Dec 15 2009
2nd. Battalion: Gibraltar
Old German map of Gibraltar
The sergeant, drummer and fourteen rank and file who were transferred to the first battalion, and who embarked on the 27th November, were not after all to join the battalion in India. Instead, they have been transferred to the two recruiting companies based at Wakefield. (see entry for Depot)
Sergeant John Watson was reduced to the ranks on the 12th December. Three corporals, John Fair, John Gould and William Wooden, have been promoted to sergeant. Corporal Michael Brown has been reduced to the ranks, while eight privates have been promoted to corporal: Thomas Hamilton, Robert Langford, John Robinson, William Case, William Frohock, James Reeves, John Gadborough and Ben Sergeant.
The summative comments on the inspection return were generally positive:
“Colonel Minet has commanded this battalion since the last inspection, he appears a very zealous officer. The battalion exercised and manoeuvred with tolerable accuracy; the officers and non-commissioned officers appeared desirous to perform their duties to the best of their abilities, and without any deviation from His Majesty’s regulations. But this battalion having lately been upon service in Portugal and having been much separated, and employed upon small detachments; I apprehend the marching and general appearance may be very much improved before the next inspection…The men of the battalion are not in general stout, and many of them are very short…No complaints from any of the men…The hospital appeared clean, books regularly kept, and the patients very well attended…There have been twenty-eight [regimental] courts martial held in this battalion since the last inspection, the sentences of which appear to be conformable to the usages of the army. There have been few punishments during the last two months.”
Flintlock action, hammer cocked ready to fire
A shocking story is circulating that Lieutenant Richard Heaviside fought a duel this very day with Lieutenant Lewis Montford of the 47th and killed his man. He is now said to be under an arrest on a charge of murder.
1st. Battalion: Trichinopoly
Ancient Mughal painting
On the 4th December the long awaited court martial finally assembled to hear the charges against Lieutenant Benjamin Nicholson, under the presidency of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Brier, 24th Regiment, Native Infantry. The Judge Advocate is Lieutenant Charles Cunningham, Deputy Judge Advocate, Southern Division.
The first charge, brought by Colonel Wilkinson, states that the prisoner is guilty of:
“unofficer and ungentlemanlike conduct in urging at Madras between the 16th day of November and 1st day of December 1808 the repetition of a duel between Captain Jackson and Captain Chambers both of His Majesty’s 30th Regt. and saying that blood must be spilt.”
The second charge, preferred by Major Vaumorel, accuses the prisoner of:
“conduct highly unbecoming the character of a gentleman in positively refusing to perform an engagement into which he had been allowed to enter at his own request for the purpose of having the proceedings of the general court martial before which he had been arraigned put a stop to as is specified in his letter to me bearing date the 6th of July 1809 and in consequence of which engagement the proceedings of the said court were actually put a stop to, and he the said Lt Nicholson released from an arrest.”
Nicholson pleaded not guilty to both charges.
There was an immediate problem because Major Christopher Maxwell, the principal prosecution witness and prosecutor for the first charge, was indisposed. The proceedings were adjourned until the 7th December.
Major Christopher Maxwell, 30th Regiment
Maxwell subsequently deposed that Nicholson had wanted him to make it known that (following their earlier duel) while Jackson had apologised to Chambers, Chambers had not apologised to Jackson, and that the story of mutual apologies was wrong. When Maxwell refused, Nicholson said that “blood would be spilt, one must fall.” Maxwell also claimed that Nicholson had defamed him in a letter the lieutenant wrote to Colonel Wilkinson. When asked by the court why he had refused Nicholson’s original request, Maxwell said it had been made “in a haughty and imperious manner”.
Lieutenant Barlow, called as the second prosecution witness, confirmed Maxwell’s account by saying that he too had heard Nicholson say that “one of them must drop and nothing but blood should stop it.” He also claimed that Nicholson had subsequently asked him to deny that such words had ever been uttered.
Corporal Cherry, who had been in the room, agreed that Nicholson had made a remark about blood being spilt.
On the 8th December the third prosecution witness was expected to appear, but Captain Chambers had still not arrived in Trichinopoly. The court was adjourned until his arrival, on the 11th December.
Chambers was required to explain his absence, which he ascribed to the monsoon and the flooded rivers. He then deposed that he had never heard Nicholson use a term such as “Blood must be spilt”. He agreed that he had sent Nicholson to visit Maxwell as an intermediary; he wanted Maxwell to clear up the mistaken impression that he had apologised to Jackson. Nicholson, however, on his return had said nothing about being threatened with a civil action if another duel took place. (This is was the nature of the defamation that Maxwell complained of.) Chambers also referred to a meeting with Maxwell when both Nicholson and Barlow were present, and when there had been no reference to blood being spilt.
Chambers was asked by Maxwell, if he had had any conversation with Nicholson since his arrival. Chambers admitted that Nicholson had told him Barlow had perjured himself, an admission that Chambers made with great reluctance because of its implications for Barlow’s character.
This ended the case for the prosecution on the first charge.
Major Vaumorel prosecuted the second charge.
He produced a signed letter but Nicholson refused to acknowledge the signature as his. As a result, three witnesses, Lieutenant Nun (the former adjutant), Captain Chambers and Acting Adjutant Stephenson were all called to identify the writing. All agreed that the handwriting of the letter was Chambers’, and the signature looked like Nicholson’s. At this point, Nicholson agreed that the signature was his, although he had no recollection of signing the letter, but had been ill at the time.
The letter read to the court was the one written on the 6th July in which Nicholson offered to return to Europe to seek an exchange, providing the court martial proceedings against him were stopped. Given this assurance, he would resign from the regiment (as Chambers already had).
Lieutenant Cunningham now explained his role as mediator between Chambers and Nicholson on the one hand, and the officers of the regiment on the other. His aim was to set up the honourable resignation of Chambers and Nicholson, which he had undertaken to achieve at the behest of Chambers but with, as he understood, the agreement of Nicholson. In response to a question from Nicholson, Cunningham agreed that Mrs Nicholson had repeatedly assured her husband that he could trust Cunningham.
Lieutenant Cunningham continued his evidence on the 12th December. Most crucially, he agreed with Nicholson that both he and Chambers had been promised a recommendation to help them effect their transfer into a different regiment, and he could not understand why the letter of recommendation was not with the letter of resignation.
Major Vaumorel now produced the recommendation. He conceded that although he had undertaken to send the recommendation at the same time as the letter of resignation which Nicholson was required to sign, he did not do so. When asked why by the court, he implied that it was enough that he had given his word to write such a recommendation.
Lieutenant Nun stated that he sent the letter of resignation to Nicholson without the recommendation. Nor did he inform Nicholson that he would receive a recommendation when he had signed the letter. Nicholson sent the letter back unsigned.
Acting Adjutant Stephenson testified that he had also been sent to persuade Nicholson to sign the letter, again without the recommendation, but Nicholson had refused.
The next stage of the prosecution was to establish Nicholson’s state of health. Surgeon Pearse described how Nicholson had suffered a serious liver complaint during the summer, exacerbated by the stress he was under. Even after the proceedings of the court martial were stopped, his health continued uncertain. According to Mrs Nicholson, there were times when her husband seemed deranged, although Pearse himself saw no sign of this.
Further witnesses attested both to Nicholson’s poor health, and his refusal to sign the letter.
This ended the prosecution case. The court was then adjourned until the 18th December so that Nicholson could prepare his defence.
Contemporary military instruction manual: musket drill
The detachment of a sergeant, a drummer and fourteen rank and file, originally destined for service with the 1st Battalion in India, has arrived from Gibraltar and will be distributed among the recruiting parties.