Related to The Tory Lover

Supplementary Material for The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett

Francis Abell, Prisoners of War in Britain, 1756 to 1815.

New York: Oxford University Press

1914.

CHAPTER XVII

THE PRISONS ASHORE

9. MILLBAY, NEAR PLYMOUTH


     Saxon prisoners taken at Leuthen were at the 'New Prison,' Plymouth, in 1758. In this year they addressed a complaint to the authorities, praying to be sent elsewhere, as they were ostracized, and even reviled, by the French captives, and a round-robin to the officer of the guard, reminding him that humanity should rule his actions rather than a mere delight in exercising authority, and hinting that officers who had made war the trade of their lives probably knew more about its laws than Mr. Tonkin, the Commissioner in charge of them, appeared to know.

     In 1760 no less than 150 prisoners contrived to tunnel their way out of the prison, but all except sixteen were recaptured.

     Of the life at the old Mill Prison, as it was then called, during the War of American Independence, a detailed account is given by Charles Herbert of Newburyport, Massachusetts, captured in the Dolton, in December 1776, by H. M. S. Reasonable, 64.

     With his sufferings during the voyage to England we have nothing to do, except that he was landed at Plymouth so afflicted with 'itch', which developed into small-pox, that he was at once taken to the Royal Hospital. It is pleasing to note that he speaks in the highest terms of the care and kindness of the doctor and nurses of this institution.

     When cured he was sent to Mill Prison, and here made money by carving in wood of boxes, spoons and punch ladles, which he sold at the Sunday market.

     Very soon the Americans started the system of tunnelling out of the prison, and attempting to escape, which only ceased with their final discharge. Herbert was engaged in the scheme of an eighteen feet long excavation to a field outside, the earth from which, they rammed into their sea-chests. By this, thirty-two men got out, but eleven were captured, he being one.

     Men who could make no articles for sale in the market sold their clothes and all their belongings.

     Theft among the prisoners was punished by the offenders being made to run the gauntlet of their comrades, who were armed with nettles for the occasion.

     Herbert complains bitterly of the scarcity and quality of the provisions, particularly of the bread, which he says was full of straw-ends. 'Many are tempted to pick up the grass in the yard and eat it; and some pick up old bones that have been laying in the dirt a week or ten days and pound them to pieces and suck them. Some will pick snails out of holes in the wall and from among the grass and weeds in the yard, boil them, eat them, and drink the broth. Men run after the stumps of cabbages thrown out by the cooks into the yard, and trample over each other in the scuffle to get them.'

     Christmas and New Year were, however, duly celebrated, thanks to the generosity of the prison authorities, who provided the materials for two huge plum-puddings, served out white bread instead of the regulation 'Brown George', mutton instead of beef, turnips instead of cabbage, and oatmeal.

     Then came a time of plenty. In London £2,276 was subscribed for the prisoners, and £200 in Bristol. Tobacco, soap, blankets, and extra bread for each mess were forthcoming, although the price of tobacco rose to five shillings a pound. Candles were expensive, so marrow-bones were used instead, one bone lasting half as long as a candle.

     On February 1, 1778, five officers - Captains Henry and Eleazar Johnston, Offin Boardman, Samuel Treadwell, and Deal, got off with two sentries who were clothed in mufti, supplied by Henry Johnston. On February 17, the two soldiers were taken, and were sentenced, one to be shot and the other to 700 lashes, which punishment was duly carried out. Of the officers, Treadwell was recaptured, and suffered the usual penalty of forty days Black Hole, and put on half allowance. Continued attempts to escape were made, and as they almost always failed it was suspected that there were traitors in the camp. A black man and boy were discovered: they were whipped, and soon after, in reply to a petition from the whites, all the black prisoners were confined in a separate building, known as the 'itchy yard.'

     Still the attempts continued. On one occasion two men who had been told off for the duty of emptying the prison offal tubs into the river, made a run for it. They were captured, and among the pursuers was the prison head-cook, whose wife held the monopoly of selling beer at the prison gate, the result being that she was boycotted.

     Much complaint was made of the treatment of the sick, extra necessaries being only procurable by private subscription, and when in June 1778, the chief doctor died, Herbert writes: 'I believe there are not many in the prison who would mourn, as there is no reason to expect that we can get a worse one.'

     On Independence Day, July 4, all the Americans provided themselves with crescent-shaped paper cockades, painted with the thirteen stars and thirteen stripes of the Union, and inscribed at the top 'Independence', and at the bottom 'Liberty or Death'. At one o'clock they paraded in thirteen divisions. Each in turn gave three cheers, until at the thirteenth all cheered in unison.

     The behavior of a section of blackguards in the community gave rise to fears that it would lead to the withdrawal of charitable donations. So articles were drawn up forbidding, under severe penalties, gambling, 'blackguarding,' and bad language. This produced violent opposition, but gradually the law-abiders won the day.

     An ingenious attempt to escape is mentioned by Herbert. Part of the prison was being repaired by workmen from outside. An American saw the coat and tool-basket of one of these men hanging up, so he appropriated them, and quietly sauntered out into the town unchallenged. Later in the day, however, the workman recognized his coat on the American in the streets of Plymouth, and at once had him arrested and brought back.

     On December 28, 1778, Herbert was concerned in a great attempt to escape. A hole nine feet deep was dug by the side of the inner wall of the prison, thence for fifteen feet until it came out in a garden on the other side of the road which bounded the outer wall. The difficulty of getting rid of the excavated dirt was great, and, moreover, excavation could only be proceeded with when the guard duty was performed by the Militia regiment, which was on every alternate day, the sentries of the 13th Regular regiment being far too wideawake and up to escape-tricks. Half the American prisoners - some two hundred in number - had decided to go. All was arranged methodically and without favour, by drawing lots, the operation being conducted by two chief men who did not intend to go.

     Herbert went with the first batch. There were four walls, each eight feet high, to be scaled. With five companions Herbert managed these, and got out, their aim being to make for Teignmouth, whence they would take boat for France. Somehow, as they avoided high roads, and struck across fields, they lost their bearings, and after covering, he thinks, at least twenty miles, sat down chilled and exhausted, under a haystack until day-break. They then restarted, and coming on to a high road, learned from a milestone that, after all, they were only three miles from Plymouth!

     Day came, and with it the stirring of the country people. To avoid observation, the fugitives quitted the road, and crept away to the shelter of a hedge, to wait, hungry, wet, and exhausted, during nine hours, for darkness. The end soon came.

     In rising, Herbert snapped a bone in his leg. As it was being set by a comrade, a party of rustics with a soldier came up, the former armed with clubs and flails. The prisoners were taken to a village, where they had brandy and a halfpenny cake each, and taken back to Plymouth.

     At the prison they learned that 109 men had got out, of whom thirty had been recaptured. All had gone well until a boy, having stuck on one of the walls, had called for help, and so had given the alarm. Altogether only twenty-two men escaped. Great misery now existed in the prison, partly because the charitable fund had been exhausted which had hitherto so much alleviated their lot, and partly on account of the number of men put on half allowance as a result of their late escape failure, and so scanty was food that a dog belonging to one of the garrison officers was killed and eaten.

     Herbert speaks in glowing terms of the efforts of two American 'Fathers', Heath and Sorry, who were allowed to visit the prison, to soften the lot of the captives.

     Finally, on March 15, 1779, Herbert was exchanged after two years and four months' captivity.

     In a table at the end of his account, he states that between June 1777, and March 1779, there were 734 Americans in Mill Prison, of whom thirty-six died, 102 escaped, and 114 joined the British service. Of these last, however, the majority were British subjects.

     In 1779 Howard reported that there were 392 French and 298 American prisoners in Millbay. He noted that neither the wards nor the court-yards apportioned to the Frenchmen were so spacious and convenient as were those in the American part of the prison, nor were the provisions so good. In the hospital there were fifty patients; it was dirty and offensive, and Howard found only three pairs of sheets in use.

     (Herbert, above quoted, said that the hospital was not worthy of the name, that when it rained the wet beat upon patients as they lay in their beds.)

     A new hospital was building, Howard continues, but he considered the wards were being made too low and too close, being seventeen feet ten inches wide, and ten feet high. In the American blocks the regulations were hung up according to rule, and he notes Article 5 of these to the effect that: 'As water and tubs for washing their linen and clothes will be allowed, the prisoners are advised to keep their persons as clean as possible, it being conducive to health.'

     I now make an extract from The Memoirs of Commodore Barney, published in Boston, 1832, chiefly on account of his stirring escape from Millbay, therein described.

     Barney was captured in December 1780 by H. M. S. Intrepid, Captain Malloy, whom he stigmatizes as the embodiment of all that is brutal in man. He was carried to England on the Yarmouth, 74, with seventy other American officers. They were confined, he says, in the hold, under three decks, twelve feet by twenty feet, and three feet high, without light and almost without air. The result was that during the fifty-three days' passage in the depths of winter, from New York to Plymouth, eleven of them died, and that when they arrived at Plymouth, few of them were able to stand, and all were temporarily blinded by the daylight.

     It sounds incredible, but Mrs. Barney, the editress of the volume, says: 'What is here detailed is given without adornment or exaggeration, almost in the very words of one who saw and suffered just as he has described.'

     Barney was sent first to a hulk, which he describes as a Paradise when compared with the Yarmouth, and as soon as they could walk, he and his companions went to Mill Prison, 'as rebels.'

     He lost no time in conspiring to escape. With infinite pains he and others forced their way through the stone walls and iron gratings of the common sewer, only to find, after wading through several hundred feet of filth, their exit blocked by a double iron grating. He then resolved to act independently, and was suddenly afflicted by a sprain which put him on crutches. He found a sympathetic friend in a sentry who, for some reason or other, had often manifested friendship for the American prisoners. This man contrived to obtain for him a British officer's undress uniform. One day Barney said to him, 'To-day?' to which the laconic reply was 'Dinner', by which Barney understood that his hours on duty would be from twelve till two.

     Barney threw his old great coat over the uniform; arranged with his friends to occupy the other sentries' attention by chaff and chat; engaged a slender youth at roll-call time to carry out the old trick of creeping through a hole in the wall and answer to Barney's name as well as his own; and then jumped quickly on to the shoulders of a tall friend and over the wall.

     Throwing away his great-coat, he slipped four guineas into the accomplice sentry's hand, and walked quietly off into Plymouth to the house of a well-known friend to the American cause. No little alarm was caused here by the sudden appearance of a visitor in British uniform, but Barney soon explained the situation, and remained concealed until night, when he was taken to the house of a clergyman. Here he found two Americans, not prisoners, desirous of returning to America, and they agreed to buy a fishing boat and risk the crossing to France.

     So the British uniform was exchanged for fisher garb, the boat purchased, and the three started. As his companions were soon prostrate from sea-sickness, Barney had to manage the craft himself; passed through the British war-ships safely, and seemed to be safe now from all interference, when a schooner rapidly approached, showing British colours, and presently lowered a boat which was pulled towards them.

     Instantly, Barney resolved to play a game of bluff. Luckily, in changing his attire he had not left the British uniform behind. The boat came alongside and a privateer officer came aboard and asked Barney his business.

     'Government business to France,' replied Barney with dignity - and displayed the British uniform.

     The officer was not satisfied, and said that he must report to his captain. This he did; the privateer captain was no more satisfied than his lieutenant, and politely but firmly declared his intention of carrying Barney back to Plymouth, adding that it must be funny business to take a British officer in uniform over to France in a fishing boat.

     'Very well,' said Barney, calm and dignified to the end; 'then I hold you responsible, for the interruption of my errand, to Admiral Digby, to whose flag-ship I will trouble you to take me.'

     All the same Barney saw that the game was up, and back towards Plymouth he had to turn. Barney's story is not very clear as to how he managed to escape the notice of the crew of the privateer, on board which he now was, but he slipped into a boat alongside, cut her adrift, and made for 'Cawsen'. Landing here, and striking away inland, he thought it best to leave the high road, and so, climbing over a hedge, he found himself in Edgcumbe Park. Presently he came upon an old gardener at work. Barney accosted him, but all the reply he got was: 'It's a fine of half a guinea for crossing a hedge.' Barney had no money, but plenty of pleasant talk, the result of which was that the old man passed him out by a side gate and showed him a by-way towards the river. Barney, for obvious reasons, wished to avoid the public ferry, so crossed over in a butcher's boat, and passing under the very wall of Mill Prison, was soon in Plymouth and at the clergyman's house.

     He had had a narrow escape, for in less than an hour after Admiral Digby had received the privateer captain's report, a guard had been sent off from Mill Prison to Cawsand, and had he kept to the high road he would assuredly have been captured. Whilst at the clergyman's house, the Town Crier passed under the window, proclaiming the reward of five guineas for the apprehension of 'Joshua Barney, a Rebel Deserter from Mill Prison'.

     Barney remained here three days. Then, with a fresh outfit, he took a post chaise for Exeter. At midnight the Town Gate was reached, and a soldier closely examined Barney and compared him with his description on the Apprehension bill. Again his sang-froid came to the rescue, and he so contorted his face and eyes that he was allowed to proceed, and his escape was accomplished.

     In 1783 Barney was at Plymouth again; this time as a representative of the Republic in a time of peace, and although an individual of importance, entertaining all the great officials of the port on the George Washington, and being entertained by them in return, he found time not only to visit the kindly clergyman who had befriended him, but to look up the old gardener at Mount Edgcumbe, amply pay the fine so long due, and discovered that the old man was the father of the sentry who had enabled him to escape from Mill Prison!

     An account by another American, Andrew Sherburne, published at Utica, in 1825, of a sojourn in Mill Prison in 1781, is quoted only for his remarks on the hospital system, which do not accord with those of other writers. He says:

     'However inhuman and tyrannical the British Government was in other respects, they were to be praised and respected for the suitable provision they made for the sick in the hospitals at Mill Prison.'

     In 1798 Vochez, the official sent to England by the French Directory to inquire into the true state of French prisoners under our care, brought an action against certain provision contractors for astounding breaches of their engagements, in the shape of a system of short weightage carried on for years, and of supplying provisions of an inferior character. In this he was supported by Captain Lane, a travelling inspector of prisons, and an honest official, and this, wrote Vochez, 'despite the contradiction by a number of base and interested prisoners brought to London for that express purpose to attack the unblemished character of that officer.'

     Captain Lane insisted that the Governor of the Prison should give certificates as to the badness of the provisions supplied; this was done, and Vochez's case was established. The Admiralty entirely endorsed Captain Lane's recommendation that in every case the Governors of Prisons should certify as to the character of provisions supplied by contractors, highly complimented him on his action, and very heavily mulcted the rascally contractors. Unhappily, the vile system was far from being abolished. The interests of too many influential people were linked with those of the contractors for a case such as the above to be more than a flash in the pan, and the prison contractors continued to flourish until the very end of the Great War period.

     In 1799 Mill Prison was practically rebuilt, and became known as Millbay. The condition of it at this time seems to have been very bad. It was said that some of the poor inmates were so weak for lack of proper food that they fell from their hammocks and broke their necks, that supplies of bedding and clothing were only to be had from 'capitalists' among the prisoners, who had bought them from the distribution officers and sold them at exorbitant rates.

     In 1806, at the instance of some Spanish prisoners in Millbay, a firm of provision contractors was heavily mulcted upon proof that for a long time past they had systematically sent in stores of deficient quality.

     In 1807 the Commissioners of the Transport Office refused an application that French prisoners at Millbay should be allowed to manufacture worsted gloves for H.M's. 87th Regiment, on the grounds that, if allowed, it would seriously interfere with our own manufacturing industry, and further, would lead to the destruction by the prisoners of their blankets and other woolen articles in order to provide materials for the work.

     I now proceed to give a very interesting account of prisoner life in Millbay Prison from Édouard Corbière's book, Le Négrier.

     When a lad of fifteen, Corbière was captured on the Val de Grâce privateer by H.M.S. Gibraltar, in 1807. The Val de Grâce must have been a very small craft, for not only did she not show fight, but the Gibraltar simply sent off a boat's crew, made fast hawsers and tackles, and hoisted the Frenchman bodily on board. Corbière and his fellows were sent to Millbay. Before describing his particular experiences, he gives a gage or so to a scathing picture of our shore prisons, but he impressively accentuates the frightful depravity brought about by the sufferings endured, and says that nobody who had not lived in an English war-prison could realize the utter depths of wickedness to which men could fall. At Millbay, he says, the forts à bras ruled all by mere brute strength. Victories at fights or wrestling matches were celebrated by procession round the airing grounds, and the successful men formed the 'Government' of the Pré, as the airing ground was called, regulating the gambling, deciding disputes, officiating at duels - of which there were many, the weapons being razors or compass points fixed on the ends of sticks - and generally exercising despotic sway. They were usually topsmen and sailors. The Romains were the pariahs at Millbay, and the Rafalés the lowest of all, naked rascals who slept in ranks, spoon fashion, as described elsewhere.

     The usual industries were carried on at Millbay. Much money was made by the straw plaiters and workers, some of the latter earning 18 sous a day. But the straw 'capitalists', the men who bought straw wholesale through the soldiers of the guard, and who either employed workers themselves, or sold the straw to other employers, accumulated fortunes, says Corbière, of from 30,000 to 40,000 francs. There were teachers of sciences, languages, music, dancing and fencing. There were eating-cabins where a 'beef steak' could be got for four sous. There were theatrical performances, but not of the same character or quality as, for instance, at Portchester.

     On Sundays, as at Stapleton, the prayers of the Mass were read. Each province was particular in observing its own festivals - Basques and Bretons notably.

     A great many 'broke-paroles' were here, and, Corbière remarks, the common sailors took advantage of their fallen position and ostentatiously treated them as equals, and even as inferiors. Not so the soldiers, who punctiliously observed the distinctions of rank; and there were even instances of private soldiers helping officers not used to manual labour to supplement their daily rations.

     Corbière also emphasizes the fact that, notwithstanding the depth of degradation to which the prisoners sank among themselves, they always preserved a proud attitude towards strangers, and never begged of visitors and sight-seers.

     In the prison, regular Courts of Justice were held, the chief mâitre d'armes being generally elected President if he could read. The Court was held within the space of twelve hammocks, shut in by hangings of old cloth. The only ordinary punishment was flogging, but a very terrible exception was made in the following case. One of the grandest and boldest projects for escape from a war-prison which had ever been conceived had been secretly proceeded with at Millbay for some time. It consisted of a tunnel no less than 532 yards long (Corbière's words are 'half a quarter league', and the French league of this time measured 2 miles 743 yards) coming out in a field, by which the whole of the 5,000 prisoners were to get away after overcoming and disarming the guard. The enormous quantity of earth excavated was carried by the workers in their pockets and emptied into the latrines, and although I give the account as written, I cannot repress a doubt that Corbière, who was then but a boy, may have been mistaken in his figures, for this process alone of emptying a tunnel, big enough to allow the passage of a man, in continual fear of detection, must have been very long and laborious.

     At any rate one Jean Caffé sold the secret to the authorities, the result being that on the appointed night, when the tunnel was full of escaping prisoners, the first man to emerge at the outlet was greeted by Scots soldiers, and the despairing cry arose, Le trou est vendu!

     Drums beat, the alarm brought more soldiers from Plymouth, and the would-be escapers were put back into prison, but, so maddened were they at the failure at the eleventh hour of their cherished plot, that they refused to put out the lights, sang songs of defiance, and broke out into such a riot that the guard fired into them, with what result Corbière does not state.

     The next morning, search was made for Caffé, who no doubt had been hidden by the authorities, and the miserable man was found with some guineas in his pocket. The rage of his countrymen was the deeper because Caffé had always been regarded as a poor, witless sort of fellow, for whom everybody had pity, and who existed upon the charity of others, and the cry arose that he should be at once put to death. But the chief of the Pré who happened to be Corbière's captain on the Val de Grâce, and of whom more anon, said 'Non! Il faut auparavant le flétrir!'

     So Caffé was dragged before the entire assembly of prisoners. A professional tattooer then shaved his head, laid him on a table, and held him down whilst on his forehead was pricked: 'Flétri pour avoir VENDU 5000 de ses camarades dans la nuit du 4 Septembre 1807.'

     This accomplished, he was taken to a well, thrown down it, and stones hurled on him until he was hidden from sight, and his cries could be heard no more. Corbière adds that, so far from the authorities trying to stop this summary execution, the British commander said that it served him right, and that he would have done the same.

     Ivan, the privateer captain who had been chief official at the foregoing execution, had won his position as a Chef de Pré in the following way. He was dancing at a ball in Calais when the news was brought him that a rich British prize had been sighted, and without stopping to change his costume, he had hurried on board the Val de Grâce, so that the prize should not escape him. Hence, when captured by the Gibraltar, he was in full dancing kit, -- laced coat, ruffles, silk stockings and all -- and in the same garb had been introduced into Millbay Prison, much to the amusement of his fellow countrymen. Particularly did he attract the attention of the chief fort à bras, who had a good deal to say about carpet knight and armchair sailor, which was so distasteful to Ivan that he challenged him, fought him, and half-killed him. The result of which was that the same night he was elected a Chef de Pré with much pomp and circumstance. Furthermore, discovering among the prisoners old comrades of the Sans Façon privateer, they elected him head cook, a position in the prison of no small consideration.

     Now Mr. Milliken, purser of the prison, had a pretty wife who took such a fancy to the handsome, dashing young French privateer captain that she made him a present of a New Testament, although it was well she did not hear his description of it as 'le beau fichu cadeau'. At the same time Milliken, socially superior, Corbière remarks, to his wife, pitying the boy (Corbière himself) thus thrust by fate at the very threshold of his life into the wild, wicked world of a war-prison, offered him employment in his office, which he gladly accepted, going there every day, but returning every night to the prison. Milliken's office was on the ground floor of his dwelling-house, and Mrs. Milliken with her servant Sarah were constantly in and out, the result being that the boy became very friendly with them, and their chief object seemed to be to make his life as happy as possible, the only cloud upon it being his separation every day from Ivan, for whom he had an affection bordering upon idolatry. For weeks Corbière had the happiest of lives, indulged in every way by Mrs. Milliken, and made much of by her visitors, to most of whom a lively, intelligent, French lad was a refreshing novelty. To dress him up in feminine attire was a favourite amusement of the ladies, 'and', says Corbière, 'they were good enough to say that, except for my rolling gait, begot of a lifetime spent afloat, I should pass well for a distinguished-looking girl.'

     One morning Mrs. Milliken gave him bad news. Ivan had escaped from the prison. He says: 'Whatever feeling I had of gladness that my dear friend was out of prison, was smothered not merely by the sense of my own desolate position, but by surprise that he should have left me.'

     A day or two later a young woman appeared at the back door of the Millikens' house, which gave on to the street, looked around cautiously for a few moments, and then rapidly passed down the street. It was Corbière. It was a daring move, and it was not long before he wished he had not made it, for Plymouth streets in these piping war-times were no place for a respectable girl, and no doubt his flurried, anxious look, and palpable air of being a stranger, commanded unusual attention. Whither he was going he had no idea, and for an hour he went through what he confesses to have been one of the severest trials of a life full of adventure and ordeal. He was on the point of trying to find his way back to the Millikens' house, when an old Jew man, with a bag over his shoulder, brushed against him, and at the same time whispered his name. It was Ivan. The boy could have shouted for joy, but Ivan impressed silence, and motioned him to follow. Arrived at Stonehouse, Ivan paused at a house, whispered to Corbière to walk on, return, and enter, and went in himself. This was done, and Corbière describes how, when at last together in the house, they unrestrainedly indulged their joy at being again together, and Ivan explained how both of their escapes had been arranged by Mrs. Milliken. Then Ivan detailed his plan for getting out of England. He had thirty false one-pound notes, manufactured in Millbay Prison, which he had bought for a guinea, and the next day they would start off on foot for Bigbury, about fifteen miles distant, on the coast, near which they would charter a smuggler to take them across.

     That evening they went into the town to make a few necessary purchases, and in his delight at being free again, Ivan proposed that they should go to the theatre at Plymouth Dock. They did, and it nearly proved the undoing of them, for some American sailors were there who naturally regarded as fair game a nice-looking, attractively dressed girl in the company of a bearded old Jew, and paid Corbière attentions which became so marked as to provoke Ivan, the result being a row, in the course of which Ivan's false beard was torn off, and Corbière's dress much deranged, and the cry of 'Runaway prisoners!' beginning to be heard, the two rushed out of the theatre, and through the streets, until they were in the open country.

     They spent the night, which luckily was warm and fine, in a ditch, and the next morning saw an anchored boat riding close in shore. They swam out and boarded her, and found that there were rudder and oars chained, but no sails or mast. Ivan broke the chain, and rigged up some of Corbière's female clothes on an oar, for sail and mast. Some days ensued of much suffering from hunger and thirst, as, being without bearings, they simply steered by the sun, south-east, and at last they were sighted and picked up by the Gazelle, French 'aventurier', of St. Malo, and in her went to Martinique.

     In 1809 the Transport Office, in reply to French prisoners at Millbay asking leave to give fencing lessons outside the prison, refused, adding that only officers of the guard were allowed to take fencing lessons from prisoners, and those in the prison.

     In 1811 a dozen prisoners daubed themselves all over with mortar, and walked out unchallenged as masons. Five were retaken. Another man painted his clothes like a British military uniform, and got away, as he deserved to.

     In 1812 additional buildings to hold 2,000 persons were erected at Millbay.

     In 1813 a notable scene, indicative of the prevalence occasionally of a nice feeling between foes, was witnessed at Millbay, at the funeral of Captain Allen of the United States ship Argus, who had died of wounds received in the action with the Pelican. Allen had been first lieutenant of the United States in her victorious action with the British Macedonian, and had received his promotion for his bravery in that encounter. Moreover, all the British prisoners taken by him testified to his humanity and kindness. A contemporary newspaper says:
 
 

     'The Funeral Procession as it moved from the Mill Prison to the Old Church, afforded a scene singularly impressive to the prisoners, who beheld with admiration the respect paid by a gallant, conquering enemy to the fallen hero. 500 British Marines first marched in slow time, with arms reversed; the band of the Plymouth Division of Marines followed, playing the most solemn tunes. An officer of Marines in military mourning came after these. Two interesting black boys, the servants of the deceased, then preceded the hearse. One of these bore his master's sword, and the other his hat. Eight American officers followed the hearse, and the procession was closed with a number of British Naval officers.'

     On the arrival of the body at the Old Church, it was met by the officiating Minister, and three volleys over the grave closed the scene.'


Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College

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