Category Archives: War

1745: Invading Scots beshit the streets of Macclesfield

John Stafford was a lawyer and the town clerk of Macclesfield, near Manchester, at the height of the Jacobite uprising in 1745. Led by the ‘Bonnie Prince’, Charles Stuart, Jacobite rebels invaded England in November 1745. By the end of the month, the Jacobite advance had reached Macclesfield where it was warmly welcomed by most townspeople. Stafford, a Hanover loyalist, was less enthusiastic. Nevertheless, he took an interest in the arrival of the ‘Pretender’s forces, recording observations about their numbers, their personnel and Charles Stuart himself.

Stafford was also required to provide lodgings for two Scottish soldiers. One was a young officer, “exceedingly civil” and a “person of sense and account” who charmed Stafford’s daughters. His second ‘guest’ was a “very ordinary fellow” who “tried all the locks in my bureau and in my wife’s closet” and pilfered several small items from the Stafford house.

After enduring a sleepless night, Stafford walked across the road to visit his neighbour, who was hosting more than 50 Highland soldiers and their camp followers. To his horror:

“The house floor was covered with straw, and men, women and children lay promiscuously together like a kennel of hounds, some of ’em stark naked.”

Stafford then took a walk around the neighbourhood and discovered that it had been befouled by the visiting Scots:

“As soon as it was daylight the streets appeared in the Edinburgh fashion, being beshit all along on both sides, from one end to the other.”

To Stafford’s “great joy” the Jacobite contingent left the following day and pushed on towards Derby. They passed through Macclesfield again a week later, this time in retreat. In April the following year, Charles Stuart and his army were conclusively defeated at the Battle of Culloden.

Source: Letter from John Stafford, December 2nd 1745. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1913: Obscene war songs from the Ivory Coast

Maurice Delafosse was a French anthropologist and researcher who spent several years living and working on the west coast of Africa. Delafosse specialised in native languages and other cultural and behavioural aspects of tribal groups.

Writing in the first decade of the 1900s, Delafosse described how native Africans in what is now the Ivory Coast responded to threats or hostility, in this instance from the Okou:

“The women would assemble and, with their back to the enemy, make violent and exaggerated thrusts of the buttocks in the direction of the hostile party while shouting “My arse for Okou!”

According to Delafosse, the menfolk would resort to a time-honoured tradition: the obscene song. He recorded some of the lyrics used:

“Okou is our enemy, cut off his head!”
“Okou is the excrement out of my backside!”
“Okou enjoys the sexual company of dogs!”
“The genitals of Okou are rotten and smell of feces!”

Source: Maurice Delafosse, Revue d’Ethnographie et de Sociologie, No. 4, 1913. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1750: Royal Marine flogged; nobody spots ‘his’ breasts

Hannah Snell (1723-1792) was a British woman who served in the Royal Marines – as a man. Snell was born in Worcester, married in her late teens and gave birth to a daughter. When her daughter died and her husband absconded, Snell borrowed some men’s clothing and enlisted in the Marines using the name ‘James Gray’.

In 1748, Snell was deployed to India where she saw heavy combat and:

“…received twelve wounds, six in her right arm and five in her left and the other in her groin, from the last of which she extracted the ball and herself perfected the cure, in order to prevent her sex being discovered…”

Snell’s gender concealment is even more remarkable considering that she was flogged twice during her three years in the Marines – and both times was stripped to the waist. In 1748 Snell was charged with dereliction of duty and publicly whipped in Carlisle. Snell later told biographers she avoided detection because her “breasts were but small” and:

“…her arms [were] drawn up, the protuberance of her breasts was inconsiderable and they were hid by her standing close to the gate.”

Snell received a second whipping onboard a Royal Navy ship, where she prevented the:

“…discovery of her sex by tying a handkerchief round her neck and spreading it over her breasts.”

During this second flogging, Snell’s breasts were spotted by the ship’s bosun who “said they were the most like a woman’s he ever saw”. He was apparently not concerned enough to raise the alarm.

On her return to England in 1750, Snell confessed her true gender. She was given an honourable discharge and, later, a military pension. Snell later ran a pub until her mental health deteriorated. She spent her final months in the notorious Bedlam hospital.

Source: Various inc. Boston Weekly Newsletter, December 6th 1750. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1790: Russian admiral rewarded with a peasant shoot

In July 1790, Russia’s Black Sea fleet, commanded by Admiral Fyodor Ushakov, defeated an Ottoman naval force in Kerch Strait near the Crimea.

In October, a Boston newspaper, the Columbian Centinel, informed its readers of the Russian victory. The outraged Centinel also reported that Catherine the Great had rewarded Admiral Ushakov by allowing him to shoot 2,417 peasants. The Centinel bemoaned:

“It is not [only] in Africa where the horrors of slavery are to be commiserated”.

Days later, however, the Centinel ran this brief and somewhat unapologetic correction:

“By a subsequent English paragraph, the above is found to be a mistake. The Empress gave her Admiral leave to shoot 2,417 pheasants.”

Source: Columbian Centinel, Boston, October 20th 1790. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1780: British officer alarmed for his foreskin

In 1780, a British East India Company regiment was defeated at Polilore by troops of the Mysore kingdom. Several hundred British soldiers were captured, held prisoner and forced into slavery. Many were forced to labour until 1784 and a few as late as 1799. Approximately 300 of these prisoners were also forcibly circumcised by their Muslim captors.

One of the British prisoners was Irish-born lieutenant colonel Cromwell Massey, who kept a secret diary during his incarceration at Seringapatam. In November 1780, Massey wrote that he and his men were:

“Terribly alarmed this morning for our foreskins.”

Massey had good cause for concern: he was circumcised shortly after. So too was a junior naval officer, who later wrote:

“I lost with the foreskin of my yard all those benefits of a Christian and Englishman which were and ever shall be my greatest glory.”

Most of these captives were liberated when a much larger British force invaded Mysore in 1799 and toppled its Muslim ruler, Tipu Sultan. Cromwell Massey was among them. He returned to Britain and lived to the age of 103, dying in Ramsgate in 1845.

Source: Various, inc. diary of Cromwell Massey, 1780. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.