Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

The Life of General The Hon. James Murray
Chapter XVIII. The Defence of Fort St. Phillips, 1781-82

The closing scene of Murray's active service was approaching. The long expected attack on the fortress, which for the past three years had been constantly expected and even eagerly desired, was now about to take place. The fortress of St. Phillips stood on the southern side of the harbour of Port Mahon, accounted one of the best harbours in the Western Mediterranean. The town of Mahon was about four miles distant, and higher up the deep waterway which constituted the harbour.

Across the harbour, opposite to the castle, was Cape Mola, with its signal tower, and the small fort of Philipet, guarding the entrance to the cove of the name ; scattered along the harbour-way were the islets known as Quarantine Island, Bloody Island, the Naval Hospital, Round Island, and others. To the south, within range, a line of low hills covered with short bushes obscured the view. The rocky nature of all the foreshore, cut by water action into steep scarps and ravines known as barankas, and indented by a number of coves or small bays, gave an unpleasing aspect to the scene, while the lack of trees and the stony nature of the country made it almost unendurably hot in the summer months. The outermost or seaward defence was a small semi-detached work known as Fort Charles, anel from this, stretching along the harbour, ran a long line of defences, surrounding the central keep, known as St. Phillips Castle.

Unfortunately Murray's garrison was far short of the complement he had stated to be necessary, and what is worse, the men had been kept for over long in the unhealthy confinement of the fortress and were already weakened by disease. The enemy strength, on the other hand, was from the first overwhelming ; the allied commanders were determined to leave nothing to chance, and evidently had a wholesome respect for the prowess of the defenders.

The spirit in which the two commanders entered on active hostilities was almost an exaggeration of chivalry, which might have served as the theme for a new Cervantes. De Crillon relates that when inspecting his troops Murray's gunners had narrowly missed hitting him, and Murray in reply was:

"extremely sorry for the behaviour of our artillery officers ; they protest they had no intention to point the guns at the Due de Crillon . . . the thing happened when I was at breakfast. I soon perceived by your attendants and the running footmen that it must be your Excellency, and I was unhappy. I perceive your Excellency was not mounted as well as you would wish to be, and therefore take the liberty to beg you to accept of a mare I had from Grand Cairo, which I know to be of the first breed in Egypt."

De Crillon, in reply, accepts the present with gratitude: "Mais point du tout Vattention de ne point tirer sur moi . . . je vous estime trop pour ne pas vous trailer en ennemy tant que la guerre dureraj'espdre que vous meferrey le meme honneur." Such communications and others of a like nature convey a strange picture of war as we know it; but "the world went very well then," and one can hardly avoid tni-king that the civilisation of the twentieth century has not improved the culture of the race.

Although Murray had advised Lord Hillsborough that a small fleet of six ships of the line would suffice to relieve his garrison and effect the destruction of De Crillon's host, it is very evident that there was no intention of sending any help. What remained of the English naval power was, indeed, fully occupied; but it would have been more honest to say so at once, instead of uttering vague promises of succour as was the ease. Murray soon found that Minorca was left to its fate.

It was during this period, when the Spanish commander, urged on the one hand to effect something decisive which would enable his Court to commence peace negotiations with something in hand, and on the other finding the fighting qualities of his soldiers unequal to the emergency, that he made the attempt to bribe the Governor to hand over the fortress. If this story of James Murray's career has realised its object, the indignation and horror which such a proposal would excite in him can be imagined. I have endeavoured to picture his character as almost supersaturated with notions of military and personal honour, and here was a proposal repugnant to both in the highest degree. The age in which he lived was one in which bribery and corruption was winked at, and one might almost say connived at, by sanction of the highest officers of State. Placemen, and the sale of official posts, out of which the purchaser was openly allowed to profit, had tainted the whole community, and it was the more to Murray's credit that he was prepared to quarrel with his nearest friend, or to dismiss any subordinate, if he suspected practices not in accordance with his ultra strict ideas of propriety.

It was in October (1781) that De Crillon made the attempt, which, if he had known his man better, he would have refused to out. The incident has been often quoted, but Murray's reply was of so lofty a nature that I must be forgiven for giving some detail of it. It appears that on September 18 a certain Mr. John La Riviere, who was Murray's confidential clerk, was sent under a parle-mentaire to take some payments to the officers' ladies left in the town of Mahon. The Due de Crillon sent for this man, and telling him that he knew him to be poor, he would make his fortune.

"I replied," says Mr. La Riviere, "that those who had informed him of my finances had not been mistaken, but at the same time they had omitted to acquaint him I was born and brought up with the principles ol' an honest man, from which I never would deviate."

La Riviere returned to the fortress, but did not report the matter of the bribe, fearing that vengeanee might be taken on his family which was living at Mahon. Nothing further happened until October, when on the 15th of that month Captain George Don, adjutant-general of the garrison, was sent by Murray with a letter to De Crillon. Captain Don relates:

"On my arrival at Mahon I was conducted by the Count de Crillon to the Duke's private apartment. A little after the Count had retired the Duke locked the doors of the room and asked me if Mr. La Riviere had communicated anything particular to me or my General. . . . My answer was in the negative regarding myself, and that I did not believe he had acquainted General Murray of anything extraordinary. The Duke said he had only thrown out general hints to that gentleman of what he would hereafter communicate to me. ... I then told the Duke that he need not be under the smallest uneasiness about anything which he had communicated to Mr. La Riviere, as I knew him to be a young man of great honour and integrity. . . . The Duke then said, I perceive, Sir, by General Murray's letter, that you are his relation, and I understand you are his confidant, I shall therefore openly declare to you that I am authorised to treat with General Murray. If you choose it, Sir, I will show you the minister's letter; in short, your General may have what sum he pleases and one million at first. I then interrupted him, and told him it was unnecessary to proceed further on that subject, and that both the minister and him were egregiously deceived in the character of General Murray. His Grace said he was charged with the negotiation of this affair, that he was confidently informed that General Murray had a strong party against him at Court, that he was ill-treated by some people at home, and that he might expect soon to be relieved (of his command ?). 1 told him, on the contrary, tho' he might have some enemies, I believed he was very well at Court, and imagined his Grace to be misinformed. The Duke said that the fiscal. Don

Peter Surtas, had been intercepted and the paper he wa;. charged with seized, by which great discoveries were made. He said that our nation was undone, that it was impossible for any succours to be sent to us, as he was informed by the minister that the combined fleet, double the force of ours, had orders to give battle to any British fleet which might attempt getting into the Mediterranean. He said that peace' would not be made till Fort St. Phillips was taken, and assured me, tho' he had but twenty battering cannon, lie should soon have 180, a great army and the best miners in Europe, and that the place would certainly be warmly attacked, that it would be humane to save the effusion of blood, that General Murray had already acquired enough glory and a great reputation in arms, that there were modes of giving up places honourably . . . and that it was a pity to sacrifice so many brave men. I told him that whatever might be the event, it was the duty of a soldier to submit to his fate ; that I knew there was not any place impregnable, and that he might ruin our works with a numerous train of artillery; yet I was sure our defence would be such as would always entitle us to an honourable capitulation, but not to flatter himself with the hopes of obtaining the place by any other means, and that a siege was what General Murray ardently wished. The Duke said that if I thought the negotiation would not succeed I need not mention the alt'air to General Murray. I begged to be excused, and said it was my duty to lay his proposition before General Murray, and to communicate to him every word which had passed betwixt his Grace and me, which I assure d him I would accordingly do. . . . The Duke hinted that there were some private transactions carried on when St. Phillips Castle was taken by the French in '56, and that Admiral Byng had not deserved so cruel a fate. . . . The above I communicated to General Murray on my return from Mahon."

Murray was not an even-tempered man, and his wrath had been felt by many delinquents who had aroused it; but whatever explosion may have been caused by this communication, it did not prevent his sending a reply on the following day, which fe>r measured, haughty, reproof could hardly have been excelled.

"Monsieur, Lorsqu'il fut propose a voire brave ancetre par son souverain <isassassiner le Due de Guise, il rendit la response que vous auriez du faire qnand le Roi d'Espagne vous chargea d'assassiner le caractere d'un homme dont la naissance est aussi illustre que la voire, ou eelle du Due de Guise.1

"Je ne puis a Vavenir avoir d'autre communication avec vous qu'avec les Amies.

"Si vous avez de Vhumanite, envoyez les hardes de vos pitoyable prisoniers. Laissez les a une certaine distance, ou ils seront ramassees par mcs gens parceque d'or en avant je ne permettrai point le moindre contact avec vous. hormis ceux d'une hostilite dans le degre le plus invete're."

That the Duke was an unwilling actor in the affair is probable, at least his reply possessed a certain dignity.

"Monsieur, voire lettre nous remete chacun a notre place, elle me conjirme dans Vestime que fai toujours eu pour vous."

"J'accepte avec plaisir voire derniere proposition."

This correspondence was immediately laid before the King, and Lord Hillsborough, under date November 5, writes:

"The spirited contempt with which you have received the offer and unworthy attempt of the enemy upon your fidelity and character is a strong confirmation of your title to that reputation of zeal for the King's service which you have always enjoyed, and the manner of your rejecting the mean and degrading offer is much applauded and admired."

Throughout October and November the siege continued with little that was remarkable. Deserters reported the arrival of 6000 French troops, and that the Spanish forces were now not less than 10,000. An overwhelming force to encompass so small a garrison, and one that Murray felt it did him honour to confront! No less than seventeen separate batteries had been constructed, some of them mounting 15 guns—-in all 168 guns, besides several mortar batteries. The whole place was practically surrounded by artillery, and the determination to capture the fortress was obvious, even if the means employed seemed excessive.

It was on December 28, the siege then having lasted four and a half months, that the first note of disaster occurred.

"Everybody," wrote the Governor, "is alert and in spirits, bat unfortunately the scurvy has made its appearance. The experience I have so often had in the course of my service of its dreadful effects alarms me, when I consider that one-half the troops has lived eleven years on salt provisions, the other half not less than six."

It is probable that one cause of the appearance of this terrible disease was the unwholesome life in the subterranean casemates of the fortress. These defences formed a feature of the place, and were hewn out of the rock, but they were both damp and doubtless saturated with germs of disease. Yet for the most part, when not on duty, the garrison appears to have occupied them, probably because they were sheltered from the enemy's shot and shell.

Reference must now be made to an occurrence which was to have a marked effect on this story, namely, the unfortunate differences which arose between Murray and Sir William Draper, the lieut.-governor of Minorca. There is nothing to show what caused this trouble. In several of his letters Murray expresses himself as happy to have Draper's assistance, and I do not find any indication that my hero was given to any display of superiority that would justly have annoyed a man of Draper's distinguished record. On the contrary, there are many indications that

Murray had in a considerable degree the habit of introspection and a frank estimation of his faults. As an instance I may quote from a letter written at this period to the Secretary of State:

"His Majesty may depend upon my caution and circumspection, and that those who formerly blamed me for being deficient in these necessary endowments will find that altho' the fire still burns it is moderated by old age and the experience of forty-five years' service."

He certainly had a warm, frank admiration of Draper as a soldier, and describing himself as having " carried arms from his youth and as not educated for any of the learned professions," he felt the superiority of a man of whom Junius had written: "You are a scholar, Sir William, and, if I am truly informed, you write Latin with almost as much purity as English."

It is remarkable that Draper took his first step a few days after the incident of the Due de Crillon's attempt to buy Murray's fidelity. So far as 1 can gather, it was taken without any warning and without the victim being even aware of it. Whether it was merely a coincidence cannot be certainly said, but Draper's action, taken at the time when proposals were being made to win the fortress by unfair means, certainly played into the hands of the enemy and weakened the hands of the Governor very considerably. The action referred to was the following letter to Lord Holderness, dated October 29, 1781:

"My Lord, I am sorry to be obliged to inform you that I think Lieut.-General Murray in his capacity as a magistrate has acted so very ill that I hold it incumbent upon me to bring him to trial for the same, and I must beg the favour of you to inform His Majesty therewith.'"

The curious thing about this letter is that it seems to have no connection with the charges subsequently raised by Draper. It seems vaguely to hint at civil misdoings, and it seems astonishing that a subordinate should consider himself entitled to forward so indelinite a statement concerning his superior, or that he should dream of putting a document of this kind unsupported by a shred of evidence before a former Secretary of State with any hope of effecting his desire, There seem to be only two possible explanations, the one that Draper's excessive vanity had literally turned his head, or that De Crillon's offer had been extended to the Lieut.-Governor with more success than it met with in the case of the Governor. As a matter of fact, this letter did not reach London until January 27, 1782, and it appears to have ended then and there. At the time it was written the records show that Murray entertained no suspicion of Draper. He had been placed in command of the outward defences of the fortress, and Murray's correspondence with him, preserved in the Record Office, shows a most friendly disposition. A long memorandum addressed to Draper, and written at the end of September, gave the Governor's views on the possible methods of attack and the best defence in various circumstances.

The first recorded note of the quarrel appears in a letter dated October 4:

"Sir William Draper presents his respects to the Governor, and begs the favour to be informed what his Definition of the Outline is. Sir William Draper thought it comprehended the outworks in general; on that supposition, as he was charged with their defence, he imagined some traverses in the covered way necessary for that purpose. He finds they are forbid, therefore desires to know the extent of his command. . . ."

It is not possible to express an opinion on the question of the necessity for the works in question, or whether in countermanding them Murray had given unnecessary offence to his touchy subordinate. But the matter was certainly trilling, and it argues a very complete absence of the sense of subordination, that Draper should presume to caviat instructions issued by his commander. Murray, in his reply, was firm, but courteous:

"Lieut.-General Murray presents his respects to Sir William Draper. . . . Lieut.-General Murray will for ever think himself obliged to Sir William Draper for his exertions. He would be happy now to be assisted with his advice, as would the chief engineer, but 'tis uncommon for a Governor to have works carry on when he is present on the spot, without his knowledge. . . .'"

This view of the case can only be considered correct and moderate, and I think it is clear that Draper assumed an attitude of complete independence, which even a rnuder man than Murray would hardly have accepted.

A month later (November 11) a message was sent by Captain George Don, asking the reason certain changes were made in the guards without the knowledge of the Governor. From Don's written statement it appears that when he had delivered part of the message, Sir William stopped him,

"and said he was deprived of all command . . . which was such an affront shown him that he would insist on a general court martial to decide who was in the right or wrong in regard to that as well as other things. That a General upon the staff and in his situation here to be obliged to apply for permisson to fire a gun was a thing unheard of and extremely insulting to him. . . ."

Murray replied on the following day (November 12):

"It gave me infinite concern to receive the enclosed to a message I had the honour to send you yesterday. I am conscious I have never done anything to give you offence. I told you before I would do all in my power to please you, but that of divesting myself of the command which His Majesty has been pleased to confer on me. I gave you a very large share of it, and for the sake of peace and harmony, which should subsist in the garrison, I did and would have continued to wink at the contempt and neglect you have shown by your never reporting to me the changes you have made and the occurrences which have happened in the department confided to your charge as Lieut.-Governor. I judge the orders of the 15th of last month to be both proper and necessary, and therefore cannot retreat from them. At present it is necessary to know if it is your pleasure to act as the Lieut.-Governor of this garrison, because if you will not I must make other arrangements."

In reply to this Draper stated that he owed too much to the public and his own character to decline acting in his post, and there the matter rested for a short time. It is obvious that the tension was great, and the ill-effects of such division between the leaders must have had serious results on the well-being of the defence.

Early in January, 1782, it became necessary, in order to strengthen some of the defences, to abandon others, and Murray, choosing what was known as the inner covered way and the Marlborough battery, decidcd to withdraw the men from them. This decision produced a fresh outburst of insubordination from Draper, who declared:

"I should never have thought myself equal to the defence of the out line, unless I had flattered myself with a certainty of support from the inner. That support being withdrawn, I confess myself unequal to the task and by no means responsible."

Murray replied: "I wish to avoid all altercation with you at present. I, and I alone, am responsible to my King and my country for the defence of this place." He then detailed his reasons for the action ordered, and adds:

"In short, I will not, with so pitiful a handful of worn-out men, undertake the defence of the inner covered way, and give the enemy the opportunity or rather the certainty of entering upon the place pell-mell. To attempt this would be having a short siege indeed. I mean it shall be a long one, which will do honour to the troops and the officers commanding them. Every attempt to take the command of the garrison from me will be ineffectual. If you, Sir, decline the part of the defence I have assigned you, I shall appoint another."

Draper, in his reply on the January 16, demanded a council of war, failing which lie declined to act any longer m his capacity as Lieut.-Governor. The harassed Governor probably welcomed this final act of insubordination, as getting rid of his troublesome enemy within the gates, and promptly appointed Colonel Pringle of the 51st and Colonel Linsing of the Hanoverians to divide the command of the outer line. To Draper he wrote :

"As you decline the execution of the command 1 assigned to you, and will not obey your Governor, it is better for the service that you should be taken at your word ; such an example of disrespect and contempt of a Governor is inexcusable at all times. In the present state of affairs here I think it cannot be justified. . . . As to personal abuse, I shall do justice to myself you may be assured when the time arrives."

In this state of affairs the Governor considered it desirable, as a measure of evidence, to obtain the written views of the senior officers, and the question was put whether the inner covered way should be defended or not. The reply, dated January 18, given was, " The state of the garrison is such that we apprehend it could make but a feeble resistance in manning the whole internal covered way; but a rider was added that an armistice should be asked for, and that if succour should not arrive within a month capitulation should follow. Murray's reply to this evidence of faint-heartedness among his leaders betrayed a spirit of which we may be proud. Let us remember that he was one facing a crowd of men ready to give in— men whom he strongly suspected of having yielded to the arguments of the mutinous Lieut.-Governor. That he was worn out with constant work himself and worried by the recalcitrance of one who should have been his principal support.

"Brother officers," he wrote, "with great attention I have examined the paper in answer to what I had the honor to propose and lay before you.

"Your answer takes in a latitude I never meant to give you, that of the prudential measures for entering into terms of capitulation with the enemy. The state of the siege can by no means, in my opinion, admit of that. Our only course is how to prolong our defence. It was on that point and that point alone I consulted you. The idea of capitulation to me seems a very distant one indeed. ... It is mortifying that the experience I have had in the service has so little weight. The reputation I have acquired in it will not admit of my consent to propose any terms to the enemy for the surrender of the place till we are wore to the last extremity. I have promised so to His Majesty ; I told his ministers we looked upon ourselves as a forlorn hope, who would glory in doing our utmost for the honor of our master's arms. To think of any reinforcements from England would be chimerical. All we have to be solicitous about is our own glory. . . . Believe me, I mean to be prudent but intrepid. Some confidence I expected would have been put in me; but as it is the opinion of the principal officers of the garrison (that we should treat with the enemy), for without their confidence I can expect little from the troops, I can only demand their obedience in the execution of my orders, which in the most solemn manner I do. If it is not to be granted I am no longer Governor, I resign the command to the Lieut.-Governor, who is a better officer, I sincerely believe, than I am; I am sure he is a better politician, so there may be no demur or uproar on the subject."

This appeal shows a gallant spirit, and at the same time the bitterness of the situation into which Draper had forced him. The Governor was ready to cast all question of precedence to the winds, so long only that the defence be continued. It is a pleasure to record that the officers' reply shows them touched by the attitude of the commander.

"We beg leave to assure your Excellency, notwithstanding our unanimous opinion is not so happy as to meet your Excellency's approval, that we are perfectly satisfied and at all times determined to obey your Excellency's views."

The mutiny, for it was scarcely less, was ended, but Murray, who had strong suspicions of the origin, placed the following on record :

"George Don, Captain 51st Regiment, swears : That the Governor went to Colonel Pringle's quarters in the Caroline Lunette and asked to see a paper wrote by Sir William Draper, which the colonel had had. I did not see the paper, but from conversation I gather it contained Sir William Draper's ideas of the then situation, and that he. Sir William Draper, was of opinion that propositions ought to be made to the Due de Crillon, desiring a cessation of hostilities for a certain period of time, and that in case of 110 succours arriving, to capitulate. The paper was wrote on or about the 14th inst."

In the sequel, Colonel Pringle was directed to obtain Sir William Draper's assent to handing the paper to the Governor, but Draper objected to this course and withdrew it. There was enough, however, to show pretty clearly that Sir William Draper, not content with open contempt of the Governor's position, had attempted to form a combination among the officers with the object of forcing a capitulation. Here for the present we will quit an unpleasant subject, but when, after Murray's return from Minorca, he had to undergo trial on charges brought by General Draper, one can only be astonished that the prisoner before the Court was not Draper himself, rather than the man whom he had done everything in his power to injure and to thwart.

It is unnecessary to detain the reader much longer with the affairs of the siege of Fort St. Phillips. The enemy's artillery, formidable as it was, was not destined to prove a determining cause of the capture of the fortress. Duruig January the sickness amongst the troops increased rapidly and alarmingly, and several cases of what was described as a "putrid fever"—no doubt typhus—occurred amongst the numerous cases of scurvy. The terrible debility accompanying the latter disease dominated the spirits of the garrison. On February 1 the Physician-General, Dr. George Monro, reported :

"From the extraordinary increase of the sick in the garrison, and the little progress we make in reducing the evil, we judge it necessary, both on account of the public service as well as our own credit, to inform your Excellency that the prevailing disease, the scurvy, amongst the troops is got to such an alarming height as seems to us to admit of no remedy in our present situation. Every means has been tried to palliate this formidable malady ; but the daily, and we may say hourly, falling down of men bailies our endeavours. . . . We are sorry to add that it does not appear to us that any one now in hospital will be able to do the smallest duty under present circumstances, where no vegetable food is to be had, or free air."

The number of men doing duty in the four regiments was reduced to 760, which shows that nearly half the infantry force available on January 1 (1502 men) had been taken into hospital during the month. Of the men fit for duty on February 1, 106 were carried to hospital in the first three days of February, leaving only 660 soldiers available. Of this remnant 560 were reported to be scorbutic, evidencing symptoms of the oncoming of the disease. The surgeons reported that these last-mentioned men " will in all probability be in a few days incapable of performing any duty." The garrison had practically ceased to exist in one month since the disease first showed itself, so rapid had been the spread of the complaint.

In view of this disastrous state of affairs, the Governor assembled another council on Sunday, February 3, at which he addressed the members as follows:

"Brother officers, the candour and openness with which I have conducted myself with regard to you, makes it impossible for you to reproach me, or for me to reproach myself in any respect.

"Sixteen days ago, when you thought it necessary to advise a suspension of arms from the Due de Crillon for a time, till succours might arrive from Britain, my experience dictated to me that time was in our own possession. For sure I am, that had we men we have nothing to apprehend from any attempt of the enemy.

"Sixteen days ago, when the ravages of the scurvy had not taken place. Now the desertion of one man may alter the case, for this day wc have only 741 men of the four regiments, 889 sailors, 95 of the Royal Artillery, now doing duty, of which 600 arc scorbutic.*

"It now only remains for me to apologise for not concurring in your first opinion, of immediately treating with the Due de Crillon, agreeable to your first opinion given to me unasked."

"In the first place, I am to observe to you that although I expected no succours from England, I thought we had the means of making a glorious defence for our numbers. That the asking for a suspension of arms was a poor artifice easily seen through by the most ignorant enemy, and if granted was only a matter of parade calculated to amuse the shallow politicians of St. James' coffee-houses. . . . I abhore ostentation as much as I detest regulating my actions with the view only of pleasing the English populace. Thank God, I am above such low artifices. . . .

"That the officers almost to a man are determined to obey their commander and depend on his prudence and experience, I have had assurance from the mouths of most of them. That the soldiers are animated by the same sentiments is evident to every man. Rather than yield and succumb under their present malady they consent to be lifted up to go on sentry; and, having performed that office, are found dead in their beds when called upon to take it again in turn.

"All this calamity, brother officers, has rushed upon us since January 18. The question now is whether or not we should capitulate directly. The parade of a suspension of arms appears to me idle. An immediate remedy for the relief of our most brave, distressed soldiers, is what we should obtain."

Details of the medical opinion here followed. The council unanimously concurred that capitulation was the only course remaining to be pursued.

It is superfluous to refer to what must have been Murray's feelings when submitting this last proposal to his brother officers. He was himself affected by the prevailing epidemic, and no doubt the fact lent additional difficulty to bearing with equanimity so shattering a blow-to all his high hopes of a gloriously continued defence, but a word regarding the heroism of the men w ill not be out of place. The private soldiers of those days differed in very many respects from their descendants of to-day. In general they were men enlisted for long service, and the regiment was their home and their pride. There are countless instances of the collective gallantry of battalions in those days, and it is not too much to say that that subtle camaraderie, which we know as esprit de corps, had its birth during these wars of which we have been treating. Under the old system the battalions were known by the names of the colonel commanding, and he had wider powers and a more intimate connection with the well-being of his men than is now the case, when every detail is drawn up in regulations beyond which the commander dare not go. Of comfort for the men there was little ; they lived hugger-mugger in horrible surroundings; married men and their wives and children in the same barracks with the unmarried, with little or no privacy ; but the age was not one when comfort, as we know it, had penetrated to the lower classes, and the private soldier found, in his military surroundings, what was almost luxury compared to what he left. When an officer was appointed to the staff he was technically taken into the " family " of his commander, and this term describes the general feeling. The men were rough and uneducated, but they looked up with respect to officers, who were also gentlemen, and for the most part they were so. A commanding officer who saw to it that the men had the best of what was to be had was fairly worshipped, and his soldiers would do anything for him. Murray was such an one, and he had achieved that greatest mark of popularity which the rank and file could bestow—an affectionate nickname. We have all heard of the " Petit Caporal," and what thai name nerved the French soldier to do a few years later; to his men at this time Murray was " Old Minorca," and they relied on him to see them through, whatever happened. Perhaps we may smile at Old Minorca, his reiteration of the " Glory of His Majesty's arms," and his superlative notions of the pre-eminence of things military; but there is something enviable and admirable in a commander for whom his rough soldiers will do and dare to the end. If Murray's character rested on nothing else, I think this picture of soldiers enduring the distressing symptoms of scurvy, suffering themselves "to be lifted up to go on sentry, and when having performed that office are found dead in their beds when called upon to take it again in turn," would suffice to indicate that he was a man with a hero's heart. But if we draw such a conclusion of the commander, what praise is too much to give to the heroism of the men ? They, at least, had little or nothing to gain from endurance ; for it was not the custom to do anything for the soldier " broken in the wars." In the opening of this story I have told of the fortitude of the men who faced the disasters of the Carthagena campaign, later on 1 have told you how the starved, frozen, sickly garrison of Quebec kept the flag flying, on neither of these occasions did the Rritish soldier show a greater spirit than that which filled the garrison of Fort St. Phillips.

On Monday, February 4 (1782), the Governor sent his proposals forcapitulationtothe Spanish General. He wrote:

"Sir,—As the succours I expected from England have not come, and to save blood of brave men on both sides, humanity bids me not obstinately to persist in defending a place which in the long run must yield to the superiority of your force. At the same time national honour, and my own feelings, dictate to me the necessity of expiring with our arms in our hands, unless the articles of capitulation, which I have the honour to enclose to you, are granted by your Excellency."

The "Articles" included: "That the garrison be allowed the honors of war, to march out with drums beating, shouldered arms, colours flying, twenty-four rounds per man, matches lighted. Four cannons and two mortars with twenty-four rounds for each piece."

The granting of these terms would have meant that the garrison was free to rejoin the army in England or elsewhere, and it is not surprising that the Due de Crillon, who knew the desperate condition of the troops, should have seen through the bluff contained in Murray's letter. The orders of his Court, he replied, prevented his accepting any terms but that the garrison should yield themselves prisoners of war ! On the same day, at ten o'clock at night, the inevitable result followed, and fresh articles were sent out, in which the one already quoted was changed:

"As his Excellency, the Due de Crillon, by the express orders of his Sovereign, cannot receive the garrison but as prisoners of war, his Excellency, the Honorable. Lieut.-General James Murray, consents to surrender the garrison agreeable to the Due de Crillon's instructions from his Court, but he expects the Due de Crillon will allow the garrison to march out with all the honours of war he has required in the second article of those sent to the Due de Criilon, which is by no means incompatible with his Excellency's instructions, and will tend more to his glory, for certainly no troops ever gave greater proof of heroism than did this poor worn-out garrison of St. Phillips Castle, who have defended themselves almost to the last man."

To this the Duke replied :

"The garrison shall be prisoners of war, but in consideration of the constancy and valour which General Murray and his men have shown in their brave defence, they shall be permitted to go out with their arms shouldered, drums beating, lighted matches, and colours flying, till having marched thro' the midst of the army they shall lay down their arms and colours."

To this was added that the other conditions, chiefly in regard to transport of the troops, were accepted:

"For the courage and firmness of his Excellency M. de Murray add further to the esteem that I have already for him. and that which the Spaniards and the French together with all Europe accord to the valour of the English nation and of the Hanoverians."

We can close this distressing scene by quoting Murray's despatch to the Earl of Hillsborough, which he sent home by the hand of his adjutant-general, Captain George Don, dated Minorca, February 16, 1782:

"My Lord, I have the honour to acquaint your Lordship that Fort St. Phillips was surrendered to His Catholic Majesty the 5th instant. The capitulation accompanies this. I flatter myself all Europe will agree the brave garrison showed uncommon heroism and that thirst for glory which has ever distinguished the troops of my royal master. Our necessary guards required 415 men the night before the capitulation; the whole number able to carry arms amounted to 660 only. Of course there were none for piequet, and a defect of 170 to relieve the guards, as is evident by the return. The most inveterate scurvy which I believe has ever infected mortals reduced us to this situation. The reports of the faculty fully explain the dreadful havoc it made, and that three days' further obstinacy on my part must have inevitably destroyed the brave remains of this garrison, as they declare there was no remedy for the men in hospital but vegetables, and that of the 660 able to do duty, 560 were actually hainted with scurvy, and in all likelihood would be in hospital in four days' time. Such was the uncommon spirit of the King's soldiers that they concealed their disorders and inability rather than go into the hospitals ; several men died on guard after having stood sentry; their fate was not discovered till called upon for the relief when it came to their turn to mount again. Perhaps a more noble, or a more tragical scene, was never exhibited than that of the march of the garrison of St. Phillips through the Spanish and French armies. It consisted of no more than 600 old decrepit soldiers, 200 seamen, 120 of the Royal Artillery, 20 Corsicans and 25 Greeks, Turks, Moors, Jews, etc. The two armies were drawn up in two lines, the battalions facing each other, forming a way for us to march through; they consisted of 14,000 men, and reached from the Glacis to George Town, where our battalions laid down their arms, declaring they had surrendered them to God alone, having the consolation the \ictors could not plume themselves in taking a hospital. . . ,"

Return to our Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.