Letters written after the Battle

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Letters written after
the Battle of Jersey

A number of first-hand accounts of the Battle of Jersey have survived in letters written shortly after it took place, one of them the following day

There were two letters written by members of the garrison forces who participated in the Battle, one by the island's Attorney-General to the Governor, complaining about the conduct of the Lieut-Governor, Major Moyse Corbet, advising him that the Island had lost confidence in its commander; and letters to Lieut-Bailiff Charles Lempriere from his sons, one of whom was wounded in the Battle, and the Attorney-General.

All but two of these letters (see below) were published in the 29th Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise in 1905.

Thomas Pipon

Letter from Attorney-General Thomas Pipon to the Governor, General Henry Seymour Conway


"I think it an indispensable Duty in me not to dissemble to your Excellency the true Situation of this Island, and the Sense of the Inhabitants upon the Proceedings on the late extraordinary Event that has agitated this Country. Every Body seems to allow that, the Lieut-Governor being surprised and taken Prisoner, although amazing, is not without Example, but that, being in the Power of the Enemy, he should agree in a Capitulation by which the Troops were to surrender, and the Island and Fortifications be given up, before we could know the strength of our Enemies, or had tried any of the Means which Providence had put into our Hands; should go at the Head of some of the French forces to put them in possession of the Castle Elizabeth; and by his written Orders to the commanding Officer in that Garrison, and to the Officers of the Troops, as well as by the Arguments made use of to our Forces, he should attempt to tie our Hands, and induce to an acquiescence in his Treaty; and should send Messages for the Lieut-Bailly {Josué Pipon, appointed second Lieut-Bailiff the previous year, and father of the writer} and myself as his Majesty's Procureur, to repair to him in order to give our Sanction to it, seemed not to be reconciled with the Duty of a commanding Officer either towards his Majesty or the Subjects under his Protection.
"Notwithstanding Mine and the general Opinion that the Governor being in the Power, and awed by the Fear of the Enemy, could no longer command or expect Obedience from, those who were at Liberty and had Arms in their Hands, nor bind them by such an Agreement upon which they had not been consulted; Yet I saw and I since learn that the most respectable Part in the different Departments saw likewise, that in attempting to rescue and save the Country, we should be exposed, if overpowered by the Enemy (whose real strength we were Ignorant of and which was magnified to us by the Lieut-Governor on their Authority) to the most ignominious Treatment, upon the Foundation, that we had broken a Capitulation, by which, right or wrong, they would have held us bound.
"Things being upon this Footing your Excellency will Judge that the Lieut-Governor has lost, if not forfeited the Confidence of the Inhabitants; and I could even say that the Construction of his Conduct by many goes still farther; so far that I hear many profess that the Island once restored to Tranquility, they can no longer think of serving under their present Commander. The Knowledge I have of your Excellency's Zeal for the Prosperity of this your Government does not allow me to keep from your Excellency our real but unhappy Situation, that such effectual Operations may be used as may restore Confidence, and insure the Safety of the Island.

Jersey, 8 January 1781

Thomas Lempriere

Letter from Charles Lempriere to his father Charles Lempriere, Seigneur of Rosel and Lieut-Bailiff, giving an account of the Battle of Jersey, in which he was wounded (Letter written within a few days of the Battle and translated from French by Mike Bisson)

My dear father

"It is with the greatest pleasure that I inform you of the deliverance of our island from the hand of the French, and of the total defeat of their troops, commanded by Brigadier General Baron d'Ancour (sic), notwithstanding that the French were masters of the town and the Governor taken in his bed, before any alarm could be given. It was about eight in the morning of the sixth of this month when we were alarmed at Rosel by firing and the sound of bells. I equipped myself as quickly as possible and set out for the town. About half way there I heard the annoying news that the Governor had been taken prisoner and the town had capitulated, and shortly after I met the Viscount who have me the same intelligence, adding that the 83rd Regiment had been taken captive; something which could not be verified as you will see below.
"We proceeded to reach the heights of Mont ès Pendus (Gallow's Hill), where the troops and the Militia were assembling from all parts; soon Major Peirson had under his command a corps of nearly 2,000 men, with whom one resolved to descend from the 'mountain' and attack the French, who were encamped in the Market, and had seized the Town cannons and placed them at different openings to the Market, in order to best prevent our troops from attacking them. By luck they did not find the Howitzers, which were at a location unknown to them; we learned from different people who had seen the French troops, thet they numbered no more than 800 to 900 men; they had the insolence with this to demand the surrender of the Castle; and to achieve this they sent Mr Corbet to propose a capitulation; this which was rejected with Indignation by the Castle; which fired on the French troops and killed two or three men, one of whom fell close to the side of Mr Corbet; if they had advanced further they would surely all have been massacred, and our Governor with them, because the cannons of the Castle were charged with grape shot; which would had a prodigious effect if they had advanced further, but they had the prudence to draw back in good time.
"The Light Infantry of the 78th, with the North Regiment, were detached to take possession of Mont de la VIlle, which position was one of the most advantageous, and from where it would have been simple to cut off the French retreat in the event that they wished to flee; the troops arrived there without obstacle having taken the minor roads and avoiding the town streets.
"When Major Peirson believed that they had reached their position he gave orders for all troops to descend to the plain and go straight to attack the French; but we were once again held up here for some time, Mr Corbet being sent by the French General to offer us the most ridiculous terms of capitulation and to say that if the capitulation was not signed he would put the town to fire and blood within a half hour; seeing that it was more our right to demand that they surrender, being the larger force, you can imagine what our response was.
"They did not receive one any more favourable from the 83rd Regiment and the part of the East Regmiment which was at Grouville. When the French General had received our response he was heard to say that they would not surrender and he had come here to die; which was to happen. The attack commenced with plenty of heat in Grande Rue, where the 78th Regiment, the St Lawrence Battalion, the South-West Regiment and the Companies of St John were disposed, with the rest of the Militia. We had too many troops for the area and being squashed tightly could only manoeuvre with some confusion. A third of the number of troops would have been sufficient to destroy the French army; the soldiers not having targets to aim at discharged the majority of their rounds in the air. The French resistance did not last long; the bulk of the action lasted about a quarter of an hour; it did not appear that the French made great use of their cannons, only having fired once or twice.
"We had one howitzer which was placed in the Grande Rue; as soon as it was fired it cleared the whole area of French. I advanced with Major Peirson and an elite troop of the 95th towards Avenue du Marché, which is opposite the house of Doctor Fergusson. When we were on the point of gaining victory one of the most unfortunate events filled us with sadness; our brave commander, Major Peirson, fell at my side, hit in the heart by a musket ball; I cannot express to you the regret I felt on the death of this honourable young man; it is regretted in the whole of the army as totally pointless. SHortly after I was myself hit by a musket ball which passed through my shoulder, just as the French surrendered; I had the strength to reach the house of Mr Gosset, where I was immediately visited by the doctor who assured me that my wound was not dangerous; and that in 12 to 15 days he hoped that I would recover; which I am starting to do at great pace.
"At the moment the doctors are ordering me to keep still and receive few visitors, which is why I have refused the majority of those who have come to inquire about my health. I cannot express to you the care and attention I have received from the Gosset family, where I have been since I was hit. Everyone has attempted to migitage the results of my injury, and the way I have been cared for and the tranquillity I have been able to enjoy has contributed not a little to my recovery; I hope by the next packet to be able to write you a letter in my own hand. But that's enough of my injury, that the wound was received in serving my country is sufficient consolation.
"Now it is necessary to think of the laurels we have acquired through our victory and we rejoice that we have taken prisoner those who came to take away our liberty; the French General was seriously wounded in four places during the action and he died the following day. This was a man of much courage but he did not show a great deal of prudence in his military operations. He was awaiting, surely, reinforcements from Granville or St Malo. He should, then, have seized some strategic positions until he was reinforced. From there he could have given intelligence of the situation, but he could not do that an expect success by camping in the middle of the town. He should have waited so that our troops were not intimidated by displays of pomposity and gone on to attack them and make them retreat.
"The throng gave good service to the French because when they saw their General fallen they did not want to fight any more and fled, throwing down their arms. There were some who reached the houses of the market place, from where they fired some shots from the windows; I think I was hit by one of these; we told the French commander through Mr Corbet that there were, at La Rocque, two battalions of regular troops and an artillery company which could be in town in a quarter of an hour. These bravados you can see had no effect on our men; and we knew that the number of troops in that location was not considerable, numbering less than 200 and an advance guard of 45 Grenadiers of the 83rd Regiment withstood the onslaught of 140 French and in a while they had the fortune to be covered by the two field pieces of Mr Le Couteur; a little after part of the East Regiment engaged them and their entire force was defeated, 70 taken prisoner and 30 killed and wounded. The remainder dispersed through the countryside or regained their boats with difficulty; we have seized some of these fugitives who we have found in the countryside.
"The number of prisoners we have taken in this glorious journey amounts to about 600: we have already sent the majority to England with their officers; the wounded stay in Jersey along with others we have not yet had the chance to send. Our losses are some 30 dead, but the Governor will have an exact list.
"Among the officers of the French Army there were many young men of families of distinction in Normandy, and among them was the Chevallier of Baudraye, nephew of the Marquis of Bellefond de Valognes, and parent of Madame Lempriere of Portbail; he wrote me a very polite letter regarding my wound and came to see me before his departure for England; he is a young man of considerable merit whome I remember having met in Valognes and the Marquis of Bellefond, his uncle. If I cannot give him my friendship, I can at least give him my respect and hope that we will meet again in happier times; I told him that because our Kings were at odds and we were obliged to fight our dearest friends and suspend friendship and normal vivility; I was annoyed that the condition of my wound did not permit me to spend more time with him than was possible. The Governor sent them to England to days after the battle.
"There were few people of note on our side who were killed or wounded. Madame Fiott was in her room and was hit by a shot fired by the Highlanders against the French from the high ground, but it only scratched her skin, without any consequence.
"It is now notable that we have traitors in our country. The French General had plans on leather on which were marked all the fortifications, towers, cannons etc. He also told us that had he not had good friends in Jersey they couldn't have come; they knew exactly the numbers of troops, of the Militia, the names of the officers who commanded them, etc; from the papers found in the General's trunk Mr Edouard Milais was seized; his house has been sealed, his papers have been seized and he has been held in a secure prison without being allowed to see anybody; his family is in a deplorable situation, but if he is found guilty of such an atrocious crime of treason against his country it is just that he suffers the penalty that such a crime merits.

With respect to my dear mother and friendship to my brouther and sister, I am with submission and respect your humble servant and son

Second letter from Thomas Lempriere to his father with additional details of the Battle of Jersey

18 January 1781

My Dear Father

"It is with pleasure that I advise you that my wound improves day by day and now looks fine. But because I have not wanted to strain my arms I could not have thought of writing this letter without the assistance of a secretary. It is also with great pleasure that I advise you that our island is now enjoying the greatest tranquillity. Our enemies, already informed of the failure of their expedition, are happy to remain in their ports.
"Because there were several details of the French expedition which I failed to mention when I last wrote, and which I could not learn about becuase of my wound, you will perhaps enjoy learning about them. The French General, according to his officers, embarked with 2,000 men, consisting of a company of Bombardiers; their embarkation appears to have been in four divisions, the first, consisting of 800 men, landed near La Rocque and passed the guardhouse without being seen. One of the French officers even told us that he slept outside the guardhouse but the guard heard nothing. You can see from that what a good guard they must have made. Is it surprising that our island is surprised when the men of the guard are so negligent.; they have since all been seized and are now in prison; and their case will be heard soon.
"The first division of the French remained for the greater part of the night in this area, and between six and seven o'clock in the morning were encamped in the market place, where a deep sleep still reigned throughout the whole town. The second division of French consisting of 400 men, according to the report of French officers, was entirely lost on disembarking among the rocks. The boats which carried the third division, consisting of 600 men, were apparently separated during the night from the rest of the fleet and could not rejoin them. The fourth division consisting of 200 men, disembarked early in the morning at La Rocque; from which you can see that the total of troops disembarked on the island was not above a thousand men. What success could they hope for from such an attack?
"I informed you in my last letter that the name of their commander was Baron de Doncourt, but we have since discovered that his name was de Ruellecourt. He was a Colonel in the French army, and the King had promised him the rank of General and the Red Ribbon as soon as he was master of the town; he didn't enjoy these honours for long. The second in command was an Indian Prince, called Prince Emire, who was captured by the English in the Indian Wars and was sent to France with other French prisoners. The French retained him afterwards in their service.
"He had a rather barbarous air as well as his speech; if our destiny had depended on him it could not have been less agreeable; he advised the French General to ransack everything and put the town to fire and sword.
"One still doesn't know what to do about the affair of Mr Edouard Millais; he was seized based on a letter found in the papers of the French General, in qhich it appeared that he had offered to lead the French army. Charles Binet has also been seized; the same who was suspected the other year of creating a fire on the Ecrehous. The majority of our officers have come in great haste to join their corps. My brother has also hurried back but I have no doubt that it was the news which brought him back to Jersey; but I was surprised to see him arrive so early; we are concerned about General Conway, who apparently left Portsmouth in the Emerald on the same day that my brother left, but he has not been able to make his passage, a strong wind having pushed him towards the English coast, from where we have received no further news.
"Mr Gosset still has no Bill of Exchange for you; he has to attempt to get one from the store-keeper and send it to you as soon as possible. I end by asking you to give my best respects to my dear mother and my friendship to my sister."

Your very humble and very obedient servant and son

Thomas Lempriere

William Charles Lempriere

Letter from William Charles Lempriers (brother of Thomas) to his father Charles Lempriere, giving an account of the Battle of Jersey and its sequels

Jersey, 13 February 1781

Dear Sir

"The reception of your last letters relieved us from the great anxiety which we labour'd under - not having heard any kind of news from the Family since my arrival at this Place. You will hear, I believe, from my brother by this opportunity. His wound is not yet healed; nor indeed can it be quite so soon, as his friends at first flatterd themselves it would. There are a few small splinters of bones which must come out - some are already taken out - but this makes it necessary to keep the wound open some time longer. In every other respect he is in perfect good health.
"He has entirely left his bed-chamber, and walks now about the House. He has left off the use of bark, and is no loger kept under a fixt, regulated diet. He is permitted to read plays and to enjoy the ladies' company, so that I do not make the least doubt but that he will be very soon perfectly recoverd. Dr Fergusson has not seen him at all, he being unable to attend anybody. The other surgeons in the Island have seen him; but he thought it sufficient to be attended by Hariot and Lerrier.
"They who spread the report that my brother acted in no capacity on the day that he was wounder are guilty of propagating a palpable falsehood. The very instant that my brother heard that some of our troops were forming on the Gallows Hill, he immediately went to join them. The 95th Regiment was not yet arrived; and he went at the desire of the Commanding Officer of the 78th to hasten the march of the St Martin's Division, who, for want of orders, had marched towards Grouville, having heard that some of the enjemy were in those quarters.
"As soon as he returned he found Major Peirson at the head of the 95th, to whom, the Governor being prisoner, he offered his services, which the Major very politely accepted. Accordingly, during the whole time of the action, my brother kept near the Major, and on horseback, to be more ready to carry any messages or orders that might be found necessary. He was only two or three yards from the Major when he was killed; towards the end of the action which it seems lasted but 10 minutes; the French running awy, there was a flag hoisted, near the Cohue door, the Lieut-Governor crying out at the same time not to fire.
"Some of the troops ceased firing and others still continued. My brother advanced almost as far as the Pyramid, to endeavour, if possible, to ascertain, amidst the noise and confusion, what that meant. And there he received a shot, which entered at the right shoulder and passed nearly thro' the center of the back. My brother seems positive that the shot came from some of the enemy, who had lodged themselves in the Courthouse; tho' most everybody here will have it that it was from the Highlanders. I think it not unlikely that in the confusion he might have been fired at by both.
"The Officers of the Regulars allow that he displayed marks of great Courage - but that he certainly exposed himslf more than Prudence required. It does not seem, though the event proved fortunate, that we acted with the regularity and caution which we should have observed; the enemy having guns at all the avenues leading to the Market Place, might have swept away a great many of our troops if they had managed them properly and with judgment. For our troops march'd in columns in face of the enemy's guns; without having previously sent small parties to get possession, by back avenues, of those houses, from which they might have obliged the enemy to quite their guns; and thereby entirely clear their way for the columns.
"It appears to me also that the Lieutenant of Grenadiers of the 83rd Regiment who, it is said, is to be recommended to a Company for his conduct, deserves more censure than Praise. He with a small party leaps over a hedge to attack an enemy twice in number, when he might have fired aupon him from behind the hedge, or rather have patiently waited for the other Division of the Company that was coming another way; and thereby have saved the life of several brave soldiers.
"Upon the whole we always shew sufficient Courage if ... ... (manuscript torn in this section) to shew an equal degree of Prudence, ... ... have less to fear. But our COurage like the People is apt to contribute to our Disorder ... ... the Market-place, where Major Peirson had ... ... Field-piece that march'd at the head of the column ... ... to the rear, they were going, in the confusion ... ... and would doubtless have brought down several of their own People, had not Major Robin been luckily at hand, who cover'd the touch-hole with his sabre, at the instant that a gunner was going to set fire to the primings and at the same time seized the match out of his hand.
"The Procureur (Attorney-General) has received a very polite and obliging letter from General COnway to thank him for the account which he had sent the General of the Action. It was to be laid before the King, being looked upon as the most satisfactory account that had been received. The Procureur is to send you a copy of it. The General has promised to interest himself in getting the rank settled between the Regulars and Militia, and seems to flatter us with a prospect of succeeding. THey who have affirm'd that the Militia had put themselves under the command of the Regulars are mistaken; they merely agreed to cooperate with them, in whatever might be for the good of the cause they were engaged in; and just waved their Pretentions to rank for the time in order to avoid Disputes, which might have been dangerous if not of a fatal tendency in the critical situation we were in. And in this Particular the General commends much their Conduct.
"This Point of rank is a thing which our LIeut-Governor seemed a few days ago desirous of settling of himself; for he gave out in publick Orders that the Militia were to put themselves under the command of the Regulars - which compelled the Colonels of Militia to resign, I am sure very much against their inclination, and would probably have caused the total Dissolution of our Militia, had not he very soon recalled is orders on which the Colonels reassumed their command as before.
"Would it not be a good time to have my Place of Commissary resigned now to my brother, and could there not be a possibility of having the pay augmented to 10sh per Day? To have it put on the footing of other commissary's. I think there would be some title for asking it. When the Pay was settled at 6 sh there were not the same number of troops there are now, and I think my Brother having been wounded in fighting for his King and Country, without Pay, is some degree of recommendation.
"I received by the Packet three letters from my uncle, which would have given me a very great pleasure indeed, had it not been for those parts in which he presses me so very strongly to come over to England. I feel that in the present circumstances it is not probably that I shall be able to leave the Island. If my conduct has been so far approved, I cannot think of cancelling my former merit by a subsequent impropriety. I hope when he reflects maturely upon this that he will not take it amiss that my actions are determined by the nobler motives. We heartily wish we had the General over here. It would give an Universal satisfaction. I think if Government wish to secure this Island, they ought to reinforce us by the five companies of the Glasgow and the five compaies of the Highlanders that are now in Guernsey, our Island being so very near the Coast of France, and there being so many landing places to defend, some difference ought surely to be made between it and its sister Island.
"If we had these additional troops, than I think GOvernment might give us some able Major General for Lieut-Governor and Commander in Chief, as I apprehend the command of 2,000 Regulars and almost the same number of Militia, would not be beneath the command of an officer of that rank. I think we should also have a citadel on the Town Hill - there is surely more reason, for having one there than for the one that is now building at Guernsey.
"Yesterday I assisted with other gentlemen to fix the proportion of the money subscribed, how it is to be distributed. We have got above 8,000 livres - every widow to have 3 Louis d'Ors, two for each child of the killed or badly wounded, five for every man that is badly wounded and three for every man that is slightly wounded. We have throught proper to double the proportion among the Militia by way of Encouragement; and we find there is a trifle remaining of the 8,000 livres. I subscribed 10 Guineas and my brother five; Mr Peter Mallet the most of any gentleman in the Island - 20 Guineas. My love to my mother and sister, hoping she is now recover'd"

Thomas Pipon

Letter from Thomas Pipon, Attorney-General and Colonel of the Militia to Lieut-Bailiff Charles Lempriere

Jersey, 12 February 1781


"I am favoured with your kind Letter of the 25th of last month, and your congratulations upon our late Deliverance from the unaccountable Attack of an insulting Enemy. I should not have failed gratifying sooner my Inclination in writing, and answering your Expectations to receive from me and Account of that extraordinary transaction, which had nearly involved this Country in Total Ruin from the gross Misconduct and Captivity of our Leader; but depending upon your being yet at Bath with Mr Chesnel (Philippe Lempriere, Seigneur of Chesnel and Charles Lempriere's brother) on the receipt of my letter to him, and the unremitting Hurry which this Agitation had thrown me into, and the short stay of the Packet not furnishing me that Leisure I could have wished for to have given you the most minute Information of, and my private Opinion upon this momentous Concern; these Causes have protracted my Resolution.
"In order to give you the fullest ideas of this Matter and an Account of my own Proceedings I therewith transmit you copies of what I have written General Conway on the subject, which give a summary account of the Business of that extraordinary Day, and with the Detail I wrote Mr Chesnel (which I hear he has transmitted to you) is pretty exactly what can be narrated upon the subject; to those I subjoin a note I have taken down of several circumstances in the conduct of the Lieut-Governor, which have occurred to me as given out from different Hands; and I must say that the whole of his Conduct when summed up hath so sunk and depreciated him in the Opinion of every Body, that I firmly believe should be continued in the Command, the Militia must be intirely undone, those Officers by whom it may be said to be supported expressing an unalterable Resolution to throw up; but should they not, he has so far forfeited and lost the Confidence of the Inhabitants, that from what I can learn, the inferior Class would I am afraid show great Propensity to rebel against his Orders.
"I am not surprised that my hame has not appeared upon the Gazette when I consider that what is published are Extracts of the ieut-Governor's Dispatches from which, independent of their avowed Confusion, an exact Account is not to be expected of the Proceedings of the Day to which he must from his Captivity be in a great Measure a Stranger; neither can I find that h has had Recourse to any Person, who from having been Sharer in the Action, and what preceded it, might be instrumental in stating a satisfactory Narrative of the Transaction. As if he was to be inconsistent in every Stage of the Tryal he has been put to, the thanks which he has returned the troops upon his Release, have appeared upon the public Papers, differently from those handed to the Commanding Officewrs of Corps here, the Publication complimenting a certain Captain in the West Militia for his assistance, which part is not contained in the orders here.
"Many are offended at, not so much the Contrariety of this Performance, as the Partiality of it, as it is conceived this Personage hath no Claim to the Distinction conferred on him, except his having shared the Captivity of his Chieftain, and having been suffered on Parole and obtained a safe-guard for his house; but indeed there may be private Reasons for this singular Partiality, the Dread of a known venemous Pen. As for what relates to me you are very sensible it has, on these Occasions, been my Lot to find my earnest Endeavours, and the not inconsiderable Share I have had in the real Defense of the Island in both Attacks, unjustly obliterated. I am unskilful in holding forth any Merit of my own, as you well know; but I am confident, if the worthy Major Peirson had outlived the Event, he being truely a Witness for me, would I trust have done me that Justice which my Zeal could challenge; and the Public might have known that his own Resolution had not been unsupported but strengthened by my decided Opinion and Countenance: All that which a Man of Honour and Delicacy ought to say of himself is conveyed in my Narrative to the General, from whom I have received a very obliging and flattering answer, that being prevented by Indisposition waiting upon his Majesty with it, he had sent it to Lord Hillsborough and would not fail to do me Justice in the Opinion of his Majesty in regard to my Conduct; if what I have done is not sufficient to draw down Approbation, I must never expect the Marks of it to be conferred on Me; be that as it may, Mental Satisfaction and the pleasing Reflection of having discharged my Duty is the sweetest Reward, though it may not be accompanied with temporal Advantage.
"It is a prevailing Opinion here that there hath been some treacherous Practices between the enemy and some of the inhabitants. Indeed the extraordinary Temerity of the Enemy in attemptint with so little caution the Reduction of the Island in itself formidable and with so inconsiderable a Force, though it is plain their first success was to be supported might argue in them some Hope or Dependance of Countenance within the Country. Yet, notwithstanding the Biass which such Doubts are apt to create, little Matter hath hitherto been derived to empeach any body, except Millais, who you must have heard is under Confinement from the strength of the Papers taken from the Enemy, by which it seems he was looked upon on their part under some Promise or Engagement to favour their Undertaking; what Government will be able to make of it is a matter of Uncertainty; however it is happy for us that this sort of Business is tamken from our hands, as the event of a decision here would expose the Magistrates and Ministers of Justice to much Reproach and obloquy from all Partisans. ALthough this late Attack should in my opinion be expected to create very serious attention in every mind, upon the least step which savours of a treacherous Intent, Yet we have room to think that the night fires which had occasioned so much contemplation have not been totally discontinued if the guard reports are to be credited. Colonel Lempriere and I have repeatedly laid our heads together upon the matter and have resolved to neglect nothing which may tend to a discovery of the authors of a practice so dangerous and alarming.
"The unchecked progress of the enemy in this last attempt affords us a Melancholy Experience that little or no dependance is to be built upon the watchfulness of our Militia guards which that enormous vice of drunkenness often reduce to a state of inability to go through the most common duty - a vice which though so hurtful to the community is not to be checked in this country, as you are sensible that past experience hath shewn attempts to effect that laudable purpose, excite the most vigorous opposition and reflect discredit upon the movers; but whatever be the opinion of our respectable Senators and Divines upon the means of retrenching the habit, our enemies wisely make use of that very evil to work our destruction, as it may be gathered from their own papers about the means of succeeding to reduce the Island; by which it is plain that they fixed upon the Days of the Week, in which they have already twice attempted to captivate the Country, merely because the common people are stillo more prone, from the Saturday to the Monday, to be swallowed up in Drunkenness.
"The guard at La Rocque whose supineness favoured the Enemy's Landing, without the alarm being sounded, has been taken into custody; and measures have been used to a proper investigation of their Neglect; what is most apparent is that the CHief was intoxicated and gave up the care of the Guard, which if properly governed according to their orders might have discovered the Attempt from the enemy although some persons hold that they could not be perceived from that Guard: what is more astonishing yet is the enemy's march to Town, by the road between Parker's House near the Dick, notwithstanding which no notice has been taken of this criminal neglect in regular troops; in a word every political Spring of Government in this Country seems to have been unhinged since this extraordinary Event. And so many circumstances combined lead many persons to very unfavourable conjectures and couclusions against our Director. I suspend my Judgment, and shall never condemn any Man unheard, but one sentiment I cannot help acquiescing in, is that he has shewn himself perfectly unequal to his Task; neither could I ever resolve to have my actions in a Military Line governed by such directions.
"THe change which takes place upon his Avocation is such as presented itself of course, and I think no material exception can be made against it, the Man* being, I make no doubt, well intended, cannot be inferior in point of abilities to his Procursour; however he must be raw in the Constitution and knowledge of the country, and I could wish that an officer with his own corps in the island had never the command, that is one of two standing exceptions with me, the other is against a Native; under that of the last Denomination I shall never more serve in the Militia.

(*Colonel John Reid was by Royal Commission of 17 February 1781 named until a new order, Commandant in Chief and Lieut-Governor, the Governor, General Conway, having obtained a holiday on account of ill health, and the Lieut-Governor, Major Corbet, having been ordered to London)

"I could wish the General's Health hath allowed his coming over to have put things again in proper course, and given life to the machie much impaired and disordered by the last Concussion, and hardly to be well set agoing again by a new hand unacquainted with its Movembers. I should have been happy to have been able to answer the other parts of your obliging Letter in what relates to our matters in the civil line, but an unexpected fit of pain followed by a swelling in my left foot (which I am mortified to be in some manner obliged to look upon as the Gout) having confined me at home for eight days past has prevented my getting the memorial about the Fellowships signed, and taking the necessary information about the other points which you wish me to solve about your concerns I shall however endeavour to satisfy you as far as I can upon those different heads, and that as speedily as possible.
"Colonel Lempriere was so good as to pay me a visit last Sunday, we conferred upon your letters, I communicated to him the General's very kind return to my letters, the letter he had seen copy of upon his arrival; he mentioned to me yours and his Uncle's earnestness for his return to England for this and the ensuing month; but imparted that he could not bring his mind to acquiesce in departing from the Island in its actual state, notwithstanding he otherwise felt the most pressing inducements to gratify your wishes in that Respect.
"I must confess that I agreed with him in opinion and could not dissemble to him that I thought the manner of his repairing hither upon the first intelligence of our danger reflected the highest Honour upon him; but that I should be apprehensive his retiring from it now though perfectly concileable with dispassionate men, would expose him to the censure and malice of those enemies who look for nothing more than a pretext to tarnish the lustre of the family.
"I have the Happiness to add that our Friend Mr Thomas has so far got over his wound that we can rely upon his getting freed from any bad effects accruing from it. Therefore I hope you will persuade yourself and Madame de Rozel that it now is to be reflected on by his friends as ministering to his Honour and Credit without affecting his future health. Mrs Pipon and her daughters are now pretty well returned to a State of Tranquillity but were much affected by the late sudden attack; they desire to join me in respectful compliments to yourself, Mme de Rozel and Miss Lempriere. I remain with sincere Regard, Sir

Your most obedient and most humble Servant

Thomas Pipon

Garrison members

Two letters written in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Jersey are contained in an appendix to Robert Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs of Great Britain 1727-1783, possibly the earliest published story of the battle. The first is believed to be that written by Clement Hemery, an officer in the Town Militia, to Madame de Carteret in Southampton.

Letter containing an account of an attack made on the Island of Jersey

"Last Saturday, to the great surprise of every body, we beheld 800 French, commanded by a Baron de Rullecourt, in the very heart of the town of St Hillery, without a single shot being fired. The Lieutenant-Governor was acquainted of their arrival whilst in bed: he got up, and, on his coming down, found his house surrounded. On his appearing, they took him prisoner, and led him to the marketplace, where he found about 500 drawn up. They took every body prisoners they could lay their hands upon, and obliged them to go into the court house, where they forced the Governor to sign a capitulation. The French commander endeavoured to prevail on the King’s Advocate to sign, and many others; but they refused: he then suffered them to retire to their houses on their paroles; and centries were placed in different parts to prevent their joining the troops that were assembling upon the Gallows hill. On the west side of the town. The Baron then obliged the Governor to write to Captain Mulcaster, the engineer, who had fortunately got safe into Elizabeth Castle; to Major Peirson of the 95th; to Captain Lumsdale, commanding the 78th, or highlanders; and to Captain Campbell, of the Glasgow volunteers, or 83rd, not to fire a shot, but lay down their arms, as he had signed a capitulation. This order they determined not to obey. The Baron next insisted that the Governor should go with him in person to the castle, in order to endeavour to prevail upon Capt Mulcaster; and took a party of 100 or 150 men to accompany them. They no sooner came within reach, than the brave Mulcaster fired at them, and carried off the leg of one of the French officers. Mr d’Auvergne, the overseer of the works, went to the castle, and told them, he feared, if they did not surrender, the French would hang the Governor and burn the town. Mulcaster answered: Let them begin to hang, burn and be damned, for he would not surrender the castle, or the British flag, so long as he had a man to defend it, so save any body.
"Major Peirson came down from the hill with a flag of truce into the town to demand the lieutenant-Governor from the enemy; which was refused, and he returned. The French commandant then obliged the Lieutenant-Governor to go with a flag to Major Peirson, to endeavour to prevail upon him, and the rest of the troops, to surrender, in consequence of the capitulation he had signed. But the Major, Captain Lumsdale of the 78th, and all of the officers of the militia, refused; the latter assured the two commanders of the regulars that if they would not capitulate, they would support them to the last. Major Peirson answered the Governor that he looked upon him as a prisoner, therefore could obey no orders that he should give out. The flat then required half an hour to retire; it was refused, and the Major pulled out his watch, and told them he would give them ten minutes, and no more, when he would be at their heels and attack them. In the mean time the Major observed that the French had neglected to occupy the Town Hill to the east of the town. He detached Captain Fraser of the 78th, with his and the light company of the 95th, and the two companies of the militia, to make a detour round the town and take possession of it; which service he performed like an able officer, and without the loss of a man.
"They no sooner had possession of that hill than the troops under Major Peirson attacked the French in the town, with the courage and intrepidity of British troops, supported with equal ardour by the militia. Captain Fraser with his detachment came down the hill, and attacked them on the other side of the market place; for there they had made their stand, placing cannon at each avenue. The fire was heavy whilst it lasted; but the French were so pressed on all sides that they were soon beat.
"Their commander, the Baron, had his lower jaw broke by a musket shot, one shot through his neck, and one or two through the thigh; he died that night of his wounds. He was buried with military honours. The Baron held our Governor by the arm, and kept him in the fire the whole time. Several of their officers were wounded; no other killed there; they had near 100 privates killed, and about 80 wounded, and 280 prisoners.
"On our side, we suffered the irreparable loss of poor Major Peirson, who was shot through the heart just as victory declared herself for him,to the regret of every body: no other officer killed or wounded; very few privates killed or wounded".

Captain Mulcaster

The second was written by Captain Frederick George Mulcaster, who was the senior officer at Elizabeth Castle when the French invaders first tried to get the castle to surrender on the morning of the battle, to General Lord Amherst, Adjutant-General to the Forces. Lord Amherst's reply is also on record:

Captain Mulcaster's Letter to Lord Amherst, relating to the attack on the Island of Jersey

"I am sorry to inform your lordship that this Island was surprised, the Lieutenant-Governor made prisoner in the capital of Jersey, in presence of the enemy, before seven o’clock yesterday morning. Matters being thus circumstanced, I threw myself into Elizabeth Castle, and being commanding officer, I ordered the necessary arrangements for its defence, which with the assistance of Captain Crawford of the Invalids, and other officers, was soon effected.
"About nine o’clock I was informed that a capitulation was on foot for the island and its dependencies. The garrison to march out with the honours of war, and their arms to be lodged in the town house. I called a council of war, but before I had well laid before them the contents of the message, I was informed the enemy were advancing in force: no time was to be left for opinion. I took a decided one, spurned the terms and sent a verbal answer that I should defend the Castle to the last extremity. The messenger was no sooner out of the gate, than I ordered a shot to be fired wide of them, as a respect to the flaq of truce, as I would consider the messenger in no other light, but the enemy still advancing, I ordered one to be directed at them, which killing two men and taking off the leg of an officer, had the desired effect.
"They returned to the town: at a quarter past nine I sent to Captain Lumsdaine, commanding the 78th, to send me some gunners from the militia, and at the same time acquainted him of the determined resolution to defend the castle. I was happy to hear in a short time that he had already made a similar reply to a like message, and he sent the gunners required. I sent a messenger to Major Peirson, now Commander in Chief, of the step I had taken. About half an hour after ten o’clock , Captain Aylward of the Invalids, got into the Castle, and being the eldest officer, I gave up the command, having acquainted him with the disposition I had made.
"A quarter before eleven o’clock a trumpet came in, attended by a gentleman, he brought the French general’s proclamation and the other articles of capitulation, and an order similar to that which I had first received, to deliver up the castle; neither the proclamation or capitulation were read, but an answer sent of the same nature as before.
"These, my lord, were the proceedings in Elizabeth Castle. Upon the first alarm of the enemy being in possession of the town, and of the Lieutenant Governor, Captain Lumsdaine, commanding the 78th Regiment, assisted by his officers, in a very handsome manner, took possession of the Gallows hill on the NW side of the town, having with him their cannon. Major Peirson, with the 95th regiment, was at five miles distant, but appeared as soon as time would admit. Capitulation etc were rejected with indignation; he was no sooner informed of the situation of the enemy than his plan was fixed. He ordered captain Hugh Fraser, with the light companies of the 78th and 95th regiments, to get possession of the Town Hill on the SE side of the town, which by taking a circuitous route was effected with great dexterity: this great object obtained, the main body entered the town. Major Peirson, at the head of the 95th Regiment, forced the back street, and came upon the enemy’s flank in the market place, at the moment that Captain Lumsdaine attacked them in front from the great street.
"The detachment upon the Town Hill,at the same time, poured in a heavy fire, and Captain Fraser, with part of the light infantry, descended the hill and attacked in rear, so that the enemy being attacked on all sides, they threw down their arms. Major Peirson just lived to see the success of his well concerted plan; he fell in the moment of victory, by almost the last shot, to the infinite regret of his brave comrades, who had so gallantly supported him. The Lieutenant Governor again assumed the command. The rearguard of the enemy being near Grouville Bay, in the neighbourhood of the 83rd Regiment, were attacked with great spirit, and defeated by the grenadier company, commanded by Lieutenant Robertson; they distinguished themselves exceedingly. The face of affairs being in a few hours thus changed, the enemy’s vessels quitted the island, the troops they had landed being drowned, killed, wounded or prisoners. The militia had also their share in the events of the day. Their conduct merits great praise. The bearer, Lieutenant McRae, of the 78th Regiment, a deserving young officer, will have the honour of delivering this letter.

I have the honour to be, my lord, &c. &c.

F Geo Mulcaster

Lord Amherst

Lord Amherst's answer to Captain Mulcaster

Whitehall 22nd January 1781

"I take occasion of Lieut McRae returning to Jersey to thank you for your letter of the 7th instant, which I received by him. Your account is very clear and satisfactory, and I was very glad to receive it, as at the time, I could not but be in doubt, from the uncertain accounts before received, which yours fully explained. Had I known that you were in Elizabeth Caste on the 6th, my mind would have been much more at ease but Mr Budd feared the enemy had surrounded your house and could give no account of your having escaped.
"I therefore thought it necessary, for Lieutenant-Colonel de Ruvijnes, to proceed directly to Jersey, but he met the good news (which followed) at Portsmouth, and returned here. The account you give of Major Peirson's disposition of the troops to attack the enemy, increased much the regret I felt on the first account of his being killed; his loss is much to he lamented, while the behaviour of the officers, who seconded him in his disposition, and attack of the enemy in different parts, is much to be commended. What fell immediately to your share, in Elizabeth Caille, while you commanded, was perfecty well executed, as your letter was the clearest and fullest account I had seen. I laid It before the King, and his Majesty received it graciously.

I am Sir, Your most obedient, humble servant

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