Popular History of Jersey Chapter 25

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Popular History of Jersey - 25:
Battle of Jersey, Major Peirson



This is the 25th chapter of the Rev Alban E Ragg's history of Jersey, one of the most comprehensive histories of the island ever published

Column marches

The time granted for the return of the messenger appears to have seemed long to the little army under Major Peirson, [1]especially to the Militia, whose loyalty had been again and again displayed; but Major Peirson had evidently good reasons for restraining their ardour. Meanwhile he had not been idle. By his orders the light companies of the 78th and 95th Regiments with two companies of Militia were already, by a circuitous route, taking the position of the Town Hill, and on the return of the adjutant from his interview with Baron de Rullecourt, the whole of the remaining troops were formed into one column and marched towards the town.

All this time, be it added, it had been imagined that the force stationed near Mont Orgueil Castle had, according to Rullecourt's own assertion, sustained a defeat, and that a large portion of his army remained stationed there. In fact, the Baron's strength on the Island was unknown, and it was only during the advance of Major Peirson's corps that the joyful news arrived from Mont Orgueil that, so far from the troops there having been defeated or made prisoners, they were proceeding to attack that portion of the enemy which had taken La Platte Rocque battery.

French desperate

The actual tug of war came on the arrival of the British and Island troops. An attack was instantly made, and with such impetuosity that the French, rendered furious by disappointment, fought with desperation. In the meantime, the detachment which had previously reached the Town Hill bore down on the enemy, whilst the division headed by Major Peirson himself appeared in the Market Place, entering it by that short passage where the Peirson Hotel now stands; and the French replying by a discharge of firearms, that gallant officer thus, at the point of victory, fell dead in the arms of his grenadiers. Surprised and taken aback, his troops, thus momentarily confused by this unforeseen and unfortunate event, with a courage for which every credit must be allowed them, rallied, and after a bold attack, such that must ever remain in the annals of Jersey history, they regained the ground they had for the moment lost.

This onslaught thus boldly made by the Jersey troops resulted in a total rout of the French in less than half-an-hour. And Rullecourt, in his desperation, seems to have added wanton cruelty to his falsehood and treachery, doing all he could to wreak his vengeance on the captive governor, whom he took out of the Court House, and holding him by the arm, compelled him to stand by his side during the whole time of the conflict. A short renewal of the conflict ensued, during which the Baron received a mortal wound from which he died that evening. Some of the French soldiers secreted themselves in the adjoining houses; the remainder surrendered, and the victory was complete. Major Corbet escaped unhurt, though he received two balls through his hat, while the officer who succeeded in command of the defeated forces was compelled to surrender himself and the whole party as prisoners of war.

Captain Campbell

In this moment of victory the gallant Major Peirson, to whom the Island is indebted for its deliverance, and whose loss was most sincerely lamented by every officer and soldier engaged, as well as every inhabitant, was succeeded by Captain Campbell, of the 83rd Regiment (of whom more further on), who had, in the early part of this engagement, distinguished himself as an able officer, and who was in every way qualified to take command upon so important an occasion; Major Peirson (than whom never was a braver man on the Island, dying only as a soldier can die, in the defence of his country) being afterwards buried, with all the honour allowable, in St Helier's Parish Church, where a suitable monument is erected to his memory.

Fearing that a second attack by the French might be made the same night, a portion of the Militia was kept under arms till morning. A general alarm was, indeed, at midnight spread through the Island, and all expected a fresh conflict, but this was found to be without reason.

Notes and references

  1. It is noteworthy that although at the time this history was written, most Jersey references to Major Peirson spelt his name Pierson, Alban Ragg knew the correct spelling
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