Mustering troops in Hampshire before the French Wars
The person with the greatest responsibility for a county’s defence was the lord lieutenant. The lieutenancy was a Tudor creation, at the time, the latest stage in the development of the defence system of England and Wales. Every county was to have its lord lieutenant in much the same the way as a sheriff and the quarter sessions. The lieutenancy was no easy job. It entailed military and civil duties, but the military duties were the more extensive. The lieutenant had to muster the county’s militia. Every fit male from 16 to 60 years old was liable to be mustered, but only a small part of the muster was actually trained to use arms. Those selected were to be sorted into bands, trained and exercised.
All soldiers, even these part-time trained bands, cost money. Therefore lieutenants had always to weigh the threat of danger against the expense of providing a force to meet it: they must not train more men than necessary, or charge the landholders and other inhabitants of their county with more rates than they could easily bear.
The Crown held the lieutenant responsible for fixing the overall rate on the county and the quota to be paid by each Hundred (division) within their county, and for seeing that each gentleman below the rank of baron contributed his fair share of money, horses, arms and armour. He always needed a full purse of money, as costs were high. His officers required expenses and the men required wages. Ordinary soldiers were usually fed, clothed, and even armed at public expense. In addition the lieutenant had responsibility for keeping the county signal beacons in good order and ready for emergency use (these were placed on the top of hills around the county to warn of invasion).
The lord lieutenant relied upon a number of people to help him in his tasks, including two or more deputy lieutenants, the county’s sheriff, the justices of the peace, and the county’s constables. When he required a muster, he informed the High Constable. He in turn informed the parish constables, who each saw to it that at the Sunday service in their parish, that the priest announced the date and place of the
Social rank went a long way to determine military rank. Just as the lord lieutenant was almost always an earl or a baron, so the deputy lieutenants tended to be knights or substantial esquires, and the captains esquires or gentlemen. Hampshire’s lord lieutenants during the French Wars were Charles Ingleby Paulet, Earl of Wiltshire, Thomas Orde Paulet 1st Baron Bolton (see letters patent of George III appointing Thomas Lord Bolton, Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, HRO 11M49/F/O34), JamesHarris, 1st Earl of Malmesbury. In practice, the captains of each Hundred were the officers who paid the wages of the trained bands. Another of the captain’s tasks was
“to sort his men’s armour and weapons according to the stature of their bodies.
The lists of men serving with the militia, known as Muster rolls, are more frequent in the pre and post English Civil War period (see 44M69 Jervoise of Heriard collection, for example). A few stray Muster rolls survive in family papers, such as the Muster roll of `Captain Lord Porchester’s (2nd Earl of Carnarvon’s) Company’, Wiltshire Militia, Seaford Camp, October 1794 (HRO 75M91/B21/4).
Correspondence between the lord lieutenant and Justices of the Peace (JPs) about musters also survive within some family papers. An example from the beginning of the wars with France in 1796, include a bundle of letters to Captain George Purefoy Jervoise from members of the North Hants Militia; three of those from Captain Harris informing him of a muster soon to take place and where the winter quarters are to be (HRO 44M69/G6/2/1/2). Other letters to Jervoise from R Firth, mention a deserter.
James Eades from Mapledurwell, and someone called Taylor another deserter.
Perhaps one of the more interesting documents is a Memorandum book of the Loyal City of Winchester Volunteers which was formed 1803 (HRO 182M84W/1). The volume contains a variety of information about the Corps including rules and regulations, muster rolls (giving age, marital status and other details about the volunteers), returns of ammunition and men, minutes of the Volunteers committee, copy correspondence and accounts. Interesting entries concern the relationship between Winchester College boys and the volunteers, 1804.
On a larger scale, the Quarter Sessions records contain a volume with a tabulated account of the state of the various local corps of Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry in the Hants Volunteer Force in the period 1794-1825 (HRO Q30/5/50). The volume lists the officers of each corps in the Hampshire Volunteer Force with the date they were accepted, date of commission, date gazetted, date promoted and date resigned as well as other pertinent remarks.
Muster rolls continued to be used in practice up to the two world wars in the 20th century.
Background to the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
The French Revolution of 1789 and establishment of a new French Republic had a huge impact on wider Europe, which led to a series of wars against France by coalitions of foreign powers. The first attempt to crush the French Republic came in 1793 when Austria, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of Naples, Prussia, Spain and the Kingdom of Great Britain formed the First Coalition. The war ended when
General Napoleon Bonaparte forced the Austrians to accept his terms in the Treaty of Campo Formio. At this point in time only Great Britain remained opposed to the French Republic.
A Second Coalition was formed in 1798 by Austria, Great Britain, the Kingdom of Naples, the Ottoman Empire, the Papal States, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and other states. During the War of the Second Coalition, the French Republic suffered from corruption and internal division. The Austrians were defeated at Hohenlinden in 1800 and left the conflict after the Treaty of Lunéville (9 February 1801), forcing Britain to sign the “peace of Amiens” with France.
The British Army during the wars with France
After the English Civil War (1642-1651), the raising of a militia was suspended until the Militia Act of 1757. Following this Militia Act, the militia remained a standalone county force until the Cardwell Reforms of 1872, which saw the militia attached to the regular county regiments of the army. The county based Lord Lieutenant had responsibility for raising the local militia (see Introduction above). Petty Magistrates and Parish Constables distributed Household Forms which were given to each household and completed with details about each adult male (a form of census). From the forms, the Militia Ballot List was drawn up showing all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 50 (lowered to age 42 in 1762). For a printed book ‘A Digest of the New Militia Law which received the Royal Assent’ endorsed ‘Thomas
Hall, 1762’, see (HRO 44M69/G6/3/3/4).
Some parishes reacted negatively to the changes in the Militia arrangements as thisoften meant having to support financially or in-kind the families of serving militiamen. For example, a resolution was taken at a meeting of the Odiham parish vestry for the removal of persons who were liable for the militia ballot and whose families might thereby become chargeable to the parish The vestry was also critical at the lack of a poor relief committee (HRO 47M81/PV5).
The issue of entitlement to legal settlement within a parish, and therefore poor relief as needed, became a vexed one, with parishes eager to rid themselves of potential unwanted expenditure as above. This can be seen in two settlement examinations Elizabeth Grant faced in 1761. At her first settlement examination she stated that she was born at Little St Swithun Winchester; at Michaelmas 1755 she hired herself to John Robinson of Little St Swithun for a year, which she duly served and then she went on to serve him another 5 months (HRO 74M81W/PO19/2). At a subsequent ‘voluntary examination’ of Elizabeth Grant, described as singlewoman, in connection with a bastardy case, it was said that she was expecting a child or children likely to be chargeable on the parish of Little St Swithun, Winchester. Elizabeth Grant had told the Vestry that the father was Robert Haynes, a private in the Warwickshire Militia (HRO 74M81W/PO19/11). This was not uncommon and vexed the parish authorities.
Not all families were lucky enough to be spared a removal order from the parish they were living in if their husband was serving in the militia. For example, a removal order issued by East Woodhay parish concerning Martha, wife of William Yalden, a private soldier in the West Kent Militia, shows she was removed to East Woodhay from Kentbury, Berks in 1782 (HRO 27M77/PO1/85)
Another settlement examination, of John Batt, a private soldier in His Majesty’s Regiment of Militia, for Dorset, taken 24th January 1782 at Fordingbridge, recorded that at 9 years old he was apprenticed to John Weeks of Fordingbridge, a butcher, for 6 years and served him for 4 years; he has a wife Sarah (HRO 24M82/PO8/13). A few months later on 24th September 1782 an order was issued for the removal of his wife, Sarah Batt, from Standford Dingley, Berkshire to Fordingbridge. Sarah was being sent to the parish where her husband had spent time living as an apprentice (HRO 24M82/PO10/67).
However, some Justices of the Peace (JPs) took their responsibilities towards the maintenance of militiamen’s families seriously. A printed letter from the Clerk of the Peace, G Durnford, was sent to the churchwardens and overseers of Hampshire parishes, with an order from JPs re the care and provision for families of militia substitutes and volunteers (HRO 202M85/4/10/3). Orders for payments to the families of a militia volunteers were also issued, as at Breamore, where Elizabeth, wife of James Brothers and her children Harriott (7), James (4), Elizabeth (2) and Sarah (6 weeks), were to be supported in October 1794 (HRO 20M83/PO35/2).
Despite the social upheaval affecting families there was a need for volunteer militiamen and therefore a need for the government to maintain supplies for musters and, in the event of a siege of British ports by the French, to know whether England could subsist. This led to renewed organisation of the militia and a survey of counties to establish the strength, and weaknesses, that existed countrywide.
The defence of the realm
The Posse Comitatus, or civil power, was a survey of all men taken in 1798 capable of acting in a military capacity who were not Quakers, clergymen or already serving in a military unit. Men between the ages of 15 and 60 were included. The first such survey appears to have been conducted by the lord lieutenant of Dorset in 1797. The publicity that followed caused several other counties to conduct similar surveys. The survey was conducted against the background of war with revolutionary France, and the risk of invasion by French forces. By February 1798, Britain had been at war with France for five years.
Complete returns for the Posse Comitatus of 1798 survive for no county in England and Wales other than Buckinghamshire. However, summaries or partial lists exist for some counties, including Hampshire (Returns from parishes made under the Defence of the Realm Act, 1798 HRO Q22/1/2/5). These returns (Posse Comitatus lists), which provided authority to a law officer to conscript any able-bodied males to assist him, are a chance survival among Land Tax Assessments. Only a relatively few hundreds and parishes in Hampshire are represented.
The returns comprise of several forms A-F as follows for inhabitants of each hundred, tithing or parish:
A. Schedule No. 1: giving total numbers of men between 15 and 60 years; numbers of infirm or incapable; numbers serving in Volunteer Corps and armed associations; aliens (foreigners); Quakers; numbers incapable of removing themselves (disabled
B Schedule No. 2: giving statement of live and dead stock, waggons, carts, corn mills and the amount of corn they can grind in a week, flour, meal, malt and local produce.
C Schedule No. 3: giving numbers of persons willing to serve, whether on foot or on horseback, how armed and whether willing to act as servants with cattle, servants with teams or guides.
D Form No. 1: return by nobility, gentry and yeomanry giving subscribers names and the numbers of waggons, carts, horses, drivers and conductors they can provide.
E Form No. 1: return by millers giving subscribers names, the names and situations of water and wind mills, how many sacks of flour can be produced by each mill in 24 hours and whether the wheat is provided by subscribers (landowners, villagers etc).
F Form No. 2: return by bakers giving subscribers names, the number of loaves that can be baked in 24 hours by the usual number of hands and with extra help, the quantity which would keep each oven working constantly, the fuel used and whether in plentiful supply.
The aim of the forms was to give the authorities a clear idea of the likely strength of a local militia and how prepared their county and districts were for invasion or a blockade of ports
Notices were sent out to men eligible to serve in the militia, such as that to John Philip of Blendworth, a house servant, who was to attend at Petersfield to take the oath and be enrolled to serve in the Augmented Hampshire Militia ‘during the present 1 NB Returns D to F described above exist only for Portsdown Hundred.
Returns A to C exist for other hundreds/parishes/tithing.
War’ 18th February 1797, Signed by T Dotterill, constable (HRO 50M72/O1). Similarly, at Basingstoke a notice was served on John Hobgood and John Wheelwright that they have been chosen by lot to serve in the militia, 27 Apr 1798 (HRO 44M69/G6/2/4/3). Orders were subsequently issued to cover payment of men who acted as substitutes for those nominated to serve in the militia. Such an order
was made at Brockenhurst in the New Forest on 4th August 1781 to pay Stephen Earley, labourer, £3. 13s. 6d for volunteering as a substitute (HRO 4M81/PO34/28).
Details of what the militiaman could expect when called up to join a militia unit can be found in a printed notice of Pay, Privileges and Duty of a Militia Man in Hampshire (HRO 44M69/G6/3/1/31). Similarly, the requirements for officers can be found in a booklet entitled ‘warrant for Increasing and regulating the pay and allowance of noncommissioned Officers and Private men of Corps of Infantry serving at home’, dated 25 May 1797 (HRO 44M69/G6/2/4/3).
The Jervoise family had been associated with the county’s militia since before the English Civil Wars, and their family papers contain a wealth of information, including much printed material, on the workings of the militia system at the time of the French Wars, including: printed instructions relative to the mode of substituting the volunteers from the militia and to the payment of their bounty, 1807; copy of ‘Act for completing the militia of Great Britain’ 27 May 1809; minutes of meeting of gents resident in North Hants desirous of forming a regiment of Yeomanry held at Odiham, 27th November 1830; printed minutes of the Lieutenancy of the County of Southampton and the town of Southampton held 20th September 1803 (HRO 44M69/G6/2/4/15).
A number of families bought commissions for their sons at the time of the French Wars, which could be lucrative if the ‘boy’ was willing and able. An example of this is the Commission of Charles Dodd as a 1st Lieutenant in the Lymington Fuzileers (Fusiliers) in 1798 (HRO 22M75/F40). Not all families were successful, however, as Hans Sloane found out when seeking a commission for his son William with the Prince of Wales Regiment. In a letter dated May 1806, he complains with great indignation on his own and on his son’s behalf at the shabby treatment he has received over William’s commission. Three months earlier Colonel Cartwright had reported the Prince of Wales’ pleasure at hearing of William’s wish to join his regiment and said that he should have a commission without purchase. A Mr Greenwood had just written to him however saying that only two commissions without purchase are being made to persons Recommended by the Prince and the Duke of York, but that William, if he waits some months, might then be given one. Sir Hans felt that William should think carefully before pursuing this commission as he might meet with more disappointment and virtual breach of promise. “I do assure you that I am extremely hurt at the manner in which your just pretensions have now been set aside…” (HRO 28M57/67/3)
The wars with France
The fate of French emigres in Hampshire
A number of letters written mainly by French noblemen (emigres) addressed to officials, ministers and other public figures at various places in England and France survive at Hampshire Archives and have been bound into two volumes (HRO 109A02). A number of the letters are endorsed to William Wickham who was Undersecretary of State and Superintendent of Aliens. Examples from the letters show that many of the French emigres were anxious to return to their home country for counter revolutionary purposes, sometimes making or offering deals to obtain passports, travel, money etc.
In a letter (in French) from L Cordier, at Bishops Waltham to an unknown recipient (possibly local agent Mr Dundas) dated 29th October 1793, the writer describes himself as ‘an unfortunate who has no other hope but your kindness’. He wrote to the same recipient on September 23rd explaining that he was a passenger on the SS ‘Non-Pareil’ which left the Ile de France on April 11th 1793. Mr Dundas acknowledged receipt of Monsieur Cordier’s letter of the 23rd of the month and gave the order for his repatriation providing that ‘he will send back an Englishman of the same rank who is a prisoner in France’ . In his letter Monsieur Cordier now gives his word of honour that on his arrival in France he will do his best to send back in exchange an English prisoner of the same rank. All his ‘comrades in misfortune’ who were on the same vessel have received their passports to travel and Monsieur Cordier fears that the order from Mr Dundas regarding his (Cordier’s) has been lost in the administration offices.
In another letter (in French) from an unknown emigre to the Rt Hon Richard Ryder in London, 11th October 1811, the writer begs permission to explain a plan which will benefit the British Crown as well as all the British people. ‘What would it cost to grant him a passport? Why are they so incredulous? Why will they not see him and let him explain his actions? Can they not punish him if he fails and if he abuses the precious time they have left in which to oppose the criminal storm which is spreading from day to day?’ He begs pardon for writing by post and for being unable (for the first time in his life) to sign his name, but he knows that his handwriting will be recognised.
A further letter (in French), from an unknown Frenchman in a London prison, to an unknown recipient, (no date, post 1793) gives details of his travels since leaving France. He and his wife arrived at Bristol in December 1791 and left on November 19th 1792. His wife had the financial means to buy their freedom but all had been taken from them and they have had nothing since December 5th 1793. They almost lost their lives many times in prison. They were given a choice to return to France or stay in prison. He tried to get passports for himself and his wife but was passed from one official to another and eventually sent to a London prison where they are now and are very wretched. He gives details of ill treatment in prison and begs for help.
In a letter (in French) dated 5th Mar 1794, Captain de Guienne, wrote from Ostend concerning false accusations about himself and requested a passport.
‘Sir, I am overcome by ills of all kinds since you judged it necessary to have me arrested in Dover and subsequently brought here without any passport. Allow me, I beg you, to explain that in the matter of crime and especially of spying, of which someone unjustly accused me, there is nothing between death and freedom and I have neither one nor the other. If I had been granted a trial in England, I would have been able to prove incontrovertibly that the papers which were judged incriminating because the key to understanding them was missing, were in fact the necessary disguise for a counter revolutionary plan whose success would have forwarded the interests of the court in London regarding the coast of Normandy – my homeland’.
Some noblemen even wrote to the King, George lll, begging for help:
‘Sire, Among the royal virtues which your Majesty possesses, and which make him a model among kings, his kindness and generosity embolden me to take the liberty of addressing him with the deepest respect due to his elevated person, from the last and only survivor of the House of Bailleu ?
Two of my ancestors, Sire, nearly six centuries ago, bore in turn one of the three crowns which now, for the glory and happiness of the British Empire and the whole world, adorn in glory the revered head of Your Majesty. Left the last of three brothers, of whom two perished – weapons in hand – in the present conflict, I have for five years enjoyed the shelter which the powerful protection of your Gracious Majesty has extended to my unfortunate compatriots.But in this time, stripped of all my goods, I have only been able to survive by the labour of my own hands, not having dared ask anything of Your Majesty’s kindness without my being able to supply authentic proof of the titles which could support my claim.’
That emigres openly discussed counter revolutionary plans in their letters, suggests that Hampshire’s potential role in supporting and supplying some emigres with the means to fight the revolutionaries, could be seen as key to the situation in France.
Amongst the letters is a detailed list (in French) of a proposed cavalry force (note on reverse marked confidential and sent to Lord Elgin), dated 14th January with no year given, but likely 1790s. The writer makes a proposal for the formation of a cavalry force about 600 strong. He states that the emigres are not asking for money or equipment or formal recognition, they merely want permission and use of a building
near the Belgian frontier for lodging. Their military aim would be to harass the enemies on the frontier, pillage convoys, burn provisions etc. (i.e. guerilla warfare not a military operation).
He wrote that they would also attempt to destroy revolutionary societies, encourage troops to desert and townspeople to revolt against revolutionary rule so as to increase the numbers opposed to the present French government (their political aim). Their personal aim would be to provide a means of subsistence for emigres by taking back what was stolen from them and selling goods to raise money for the
future. All members of such a force would be equal and without rank with only one leader whom they would obey without question. That leader would choose a ‘lieutenant’ for each particular sortie. Each volunteer would have a horse, shotgun, sword, 2 pistols, a dagger and body armour but no cannon. They would take the uniform of the French cavalry which is not tricolour. They would not be subject to Austrian or English commands. The only help they would request would be to withdraw to a foreign army in case of retreat.
The writer concluded by stating that if it seems surprising that Frenchmen wish to wage a war of destruction on other Frenchmen, it can be explained by ‘revenge, reciprocity and necessity.’
Other stories contained in these letters tell of daring escapes from France. Writing from Portsmouth on 17th October 1792, Thomas Trigge, sent a letter to Messrs W T and W Raites in London, stating that he has been occupied helping French emigres who had arrived in Portsmouth. He gives details of the adventures of a French Countess who stayed in Paris as long as she could. When her coach and horses
were taken, with one servant killed and herself in danger – as her husband was away in the Emigrant army – she fled to Le Havre, and disguised as a sailor boarded an English ship. Trigge asks Messrs Raikes to assist her. He states that she is a charming woman of about thirty and lively when she can forget her circumstances. She was staying in Portsmouth until her luggage arrived as it was being forwarded by an Englishman in Le Havre.
Trigge also noted that in Portsmouth there are over 500 priests – ‘who behave as well as possible!’ The plight of French clergy is often overlooked when considering the impact of the French Revolution, with the emphasis on nobility, but letters in the collection show their determination to return to a secure France one day.
French priests in Hampshire
In addition to military personnel there were many Priests held in confinement, including several hundred in the King’s House, Winchester. These were not so much prisoners of war as unfortunates who had been exiled from France where religious persecution was rife. As with the military POWs the Priests movements were restricted and they had to apply for passports to move between towns or out of the country.
In the summer of 1790 the French revolutionary government introduced its Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Papal influence was to be minimised and clergy were to become salaried civil servants, bound to the state by an oath of loyalty. Most French bishops and many priests rejected the new legislation. In the following spring so did the Pope. By the time of the 1791 Catholic Relief Act a few French priests had already sought refuge in England. These were mainly clergy from aristocratic backgrounds and therefore most at risk.
Letter (in French) from clergymen of St Malo written from Southampton, 25th November 1793.
‘Sir, It was only from the purest motives of honour and religion that we made the sacrifice of leaving our country and the same motives will make us return as soon as we are allowed to do so safely. If, therefore, Sir, any circumstances should arise whereby the clergy of St. Malo, now resident in Southampton, could be in any way useful to the English government in contributing – by means of their ministry and the confidence that their compatriots have always had in them – to the restoration of peace and order in the town of St. Malo, they are ready to devote themselves to this worthy aim, even at the expense of their well being, their freedom and even their lives. You can, Sir, count on us being always ready to respond with all discretion and prudence to whatever your wisdom decrees.
With respect, your humble and obedient servants, Launay, Morier, Le Joliff, clergy of St Malo in Britain, at 116, High Street Southampton’.
Note on reverse ‘The curates and vicars of St. Malo.’ (HRO 109A02/2/21)
Meanwhile the French revolutionary government retaliated to the Church’s rejection of the Civil Constitution; after August 1792 a priest not taking the oath faceddeportation. A mass exodus of clergy followed. They went to the Low Countries, Germany, Russia, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Protestant Britain. By September 1792 there were 1,500 French priests in England and in little more than a year the number
rose to about 5,000.
Initially the British Government used the King’s House at Winchester (see below) as a hostel for some of these priests. It could house more than 600 at a time, although conditions were fairly poor. When in 1796 the government feared a French invasion, it converted the King’s House into a barracks, dispersing many of the priests.
The impact of the wars with France on French POWs
No consensus exists as to when the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1799) ended and the Napoleonic Wars began. However, the traditional view is that the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were seen as a series of continuing wars between Napoleon’s French Empire and opposing coalitions. Unlike its many coalition partners, Britain remained at war throughout the period of the Napoleonic Wars.
On March 12, 1780, a table of exchange of prisoners of war, with the equivalent ransom rates, had been agreed to between European powers, ranging from 60 men for an admiral or field-marshal to one man for a common sailor or soldier in the regular services, and from four men for a captain to 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.
In 1798 an arrangement about the exchange of prisoners was agreed between England and France. France was to send a vessel with British prisoners, 5 per cent of whom were to be officers, and England was to do the same.
The agents on each side were to select the prisoners. It was also ruled that the prisoners in each country were to be supported by their own country, and that those who were sick, wounded, incapacitated, or boys, should be surrendered without equivalent. But in 1799 the
French Republican Government refused to clothe or support its prisoners in Britain, so that all exchanges of prisoners ceased. Pending the interchange of correspondence which followed the declaration of this inhuman policy, the French prisoners suffered terribly, especially as it was winter, so that in January 1801, on account of the fearful mortality among them, it was resolved that they should be supplied with warm clothing at the public expense, and this was done, the cost being very largely defrayed by voluntary subscriptions in all parts of the Kingdom.
The foreign prisoner of war (POW) in Britain, if an ordinary sailor or soldier, was confined either on board a prison ship or in prison ashore. Officers of certain 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. There were many rotten prison hulks on the rivers around the UK (several were moored at Portsmouth).
During the Napoleonic wars there were up to 122,000 enemy sailors and soldiers held in captivity. The officers were held in 50 parole towns, including Bishops Waltham in Hampshire..
2 Basingstoke, Alresford, Andover, Whitchurch and Odiham were also parole towns during the Seven
Years War with France (1756-63)
Life in a Parole Town
There were between 200-300 prisoners per town, and before any officer was allowed to reside in a parole town he was required to sign a document promising to observe certain rules. Having done this he was said to be “on parole”.
This took the following form:
“whereas the commissioners for conducting His Majesty’s transport service and for the care and custody of French officers and Sailors detained in England have been pleased to grant…[name]…leave to reside in…[town]…upon condition that he gives his parole of honour not to withdraw one mile from the boundaries prescribed there without leave for that purpose from the said Commissioners, that he will behave himself decently and with due regard to the laws of the kingdom, and 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 we will keep it inviolably.”
In all parole towns, including Alresford and Bishops Waltham, the following notice was posted in prominent positions.
“Notice is hereby given: That all such prisoners of war 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 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 the apprehending them.
And further that such prisoners are to be in their lodgings by 5 o’clock in the winter and 8 in the summer months, and if they stay out later they are liable to be taken up and sent to the agent for such misconduct”.
The above limits are still defined in one part of Bishops Waltham, at ‘Frenchmen’s Bridge’, which marked the 1 mile limit of the town.
During 1810-1812 some 462 French officers across the country broke their parole and escaped to France, and of these, 310 escaped in one year (1812). French prisoners (Officers mainly) were held in ‘open prisons’ whereas British prisoners were held mainly in fortresses and secure castles. The French authorities did not contribute to the keeping of their prisoners, whilst the British gave each French officer half a guinea per week for sustenance. Also being on parole, they were free to find employment locally if they could. French POWs imprisoned at Portchester Castle on Hampshire’s coast were able to buy supplies from a temporary market.
Avove: a plan of Portchester Castle (HRO 51A05/1) showing the layout of the castle during its time as a prison for French POWs. The outline foundations of the stone castle can be seen bottom left and the church top right. Elsewhere can be seen wooden barrack blocks for the POWs with water pumps nearby.
By 1810 the authorities were concerned about mass escapes and decided to move all prisoners inland to Wales, Scotland and Shropshire away from the coast. The Agent at Bishops Waltham, John Penny, was informed in December 1811 that all French prisoners would be moved from the town and by June 1812 this move was complete.
France between the wars
In 1802, the British and French signed the Treaty of Amiens, ending war between the two countries. The treaty is generally considered to be the most appropriate point to mark the transition between the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, although Napoleon was not crowned emperor until 1804. Peace was to last barely a year before the countries were at war again, however. In the interim period some British citizens took advantage of being able to travel to France from England and take in the sights, their letters can prove enlightening.
In 1802 John Bonham (he changed his name to Bonham-Carter in 1827 to inherit his cousin’s estates) wrote to his friend Thomas Holt White from France describing the country and its people (HRO 16M97/4/74).
Boulogne sur Mer, 4th July 1802.
My Dear Friend. We found the voyage from Gravesend to Calais extremely pleasant. We went on board after dinner and got to Calais in time for dinner the next day. To us it was quite a party of pleasure. Perhaps it might be a little more serious to you. But from Dover or any watering place on the coast, you may come with ease between breakfast & dinner and we hope to see you arrive in a short time as I think you may pass part of your Summer here comfortably enough. If sea bathing would be good for Mrs White we have now machines established as good as those at Margate and this is preferable to any Bathing Place I have seen in England, considering the cleanliness of the sands and altogether the beauty of the situation.
France is not so bad as many ardent imaginations would picture it in the crisis of their disappointment, nor is it so good, as I expected and as it ought to be. But it is very well considering the failings, above all the fickleness of its inhabitants. We propose to remain here till the end of September and then to Winter in Paris.
By the end of October 1802 John Bonham’s letters reflected a growing sense that the French, by which he meant Napoleon, had ambitions beyond their reach.
We have now been five weeks in this Capital of the World, as its gay inhabitants love to style it; and they have brought themselves to think that it is in reality. What little opinions I have ventured to form with respect to this country are strengthened every day. We are now very comfortably settled for the Winter, I hope, that is to say if no interruption should take place to the good understanding betwixt these Nations; which I doubt will have a very long continuance. The French views with respect to us are now in general formed upon the old system of rivalship heightened to a degree of intoxication by their successes and increase in territory; so that all descriptions and parties are unanimous on one point, namely that in a short time (in general they say about 3 years) Britain must fall a certain prey to France. No idea of general Liberty but simply that of Conquest and extent of Empire.
With Wellington’s army to Waterloo
‘There were times that day – as the cannon thundered in the thick smoke and soldiers, their faces blackened by powder, were mown down in their hundreds – when defeat seemed as likely as victory’. From Wellington: a personal history, Christopher Hibbert, 1997.
An example of Britain’s continuing opposition to France’s domination of Europe, was the British Army’s provision of long-term support to the Spanish rebellion in the Peninsular War of 1808–1814. Anglo-Portuguese forces under Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, supported the Spanish, which campaigned successfully against the French armies, eventually driving them from Spain, thus allowing Britain to
invade southern France. By 1815, the British Army played the central role in the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.
One of the Generals who fought in Wellington’s army was Sir William Thomas Knollys KCB (1 August 1797 – 23 June 1883). He was educated at Harrow School and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Knollys was commissioned into the 3rd Guards in 1813 and fought in the Peninsular War later that year. Below is a Letter from William Knollys, at the time a young Ensign, to his father from Staines, 28th
February 1814 (HRO 21M69/12/3)
“My Dear Father. We left Birdcage Walk this morning at half past eight and marched to Bedfont without stopping where we breakfasted, remained half an hour and afterwards proceeded to Staines, which altogether is a march of 18 miles. I am rather tired as you may suppose but I have not rode a step of the way. I will write you further particulars another day but I thought you would like to hear I expect Captain Harvey tonight & he means to write to you. I will call at the post office for a letter from you if receive this letter in time.
Prince goes on very well and has done me much service. Tomorrow we go to Bagshot which is a short march. They say there are many troops at Portsmouth and the Kingston Road is full so we came by Staines. I believe nearly 5000 men are ordered to join Lord Wellington’s army. Love to Mama and all at home and excuse this short letter from the tired hand of your affectionate and dutiful son W Knollys”.
He left for France via Portsmouth at the beginning of March 1814 and wrote several letters to his father during his time there.
The Battle of Waterloo was fought thirteen kilometres south of Brussels between the French, under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Allied armies commanded by the Duke of Wellington from Britain and General Blücher from Prussia. The French defeat at Waterloo drew to a close 23 years of war between Britain and France.
The Allied army under the Duke of Wellington was a coalition of British, Dutch, Belgian and German soldiers. Napoleon’s battle plan was to mount an offensive attack on the Allied troops gathering in Belgium and to destroy them. In order to do this he wanted to divide the armies before defeating them separately.
In order to separate Wellington and Blücher’s troops, Napoleon ordered Marshal Ney to advance on Quatre-Bras, a crossroads on the roads between Brussels and Charleroi and Nivelles and Namur. Allied Dutch-Belgium troops under Prince William of Orange were already positioned around the area and succeeded in holding off the French attack until reinforcements arrived.
At Ligny, the Prussian army occupied strongholds of walled gardens, stone houses and farmhouses and lined up on the forward slope of the Ligny Brook with the right guarding the villages of St Armand and St Armand Haye. Although the French were victorious, they failed to totally destroy the Prussian army. They were able to retreat, albeit with numerous injured and dead, north to Wavre (about 18 kilometres east of Waterloo).
Above: one of several maps from an atlas of the Battle of Waterloo (HRO 64M76)
Wellington was short of well-trained infantry and the cavalry were inexperienced. Seeing that his troops were outnumbered by the French, Wellington decided that his best plan was to stand firm until the Prussians could come to his aid. Napoleon hadbuilt up his army from veterans, disenchanted peasants and conscripts, all hastily trained having been assembled at short notice. His strength lay in his artillery and cavalry, which were greater than Wellington’s.
An account of the Battle of Waterloo was written by Sergeant William Clarke Clapham of the Scotch Greys in a letter to his parents dated 8th July 1815 (HR38M49/1/56/19)
He begins his letter with “My Dearest Parents” followed by a long apology for not being able to write to them and keep them informed of the safety and whereabouts of himself and his brother, Mark, both in the Army. The letter was sent from Camp at Natain outside Paris on 8th July 1815. After this preamble he goes on to describe events “on this ground, which is called the Plains of Waterloo”.
“I term this an awful scene, because it is awful to the thoughts of those who hear of it, and even to myself it is so now; but when a man is in the field of slaughter he has none of those feelings. He is endowed with feelings suitable to the task he has in hand. He sees no honour now he has any time allowed for reflection. Dear Brother Mark and myself lay within two hundred yards of each other that night and could not speak to one another. However I learnt that he was safe, and sent him the pleasing news of my safety.
Day at last began to brighten the eastern skies, and no sooner could the two determined armies distinguish each other, then the ensuing thunder of the guns sounded through the distant woods and plains. Every inch of ground was disputed with firmness on both sides until 10 O’clock A.M. when the French again retired into the Forest of Ardinas. Our noble Duke saw the necessity of drawing the French Army from this forest, which was a secure resource for them. He therefore ordered the British Infantry to be drawn off, and the two Brigades of Heavy Cavalry, together with a Brigade of Horse Artillery and a Troop of Rocketeers to cover their retreat.
They commenced their retreat by the Brussels road, and before the infantry were one mile (which the French thought to be completely beaten) on the road he sent his Curassiers (which are the choice troops of France and clad in armour) to attack the British Cavalry. The attack was furious on both sides, but the French were cut down wherever they came, and forced to retire with great loss. They advanced to attack the Light Cavalry several times on the several hills we passed over, but would not face the heavy (cavalry) that day.
The British Cavalry lost a number of men and horses on this occasion chiefly by a brigade of French artillery which they brought to bear upon our lines. We retreated in this manner skirmishing together about 5 miles; and at last the Duke gained the ground, and advantageous position for which he had been working the whole time. He formed his line with great skill and expedition, and placed his canon ready for their approach; the Rocketeers were placed on the road, and the canon on a hill just over them. The moment the French Army came within their reach they opened a most dreadful fire of canon and rockets upon them. The French were stagnated at our sudden stand, as they thought we were completely put to the route but the British Boys gave it so hot that they were forced to retire out of the reach of our shot.”
Sergeant Clapham continued his letter: “This morning for the first time I saw my Brother Mark. He was permitted by the Colonel to come down the hill to our lines. He found me and we had just time to take a dram out of each others flask (as other warriors do) when the word was given to Arms. We shaked hands and took a more than common farewell with each other – adding at the same time if we were both spared we must be seen to send word to each other as soon as possible after the Battle, which we knew well was to be a serious one.” His brother, Mark, was shot through the arm with a musket ball but survived.
Above (HRO 38M49/1/56/19) Sergeant William Clarke Clapham’s letter to his parents with an account of Waterloo.
Another account of the Battle at Waterloo, by Lieutenant-Colonel Leach of the 95th Rifles, recalls the close fighting that took place (HRO 170A12W/D/0725).
“The fierce onset of the French with overwhelming numbers forced back my two Companies on the main body of the 95th Regiment, and this hillock was also instantly assailed in such a manner as to render it impossible for one weak Battalion, consisting of only six Companies, to stem the torrent for any length of time. We were consequently constrained to fall back on the 32nd Regiment, which was in line near the thorn hedge which runs from the Genape road to the left, and along the front of Picton’s Division.
We were closely pressed and hotly engaged during the retrograde movement, and very soon after reaching the spot where the 32nd was in position, a volley and a charge of bayonets caused the French to recoil in disorder and with a heavy loss; and it was at this moment of fire, smoke and excitement that the Heavy Cavalry of our Army suddenly appeared amongst us, and instantly charged that Infantry which the fire and charge of bayonets from Picton’s Division had previously shattered and broken.”
The recollections of Corporal Aldridge, 2nd Battalion 95th Rifles, written down by a superior officer, Colonel Cawler of the 52nd Regiment, also recounts the excitement of the event (HRO 170A12W/D/0723)
“This Battalion brigaded with the 52nd, 71st and 3rd Battalion 95th; was in reserve during the first part of the action, but suffered
considerably, principally from Artillery. It was afterwards moved up into the front line and relieved Brunswickers in squares. It formed a square and moved to the front of the position. A square of the 52nd was the nearest to it and to the right. Saw no friendly troops to the left; the French were in that direction, and annoyed his Battalion very much. French Cavalry charged close at them, and the left face of the square suffered particularly from grape[shot]. After some time retired behind the position, then one wing behind the other and so formed a four-deep line.
The French came up in three columns. Their left was obliquely to his left. They rushed forward three times, and came very close to the
Artillery. The Artillerymen left their guns, except two or three who lay down under them. [He] Saw the 52nd move forward to the right of the
2nd 95th and charge those columns. About the same moment Lord Wellington rode up to the 95th and called out ‘Who commands the
95th?’. Colonel Norcott and Major Wilkins had just been wounded, and at first no Officer answered. Then Lieutenant Dixon who commanded
the second company from the right stepped forward. Lord Wellington said ‘Order the 95th to charge’. Lieutenant Dixon then saw that Captain Logan, who commanded the right Company of the line, was in command and gave the order to him. Captain Logan gave the word
‘Forward’ to the Battalion. The Enemy gave way. One Artilleryman who was lying under the Guns jumped up with a match in his hand and let
off two or three that were loaded. His comrades afterwards used to call him Lord Waterloo.”
Wellington described his victory at Waterloo as a ‘damned near-run thing’. The battle was closely fought and either side could have won, but mistakes in communication, leadership and judgement led, ultimately, to French defeat. This defeat ended Napoleon’s hundred days reign, he was exiled to the island of St Helena where he died in 1821.
Post Waterloo I
In Britain and throughout the Commonwealth, Waterloo and Wellington have been commemorated in the names of streets, railways stations, bridges, public houses and parks. The name ‘Waterloo’ itself has entered the English vocabulary; one who has been defeated after a run of success is said to have ‘met their Waterloo’. The pop group Abba’s winning entry in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest was based on this phrase.
In the immediate aftermath of Waterloo there was much celebration throughout the country. Songs, prayers and plays were written and performed in public places, firework displays were organised and an attempt at providing succour to the wounded and maimed through alms giving and public collections.
A ‘form of prayer and proclamation for the victory over the French at Waterloo, 18th June 1815’ was available at 8s 3d for copies (see HRO26M69/PW1). Collections were made in churches for the relief and benefit of the families of those killed in the Battle of Waterloo, 1815 (6 items in HRO21M65/J2/1/9), plus a letter was sent out from the bishop of Winchester to his clergy asking them to read a letter from the King to their parishioners to encourage donations.
Tichborne parish register of baptisms (HRO139M82/PR2) includes a memoranda of collections made for the relief of families of Waterloo soldiers in 1815, with individual contributions by the likes of Robert Tichborne, Reverends Charles Peters and Samuel Strutt along with Mrs Strutt and three children. The parish raised a total of £8.16.2d, which would be the present-day equivalent of £552.00 using the retail price
Above: Poster for a display of fireworks in the yard of the Swan and Castle Inn, Buckingham, by William Cross (HRO 44M69/K3/84).
Families, as well as individual soldiers, were affected by the conflict. A printed appeal for the relief of sufferers at Battle of Waterloo, with a list of donations made inhouse to house collections at Penton Mewsey, in 1815 was distributed. The total collected amounted to £15.13.2d, the equivalent today of £982.00 using the retail price index. (see HRO 114M82/PW4).
At a personal level, a settlement examination of Elizabeth Harriet Marsh, aged 25, of Ringwood, widow, was taken 1st November 1815 (see below). In which she recounts her travels in Hampshire and Dorset looking for work, beginning as an apprentice in Bridport and finally living in Portsea. On 19th December 1814 she married William Marsh, a private in His Majesty’s Twelfth Regiment of Dragoons, but he was killed at the Battle of Waterloo; she believed his mother was living in the city of Leicester. Herexamination shows that she had one child, a daughter called Harriet aged 6 weeks old. Because of her husband’s untimely death she was now chargeable for poor relief to the parish of Ringwood (HRO 22M84/PO113A/20).
The Irish Rebellion and links to France
The revolution in France and Britain’s preoccupation with defeating Napoleon meant that those opposed to British rule in Ireland saw an opportunity to rid themselves of the English in Ireland. On 12th February 1796 Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone, leader of the United Irishmen, who had been exiled in America arrived in Paris, carrying with him a plan to intimidate Britain and reclaim Irish soil. Wolfe Tone sailed from France to invade Ireland with a force of 14,000 French veteran troops under General Hoche, which arrived off the coast of Ireland at Bantry Bay in December 1796. However, due to bad weather and indecisive leadership the invasion failed and the French fleet was forced to return home. Wolfe Tone was convicted of treason for his failed invasion, but took his own life rather than face the British gallows.
The British government responded to the threat of Irish insurrection and widespread disorders by launching a counter-campaign of martial law from 2 March 1798. On May 23rd, 1798, the Irish Rebellion broke out. Undaunted by their initial attempt at invasion alongside Wolf Tone and buoyed by the Irish unrest, a French expeditionary force was sent to County Mayo to assist in the rebellion against Britain in the
summer of 1798. It had some success against British forces, most notably at Castlebar, but was ultimately routed while trying to reach Dublin. French ships sent to assist them were captured by the Royal Navy off County Donegal.
A document marked ‘Secret’ (HRO 19M61/4394), was sent by the Commissioners at the Admiralty Office, alerting naval officers of an impending threat by French armed forces to support the Irish cause.
Whereas we have ordered Vice Admiral Sir Charles Thompson to receive on board the ships named in the margin such troops as may be at Portsmouth destined for Ireland, and to proceed with them as expeditiously as possible off Waterford, and having disembarked them at that place to repair with the ships of the line above mentioned and cruise off Cape Clear for the purpose of intercepting any supplies of men, arms and ammunition which the Enemy may attempt to convey to Ireland for the use of the Rebels…In case however the Enemy’s squadron should be accompanied by transports, you are to direct the Vice Admiral to use every means in his power to destroy or disable the vessels of that description, before he attacks the Ships of War.
The threat of French assistance to the Irish rebels continued throughout the year and another circular letter (HRO 19M61/4394) was sent, in triplicate, from the Admiralty Office on 24th September 1798, to Captain Faulkner of the ship HMS Diana at Belfast stating that:
Accounts having been received that a squadron consisting either of two ships of the line & seven frigates, or of one ship of the line and eight frigates, had sailed from Brest on the 17th destined, as supposed, for the coast of Ireland. I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you therewith, and to signify their direction to you to proceed without a moments delay with the ship you command and those now with you off Killala Bay, where you may expect to be reinforced by the ships on the northern coast, and others which may be sent to you by Vice Admiral Kingsmill, and use your best endeavours to take or destroy the Enemy’s ships if they should appear upon that part of the coast.
The above was subsequently updated with intelligence to show that ‘The squadron consisted of one Ship of the Line, eight frigates and an armed schooner and appeared to be full of troops’.
Broadsheets like the one above (HRO 21M57/A43/69) are evidence of France’s continuing allegiance to the Irish cause during the revolutionary period.
The range of printed ephemera available within the Archives to illustrate the Irish Rebellion and show links with France is extensive, including “Rebellion Laws to be considered in Parliament Session 1802” (HRO 38M49/5/2), and not least in the collected papers of Charles Agar, 1st Earl of Normanton (1736-1809), which includes orders, reports, broadsheets etc (printed) about the rebellion and its aftermath (HRO21M57/A42-43).
Charles Agar, 1st Earl of Normanton, was an Anglo-Irish Protestant clergyman. Agar had a distinguished career in the Chruch in Ireland, he served as Dean of Kilmore (1765–1768) and Bishop of Cloyne (1768–1779). In 1779 he was admitted to the Irish Privy Council and appointed Archbishop of Cashel, an office he held until 1801, and was then Archbishop of Dublin from 1801 to 1809.
Agar witnessed the uprisings and rebellion of the 1790s. He created personal papers about the Irish army, mostly as manuscript notes. Subjects include augmentation of the army c1768-9; sending troops to America; and the Mutiny Bill 1780 (HRO21M57/A3). His papers also cover the French Revolution and Revolutionary Wars, including news of the French invasion 25th August 1796.
Above: example of a printed ‘news’ notice issued from Dublin Castle about the French forces that landed in Ireland in 1796, from the collection of records associated with Charles Agar (HRO 21M57/A3).
Sourced and Credits to Hants.Gov