gibraltar, in 1807. The Val de Grace 
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. Corbiere 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 suffer- 
ings 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 a bras 
ruled all by mere brute strength. Victories at fights or wrest- 
ling matches were celebrated by procession round the airing 
grounds, and the successful men formed the ' Government ' of 
the Pre, 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 Remains were the pariahs 
at Millbay, and the Rafales 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 
Corbiere, 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 Port Chester. 

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, Corbiere 
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. 

Corbiere 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 
maitre d'armes being generally elected President if he could 
read. The Court was held within the space of twelve ham- 
mocks, 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 (Corbiere'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 tfre account as written, I cannot repress a doubt 
that Corbiere, 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 Caff e 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 Corbiere does not state. 

The next morning, search was made for Caffe, 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 country- 
men was the deeper because Gaffe 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 Pre, 
who happened to be Corbiere's captain on the Val de Grace, ar.d 
of whom more anon, said ' Non ! II faut auparavant le fletrir ! ' 

So Gaffe 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 : 
' Fletri 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. Corbiere 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 Pre 
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 Grace, 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. Par- 
ticularly did he attract the attention of the chief fort a 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 Pre with 
much pomp and circumstance. Furthermore, discovering 
among the prisoners old comrades of the Sans Facon privateer, 
they elected him head cook, a position in the prison of no small 

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 Testa- 
ment, although it was well she did not hear his description of 
it as 'le beau fichu cadeau'. At the same time Milliken, 
socially superior, Corbiere remarks, to his wife, pitying the 
boy (Corbiere 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 Corbiere 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 Corbiere, 
4 they were good enough to say that, except for my rolling gait, 
begot of a lifetime spent afloat, I should pass well for a distin- 
guished-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 Corbiere. It was a daring move, and 
it was not long before he wished he had not made it, for Ply- 
mouth 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 Corbiere to walk on, 
return, and enter, and went in himself. This was done, and 
Corbiere 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, manu- 
factured 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 neces- 
sary 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 Corbiere 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 
Corbiere'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 

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 Corbiere'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 Millbay. 

In 1813 a notable scene, indicative of the prevalence occa- 
sionally 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 inarched 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 officers. 

' 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 scene.' 




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 Alex- 
ander, 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 he : 

' It is on the most inclement site that could have been 
selected, catching the clouds from the South West, and con- 
densing 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 num- 
ber, confessed they had received eight guineas each for their 
help, and two of them were condemned to be shot. 

Thirty acres were enclosed by stone walls, the outer of which 
was sixteen feet high, 1 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 

1 Other authorities give the height of the outer wall as eight feet, 
which was raised in 1812 to twelve feet, and of the inner wall as 
twelve feet. 



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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 converg- 
ing 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 Valley- 
field, 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 snow- 
storm 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 sym- 


pathetic 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 manu- 
factures. 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-omce 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 Govern- 
ment 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 prison. 

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 tem- 
perature 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 disease ! 

' 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 indi- 
viduals 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 
Whit bread'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 gentle- 
men 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 prose- 
cuting 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. 


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 epi- 
demic 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 8d. per man be increased to is. 
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, Catel. 

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 parsi- 
mony 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^. 
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 maitre 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 metier 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 stoop- 
ing 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 

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 missed. 

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 escaped. 

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 

R 2 


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 barracks. 

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 received. 

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 
ist 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, indus- 
trious 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 ' respect- 
able prisoners '. After the labourers came the ' Indifferents ' 
loafers and idlers, but not mischief-makers or harm-workers ; 
the ' Miserables ', 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 priva- 
teersmen, the scum and sweepings of seaport 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 pre- 
pared, 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. Theat- 
ricals 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 before. 

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 sup- 
posed 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 England. 

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 i, 1813, Cotgrave, the Governor, ordered all the American 

(From a sketch by the Author.} 

prisoners to be transferred to No. 4 caserne, where were already 
900 French ' Romans '. 

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 false- 
hood 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 

On May 18, 1813, 250 more Americans came from the Hector 
hulk, and on July i, 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 tc 
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 Ameri- 
cans 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 nol 
until forty on both sides had been badly wounded. After this 
a wall fifteen feet high was built to divide the airing grounc 
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 smallesl 
man, although most of the prisoners were reduced by lew 
living to skeletons with the sleeves half-way up the arms 
a short waistcoat, pants tight to the middle of the shin, shoei 
of list with wooden soles one and a half inches thick. 

An epidemic of small-pox broke out ; complaints poured ir 
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 remon- 
strances 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 tc 
every 200 at fourpence halfpenny; barber at threepence 
nurses in the hospital at sixpence all without avail. As a rul( 
the Americans were glad to sell their ration of bad beef tc 
Frenchmen, who could juggle it into fancy dishes, and with th( 
money they bought soap and chewing-tobacco. 

At length Beasley came to see for himself, but although he 
expressed surprise at the crowding of so many prisoners, anc 
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 ir 
the science of forging not only bank-notes, but shillings out o: 
Spanish dollars which they collected from the outside of the 
market, making eight full-weight shillings out of every foui 
dollars. The performers were chiefly officers who had broker 

Made by prisoners of war at Dartmoor 

p. 251 


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 

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 inter- 
course 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 pro- 
fessors 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 6s. 3d. per month, the result being a 
general improvement in outward appearance. 

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 held. 

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 examina- 
tion 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 
argely 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 autho- 
rities 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 subter- 
ranean 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 debris, 
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 i. 

Peace, which had been signed at Ghent on December 24, 
1814, was declared at Dartmoor, and occasioned general jubila- 
tion. 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 pris- 
oners. 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 Andrews. 

' 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 enter- 
tainments 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 2\d. 
a day for soap, coffee, and tobacco, circulated money. 

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.' 

He speaks very highly of the tall, thin, one-eyed Dr. Magrath, 
the prison doctor, but of his Scots assistant, McFarlane, as 

Made by prisoners of war at Dartmoor 

p. 256 


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. i : 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 sub- 
jected 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^. 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 6d. 

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 

Beasley was still a bete 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 com- 
plaints, 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,ooo 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 pusillani- 
mous 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 

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 

S 2 


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 con- 
ducted 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. 

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 French- 
men, 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.' 


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 chapter. 


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 1890. 

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 repre- 
sented that nothing could prevent them from communicating 
with the shipping in Southampton River, and setting free their 
countrymen prisoners at Portchester and Forton Hospital, 

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 

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 toe 
severe. The hospital ward was lofty and twenty feet wide. 
Each patient had a cradle, bedding, and sheets, and the atten- 
dance 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 Honore 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 con- 
tinuously 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. Vaw- 
drey 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. 1 

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 

1 A recent visit to Kergilliack revealed nothing more than a large 
field behind Kergilliack upper farm, bounded by an unusually massive 
wall, and said to have been the prison exercising ground, and outside it 
a tumulus locally reputed to mark the prison burial-place, and held to 
be haunted. 

An elaborately moulded plaster ceiling at Meudon Farm in Mawnan, 
five miles from Kergilliack, is said to have been the work of foreign 
prisoners of war. 


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 in- 
creased by the fact that in order to avoid the constant occur- 
rence 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 has been treated with the 
most forbiding 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. 


A further remonstrance was set forth that the Agent and his 
son, who was associated with him, were bullies ; that the sur- 
geon 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 yards. 

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. Pen- 
dennis Castle was used as a war-prison, both for French from the 
Peninsula, and for Americans during the war of 1812. 


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 

' 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 Mont ford 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, suffi- 
ciently 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 com- 
plaints 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 ground. 

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 French- 
men was knocked overboard, and the others were ultimately 
lodged in Yarmouth gaol/ 


For the following details about a prison which, although of 
importance, cannot from its size be fairly classed among the chief 
Prisoners of War depots 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 Liver- 
pool, 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 priva- 
teer, 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 6d. 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 is. 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 concluded. 

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 depots 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 appear- 
ance 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 mat- 
tresses. 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 frangais detenus au chateau 
d'Edinburgh ne peuvent que se louer de 1'attention et du bon 
traitement qu'ils ont regu de Com. -Gen. Dundas et officiers 
des brigades Ecossoises, en foi de quoi nous livrons le present. 


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 Fountainbridge '. 

In 1799 the Rev. Mr. FitzSimmons, of the Episcopal Chapel, 
an Englishman, was arraigned before the High Court of Justi- 
ciary 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 dun- 
geon 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 sup- 
plicated 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 en- 
graved, 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 Stock- 
bridge (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 Depot, and that the soldier had, at his, the accused 
man's, desire, purchased them for 2s. each from the prisoners. 


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 Dublin. 

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 depot 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 autho- 
rities were continually on the qui vive for forgers. The gover- 
nors of the different depots 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 inter- 
mediaries, 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 investigated/ 

In July 1813 the clerk of the Valleyfield Depot 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 delinea- 
tion, 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 em- 
phasizes this crudity of execution : 

' Several forged notes, in imitation of the notes of the 
governor and company of the Bank of Scotland, having ap- 
peared, chiefly in the neighbourhood of the depots 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 

T 2 


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 engrav- 
ing. 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 sub- 
sequent 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 fa 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 Mount- 
stuart loved to converse, and, learning from them their revo- 
lutionary songs, he used to walk about singing the Marseillaise, 
fa ira, and Les Aristocrates a 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. Mount- 
stuart also wore his hair long in accordance with the revolu- 
tionary fashion. 



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 unmar- 
ried, Fanny and a younger, who kept the Post Office at Laun- 
ceston. 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 pere, who, in common with most English- 
men of his day, regarded all Frenchmen as atheists and revolu- 
tionaries. 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 parti- 
cularly 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 fiance. 

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 scanda- 
lized ; only a Frenchman could do such a thing. The autho- 
rities 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 reunis de 1'armee de Portugal.' He reported their 
absences at Camelford, and finally they were ordered to Dart- 
moor 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 reinstate- 
ment on parole, but the reply was unsatisfactory. 


At Dartmoor, Vanhille and Derouge were sent to the sub- 
alterns' 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 differ- 
ence 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 

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 comite representant les officiers militaires et marchands 
detenus dans la prison Royale de Dartmoor certifient que 
Louis Vanhille est un digne et loyal Frangais, et un compagnon 
d'infortune digne de tous les egards 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 a present 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. l 

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 Corn- 
wall 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 prof- 
f erred 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 escapers. 2 

1 To account for this extraordinary, and apparently quite unnecessary 
journey, during which Vanhille seems always to have had plenty of 
money, M. Pariset thinks it possible that he was really an emissary of 
the committee which was at this time earnestly considering the plan 
of a general rising of all the prisoners of war in England. 

2 I give this as in M. Pariset 's original. I have not been able to find 
that Moore ever was thus employed. He made the offer at his trial, 
but the Government declined it. 


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 Okehamp- 
ton, Moreton-Hampstead, and Exeter to Cullompton, and 
thence by coach to Bristol, where he arrived on October 15, 

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 corre- 
sponded 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 parti- 
cularly 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. Correspon- 
dence between him and Dr. Derouge at Launceston was dis- 
covered, 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 fatigue. 

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 cceur anglais qui est, comme 
chacun sait, bienveillant et fidele, apres qu'il s'est donne.' , 

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 



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 

But the prisoners on parole played a large part in the every- 
day 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 

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 towns : 

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, Tenter den, 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 Eng- 
land 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 : 

' Rene Brisson de Dunkerque, second capitaine et pilote du 
navire Le Prince de Soubise, du dit port, qui etoit detenu 
prisonnier a Waltham en Angleterre, d'ou il s'est evade, et qui, 
etant de retour a Dunkerque le i6eme Oct. 1757, y a ete 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 

In 1796 the following ratings were allowed to be on parole : 
i. 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 volunteer. 

2. Taken on board a privateer or merchantman : Captain, 
passenger of rank, second captain, chief of prizes, two lieu- 
tenants 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- 

2. All commissioned officers of the Navy down to gardes- 
marine (midshipmen). 

3. Three officers of privateers of a hundred men, but not 
under fourteen guns. 

4. Captains and next officers of merchant ships above fifty 

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 ist to March 3ist, 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. Trans- 
port 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 pre- 
scribed 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 appre- 
hending 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 particu- 
larly 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 
w r hich 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 exile. 

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 Trans- 
port Office, and that the conveyance and receipt of such corre- 
spondence became as distinctly a surreptitious trade called 
into existence by circumstances as that of aiding prisoners to 

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. Riviere, 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 Riviere 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 2s., 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 com- 
munication 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 prisons. 

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 Govern- 
ment does not reward British officers for similar services/ 

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 
35. 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 Role d' Equipage of each 
vessel captured.' 

u 2 


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 
Due 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 certifi- 
cates 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 there- 
fore 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 clandes- 
tinely, 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 allow- 
ances 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 trans- 
actions, but a comparison between the treatment of French 
prisoners on parole in England and the English detenus 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 irri- 
tated 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 recaptured. 

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 

Lewis, Parole Agent at Reading, was removed in June 1812, 
because when the depot 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 neigh- 
bouring parson, was removed in the same year, having been 
accused of withholding moneys due to prisoners, and continually 
failing to send in his accounts. 


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 disap- 
prove of his methods as un-English and mean, but they knew 
very well that the consequent fines and stoppages meant his 

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 regarded. 

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 Throck- 
morton'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 

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 consider- 
able 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 cer- 
tainly 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 con- 
duct 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, 

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 

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 prisoners. 

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 Tavis- 
stock under Ford : 

' A qui nous sommes tres sincerement attaches, tant par 
les doux faons qu'il a scu toujours avoir pour nous, meme en 
executant ses ordres, que par son honnetete particuliere et la 
bonne intelligence qu'il a soin de faire raigner autant qu'il est 
possible entre les differentes claces de personnes qui habitent 
cette ville et les prisonniers qu'y sont ; point sy essentiel et 
sy particulierement bien menage jusqu'a 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 

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 Agent ! ' : 

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 








Bishop's Castle. 

Bishop's Waltham. 





Credit on. 


















Newt own. 


North Tawton. 





Peterborough . 




South Molt on. 



Ti vert on. 







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 ad- 
minister 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 captors. 

The original French I have translated literally, except when 
it has seemed to me that translation would involve a sacrifice 
of terseness or force. 

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 1'Ile de France. This gentleman came to 
Thame, rented the best house there for a summer, and con- 
tinually 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 melee, 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, receiv- 
ing a souvenir of a lock of hair from ' la jeune Miss Harriet 
Stratford aux beaux yeux bleus, au teint eblouissant, a la 
physionomie animee, a 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 enthusias- 
tically 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 

In the meanwhile a somewhat romantic little episode had 
happened at Odiham. Among the paroled prisoners there 
was a lieutenant (Aspirant de premiere classe) named Rous- 
seau, 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 cheres amies. She had been informed of 
his whereabouts by his friends, and told him she would conduct 
him to Guildford. 


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 a Sara que je pensais qu'il pleuvrait pendant 
la nuit. Elle repliqua que peu lui import ait ; enfin j'objectai 
cette longue course a pied, sa toilette et ses capotes blanches, 
car c'etait un dimanche, et elle leva encore cette difficulte en 
pretendant qu'elle avait du courage et que des 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 a dire, car pendant qu'elle m'entrainait d'une de ses petites 
mains elle me fermait gracieusement la bouche.' 

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 
Hotel du Cafe 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 enchantes, 
Nous allons boire a sa sante ! 

Parole life at Lichfield he describes as charming. There 
was a nice, refined local society, pleasant walks, cafes, concerts, 
reunions, 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 : 

' II est difficile de voir rien de plus agreable a 1'ceil que les 
reunions des jeunes gens des deux sexes lois [sic] des foires et 
des marches.' 

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 riaval 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 Diomede, and he added another 
fifty guineas. The latter was almost off his head, and nearly 
got them caught through his extraordinary behaviour. How- 
ever, on November 28, 1809, they reached Boulogne after a bad 

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 Home'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 Boyei 
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 meme vie, triste, maussade, 
ennuyeuse, deplaisante et sans fin, quand finira-t-elle ? II 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 com- 
pulsory exile in England was not always the intolerable punish- 
ment 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 

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 punctuation : 


' Vous ne scaurie croire quell plaisire j'ai de m'en- 
tretenir avec vous mon cceur ne pent s'acoutumer a vivre sans 
vous voire. Je nait pas encore rencontre notre chere compagnon 
de voyage. Ne m'oublie point, ma chere Elizabeth vous pouve 
estre persuade du plaisire que j'aure en recevant de vos 
nouvelles. Le gros Loys se porte bien il doit vous ecrire aussi 
qu'a Madame Covagne. Si vous voye Mrs. Nancy donne luy 
un baise pour moy '. 

A prisoner writes from Alresford to a friend in France : 

' I go often to the good Mrs. Smith's. Miss Anna is at pre- 
sent here. She sent me a valentine yesterday. I go there 
sometimes to take tea where Henrietta and Bet si 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 Avranches : 

' 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 natter 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. Jar vis 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 

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 Jaureguiberry, second captain of the 
Austerlitz privateer, married a Miss Chambers. His son, 
Admiral Jaureguiberry, 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, Mont- 
gomeryshire, in 1814, married Mary Morgan. The baptism of 
a son, Louis, is recorded in the Bishop's Castle register, March 6, 
1:815. 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 France. 

.Mrs. Lucy Louisa Morris, who died at Oswestry in 1908, 

x 2 


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, Frangois Robert Boudin married Miss Bone, by 
banns, in 1813; in the same year Jacques Ferrier married 
Mary Green by banns ; Prevost de la Croix married Elizabeth 
Hill by licence ; and in 1816 Louis-Amedee 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, Com- 
mandant of the port of Caen, married Harriet Sheldon ; 
Frangois Nean 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 
ToufHet 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 1870. 

Notices of other marriages at Wincanton, for instance will 
be found elsewhere. 

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 Government. 

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 main- 
taining 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 uncertain/ 

The Transport Office were constantly called upon to adjudi- 
cate 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 accom- 
modation 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 

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 encour- 
aged 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 trans- 
lation 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 

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 smug- 
glers 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 
Principaute 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 mourn- 
ing, 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 repondit fort insolemment que 
le papier anglais valait autant que Tor frangais, et que si je me 
permettais d'attaquer encore le credit de la banque, il me 
ferait conduire aux pontons '. So he had to accept the situa- 

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, Deche- 
vrieres, 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 

A cousin of the Marquis, the Comtesse de Beon, 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 im- 
pression in his own words : 

* Ce lord etait poli, mais, comme tous les Anglais, ennemi 
mortel de la France. J'etais humilie de ses prevenances qui 
sentaient la protection. Je revins cependant une seconde fois 
chez lui ; il y avait ce jour-la nombreuse compagnie ; plusieurs 
officiers anglais s'y trouvaient. Sans egards pour ma position 
et avec une certaine affectation, ils se mirent a deblaterer en 
frangais contre 1'Empereur et 1'armee. Je me levai de table 
indigne, et demandai a Lord Malville la permission de me 
retirer ; il s'efforce de me retenir en blamant 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 Lutzen, 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 boisterously. 

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 de- 
lighted to renew our acquaintance.' 

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 feted 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 loist, taken at Arapiles. 
Then he returned to France. 


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 with- 
out 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 depot : 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 grand- 
father, 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, con- 
siderable 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 per- 
mitted 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 congratula- 
tions 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 break- 
fast, 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 farm- 
house were speedily brought to bear on the situation, dis- 
pensed 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 maitre 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'amitie 
. . . the owners of the theatre left it as 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 theatres. 


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 accommoda- 
tion, 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 

1 For much pertaining to Kelso, as for other matters associated with 
prisoners of war on parole in Scotland, I have to thank Mr. J. John 
Vernon, Hon. Secretary of the Hawick Archaeological Society. 


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. 

Brement, a privateer officer, advertised : ' Mr. Brement, Pro- 
fessor of Belles-Lettres and French Prisoner of War, respect- 
fully 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 

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 Novem- 
ber ii 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 gather- 
ing 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 earrings, 
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 i is. 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. 1 

The only war-prisoner relics in the museum are some swords. 

I have to thank Sir George Douglas for the following interest- 
ing 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 tarn foetida ac mulier quae 
jactavit illam. 

' Noxia mulier quae vestimenta mea, conceptis verbis, abluere 

1 The above, and other Masonic notes which follow, are from the 
History of Freemasonry in the Province of Roxburgh, Peebles, and 
Selkirkshire, by Mr. W. Fred Vernon. 


noluit, culpam insulsitate cumulando, uxor est domino Wm. 
Stuart Lanio [Butcher ?] 

' 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 expostulation! meae, 
cogendo praedictam mulierem et quamprimum laventur vesti- 
menta 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 

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 

' 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, 

' My direction : a Monsieur le Chevalier Lebas de Ste. Croix, 
Capitaine a la legion de ITsere, caserne de La Courtille a Paris. 
P.S. All my thanks and good wishes first to your family, to 

Y 2 


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, soussigne officier de la Legion d'Honneur, Lieutenant 
Colonel au 8 e Regiment de Dragons, sensible aux bons traite- 
ments que les prisonniers francais sur parole en cette ville 
recoivent 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 egards et attentions qu'elles meritent, 
et de nous aider par tous les bons offices qu'ils pourront rendre 
a ces dames a acquitter une partie de la reconnaissance que 
nous devons a leur famille. 

' 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 balloon. 

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 con- 
ferred 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 con- 
cluded 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 them- 
selves into a separate Lodge and initiated their fellow country- 
men 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 parti- 
cular 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'Onoro 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 cautionnement. 

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'Ofioro, 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 hulks.' 

(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 I, 1811, they landed at Leith, 190 in number, and 
marched to Selkirk, via Edinburgh and the depot at Penicuik. 

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 cafe 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 people. 

' Les costumes/ said Doisy, 'surtout ceux des roles feminins, 
nous necessitaient de grands efforts d'habilite. Aucun de 
nous n'avait auparavant exerce le metier de charpentier, 
tapissier, de tailleur, ou . . . fait son apprentissage chez une 
couturiere. L'intelligence, toutefois, stimulee par la volonte, 
peut engendrer de petits miracles/ 

They soon had a repertoire 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 surround- 
ing 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. Thor- 
burn, another gentleman farmer, who introduced them to 
grilled sheep's head, salmagundi, and a cheese of his own 
making, of which he was particularly proud. 

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 enjoue, 
a la physionomie ordinaire et peu significative, a 1'attitude meme 
un peu gauche, a la demarche vulgaire et aux allures a 1'avenant, 
causees 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 cafe, 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 con- 
dition that every one who accepted it should doff his hat and 
cry ' Vive 1'Empereur Napoleon ! ' 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 ostenta- 
tion. 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 Ber- 
wick, 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 con- 
siderable 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 separames done de nos amis de 
Selkirk sans garder d'une part et d'autre aucun des sentiments 
de rancune pouvant exister auparavant '. 

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 ? " 
r ' 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 sheep ! ' ' 

' " 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 sweet- 
hearts 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 Resolue, 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 Moliere 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 midshipmen/ x 

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. 

1 The rank of garde-marine in the French Navy corresponded with 
that of sub-lieutenant in the British Navy ; there was no rank actually 
equivalent to our midshipmen. 

The British midshipmen were sources of continued anxiety and 
annoyance to their custodians in their French prisons. They defied all 
rules and regulations, they refused to give their parole, and were cease- 
less in their attempts to escape. ' I wish to goodness', said a French 
officer at Bitche one evening at dinner, ' I knew what to do to keep those 
English middies within bounds ! ' 

' There is only one way, Sir,' said a lady at the table. 

' What is that ? ' asked the officer eagerly. 

' Put them on their honour,' replied the lady. 

General Courcelles, at Verdun, shut up 140 middies in the monastery 
at St. Vannes, and made them pay for maintenance. 


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 detenu 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, notwith- 
standing 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 sante. 
Among the whole there were, I think, about half a dozen mid- 
shipmen. 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 allow- 
ance 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 remit- 
tances from France ; and in a friendly way, at least as regards 
the daily mess, or table d'hote, 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 back- 
yard, 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 posi- 
tion. 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 sen 
va t'en guerre with amazing correctness and vivacity. His ser- 
vices 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 remem- 
brance 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 Moliere in circum- 
stances 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. 




THE first prisoners came here in March 1812. They were 
chiefly some of those who had been hurried away from Win- 
canton and other towns in the west of England at the alarm 
that a general rising of war-prisoners in those parts was im- 
minent, 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 Desiree '. 

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 Pool '. 

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 virtue.' 

' 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 Mofiat, and had driven from there. The 

Z 2 


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 moder- 
ately accommodated and better than in Peebles. Their impres- 
sions 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 

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 f angled 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 company.' 

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 estima- 
tion in which French prisoner-surgeons were held in our 
country towns. 

Between thirty and forty officers tried to escape from Dum- 
fries 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 belong- 
ings 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 Office. 

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 Spanish. 

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-establish- 
ment 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 detenus sur parole donnent leur adhesion aux 
actes du Gouverriement Fran9ais qui rappelle Tillustre sang des 
Bourbons, au trone de ses ancetres. Puissent les Fran$ais 
compter une longue suite de rois du sang de Saint Louis et de 
Henri IV, qui a tou jours fait leur gloire et assure 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 Bona- 
parte, went into the shop in a violent passion, bought two 
copies, and tore them in pieces before a crowd of people, utter- 
ing 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. Lieu- 
tenant 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 

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 con- 
stantly 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 descen- 
dant, Anna Grieve, daughter of James Grieve, merchant, who 
died in 1813, aged 19, with the following lines subjoined : 

' Ta main, bienfaisante et cherie, 
D'un exil vient essuyer les pleurs, 
Tu me vis loin de parens, de patrie, 
Et le mme tombeau, lorsque tu m'as ravie, 
Renferme nos deux cceurs.' 

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 San- 
quhar and Dumfries I am indebted in the first place to Mrs. 
Macbeth Forbes, for permission to make use of her late hus- 
band's notes on the prisoner-life at these places, and in the 
second to the hon. secretary of the Dumfriesshire and Gallo- 
way Natural History and Antiquarian Society, for the use of 
a resume 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 appelation 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 accord- 
ingly 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 imple- 
ments 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 men- 
tion 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 ti loan of Veitch's plaid, and, 
muffled in this, reached his quartrs undetected. 

Billeted along with Jehenne, ad staying in the same room, 
was Ensign Bazin, of St. Malo,a man of quiet demeanour, 
captured on the Torche corvete in 1805. He was very 
talented with his pencil, and Hid of drawing sketches of 
Jedburgh characters, many of ^hich are preserved at Inch- 
bonny. He made a painting o Jedburgh Abbey, which he 
dedicated to Mr. Veitch, dated 182 . In this picture the French 
prisoners are seen marching o the ramparts, and, in the 
original, their faces and forms, is also those of many local 
characters, are so admirably sketced as to be easily recognizable. 
A duplicate of this picture h< sent home to his mother. 
Mrs. Grant of Laggan perhaps hd Bazin in view when in her 
Memoir of a Highland Lady, shavrote : 

' A number of French prisoncs, officers, were on parole at 
Jedburgh. Lord Buchanan, wbm we met there, took us to 
see a painting in progress by omof them ; some battlefield, all 
the figures portraits from memry. The picture was already 
sold and part paid for, and anther ordered, which we were 
very glad of, the handsome yang painter having interested 
us much.' 

In October 1813, Bazin receivd a pass to be sent to Alresford, 
and he was noted, ' to be exchnged at the first opportunity. 
Has been long imprisoned, ands a great favourite.' He was of 
wealthy parents, and got back o France some time before his 
fellow prisoners were released. 

Mrs. Grant thus spoke of thcjedburgh prisoners : 

' The ingenuity of the Frerh prisoners of all ranks was 
amazing, only to be equalled b their industry ; those of them 
unskilled in higher arts earned )r themselves most comfortable 
additions to their allowance b turning bits of wood, bones, 
straw, almost anything in fact into neat toys of many sorts, 
eagerly bought up by all who ret with them.' 

At Mr. Veitch's house, Incbonny, may be seen, by those 
fortunate enough to have a vrsonal introduction, much of 
the French prisoner handiwor sketches, telescopes> and an 
electric machine with which te poor fellows had much fun, 
connecting it with wires to a late 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 auc- 
tioneer, ' 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 Bona- 
parte 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. I 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 Edin- 
burgh after the Peace and engaged in teaching ; Baron Gold- 
shord 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 towns- 
people, 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 dis- 
tance 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 Forfar- 
shire 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 water- 
cress 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 Govern- 
ment, 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 resi- 
dence 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. in. 
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 pub- 
lished 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 centre 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 com- 
panions 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 contre 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 
centre ! " 

' The fact that so many of the French prisoners of war were 
quartered in Hawick from 1812-14 did much towards brighten- 
ing society during that time. Pity for their misfortunes pre- 
vailed 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 

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 
depot 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 45. 6d., 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 coun- 
try. 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 dis- 
approval, 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 u, 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 01 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 Trans- 
port 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 French- 
man, and it is related that on the occasion of their induction, 
when the time for refreshments after business came, the foreign 

A a 2 


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. Accord- 
ingly 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 Dum- 
fries. 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. 


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 con- 
ducted themselves peaceably and quietly, and they, especially 
the doctors, were well liked by the inhabitants. 



I AM indebted to Canon Thomas of Llandrinio Rectory, 
Llanymynech, for information which led me to extract the 
following interesting details from the Montgomeryshire Archaeo- 
logical Collections. 

Batches of French officers were on parole during the later 
years of the Napoleonic wars at Llanfyllin, Montgomery, 
Bishop's Castle, Newtown, and Welshpool. 


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, 1878 : 

' 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 remembrance. 


' 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 infor- 
mation communicated by him will not in any way be used to 
his detriment or disadvantage.' 

Allen, the Montgomery Agent, is directed to advance Beau- 
vernet 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 Beau- 
vernet 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 unprin- 
cipled 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 pri- 
soners 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 them- 
selves greatly in putting out a fire at the New Inn in Severn 
Street, and were to be seen, says my informant, an aged inhabi- 
tant, " 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.' 


1 On the occasion of a great fire at the corner shop in Decem- 
ber 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 cul verted over), whence they conveyed water to 
the burning building to others of their comrades who courage- 
ously entered it. 

4 Dr. P. L. Serph, one of the prisoners, settled down at Welsh- 
pool, 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, an d 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 prisoners. 

' It is said that French blood runs in the veins of some of the 
inhabitants of each of these towns where the prisoners were 




In 1779 Howard the philanthropist visited Pembroke, and 
reported to this effect : 

He found thirty-seven American prisoners of war herded 
together in an old house, some of them without shoes or stock- 
ings, 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 6d. was always de- 
ducted. 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 Cullo- 
den'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 com- 
plaining 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 

In 1797 the Admiralty inspector reported that the condition 
of the depot at Pembroke was very unsatisfactory ; the dis- 
cipline slack, as the Agent preferred to live away at Hubber- 
stone, and only put in an occasional appearance ; and that the 
state of the prisoners was mutinous to a dangerous degree. 

The Fishguard affair of 7797 

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 pre- 
sently 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, surrendered. 

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 concoc- 
tion 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 re- 
mained 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 clap- 
ping 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 iron- works. 

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. 

A bergavenny 

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 hand- 
some 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. 


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. 



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 tremen- 
dous struggles which followed that feeling was apparently quite 
as much in their favour, and the authorities found the co-opera- 
tion of the inhabitants far more troublous to combat than the 
ingenuity and daring of the prisoners. If the principle govern- 
ing 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 in- 
stances 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 pro- 
viding 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 : 

' i. By means of the smugglers and those connected with 
them on the coast, who proceed with horses and covered 
carriages to the depots 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 pursu- 
ance 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 misde- 


meanour, 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 depots 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'tat-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, Robert sbridge, 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 com- 
posed Hastings. 

Pillet and Paolucci were sent to Norman Cross, and Harman 
to Horsham jail. 

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 com- 
mitted. 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 Whit- 
stable 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 Whit- 
stable 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 ios., 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 captured. 

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 Broad- 
stairs, 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 Ad- 
miralty. 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 emigres, or Portu- 
guese, and he always got them to sign a paper of recommen- 

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 agents. 

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 

B b 2 


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 possessed. 

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, eight eenpence per day 
for himself, and one shilling and threepence per day for a ser- 
vant, and he resented very much having to give up a poniard: 
in his possession. From Dumbarton he appears to have car- 
s ried 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 conse- 
quence of this discovery that in 1813 orders were sent to 
Dumbarton that not only was Simon to be deprived of news- 
papers, 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 confine- 
ment, 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 Prive, 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 mem- 


bers 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.' 

1 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 a 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 i, 1812, with his servants and naval lieutenant Armand 
le Due, 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 priva- 
teer, 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 Garnier. 

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 readi- 
ness. They waited four months, and then suspected that 
Whithair was tricking them, and informed the Agent. Whit- 
hair 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. 


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, 


' Whereas the two French Officers, Prisoners of War, named 
and described at the foot hereof, have absconded from Chester- 
field 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 nj inches high, stout, oval 
visage, fresh complexion, light brown hair, blue eyes, strong 

' Auguste de la Grange, Colonel, age 30, 6 feet high, stout, 
round visage, fair complexion, brown hair, dark eyes, no mark in 

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 Govern- 
ment 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 

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 

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 

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 8o-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 new- 
comers, of whose arrival they seemed to have been told. Their 
silence, their attitude, and the looks of compassion they be- 
stowed 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 Depot, 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, autho- 
rized 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 bond 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 com- 
panions 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 

The baron won the goodwill of all and was invited to return 
the next day. 

At ii 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 Folke- 


stone. 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 net? 
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 in- 
cendiary 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 ex- 
changed. 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 com- 
paratively 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 Sabloniere'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 Birming- 
ham, 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 warn- 
ing 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, Gaffe, merchant skipper, and 
Glena't, army lieutenant, under the guidance of one Johns, left 
Okehampt on, 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 con- 
nexion 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 con- 
cocted, that her meeting with Montbazin was part of a pre- 
arranged 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 Due de Chartres wrote a strong letter of inter- 
cession 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, lies comme des btes sauvages, et 
traites toute la route comme des chiens. Ce sont des Anglais ; 
rien ne m'etonne de ce qu'ils ont fait . . . ce sont tous des gueux, 
des scelerats depuis le premier jusqu'au dernier. Aussi je vous 
prie en grace de protester ces billets . . . je suis dans la ferme 
resolution 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 Butt's 
Head, Loughborough, where the girl had ordered a chaise. 
Counsel decided that there was no case for prosecution ! 

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 instruc- 
tions 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 ex- 
plains 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 3Oth 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 com- 
pany at Okehampton. After I was past Tavistock four miles 

c c 2 


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.] 

'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 circum- 
stances, 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, Benoit 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 C our ant 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 symp- 
toms 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 inhabi- 
tants ; rich and poor vying with each other in showing kindness 
to the strangers. Whatever was likely to alleviate their help- 
less 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 away.' 

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 in- 
struction from the Transport Office like this : 

' 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. Con- 
ductors 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 

* April 1798. This is to certify that Mr. Thomas Willis, con- 
ductor 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 Cold- 
stream 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 depots. 

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 her. 

In the same year a militia corporal who had done duty at 
a prisoner depot, 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 satis- 
factory, 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 

In 1812 prisoners broke their parole in batches. From 
Ti vert on 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 lieu- 
tenant-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 Parliament ar y Papers of 1812, I take the following 
table : 

Transport Office, June 25, 1812. 






"e "^ 



bi o o 



Year ending 

N.B. The numbers 

5th June 1810 





stated in this account 

Year ending 
5th June 1811 




include those persons 
only who have actually 

Year ending 

absconded from the 

5th June 1812 





places appointed for 

their residence 





A considerable number 

of officers have been 

Besides the above, 

ordered into confine- 

the following other 

ment for various other 

prisoners of rank 

breaches of their parole 

entitling them to 


be on parole, have 


broken it during 


the three years 
above mentioned . 








During the above-quoted period, between 1803 and 1811, 
out of 20,000 British d&tenus, not prisoners of war, in France, 
it cannot be shown that more than twenty-three broke their 
parole, and even these are doubtful. 

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 confinement. 

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 


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 pro- 
posed 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 
ail 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 Fort on for embarkation, except 
General Houdetot, who was sent to Lichfield. From Oke- 
hampton 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 pri- 
soners, but all were refused ; the inhabitants of some places in 
Devon attempted to detain prisoners for debts ; and Ench- 
marsh, 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 confreres. 


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 con- 
duct 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 com- 
plained 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 neces- 
sary, 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. B.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 profes- 
sionals 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 

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 Whit church in Shrop- 
shire 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 

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 else- 

In 1758 a prisoner on parole at Chippenham complained 
that he was subjected to ill treatment by his fellow prisoners. 
The letter is ear-marked : 

' 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 priva- 
teer, 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 conduct. 

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 egaux.' 

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 com- 
plaints 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 

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 some- 
times 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 there- 
from, 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 Bethune strongly resented being sent on 
parole from Bristol into the country : 

' Ayant appris de Mr. Surgunnes (?) que vous lui mande par 
votre lettre du 13 courant si Messire De Bethune, Chevalier de 
St. Simon, Marquis d'Arbest, Baron de Sainte Lucie, Seigneur 
haut, et bas justicier des paroisses de Chateau vieux, Corvilac, 
Laneau, Pontmartin, Neung et autres lieux, etoit admis a la 
parole avec les autres officiers pour lesquels il s'interesse, 
j'aurai 1'avantage de vous repondre, qu'un Grand de la trempe 
de Messire De Bethune, qui vous adresse la presente, n'est 
point fait pour peupler un endroit aussi desert que la campagne, 
attendu qu'allie du coste paternel et maternel a un des plus 
puissans rois que jamais terre ait porte, Londres, comme 


Bristol ou autre sejour qu'il voudra choisir, est capable de 
contenir celui qui est tout a 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 London. 

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 deja lieu de me louer du peuple de ce village. 
Sur des plaintes que plusieurs Fran9ais ont portees au maire 
depuis que je suis ici, il a fait afficher de ne point insulter aux 
Frangais, 1'affiche a ete le meme jour arrachee. On a remis une 
autre. II est bien desagreable d'etre dans une ville ou Ton est 


oblige de defendre aux peuples d'insulter les prisonniers. J'ai oui 
dire aux Frangais qui ont ete a Maidstone que c'etait tres bien et 
qu'ils n'ont jamais ete insultes . . . ce qui me fait vous demander 
une autre place, c'est qu'on deja faillit d'etre jete dans la boue 
en passant dans les chemins, ayant eu cependant 1'intention de 
ceder le pave.' 

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 else- 
where, 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 par- 
ticularly 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 Frotte, 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 accable en route sont revoltantes. 
Les scelerats que vos lois envoyent a Tyburn ne sont pas plus 
mal traites ; une semblable conduite envers un Colonel, pri- 
sonnier de guerre, est une horreur de plus que j'aurai le droit 
de reprocher aux Anglais pour lesquels j'ai eu tant de bontes 
lorsqu'ils sont tombes en mon pouvoir. Si le Gouvernement 
franais fut instruit des mauvais traitements dont on accable 
les Francais de touts grades, et donnait des ordres pour user 
de represailles envers les Anglais detenus en France . . . le 
Gouvernement anglais ordonnerait-il a ses agents de traiter avec 
plus d'egards, de moderation, d'humanite ses prisonniers.' 


In a postscript the Colonel adds that his nephew, the Comte 
de la Frotte, 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 

In 1758 a prisoner writes from Tenterden : 

' Last Thursday, March i6th, 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 pousse la plaisanterie jusqu'a 1'embrasser sans qu'elle 1'eut 
jamaistrouve mauvais, et ayant engage M. Chomel a 1'embrasser 
aussi/ But the other girl, whom they would also kiss, played 
the prude ; the youth with her misunderstood what D'Helin- 
court 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 

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 evi- 
dently 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 

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 certifi- 
cates 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 inva- 
sion and fighting, may be understood to have entertained no 
particular affection for Frenchmen, despite the ceaseless com- 
merce of a particular kind which the bitterest of wars could not 

A few instances will suffice to exemplify the unhappy rela- 
tionship which existed, not in Kent alone, but everywhere, 

D d 2 


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 n p.m., when there came ' 7 ou 8 droles 
qui les defierent de sortir en les accablant d'injures atroces, et 
frappant aux portes et aux fenetres 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 
pave,' 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 Sissing- 
hurst 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 i, 1757, Kingston, 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 French- 


men 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 elsewhere : 

' Insultes a chaque instant par mille et millions d'injures ou 
menaces, estre souvent poursuivis par la popullace jusqu'a 
nos portes a coups de roches et coups de batons. En outre 
encore, Monseigneur, avant hier il fut tirre un coup de fusil 
a plomb a cinque heures apres midy netant distant de notre 
logement que d'une portee de pistolet, heureusement celuy qui 
nous 1'envoyoit ne nous avoit point assez bien ajuste . . . qu'il 
est dans tous les villages des hommes proposes pour rendre 
justice tres surrement bien judiscieux mais il est une cause qui 
1'empeche de nous prouver son equite comme la crainte de 
detourner la populasce adverse . . . nous avons ete obliges de 
commettre a tous moments a 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 45. a week was raised to 45. 6d., and a month later 
to 55. 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 

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 inno- 
cence, was sent to Winchester Jail. In reply to the appeal, 
the Commissioners said that they could not interfere in what 
was a private matter. 

In the same year a prisoner wrote from Callington : 

' Lundy passe je fus attaque dans mon logement par Thomas, 
garcon de Mr. Avis qui, apres m'avoir dit toutes les sottises 
imaginables, ne s'en contenta pas, sans que je luy repondis a 
aucune de ses mauvaises parolles, il sauta sur moy, et me frapa, 
et je fus oblige de m'en defendre. Dimance dernier venant de 
me promener a 8 heures du soir, je rancontray dans la rue pres 
de mon logement une quarantaine d'Anglois armes de batons 
pour me fraper si je n'avois peu me sauver a la faveur de mes 
jambes. Mardy sur les 7 heures de soir je fus attaque en 
pleine place par les Anglois qui me donnerent beaucoup de 


coups et m'etant defait d'eux je me sauvai a 1'oberge du Soleil 
ou j'ai etc oblige 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 some- 
times jeered at, and asking to be kept there until exchanged. 

Yet the next year, eighteen officers at the same place formu- 
late 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 n 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 w r hich 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 Credit on, for instance, the appointment of 
a Mr. Harvey called forth a remonstrance signed by sixty 
prisoners, one of whom thus described him : 

' Mr. Harvey a son arrivee de Londres, glorieux d'etre exauce, 
n'eut rien de plus presse que de f aire voir dans toutes les oberges 
et dans les rues les ordres dont il etait revetu de la part des 
honorables Commissaires ; ce qui ne pourra que nous faire un 
tres mauvais effet, veu que le commun peuple qui habite ce 
pays-ci est beaucoup irrite contre les Franc, ais, a cause de la 
Nation et sans jusqu'au present qu'aucun Frangais n'est donne 
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 regie et sans education', by whom he was insulted, hissed, 
and stoned, and when he represented this to the authorities was 
' garrotte ' and taken to Exeter Prison, ridicules the status of 
the agents here a shoemaker, here a tailor, here an apothe- 
cary, 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 <leceit 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, mirdbile 


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 
i is. 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. 



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 French : 

' En consequence de la deliberation faite et teneu par le 
corps de Fra^ois deteneus en cette ville il a este ordonne 
qu'apres qu'il aura cette Notoire, que quelque Marchand, 
Fabriquant, Boutiquier etcetera de cette ville aurons insulte, 
injurie, ou comis quelque aiesais (?) au vis a vis de quelque 
Fran$ois tel que puis etre, et que le fait aura ete averee, il sera 
mis une affiche dans les Lieus les plus aparants portant proscrip- 
tion de sa Maison, Boutique, Fabrique etcetera, et ordonne et 
defendeu a tout Frangois quelque qualite, condition qu'il soy 
sous Paine d'etre regarde et declare trait e a la Patrie et de 
subire plus grande Punition suivent 1'exsigence du cas et qu'il 
en sera decide. 


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 Chip- 
penham 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 parenthese 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 distinguished.' 



IN this and the succeeding chapter I gather together a num- 
ber of notes connected with the life of the paroled prisoners in 
Britain, which could not conveniently be classed under the 
headings of previous chapters. 


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 


Matthew Masterman in their round, they put him to the rout ; 
This was near to the Standing Stone : at Fleetham Feast he'd 

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 

Barber he was in great esteem, the Frenchmen oft drew 


To this the sender appended a note : 

' In the houses round Bedale there are handscreens 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.' 



1 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 6d. 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 parti- 
cular object to accomplish by them perhaps his liberation.' 

It is much more likely that his object was to fight a duel. 


Mr. Richard Holland, of Barton under Needwood, Stafford- 
shire, 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 draw- 
ing 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 too ! ' 

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 neigh- 
bouring 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 : 

1 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 

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 cir- 
cumstances 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 Gaw r en, found that there had 
been so many- escapes during Mr. Bower's kindly but lax 


regime that he instituted more stringent regulations, and mus- 
tered 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 Barre, and the 
other naval officers, with the staffs of the generals, were all at 

The successes of Wellington in Spain brought many more 
prisoners to Chesterfield, and a great number captured at San 
Sebastian and Pampeluna. 

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 woodcarvers. 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 depot for British 
wines. One prisoner got employment as a painter, but another 
had to seek work as a banksman at the Hady coal-pits. 

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. 

p. 416 


The Abbe 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 pri- 
soners' 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 Chester- 
field 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 
levees 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 them- 
selves up in their lodgings until the rejoicings were over. 

' After the Peace a few of the prisoners remained in Chester- 
field, 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 churchyard.' 


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 corres- 
pondents 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. Gamier 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 French- 
man 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 else- 
where, 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 England ! ' 

There are graves of French prisoners in Oswestry church- 
yard. Upon one is ' Ci-git D. J. J. J. Du Vive, Capitaine- 
Adjudant aux tats-Majors generaux : prisonnier de guerre 
sur parole ; ne a Pau, Dep* des Basses-Pyrenees, 26 Juillet 
1762 ; decede a 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 an d 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 them- 
selves 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 irritation/ 

The Freemasons had a Lodge ' Reunion Desiree/ and a 
Chapter ' De 1'Amitie/ working at Leek in 1810-11. 

E e 2 



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 Sgth 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 ii. Baptiste Guillaume Jousemme ; aged 21, born 

at Castillones in France. A prisoner on parole. 
1803. June 27. Thomas Monclerc. Aged 42. A French 


1809. Dec. 12. Jean Charbonier. A French prisoner. 

1810. Dec. 14. Hypolite Riouffe. A French prisoner. 

1811. Aug. 2. Pierre Gamier. 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 THuille. 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 

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 
Francais se sont detruits ne pouvant supporter plus longtemps 
rhumiliation et 1'abjection ou ils etaient reduits.' The Trans- 
port 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 conse- 
quence. ' When you shall have better informed yourself and 
altered the said letter accordingly, it will be forwarded to 

General Prive, 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 Somerset- 
shire. 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 neighbourhood. 

' 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 Lanca- 
shire 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 fine 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 mis- 
understanding, 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 ; Aber- 
gavenny 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 frpm 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. 1 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 

1 I failed to find a single grave-stone of a French prisoner of war at 


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 Win- 
canton, 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 Desiree '. 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 shows : 


' 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. Trans- 
port 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. 


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 aw 7 ay 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 Andree 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 iSn. 

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 Depot, 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 Win- 
canton. 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 pamphlet. 

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 toler- 
ably 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 Denegres, 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 ex- 
cellent 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 meant. 

The permanent result of this love-making is shown by the 
parish register of Ashby ; from 1806 to June i, 1814, the 
following weddings took place between local girls and French 
' Prisoners of War resident in this Parish ', or 'on parole in 
this Parish ' : 

c8o6. Francis Robert to Jane Bedford. 

Pierre Serventie to Elizabeth Rowbottom. 


1806. 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 Frangois Le Normand Kegrist to Mary Ann 


Louis Adore 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 estab- 
lished in Ashby the above-mentioned Louis Jean was a mem- 
ber of the ' Vrais Amis de 1'Ordre ' Lodge, and four relics of his 
connexion are still preserved. Tradition says that the con- 
stitution 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 1'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. tienne Lenon. 

1807. Francois 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. 



MR. J. H. AMERY says in Devon Notes and Queries : 

' We can hardly credit the fact that so little reliable informa- 
tion 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 Ashburton.' 

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 any one 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 

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 los. 6d. per week for our support. In this place we 
cannot get lodgings for less than 35. per week, and from that to 
55. per week. Meat is constantly from 9^. to is. 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 con- 
sideration 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 
Reunis ', 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 regu- 
larly 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 wrote : 

' Some of them have made" overtures of marriage to women 
in the neighbourhood, which the magistrates very properly 
have taken pains to discourage.' 

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 Depdt, 
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 snch 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 Rhe 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 entrench- 
ments. ' 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 red- 
brick 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 informa- 
tion 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 

Ff 2 


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 threat- 
ened 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 French- 
women, and they were carried off with Simon and Boiron : 
altogether a capital haul, as the women were found upon exami- 
nation 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. 1 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 

1 For a letter from a former Leicester prisoner of this date, the- 
reader may be referred to p. 306. 


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 


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 other. 

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 contem- 
porary 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 y 
' 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 Meant 
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 Meant, caused his box to be 
searched, and in it found silver spoons and other of his missing 

Meant, on being discovered, tried to stab himself, but, being 
prevented, seized a bottle of laudanum and swallowed its con- 
tents. 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 ; Meant refused the 
emetic brought, and died. Meant '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 Meant 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. 

Meant 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. 


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, cap- 
tured 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 Trans- 
port 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 Eraser 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 soldiers. 

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 distinc- 
tion, 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 them- 
selves 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. Alex- 
andre de la Motte, who lived at Tiverton, acquired property 
there, and gained much respect as French master at Blundell's 

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 Reunis ' 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 rosd of agitation and 
disaffection. For the same reasons all amusements which 
gathered crowds were discouraged among the prisoners. 



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 dAuvergne brings forward the sergeant-major of 
the Grenadier Company, who salutes and replies : ' Dead upon 
the field of honour ! ' 

This unique homage to Theophile de La Tour dAuvergne 
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 : 

' ist October, 1795. 

' SIR, 

' 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 pro- 
ceeded 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 interference. 

' 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 experi- 
enced from the rage of the populace, and you are to inform him 
if he persists he must not expect protection from the conse- 

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 . Con- 
cerning his captivity he wrote thus to Le Coz, Archbishop of 
Besancon : 

' 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 e[migres] and pfrinces]. 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 endure.' 

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 cockade-wearing : 

' It was horrible to see the misery of so many brave French- 
men, 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'Au- 
vergne 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 Fort on, Port Chester, 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, Intrepide, 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 Eng- 
land (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 Redoutdble, and Infernet of the 
Intrepide. 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 Hotel 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 Tem&raire 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'etaient conduits comme 
vous, a Trafalgar, la victoire n'eut pas ete un instant indecisive, 
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 

In 1809 ne na d 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 secre- 
tary, 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 Hyeres 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 mystere de la plume ; c'est par ceci (touching the 
hilt of his sword) que je suis parvenu au grade que je tiens. 
Voila mon aide-de-camp ; il sait ecrire, et il signera pour moi.' 

Tallien, Revolutionist writer, prominent Jacobin, agent of 
the Terror in Bordeaux, and largely responsible for the down- 
fall 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 Francois, 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 I, 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 philo- 
sophic 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 be- 
haviour ' 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 VEglise sauvee. 


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 : 

(i) 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 Decem- 
ber 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 mortify- 
ing to the feelings of a man who loves his country, the satis- 
factory 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 situa- 
tion. 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 Chatham. 


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. 



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 Imperiale et Royale qui mourut le 
12 Dec. 1810, age 28 ans. II emporta les regrets de tous ses 
camarades et personnes qui le connurent.' 

' Ci-git le corps de M. P re Gamier, sous-lieut. au 66 me 
regiment d'Infanterie Frangaise, ne le 14 Avril 1773, mort 
le 31 Juillet 1811.' 

' Ci-git le corps de M. C. Lavau, officier de commerce, decede 
le 25 de Xbre loll, et la 29 de son age.' 

' Ici est le corps de Marie Louise V ve Fournier, epouse de 
Francois Bertet, capitaine au Corps Imperial d'Artillerie 
Fran9aise, decedee le n me Avril 1812, agee de 44 ans.' 

' Ci-git Jean de 1'Huille, lieutenant d'Artillerie Frangaise, 
decede le 6 Avril 1812, age de 51.' 

At Leek, Staffordshire : 

' Qy-git Jean Marie Claude Decourbes, enseigne de vaisseau 
de la Marine Imperiale de France, decede 17 Octobre 1812, 
age de 27 ans Fidelis Decori Occubuit Patriaeque Deoque.' 

' Jean-Baptiste Milloy. Capitaine 72 me cavalerie, decede 
2 Sept. 1811, age de 43 ans.' 

' Joseph Debec, Capitaine du navire " La Sophie " de 
Nantes. Obiit Sept. 2 me 1811, age de 54 ans.' 

' Charles Luneaud, Capitaine de la Marine Imperiale. Mort 
le 4 me Mars 1812.' 

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 Felix of the Artillery, Lieut. -Col. Granville, Captain 
Pouget, Captain Dupuis of the 72nd Infantry, Captain Frangois 
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 
At Okehampton, Devon : 

' Cette pierre fut elevee par 1'amitie a la memoire d'Armand 
Bernard, ne au Havre en Normandie, marie a Calais a Mile 
Margot ; deuxieme officier de commerce, decede Prisonnier 
de Guerre a Okehampton, le 26 Oct. 1815. Age 33 ans. 
A 1'abri des vertus qui distinguaient la vie, 
Tu reposes en paix, ombre tendre et cherie.' 

' Ci-git Adelaide Barrin de Puyleanne de la Commune de 
Montravers, Dep* des Deux-Sevres, nee le 21 Avril 1771, 
decedee a Okehampton le 18 Fev. 1811. Ici repose la mere et 

In the churchyards of Wincanton and Andover are stones to- 
the memories of Russian and Polish officers. 

In the churchyard at Tenter den, Kent, there is a tomb 
upon which is carved a ship and a recumbent figure, with the 
epitaph : 

* Hier Zegt 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 Memoire de Louis Pages, Lieut. -Col. des chevaux-legers ; 
chevalier des ordres militaires des Deux Siciles et d'Espagne. 
Mort a Bishop's Castle le i er Mai 1814, age 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 memoire de Louis Ambroise Quanti, Lieut, du 44 Reg* 
du Corps Imperial d'Artillerie de Marine. Age de 33 ans. 
Decede le 29 Avril 1809.' The Masonic compass and dividers 
follow the inscription. 

' Ici repose le corps de M. Armand Aubry, Lieut, du 7O me Reg* 
d'Infanterie de Ligne. Age de 42 ans. Decede le 10 Juin 1811. 
Priez Dieu pour le repos de son ame.' This is followed by two 
crossed swords. 

' A la memoire de Jean Francois Roil ; Aspirant de la Marine 
Imperiale, age de 21 ans. Decede 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 Frangois Guidon natif de Cambrai en France, Sous- 
Lieutenant au 46 me Reg* de Ligne. Decede le 18 7bre 1815. 
Age 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 follows : 

' Cy-git Piere Feron, Capitaine au 66 e Regiment de Ligne, 
Chevalier de I'Empire Francais, ne a Reims, Depart* de la 
Marne, l.e 15 Aout 1766, decede a 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 
Rhe. Died at Odiham, September 4th, 1809, in the 2Qth 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, no, 279, 
354, 366, 368-9, 383, 385, 392, 406; 
responsible for well-being of prison- 
ers, 5, 16, 24, 71, 75, 129, 188, 362. 

Agents, Parole, 407-8 ; censured 
and dismissed, 393 ; their duties and 
powers, 279, 286-7, 2 9i. 3*3, 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 ; un- 
friendly 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, J 8i, 263 ; unfriendly 
relations, 12, 216, 265. 

Alresford, 75, 77, 281, 284-5, 289, 
298, 306-7, 347, 367, 410, 420, 451. 

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, u, 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, 34i, 349, 437- 

Anton, James, A Military Life 
(quoted), 2056. 

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, 3*9. 32i, 324, 347, 36o, 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, 

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, 258. 
Beaudouin, Sergeant-Major, 79-82, 

202-5 . 

Beccles, 285. 
Bedale, 412. 

Belgian prisoners, 333-4. 
Bell, George, agent at Jedburgh, 298, 

Bertaud (Breton privateer prisoner), 


Berwick, 316, 331-2, 350. 
Bethune, 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, 432 ; 

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, 

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, no, 161, 164, 172, 

233.. 269, 273, 363, 383. 
Bodmin, 439, 4424. 
Bonaparte, Lucien, 448. 
Bonaparte, Napoleon, 22, 32-6, 84, 

99, no, 144, 153, 164-5, J 79. 314. 

330, 333. 342, 380. 382, 394. 435. 

Bones, use of, made by prisoners, 135, 

176, 205, 218, 221,275-6, 347, 349- 

50, 363- 
Bonnefoux, Baron de, 54-60, 73, .76, 

Borough jails, 115, 1178, 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, 


Bounty, French Royal, 4, 6-7, 167. 
Bower, John (agent at Chesterfield), 

305, 4*5- 

Boycotting by prisoners, 222, 410. 
Boyer, General, 32, 144, 305, 416, 425. 
Boys among the prisoners, 121, 146, 

J 52. 
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 Collu- 
sion), 94-5, 128, 130, 158, 160, 167, 
193, 225, 235, 244, 254, 292, 373 ; 
other bribery, 148-9, 204, 210-11, 

Bridgnorth, 298, 312, 314, 383, 418. 

Brighton (Brighthelmstone), 30, 106, 

Bristol, 116-7, I 86, 207-8, 210-14, 
221,281-2,284-5,289, 399-400, 411. 

Bristol (Chatham hulk), 79, 205. 

Brunswick (Chatham hulk), 23-