Popular History of Jersey Chapter 14

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Parliament takes the island

Large fleet

The immediate outcome of the destruction and loss caused through the privateers and the sheltering of Charles II combined, was a determination on the part of the Parliamentarians to bring the Island of Jersey under subjection.

For this purpose a fleet of some four-score sail, under the command of the once-celebrated Admiral Blake, and carrying, as well as a naval, a strong land force, of which General Haines was in charge, put to sea about the middle of October 1651, and on the 20th of that month came to anchor in St Ouen's Bay, spreading consternation all around. As it happened the day was fine; the sea, instead of exhibiting its usual turbulence at that time of the year, was perfectly calm as though willing to welcome the intruders, a phenomenon that gave rise to a superstitious awe amongst the Islanders and the Jersey troops; and this coupled with the report that Charles II had been slain at the battle of Worcester, which had been fought, against overwhelming odds, on the 3rd of the previous month, seems to have thoroughly disheartened all the Island's defenders, with the exception only of de Carteret, who, by a stirring address, in which was mingled appeal and indignation, roused in his followers that inherent bravery which was but momentarily lying dormant.

Under siege

Their blood wasn't up as yet. They could fight when it was. And they did fight, as we shall see. The English (Parliamentarians) after coming to anchor lay quiet all that day, and the night following also. But, in the early morning, the roar of cannon broke upon the air, and, with it, the siege began; the invaders were immediately met with a return fire from the forts and redoubts erected in the bay and the 24 field-pieces "that always followed the Militia on the march".

Then, when the enemy had advanced near enough inshore, small arms were brought to play, and their blood being up, the Jerseymen, the better to grapple with the foe, rushed into the sea to meet them, and thus return their fire at closer quarters; hailing them as traitors, rebels, and murderers of their King. The conflict seems to have raged fast and furious for the space of about four hours, when Admiral Blake, unable to effect a landing, drew off his fleet, and thus brought to a close the gallantly-fought battle of St Ouen's bay, which undoubtedly resulted in favour of the defenders.

On leaving St Ouen's the fleet made for St Brelade's, where they again came to anchor, though, subsequently, during the same day (October 21), one squadron was sent back to St Ouen's, and others towards the Bays of St Aubin, St Clement and Grouville, as though the intention were to land at these different points, with the evident idea of wearying and confusing the Jersey troops, several companies of which were despatched to watch the different movements of the invaders, though the main body remained at St Brelade's, where the major portion of Admiral Blake's fleet still lay. The darkness of evening closed around amidst the anxious watchings of the defenders, when shortly after midnight on October 22, under the cover of darkness, another attempt was made to land.

4,000 land

About 4,000 foot embarked in small boats, stealthily advanced towards shore, and managed to approach well in land. But the Islanders were ready for them, and a short, though sharp and decisive battle was fought in St Brelade's lovely bay that early morn just at the break of day; neither shot nor powder appearing to have been spared on either side in the bloody enterprise. De Carteret and his followers stood their ground with conspicuous bravery, the Islanders being so roused from their former state of dejection that, in their impatience to beat off the invaders, those who had nothing to fight with seem to have carried their more fortunately armed comrades on their shoulders, and in this manner to have marched into the water to meet the enemy.

Finding themselves thus received, and also recognising the chances of a warmer welcome from two forts thrown up in the bay, as well as perceiving the Islanders drawn up in a determined attitude on the shore, the Parliamentarian forces once more chose that better part of valour we all wot of, and retired to their ships again; subsequently weighing anchor and returning to St Ouen's Bay, leaving behind them, however, 19 sail at St Brelade's, and another victory to the credit of Sir George de Carteret and Jersey.

That same day a reinforcement of the land army arrived in transports, and de Carteret, leaving part of his forces — which consisted of the Militia, his own troop of fusiliers, and two or three companies of dragoons — to oppose the fresh arrivals, marched to meet the already twice defeated invaders on the chance of their again landing at St Ouen's. Admiral Blake's fleet, however, "played the same tactics" as before. They made northward to l'Etacq, as though with the intention of landing there; then, suddenly veering about, they steered for Corbiere point in exactly the opposite direction, with the evident purpose of effecting by bewilderment and harassment what they could not do by force or skill of arms.

Constant downpour

In this they were partially successful. Sir George de Carteret and his little army for three days and three nights had known neither rest nor food; and had, moreover, remained incessantly under arms during an almost continuous downpour of rain for a great portion of that time. The troops were sent, during the lull which prevailed, to refresh themselves in the neighbouring villages. The Dumaresq manuscript, by-the-bye, has it that the Militia on the occasion of this invasion, was not up to its usual mark, owing, in a great measure, to the inefficient means that had been taken previously for the proper supply of provisions and other necessities; attributing the resultant langour and downheartedness that some of the companies appear to have then exhibited as much to these "obstacles" as to superstitious awe and the belief in the King's death.

But de Carteret speaks very highly of them as "good firing men," and warmly upholds their general bravery. But be that as it may, whilst the main body of the force he had taken to St Ouen's were refreshing themselves, Sir George, with a small body of horse, remained on watch, never for a moment departing from the shore; and it was just as well, though all in vain, for under the cover of a night extraordinary for its darkness, a battalion of the enemy landed. A sharp and fatal engagement on both sides ensued, and blood flowed freely in the desperate charge made by de Carteret and his small though resolute body of horse. Fresh forces, meanwhile, kept pouring in from the fleet. The infantry, dispersed for refreshment, rushing to the rescue, could not reach in time to render effectual aid, and the Parliamentarians secured the victory, though even they were forced to confess that they could not have borne another such charge as they met with from Sir George and his plucky, though defeated, little band of horsemen.

Numbers of the enemy, it seems, were slain or wounded in the conflict, short though it was; and, on the side of Jersey, fell, amongst others, much to the sorrow and regret of de Carteret, the intrepid and gallant Colonel Bovil: Jersey, in the end, being compelled to give in and retire, though it must be remembered that the whole force of the Island consisted only of one small regiment in the face of 4,000 of the foe.

General landing

After this defeat, a general landing of the invaders' troops followed, which, for them, was a fortunate occurrence; for, the day following their victory, the coast of Jersey seems to have shown what it can do in the way of storms, and besides causing other extensive damage amongst the fleet, the sea smashed to pieces, on the rocks, one of the enemy's stoutest ships, from which only one man out of the 300 on board was saved.

The Parliamentarians, however, were soon in possession of all the open country round about, only the Castles remaining to be conquered; and proud and thankful enough they seem to have been of their achievement; so important indeed did they appear to deem it, that within a little over a week — on 3 November - it was ordered by Parliament that the Ministers of London and Westminster should, in their several congregations, on the day but one after "give thanks to God for the gaining of the Jersey Island".

The first action of General Haines after thus landing was to attack St Aubin's Fort, the officer commanding which had received the strictest instructions from Sir George de Carteret to "hold out to the last extremity". These stringent orders, however, were for some reason unheeded and disobeyed. The fort surrendered almost as soon as summoned to do so, and practically without a blow being struck in its defence.

Mont Orgueil

Mont Orgueil, which had sustained so many sieges, and which, until then, had remained unconquered, was the next point of attack the victorious invaders made for. Its fortifications, unfortunately, had fallen to decay; neglect having played its part in that hitherto invincible fortress since the time the Governor had made Elizabeth Castle his headquarters — a time evidently contemporary with the arrival of Prince Charlie — a few cannon only were still mounted, eighteen guns and five "murderers" being all the castle could boast, "and men's hearts being faint because no news had reached them of their King, and their hands being weak", Mont Orgueil Castle, too, after a short siege on the part of General Haines and his forces, and but a slight resistance on the part of its defenders, was delivered into the hands of the enemy.

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