THE NAPOLEONIC WARS

AND THE USE OF THE GUILLOTINE BY FRENCH CAPTORS

ON BRITISH SOLDIER AND SAILOR PRISONERS-OF-WAR!

 

A SNIPPET.

Found in  a book of two volumes [parts] called "THE HISTORY OF THE LATE WAR"

compiled from authentic documents

written by Brother William Stewart Rose

First Volume [part]
London
Printed by A. STRAHAN
printers
Street Pall Mall
in 1802.

Although it doesn't specifically define what the "late war" was, in 1802, it could well have been called the last war. Thus, it is important to understand that the French Revolutionary War took place between the years of 1792 and 1799, and in 1799 the Napoleon consulate was established, so the on-going name of the war[s] was changed from 'Revolutionary' to 'Napoleonic' without a break; the same war!. They continued through to 1802 until peace was declared [peace of Amiens] after Napoleon offered a truce!

More-or-less, as in all cases [?] historic events are well documented on the internet, and so I'll leave you to browse to those pages of the peace of Amiens independently [if at all interested], but I will cover the salient features here for all other readers.

France [or parts of it] had long been ruled over from Britain and the British saw no reason why much should change at the wishes of France's First Consul viz Napoleon. Napoleon was an able administrator and soldier and in his first year or so, made many territorial gains in the Mediterranean and further afield. He was utterly disliked and mistrusted by the British establishment particularly by our Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. Nevertheless, in 1800, after much blood-shed and seven years of war much of it with Britain, Napoleon decided to offer a truce to Britain, her allies, and to many other European mainland countries extending as far as the land of White Russia known as Asia Minor. Predictably, Pitt the Younger [Prime Minister from the age of 24]  shunned the offer and the 'war' continued. However, Pitt the Younger resigned from Parliament in 1801 and the new prime minister, William Grenville [Pitts first cousin],  jumped at the chance of peace.

It was a simple peace offer! If Napoleon would give back all France's gains acquired in war since 1794, including the return of Malta to the Knights of St John [and several others as far afield as Ceylon, Newfoundland and Trinidad] Britain would do likewise and moreover, its centuries-old claim to French soil and sovereignty would cease forthwith and for all time. Prisoner exchanges would be made and civil order throughout the affected war zone[s] would be adopted by all parties.  It was a done deal, resulting in much rejoicing in Britain, and for the rich, an opportunity to travel to France without fear, particularly to Paris for not only 'enjoyments'[?], but also on a ghoulish tour to see where the fates of rich French people had met their end on the Guillotine, which pan-Europe, was referred to as "the machine".

That was enacted in the French city of Amiens in March 1802.

Shortly after the peace had been established, Napoleon [as other French leaders have done more recently, De Gaulle for example] began to deny a say on Europe by the British and engineered a campaign of trade and cooperation against Britain and her allies. He used the period of peace for his own ends, and whether it was possible or not at that time, grew even more important and ambitious than he had been prior to his declaration of a truce.

In May 1803, William Pitt the Younger' forewarning against Napoleon and his dislike and mistrust of the French Consulate and Napoleon its first Consul, proved this case to be true beyond doubt, and the new British Establishment  broke the peace of Amiens and declared war against France and her allies. So ended a very short break in a war which started in 1793 and ended in 1814 when Napoleon abdicated i.e., in a twenty one year period, with twenty of those years locked in mortal combat which Napoleon and the French hopelessly lost against the combined forces of the British and her allies chiefly Germany terminating in 1815 with the Battle of Waterloo.  Admiral Lord Charles Beresford [an officer I have mentioned several times in my web pages], who not only defeated French units when they dared to engage him and his ship, but also ridiculed the Navy Minister, Winston Churchill in the House of Commons for telling lies about the strength of our navy/fleets, enjoyed telling of the weak and  devious Frenchies, and one of his favourite jibes was championing that great English lass Ann Glanville of Saltash Cornwall,  who most men feared when it came to boat races!  She and her girl-racers were countrywide characters, much admired and almost always unbeaten in fair races.

She once went to France on a steamer, to Cherbourg, hoping to take on French men, but the French were wary and backed away from being ridiculed by a bunch of English women. This upset Ann, so instead she challenged the men crew members of the steamer to a race and the outcome was predictable and much applauded.  The Janners amongst you reading this, may have seen Ann's statue in the centre of Saltash, and she was a regular visitor to the Hamoaze to row around warships berthed midstream shouting abuse at Royal sailors! Evidently, a right scrubber! She had 14 children, was said to be physically stronger than most men, and when she died, Lord Beresford paid all funeral costs in admiration of her..

You will gather from reading this, that the book mentioned above does not cover the period post May 1803. By 1802 of course seventeen of Nelson's famous wars, battles, skirmishes had been fought and won, with only the Third War of the Coalition left [1803] and his ultimate and final battle Trafalgar in 1805. Its author wrote the book for an audience who would have been au fait with pre March 1802 so there was no need to amplify the title.

Reading the book was hard work and for several reasons not least being the use of the 18th century written English particularly the spelling used.

For most of my life I have always believed that the Guillotine was a weapon used against French aristocrats [and French royalty], and thereafter [the Republic revolution] to put to death French criminals and diehard royalists, as we British preferred hanging. The saying 'what goes around comes around' applied to Maximilien Robespierre [a lawyer and architect of the reign of terror in France from 1790]. He approved and oversaw the execution of 17,000 people proclaimed by him as traitors of the revolution. Very soon afterwards he and his cronies were arrested and almost immediately dragged to the 'machine' and decapitated in front of a large jeering and rapturous crowd. Of some mild interest Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin [a medical doctor] after whom the guillotine is named, did not invent the 'machine' which was the idea and product of a man called Antoine Louis. Guillotin was a member of a committee, deeply opposed to the death penalty, but if it had to be carried out, he wanted it to simply end life and not to inflict pain: death had to be instantaneous. He lived to an old age and throughout his life he deeply regretted that the 'machine' was named after him.  In fact it wasn't that long ago that the Guillotine punishment was withdrawn with the last Guillotining taking place in 1977. The French death penalty was withdrawn in 1981.

So you can perhaps imagine my surprise when I started to read that some of Nelson marines, soldiers and sailors, who were captured as prisoners of war, whilst Nelson was fighting ashore in places like Corsica, as a young captain R.N., in charge of invading land-troops or sailors sent ashore to support these so called land-troops, were subjected to capital punishment using the Guillotine.

Seemingly, wherever French forces went, when practicable to do so, they took a Guillotine and used it in the field as well as in their fortified headquarters, both on their own men and certainly for prisoners-of-war.

This is an account from the pages of Volume [Part]  II of the book which tells of the punishments  on the machine meted out to British combatants to the sheer horror of British officers who witnessed the aftermath of such bestiality. 

During 1794, Nelson witnessed many barbaric acts performed by the French particularly whilst as a captain, fighting ashore in Corsica at the Siege of Calvi, and although I cannot quote line and verse from a learned piece of prose on Nelson's thoughts, like the vast majority of people of his times from 1790 onwards [the beginning of the French Revolution] he looked upon the French as barbaric, soulless and Godless people [men and women alike], akin in biblical terms to residents of Sodom - see below to my text and comments given whilst retyping the pages of the book [The History of the Great War mentioned above at the beginning of the story] into modern English spelling, with particular reference to Ellen Gould White's account of The Holy Bible and the French Revolution. During this time Nelson  sustained damage to his right eye from ground-debris  blown into his face caused by enemy gun fire. The French Revolution had reduced many hitherto good and moral military officers into savage beasts, and where the Guillotine could be deployed, particularly in well established and well defended military compounds in the European mainland war-theatres, the 'machine' was used as a weapon of terror for all who refused the republican modus operandi, including prisoners-of-war. The 'machine' had, as it were, left Paris, the hub of depravity, and now stood for French authority as the sole judge, jury and executioner across all territories owned by the French Republicans!

Guadeloupe [in the West Indies]  had been in French ownership since 1635, but during the Sever-Year War [1756-1763, in 1759] the British took it from them: the French also lost that war - again! Being nice guys and much preferring Canada to the West Indies with  its many diseases often causing death, at the end of this war, in 1763 we gave Guadeloupe back to the French. When the French Revolution began in 1790 the monarchist on Guadeloupe refused to accept the republican line and the governor appointed by Paris, and the two sides fought with each other, the monarchists being the victors. This resulted in a major rebellion by the pro-republic slaves and the monarchists invited the British back to take ownership and to support them.

In 1793, Vice Admiral Sir John Jervis [later of course in 1797 at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, elevated to become the First Earl of St Vincent] who was a prominent patron of Nelson,  and the appointed Commander of the West Indies expeditionary forces  Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey, set sail in Admiral Jervis' flagship HMS Boyne for Guadeloupe [MY COMMENT]   Boyne was a 98 gun ship 2nd rate of the Line]. Boyne was accompanied by a squadron of warships carrying several troops and marines. The republican element on the Island were defeated and surrendered on the 21st April 1794 without one naval casualty. Sir Charles Grey also helped the British defeat France in the Seven Year War.

Despite Britain now ruling Guadeloupe, and whilst Nelson was engaged in the Mediterranean region, the French had dispatched a man called Victor Hugues [pronounced as Hugu] not, regrettably, as Hugo, Victor Hugo, that French wonderful writer and poet, who wrote the story which became world famous as the stage and film spectacular Les Miserables, to Guadeloupe.  He was a civilian administrator, a devout republican, hater of all things royal and a puppet of all the French coalitions.  He was chosen because of his burning desire to rid the world of royalists and at every point to strengthen French republicanism at every turn. Next to hating royalists was his inherent hate for the British. On paper, the reason for his appointment was to enforce a new French Consular edict that France, ergo any French territory, should be cleansed of slavery, and the British had slaves by the thousands in all their West Indies territories. His name and his intentions from the word go should have been apparent, when with him aboard his vessel taking him and his soldiers to the Island [1150 of them in other vessels in company], he had shipped a guillotine, tall, upright and ready for use, strapped to the foremast!

Whilst one might [or would] expect military-men to behave in a harsh manner bordering on cruelty especially to prisoners-of-war, and the French experienced such losses themselves at the hands of the Russians in 1812 after their failed invasion as did the Nazi Germans one hundred and thirty years or so later [the saying 'live by the sword, die by the sword' comes to mind], one wouldn't expect that from a civilian administrator, unless, despite his position in society, he was a known megalomaniac or psychopath!

Remember that Hugues was not a soldier or a sailor, and any leadership qualities he may have had were born out of his hatred for many things, if not all, except republicanism; the quintessential megalomaniac/psychopath! He lived up to those descriptive names to the full!

Immediately on arrival [21st May 1794]  he declared a slave-free state and demanded that all slaves should be immediately released. In that first move he had the unrest he wanted and the potential of many more numbers joining his relatively small group of 1150 men by recalcitrant slaves. Within five days he had taken the capital Pointer-a-Pitre, and by the 6th October 1794 he had taken the whole Island, and had invited the British General [Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey] who remember,  had helped to defeat the French in the seven year war of just 30'odd years before,  to surrender. The General had 1700 troops available to him, although none of them British?  Eight hundred were French emigres [not best given to liking French republicans but whose loyalty when it came to the push would be suspect, all except for a sizable group who preferred being French Guadeloupeans and not necessarily French Europeans but emphatically not French republicans,  and nine hundred were of African descent, hitherto loyal slaves turned slave-masters, and total freedom for them, if offered, would be desirable! The Island had been in British hands for thirty five harmonious years, and military matters were relaxed. General Grey was appointed Commander of the West Indies Expedition covering are areas of the Caribbean, and at this time he just happened to be on the attacked island, when he might have been some distance away in another West Indian island - ill luck one might say?

From this time onwards Victor Hugues turned into a monster and even Frenchmen, at home and abroad ridiculed him, giving him quite un-complementary names and titles aligning him with Lucifer. His treatment of most of the islanders bordered on cruelty and more than once did the Consulate back in Paris contemplate a recall home. At the slightest show of disaffection towards the republic, Hugues had the person immediately executed by whatever means amused him and often that was by using the dreaded and much feared 'machine'. I have read that providing the blade was maintained and the angle of cutting set correctly and providing the Guillotine gantry was plumbed correctly allowing a drop with as little friction as possible, it was the quickest and a truly instantaneous death of those days, much preferable to the uncertainties of the axe or swordsman, and infinitely better [if I can use that expression] than the hangman's noose of that period, where most victims strangled to death over a fifteen minute period dangling at the end of a rope!

 Hugues openly endorsed and encouraged piracy in the Caribbean, attacking all non French ships, using their booty to secure his position in Guadeloupe and that of the many nearby Islands which he had great influence over as time went by.  Hugues was not at all freaked by the threats made by the U.S.A., whose ship's frequented these waters perhaps more than any other nation. However, the U.S.A., were grateful for French military and naval support in the later 'War of 1812' against the British.

Whilst he successfully banned all black slavery, he kept an idea in his head that a labour-free concept could not be sustained and therefore the former slaves were available for work, but the amount charged went into his office coffers and not into the pockets of the negroes.  This move brought him even more ridicule.

Now, with the release of so many black slaves, he could muster an army of some 10,000 men, and could well afford to lose fifteen to twenty percent in any one battle knowing that there were many more ex-slaves ready to earn a good meal and drink!  Many were armed with spears, but some had rifles taken from the British. As predicted [but still feared by the British] many of the French emigres and the African's did change sides, leaving the poor and elderly general in a hapless position.

Soldiers, sailors and marines were landed from the Boyne [and other naval vessels present in the Guadeloupe vicinity], but the British were outnumbered by Hugues makeshift but effectively ramshackled army with the core [the so-called "banditti" - bandits] - who followed Hugues Standard,  pleased to be free of their British masters, and willing to put to right the things they had long tolerated under duress. In addition, the British suffered badly [with many losses] due to yellow fever and other semi-tropical diseases. The writing was on the wall, and the final outcome was inevitable given the sheer imbalance of manpower in favour of Hugues the French republican governor.  The resulting five-year campaign crippled the whole British Army through disease, especially yellow fever. Out of 89,000 soldiers and NCOs who served in the West Indies, 43,747 died of yellow fever or other tropical diseases. Another 15,503 were discharged, no longer fit for service, or deserted. The islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and ports in Haiti were captured in 1794 and 1795 by expeditionary forces under General Charles Grey, but the British units were almost exterminated by disease. Negro and mulatto insurgent armies in Haiti which had first welcomed the British as allies turned against them. Guadeloupe was recaptured in 1796 by Victor Hugues who subsequently executed 865 French Royalists and other prisoners.

Eight thousand reinforcements under Lieutenant General Sir Ralph Abercromby arrived in 1796, and secured many French territories, and those of Spain and the Netherlands (which was now titled the Batavian Republic and allied to France). However, the decimated British troops evacuated Haiti, and Guadeloupe was never recaptured, becoming a major privateering base and black market emporium.

Now for the book and its relevance to this period of British military/naval history.

RETYPE OF STORY ‘OCTOBER 1794’ - Pages 144 to 157 in total

This section down to ‘The Great Controversy between  Christ and Satan’ below,  covers pages 144, 145, and the first two thirds down page 146 ending in “propitiated with  blood.”

If you wish you can read those pages and part pages as originals here

page 144

whole page

page 145

whole page

page 146

first two thirds of page

On the fourth of October Victor Hugues
recommenced the assault with increased
numbers, but still without success, having
lost in these three attempts two thousand
Men. These repeated attacks, though un-
successful, thinned the numbers of the be-
sieged [the British] to such a degree, as to harassed the
survivors, that a capitulation became inevit-
able, and General Graham, who had been
severely wounded, was induced by the re-
presentations of the officers, much against
his own inclination, to rescue his little
Garrison from the certain destruction, which
hung over them, by treating for a sur-
render.  The garrison were to march out
with honours of war, and to be sent in
French ships to England, under the condi-
tion of not serving against the French
during the remainder of the war*.
  But
the general did not succeed in ensuring the
safety of the unfortunate royalists, whose [continued below @ #2]

*  This last condition wasn’t observed as the enemy
broke their part of the agreement by detaining the garrison
in prison for more than a year, during which time
many of them died.

[My comment]. Guadeloupe was a large island and had several fortified areas
some built by the French and others by the British as the island changed hands.
Each major fortification had a garrison and each garrison had a general in charge
ranging from a brigadier general, through a major general, to a lieutenant general and up
to a full general. General Graham was such an officer. None of the British garrisons was large
or strong, and their purpose there was to loosely protect the sovereignty [the ownership] of
the island] but more importantly to protect the trade and product namely sugar export.
Although trench warfare is usually associated with WW1, it was well established in the 18th
century continuing on into the 19th century. The British relied heavily on the trench operating
system, but, as you will read, some of the  fortifications overrun by the French hordes [French
army and the released slaves dubbed “bandits” by the French authorities, collectively “banditti”],
these same trenches were used as execution sites for the British, and those loyal to them.

[#2 continued]

determined gallantry had merited a differ-
rent fate, from that  which awaited them.
Conscious of the intentions of their coun-
trymen, they demanded leave to attempt
to cut their way through to the republicans;
hoping, that in this desperate sally some
few might escape, and the remainder die
honourably with arms in their hands.  The
refusal of such a request can only be attri-
buted to the General’s not conceiving, the
enemy would be savage enough to perpetrate
what these poor devoted wretches appre-
hended, or to his being persuaded, that all
must perish in this desperate attempt; when,
on the other hand, a few might escape the
vengeance of their enemies; as he had ob-
tained permission to send a covered boat to
the Boyne, in which twenty-five of the
officers were conveyed.  But the remain-
der, three hundred in number, who had
defended their posts to the last with perse-
vering resolution were reserved to grace
the cruel triumph and glut the vindictive
rage of their ferocious enemies.

Part were dispatched by the guillotine;
but as this process was too tedious, Victor
Hugues had recourse to a scheme, which at
once embraced his favourite objects, facility
of execution and prolongation of torture.


Tying the miserable victims together, he
exposed them on the brink of the trenches,
they had so gallantly defended, to the ill-
directed fire of the rawest of the banditti,
that followed his Standard.  Some received
a speedy death from the vollies of their
executioners, some were only slightly
wounded, some probably escaped unhurt.
But those who did not suffer instant death,
were reserved for severer anguish; for the
weight of the carcases [My comment] the bodies of the  dead men] drew the survivors
into the ditch, where the living and the dead
were entombed together by wretches, who
conceived the altar of Liberty to resemble
the Shrine of Moloch; that her name was
to be invoked amidst groans, and her deity
propitiated with blood. [My comment
except for one country, almost alone in this belief.
That was France!]

In The Great Controversy Between Christ And Satan by Ellen Gould White she targets France’s problem [accepted by most people as being such] in
her account entitled
“The Holy Bible and the French Revolution”

[MY COMMENT At this point, few would be willing to accept a religious theme to my story, and I am not qualified to give one or to enter into such controversy, save
to mention her work in extremely brief detail].

In the following text snippet, she says everything we really need to know about France, and many I suspect might have worked this out by themselves.

“The |great city| in whose streets the witnesses are slain, and where their dead bodies lie, is spiritually Egypt!  Of all nations presented in Bible history, Egypt most boldly denied the existence of the living God, and resisted His commands. No monarch ever ventured upon more open and high-handed rebellion against the authority of Heaven than did the king of Egypt. When the message was brought him by Moses, in the name of the Lord, Pharaoh proudly answered, [Who is Jehovah, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go] This is atheism; and the nation represented by Egypt would give voice to a similar denial of the claims of the living God, and would manifest a like spirit of unbelief and defiance. The |great city| is also compared, |spiritually| to Sodom. The corruption of Sodom in breaking the law of God was especially manifested in licentiousness. And this sin was also to be a pre-eminent characteristic of the nation that should fulfill the specifications of this scripture.

According to the words of the prophet, then, a little before the year 1798 some power of satanic origin and character would rise to make war upon the Bible. And in the land where the testimony of God's two witnesses should thus be silenced, there would be manifest the atheism of the Pharaoh and the licentiousness of Sodom.

This prophecy has received a most exact and striking fulfillment in the history of France. During the Revolution, in 1793, |the world for the first time heard an assembly of men, born and educated in civilization, and assuming the right to govern one of the finest of the European nations, uplift their united voice to deny the most solemn truth which man's soul receives, and renounce unanimously the belief and worship of a Deity  France is the only nation in the world concerning which the authentic record survives, that as a nation she lifted her hand in open rebellion against the Author of the universe. Plenty of blasphemers, plenty of infidels, there have been, and still continue to be, in England, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere; but France stands apart in the world's history as the single state which, by the decree of her Legislative Assembly, pronounced that there was no God, and of which the entire population of the capital, and a vast majority elsewhere, women as well as men, danced and sang with joy in accepting the announcement.

France presented also the characteristic which especially distinguished Sodom. During the Revolution there was manifest a state of moral debasement and corruption similar to that which brought destruction upon the cities of the plain. And the historian presents together the atheism and the licentiousness of France, as given in the prophecy: Intimately connected with these laws affecting religion, was that which reduced the union of marriage -- the most sacred engagement which human beings can form, and the permanence of which leads most strongly to the consolidation of society -- to the state of a mere civil contract of a transitory character, which any two persons might engage in and cast loose at pleasure.... If fiends had set themselves to work to discover a mode of most effectually destroying whatever is venerable, graceful, or permanent in domestic life, and of obtaining at the same time an assurance that the mischief which it was their object to create should be perpetuated from one generation to another, they could not have invented a more effectual plan than the degradation of marriage.... Sophie Arnoult, an actress famous for the witty things she said, described the republican marriage as 'the sacrament of adultery.

The story continues. This section covers pages 146 [last third] and pages 147 to 157

If you wish you can read these pages here.

 
page 146
 last third
 
page 147
whole page
 
page 148
whole page
 
page 149
whole page
 
page 150
whole page
 
page 151
whole page
 
page 152
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page 153
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page 154
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page 155
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page 156
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page 157
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Shocked at the dreadful scene which had passed [described above in the trenches], and conscious of injurious effect it must have  on the English interest, Sir Charles Grey adopted a line of conduct, equally founded in policy and humanity; he declared that every Frenchman, who had taken the oath of allegiance to the King of England, should receive the same protection that every natural subject of the same  government enjoyed, and, that no capitulation should be made,  before this principle  was positively and explicitly acknowledged  by the enemy.

The healthy and the sick, the dead and the living, were equally the objects of insult, or cruelty. The tomb of the gallant General Dundas had been destroyed on the first landing of the French, and his remains torn from their sanctuary. and thrown into the river by the command of Victor Hugues.   The British officers whom the chance of war had thrown into his power, were condemned to the most servile labours.  But from there they were relieved by the affectionate fidelity and zeal of those, whom they had commanded, who took their tasks upon themselves and disappointed the malice of this demon of persecution.

After the surrender of Berville, Victor Hugues moved towards the town Baffe Terre, our last possession. He destroyed the plantations and seats of the Royalists, as he passed, marking his course with devastation and blood.

The Admiral who had been a helpless spectator of the loss of Berville camp, now lent his whole attention to succour General Prescott, who commanded at Baffe Terre, and on the 9th October anchored within half a cable’s length of the town.  It was determined by the two commanders that the whole force could be collected, should be withdrawn into Fort Matilda, formerly known by the names of Fort Charles, a wretched fortification, the outworks of which being in ruins, instead of benefiting the garrison were a protection to the assailants; and effectually covered their musketry which so entirely covered the works, on three sides, that not a man could stir without being exposed to their fire.

At this time the French Royalists had almost entirely abandoned the English:  the militia who demanded arms refused to garrison the fort and soon deserted to the enemy; and a party in the town ready to burst into insurrection, was alone overawed by the firmness and vigilance of General Prescott, who, while he took every precaution for defeating their plans, wore the appearance of unsuspecting confidence, and continued to ride unattended through the streets with his usual tranquility.  The fort itself was in a miserable condition, having received no repairs since the peace of 1783, and derived no additional strength from the exertions of the commandant, a French Royalist, placed in it by the English, who, either from want of power or indolence, had not procured negroes to repair the dilapidated works.

General Prescott had ordered all the batteries along the coast as well as those on the passes of Palmiste, to be destroyed, the guns spiked, and the magazines blown up;  but the quick approach of the republicans and the insufficiency of the force employed, rendered this precaution vain, and the enemy repaired the damage with success.

For some days after, the whole of his force had been withdrawn into the fort, General Prescott sent parties into the town, and the Boyne still kept the enemy in check; but some guns which the besiegers on an eminence, soon drove the Admiral from his station; though he still continued to hover about the town occasionally moving reinforcements and provisions into the fort, and maintaining a constant communication with the garrison.

On the 20th October, a battery on a post called Houelment  opened on the Terpsichore [MY COMMENT]   a 32 guns Amazon class Frigate but without effect; and some shells,  thrown by the garrison, silenced the fire, though the enemy soon resumed their courage and returned to their guns.  The next days they repeated their attacks on the frigate and compelled her to shelter herself from their shot by getting close in with the land.

During the Boyne’s stay on the coast, she was frequently engaged with the batteries, and exposed to the mortars, which the French began to play upon her with a great deal of judgement.  On the 23rd, she engaged the battery which had at first driven her from her station; she afterwards attacked a battery which the enemy itself had just possessed themselves, at the north-west end of the town, and drove them out; but the necessity of her occasionally  hauling off the shore, eventually enabled the French to complete their purpose. But they never could succeed in preventing her from approaching the land and maintaining an intercourse with the fort. On the last occasion, Captain Bowen of the Terpsichore, eminently distinguished himself, having anchored his ship to a fort in the bay under  Houelment.

On the 25th, Captain Rogers in the Quebec, Captain Riou in the Beaulieu, and Captain Vaughan in the Zebra, [MY COMMENTS]   Quebec = 32 gun 5th rate frigate – Beaulieu 38 gun 5th rate frigate – Zebra 18 gun sloop] returned from a cruise on which they had been detached by the Admiral and joined the fleet.

The French commander in the meantime,  daily increased his forces by pressing the negroes on the different estates into his army, punishing every incidence of defection from his Standard or reluctance to in-lift with instant execution.

The English however maintained their ground well, and took every measure  their confined means would allow, to maintain their last stake. On the night of the 26th, Lieutenant James at the head of a party of seamen, marched out of the fort and set fire to the military hospital, a post of some consequence, of which the enemy might have successfully availed themselves.

A few days afterward, the Boyne sailing,  as usual towards the fort was becalmed by the high ground at Houelment and exposed to a cannonade from the battery for several hours, but she escaped out of the bay, without receiving any damage though she was a very small distance from the enemy’s works whose elevated disposition precluded the possibility of their being annoyed in returned.

The republicans now began to press the siege with increased vigour, and on the 5th November ten batteries opened at the same instance on the British garrison; while a party of the besiegers, under cover of night, took post with a field-piece on the brow of a hill, under which the Terpischore and the Experiment were anchored [MY COMMENT Experiment = Troop ship of 44 guns and rated  a 4th rate frigate]. There, as soon as the seamen were arranged to wash the decks, poured in a shower of musketry from above, which completely confounded the crews of both frigates, who had not the least idea of such an attack.  The Experiment whose captain happened to be absent, endeavoured to escape, but being becalmed could not effect her purpose till after a considerable time.  Captain Bowen in Terpsichore met this storm with his usual coolness.  He immediately ordered up all the muskets that could be found, and encouraged his men to return the fire which they did with some success till the field-pieces were brought to bear on them;  this at length compelled them to weigh anchor as they were infinitely too much below their enemy to bring their great guns into use and attempt any serious retaliation.

During the whole siege the garrison were obliged to bring their water from the River Galion; the besiegers having cut off the aqueduct that supplied a tank in the fort; their water became foul. To remedy this distress they were obliged to send a party every morning and every evening to the river. Protected by an armed detachment; while cohorns and grapeshot fired into the ravines and woods beyond the Galion, secured the men employed on these expeditions from any serious molestation. [MY COMMENT]  - A cohorn is a small wooden portable mortar launcher carried using four wooden handles either by four men or two men.

No event of any consequences now happened for a some  days, except that Victor Hugues sent an indolent summons which General Prescott treated with contempt. But it was clear that the garrison could not much longer resist the increased force of the enemy; nor was a small reinforcement, which arrived about this time from England, capable of turning the tide of affairs in this island.   Sir John Jervis and Sir Charles Grey, exhausted by the climate and the service, and finding it impossible to struggle any longer for Guadaloupe, with any possibility of success, embarked for England resigning their commands** to Sir John Vaughan and Admiral Caldwell, who brought with him three ships of the line.  The English officers were now nearly destroyed by the pestilential fever, the men suffered dreadfully by its ravages, the small force, in the West Indies islands rendered the further reinforcement of the garrison impracticable and the fort was nearly in ruins.

** [MY COMMENT] -  Something I suspect, not well known in the navy, for weren't all British admiral's stoic-hero's  who stood their corner to the end and did not abandon their charges? Also probably not well known or perhaps conveniently ignored, was the use of the Guillotine upon brave and competent  French naval officers, simply because they loved their king [warts and all] and couldn't stomach the early-revolution rabble who administered the new republic. Although the French Revolution started with the storming of the Bastille in Paris in July 1789, it wasn't until four years later in 1793 that the Jacobins took over that 'the reign of terror' began. In that year, in the Atlantic Brest squadron there was a major mutiny known as the QUIBERON MUTINY. The British put down their naval mutinies of the eighteenth century by sheer and utter harsh discipline and by punishing the direct leaders, who were virtually all lower-deckers [pressed or volunteers] and rarely, if ever, officers [except for the Bounty and Captain Bligh]. British mutinies were always against British naval authority of British government edicts [Invergordon for example], and the worst one was in HMS Hermione [1797], reputed to be the bloodiest when all but two of her many officers were brutally murdered. It took several years to find all the offenders [a few only were never found]  and all [40 odd] were left dangling from the end of a rope.  In the case of the Quiberon Mutiny it was the near-rebellious attitude of the French Royalist officers who did not take kindly to the civilian-led  republican revolution and took great exception to having republican officers promoted above them,  and to cover the short fall of republican loyal officers, the recruitment into naval service of republican mercantile navy officers. The royalist officers, the majority of whom were cashiered but others Guillotined for disobedience,  were the 'cream' of the French navy, and losing them en-bloc rendered their navy in part, less than competent as compared to pre-mutiny times.  Very few lower deck sailors were disciplined and none was put to death! Perhaps the greatest error made by the republicans during the reign of terror was to Guillotine one Charles d'Estaing a loyal and famous army general and also a navy admiral with an enormous following of devotees, simply because he was a friend of the royal's. It was an act which decimated naval morale! In an endeavour to restore the French Republican Navy to its former glory as French Royal Navy, Napoleon tasked Admiral Latouche Treville to oversee that transition. He never achieved it, and he died, probably as an exhausted and broken officer in 1804. Napoleon's navy were never again up for the job!

Less than one year later,  the first of the French Revolutionary Sea Wars took place between the British and the French Republic, and the Brest Squadron were heavily involved. At this time because of the uncertainties of the revolution which caused gross and wide spread corruption as bad if not worse that the pre revolution royal corruption of Louis XVI's reign, the people of Paris were starving. Their allies in the America's shipped a massive convoy of transports across the Atlantic loaded with grain which at all costs had to make a satisfactory and planned land fall. It was escorted by French Republican warships. The British fleet were tasked to destroy the warships and the convoy to help prolong Paris' agony.  We British celebrate this war and call it the battle of the "Glorious 1st June" of 1794, in which Admiral Lord Howe tactically defeated the French whilst acknowledging a strategic victory for the French. We badly mauled and damaged their warship escorts but the convoy got through and delivered the grain to a thankful French people. This badly damaged fleet remained harbour-bound for a considerable period allowing the British fleet total dominance in the Mediterranean.  The French, under Admiral Villaret Joyeuse, called the battle the "3rd Battle of Ushant."   Can I, dare I, even suggest that were it not for the Quiberon Mutiny and the dire consequences for the French royalist naval officers, Britain could well have lost the war in every respect. Shouldn't we at least factor this into our history? 

Can you have ever envisaged, at any time in our illustrious past, our navy being called anything other than the Royal Navy. Frenchmen of the first half of 1789 would not have believe that that was possible, for by every account, the French Royal Navy was just as professional as was our Royal Navy, and history shows that its destruction came just as much from the French people as from the great British navy and its incomparable admirals. !

Their melancholy  circumstances determined General Prescott to preserve those of his garrison, whom disease  had spared, for the defence of our other possessions; and the plan for embarking the troops being arranged with Admiral Thompson, the evacuation was effected on the 10th December without loss though two of the garrison deserted to the enemy on the same morning.  These men had not been able to penetrate the intentions of the commander; so little conscious were the Republicans of the real plans of the British, that they kept up an incessant cannonade and bombardment for three hours, after the embarkation had been completed.

In consequence of these losses, an attempt was made by a small party to inculpate the two Commanders-in-Chief of the West Indian expedition.  They asserted that the rapacity of Sir Charles Grey and Sir John Jervis had alienated the minds of the French colonists had been the primary cause of the loss of Guadeloupe, and incitement of that spirit of revolt, which soon extended itself to the other islands; but the attempt was triumphantly repelled*.

*  I have obtained from the investigation of this question, both because such a discussion would exceed the limits of this, and because I found it impossible to procure complete material for the purpose.

The melancholy termination of the campaign will not lessen the estimation of our services of our forces in the West Indies.  Never were enterprises so ably planned , or more spiritedly executed than theirs, against every disadvantage of climate, and an enemy so infinitely superior in numbers.  The troops indeed which were opposed to them consisted in great measure of blacks and people of colour; but they were perhaps more calculated for this species of warfare  than European forces.

The French have attempted to lessen the merit of the achievements, performed by this armament by asserting that their successes were entirely owing to the disaffection which prevailed amongst the colonists towards the Government at home. Without any wish to deprive the royalists of that share of the merit which is their due, it is fair to observe, that, when in the year 1793, an attack was made on Martinique, which rested entirely on their support, the enterprise utterly failed; and that both in the attack on Martinique and Guadeloupe in the present year, their services in the field were more than counterbalanced by the superior numbers with which the same cause which ranged them under our Standard, filled up the ranks of the blacks and people of colour; and which created an enthusiasm in the republican army, infinitely more dangerous even than the augmentation of their force. At the same time, other services than those which were rendered by the royalists in the field, must have been derived from the co-operation of so powerful a party in the attack on both these islands; and the military services of a detachment of them in the subsequent defence of Guadeloupe, and the melancholy fate, which was the sad reward for their gallantry, will ever give them the strongest claim to our admiration and regret.

In describing the various operations of a war, raging in every part of the world, the greatest confusion would result from continually shifting the scene; for this reason, the narrative of the campaign in the West Indies has not been interrupted, nor the actors diminished from the stage till the achievement had been met.

 

Amen!