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Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681). Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson. 1906.

Appendix XXV: On the Treatment of Prisoners, etc.

‘Wednesday, Shelford men came and thought to have driven the horses that were turned out to grass, but the alarum being timely given, Lieutenant Chadwick went out with a party and took twenty of them, and killed some four or five without any loss on our side.

Saturday, a boy was taken gazing in the town, and brought up upon suspicion of being a spy, and being burnt with match confessed that he came from Newark, and brought two letters to the town, and delivered them to a man in the town who formerly had been a corporal at Wiverton, and was sent hither to list himself as a soldier, that he might have the more opportunity to do mischief here; he said he knew the man (but knew not his name), and the place where he lived, and that at four o’clock of the afternoon he should have had an answer of the letters; he owned the man among forty others, but the fellow, who was one Griffith, a soldier in the major’s company, utterly denied that he knew, or had ever seen the boy, or received any letters from him; which yet the boy with so many circumstances so constantly affirmed, that the man was first tortured with match between his fingers, and then with a rope round his head; then he confessed that he had had letters twice from the boy, and had delivered them one Brinsly, who was a butcher in this town, of a lewd life and conversation and most malignant to this cause, and had from the beginning been a trooper under Sir Richard Biron at Newark, but came in before the first of March, and took the Covenant, and so was received into the town, but the governor had ever held him in such distrust that when there was any danger he still clapped him in close prison. He was upon this tortured, but would confess nothing, and though many other circumstances were proved against him, yet would he not be persuaded to confess anything.

Tuesday there was a day of rejoicing for the success of the fight at York, and the boy, being that day carelessly looked to, being kept only in the court of guard in the castle, got away when the soldiers marched out of the castle to church’.

The use of torture to extract information from spies or prisoners was unfortunately by no means uncommon. Vicars gives an account of its employment by Col. Hutchinson in another case, viz., when the cavaliers attempted to seize Nottingham Bridge. According to him, when some of them were seized, and their disguise discovered, ‘these cozening cormorants were further examined, but were very unwilling to confess the plot for all this, only they said they were sent as spies from Newark, but the prudent governor seriously examining the business, and being too old a bird to be caught or cozened with such chaff, took match and caused their fingers to be tied therewith, and told them what they must trust to, except they would speedily discover the plot’. Hereupon the prisoners confessed (Vicars, God’s Ark, p. 164). In the fragment of Col. Hutchinson’s letter concerning the plot, Appendix XXI., it is simply stated that he had received notice of the attempt beforehand, so the account given by Vicars is probably inaccurate, but it is to be observed that Vicars thoroughly approves the use of torture.

The Note-Book also supplies an instance of the punishment of a renegade:

‘When the Nottingham horse were in the vale of Belvoir, Captain Palmer’s troop took one Captain Deane, who had formerly received a commission from the Earl of Essex to raise a troop of horse in Nottinghamshire, and endeavoured to do it, but before he had gotten any men went away with some six case of pistols to the enemy, and there continued about Belvoir and Wiverton till at length Captain Palmer’s men met with him, and brought him prisoner to Nottingham. This and some other trials upon life being to be determined, the governor would not call a council of war upon them till he had a special commission from my lord-general, which he writ to him for, and my lord sent it to him, and after it was come a council was called, where he, being brought before them and examined, confessed his fault and desired mercy of the council, and was condemned to be shot to death four months after, this respite of time being all the favour they would afford him’.