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straw. The mayor, Monsieur Parmentier, at his own risk, most kindly ordered nearly the half of them into the hospital, not confining the admission to those who were actually in a state of disease, but wishing to extend the comforts of food and bedding to as many as the building would hold; and to which we gladly allude as another act of private benevolence.
In about ten days after the prisoners reached Phalsbourg, an order arrived for them to countermarch as far as Luneville, and proceed from thence to Givet in the Ardennes, through Nanci and Verdun. What might have been the consequences of such a march, at such a period of the year (December), so totally unprovided as they then were with the necessaries of life, it is impossible to say; but a letter from the admiralty in England, most providentially reached Captain Brenton on the day the order for the removal arrived, empowering him to draw for 2000/. sterling, for the use of the prisoners. The French government, in giving the order for their removal, allowed the prisoners only their rations of bread for four days, and they were informed that they must march to Nanci, before they could receive the daily pay of three sous, which was intended to provide the remainder of their nourishment. Fortunately, the paternal care of their own government prevented their feeling that distress which they must otherwise have suffered.
On the 17th December they reached Verdun, and having each received a supply of clothes and money, departed on the 19th for Givet, unaccompanied by their officers, who remained on parole at Verdun.
Shortly after their arrival there, Captain Brenton received a letter, stating that their distress and suffering had become intolerable. He immediately waited upon the general, expressed his wish to visit the prisoners, in order to distribute succours furnished by England, received permission, and set out for Givet under the escort of a gen d'arme. He found the prisoners confined in Charlemont, the greater part of them in rags, having, either from distress or improvidence, sold the clothes they had received, without any farther supply from the French government. The old system of the three sous and the privileged suttlers was renewed, under every possible aggravation. Captain Brenton was at the same time informed, that it was intended to remove the prisoners to the barracks at Givet, on the banks of the Meuse: he immediately visited those barracks, and received from the commandant every information, and every kindness, which, as an individual, it was in his power to bestow; he was allowed to distribute the prisoners into messes, as he thought proper, and to assign them rooms for their residence, provided the number corresponded with the official regulations; but this was all M. Parmentier could grant, fi?r the arrangements of his government went no farther. The
VOL. III. Q,
prison allowance remained the same. The supply of clothing and bedding underwent no alteration. The prisoners received their portions of straw from the French government, and found their own canvas sackings to put it in, so as to preserve it, and form a bed; bedsteads were hired, kettles also for cooking their provisions, and a proportion of firewood furnished out of the remittance sent from England. Blankets and clothes were supplied ifom the same fund; and four sols per day added to the French allowance, to each prisoner: those belonging to his Majesty's ships and packets received six sols, the additional two being considered as an advance upon the pay due to them. .. *
With this assistance, and under the superintendence and management of their oicn officers, they certainly did live not only with comfort, but with great respectability. Scarcely a desertion was known, except amongst the lower class of Irish, who had been disaffected in their own country, and were easily tempted to betray their companions in misfortune, by involving them in plans for escape, and then denouncing them. This system continued nearly two years, when the French government prohibited any farther remittances from that of England to the prisoners; the consequences were immediate distress and misery, constant attempts to escape, and a few instances even of the men volunteering into the enemy's service. Nothing, certainly, can excuse this base desertion of their country, though due allowance must be made for severity of suffering acting on an uncultivated mind.
The aged and infirm, as well as boys under fourteen, had been allowed on the first establishment of Verdun as a depot, to remain there under the care of the officers; a situation of great advantage to them: many of the superior class of detenues being men of property and great benevolence, supplied their wants, and afforded them comforts which they could not otherwise have obtained. A school was formed for the children, who, to the number of seventy, were instructed and clothed by subscription. In the course of a few months, this indulgence which had been granted was annulled, and the old, the young, and the infirm, were distributed amongst the distant depots.
About this period (late in 1805), or soon after, a prisoner arrived under circumstances of peculiar distress. His name was Anderson, he had been one of the gunner's crew of the Royal Sovereign, then bearing the flag of Lord Collingwood. Having lost both his eyes in the course of his services, his Lordship applied for the unfortunate man's admission into Greenwich, which was of course granted. On his way home in a merchant-vessel he was taken by a French privateer, and carried into Morlaix, whence he was conveyed with others from prison to prison, by succeeding brigades of gens d'armes, till he reached Verdun. Here Captain Brenton stated his case to General Wirion, and even that rapacious man owned the cruelty of the proceeding, and consented, while he suspended the march of the captive, to forward a petition in his favour to Paris. The answer was as follows :—" On n' accorde pas la petition de Monsieur Brenton, que son aveugle file avec les autres."* Where has M. Dupin found any instance of barbarity equal to this? Has he not, on the contrary, owned, vol. i. p. 177, that our government gratuitously sent over to France twelve thousand, seven hundred and eighty-seven "moribonds."f If the miseries of our countrymen, while prisoners, were somewhat alleviated during the first and second years of the war, it was owing to the humanity of our government, and the public spirit, and kindness of the English officers and private gentlemen detained at Verdun: but this source of comfort was inhumanly cut off, and the wretched victims left to perish with hunger and cold, or become traitors to their country.
When Mr. M'Kenzie was ordered over to effect an exchange, he was informed, that the Portuguese prisoners taken by France must be received by us as Englishmen: this extravagant demand was of course rejected, upon which the negotiation was broken off.
* "The petition of M. Brenton is refused. Let his blind man march along with the others." + "Dying men."