"The fall, together with the beating was so severe that I was deprived of my senses for a considerable time. When I recovered them I found myself in the carpenter's berth, placed upon some old canvas between two chests, having my right thigh, leg and arm broken, and several parts of my body severely bruised. In this situation I lay eighteen days till our officers, who had been on business to Dublin, came on board. The captain inquired for the prisoners, and on being informed of my situation came down with the doctor to set my bones, but finding them callused they concluded not to meddle with me."
In Part 2 of "The Case of John Blatchford," the American patriot is transported across the Atlantic, for "service" in the East India Company. He is beaten, escapes, is captured, and sentenced to bear 800 lashes. To read the next installment of the story, click "Read More."
Taken from Chapter 16, "The Case of John Blatchford," "American Prisoners of the Revolution," by Danske Dandridge (full ebook at Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7829. Edited by Gary M. Bohannon.
I WAS THREATENED with every kind of death, and ordered out of the Governor's presence. * * * Next day I was sent on board the Greyhound, the ship I had run from, and we sailed for England. Our captain being a humane man ordered my irons off, a few days after we sailed, and permitted me to do duty as formerly. Being out thirteen days we spoke the Hazard sloop of war, who informed that the French fleet was then cruising in the English Channel. For this reason we put into Cork, and the dispatches were forwarded to England.
While we lay in the Cove of Cork I jumped overboard with the intention of getting away; unfortunately I was discovered and fired at by the marines; the boat was immediately sent after me, took me up, and carried me on board again. At this time almost all the officers were on shore, and the ship was left in charge of the sailing-master, one Drummond, who beat me most cruelly. To get out of his way I run forward, he followed me, and as I was running back he came up with me and threw me down the main-hold. The fall, together with the beating was so severe that I was deprived of my senses for a considerable time. When I recovered them I found myself in the carpenter's berth, placed upon some old canvas between two chests, having my right thigh, leg and arm broken, and several parts of my body severely bruised. In this situation I lay eighteen days till our officers, who had been on business to Dublin, came on board. The captain inquired for the prisoners, and on being informed of my situation came down with the doctor to set my bones, but finding them callused they concluded not to meddle with me.
The ship lay at Cork until the French fleet left the Channel, and then sailed for Spithead. On our arrival there I was sent in irons on board the Princess Amelia, and the next day was carried on board the Brittania, in Portsmouth Harbor, to be tried before Sir Thomas Pye, lord high admiral of England, and President of the court martial.
Before the officers had collected I was put under the care of a sentinel, and the seamen and women who came on board compassionated my sufferings, which rather heightened than diminished my distress.
I was sitting under the awning, almost overpowered by the reflection of my unhappy situation, every morning expecting to be summoned for my trial, when I heard somebody enquire for the prisoner, and supposing it to be an officer I rose up and answered that I was there.
The gentleman came to me, told me to be of good cheer, and taking out a bottle of cordial, bade me drink, which I did. He then enquired where I belonged. I informed him. He asked me if I had parents living, and if I had any friends in England? I answered I had neither. He then assured me he was my friend, and would render me all the assistance in his power. He then enquired of me every circumstance relative to my fray with the man at Halifax, for whose death I was now to be tried and instructed me what to say on my trial, etc.
Whether this man was a philanthropist, or an agent for the East India Company, we do not know. He instructed Blatchford to plead guilty, and then defended him from the charge of murder, no doubt on the plea of self defence. Blatchford was therefore acquitted of murder, but apparently sold to the East India Company as a slave. How this was condoned we do not know, but will let the poor sailor continue his narrative in his own words.
I was carried on board an Indiaman, and immediately put down into the run, where I was confined ten days. * * * On the seventh day I heard the boatswain pipe all hands, and about noon I was called up on board, where I found myself on board the Princess Royal, Captain Robert Kerr, bound to the East Indies, with six others, all large ships belonging to the East India Company. He had been told that he was to be sent back to America to be exchanged, and his disappointment amounted almost to despair.
Our captain told me if I behaved well and did my duty I should receive as good usage as any man on board; this gave me great encouragement. I now found my destiny fixed, that whatever I could do would not in the least alter my situation, and therefore was determined to do the best I could, and make myself as contented as my unfortunate situation would admit.
After being on board seven days I found there were in the Princess Royal 82 Americans, all destined to the East Indies, for being what they called 'Rebels.'
We had a passage of seventeen weeks to St Helena, where we put in and landed part of our cargo, which consisted wholly of provisions. * * * The ship lay here about three weeks. We then sailed for Batavia, and on the passage touched at the Cape of Good Hope, where we found the whole of the fleet that sailed with us from England. We took in some provisions and necessaries, and set sail for Batavia, where we arrived in ten weeks. Here we purchased a large quantity of arrack, and remained a considerable time.
We then sailed for Bencoulen in the Island of Sumatra, and after a passage of about six weeks arrived there. This was in June, 1780.
At this place the Americans were all carried on shore, and I found that I was no longer to remain on board the ship, but condemned to serve as a soldier for five years. I offered to bind myself to the captain for five years, or any longer term if I might serve on board the ship. He told me it was impossible for me to be released from acting as a soldier, unless I could pay 50 pounds sterling. As I was unable to do this I was obliged to go through the manual exercise with the other prisoners; among whom was Wm. Randall of Boston, and Josiah Folgier of Nantucket, both young men, and one of them an old shipmate of mine.
These two and myself agreed to behave as ignorant and awkward as possible, and what motions we learned one day we were to forget the next. We pursued this conduct nearly a fortnight, and were beaten every day by the drill-sergeant who exercised us, and when he found we were determined, in our obstinacy, and that it was not possible for him to learn us anything, we were all three sent into the pepper gardens belonging to the East India Company; and continued picking peppers from morning till night, and allowed but two scanty meals a day. This, together with the amazing heat of the sun, the island lying under the equator, was too much for an American constitution, unused to a hot climate, and we expected that we should soon end our misery and our lives; but Providence still preserved us for greater hardships.
The Americans died daily with heat and hard fare, which determined my two comrades and myself in an endeavor to make our escape. We had been in the pepper-gardens four months when an opportunity offered, and we resolved upon trying our fortune. Folgier, Randall and myself sat out with an intention of reaching Croy (a small harbor where the Dutch often touched at to water, on the opposite side of the island). Folgier had by some means got a bayonet, which he fixed in the end of a stick. Randall and myself had nothing but staves, which were all the weapons we carried with us. We provided ourselves with fireworks [flints used to start fires] for our journey, which we pursued unmolested till the fourth day just at night, when we heard a rustle in the bushes and discovered nine sepoys, who rushed out upon us.
Folgier being the most resolute of us run at one of them, and pushed his bayonet through his body into a tree. Randall knocked down another; but they overpowered us, bound us, and carried us back to the fort, which we reached in a day and a half, though we had been four days travelling from it, owing to the circle we made by going round the shore, and they came across the woods being acquainted with the way.
Immediately on our arrival at the fort the Governor called a court martial, to have us tried. We were soon all condemned to be shot next morning at seven o'clock, and ordered to be sent into the dungeon and confined in irons, where we were attended by an adjutant who brought a priest with him to pray and converse with us, but Folgier, who hated the sight of an Englishman, desired that we might be left alone. * * * the clergyman reprimanded him, and told him he made very light of his situation on the supposition that he would be reprieved; but if he expected it he deceived himself. Folgier still persisted in the clergyman's leaving us, if he would have us make our peace with God, 'for,' said he, 'the sight of Englishmen, from whom we have received such treatment, is more disagreeable than the evil spirits of which you have spoken;' that, if he could have his choice, he would choose death in preference to life, if he must have it on the condition of such barbarous usage as he had received from their hands; and the thoughts of death did not seem so hideous to him as his past sufferings.
He visited us again about midnight, but finding his company was not acceptable, he soon left us to our melancholy reflections.
Before sunrise we heard the drums beat, and soon after heard the direful noise of the door grating on its iron hinges. We were all taken out, our irons taken off, and we conducted by a strong guard of soldiers to the parade, surrounded by a circle of armed men, and led into the midst of them, where three white officers were placed by our side;--silence was then commanded, and the adjutant taking a paper out of his pocket read our sentence;--and now I cannot describe my feelings upon this occasion, nor can it be felt by any one but those who have experienced some remarkable deliverance from the grim hand of death, when surrounded on all sides, and nothing but death expected from every quarter, and by Divine Providence there is some way found out for escape--so it seemed to me when the adjutant pulled out another paper from his pocket and read: 'That the Governor and Council, in consideration of the youth of Randall and myself, supposing us to be led on by Folgier, who was the oldest, thought proper to pardon us from death, and that instead we were to receive 800 lashes each.'
Although this last sentence seemed terrible to me, yet in comparison with death, it seemed to be light. Poor Folgier was shot in our presence,--previous to which we were told we might go and converse with him. Randall went and talked with him first, and after him I went up to take my leave, but my feelings were such at the time I had not power to utter a single word to my departing friend, who seemed as undaunted and seemingly as willing to die as I was to be released, and told me not to forget the promises we had formerly made to each other, which was to embrace the first opportunity to escape.
We parted, and he was immediately after shot dead. We were next taken and tied, and the adjutant brought a small whip made of cotton, which consisted of a number of strands and knotted at the ends; but these knots were all cut off by the adjutant before the drummer took it, which made it not worse than to have been whipped with cotton yarn.
After being whipped 800 lashes we were sent to the Company's hospital, where we had been about three weeks when Randall told me he intended very soon to make his escape:--This somewhat surprised me, as I had lost all hopes of regaining my liberty, and supposed he had. I told him I had hoped he would never mention it again; but however, if that was his design, I would accompany him. He advised me, if I was fearful, to tarry behind; but finding he was determined on going, I resolved to run the risk once more; and as we were then in a hospital we were not suspected of such a design.