Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Anglo-Russian Helder campaign, 1799

by Jacqui Reiter

British landing at Callantsoog, 27 August 1799 (Wikimedia Commons)

Prelude

In the middle of October 1799, forty thousand British and Russian troops camped in the shelter of the Zijpe Canal across the very northernmost tip of Holland's Helder Peninsula. Rain pock-marked the surface of the Groote Sloot that ran through the centre of the small village of Schagerbrug, and pounded off the narrow, muddy street outside the burgemeester's house.

Here the Duke of York, commander-in-chief of the allied British and Russian forces, had summoned an important meeting of his Council of War. Around the table were some of the most senior generals of the Allied army: Lieutenant-Generals Sir Ralph Abercromby, David Dundas, and James Pulteney; Major-General Lord Chatham; and the acting Russian commander, General Ivan Essen. As the rain continued to fall, the Council pondered the question of whether or not to abandon the campaign.

The expedition to the Helder had been planned as part of the Second Coalition during the war with revolutionary France. Britain had come out of three years of continental isolation to ally with Austria and Russia, who were currently pressing the French hard in the Rhineland and northern Italy. The Helder expedition was a joint venture between Britain and Russia with the aim of opening a second front in Holland (currently in French hands), overturn the “Batavian Republic”, and restore the House of Orange. Such sketchy intelligence as William Pitt's government had managed to acquire suggested the Dutch people would rise in favour of a royal restoration.

27 August 1799: the battle of Callantsoog

Admiral Michell's 200-strong fleet sailed from the Downs with the first round of British troops on 13 August, but due to strong winds did not manage to land troops until the 27th. The disembarkation began at daybreak with some difficulty, and immediately upon landing at Keeten, near Callantsoog, the British were attacked by Dutch General Daendels with 6000 men.

Beach at Callantsoog, where the British landed in 1799 (photo by J. Reiter)

The beach was so narrow only one British battalion could make front to the enemy at a time, and the men were hampered by their wet uniforms and the soft sand beneath their feet, but after a stiff fight the Dutch, and their French allies under General Brune, fell back on Alkmaar. The British marched inland and dug in behind the Zijpe Canal, where they waited for further British reinforcements and the Russians to join them.

At this point, however, the Allies' luck ran out. Rain set in and did not let up. The Dutch people showed little interest in helping the Allies, and none at all in rising behind an Orange restoration. The Allies had hoped to rely on local help to provision the troops as they marched through the country, but they found themselves increasingly relying on the British fleet for supplies. The further into the country they marched, the further away from their supply base they got.

19 September 1799: the battle of Bergen

From the first there was tension between the British and Russian allies. The British considered the Russians to be little more than savages, “repulsive and ferocious”.[1] It did not bode well for the success of the first Allied attempt to flush the French and Dutch from their position on 19 September. For some reason the Russians did not wait for their British allies, but began marching earlier than planned and over-extended their line.

The Russian commander, General Hermann, and his deputy were captured in the ensuing fight in the town of Bergen. The British had planned to flush the French and Dutch out of Alkmaar, but instead were forced to turn back and rescue the Russians from disaster. The largest British division (9000 men under Sir Ralph Abercromby) did manage to get almost the whole way to Alkmaar, but was forced to turn back without engaging the enemy.

The Russians had lost nearly 3000 men, including their Commander and his second-in-command, and the British had lost 1200 men. Before 19 September the British and Russians had distrusted each other; now there was seriously bad blood between them, and the acting Russian commander, General Essen, did not even attempt to hide his opinion that poor communication from the Duke of York had caused the disaster.

While the Allies quarrelled, the French and Dutch flooded the dykes in the south and awaited six thousand reinforcements from France. And all along the rain continued to fall.

2 October 1799: the battle of Egmont-op-Zee

View of the Battle of Egmont-op-Zee (Wikimedia Commons)

Two weeks passed before the weather gave an opening for another assault. The morning of 2 October dawned dry, and unexpectedly warm. The Allies marched out from behind the Zijpe to try another assault on the enemy, determined to capture the towns of Egmont op Zee (now Egmont aan Zee), Bergen and Alkmaar.

The battle lasted all day and was very bloody, largely due to the nature of the terrain. Egmont and Bergen were surrounded by a vast network of sand-dunes stretching two or three miles inland.

Dunes near Egmont (photo by J. Reiter)

At the northernmost point, around the town of Schoorl, the dunes were more like hills, between a hundred and two hundred feet high, knitted together with dense scrub and sprawling copses of twisted birch.

Sandhills at Schoorl (photo by J. Reiter)

The bitterest fighting took place around Egmont, where the rise and fall of the dunes made it impossible to form up large units of men, or indeed to see or hear the enemy until they were literally just around the corner. The ground was sandy and sank above the tops of mens' boots. A private soldier from the 92nd Highlanders later recalled:
In one instance, one of our parties having climbed to the top of a sand ridge, found that a party of the enemy was just beneath, and instantly rushed down the ridge upon them; but the side of the ridge was so steep and soft, that the effort to keep themselves from falling prevented them from making regular use of their arms. They were involuntarily precipitated amongst the enemy, and the bottom of the ridge was so narrow, and the footing on all sides so soft, that neither party were [sic] able, for want of room, to make use of the bayonet; but they struck at each other with the butts of their firelocks, and some individuals were fighting with their fists.[2]

The fighting kept going till past nightfall. The French and Dutch fell back again, abandoning Bergen and Alkmaar to the Allies and entrenching themselves between Beverwijk and Wijk-op-Zee.

The Duke of York's headquarters in Alkmaar (photo by J. Reiter)

The British lines at last moved out of their first headquarters at Schagerbrug, and the Duke of York established his new headquarters in Daendels' hastily-evacuated quarters in the Burgemeester's house on Alkmaar's cobbled high street.

6 October 1799: the battle of Castricum

On 6 October preparations were begun for an attempt to capture the enemy's headquarters at Beverwijk. It was raining yet again, and poor communication once more dogged the Allies. Small divisions were dispatched to establish advance guards at Acker-Sloot, Limmen, and Bakkum, with strict instructions to wait for further orders, but once again the Russians under Essen became over-extended.

The Russians pushed onto the town of Castricum, close to Beverwijk, and somehow attracted the full might of the French and Dutch force. General Brune himself charged the Allies at the head of his cavalry. British reinforcements were hastily sent for, and what had been intended as an opening feint became a full-on general action.

Dunelands between Castricum and Beverwijk (photo by J. Reiter)

In the afternoon the heavens opened: “the rain poured down in torrents,” in the words of one eyewitness.[3] but the battle barely slowed. The troops could barely see each other, let alone the enemy, and the Duke of York in Alkmaar had to send one of his aides up the spire of St Laurence's Church with a telescope to see what was going on.

Tower of St Laurence's Church, Alkmaar (photo by J. Reiter)

By the time the fighting stopped at ten o'clock at night both sides were exhausted. The Allies had lost over three thousand men, including “two Battalions of the 4th [Foot] … [that] had forced their way within the Enemy's Lines, without knowing at all where they were”.[4] Worse still, the rain had flooded the roads leading back to the fleet, cutting off the Allies' lines of supply. They had no choice but to fall back behind the Zijpe again.

A harrowing midnight march followed. Some units confused the dykes that criss-crossed the country with the wet roads and fell in, and the stragglers were harassed all the way by Dutch cavalry. The following day the French and Dutch regained their lost territory. It was status quo, except now the British and Russians had lost over twelve thousand troops and more men were falling sick of marsh fever.

End of the campaign

It was the middle of October and the weather could not be expected to improve. By now, also, news was tricking in from French prisoners of a great victory by French General Masséna at Zurich over Russian General Suvorov. The Allies had meant to distract the French from the Rhineland; now they were in danger of becoming the French's main focus.

It was no surprise, then, when the Duke of York's Council of War agreed with his recommendation to suspend action and make terms. These were signed on 18 October and permitted the allied forces to evacuate unmolested, provided 8000 French prisoners of war were released from Britain.

As Lord Chatham wrote to his brother, William Pitt, the prime minister:
The considerable reinforcements received by the Enemy, the less and less dependence to be placed on the Russian Troops, the uncertainty when shipping for so large an army might arrive, the exhausted and alarming state of our resources, and … the unfavourable report of the Engineers as to the defences of the Helder … and consequently the great risk, even if we had embarked, of our not getting away at all ... presented to our view the possible loss of the whole army … I hope the measure taken however it may be lamented, can not be disapproved.[5]

The failure of the Helder campaign heralded the collapse of the Second Coalition. Russia soon dropped out, although Russian troops remained in the Channel Islands until the spring thaw allowed them to return home. It would be six years before the British received another opportunity to engage in continental operations against the French.

______________________________

For a useful map of the locations referred to in this post, see here

References

[1] Walsh, A narrative of the expedition to Holland, p 47

[2] Narrative of a private soldier in His Majesty’s 92nd regiment of foot, p 75

[3] Bunbury, A narrative of the campaign in North Holland, p. 26

[4] The Sun, 16 Oct 1799

[5] Lord Chatham to William Pitt, 19 October 1799, National Archives Chatham MSS PRO 30/8/122 f 145


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Further reading

There are virtually no modern British sources on the Helder campaign, although there are a few Dutch texts. The main sources used in the writing of this article are listed below:

Sir Henry Bunbury, A narrative of the campaign in North Holland, 1799 (London, 1849)

Alfred Burne, The Noble Duke of York (London, 1949)

The campaign in Holland, 1799, by a Subaltern (London, 1861)

John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt: the consuming struggle (London, 1996)

Geert von Uythoven, Voorwarts, Bataven! De Engels-Russische invasie van 1799 (Zaltbommel, 1999)

J.W. Fortescue, A history of the British Army, vol IV part II (London, 1906)

HMSO, British minor expeditions, 1746-1814 (London, 1884)

Francis Maule, Memoirs of the principal events in the campaigns of North Holland and Egypt... (London, 1816)

Sir J.F. Maurice (ed), The diary of Sir John Moore, vol 1 (London, 1904)

Narrative of a Private Soldier in His Majesty's 92nd Regiment of Foot … (London, 1820)

A.B. Piechowiak, “The Anglo-Russian Expedition to Holland in 1799”, The Slavonic and East European Review 41 (96) (December 1962) 182-195

Edward Walsh, A narrative of the expedition to Holland in the autumn of the year 1799 … (London, 1800)

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About the Author

Jacqui Reiter has a Phd in 18th century political history. She believes she is the world expert on the life of the 2nd Earl of Chatham, and is writing a novel about his relationship with his brother Pitt the Younger. When she finds time she blogs about her historical discoveries at http://alwayswantedtobeareiter.wordpress.com/.

Giveaway: The Arrow of Sherwood by Lauren Johnson

Lauren is giving away a signed copy of The Arrow of Sherwood to readers in the UK & US. This giveaway ends at midnight Sunday 7th December 2014. To see more information about the book, please click HERE. To enter the draw, comment below on this page and be sure to leave your contact information. Good luck!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Experimental Corps of Riflemen

by David Cook

If there is one regiment of the British Army that served in the Napoleonic Wars that encapsulates the esprit de corps, then it is none other than the 95th Rifles. From their unique uniform, rifle and tactics, their fame grew from humble beginnings to something ‘legendary’. No other corps served in virtually all battles and campaigns of this period and even today, in modern day fiction, the 95th remain extremely popular with academics, historians, authors and the ordinary folk.

So why did the army need them and when?

The need for rifle-armed men; sharpshooter infantry who were trained to think for themselves in open order rather than rely on the basic soldering of forming into perfect blocks of men, marching up to the enemy and trying to destroy them with massed musketry, did not originate from the American War of Independence, as most people believe. A lot was garnered from the British defeat as they sought to re-think out-dated military training, but it was not the catalyst.

The earliest ‘marksmen’ were formed long before the English Civil War broke out. German units made up of huntsmen and foresters, had rifle-armed companies interspersed with musketeers and pikemen, although these were primitive ‘fowling pieces’, but already the need to have sharpshooters was recognised in the 17th century. Tyrolese hunters had always operated in the dense forests and high mountains of the country with rifled carbines and were expert shots. Their practices were considered by the armies of the day. The Native Indians employed different tactics; such as ‘hit and run’ during the War of Independence. Skirmishing units arose especially for the campaign and so rifled firearms weren’t a sudden invention or need; it was independently-thinking men that would use them, that were.

The 60th Regiment of Foot (made up of Germans) was created before and was used for service in the Americas, and was expanded to a fifth battalion wholly armed with rifles. They were considered at the time ‘a very foreign-looking regiment’, but early doctrines revealed their skirmishing and sharpshooting applied skills. Instructions on how to use riflemen in the field was written by their commander and it influenced the thinking of Sir John Moore who perfected the unique light infantry training years later at Shorncliffe with the creation of the famous ‘Light Division’ of the 95th, 43rd and 52nd regiments during the Peninsular War.

An interest in creating a thorough ‘British’ rifle-armed regiment surged on until the late 1700’s when in 1799 a letter written by the Honourable William Stewart to the Secretary at War, found its way to the Duke of York and a plan was formed. In January 1800, fourteen line regiments were asked to send four NCOs and thirty men (who were all good shots) for rifle training. Half the regiments asked were Scottish or Irish, because Stewart firmly believed that ‘Gaelic men’, as hardy folk, were better suited as scouts and skirmishers. Command of this ‘Experimental Corps of Riflemen’ was given to Colonel Coote Manningham, an advocate of individual free-thinking, and training began in March 1800, at Horsham.

95th Rifles recruitment poster

The training (a huge investment by the army in every individual was truly exceptional at this time), included proficiencies of drill, weapon handling, field craft and tactical manoeuvres. Traditionally, soldiers were taught to ‘point or present’ their muskets at the enemy, not to ‘aim’, as muskets were smooth-bore weapons. Highly inaccurate firearms, but then it goes back to the old style of thinking that battle was attrition and the fastest side to shoot and reload would invariably win. There was no skill in pointing, just volley fire in massed ranks. The riflemen trained with live ammunition which gave the opportunities to refine their skills and give the edge over enemy counterparts as they never practiced with live rounds. Riflemen took part in shooting competitions, and awards were given for competitive activities, team-work was part of the ethos and skill came with rewards and merit. Officers took part and became integrated with the rank and file, something never heard of before. A ‘Chosen Man’ status for merit was given to four men per company, the badge was a white lace ring around the upper right arm. This was not a rank, merely a standing, but was the precursor of the Lance-Corporal stripe.

The men were put into three classes: 1st was considered needing improvement, 2nd awarded to men who were good shots and 3rd were ranked as marksmen. 1st Class had a black cockade on their shakoes, 2nd had white and 3rd had green. A marksman was required regularly to hit a round target four shots out of six or a figure target three shots out of six at a range of not less than 200 yards. If he failed, he would lose his status until he could prove otherwise.

The soldiers in this new regiment had to re-learn their craft and it became quickly apparent that some of the men sent were in fact the dregs that each colonel wanted to get rid of. These men were sent back to their old units and more were recruited.

The principle weapon of the Rifles was the Baker Rifle, manufactured by Whitechapel gun-maker, Ezekiel Baker. It had seven rectangular grooves in the barrel, which gave it its deadly accuracy because it spun the musket ball when fired at the cost of slow loading – perhaps two per minute against three from muskets. For accurate firing, a Baker rifle could not be reloaded as quickly as a musket, as the slightly undersized lead balls had to be wrapped in patches of greased leather or linen so that they would more closely fit the lands of the rifling. The tight-fitting patched ball took considerable force and hence more time to seat properly inside a rifle’s barrel, especially after repeated firing has fouled it with debris. Early on, a small wooden mallet was provided to hammer the ramrod down the muzzle, however, this was abandoned as unnecessary. Like the German Jäger rifles of the day, the Baker rifle had a scrolled brass trigger-guard to help ensure a firm grip and a raised cheek-piece on the left-hand side of the butt for snug purchase. It also had a patchbox located in the brass bound butt where the Rifleman would keep extra greased linen patches, a cleaning kit and tools. The barrel was thirty inches in length and browned to mask any glare that could reveal the sharpshooter’s position. A seventeen-inch sword-bayonet that slotted into a bar beside the muzzle completed the Rifleman’s weapons. Pikes were actually considered in the early days, from the thinking that cavalry could threaten the slow-to-load rifles, but after the long sword-bayonet was introduced the idea was shelved.

Rifleman Tom Plunket in the supine position shoots dead
General de Colbert at between 400-800 yards

The regiment was clothed in a uniform of dark green with black facings and black leather straps, and was the first ever attempt at camouflage undertaken by the army. So dark was the uniform that they were nicknamed ‘Sweeps’, because they resembled sombrely-dressed chimney sweeps. Some riflemen did not receive their new uniform until late 1802, and still wore their old redcoats.

Three companies accompanied the British expedition to Ferrol in Spain and the whole corps fought together at Egypt in 1801 debuting with some merit. The regiment was became known as the Rifle Corps until December 1802 when it was finally allocated the number ‘95’ becoming the 95th (Rifle Corps) or 95th Regiment of Foot. The ‘Green Jackets’ gained respect as they fought throughout the Peninsular War, into France and were present in the Waterloo campaign.

They were (and still are) considered the best of the best. ‘First in the field and the last out’ was their mantra and the Rifles became unequalled masters of the battlefield skirmishes, marches and were thus held in high-esteem by allies and by foes alike.

The vanguard of the British Army, the 95th,
marches into Paris after the Waterloo Campaign, 1815.

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David Cook was born in Hampshire, but now lives in Leicestershire. David is a self-confessed history-nut and writes about the medieval era, Tudor, the English Civil Wars and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Marksman, set in 1810, is the fourth story in The Soldier Chronicles historical series.

Rifleman Arthur Cadoc, stranded in the chaos of war and still wearing the green jacket of his beloved 95th, now fights for the Spanish guerrilleros. When a British exploring officer reveals that a traitor working for the French plans to eliminate the partisan leaders, Cadoc is plunged pell-mell into the guerrilla - the ‘little war’. With only his training, wits and his trusty Baker rifle, Cadoc proves that he is not only a daring and a deadly marksman, but a man born for fighting against the odds.

Marksman is now available worldwide.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

The Life of Pet Marjory

by Catherine Curzon

Marjory Fleming (Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, 15th January 1803 – Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, 19th December 1811)

Marjory Fleming during her last illness possibly by Isabella Keith, 1811
Marjory Fleming, possibly by Isabella Keith, 1811
Earlier this year I wrote a short article for my own blog on Marjory Fleming (later known as Pet Marjory), a child poet of the Georgian era whom the Victorians took to their hearts. As I have read and written about other European child prodigies of the era, Fleming has always continued to fascinate me. Her story does not seem widely known, so it is my pleasure to share it with you today.

Marjory was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, the third child of James Fleming and his wife, Isabella Rae, known as Isa. An accountant, James was able to give his family a relatively comfortable life and was soon to realise that Marjory had a fierce intellect, one that easily surpassed her childish peers. Unlike some other prodigies of the era, Marjory's life at home was quite normal and she enjoyed a loving family environment, encouraged in her learning but not aggressively so. 

By the age of six, the Flemings decided that Marjory needed to broaden her horizons and satisfy her burning curiosity for the world in which she lived. They sent her to Edinburgh to live with her 18 year old cousin, Isabella Keith, who was happy to take over responsibility for the little girl's education.  Isabella had a passion for literature and in particular poetry; she introduced Marjory to the power of verse, and the child soon began to write poems of her own. When she wasn't writing, Marjory was reading, yet for all her intelligence, she remained a child. Playful and cheery, she took her learning in stride, seeing nothing unusual in her abilities and encouraged by Isabella to lead an utterly normal life. It was whilst in Edinburgh that she met and charmed Walter Scott, who became a regular visitor and one of her greatest literary champions.

Marjory kept her family informed of her experiences in the city by writing numerous letters to them. She further elaborated on life in Edinburgh in the diaries she kept in the final years of her short life where she discussed domestic life, the news of the day and her views on the lessons she undertook with her adored Isabella. Her poetry impressed none other than Walter Scott, a relation on her mother's side, but she was not particularly known during her life, though celebrity would follow later.

Marjory left Edinburgh and returned home to Kirkcaldy at the age of eight. That same year she contracted measles during an epidemic and, though she appeared to recover, she fell ill again and swiftly deteriorated. The official verdict on her death was that she had been killed by "water on the head", likely meningitis, and she was laid to rest in Abbotshall Kirkyard, Kirkcaldy.

Fascinated by the world around her, Marjory watched and absorbed all that she saw, and from a young age she proved to be a prolific letter writer. Her diary provides a fascinating insight into the life of a child in the era. Rumour has it Walter Scott was highly impressed by the poems of the little girl, but her writings were largely ignored for many years after her death.

The diary Marjory wrote in the last two years of her life remained unpublished for decades after her death until a journalist, HB Farnie, serialised them in a heavily edited version in the Fife Herald. Shocked at some of the forthright language used by the little girl, further edits followed before in 1868, the diaries were published as a book. This was the first of several works about Marjory and slowly but surely, six decades after her death, the child was famous.

These published diaries were a huge hit in the Victorian era, as readers were utterly beguiled by the tragic tale of this bright, brave little girl. Although Marjory's original journals had been substantially rewritten, it was for these that she eventually found fame. So popular were the diaries that they were reprinted on numerous occasions and each time, more and more celebrity admirers queued up to shower lavish praise on the child including Mark Twain, who wrote an essay on Marjory that popularised her works in America.

Marjory's works are now kept in the National Library of Scotland, and she has become recognised as a deservedly important figure in the history of Scottish literature. Her poems and writings reveal a child with a wit and intelligence that surpasses that of many adults; whilst it is tempting to speculate on what she might have achieved had she lived, the legacy she left behind cannot be underestimated.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Glorious Georgian ginbag, gossip and gadabout Catherine Curzon, aka Madame Gilflurt, is the author of A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life. When not setting quill to paper, she can usually be found gadding about the tea shops and gaming rooms of the capital or hosting intimate gatherings at her tottering abode. In addition to her blog and Facebook, Madame G is also quite the charmer on Twitter. Her first book, Life in the Georgian Court, is available now, and she is also working on An Evening with Jane Austen, starring Adrian Lukis and Caroline Langrishe.

The Battle of Hamilton

by Cryssa Bazos

By Scottish Covenanters
(http://www.sorbie.net/covenanters.htm)
via Wikimedia Commons
We owe a debt of gratitude to “Young” Cambusnethen, the eleventh Lord Somerville, for falling in love with Mistress Martha Bannatyne of Corhouse. Having embarked on an errand to obtain his father’s consent for their betrothal, eighteen-year-old Cambusnethen stumbled into the middle of a war and had enough foresight to write about it. This was the Battle of Hamilton, fought on December 1, 1650.

Hamilton is situated in the South Lanarkshire region in the Scottish Lowlands. The players in this tableau were Scotland’s Western Army, Cromwell’s Ironsides, and Scotland’s Central Army.

Background

With the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. One might have expected that the Scots would have had all the time in the world for the Stuarts, even show more tolerance with Charles I, James’s heir, when he tried to impose Anglicanism and a Common Prayer Book on Scotland. But he was encroaching on matters of religion and Scotland had pledged herself to the Presbyterian Covenant. Besides, Charles I was more English than Scottish, no matter his bloodline. This precipitated a war between England and Scotland in 1639 and led to the English Civil War.

Oliver Cromwell
Robert Walker
Wikimedia Commons

Though the majority of Scotland opposed Charles I, his execution at the hands of Parliament in 1649 shocked them. They entered negotiations to proclaim the Prince of Wales, Charles Stuart, as King of Scotland provided that he swore to uphold the Covenant, to which he agreed. This alarmed England who considered their actions a threat to their new Commonwealth. In July 1650, Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland.

The Road to Hamilton

Even with the Scottish Parliament’s support for Charles, there was still a significant faction of staunch Presbyterians who did not approve of Charles, no matter his vows. Colonel Strachan, leader of the Western army, was one of the more extreme instigators behind an official rant known as the Remonstrance of the Western Army that urged Scotland to abandon the King and not engage against Cromwell. Between September and October 1650, Strachan made overtures to Cromwell to negotiate terms for the removal of English troops in exchange for Scotland withdrawing her support for the King. But in the end, the talks fell apart.

The heated rhetoric contained in the Remonstrance became an embarrassment for the Scottish Parliament. By October 1650, Central Army had had enough of Strachan’s posturing. They cashiered him and gave command of the Western forces to his second, Colonel Gilbert Ker. This did nothing to dampen the movement, for Ker’s views were no different than Strachan’s. Any hope that Central Army would assimilate the Western Army was shattered when Ker did one up on Strachan. He broke from the Central Army and announced his autonomy. Worse, Ker’s defiant streak extended to Cromwell, and he also declared war on the English.

Now, Ker was in an unenviable position to be at war with two major armies, and both were converging upon him.

Battle of Hamilton

Enter Young Cambusnethen.

The Central Army in Perth dispatched Colonel Robert Montgomery on November 27th with approximately 3,000 horse to subdue the Western faction. That same day, Cromwell left Edinburgh with another three thousand and headed toward Hamilton with the same intent. Cromwell’s plan was to rendezvous with General Lambert, who was occupying the area around Peebles with his two thousand men.

Two days later, Cambusnethen ran into Montgomery’s forces near Campsie Fells and parted company to continue on his heart’s mission, but not before promising Montgomery that he’d keep his eyes open for the Western Army’s movements. He arrived in Renfrew the next day on the 30th and stopped in on an old friend who was a coronet in Ker’s troop.

While they were catching up, the coronet received an urgent summons to report for duty. Ker had received word that Lambert had entered Hamilton unopposed. Fortunately for the Western Army, Cromwell had been forced to return to Edinburgh, having found the Clyde un-fordable, so he did not add to Lambert’s forces.

Ker gathered his men, approximately 3,000 horse and 1,000 dragoons, and marched toward Hamilton. Cambusnethen postponed his own mission in favour of accompanying his friend and fulfilling his promise to Montgomery.

The Western Army reached the town of Rutherglen (approximately ten miles from Hamilton) by three in the afternoon and stopped to reconnoitre. After some debate, Ker decided to take the offense and launch an attack.

Around midnight of December 1, 1650, Ker dispatched a forlorn hope of 140 troopers. According to Cambusnethen’s account, it was a clear night with a quarter moon rising. The ground was hard with frost, which did nothing to muffle their advance. Lambert must have felt secure for he did not post sentries outside the town, and the forlorn hope reached Hamilton without anyone raising an alarm.

The attack was sudden and the English, assuming the worst, believed a sizeable force had set upon them. There were fierce pockets of resistance and skirmishes in the streets. Lambert was captured briefly but managed to escape into a nearby inn, Sarah Jean’s Close. The English took what shelter they could and barricaded themselves in houses and inns.

Viaduct over Cadzow Burn
Becky Williamson 
[CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)] 
Wikimedia Commons

By dawn, Lambert realized his mistake and rallied his troops for a counter-strike while Ker arrived with his forces and occupied the banks of Cadzow Burn, just outside the town.

Ker was unsure of the status of the town, and as he debated his next move, a pair of soldiers arrived to give him the false news that the Scots had beaten the English from the town. Cambusnethen called them “rascals, that was more for plunder than fighting,” and they had no difficulty in convincing Ker that the way was clear. When Ker started his advance, Lambert sprang his attack and engaged the Scots at Cadzow Burn.

It was a rout. Ker’s troopers floundered in the river and spongy riverbank while Lambert’s men had the advantage of the high ground and firmer footing of the east bank. Though the Scots recovered briefly, the English rallied and drove them back. The Western Army had no choice than to beat a retreat, and it quickly became a free-for-all. Stung by their poor initial showing against a forlorn hope of only 140 men, Lambert’s army pursued the fleeing army even as far Ayr. During the battle, Ker was wounded and tried to escape, but he was eventually caught and taken prisoner.

Memorial plaque of the Battle of Hamilton (Hieton)
By User: Supergolden (Taken by User: Supergolden) 
[GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)]
Wikimedia Commons

The Western Army fell apart following the Battle of Hamilton, and the Scottish Parliament was able to shore up support for King Charles to present a united front against the English. In the end, it only slowed Cromwell down.

As for our correspondent, Young Cambusnethen survived the battle unscathed though his friend, the coronet had been shot in the mouth and cheek during the battle. Cambusnethen helped his friend to safety and later that evening they encountered Montgomery’s forces when he finally arrived to trounce Ker. Though Montgomery was too late to deliver Central Army’s brand of remonstrance against Ker, his three thousand horse discouraged the English from pressing north toward Stirling.

And what of Mistress Martha Bannatyne of Corhouse, the reason for our Young Cambusnethen to have been so entangled with the Western Army? I’m happy to report that they were married and lived happily ever after.

References:
Memorie of the Somervilles: Being a History of the Baronial House of Somerville. James Somerville (1815)
Cromwell’s Scotch Campaigns: 1650-51 by William Scott Douglas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cryssa Bazos is a historical fiction writer and 17th Century enthusiast, with a particular interest in the English Civil War (ECW). She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) under the New Writers’ Scheme, the Historical Novelist Society and is a board member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR), an organization with over three hundred members.  Cryssa has published articles in the Word Weaver and Canadian Author.  Her short stories include Warwick Market in Canadian Tales of the Heart (Red Tuque Books), Confessions of a Tooth Fairy in Canadian Tales of the Fantastical (Red Tuque Books), and The Dragon in Word Weaver. Cryssa has recently a historical fiction novel, Highwayman, a tale of adventure and romance set during the English Civil War. Highwayman is the first in a series of adventures spanning from the ECW to the Restoration.
For more stories about the English Civil War and the 17th Century, visit her blog http://cryssabazos.com


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Fate of John Holland, First Duke of Exeter

by Anne O'Brien


It is easy for history to condemn an act of betrayal as that of a self-serving traitor, and to consider the due punishment well deserved, however brutal it might be. It is equally a simply matter to laud the loyalty of a true supporter. I would suggest that sometimes it is not quite so simplistic. Within family disputes, when the family was royal, the pressures were sometimes just too strong. It became a fine line to tread between friend and traitor.

Such was the case for John Holland, Duke of Exeter.  This matter became of interest to me because of my new novel The King's Sister, about Elizabeth of Lancaster.

Holland was a man with a reputation.  Possessing admirable military skills, he was a notable figure at the tournament and was considered a good leader of men.  On the other hand he had a violent temper with more than one death attached to his name.  At the same time he had a lethal charm.  His name was connected with that of Isabelle, Duchess of York, in an illicit relationship before his marriage to Elizabeth.  But Elizabeth touched his heart.  He wooed her constantly, day and night, the chroniclers say, until she succumbed.  Altogether a complex character, glamorous but also dangerous.


Here, from Froissart, is Holland riding with his brother, magnificent in a patterned blue houppelande and pleated hood.

Holland's situation was a difficult one because of family connection. Half brother to King Richard II through their mother Joan of Kent, he became brother in law to Henry Bolingbroke through his marriage to Henry's sister Elizabeth of Lancaster.  When Henry usurped the throne and consigned Richard to Pontefract Castle where he later died, to which of the two would John Holland give his loyalty?  Half brother or brother-in-law?  Usurped king de jure or king de facto?  When England was torn apart by the Epiphany Rising in 1399, family loyalties were clouded.  It was without doubt a family at war.  Furthermore the clouds had been building for some time.

It must have been difficult enough to preserve family goodwill and unity in the years building up to King Richard's removal, when Richard banished  Henry Bolingbroke from England for six years on a dubious charge of treason.  And then on the death of John of Gaunt, Richard extended the banishment for life at the same time as he snatched the Lancaster inheritance for himself.   When Henry returned from banishment, collected an army of sympathetic nobility to challenge Richard, matters obviously went from bad to worse.  The result was that Henry seized the crown from Richard, imprisoning him in Pontefract Castle.


Here Froissart shows Richard surrendering to Henry Bolingbroke.

Where would John Holland stand in all of this?  In past years Holland had been in receipt of grants from John of Gaunt for his military support in the ill-fated expedition to St Malo.  He was also part of Gaunt's expedition to Castile, so there were strong connections between Holland and the House of Lancaster.  But since then Holland had been ennobled by Richard to become Earl of Huntingdon and then Duke of Exeter.  In the troubled months of the uprising, Holland rode between the two parties to act as mediator with Henry on Richard's behalf.  With no success and Richard imprisoned, would Holland continue to wear Richard's white hart and oppose Henry, at the cost of being in opposition to the new King of England or would he revert to support Elizabeth's brother?


Holland negotiating with Henry on Richard's behalf, but to no avail.

It appeared at first that all could be smoothed over, at least on the surface.  With Richard overpowered, Holland gave his allegiance to Henry, taking his part in the celebrations at the coronation of the new king in October 1399.  But what would he have thought about the ultimate fate of Richard?  Holland must have known how impossible it would be for Henry to allow Richard to live.  A living anointed king usurped of his power was a dangerous entity.  Once again, Richard or Henry?  Would blood prove to be thicker than water?  As punishment for his past support of Richard, Henry had stripped Holland of his Dukedom, presumably a bitter blow.


The Crowning of Henry Bolingbroke as King Henry IV in October 1399.

In December of 1399 the Epiphany Rising (the Rising of the Earls) was plotted.  On the seventeenth of the month a group of men, nobles who had likewise been demoted for their past allegiance, met secretly  in the chamber of the abbot's lodging at Westminster Abbey, probably the Jerusalem Chamber.  The plan was to assassinate the new King Henry,  the Archbishop of Canterbury and all four of Henry's sons on the feast of the Epiphany - 6th January - when Henry planned a great celebratory tournament at Windsor.  Richard would be released from Pontefract and restored to the throne.  Richard Maudeleyn, a young squire with some superficial resemblance, would be dressed in armour and would impersonate royal Richard and win over the armed support of the people of London until Richard himself could be restored to their midst.

Which way would John Holland jump here?  Henry or Richard?

Disastrously, Holland joined the plotters in the Rising of the Earls.  He was one of the group of discontented nobles who met at Westminster to plan Henry's assassination.

Henry was warned of the plot in time, and left Windsor for London, taking a circuitous route to evade the plotters, and the capital rose in his support.  The end was very much a foregone conclusion.  Some of the plotters fled to Cirencester where the Earls of Kent and Salisbury were taken  prisoner and executed.  Holland waited in London, hoping for support, but eventually, when the writing was on the wall, he fled by ship.  Winds and storms drove his vessel ashore in Essex where he was taken prisoner and kept under the authority of the Duchess of Hereford, King Henry's mother-in-law, in Pleshey Castle where she summoned the local populace.  They demanded Holland's death and thus he was executed, his head being sent to London where it was displayed on London Bridge.  Holland's lands, titles and inheritance were confiscated by Henry, although his head was ultimately united with his body and buried in the collegiate church in Pleshey.


All that remains of the Castle at Pleshey.  Nor is there any remaining evidence of Holland's tomb (sadly a consequence of the Reformation).

Thus the death of John Holland.  A vicious outcome in a vicious period of history when treason was an easy crime to commit for those who were closely involved with both sides.  Without doubt a family pulled apart by ambition and power.

And Elizabeth, newly widowed?  What was her role in all of this?

For those who would wish to know Elizabeth's part in these catastrophic family events ...  Read The King's Sister.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For all up to date information on my medieval novels, visit my website:
www.anneobrienbooks.com

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taking one for the Team - of the ultimate sacrifice

by Anna Belfrage

Hands up those who have ever had nightmares about being buried alive. No? Well, I guess this makes me sound very ghoulish, but I do. Through the slow march of history, many people have been subjected to the rather horrible fate of being put six feet under while still very much alive.

In Sweden, women condemned to die were almost always buried alive – as an alternative to being burned at the stake. The woman would have her feet and hands tied and then she’d be lowered sitting into a hole in the ground, incapable of doing anything but watch as the hole was filled in – with her inside. In some cases, the woman’s head was covered by a bucket. Why is somewhat unclear: was it so that the men filling in the hole did not have to look her in the face, or was there some belief that the bucket would make her passing easier?

Anyway, it was not my intention to talk about live burials. But my intended subject – bog bodies – sparked off that old fear of being buried alive (even worse in a bog, one imagines) which is the reason for the above digression. In actual fact, the bog bodies were mostly well and truly dead before the squelchy soil embraced their bodily remains – or so it seems when we study them.

The Tollund Man (Denmark) 2 500 yrs old, give or take
Bog bodies crop up all over Northern Europe, most of them dated to the Iron Age. In some cases, they seem to have died by misadventure, but mostly they seem to have been the victims of a ritual death. Were they willing sacrificial victims? Were they randomly selected or spoils of war? It is difficult to tell from the distance of several thousands of years, but there is evidence indicating that in some cases, the sacrificial lamb was indeed a volunteer, giving his or her life so that the clan might survive. Very noble, I am sure. From our perspective also very futile, but people have always done irrational things in the name of faith.

Allow me to sweep you back almost two thousand years in time. We are on a marsh, it is the feast of Beltane, a time when normally bonfires lick the sky in celebration of the return of life and warmth to the northern hemisphere. But this year, there are no overt celebrations. The people of Britain skulk through the shadows, more than aware that everywhere the Roman invaders are looking to interrupt their traditional celebrations.

A small party of people are walking briskly towards one of the hallowed places, a small grove on a hillock. They talk quietly among each other, eyes scanning every shrub, every stand of trees for a potential enemy. Only when they reach the flattened clearing at the top of the hill do they relax. Someone mutters something about how this is not right, how on this night fires should be lit, with people rejoicing that the winter is over. He is hushed by the most senior member of the group.  A small fire is kindled, a piece of dough is produced and shaped into a flatbread. It is cooked over the little fire, and right at the end, a burning twig is held to one section, leaving a black burn mark on the bread.

In silence, the bread is broken into pieces. It is offered first to the man that so far has been sitting on the edge of things, eyes locked on the night sky above. He smiles crookedly and chooses the burnt piece. A tremor runs through him as he carefully chews the bread, watched by all the others. He swallows and stands, shedding the cloak he’s been wearing. Below, he is naked. He does a slow half-turn, eyes resting with hunger on the shadowy surroundings. Every tree, every stone – he registers it in detail, and there is a stiffness to his shoulders, as if it takes conscious effort to remain so erect, so calm. No wonder, given what is to come…

Someone says something to the naked man, and he nods, almost brusquely. His beard has been recently trimmed back from its ordinary length, and when he turns towards the speaker, the fire brings out the reddish notes in his facial hair. He tugs at the single adornment on his body: a narrow strip of fox-pelt tied around his arm. Despite the chilly air, his body is covered in a sheen of sweat, and he keeps on licking his lips.

Taranis
The oldest of the men clasps his hand and says something. Another man steps forward, and he and the naked man embrace. They cling to each other, and when they at last separate, the naked man inhales, throws his arms wide and falls to his knees, facing the west. Another man takes a step forward. He’s holding an axe, and when he lifts it, the oldest man raises his hands to the heavens and invokes the Gods: Taranis, Esus and Teutates.
Thunk. The naked man sags.
Thunk.  He crumples to the ground.
Thunk. He looks quite, quite dead – but he isn’t.

Two men approach the unconscious man. He is hauled up into a sitting position, and the eldest man barks an order. A younger man rushes forward. There’s a knotted string of sorts in his hand. Swiftly, he wraps the string around the naked man’s neck, sets a knee in the naked man’s back, and tightens the garrotte. There’s a gurgling sound from the dying man. A boy in his teens rushes forward, holding a ceremonial bowl. The oldest man produces a knife and severs the naked man’s jugular. Blood pours into the bowl. The naked man thrashes despite his unconscious state. No more blood. The garrotte is tightened, there is a snapping sound as the neck breaks.

By now, the man is very, very dead. His companions mutter and pray, the effigies of gods are held aloft, and then two of them take hold of him and carry him over to a horse. Carefully, they place him atop the nervous beast, its hide a silvery white in the moonlight. In silence, they proceed down the hill, along a narrow path. The alders that line it rustle in greeting as the procession passes by, making for a dark pool in the centre of the marsh. More prayers, more effigies held aloft, and then the naked man is thrown into the still pool. It takes a long time, but at some point the waters close over the body. Over the coming centuries, his body will remain where it is, while the water dries into mud, and the marsh converts the vegetation that presently stands green and bright into peat.

The above is a fictionalised version of the Lindow Man’s last moments on earth, somewhere in the first century AD. Three axe-blows to his head, three ritualised deaths – the garrotte, the slicing of his throat, the drowning. From what can be gleaned from his body, his last meal was a scrap of sooty bread – maybe he was unfortunate enough to pick the piece of bread that had been purposely burnt, or maybe he was, as suggested above, a volunteer. Whatever the case, the rest of his physiognomy reveals a man in the prime of his life, a strong, well-fed man with remarkably well-tended nails.  If the idea was to placate the gods by offering a perfect sacrifice, the Lindow man definitely fit the bill – but what events could possibly be so dire as to require the ultimate of sacrifices, and what threats hung over the Lindow Man’s people for him to – apparently – go willingly to his death?

The answer lies in when he died and who he was. Studies of the body (discovered in 1984) have led scientists to conclude he was a Celt, and his un-scarred skin, his soft, un-callused hands indicate he was neither a warrior nor a labourer. That fox-skin tied around his arm is believed to denote someone of high birth, and the way his beard had been sawed off would indicate that until recently, his beard had been longer. Adding all this up, the general conclusion is that the young man (he was somewhere around thirty when he died) was a druid – or rather a druid in training, as this profession required a long and extensive education.

It is believed he died in AD 60. A black year for the Celtic people of Britain. A year so filled with misery and death that the farmers dared not plant their fields. It all began with the Roman’s destruction of the Isle of Mona (Anglesey).

A Druid as per 19th c painter
The Romans were in general tolerant to other people’s beliefs. As their empire expanded, they assimilated rather than converted the subjugated people – assuming everyone paid lip-service to the cult of the emperor, of course. But there was something about the druids that raised the Roman hackles, and they systematically persecuted the druids in the Gallic provinces, forcing the Celtic priests to flee to Britannia.

When the Romans launched their third attempt to invade Britain in 43 AD, one of the reasons may very well have been to do away with the druids once and for all. On the other hand, it seems a tad far-fetched: a bunch of bearded priests (and a bunch of female priests – beardless, one would hope) – what threat could they possibly pose to the Roman Empire? The answer is one of cultural identity, of political power. The druids were not only priests: they were the bearers of Celtic culture, they were renowned advisors to the Celtic kings and queens. They urged continued opposition to Rome, they scoffed at the idea that a mortal man should be considered a deity, be he emperor or not.

The Romans landed in Britain with no major opposition – at first. Once the British tribes gathered that the Romans were here to stay, leaders such as Caratacus tried to drive them off. Didn’t work. Through years of guerrilla warfare, the Romans persisted, building one base after the other, starting with Colchester. Caratacus was defeated in open battle a couple of times, fled to the Brigantes whose treacherous queen had him put in chains and delivered to the Romans as a gift-wrapped little parcel.

In the south, the British tribes grumbled under the Roman tribe – but there were benefits as well, such as more trade, more comforts. In the north and the west, the resistance continued, much of it led by the druids from their power base on the Isle of Mona – which also acted as a huge granary for the Celtic people.

In early spring of the year 60 AD, Suetonious, the Roman commander, had had enough: he went after Mona, and two Roman legions carried the day against the fierce and brave but very undisciplined Celtic army that faced off against them. The druids were killed, the hallowed groves were chopped down, the hallowed wells desecrated, and the Celtic resistance was well and truly quenched. Or was it? Suetonious did not get much time to savour his victory, because news reached him from the south, telling him the Iceni under their queen Boudica had risen in revolt. Colchester had been sacked and torched, and now the Iceni horde was making for London. Suetonious had no choice but to hasten east to defend what little remained of Roman Britain.

As many of you know, Boudica’s revolt was triggered by Roman avarice and their horrible treatment of her daughters – and, perhaps, a conclusion that the Roman yoke would not be quite as easy to bear as the British had originally thought. As the Iceni rose in anger, the Silurians further to the west kept the second legion (based in Gloucester) fully occupied – mere coincidence? Or was this the result of a larger Celtic agenda, driven by the druids?

The Dying Gaul By Copy after Epigonosantmoose ([1]) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ultimately, Suetonious won over the Iceni – despite being severely outnumbered. Yet another catastrophe for the Celts, with over 80 000 Celtic warriors killed in the aftermath of the decisive battle. The druids were gone – well, almost – brave Boudica and her army was dead, and the fields that should have been planted lay fallow, auguring a winter of starvation for the British people.  The Gods had turned their faces from the Celtic people. Something had to be done – and it had to be done fast. Ergo, the complicated human sacrifice described  above.

We will never know for sure if the above events triggered the human sacrifice resulting in the Lindow Man. But as a hypothesis, it seems plausible – and there is no doubt whatsoever that the Lindow Man died as described above. A ritualised death, carefully staged so as to honour the Gods. If the intention was to have the Gods smite the Romans and drive them from Britain, the sacrifice was a failure. If, however, it was intended as a plea to safeguard the Celtic people, it was somewhat more successful. After all, when the Roman Empire succumbed to the Germanic invaders in the fifth century AD, there were still plenty of Celts in Britain – more than enough to take up arms against the flood-wave of Angles, Saxons and Jutes. But that, as they say, is a different story!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anna Belfrage is the successful author of seven published books, all of them part of The Graham Saga. Set in 17th century Scotland, Virginia and Maryland, this is the story of Matthew Graham and his wife, Alex Lind - two people who should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him.

Anna's books are available on Amazon US,  Amazon UK, or wherever else good books are sold.
For more information about Anna and her books, please visit her website. If not on her website, Anna can mostly be found on her blog.





Monday, November 24, 2014

A Fight over Who Gets the Martyr's Relics

By Kim Rendfeld


St. Boniface would have never wanted the dispute that followed his martyrdom in 754. Two of his disciples, Sts. Lull and Sturm, wanted his remains.

The stakes were high. Martyr’s relics were attributed with miraculous powers, and churches that housed them attracted pilgrims and their alms.

Lull, the Wessex-born archbishop of Mainz, and Sturm, the Bavarian-born founding abbot of Fulda, had been close to the martyr.

The 11th century Sacramentary of Fulda
shows Boniface baptizing
converts and being martyred.
Sturm and Boniface had met in Bavaria when Sturm was a boy. With his parents' permission, Sturm traveled with Boniface to Fritzlar, where he was left in the care of that abbot and became a priest in the 730s. At Boniface's urging, Sturm spent nine years in the wilderness, seeking the perfect site for a new monastery. Boniface then persuaded the Frankish mayor of the palace to donate the land and blessed the site for Fulda in 744.

Lull had met Boniface, also a native of Wessex, in the 730s while Lull was on a pilgrimage to Rome. Lull had been a monk at Malmesbury but was persuaded to join the monastery at Fritzlar, which Boniface had founded. Boniface must have been impressed with Lull. He consecrated him as a bishop about 753 and later chose Lull as his successor as the archbishop of Mainz. Boniface went out of his way for Lull to be accepted and even wrote to Fulrad, the influential abbot of St. Dennis, to convince Pepin to look favorably on Lull’s new position.

Boniface left the safety of Mainz for the dangerous mission to Frisia, where pagans slaughtered him and his companions. If we are to believe Eigil, Sturm's hagiographer, Boniface weighed in a couple of times on where his body should rest. As always, I leave to the reader to decide the veracity.

When Boniface and his slain followers were taken to Utrecht, the companions' bodies were buried, but the locals were unable to lift Boniface's bier. They took that as a sign to send the martyr elsewhere. Once they made that realization, the body was easily moved and loaded onto a boat that went to Mainz.

At Mainz, Lull claimed the relics for his city, but Sturm had rushed there and argued that Boniface had said during his life that he wanted to be entombed at Fulda. The two places were very different. At the time, Mainz was almost 800 years old, dating back to the Romans. Fulda was only 10 years old, founded in the middle of nowhere.

Boniface again stepped in. Appearing in a deacon's dream, he asked why his journey to Fulda was delayed. Lull refused to believe it until the deacon swore on the altar.

So Boniface was taken to Fulda, and the monastery thrived.

Lull gave up the fight on the relics, but he retaliated. Three of his supporters told Frankish King Pepin that Sturm was disloyal. The abbot of Fulda didn't defend himself, saying he would put his trust in God.

Sturm and some companions were exiled for two years to the abbey of Jumièges and treated well, but the monks at Fulda were unhappy, especially with their abbey now under Lull's jurisdiction. When they rejected the abbot he appointed, the archbishop conceded and let them choose one of their own. They did so with the sole purpose of bringing Sturm home. Soon monks, along with nuns at convents and the faithful at other churches, were praying.

Boniface’s tomb at Fulda.
The prayers worked. Pepin summoned Sturm and said he had forgotten what they were quarreling over. When Sturm affirmed his loyalty, he returned to Fulda, which was no longer under Lull’s authority, and oversaw construction and decorated Boniface's tomb.

The relics were the monastery’s greatest treasure. They were so valued that when the monks feared an attack from pagan Saxons in 778, they removed the relics and fled to the forest. After three days in tents, they got word that the locals had fended off the attack and it was safe to return.

Perhaps, Boniface would have been heartened by what Sturm said on his deathbed in 779. “Pray to God for me,” he said to his brothers, “and if I have committed any fault among you through human frailty or wronged anyone unjustly, forgive me as I also forgive all those who have offended or wronged me, including Lull, who always took sides against me.”

Public domain images via Wikimedia Commons

Sources:

Eigil’s Life of Sturm

Athelstan Museum

Francis Mershman, "St. Boniface," The Catholic Encyclopedia

Rev. Alban Butler, The Lives of the Saints

Joseph Lins, "Mainz," The Catholic Encyclopedia

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sturm makes a brief appearance in Kim Rendfeld’s latest release, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar (2014, Fireship Press), a story of a Saxon mother and the lengths she will go to protect her children.

To read the first chapters of Ashes or Kim’s debut, The Cross and the Dragon (2012, Fireship Press), or learn more about her, visit kimrendfeld.com or her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com. You can also like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.

Kim's book are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Giveaway: Pasha by Julian Stockwin

Julian is giving away two copies of Pasha to winners worldwide. You can read about the book HERE. Please comment below to enter the drawing, and be sure to leave your contact information.

The Thames: England’s Liquid History

by Julian Stockwin

Customs House
My particular interest in the River Thames is its role in the Georgian age. London at the turn of the eighteenth century was much smaller than it is now of course. Upstream of Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament were green fields and the country, while downstream the great city spread out, mostly on the left side. The river did a single bend to the right, and on the way was Whitehall, the Bank of England, St Paul's. Then it was the Tower of London, and before the Thames had time for another wiggle it was all over, green fields again.

The Port of London
But the real heart of London, its real reason for being there, was the Port of London. This was the biggest in the world at the time, a wonder of the age. It was the undisputed centre for handling cargoes to and from all over the newly explored world. If you were to stand on London Bridge looking downstream you’d see the most amazing sight. In a space of water not a couple of hundred yards across was crammed a great mass of shipping – snows, galliots, hermaphrodite barques, cats, tilt boats; every conceivable type under every kind of flag. There were 8000 ship movements in and out of port in 1793, these increased to 16,000 by 1824, all in this one part of the river. One great forest of masts. From big ocean going East Indiamen to colliers from the north, they all rafted up together, for there were no quays to come alongside. The ships would tie up to each other, and lighters would come out to load or take out the cargo.

The Port of London was not all that big, in fact the whole thing was really concentrated at the point which was as far up the Thames as big ships could go. This was the impassable barrier of London Bridge (that’s the one next up from present day Tower Bridge). And here they all arrived, handily right in the centre of the capital. The Port of London is a stretch of river from London Bridge a couple of miles down river to the first bend. The ships would have to make their way up from Tilbury at the mouth about 25 miles upstream and through a dozen sweeping bends, crammed with other ships all moving in either direction and with fluky winds. Most were square riggers which could only keep within six points of the wind – a tough sail. A foul wind could hold up arrivals for weeks, and the Bank of England fitted a special wind dial indicator in the main dealing room so bankers could tell at a glance whether a sighted vessel would make it to London in time to land cargo to meet the terms of a Bill of Exchange. It’s still there to this day.

London and the Thames were, right up until the middle of the twentieth century, totally mutually dependent. It was the port in Britain to action the economic basis for the coming Industrial Revolution. But in the Georgian era it was more – we’re used to taxis, buses, trains and so on. In the eighteenth century you thought long and hard about even the smallest journey, and in London that meant sedan chair or slow stage coach or carriage through muddy streets and appalling traffic jams. The only practical method was by river, and this was the main highway of the time.

There were many other maritime features—the great marine observatories at Greenwich, the gun foundry at Woolwich Arsenal which is still occupied by the Ministry of Defence, and Henry VIII’s Trinity House which looked after buoys and lighthouses and still does to this day, and there were shipbuilders up and down the river. At Blackwall many famous frigates were built for the French wars. Rotherhithe, Deptford, was known for king’s ships since Shakespeare’s day. The radically designed HMS Warrior, now on show in Portsmouth, was a Thames vessel.

Support for these ships had to be on an industrial scale. If you think of the kind of stores a single ship had to load for a voyage of over a year to far places, you get an idea of what was needed - multiplied by 1000s of ships. Breweries to make the small beer that was taken instead of water, ship’s biscuits, the hard tack – the list goes on and on. There were skilled men everywhere – such as coopers making great casks who were there on dockside right up to the 1960s. The men who manned the lighters or barges, the lightermen, were also very skilled, steering with 20 foot long oars they could bring a lighter from the ship to the wharf by tide power alone.

River Scene

But the real professionals, and it took a full seven year apprenticeship, were the river taxi drivers, the watermen. In the eighteenth century they would gather their red or green wherries (a sharp bowed skiff) around one of the many ‘stairs’ or boarding points, like Horseferry stairs, Puddle dock, King’s stairs. A passenger would approach and they’d shout ‘oars, oars’. The passenger would point at one, and the others would turn on the lucky one and abuse him loudly. They were very independent, often garrulous, uncouth and arrogant, happily screeching insults at passing rivals, but they were very good at what they did, especially at ‘shooting the bridge’ which was what they called passing through London Bridge. This was like a weir, so fast were the tides. Passengers could get their money back if they were tipped into the river, or they could prudently take precautions, landing before the bridge and boarding again after. The oldest sporting event in the world is the Doggetts coat and badge race for first year watermen and runs to this day. In fact there are still watermen, and one of their privileges is delivering the Royal Crown from the Tower of London to Westminster at the state opening of parliament. If the Thames froze, a Frost Fair would be held on the ice. Gentlemen and their ladies would stroll arm in arm, there’d be plenty of entertainment, with bear baiting, an ox roast, cricket match and so on, all on the ice. The watermen couldn’t ply for hire, so they had races in which their boats were hauled over the ice by horses.

The Thames was smelly then but actually not as much as later – people were still catching salmon in the City in 1800. In the eighteenth century the practice was for night soil men to take away the liquid waste for industrial uses, and the other for manure, it was just too valuable to throw away. It wasn’t until the huge explosion of population in Victorian times coinciding with the invention of the flush toilet that the stinks and health hazards really came. In 1800 for drinking water they still relied on a big waterwheel next to London Bridge to pump up water direct from the Thames.

The river would smell rank, but this would be overlaid by other fragrances. Writers of the time use the word ‘spicy’ a lot, the scent of cargoes – cinnabar, ginger, tea, sandalwood, hemp – and of course the unmistakable rich whiff of sea worn ropes and tar. Downstream there were other smells. The ink and dye works at Deptford had very pungent copper salts, and Berger paints were nearby. The worst were the leather tanneries around Bermondsey – 30 of them! They started a vinegar factory in the middle with the idea of countering one smell with another, and miraculously, it was still going in 1991. Around the bend in the river are the Greenland docks. This was well into the country, for there the whalers used to return and the oil was processed. This caused a stink so bad that people choked. But back in the city the main smell was that of horses and their dung – uncountable thousands of horses. And the sea coal – you could see where London was from the Downs because of the big brown cloud hanging over it from the sea coal fires.

When a sailor returned after a voyage he’d be on the ran tan ashore just as fast as he could. The main area was Wapping, roughly from where the Tower of London is until the river bends. It was a maze of tiny streets and alleys, with names like Cat’s Hole, Shovel Alley, the Rookery, Dark Entry and so on. A wider road called Ratcliffe Highway ran through it, lined with shops, taverns, ship’s chandlers, doss houses and so on. It still exists, now called simply ‘The Highway.’

Every shop had a sailor’s lodgings above it and every kind of sharp practice was used to part the sailor from his hard earned silver. Across the river in Southwark and Rotherhithe it was the same, and we know from Chaucer that it has a pretty long history. There are still some of the old pubs – the Prospect Of Whitby in Wapping, a fine old place, the Town Of Ramsgate in Rotherhithethese - were named after ships that regularly tied up outside. The Grapes in Limehouse gets a mention in Dickens and the Mayflower pub stands on the spot where the Pilgrim fathers sailed for America.

Thames sailing barges with their distinctive sails
It’s thought that in the eighteenth century between a quarter and a third of all cargoes arriving were stolen. It varied a lot in seriousness. At one end of the scale their would be scams such as a fake agent meeting a ship and bargaining with the captain to ease the task of landing his cargo, organising lighters, customs clearance, porters and so on. The captain would agree and the cargo would be landed alright – but that would be the last he saw of it. At the other end of the scale were the mudlarks or scuffle hunters. These were young scamps who would skip aboard a vessel working cargo and suddenly throw something overboard before escaping. This article they could then retrieve from the mud later when the tide went out. River pirates were a real menace, so when they were caught they paid the penalty – and then their bodies were hung in chains in Execution dock until their skeletons had disarticulated. You can still see the sea wall near St Katherine’s dock.

The docks changed the face of the Thames. We think today of the Pool of London and the endless docks, but before the Napoleonic wars there was not even one! Then in 1802, and only to combat the thieving of cargo, out in the country the West India dock was built, with high walls and controlled security. Ships would come to a stop outside, lower their sails, and then be pulled inside by powerful land capstans. It was an instant success, and other docks were quickly dug. This brought more support services and soon London had doubled in size, and only just in time, for the number of ship movements would double as well in just 22 years.

Canaletto's painting of the Lord Mayor's Procession

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Julian Stockwin was sent at the age of fourteen to Indefatigable, a tough sea-training school. He joined the Royal Navy at fifteen before transferring to the Royal Australian Navy, where he served in the Far East, Antarctic waters and the South Seas. In Vietnam he saw active service in a carrier task force. After leaving the Navy Julian attended university; he became a teacher and later practised as an educational psychologist. Julian lived for some time in Hong Kong, where he was commissioned into the Royal Naval Reserve. He was awarded the MBE and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He now lives in Devon with his wife and literary partner Kathy. More information can be found on his website. Julian also posts his own blog, BigJules and is on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

He has written fifteen books to date in his Thomas Kydd historical action adventure fiction series. Although they form a series each title can be read as a stand-alone novel. The titles, in order are Kydd, Artemis, Seaflower, Mutiny, Quarterdeck, Tenacious, Command, The Admiral's Daughter, Treachery (published in the US as The Privateer's Revenge), Invasion, Victory, Conquest, Betrayal, Caribee and Pasha. Julian has also written a non-fiction book, Stockwin's Maritime Miscellany.
And in a departure from the ongoing adventures of Kydd and Renzi, this year Julian’s also brought out a standalone historical novel set in the time of Justinian, The Silk Tree.

Please see the Giveaway page to enter a drawing for a copy of Pasha.