Witch Delusion in America 1600’s

“It was not to be expected of the colonists of New England that they should be the first to see through a delusion which befooled the whole civilized world, and the gravest and most knowing persons in it. The colonists in Connecticut and New Haven, as well as in Massachusetts, like all other Christian people at that time–at least with extremely rare individual exceptions–believed in the reality of a hideous crime called witchcraft.” PALFREY’S “New England” (Vol. IV, pp. 96-127).

“The truth is that it [witchcraft] pervaded the whole Christian Church. The law makers and the ministers of New England were under its influences as–and no more than–were the law makers and ministers of Old England.” “Blue Laws–True and False” (p. 23), TRUMBULL.

“One —- of Windsor Arraigned and Executed at Hartford for a Witch.” WINTHROP’S “Journal” (2: 374, Savage Ed., 1853).

Here beginneth the first chapter of the story of the delusion in Connecticut. It is an entry made by John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in his famous journal, without specific date, but probably in the spring of 1647.

It is of little consequence save as much has been made of it by some writers as fixing the relative date of the earliest execution for witchcraft in New England, and locating it in one of the three original Connecticut towns.

What matters it at this day whether Mary Johnson as tradition runs, or Alse Youngs as truth has it, was put to death for witchcraft in Windsor, Connecticut, in 1647, or Martha Jones of Charlestown, Massachusetts, was hung for the same crime at Boston in 1648, as also set down in Winthrop’s Journal?

“It may possibly be thought a great neglect, or matter of partiality, that no account is given of witchcraft in Connecticut. The only reason is, that after the most careful researches, no indictment of any person for that crime, nor any process relative to that affair can be found.” (“History of Connecticut”, 1799, Preface, BENJAMIN TRUMBULL, D.D.)

“A few words should be said regarding the author’s mention of the subject of witchcraft in Connecticut…. It is, I believe, strictly true, as he says ‘that no indictment of any person for that crime nor any process relative to that affair can be found.’

“It must be confessed, however, that a careful study of the official colonial records of Connecticut and New Haven leaves no doubt that Goodwife Bassett was convicted and hung at Stratford for witchcraft in 1651, and Goodwife Knapp at Fairfield in 1653. It is also recorded in Winthrop’s “Journal” that ‘One —- of Windsor was arraigned and executed at Hartford for a witch’ in March, 1646-47, which if it actually occurred, forms the first instance of an execution for witchcraft in New England. The quotation here given is the only known authority for the statement, and opens the question whether something probably recorded as hearsay in a journal, may be taken as authoritative evidence of an occurrence…. The fact however remains, that the official records are as our author says, silent regarding the actual proceedings, and it is only by inference that it may be found from these records that the executions took place.” (Introduction to Reprint of “Trumbull’s History of Connecticut”, 1898, JONATHAN TRUMBULL.)

The searcher for inerrant information about witchcraft in Connecticut may easily be led into a maze of contradictions, and the statement last above quoted is an apt illustration, with record evidence to the contrary on every hand. Tradition, hearsay, rumor, misstatements, errors, all colored by ignorance or half knowledge, or a local jealousy or pride, have been woven into a woof of precedent and acceptance, and called history.

As has been already stated, the general writers from Trumbull to Johnston have nothing of value to say on the subject; the open official records and the latest history–”Connecticut as a Colony and a State”–cover only certain cases, and nowhere from the beginning to this day has the story of witchcraft been fully told.

Connecticut can lose nothing in name or fame or honor, if, more than two centuries after the last witch was executed within her borders, the facts as to her share in the strange superstition be certified from the current records of the events.

How may this story best be told? Clearly, so far as may be, in the very words of the actors in those tragic scenes, in the words of the minister and magistrate, the justice and the juryman, the accuser and the accused, and the searcher. Into this court of inquiry come all these personalities to witness the sorrowful march of the victims to the scaffold or to exile, or to acquittal and deliverance with the after life of suspicion and social ostracism.

The spectres of terror did not sit alone at the firesides of the poor and lowly: they stalked in high places, and were known of men and women of the first rank in education and the social virtues, and of greatest influence in church and state.

Of this fact there is complete demonstration in a glance at the dignitaries who presided at one of the earliest witchcraft trials—men of notable ancestry, of learning, of achievements, leaders in colonial affairs, whose memories are honored to this day.

These were the magistrates at a session entitled “A particular courte in Hartford upon the tryall of John Carrington and his wife 20th Feb., 1662” (See “Rec. P.C.”, 2: 17): Edw. Hopkins Esqr., Gournor John Haynes Esqr. Deputy, Mr. Wells, Mr. Woolcott, Mr. Webster, Mr. Cullick, Mr. Clarke.

This court had jurisdiction over misdemeanors, and was “aided by a jury,” as a close student of colonial history, the late Sherman W. Adams, quaintly says in one of his historical papers. These were the jurymen:

Mr. Phelps           John White           John More

Mr. Tailecoat       Will Leawis           Edw. Griswold

Mr. Hollister       Sam. Smith           Steph. Harte

Daniel Milton       John Pratt           Theo. Judd

Before this tribunal–representative of the others doing like service later–made up of the foremost citizens, and of men in the ordinary walks of life, endowed with hard common sense and presumably inspired with a spirit of justice and fair play, came John Carrington and his wife Joan of Wethersfield, against whom the jury brought in a verdict of guilty.

It must be clearly borne in mind that all these men, in this as in all the other witchcraft trials in Connecticut, illustrious or commonplace–as are many of their descendants whose names are written on the rolls of the patriotic societies in these days of ancestral discovery and exploitation–were absolute believers in the powers of Satan and his machinations through witchcraft and the evidence then adduced to prove them, and trained to such credulity by their education and experience, by their theological doctrines, and by the law of the land in Old England, but still clothed upon with that righteousness which as it proved in the end made them skeptical as to certain alleged evidences of guilt, and swift to respond to the calls of reason and of mercy when the appeals were made to their calm judgment and second thought as to the sins of their fellowmen.

In no way can the truth be so clearly set forth, the real character of the evidence be so justly appreciated upon which the convictions were had, as from the depositions and the oral testimony of the witnesses themselves. They are lasting memorials to the credulity and superstition, and the religious insanity which clouded the senses of the wisest men for a time, and to the malevolence and satanic ingenuity of the people who, possessed of the devil accused their friends and neighbors of a crime punishable by death.

Nor is this dark chapter in colonial history without its flashes of humor and ridiculousness, as one follows the absurd and unbridled testimonies which have been chosen as completely illustrative of the whole series in the years of the witchcraft nightmare. They are in part cited here, for the sake of authenticity and exactness, as written out in the various court records and depositions, published and unpublished, in the ancient style of spelling, and are worthy the closest study for many reasons.

It will, however, clear the way to a better understanding of the unique testimonies of the witch witnesses, if there be first presented the authoritative reasons for the examination of a witch, coupled with a summary of the lawful tests of innocence or guilt. They are in the handwriting of William Jones, a Deputy Governor of Connecticut and a member of the court at some of the trials.



“1. Notorious defamacon by ye common report of the people a ground of suspicion.

“2. Second ground for strict examinacon is if a fellow witch gave testimony on his examinacon or death yt such a pson is a witch, but this is not sufficient for conviccon or condemnacon.

“3. If after cursing, there follow death or at least mischiefe to ye party.

“4. If after quarrelling or threatening a prsent mischiefe doth follow for ptye’s devilishly disposed after cursing doe use threatnings, & yt alsoe is a grt prsumcon agt y.

“5. If ye pty suspected be ye son or daughter, the serv’t or familiar friend, neer neighbors or old companion of a knowne or convicted witch this alsoe is a prsumcon, for witchcraft is an art yt may be larned & covayd from man to man & oft it falleth out yt a witch dying leaveth som of ye aforesd heires of her witchcraft.

“6. If ye pty suspected have ye devills mark for t’is thought wn ye devill maketh his covent with y he alwayess leaves his mark behind him to know y for his owne yt is, if noe evident reason in can be given for such mark.

“7. Lastly if ye pty examined be unconstant & contrary to himselfe in his answers. “Thus much for examinacon wch usually is by Q. & some tymes by torture upon strong & grt presumcon.

“For conviccon it must be grounded on just and sufficient proofes. The proofes for conviccon of 2 sorts, 1, Some be less sufficient, some more sufficient.

“Less sufficient used in formr ages by red hot iron and scalding water. ye pty to put in his hand in one or take up ye othr, if not hurt ye pty cleered, if hurt convicted for a witch, but this was utterly condemned. In som countryes anothr proofe justified by some of ye learned by casting ye pty bound into water, if she sanck counted inocent, if she sunk not yn guilty, but all those tryalls the author counts supstitious and unwarrantable and worse. Although casting into ye water is by some justified for ye witch having made a ct wth ye devill she hath renounced her baptm & hence ye antipathy between her & water, but this he makes nothing off. Anothr insufficient testimoy of a witch is ye testimony of a wizard, who prtends to show ye face of ye witch to ye party afflicted in a glass, but this he counts diabolicall & dangerous, ye devill may reprsent a pson inocent. Nay if after curses & threats mischiefe follow or if a sick pson like to dy take it on his death such a one has bewitched him, there are strong grounds of suspicon for strict examinacon but not sufficient for conviccon.

“But ye truer proofes sufficient for conviccon are ye voluntary confession of ye pty suspected adjudged sufficient proofe by both divines & lawyers. Or 2 the testimony of 2 witnesses of good and honest report avouching things in theire knowledge before ye magistrat 1 wither yt ye party accused hath made a league wth ye devill or 2d or hath ben some knowne practices of witchcraft. Argumts to prove either must be as 1 if they can pve ye pty hath invocated ye devill for his help this pt of yt ye devill binds withes to.

“Or 2 if ye pty hath entertained a familiar spt in any forme mouse cat or othr visible creature.

“Or 3 if they affirm upon oath ye pty hath done any accon or work wch inferreth a ct wth ye devill, as to shew ye face of a man in a glass, or used inchantmts or such feates, divineing of things to come, raising tempests, or causing ye forme of a dead man to appeare or ye like it sufficiently pves a witch.

“But altho those are difficult things to prove yet yr are wayes to come to ye knowledg of y, for tis usuall wth Satan to pmise anything till ye league be ratified, & then he     nothing     ye discovery of y, for wtever witches intend the devill intends nothing but theire utter confusion, therefore in ye just judgmt of God it soe oft falls out yt some witches shall by confession discour ys, or by true testimonies be convicted.

“And ye reasons why ye devill would discover y is 1 his malice towards all men 2 his insatiable desire to have ye witches not sure enough of y till yn.

“And ye authors warne jurors, &c not to condemne suspected psons on bare prsumtions wthout good & sufficient proofes.

“But if convicted of yt horrid crime to be put to death, for God hath said thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

The accuser and the prosecutor were aided in their work in a peculiar way. It was the theory and belief that every witch was marked—very privately marked–by the Devil, and the marks could only be discovered by a personal examination. And thus there came into the service of the courts a servant known as a “searcher,” usually a woman, as most of the unfortunates who were accused were women.

The location and identification of the witch marks involved revolting details, some of the reports being unprintable. It is, however, indispensable to a right understanding of the delusion and the popular opinions which made it possible, that these incidents, abhorrent and nauseating as they are, be given within proper limitations to meet inquiry–not curiosity–and because they may be noted in various records.

A standard authority in legal procedure in England, recognized in witchcraft prosecutions in the New England colonies, was “Dalton’s Country Justice”, first published in 1619 in England, and in its last edition in 1746.

In its chapter on Witchcraft are these directions as to the witch marks: “These witches have ordinarily a familiar, or spirit which appeareth to them, sometimes in one shape and sometimes in another; as in the shape of a man, woman, boy, dog, cat, foal, hare, rat, toad, etc. And to these their spirits, they give names, and they meet together to christen them (as they speak)…. And besides their sucking the Devil leaveth other marks upon their body, sometimes like a blue or red spot, like a flea-biting, sometimes the flesh sunk in and hollow. And these Devil’s marks be insensible, and being pricked will not bleed, and be often in their secretest parts, and therefore require diligent and careful search. These first two are main points to discover and convict thosewitches.”

These methods were adopted in the proceedings against witches in Connecticut, and it will suffice to cite one of the reports of a committee–Sarah Burr, Abigail Burr, Abigail Howard, Sarah Wakeman, and Hannah Wilson,–“apointed (by the court) to make sarch upon ye bodis of Marcy Disbrough and Goodwif Clauson,” at Fairfield, in September and October 1692, sworn to before Jonathan Bell, Commissioner, and John Allyn, Secretary.

“Wee Sarah bur and abigall bur and Abigail howard and Sarah wakman all of fayrfeild with hanna wilson being by order of authority apointed to make sarch upon ye bodis of marcy disbrough and goodwif Clauson to see what they Could find on ye bodies of ether & both of them; and wee retor as followeth and doe testify as to goodwif Clauson forementioned wee found on her secret parts Just within ye lips of ye same growing within sid sumewhat as broad and reach without ye lips of ye same about on Inch and half long lik in shape to a dogs eare which wee apprehend to be vnvsuall to women.

“and as to marcy wee find on marcy foresayd on her secret parts growing within ye lep of ye same a los pees of skin and when puld it is near an Inch long somewhat in form of ye fingar of a glove flatted “that lose skin wee Judge more than common to women.” “Octob. 29 1692 The above sworn by the above-named as attests


SOURCE: The Witchcraft Delusion In Colonial Connecticut 1647-1697: By John M. Taylor


Witchcraft Delusion In Colonial Connecticut 1647-1697 (Part 2); Using the Law

“Hence among all the superstitions that have ‘stood over’ from primeval ages, the belief in witchcraft has been the most deeply rooted and the most tenacious of life. In all times and places until quite lately, among the most advanced communities, the reality of witchcraft has been accepted without question, and scarcely any human belief is supported by so vast a quantity of recorded testimony.”

“Considering the fact that the exodus of Puritans to New England occurred during the reign of Charles I, while the persecutions for witchcraft were increasing toward a maximum in the mother country, it is rather strange that so few cases occurred in the New World.” “New France and New England” (pp. 136-144), FISKE.

The forefathers believed in witchcraft–entering into compacts with the Devil–and in all its diabolical subtleties. They had cogent reasons for their belief in example and experience. They set it down in their codes as a capital offense. They found, as has been shown abundant authority in the Bible and in the English precedents. They anchored their criminal codes as they did their theology in the wide and deep haven of the Old Testament decrees and prophecies and maledictions, and doubted not that “the Scriptures do hold forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men in all duties which they are to perform to God and men.”

Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven, early in their history enacted these capital laws: In Massachusetts (1641): “Witchcraft which is fellowship by covenant with a familiar spirit to be punished with death.” “Consulters with witches not to be tolerated, but either to be cut off by death or banishment or other suitable punishment.” (“Abstract New England Laws”, 1655.)
In Connecticut (1642): “If any man or woman be a witch–that is, hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit–they shall be put to death.” Exodus xxii, 18; Leviticus xx, 27; Deuteronomy xviii, 10, 11. (“Colonial Records of Connecticut”, Vol. I, p. 77).

In New Haven (1655): “If any person be a witch, he or she shall be put to death according to” Exodus xxii, 18; Leviticus xx, 27; Deuteronomy xviii, 10, 11. (“New Haven Colonial Records”, Vol. II, p. 576, Cod. 1655).
These laws were authoritative until the epidemic had ceased.
Witches were tried, condemned, and executed with no question as to due legal power, in the minds of juries, counsel, and courts, until the hour of reaction came, hastened by doubts and criticisms of the sources and character of evidence, and the magistrates and clergy halted in their prosecutions and denunciations of an alleged crime born of delusion, and nurtured by a theology run rampant.

“They had not been taught to question the wisdom or the humanity of English criminal law.” (“Blue Laws–True and False”, p. 15, TRUMBULL.)
Here and there in New England, following the great immigration from Old England, from 1630-40, during the Commonwealth, and to the Restoration, several cases of witchcraft occurred, but the mania did not set its seal on the minds of men, and inspire them to run amuck in their frenzy, until the days of the swift onset in Massachusetts and Connecticut in 1692, when the zenith of Satan’s reign was reached in the Puritan colonies.

A few words about the tragedy at Salem are relevant and essential. They are written because it was the last outbreak of epidemic demonopathy among the civilized peoples; it has been exploited by writers abroad, who have left the dreadful record of the treatment of the delusion in their own countries in the background; it was accompanied in some degree by like manifestations and methods of suppression in sister colonies; it was fanned into flames by men in high station who reveled in its merciless extirpation as a religious duty, and eased their consciences afterwards by contrition, confession and remorse, for their valiant service in the army of the theological devil; and especially for the contrasts it presents to the more cautious and saner methods of procedure that obtained in the governments of Connecticut and New Haven at the apogee of the delusion.

What say the historians and scholars, some of whose ancestors witnessed or participated in the tragedies, and whose acquaintance with the facts defies all challenge?

“It is on the whole the most gruesome episode in American history, and it sheds back a lurid light upon the long tale of witchcraft in the past.” (“Fiske’s New France and New England”, 195.)

“The sainted minister in the church; the woman of the scarlet letter in the market place! What imagination would have been irreverent enough to surmise that the same scorching stigma was on them both.” (“Scarlet Letter”, HAWTHORNE.)
“We are made partners in parish and village feuds. We share in the chimney corner gossip, and learn for the first time how many mean and merely human motives, whether consciously or unconsciously, gave impulse and intensity to the passions of the actors in that memorable tragedy which dealt the death blow in this country to the belief in Satanic compacts.” (“Among my Books–Witchcraft”, p. 142, LOWELL.)

“The tragedy was at an end. It lasted about six months, from the first accusations in March until the last executions in September…. It was an epidemic of mad superstitious fear, bitterly to be regretted, and a stain upon the high civilization of the Bay Colony.” (“Historic Towns of New England, Salem”, p. 148, LATIMER.)

What was done at Salem, when the tempest of unreason broke loose? Who were the chief actors in it? This was done. From the first accusation in March, 1692, to the last execution in September, 1692, nineteen persons were hanged and one man was pressed to death[D] (“no witch was ever burned in New England”), hundreds of innocent men and women were imprisoned, or fled into exile or hiding places, their homes were broken up, their estates were ruined, and their families and friends were left in sorrow, anxiety, and desolation; and all this terrorism was wrought at the instance of the chief men in the communities, the magistrates, and the ministers.

[Footnote D: Fifty-five persons suffered torture, and twenty were executed before the delusion ended. “Ency. Americana” (Vol. 16, “Witchcraft”).]
Upham in his “Salem Witchcraft” (Vol. II. pp. 249-250) thus pictures the situation.

“The prisons in Salem, Ipswich, Boston, and Cambridge, were crowded. All the securities of society were dissolved. Every man’s life was at the mercy of every man. Fear sat on every countenance, terror and distress were in all hearts, silence pervaded the streets; all who could, quit the country; business was at a stand; a conviction sunk into the minds of men, that a dark and infernal confederacy had got foot-hold in the land, threatening to overthrow and extirpate religion and morality, and establish the kingdom of the Prince of darkness in a country which had been dedicated, by the prayers and tears and sufferings of its pious fathers, to the Church of Christ and the service and worship of the true God. The feeling, dismal and horrible indeed, became general, that the providence of God was removed from them; that Satan was let loose, and he and his confederates had free and unrestrained power to go to and fro, torturing and destroying whomever he willed.”

The trials were held by a Special Court, consisting of William Stoughton, Peter Sergeant, Nath. Saltonstall, Wait Winthrop, Bartho’ Gedney, John Richards, Saml. Sewall, John Hathorne, Tho. Newton, and Jonathan Corwin,–not one of them a lawyer.

Whatever his associates may have thought of their ways of doing God’s service, after the tragedy was over, Sewall, one of the most zealous of the justices, made a public confession of his errors before the congregation of the Old South Church, January 14, 1697. Were the agonizing groans of poor old Giles Corey, pressed to death under planks weighted with stones, or the prayers of the saintly Burroughs ringing in his ears?

“The conduct of Judge Sewall claims our particular admiration. He observed annually in private a day of humiliation and prayer, during the remainder of his life, to keep fresh in his mind a sense of repentance and sorrow for the part he bore in the trials. On the day of the general fast, he arose in the place where he was accustomed to worship, the old South, in Boston, and in the presence of the great assembly, handed up to the pulpit a written confession, acknowledging the error into which he had been led, praying for the forgiveness of God and his people, and concluding with a request, to all the congregation to unite with him in devout supplication, that it might not bring down the displeasure of the Most High upon his country, his family, or himself. He remained standing during the public reading of the paper. This was an act of true manliness and dignity of soul.” (“Upham’s Salem Witchcraft”, Vol. II, p. 441).

Grim, stern, narrow as he was, this man in his self-judgment commands the respect of all true men. The ministers stood with the magistrates in their delusion and intemperate zeal. Two hundred and sixteen years after the last witch was hung in Massachusetts a clearer light falls on one of the striking personalities of the time–Cotton Mather–who to a recent date has been credited with the chief responsibility for the Salem prosecutions.
Did he deserve it?

Robert Calef, in his “More Wonders of the Invisible World”, Bancroft in his “History of the United States”, and Charles W. Upham in his “Salem Witchcraft”, are the chief writers who have placed Mather in the foreground of those dreadful scenes, as the leading minister of the time, an active personal participant in the trials and executions, and a zealot in the maintenance of the ministerial dignity and domination.
On the other hand, the learned scholar, the late William Frederick Poole, first in the “North American Review”, in 1869, and again in his paper “Witchcraft in Boston”, in 1882, in the “Memorial History of Boston”, calls Calef an immature youth, and says that his obvious intent, and that of the several unknown contributors who aided him, was to malign the Boston ministers and to make a sensation.

And the late John Fiske, in his “New France and New England” (p. 155), holds that: “Mather’s rules (of evidence) would not have allowed a verdict of guilty simply upon the drivelling testimony of the afflicted persons, and if this wholesome caution had been observed, not a witch would ever have been hung in Salem.”

What were those rules of evidence and of procedure attributed to Mather?
Through the Special Court appointed to hold the witch trials, and early in its sittings, the opinions of twelve ministers of Boston and vicinity were asked as to witchcraft. Cotton Mather wrote and his associates signed an answer June 15, 1692, entitled, “The Return of Several Ministers Consulted by his Excellency and the Honorable Council upon the Present Witchcrafts in Salem Village”. This was the opinion of the ministers, and it is most important to note what is said in it of spectral evidence,[E] as it was upon such evidence that many convictions were had:

“1. The afflicted state of our poor neighbors that are now suffering by molestations from the Invisible World we apprehend so deplorable, that we think their condition calls for the utmost help of all persons in their several capacities.

“2. We cannot but with all thankfulness acknowledge the success which the merciful God has given unto the sedulous and assiduous endeavors of our honorable rulers to detect the abominable witchcrafts which have been committed in the country; humbly praying that the discovery of these mysterious and mischievous wickednesses may be perfected.

“3. We judge that, in the prosecution of these and all such witchcrafts there is need of a very critical and exquisite caution, lest by too much credulity for things received only upon the devil’s authority, there be a door opened for a long train of miserable consequences, and Satan get an advantage over us; for we should not be ignorant of his devices.

“4. As in complaints upon witchcraft there may be matters of inquiry which do not amount unto matters of presumption, and there may be matters of presumption which yet may not be matters of conviction, so it is necessary that all proceedings thereabout be managed with an exceeding tenderness toward those that may be complained of, especially if they have been persons formerly of an unblemished reputation.

“5. When the first inquiry is made into the circumstances of such as may lie under the just suspicion of witchcrafts, we could wish that there may be admitted as little as possible of such noise, company and openness as may too hastily expose them that are examined, and that there may be nothing used as a test for the trial of the suspected, the lawfulness whereof may be doubted by the people of God, but that the directions given by such judicious writers as Perkins and Barnard may be observed.

“6. Presumptions whereupon persons may be committed, and much more, convictions whereupon persons may be condemned as guilty of witchcrafts, ought certainly to be more considerable than barely the accused persons being represented by a spectre unto the afflicted, inasmuch as it is an undoubted and notorious thing that a demon may by God’s permission appear even to ill purposes, in the shape of an innocent, yea, and a virtuous man. Nor can we esteem alterations made in the sufferers, by a look or touch of the accused, to be an infallible evidence of guilt, but frequently liable to be abused by the devil’s legerdemains.

“7. We know not whether some remarkable affronts given the devils, by our disbelieving these testimonies whose whole force and strength is from them alone, may not put a period unto the progress of the dreadful calamity begun upon us, in the accusation of so many persons whereof some, we hope, are yet clear from the great transgression laid to their charge.

“8. Nevertheless, we cannot but humbly recommend unto the government, the speedy and vigorous prosecutions of such as have rendered themselves obnoxious, according to the directions given in the laws of God and the wholesome statutes of the English nation for the detection of witchcrafts.”

[Footnote E: An illustration: The child Ann Putnam, in her testimony against the Rev. Mr. Burroughs, said that one evening the apparition of a minister came to her and asked her to write her name in the devil’s book. Then came the forms of two women in winding sheets, and looked angrily upon the minister and scolded him until he was fain to vanish away. Then the women told Ann that they were the ghosts of Mr. Burroughs’ first and second wives whom he had murdered.]

Did Longfellow, after a critical study of the original evidence and records, truly interpret Mather’s views, in his dialogue with Hathorne?
MATHER: “Remember this, That as a sparrow falls not to the ground Without the will of God, so not a Devil Can come down from the air without his leave. We must inquire.”
HATHORNE: “Dear sir, we have inquired; Sifted the matter thoroughly through and through, And then resifted it.”
MATHER: “If God permits These evil spirits from the unseen regions To visit us with surprising informations, We must inquire what cause there is for this, But not receive the testimony borne By spectres as conclusive proof of guilt In the accused.”
HATHORNE: “Upon such evidence We do not rest our case. The ways are many In which the guilty do betray themselves.”
MATHER: “Be careful, carry the knife with such exactness That on one side no innocent blood be shed By too excessive zeal, and on the other No shelter given to any work of darkness.”
“New England Tragedies” (4, 725), LONGFELLOW.

Whatever Mather’s caution to the court may have been, or his leadership in learning, or his ambition and his clerical zeal, there is thus far no evidence, in all his personal participation in the tragedies, that he lifted his hand to stay the storm of terrorism once begun, or cried halt to the magistrates in their relentless work. On the contrary, after six victims had been executed, August 4, 1692, in “A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World”, Mather wrote this in deliberate, cool afterthought: “They–the judges–have used as judges have heretofore done, the spectral evidences, to introduce their farther inquiries into the lives of the persons accused; and they have thereupon, by the wonderful Providence of God, been so strengthened with other evidences that some of the witch-gang have been fairly executed.”

And a year later, in the light of all his personal experience and investigation, Mather solemnly declared: “If in the midst of the many dissatisfactions among us, the publication of these trials may promote such a pious thankfulness unto God for justice being so far executed among us, I shall rejoice that God is glorified.”

Wherever the responsibility at Salem may have rested, the truth is that in the general fear and panic there was potent in the minds, both of the clergy and the laity, the spirit of fanaticism and malevolence in some instances, such as misled the pastor of the First Church to point to the corpses of Giles Corey’s devoted and saintly wife and others swinging to and fro, and say “What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell hanging there.”

This conspectus of witchcraft, old and new, of its development from the sorcery and magic of the ancients into the mediaeval theological dogma of the power of Satan, of its gradual ripening into an epidemic demonopathy, of its slow growth in the American colonies, of its volcanic outburst in the close of the seventeenth century, is relevant and appropriate to this account of the delusion in Connecticut, its rise and suppression, its firm hold on the minds and consciences of the colonial leaders for threescore years after the settlement of the towns, a chapter in Connecticut history written in the presence of the actual facts now made known and available, and with a purpose of historic accuracy.

SOURCE: The Witchcraft Delusion In Colonial Connecticut 1647-1697: By John M. Taylor (1908)

A Study in how religious intolerance demonized witchcraft

Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Montmirail 11 February 1814 (Part 4)

Napoleon was in a quandary. Although most of his cavalry was present, only two infantry divisions had come up, Ricard’s men and Friant’s division of the Old Guard. He dare not commit many of Friant’s men was this would leave him without a reserve. Any advance north of the road would be risky while the Prussians could threaten his flank. For a time the cannon boomed on amid heavy showers of rain which must have added to the hazards facing the gunners. Ricard’s outnumbered division, which had retired to Le Tremblay, made an unenthusiastic attack at Marchis and was repelled. Then the Russians counterattacked and secured a foothold in Le Tremblay. Now the battle languished. Ricard still held part of Le Tremblay to the south of the road, while Friant with his division of the Old Guard watched the Russians in Les Grenaux. Napoleon lined up Guyot’s, Laferrière-Levesque’s and Colbert’s divisions of cavalry of the Guard and Defrance’s Garde d’Honneur east of the Château-Thierry and north of the Paris roads ready to launch then against the Russian cavalry, but while the Russians held Les Grenaux and an undisclosed number of Prussians the heights by Fontenelle, such an attack could not be contemplated. The terrible state of the roads seems to have ruined all Napoleon’s plans.

Then in the distance a long line of bearskins came into view. Michel with his division of the Old Guard was approcaching. Napoleon, watching the battle on horse back with his customary indifference to fire, at once ordered Friant to storm Les Grenaux while Michel guarded against any enemy reaction from the direction of Fontenelle. Friant’s Old Guard went in to action with an irresistible élan. Ney , his divisions of the Young Guard still on the road marching up, led the Old Guard forward on foot. The serried ranks of bearskins plunged in to the farm. Pirch over at Fontenelle came forward to help his stricken ally. Michel swung his division round to face him and a bloody struggle ensued.

Ney and his veterans speedily oeverwhelmed the Russians in Les Grenaux. The way forward was open. Napoleon gave the word and his massed squadrons crashed down upon the Russian horse and broke them. Now the French cavalry erupted all over the plain. Sacken had begun his withdrawal towards Château-Thierry when the thunderbolt struck. In the gathering darkness the Russian infantry formed into their squares and moved slowly northward harried by Colbert’s and Leferrière’s troopers. Guyot plunged southwards to attack Marchais from behind while Ricard aided by a couple of battalions of Friant’s Old Guard, attacked from the front. The Russians withdrew, taking cover from the relentless cavalry charges in the woods south of the Paris road. The fighting reached the great fury near Fontenelle where the Château-Thierry road switched-back to the north over the low range of hills. Michel’s division, led by Marshal Mortier in person and aided by Defrance’s cavalry, strove desperately to break through along the Château-Thierry road. A break here might have isolated most of Sacken’s army. But Pirch’s division, fighting with magnificent determination, gave ground but refused to break. Yorck, now himself on the battlefield, fed forward some of his cavalry under Jurgas. Pirch was severaly wounded; his brigade lost 1,000 men, a quarter of its strength, but it kept the road barred. Then the night and the weather closed in on a scene of wild confusion and the fighting perforce had to stop. Most of the isolated Russsian right wing found its way in the darkness to Viels-Maisons and thence northwards, but 1,000 men were captured and eight guns. In addition the action cost the Russians 1,500 casualties. The Prussians lost 1,200 men-relatively speaking far more than either of the other two contestants-and the French 2,000.

Next morning the Allies began their retreat to Château-Thierry with the Prussians furnishing the rear guard. Napoleon launched a brilliant pursuit. While one column of cavalry followed up the main road to Château-Thierry, another made a detour to Viels-Maison and then pushed north, well placed to out flank any rear guard positions. Hampered by the guns and transports of the two corps, all crammed on a single road, the Prussians withdrew only slowly. With the scent of victory in their nostrils the French cavalry raced after them. At Les Caquerets, five miles south of Château-Thierry, they drove the Allied cavalry from the field and broke the rear guard. Then they rampaged over the flat valley of the Marne to Château-Thierry itself. Some 3,000 prisoners, 30 guns and innumerable baggage wagons fell into their hands, before the last Prussians crossed to the north bank of the Marne and burnt down the bridge behind them.

For Napoleon it had been a remarkable victory. The two Allied armies totaled 30,000 seasoned fighting men under able and tough commanders. Napoleon probably never had more than 20,000 men at his disposal and at times far less. Seldom can an army so inferior in numbers have harried so unmercifully an enemy not only superior in strength and by no means deficient in courage or skill. Well might Napoleon write lyrically of the achievements of his Guards. The battle was curiously paradoxical. The battlefield was reported to be a bog, but cavalry have rarely been used to greater effect.

The armies of Yorck and Sacken suffered their worst losses retreating before an enemy greatly inferior to them, after fighting a battle that had by no means been an irretrievable disaster. Magnificently as his soldiers fought, it would almost seem that Napoleon defeated his opponents as much by imposing his will on the two Allied generals as by actually beating them in the field. He later suggested that had MacDonald advanced to Château-Thierry, not an enemy would have escaped. This is merely an Imperial flight of fancy. He gave no instructions to MacDonald to advance to Château-Thierry. The Marshal would have had two broken bridges to cross, and if by some magic he had arrived, Yorck had taken due precautions against an attack and had ample resources with which to beat it off. The allied generals did not pay Napoleon’s marshals the reverence they paid to the great master himself. As an interesting possibility, had there been no escape open to them, Sacken and Yorck might have exploited their numbers to more advantage. It does no justice to the extraordinary speed and certainty exhibited by Napoleon to suggest that his opponents were inferior, they were only inferior to him.

SOURCE: Napoleon: The Last Campaign’s 1813-15; BY: James Lawford

Napoleonic Wars: Montmirail Campaign 10-11 February 1814 (Part 3)

Napoleonic Wars: Montmirail Campaign 10-11 February 1814 (Part 3)

On the evening of the 10th Sacken’s advance guard reached La Freté-sous-Jouarre, 20 miles west of Montmirail, to find MacDonald gone and the bridges there and at Trilport destroyed. Late that evening orders came from Blücher summarily recalling him to Montmirail to join Yorck who was to come down the Château-Thierry road from the north to meet him. No doubt much of his corps was strung down the road to the east, but taking into account the appalling conditions of the roads the head of his infantry column could scarcely hope to arrive at Montmirail before the early afternoon of the 11th.

Château-Thierry surrendered to the cantankerous Yorck at about 9 o’clock on the morning of the 10th. He received his orders to abandon his excellent highway and march southwards to Montmirail with the loud-voiced derision with which he was wont to greet any orders for a superior authority. He knew Sacken was some distance to the west and unable to arrive at Montmirail for some time; he shrewdly suspected that Napoleon was already either near or on the Montmirail road. In accordance with his instructions, therefore, he intended to avoid action and take refuge north of the Marne. If he occupied Montmirail he might find himself alone and opposed to Napoleon, a situation few generals contemplated with equanimity. On the other hand , if he could persuade Sacken to swing north by the minor roads form Viels-Maisons, six miles west of Montmirail, he would shorten Sacken’s march by six miles and add the same distance to Napoleon’s.

It cannot be said with certainty how far these considerations influenced Yorck, but he left 5,000 men to hold Château-Thierry and the crossing over the Marne, pushed and advance guard into Viels-Masisons, and bivouacked with the remained of his corps, about 11,000 strong, in the area of Viffort, eight miles north of the junction between the Château-Thierry and Paris roads. Paradoxically, for his army of the three took least part in the battle next day, on that chill winter evening he was closer to Montmirail than either of the other two.

Sacken, an able, thrusting general, arrived at Viels-Maisons probably about midday on the 11th. At this time a considerable portion of his army must still have been marching up. Rain fell steadily out of the dark, heavy sky and the field were mere bogs in which guns and wagons sank up to their axles. At this time he must have received a message from Yorck advising him of his plans. The Prussian advance guard in Viels-Maisons, having contacted Sacken, withdrew to the friendly shelter of Château Rozoy-Bellevalle three and a half miles to the north. Pirch II, with a brigade from Yorck’s corps, occupied Fontenelle on the high ground overlooking the road from the north and about a mile and a half from the road junction. Pirch II expelled some voltigeurs from the village and could confirm that Monmirail was held in strength. The rest of Yorcks troops were well to the north. If both corps were going to pass through Châteu-Thierry, roads were likely to become congested.

Now Sacken faced a problem. He had to move with his baggage and heavy guns to the north knowing the French would attack his right flankas he did so. He had to protect the road while heavy guns and transports filed by. The ground, if unfit for whelled transport, was very open and particularly to the north towards gently sloping hills behind which Fontenelle nestled. Aasouth of the road by the villages of Marchais and Le Tremblay, and south of them a steeply sloping ravine down to the Petit-Morin that nearly ran up to the road itself by Montmirail. The country south of the road was therfore more suitable for infantry while the flat open country north of it was ideal for cavalry. The muddy ground would slow down a charge, but since it could not take heavey artillery, on balance it was probably best suited to cavalry action.

Sacken commanded the Allied VI and XI Infantry Crops-VI having three and the XI two weak divisions-and a cavalry crops under General Wassilshikov; his army numbered about 20,000 men with 90 guns. He directed his VI Corps to hold Marchaise about 1,000 yards south of the road and the XI to hold the road and the farmhouse of Les Grenaux about 300 yards north of it. Wassilshikov with his cavalry was to be deployed to the north of the farmhouse and to keep touch with Pirch in Fontenelle.

Sometime after midday Sacken put his plan into effect. On his right, VI Corps without much difficulty drove Ricard’s division of weary conscripts who had been fighting and marching almost continuously for the last 24 hours, out of Marchais. On the left his XI Corps against negligible opposition took up a position astride the Paris road with its left established in the Les Grenaux Farm. Having firmly blocked the Paris road and with Pirch across the Château-Thierry road at Fontenelle, Sacken felt comfortable enough. He started moving his transports and heavy guns to the north towards Montmirail and the main Château-Thierry road.

SOURCE: Napoleon: The Last Champaign’s 1813-15; BY: James Lawford

Napoleonic War: Montmirail Champaign 1-10 February 1814 (Part 2)


Napoleonic Wars: Montmirail Champaign 1-10 February 1814 (Part 2)

As the morning of 10 February 1814 progressed, about midday Müffling’s ADC. Lieutenant Gerlach, rode in from Sacken’s headquarters. The General though the expulsion of the Cossacks from Sézanne of no significance and had gone on to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. MacDonald, however, had out-distanced him and, destroying the bridges over the Seine at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre and Trilport, had retired to Meaux. Gerlach remarked that he had ridden through Champaubert at 11 0’clock that morning and all seemed quiet. Blücher sent peremptory ordereds to Yorck to go to Montmirail and himself set out to La Ferté-Champenoise where Kliest and Kapzevich were due to meet before going the 11 milies to Sézanne.

As he went, the dull thudding of cannon fire came from the north-west in the general direction of Champaubert and Baye. There was nothing headquarters could do except hope that if Olsufiev was in trouble he would take to the woods. Towards evening so fugitives straggled into La Fère-Champenoise with a story of disaster. Olsufiev had been captured and most of his men killed or taken prisoner. Blücher halted his advance on Sézanne. Kliest’s men had already marched a long way and the wild country round La Fére-Champenoise would give some protection against the powerful French cavalry. They bivouacked for the night. Blücher had with him about 13,000 men all told, including about 500 horse; some 4,000 of Kliest’s corps including most of his cavalry were still somewhere between Châlons and the Rhine.

In the morning Blücher marched on Bergèresm and camped; during the day he accumulated about 1,000 stragglers from Olsufiev’s unhappy detachment. Some 3,000 must have been either killed or captured. Blücher anticipated that now Napoleon would turn east and attack him. With virtually no cavalry he dared not advance to Montmirail; equally he dared not retreat to Châlons. If the French cavalry caught him in the plains surrounding that town he would be cut to pieces. He stayed in camp and waited for information none came. For the rest of the day and most of the 12th he remained at Bergères in ahideous state of uncertainty. On the 13th a letter arrived from Yorck saying simply that Sacken had driven MacDonald across the Marne at Trilport, then had marched back to find Napoleon across the road at Viels-Maisons. There the message ended. All remained quiet except that some 800 of Kliest’s cavalry rode in and some French were identified at Étoges. Blücher’s old impatience began once again to take charge. He advanced, drove the French out of Étoges and stopped at Champaubert, proposing to march to Montmirail next day.

Next morning Blücher had gone about four miles along the Montmirail road and was approaching Vauchamps when his advance guard ran into a strong enemy post and a cense cloud of cavalry, well supported by artillery, descended on his marching column. The Prussian cavalry, haplessly out numbered, were soon driven off. A Cossack captured an officer of the French Old Guard. The Frenchman told Blücher that he was in the presence of the Emperor himself. Sacken and Yorck were north of the Marne. Napoleon had just completed a night march from Château-Thierry in order to destroy him.

Blücher and his army were in mortal peril. His one chance was to retreat before the French infantry could catch him up. He put Kapzevich on the right of the road and Kleist on the left while the guns traveled down it, dropping in and out of action as they went. During the bleak, cold afternoon the two columns slowly progressed eastwards while the French cavalry with their shouts of “Vive l’Empereur!” came roaring down in charge after charge. Müffling, marching with Kleist and checking progress with his habitual thoroughness, became alarmed. The French cavalry might head the columns by a wooded defile near Étoges and the survivors be compelled to surrender. Blücher, fearlessly riding about encouraging his men, was moving with too measured a tread. Müffling sent a message suggesting it would be wise to hurry. The old man replied with his accustomed bluntness. “ If Kleist did not run so immoderately fast all would remain compact.‘ Müffling, noted that a regiment of French cuirassiers had cut in ahead of the advance guard, composed of of three raw Russian infantry battalions, and was preparing to charge. The Russian infantry halted quite steadily and allowed the cuirassiers to close in. Then on the word ‘FIRE!’, every man blasted off his musket in one stupendous vvolley. It was poorly aimed and few Frenchmen fell; fortunately the cuirassiers turned and trotted off for, with their muskets empty, the Russian infantry lay at their mercy. Müffling thought ‘this was the time to make these inexperienced soldiers believe they had done something heroic. I Hurrahed them loudly. They moved briskly on, their drums struck up a march and all the drums of the corps followed their beat.

The light began to fade from the heavy skies and the muddy ground either side of the road prevented the French from bringing up their guns. This probably saved Blücher from complete destruction; but passing through Étoges, the French cavalry under Grouchy moved a head of the Allied rear guard and charging down the narrow streets virtually annihilated them. Beyond Étoges Napoleon called off the prusuit and the weary, ravaged columns halted at their old camp at Bergère to restore some of their order. After a few hours’ rest they continued on to Châlons. Blücher had lost some 6,000 men.

When he arrived at Nogent on 7 February Napoleon discovered that MacDonald, heavily outnumbered by Yorck with some 18,000 men, had kept his own troops concentrated and left the roads to Paris by Montmirail and Sézanne completely unprotected. There was nothing to stop Bücher hammering at the gates of Paris. But Schwarzenberg had swung away to the south, and a sudden and sharp blow might be dealt to the impetuous Prussian. He ordered Marmont with 2,000 cavalry, 1,000 infantry and six guns to march that evening to Sézanne 20 miles away to the northeast. While probing Blücher’s dispositions on the Montmirail road, Marmont was to ensure the enemy knew nothing of what passed between Nogent and Sézanne.

At about 4 P.M. , while he was meditating over his next move, despatches arrived from the peace negotiators at Châtillon. Napoleon read them and blenched. With their armies less than 100 miles from Paris and no signs of a mass uprising by the French people, the Allies were prepared to offer nothing more than the borders to France as theyhad been in 1792; in the north these would exclude Antwerp and the Rhine. Berthier and his Foreign Minister, Maret, begged him to accept. He retired to his own room to ponder. At last he reappeared and passionately rejected the term. “ Never’, he cried. “Never will I leave France smaller than I found it.’ Baron Fain, his secretary, remarked that he again withdrew and threw himself upon his bed. If he did, it was not to repine. Already he was organizing his next move. He himself declared that he had a mind like desk full of drawers; when he wanted to examine one he pulled it out, then when he had finished with it he shut it away and pulled out another. When he wanted sleep, which was seldom, he shut all the drawers.

That night he worked late. He constituted a VII Corps made up of the 7th and 9th Divisions from Soult’s Army of Spain. He gave the command to Marshal Oudinot, recently recovered from typhus contracted in Germany, instructing him to watch the more westerly approaches to Paris. Pajol’s cavalry division at Sens and Allix’s infantry at Pont-sur-Yonne were to come under him. He was to place troops at Nangus and Provins and be responible for Montereau with a total of nearly 25,000 men ( Napoleon always overestimated the number of troops he placed under the command of generals). Victor with 15,000 men including Gérard’s troops , now only a division strong, was to remain at Nogent and guard the crossings over the Seine to the east. The two marshals were to liaise closely over their plans. With 40,000 men between them they should be able to keep Schwarzenberg in check.

This left Napoleon a field force of 30,000 men and 120 guns, comprising all the best regiments in his army. His infnatry would consist of the two division of conscripts in Marmont’s VI Corps, two division of the Old Guard and three of the Young numbering in all about 20,000; for cavalry he had the Cavalry of the Guard, totally about 6,000, which Defrance’s Garde d’Honneur and the I Cavalry Corps, each of 2,000 gave him 10,000 troopers in all.

He estimated Blücher could muster 45,000 men. With help from MacDonald’s XI Corps, now increased to about 7,000 men, he concluded he should be strong enough to defeat him. Writing to his brother in the midst of his other preoccupations, he found time to include a postscript about Josephine: ‘ Keep the Empress happy, she is dying of consumption.’ Then with his small by choice army he set out to demolish Blücher, little knowing he now commanded 60,000 men.

The rain fell steadily and the road to Sézanne became a sea of mud; moving was hideously difficult and the misery of the soldiers acute. Marmont (VI Corps), after herculean efforts, had arrived on the 8th and during the 9th patrolled forward, indentifying Olsufiev at Champaubert and Sacken 10 miles to the west at Montmirail. Yorck, Napoleon knew, was chasing MacDonald some where near Château-Thierry. Although much of his army was still short of Sézanne. Teams of cavalry horses were needed to drag the guns out of the mud and, as he informed his administrative chief, the army was dying of hunger. The emperor ordered an advance to Montmirail via Champaubert on the 10th.

Marmont led. Olsufiev left the bridge over the Petit Morin undefended. He made no attempt to hold the difficult country near the river, here little more than a stream. The he suddenly elected to make a stand and fight in the flat open country round Champaubert, country excellently suited to Napoleon’s powerful force of cavalry. It must be supposed that the French advance was unexpected and that Olsufiev was unable to oppose it any earlier. Perhaps some rather unpleasant comments about the conduct of his corps at Brienne, suggesting that he and his troops left unnecessarily abruptly, may have weighed with him. His decision to stand and fight was disastrous. During a wet overcast afternoon Marmont’s conscripts drove fiercely forward, while Napoleon directed his cavalry to cut the Montmirail road on both flanks of the unfortunate Russians. After a stubborn resistance they were over whelmed. Characteristically Napoleon claimed to have captured 40 of their 24 guns and 6,000 out of a detachment of 4,000. It sounded better in the Bulletins.

He did not waste a moment. He told Marmont to clear up the battlefield with a single division and gave him I Cavalry Corps with which to mask Blücher. He ordered the remained to press on through the night to Montmirail, 10 miles to the west. But it was not until 1 o’clock next morning that he inhabitants of Montmirail awoke to the clip-clopping of many hooves and threw open their windows to see the leading squadrons of the Cavalry of the Guard ride by, their splendid uniforms drenched and plastered with mud.

SOURCE: Napoleon: The Last Champaign’s 1813-15; BY: James Lawford

Napoleonic Wars: Montmirail Campaign 10-11 February 1814 (Part 3)

Napoleonic Wars:Montmirail Campaign 1-10 February 1814 (After La Rothiére, Part 1)

A Study in how religious intolerance demonized witchcraft

The following shows how religion in it’s intolerance and jealousy  of losing its control over the population by a spiritual means, demonized the ones who had a working understanding of the natural world, outlawed the practitioners, tortured and murdered them by presenting the horrendous acts as the utterly ignorant notion of saving their souls. And capitalized upon by the literature of and during the 14th-20th centuries. If you compare “Magic’ to “Miracle” there is no difference, both are beyond the realm of understanding. What makes one more sacred than the other? [Editorial NOTE], Now I present:

“First, because Witchcraft is a rife and common sinne in these our daies, and very many are intangled with it, beeing either practitioners thereof in their owne persons, or at the least, yielding to seeke for helpe and counsell of such as practise it.” “A Discovrse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft”, PERKINS, 1610.

“And just as God has his human servants, his church on earth, so also the Devil has his–men and women sworn to his service and true to his bidding. To win such followers he can appear to men in any form he pleases, can deceive them, enter into compact with them, initiate them into his worship, make them his allies for the ruin of their fellows.
Now it is these human allies and servants of Satan, thus postulated into existence by the brain of a monkish logician, whom history knows as witches.” “The Literature of Witchcraft”, BURR.

Witchcraft in its generic sense is as old as human history. It has written its name in the oldest of human records. In all ages and among all peoples it has taken firm hold on the fears, convictions and consciences of men. Anchored in credulity and superstition, in the dread and love of mystery, in the hard and fast theologic doctrines and teachings of diabolism, and under the ban of the law from its beginning, it has borne a baleful fruitage in the lives of the learned and the unlearned, the wise and the simple.

King and prophet, prelate and priest, jurist and lawmaker, prince and peasant, scholars and men of affairs have felt and dreaded its subtle power, and sought relief in code and commandment, bull and anathema, decree and statute–entailing even the penalty of death–and all in vain until in the march of the races to a higher civilization, the centuries enthroned faith in the place of fear, wisdom in the place of ignorance, and sanity in the seat of delusion.

In its earlier historic conception witchcraft and its demonstrations centered in the claim of power to produce certain effects, “things beyond the course of nature,” from supernatural causes, and under this general term all its occult manifestations were classified with magic and sorcery, until the time came when the Devil was identified and acknowledged both in church and state as the originator and sponsor of the mystery, sin and crime–the sole father of the Satanic compacts with men and women, and the law both canonical and civil took cognizance of his malevolent activities.

In the Acropolis mound at Susa in ancient Elam, in the winter of 1901-2, there was brought to light by the French expedition in charge of the eminent savant, M. de Morgan, one of the most remarkable memorials of early civilization ever recovered from the buried cities of the Orient.

It is a monolith–a stele of black diorite–bearing in bas-relief a likeness of Hammurabi (the Amrephel of the Old Testament; Genesis xiv, 1), and the sixth king of the first Babylonian dynasty, who reigned about 2250 B.C.; and there is also carved upon it, in archaic script in black letter cuneiform–used long after the cursive writing was invented–the longest Babylonian record discovered to this day,–the oldest body of laws in existence and the basis of historical jurisprudence.

It is a remarkable code, quickly made available through translation and Trans-literation by the Assyrian scholars, and justly named, from its royal compiler, Hammurabi’s code. He was an imperialist in purpose and action, and in the last of his reign of fifty-five years he annexed or assimilated the suzerainty of Elam, or Southern Persia, with Assyria to the north, and also Syria and Palestine, to the Mediterranean Sea.

This record in stone originally contained nineteen columns of inscriptions of four thousand three hundred and fourteen lines, arranged in two hundred and eighty sections, covering about two hundred separate decisions or edicts. There is substantial evidence that many of the laws were of greater antiquity than the code itself, which is a thousand years older than the Mosaic code, and there are many striking resemblances and parallels between its provisions, and the law of the covenant, and the Deuteronomy laws of the Hebrews.

The code was based on personal responsibility. It protects the sanctity of an oath before God, provides among many other things for written evidence in legal matters, and is wonderfully comprehensive and rich in rules for the conduct of commercial, civic, financial, social, economic, and domestic affairs.

These sections are notably illustrative: “If a man, in a case (pending judgment), utters threats against the witnesses (or), does not establish the testimony that he has given, if that case be a case involving life, that man shall be put to death.

“If a judge pronounces a judgment, renders a decision, delivers a verdict duly signed and sealed and afterwards alters his judgment, they shall call that judge to account for the alteration of the judgment which he had pronounced, and he shall pay twelvefold the penalty which was in the said judgment, and, in the assembly, they shall expel him from his seat of judgment, and he shall not return, and with the judges in a case he shall not take his seat.

“If a man practices brigandage and is captured, that man shall be put to death.

“If a woman hates her husband, and says: ‘thou shalt not have me,’ they shall inquire into her antecedents for her defects; and if she has been a careful mistress and is without reproach and her husband has been going about and greatly belittling her, that woman has no blame. She shall receive her presents and shall go to her father’s house.

“If she has not been a careful mistress, has gadded about, has neglected her house and has belittled her husband, they shall throw that woman into the water.

“If a physician operates on a man for a severe wound with a bronze lancet and causes the man’s death, or opens an abscess (in the eye) of a man with a bronze lancet and destroys the man’s eye, they shall cut off his fingers.

“If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction firm and the house, which he has built, collapses and causes the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death.”

It is, however, with only one of King Hammurabi’s wise laws that this inquiry has to do, and it is this: “If a man has placed an enchantment upon a man, and has not justified himself, he upon whom the enchantment is placed to the Holy River (Euphrates) shall go; into the Holy River he shall plunge. If the Holy River holds (drowns) him he who enchanted him shall take his house. If on the contrary, the man is safe and thus is innocent, the wizard loses his life, and his house.”

Or, as another translation has it: “If a man ban a man and cast a spell on him–if he cannot justify it he who has banned shall be killed.”

“If a man has cast a spell on a man and has not justified it, he on whom the spell has been thrown shall go to the River God, and plunge into the river. If the River God takes him he who has banned him shall be saved. If the River God show him to be innocent, and he be saved, he who banned him shall be killed, and he who plunged into the river shall take the house of him who banned him.”

There can be no more convincing evidence of the presence and power of the great witchcraft superstition among the primitive races than this earliest law; and it is to be especially noted that it prescribes one of the very tests of guilt–the proof by water–which was used in another form centuries later, on the continent, in England and New England, at Wurzburg and Bonn, at Rouen, in Suffolk, Essex and Devon, and at Salem and Hartford and Fairfield, when “the Devil starteth himself up in the pulpit, like a meikle black man, and calling the row (roll) everyone answered, Here!”


“To deny the possibility, nay actual evidence of witchcraft and sorcery, is at once to flatly contradict the revealed word of God in various passages both of the Old and New Testaments.” “Blackstone’s Commentaries” (Vol. 4, ch. 4, p. 60).

“It was simply the natural result of Puritanical teaching acting on the mind, predisposing men to see Satanic influence in life, and consequently eliciting the phenomena of witchcraft.” LECKY’s “Rationalism in Europe” (Vol. I, p. 123).

Witchcraft’s reign in many lands and among many peoples is also attested in its remarkable nomenclature. Consider its range in ancient, medieval and modern thought as shown in some of its definitions: Magic, sorcery, soothsaying, necromancy, astrology, wizardry, mysticism, occultism, and conjuring, of the early and middle ages; compacts with Satan, consorting with evil spirits, and familiarity with the Devil, of later times; all at last ripening into an epidemic demonopathy with its countless victims of fanaticism and error, malevolence and terror, of persecution and ruthless sacrifices.

It is still most potent in its evil, grotesque, and barbaric forms, in Fetichism, Voodooism, Bundooism, Obeahism, and Kahunaism, in the devil and animal ghost worship of the black races, completely exemplified in the arts of the Fetich wizard on the Congo; in the “Uchawi” of the Wasequhha mentioned by Stanley; in the marriage customs of the Soudan devil worshipers; in the practices of the Obeah men and women in the Caribbees–notably their power in matters of love and business, religion and war–in Jamaica; in the incantations of the kahuna in Hawaii; and in the devices of the voodoo or conjure doctor in the southern states; in the fiendish rites and ceremonies of the red men,–the Hoch-e-ayum of the Plains Indians, the medicine dances of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, the fire dance of the Navajos, the snake dance of the Moquis, the sun dance of the Sioux, in the myths and tales of the Cherokees; and it rings in many tribal chants and songs of the East and West.

It lives as well, and thrives luxuriantly, ripe for the full vintage, in the minds of many people to whom this or that trivial incident or accident of life is an omen of good or evil fortune with a mysterious parentage. Its roots strike deep in that strange element in human nature which dreads whatsoever is weird and uncanny in common experiences, and sees strange portents and dire chimeras in all that is unexplainable to the senses. It is made most virile in the desire for knowledge of the invisible and intangible, that must ever elude the keenest inquiry, a phase of thought always to be reckoned with when imagination runs riot, and potent in its effect, though evanescent as a vision the brain sometimes retains of a dream, and as senseless in the cold light of reason as Monna Sidonia’s invocation at the Witches’ Sabbath: (“Romance of Leonardo da Vinci”, p. 97, MEREJKOWSKI.)

“Emen Hetan, Emen Hetan, Palu, Baalberi, Astaroth help us Agora, Agora, Patrisa, Come and help us.”

“Garr-r: Garr-r, up: Don’t knock Your head: We fly: We fly:”

And who may count himself altogether free from the subtle power of the old mystery with its fantastic imageries, when the spirit of unrest is abroad? Who is not moved by it in the awesome stillness of night on the plains, or in the silence of the mountains or of the somber forest aisles; in wild winter nights when old tales are told; in fireside visions as tender memories come and go? And who, when listening to the echoes of the chambers of the restless sea when deep calleth unto deep, does not hear amid them some weird and haunting refrain like Leland’s sea song?

“I saw three witches as the wind blew cold
In a red light to the lee;
Bold they were and overbold
As they sailed over the sea;
Calling for One Two Three;
Calling for One Two Three;
And I think I can hear
It a ringing in my ear,
A-calling for the One, Two, Three.”

Above all, in its literature does witchcraft exhibit the conclusive proof of its age, its hydra-headed forms, and its influence in the intellectual and spiritual development of the races of men.

What of this literature? Count in it all the works that treat of the subject in its many phases, and its correlatives, and it is limitless, a literature of all times and all lands.
Christian and pagan gave it place in their religions, dogmas, and articles of faith and discipline, and in their codes of law; and for four hundred years, from the appeal of Pope John XXII, in 1320, to extirpate the Devil-worshipers, to the repeal of the statute of James I in 1715, the delusion gave point and force to treatises, sermons, romances, and folk-lore, and invited, nay, compelled, recognition at the hands of the scientist and legist, the historian, the poet and the dramatist, the theologian and philosopher.

But the monographic literature of witchcraft, as it is here considered, is limited, in the opinion of a scholar versed in its lore, to fifteen hundred titles. There is a mass of unpublished materials in libraries and archives at home and abroad, and of information as to witchcraft and the witch trials, accessible in court records, depositions, and current accounts in public and private collections, all awaiting the coming of some master hand to transform them into an exhaustive history of the most grievous of human superstitions.

To this day, there has been no thorough investigation or complete analysis of the history of the witch persecutions. The true story has been distorted by partisanship and ignorance, and left to exploitation by the romancer, the empiric, and the sciolist.
“Of the origin and nature of the delusion we know perhaps enough; but of the causes and paths of its spread, of the extent of its ravages, of its exact bearing upon the intellectual and religious freedom of its times, of the soul-stirring details of the costly struggle by which it was overborne we are lamentably ill informed.” (“The Literature of Witchcraft”, p. 66, BURR.)

It must serve in this brief narrative to merely note, within the centuries which marked the climax of the mania, some of the most authoritative and influential works in giving strength to its evil purpose and the modes of accusation, trial, and punishment.
Modern scholarship holds that witchcraft, with the Devil as the arch enemy of mankind for its cornerstone, was first exploited by the Dominicans of the Inquisition. They blazed the tortuous way for the scholastic theology which in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries gave new recognition to Satan and his satellites as the sworn enemies of God and his church, and the Holy Inquisition with its massive enginery, open and secret, turned its attention to the exposure and extirpation of the heretics and sinners who were enlisted in the Devil’s service.

Take for adequate illustration these standard authorities in the early periods of the widespread and virulent epidemic: Those of the Inquisitor General, Eymeric, in 1359, entitled “Tractatus contra daemonum”; the Formicarius or Ant Hill of the German Dominican Nider, 1337; the “De calcatione daemonum”, 1452; the “Flagellum haereticorum fascinariorum” of the French Inquisitor Jaquier in 1458; and the “Fortalitium fidei” of the Spanish Franciscan Alonso de Spina, in 1459; the famous and infamous manual of arguments and rules of procedure for the detection and punishment of witches, compiled by the German Inquisitors Kraemer and Sprenger (Institor) in 1489, buttressed on the bull of Pope Innocent VIII; (this was the celebrated “Witch Hammer”, bearing on its title page the significant legend, ““Not to believe in witchcraft is the greatest of heresies””); the Canon Episcopi; the bulls of Popes John XXII, 1330, Innocent VIII, 1484, Alexander VI, 1494, Leo X, 1521, and Adrian VI, 1522; the Decretals of the canon law; the exorcisms of the Roman and Greek churches, all hinged on scriptural precedents; the Roman law, the Twelve Tables, and the Justinian Code, the last three imposing upon the crimes of conjuring, exorcising, magical arts, offering sacrifices to the injury of one’s neighbors, sorcery, and witchcraft, the penalties of death by torture, fire, or crucifixion.

Add to these classics some of the later authorities: the “Daemonologie” of the royal inquisitor James I of England and Scotland, 1597; Mores’ “Antidote to Atheism”; Fuller’s “Holy and Profane State”; Granvil’s “Sadducismus Triumphatus”, 1681; “Tryal of Witches at the Assizes for the County of Suffolk before Sir Matthew Hale, March, 1664” (London, 1682); Baxter’s “Certainty of the World of Spirits”, 1691; Cotton Mather’s “A Discourse on Witchcraft”, 1689, his “Late Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions”, 1684, and his “Wonders of the Invisible World”, 1692; and enough references have been made to this literature of delusion, to the precedents that seared the consciences of courts and juries in their sentences of men, women, and children to death by the rack, the wheel, the stake, and the gallows.

Where in history are the horrors of the curse more graphically told than in the words of Canon Linden, an eye witness of the demonic deeds at Trier (Treves) in 1589?
“And so, from court to court throughout the towns and villages of all the diocese, scurried special accusers, inquisitors, notaries, jurors, judges, constables, dragging to trial and torture human beings of both sexes and burning them in great numbers. Scarcely any of those who were accused escaped punishment. Nor were there spared even the leading men in the city of Trier. For the Judge, with two Burgomasters, several Councilors and Associate Judges, canons of sundry collegiate churches, parish-priests, rural deans, were swept away in this ruin. So far, at length, did the madness of the furious populace and of the courts go in this thirst for blood and booty that there was scarcely anybody who was not smirched by some suspicion of this crime.

“Meanwhile notaries, copyists, and innkeepers grew rich. The executioner rode a blooded horse, like a noble of the court, and went clad in gold and silver; his wife vied with noble dames in the richness of her array. The children of those convicted and punished were sent into exile; their goods were confiscated; plowman and vintner failed.” (“The Witch Persecutions”, pp. 13-14, BURR.)

Fanaticism did not rule and ruin without hindrance and remonstrance. Men of great learning and exalted position struck mighty blows at the root of the evil. They could not turn the tide but they stemmed it, and their attacks upon the whole theory of Satanic power and the methods of persecution were potent in the reaction to humanity and a reign of reason.

Always to be remembered among these men of power are Johann Wier, Friedrich Spee, and notably Reginald Scot, who in his “Discovery of Witchcraft”, in 1584, undertook to prove that “the contracts and compacts of witches with devils and all infernal spirits and familiars, are but erroneous novelties and erroneous conceptions.”
“After all it is setting a high value on our conjectures to roast a man alive on account of them.” (MONTAIGNE.)

Who may measure in romance and the drama the presence, the cogent and undeniable power of those same abiding elements of mysticism and mystery, which underlie all human experience, and repeated in myriad forms find their classic expression in the queries of the “Weird Sisters,” ““those elemental avengers without sex or kin””?
“When shall we three meet again,
In thunder, lightning or in rain?
When the hurly burly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.”

Are not the mummeries of the witches about the cauldron in Macbeth, and Talbot’s threat pour la Pucelle, “Blood will I draw on thee, thou art a witch,” uttered so long ago, echoed in the wailing cry of La Meffraye in the forests of Machecoul, in the maledictions of Grio, and of the Saga of the Burning Fields?

Their vitality is also clearly shown in their constant use and exemplification by the romance and novel writers who appeal with certainty and success to the popular taste in the tales of spectral terrors. Witness: Farjeon’s “The Turn of the Screw”; Bierce’s “The Damned Thing”; Bulwer’s “A Strange Story”; Cranford’s “Witch of Prague”; Howells’ “The Shadow of a Dream”; Winthrop’s “Cecil Dreeme”; Grusot’s “Night Side of Nature”; Crockett’s Black Douglas; and “The Red Axe”, Francis’ “Lychgate Hall”; Caine’s “The Shadow of a Crime”; and countless other stories, traditions, tales, and legends, written and unwritten, that invite and receive a gracious hospitality on every hand.


“A belief in witchcraft had always existed; it was entertained by Coke, Bacon, Hale and even Blackstone. It was a misdemeanor at English common law and made a felony without benefit of clergy by 33 Henry VIII, c. 8, and 5 Eliz., c. 16, and the more severe statute of I Jas. 1, ch. 12.” “Connecticut–Origin of her Courts and Laws” (N.E. States, Vol I, p. 487-488), HAMERSLEY.

“Selden took up a somewhat peculiar and characteristic position. He maintained that the law condemning women to death for witchcraft was perfectly just, but that it was quite unnecessary to ascertain whether witchcraft was a possibility. A woman might not be able to destroy the life of her neighbor by her incantations; but if she intended to do so, it was right that she should be hung.” “Rationalism in Europe” (Vol. 1, p. 123) LECKY.

The fundamental authority for legislation, for the decrees of courts and councils as to witchcraft, from the days of the Witch of Endor to those of Mercy Disborough of Fairfield, and Giles Corey of Salem Farms, was the code of the Hebrews and its recognition in the Gospel dispensations. Thereon rest most of the historic precedents, legislative, ecclesiastical, and judicial.
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Exodus xxii, 18.

What law embalmed in ancientry and honored as of divine origin has been more fruitful of sacrifice and suffering? Through the Scriptures, gathering potency as it goes, runs the same grim decree, with widening definitions.
“And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits and after wizards … I will even set my face against that soul and will cut him off from among his people.” Deuteronomy xviii, 10-11.

“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” Deuteronomy xviii, 10-11.

“Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards out of the land.” Samuel i, 3.

“Now Saul the king of the Hebrews, had cast out of the country the fortune tellers, and the necromancers, and all such as exercised the like arts, excepting the prophets…. Yet did he bid his servants to inquire out for him some woman that was a necromancer, and called up the souls of the dead, that so he might know whether his affairs would succeed to his mind; for this sort of necromantic women that bring up the souls of the dead, do by them foretell future events.” Josephus, Book 6, ch. 14.

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” Samuel i, 15-23.
“And I will cut off witchcraft out of the land.” Micah v. 12.
“Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them.” Acts xix, 19.
“But there was a certain man called Simon which before time in the same city used sorcery and bewitched the people of Samaria.” Acts viii, 9.
“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”[C] John xv, 6.

[Footnote C: In the opinion of the eminent Italian jurist Bartolo, witches were burned alive in early times on this authority.]

These citations make clear the scriptural recognition of witchcraft as a heinous sin and crime. It is, however, necessary to draw a broad line of demarcation between the ancient forms and manifestations which have been brought into view for an illustrative purpose, and that delusion or mania which centered in the theologic belief and teaching that Satan was the arch enemy of mankind, and clothed with such power over the souls of men as to make compacts with them, and to hold supremacy over them in the warfare between good and evil.
The church from its earliest history looked upon witchcraft as a deadly sin, and disbelief in it as a heresy, and set its machinery in motion for its extirpation. Its authority was the word of God and the civil law, and it claimed jurisdiction through the ecclesiastical courts, the secular courts, however, acting as the executive of their decrees and sentences.
Such was the cardinal principle which governed in the merciless attempts to suppress the epidemic in spreading from the continent to England and Scotland, and at last to the Puritan colonies in America, where the last chapter of its history was written.

There can be no better, no more comprehensive modern definition of the crime once a heresy, or of the popular conception of it, than the one set forth in the New England indictments, to wit: “interteining familiarity with Satan the enemy of mankind, and by his help doing works above the course of nature.”
In few words Henry Charles Lea, in his “History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages”, analyzes the development of the Satanic doctrine from a superstition into its acceptance as a dogma of Christian belief.

“As Satan’s principal object in his warfare with God was to seduce human souls from their divine allegiance, he was ever ready with whatever temptation seemed most likely to effect his purpose. Some were to be won by physical indulgence; others by conferring on them powers enabling them apparently to forecast the future, to discover hidden things, to gratify enmity, and to acquire wealth, whether through forbidden arts or by the services of a familiar demon subject to their orders. As the neophyte in receiving baptism renounced the devil, his pomps and his angels, it was necessary for the Christian who desired the aid of Satan to renounce God. Moreover, as Satan when he tempted Christ offered him the kingdoms of the earth in return for adoration–‘If thou therefore wilt worship me all shall be thine’ (Luke iv, 7)–there naturally arose the idea that to obtain this aid it was necessary to render allegiance to the prince of hell. Thence came the idea, so fruitful in the development of sorcery, of compacts with Satan by which sorcerers became his slaves, binding themselves to do all the evil they could to follow their example. Thus the sorcerer or witch was an enemy of all the human race as well as of God, the most efficient agent of hell in its sempiternal conflict with heaven. His destruction, by any method, was therefore the plainest duty of man.

“This was the perfected theory of sorcery and witchcraft by which the gentle superstitions inherited and adopted from all sides were fitted into the Christian dispensation and formed part of its accepted creed.” (“History of Inquisition in the Middle Ages”, 3, 385, LEA.)

Once the widespread superstition became adapted to the forms of religious faith and discipline, and “the prince of the power of the air” was clothed with new energies, the Devil was taken broader account of by Christianity itself; the sorcery of the ancients was embodied in the Christian conception of witchcraft; and the church undertook to deal with it as a heresy; the door was opened wide to the sweep of the epidemic in some of the continental lands.

In Bamburg and Wurzburg, Geneva and Como, Toulouse and Lorraine, and in many other places in Italy, Germany, and France, thousands were sacrificed in the names of religion, justice, and law, with bigotry for their advocate, ignorance for their judge, and fanaticism for their executioner. The storm of demonism raged through three centuries, and was stayed only by the mighty barriers of protest, of inquiry, of remonstrance, and the forces that crystallize and mold public opinion, which guides the destinies of men in their march to a higher civilization.

The flames burning so long and so fiercely on the continent at first spread slowly in England and Scotland. Sorcery in some of its guises had obtained therein ever since the Conquest, and victims had been burned under the king’s writ after sentence in the ecclesiastical courts; but witchcraft as a compact with Satan was not made a felony until 1541, by a statute of Henry VIII. Cranmer, in his “Articles of Visitation” in 1549, enjoined the clergy to inquire as to any craft invented by the Devil; and Bishop Jewell, preaching before the queen in 1558, said: “It may please your Grace to understand that witches and sorcerers within these last few years are marvelously increased within your Grace’s realm, Your Grace’s subjects pine away even unto the death, their colour fadeth, their flesh rotteth, their speech is benumbed, their senses are bereft.”

The act of 1541 was amended in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, in 1562, but at the accession of James I–himself a fanatic and bigot in religious matters, and the author of the famous “Daemonologie”–a new law was enacted with exact definition of the crime, which remained in force more than a hundred years. Its chief provision was this: “If any person or persons use, practice or exercise any invocation or conjuration of any evil and wicked spirit, or shall consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil and wicked spirit to or for any intent or purpose, or take up any dead man, woman, or child out of his, her or their grave, or any other place where the dead body resteth or the skin, bone, or any part of any dead person, to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment, or shall use, practise, or exercise any witchcraft, enchantment, charm, or sorcery, whereby any person shall be killed, destroyed, wasted, consumed, pined or lamed in his or her body or any part thereof: every such offender is a felon without benefit of clergy.”
Under this law, and the methods of its administration, witchcraft so called increased; persecutions multiplied, especially under the Commonwealth, and notably in the eastern counties of England, whence so many of all estates, all sorts and conditions of men, had fled over seas to set up the standard of independence in the Puritan colonies.

Many executions occurred in Lancashire, in Suffolk, Essex, and Huntingdonshire, where the infamous scoundrel “Witch-finder-General” Matthew Hopkins, under the sanction of the courts, was “pricking,” “waking,” “watching,” and “testing” persons suspected or accused of witchcraft, with fiendish ingenuity of indignity and torture. Says James Howell in his “Familiar Letters”, in 1646:
“We have multitudes of witches among us; for in Essex and Suffolk there were above two hundred indicted within these two years, and above the half of them executed.”

“Within the compass of two years (1645-7), near upon three hundred witches were arraigned, and the major part of them executed in Essex and Suffolk only. Scotland swarms with them more and more, and persons of good quality are executed daily.”

Scotland set its seal on witchcraft as a crime by an act of its parliament so early as 1563, amended in 1649. The ministers were the inquisitors and persecutors. They heard the confessions, and inflicted the tortures, and their cruelties were commensurate with the hard and fast theology that froze the blood of mercy in their veins.

The trials were often held by special commissions issued by the privy council, on the petition of a presbytery or general assembly. It was here that those terrible instruments of torture, the caschielawis, the lang irnis, the boot and the pilliewinkis, were used to wring confessions from the wretched victims. It is all a strange and gruesome story of horrors told in detail in the state trial records, and elsewhere, from the execution of Janet Douglas–Lady Glammis–to that of the poor old woman at Dornoch who warmed herself at the fire set for her burning. So firmly seated in the Scotch mind was the belief in witchcraft as a sin and crime, that when the laws against it were repealed in 1736, Scotchmen in the highest stations of church and state remonstrated against the repeal as contrary to the law of God; and William Forbes, in his “Institutes of the Law of Scotland,” calls witchcraft “that black art whereby strange and wonderful things are wrought by a power derived from the devil.”

This glance at what transpired on the continent and in England and Scotland is of value, in the light it throws on the beliefs and convictions of both Pilgrim and Puritan–Englishmen all–in their new domain, their implicit reliance on established precedents, their credulity in witchcraft matters, and their absolute trust in scriptural and secular authority for their judicial procedure, and the execution of the grim sentences of the courts, until the revolting work of the accuser and the searcher, and the delusion of the ministers and magistrates aflame with mistaken zeal vanished in the sober afterthought, the reaction of the public mind and conscience, which at last crushed the machinations of the Devil and his votaries in high places.

SOURCE: The Witchcraft Delusion In Colonial Connecticut 1647-1697: By John M. Taylor (Printed: 1908)

Witchcraft Delusion In Colonial Connecticut 1647-1697 (Part 2); Using the Law

World War Two: Hong Kong; Malaya; Force Z- Naval Actions December 1941-42

On the first day of the East Asian War, the Japanese Navy took three major risk. Disaster in any one of these operations would at least have forced an immediate change in the strategy of the war, and might, at the worst, have produced a terrible debacle. First, in the Pearl Harbor attack, they risked early detection and the possible presence of American carriers nearby, which could have severely damaged Admiral Nagumo’s strike force. They took a second risk, when the launch of the Japanese Navy’s air fleets at Taiwan was delayed by fog, for the USAAFFE could have struck a first and possibly devastating blow against these grounded planes. If this had happened, the Philippine landings would have lacked air cover, would have been met by an intact American air fleet., and American ships in the Philippines and Borneo would have been able to remain in Philippine waters. They took a third risk when the Japanese Army made landings in Malaya (Thailand), protected by a Japanese force inferior in capital-ship fire to what the British had in the battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse. But again the Japanese were depending on naval air power (land-based this time) to counter and destroy British naval strength. They were throwing the dice for a third time.

Although Great Britain was hard-pressed by conditions in Europe and North Africa, she gathered ships at Singapore and formed them in to Force Z. The Prince of Wales, one of Britain’s newest and most powerful battleships, fresh from participating in the successful hunt for Germany’s Bismarck, had been so dispatched, joined by the Repulse. The remainder of Force Z consisted of the destroyers Electra, Express, Vampire and Tenedos, Force Z’s ships could not depend on the Royal Air Force (RAF), which was pitifully weak in Malaya and which, in the first days of the invasion, would be committed to the defense of the Malayan beachheads; they were supposed to get air support from a first-class carrier, the Indomitable, but that carrier unfortunately had run a ground at Kingston, Jamaica on 3 November, and was not yet repaired.

The Japanese Navy could not depend upon the planes of Admiral Nagumo’s strike force to counter Force Z; but since Yamamoto was committed to the use of planes to destroy warships, he resorted to the use of land-based naval planes at attack Force Z. The Japanese Navy had constructed three airfields in French Indochina in November 1941, and had placed an air fleet there, composed of six reconnaissance planes, thirty-nine fighters, and ninety-nine bomber and torpedo planes– a formidable groups, at the same time, as a backup force, a Japanese fleet was sailing south to engage Force Z in battle in necessary

Malayan Peninsula Landings

The Japanese Army made extensive perpetrations for the conquest of the Malay Peninsula and the capture of Singapore. The major elements in the initial landings were the 15th Army and the 25th Army. The troops had gathered at Samah Bay, Hainan, and embarked on 4 December, carried by nineteen transports. Since war had not been declared, the ultimate destination of the expedition was unknown to the Americans, British, or Dutch. They hoped that an invasion of Thailand was the objective, which was exactly what the Japanese wanted them to believe. The convoy rounded Cape Camao on the 6th of December and changed course toward Bangkok, where it proceeded to point “C” in the Gulf of Sian. Course was again changed on 7 December at 0830 toward Singora and Patani, Thailand.

The initial invasion, however, was made at Kota Bharu, Malaya, from three transports on 8 December, more than an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The landings, again, did not get off to a good start: seas were rough, landing craft capsized, the British army had artillery batteries firing in defense, and there were sporadic British air attacks. The Japanese casualties were moderate. The landing was backed by the Sendai and her destroyers, the Isonami, Uranami, Shikinami, and Ayanami, which delivered covering and counterbattery fire from two miles offshore. Conversely, at Singora, there was no resistance met by the troops disembarking from eleven transports. The operation was covered by the destroyers Asagiri, Amagiri, Sagiri, and Yugiri. (the Sagiri acted as headquarters ships for all invasion points) By midnight all eleven troopships were heading north, thus allowing the destroyer group to reinforce the warships at Kota Bharu. The second beachhead in Thailand was at Patani (sixty-five miles south of Singora); troops from five transports began landing on 8 December, again meeting no resistance. This landing was covered by the destroyers Shinonome and Shirakumo, which then also raced south to Kota Bharu. The Murakumo, who had been off Tepoh, nine miles south of Patani, also joined the other ships, gathered around flagship Sendai. (four other landings were made on 8 December against no resistance, farther north on the Kra Isthmus in Thailand; a transport of troops landed at Prachuab, two transports at Jumbhprn, one transport near Bandon, and three transports near Nakhorn. These landings did not require destroyer support. When British resistance at Kota Bharu crumbled 9 December, the Sendai with eleven destroyers could join the Southern Force heading south, possibly to meet Force Z. Because a considerable portion of the Japanese Army was then ashore in Thailand and Malaya, their lines of supply had to be open, and the destruction of Force Z therefore became an urgent priory.

Force Z

The invasion did not catch the British entirely by surprise; indeed, they had held out little hope that Malaya would be spared. But the locations of the landings did surprise them, for they had expected an invasion farther north, on the narrow Kra Isthmus. The three major beachheads, however, were about halfway between the Kra Isthmus and Singapore. Thailand surrendered on 9 December. From the very first moments of invasion, Japanese sir raids fully occupied the attention of the small Malayan -based Royal Air Force.

The officer commanding Force Z, Admiral Sir Thomas Phillips, faced a dilemma. His air forces on the heavy carrier Indomitable were unavailable, and the hard pressed RAF could promise him no air cover. But, at the same time, British naval tradition would have been violated if the British fleet were to remain at anchor in Singapore while enemy landings were taking place within it’s striking distance. Furthermore, there was always the chance that he might catch loaded or unloading transports at a beachhead. In the end, Phillips had no choice, for, although Force Z sailed from Singapore on 8 December at 1705, the invasions had been carried out too rapidly and too efficiently–Singora and Patani were occupied, the troop transports had been withdrawn, and by the time Force Z could read Kota Bharu, the transports there would also have departed.

With out adequate sir reconnaissance or other reliable information, Admiral Phillips was unaware of these events. All that he knew was that the Japanese were invading to the north–so he sailed north, between the mainland and the Anambra Islands. By 0559 on 9 December he knew Corce Z had been detected, for the destroyer Vampire had seen a Japanese reconnaissance plane. Phillips could expect an air attack, and he knew that he would have little or no air protection. Still hoping, however, to get tat the Singora transports, he took the force north, to a point 150 miles south of French Indochina and 250 miles east of the Malayan Peninsula. From there, his tactical position began to worsen rapidly, and at 1800, Japanese planes were once again spotted. He then turned south, toward Singora; but at 2330, receiving false information that the landings were being made at Kuantan (between Kota Bharu and Singapore), he headed Force Z there at top speed. At day break, when it was still sixty miles from Kuantan, Force Z was again spotted by a Japanese reconnaissance plane. After Admiral Phillips’ own observation planes reported that there were no landings at Kuantan, he then steamed first north and then east, stubbornly searching for Japanese ships. His luck, however, had finally run out, and own 10 December at 1000, Force Z came under concentrated Japanese air attack.

The Japanese Navy for its part, had a healthy respect for the potential threat posed by Force Z’s foray north. Carrier planes from Admiral Ozawa’s Third fleet had spotted an RAF “snooper’ on 6 December, so the Japanese knew that their hugh southward movement had been discovered. Although war had not yet been declared and Admiral Nagumo’s success depended on a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa nevertheless recklessly ordered his carrier pilots to shoot down any further British reconnaissance planes.

To counter Force Z, the Japanese had Vice Admiral Nobutake Knodo’s Malay Force. When, at 1315 on 9 December, the submarine I-65 sighted the northbound Force Z, south of Poulo Condore Island, Admiral Kondo ordered all transports to return to the Gulf of Siam and ordered his air fleet in French Indochina to begin showing the British force. (Submarine I-58 also tracked Force Z) Kondo ordered his own warships to close on the British to offer battle. First his heavy cruisers, the Mogami, Mikuma, Suzuya and Kumano, screened by destroyers Fubuki, Hatsuyuki, Shirayuki and by the Sendai and her destroyers, would launch a night attack if Force Z were discovered. Meanwhile, Kondo would bring up his two battleships, the Haruna and Kongo, and the heavy cruiser Atago, Takao, and Chokai, and all ships would then launch a daylight attack. Admiral Kondo was kept informed of the location of Force Z by the Kumano’s floatplane, and by reports from submarines. The surface engagement never took place, but Force Z, with its larger naval rifles, could certainly have given a worthy account of itself.

The Japanese bases in Indochina were also kept informed of the various courses taken by Force Z. On 9 December observation and attack units were sent out, but they found nothing. During the night, however, it was concluded that an air attack on Force Z, early on 10 December, would be possible, and at 0220, five Japanese planes left Camranh Bay, refueling at Poulo Condore Island and taking off again at 0430. From Saigon a nine plane formation was sent out at 0525 to search a 40 degree arc up to 600 miles. Also from Saigon’s airfields, from 0614 to 0730, thirty-four bombers and fifty torpedo planes took off. When Force Z was sighted at 1120, the location was passed to all units in the air.

Although the Japanese planes were almost at the limit of their fuel supply, they made an attack, beginning at 1148, with eighty-four planes taking part in the assault. Despite heavy antiaircraft fire the five ships of Force Z (destroyer Tenedos had been ordered back to Singapore at 1805 on 9 December), the Repulse received ten torpedo hits on her port side, almost evenly spaced from bow to stern, four forward on the starboard side, and a 550-pound bomb amidships. Unable to withstand such a pounding, she sank at 1203. The Prince of Wales received one torpedo forward, one aft on her port side, and five evenly spaced along the starboard side. She was hit twice aft by 1,100-pound bombs, was damaged in her starboard quarter by a near miss and finally sank at 1250. No British destroyers were sunk, but the Tenedos underwent a thirty-minute air attack during the morning of 10 December. In all, three Japanese planes had been shot down, and twenty-eight of the returning planes had been damaged.

Force Z had been crushed, and British power to defend Malaya at sea had been destroyed, without any intervention by Admiral Kondo’s surface fleet. Most remaining British naval units either went south to the Netherlands East Indies or retired to their Indian Ocean bases. The lack of British warships or planes gave the Japan freedom of the sea; thus the Japanese Army could by pass strong British land positions by using barges for transports. The Japanese had taken the state of Penang on the west coast by overland march on December the 19th. The Malay Force could then be released for the successful invasion of Borneo, which ere taking place at the same time.

The last effort of the Royal Navy to intervene in the rapid advance on Singapore came at Endau, a small town on the east side of the Malay Peninsula. If the Japanese could come ashore in sufficient strenght at Mersing, a few miles to the south of Endau, a considerable portion of the British’s army strenght would be cut off from Singapore, 100 miles to the south. The Japanese Army, believing that the defenses at Mersing would be formidable, by passed it in favor of Endau, which was invaded and captured on 21 January, 1942–but not in enough strength to break through the British Sungei-Mersing barrier. British Command at Singapore fully expected that the Japanese effort at Endau would soon be strengthened by a large convoy, a suspicion confirmed on 26 January when at 0715, a large armada was sighted by plane, 20 miles north of Endau. Some of the group were headed for the invasion of the Anambas Islands; others served as a cover force for both operations. The RAF threw many of its operational planes into a counterattack, flyingfrom Sumatra and Singapore. (ther had been some crated RAF planes on Singapore’s piers) By the time the air attacks could begin, the beachhead had been widened. Despite heavy antiaircraft fire and fighter-plane opposition by the Japanese, their transports, fuel dumps, and landing troops were bombed. The attacks continued until dark, with the British losing half their number of attacking planes.

The royal Navy then took up the task of breaking up the Endau landing by sending north of Singapore two old destroyers built during World war I: the Vampire and Thanet. The Vampire had only six torpedoes, and the Thanet , four. The Japanese overestimated the actual British strength, for the departure of the two destroyers was reported by Japanese naval intelligence as a departure of two cruisers. Moreover, the British submarines were reported to be in the area. Therefore, a relatively large attack group, made up of the light cruiser Sendai and the destroyers Fubuki, Hatsuyuki, Shirayuki, Yugiri,and Amagiri, was sent to intercept the British ships.

There ensued ab unequal but fierce little sea battle off Endau, in the darkness of early 27 January. In the exchange of gunfire and torpedoes, the Thanet was hit several times, she was then illuminated by the Shirayuki’s searchlights, and the Amagiri and Hatsuyuki finished her off at 0348. Fifty-seven of her sailors were rescued and became prisoners of war. The Vampire retired under smoke and returned to Singapore.

The end of the Malayan campaign was near, and thousands of people, including important officials, began to flee Singapore through the Malacca and Bangka straits, bound for Sumatra, Java or even Australia, using anything that would float. Few ships found any refuge, though. Admiral Ozawa’s Mobile Force, in the course of three days sank more than forty ships, with gunfire and bombs.

With South Sumatra, Borneo, and the Celebs in Japanese hands by the fall of Singapore, the Malaya boundary of the Netherlands East Indies had been broken. The surprisingly rapid capture of the Malayan Peninsula, in a little more than two months of war against major powers, caused the Japanese “Victory Fever” to shoot up several degrees.

Japanese losses were minimal in the Malayan campaign. An Australian bomber sank a Japanese transport in the Gulf of Siam. A Dutch submarine, O-XVI, attacked four loaded transports of Patani on 11 December but failed to sink any of them, and was herself lost when she hit a British Mine. Another Dutch submarine sank a loaded transport, while the submarine USS Swordfish sank an 8,600 toon Japanese merchant ship of Hainan on 16 December.

Hong Kong

Because the main assault on Hong Kong was overland by Japanese Troops, the Navy’s role in the city’s capture was slight. The light cruiser Isuzu of the Second china Expeditionary Fleet and two destroyers, the Ikazuchi and Inazuma, in the initial phase of the attack upon the Crown Colony, sank the gunboats HMS Cicada and HMS Robin and a number of junks of British registry, and captured enemy merchant ships in the harbor. They did not, however, assist the Army to any appreciable degree.

SOURCE: Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1941-45; BY: Paul S. Dull




Witchcraft Delusion In Colonial Connecticut 1647-1697: (1)

The true story of witchcraft in old Connecticut has never been told. It has been hidden in the ancient records and in manuscripts in private collections, and those most conversant with the facts have not made them known, for one reason or another. It is herein written from authoritative sources, and should prove of interest and value as a present-day interpretation of that strange delusion, which for a half century darkened the lives of the forefathers and foremothers of the colonial days.
J. M.T.
Hartford, Connecticut.

May it please yr Honble Court, we the Grand inquest now setting for the County of Fairefeild, being made sensable, not only by Common fame (but by testamonies duly billed to us) that the widow Mary Staple, Mary Harvey ye wife of Josiah Harvey & Hannah Harvey the daughter of the saide Josiah, all of Fairefeild, remain under the susspition of using witchecraft, which is abomanable both in ye sight of God & man and ought to be witnessed against. we doe therefore (in complyance to our duty, the discharge of our oathes and that trust reposed in us) presente the above entioned pssons to the Honble Court of Assistants now setting in Fairefeild, that they may be taken in to Custody & proceeded against according to their demerits.
Fairefeild, Fby, 1692 in behalfe of the Grnd Jury JOSEPH BASTARD, foreman]

“John Carrington thou art indited by the name of John Carrington of Wethersfield–carpenter–, that not hauing the feare of God before thine eyes thou hast interteined ffamilliarity with Sattan the great enemye of God and mankinde and by his helpe hast done workes aboue the course of nature for wch both according to the lawe of God and the established lawe of this Commonwealth thou deseruest to dye.”

Record Particular Court, 2: 17, 1650-51.
“Hugh Crotia, Thou Standest here presented by the name of Hugh Crotia of Stratford in the Colony of Connecticut in New England; for that not haueing the fear of God before thine Eyes, through the Instigation of the Devill, thou hast forsaken thy God & covenanted with the Devill, and by his help hast in a preternaturall way afflicted the bodys of Sundry of his Majesties good Subjects, for which according to the Law of God, and the Law of this Colony, thou deseruest to dye.”

Record Court of Assistants, 2: 16, 1693.
To George Corwin Gentlm high Sheriff of the County of Essex Greeting

Whereas Bridgett Bishop als Olliver the wife of Edward Bishop of Salem in the County of Essex Sawyer at a special Court of Oyer and Terminer —- (held at?)[B] Salem this second Day of this instant month of June for the Countyes of Essex Middlesex and Suffolk before William Stoughton Esqe. and his Associates Justices of the said Court was Indicted and arraigned upon five several Indictments for using practising & exercising on the —-[B] last past and divers others days —-[B] witchcraft in and upon the bodyes of Abigail Williams Ann puttnam Jr Mercy Lewis Mary Walcott and Elizabeth Hubbard of Salem Village single women; whereby their bodyes were hurt afflicted pined consumed wasted & tormented contrary to the forme of the statute in that case made and provided To which Indictmts the said Bridgett Bishop pleaded not guilty and for Tryall thereof put herselfe upon God and her Country —-[B] she was found guilty of the ffelonyes and Witchcrafts whereof she stood Indicted and sentence of death accordingly passed agt her as the Law directs execution whereof yet remaines to be done These are therefore in the name of their Majties William & Mary now King & Queen over England & to will and command you that upon Fryday next being the fourth day of this instant month of June between the hours of Eight and twelve in the aforenoon of the same day you safely conduct the sd Bridgett Bishop als Olliver from their Majties Goale in Salem aforesd to the place of execution and there cause her to be hanged by the neck until she be dead and of your doings herein make returne to the Clerk of the sd Court and precept And hereof you are not to faile at your peril And this shall be sufficient warrant Given under my hand & seal at Boston the Eighth of June in the ffourth year of the reigne of our Sovereigne Lords William & Mary now King & Queen over England Annoque Dm 1692 Wm. Stoughton

[Footnote A: Original in office of Clerk of the Courts at Salem, Massachusetts. Said to be the only one extant in American archives.]
[Footnote B: Some of the words in the warrant are illegible.]

June 16 1692
According to the within written precept I have taken the Bodye of the within named Bridgett Bishop out of their Majties Goale in Salem & Safely Conueighd her to the place provided for her Execution & Caused ye sd Bridgett to be hanged by the neck till Shee was dead all which was according to the time within Required & So I make returne by me
George Corwin

SOURCE: The Witchcraft Delusion In Colonial Connecticut 1647-1697: By John M. Taylor
(CG-NOTE: there are no type-o’s, is reproduced as written)

Napoleonic Wars:Montmirail Campaign 1-10 February 1814 (After La Rothiére, Part 1)

As they paused at Brienne the jubilant sovereigns and their generals drew up their plans for what Blücher regarded as little more than a triumphal progress to the capital. They decided that Schwarzenberg should press on towards Paris by the great highway which ran by Bar-sur-Aube to Troyes and on to Paris by Montereau, using the second route by Mèry and Nogent to ease his administrative problems and to keep in touch with Blücher. The latter meanwhile would become independent, head to the north, then drive down to Paris along the valley of the Marne. He would pick up Yorck’s corps, at that time facing MacDonald near Vitry, and be joined shortly afterwards by Kleist’s Prussian Corps, and another detachment from Langeron’s under General Kapzevich; these last two had been release from blockaiding frontier fortresses by fresh troops from Germany. Blücher would then have nearly 60,000 men under his command and should be able to look after himself whatever Napoleon might do. The plan had two further advantages; first his supply columns , moving from the Rhine by way of Verdun or Nancy, could keep well clear of the roads to Basle used by Shcwarzenberg; secondly French resistance in the Netherlands was collapsing; already General Winzingerode with 30,000 troops from the Army of the North was marching on Laon and could watch his right flank. The old man’s eyes must have glistened with delight as the scheme unfolded. MacDonald was now isolated near Châlons-sur-Marne. A swift blow and he could cut him off from the rest of Napoleon’s army like a cowboy a steer from the herd.

Yorck, who had commanded a corps under MacDoland during the Russian campaign of 1812, would be unusually well placed to extract revenge for any slights he had been made to endure, and Yorck was an expert at discerning slights and intrigues. The new deployment took a little time to arrange, for with Wittgenstein’s and Wrede’s corps to the north-east of Sacken and Olsufiev, the lines of communication had become hopelessly tangled; where the supply convoys of two corps crossed which other the resulting traffic jam was not unlike the chaotic spectacle associated with a 20th century public holiday.

A shot rest was not unwelcome to either side. Napoleon meanwhile had withdrawn unmolested to Troyes. With his inferiority in numbers he had to wait for his enemy to advance and stretch out his columns before he could develop a strategic plan of his own. For him the time of waiting was testing. His soldiers felt downcast after an apparent defeat, and with the Allied army knocking as it were, at the outer courts of Paris the nation had begun to panic. In Troyes itself, as the historian Henri Houssaye later observed, ” The only direction in which people exerted themselves was to encourage the desertion of the conscripts…a large number, amounting to 6,000 left the ranks.

Numbers were of the first importance. Napoleon wrote letter after letter to his brother, Joseph, his deputy in Paris, imploring him to raise fresh regiments, and waited with desperate impatience for a corps of two infantry divisions and one cavalry division that he had ordered to join him from Soult’s Army of Spain, now defending the south-western borders of France. The news from the Netherlands was black, General Maison being apparently unable to keep the field; but near Lyon Augereau had heavily repulsed and attack by some formations from Schwarzenberg’s army under Count Bubna.

Schwarzenberg, worried about a possible French thrust on Geneva, hastily strengthened his forces in the south. Meanwhile he found the sight of the Emperor brooding over the countryside from Troyes bad for his nerves. After his defeat at La Rothière Napoleon should surely be sheltering somewhere north of the Seine. The Austrian Prince feared that if he advanced directly on Troyes he could find himself with a vengeful Emperor in front and an unfordable river behind. The prospect did not please him. He stretched out a tentative hand towards La Guillotière on the Barse, about five miles south-east of Troyes, only to have it smartly slapped by Mortier’s Guard. It was enough. He swerved away south, and established his headquarters at Bar-sur-Seine, concentrating his army about him. He called down Wittgenstein from Arcis-sur-Aube to a position near Piney. For the next two days (9 and 10 February) he rested his army. Then he began to feel his way westwards well to the south of Troyes, proposing to move carefully to the river Yonne, before turning north towards Paris. He might capture Fontainbleau, but beyond that he was not prepared to plan.

At Troyes Napoleon watched and waited, ready to pounce if the Austrian blundered. As the peril from Blücher in the north became more evident he shifted his main administrative base from Sézanne to Nogent on the Siene. He pulled back Marmont (VI Corps) to defend it and ordered all his reinforcements to concentrate there. Then he fancied he saw a flaw in Schwarzenberg’s dispositions; he was about to swoop when he received letters from Joseph in Paris, saying that panic griped the city and that Blücher was almost hourly expected. On 6 February he left Troyes by way of Fontaine-les-Grés and marched to Nogent, arriving on the 7th. It had been a remarkable strategic performance. Despite the earlier reversers. By pausing at Troyes when a lesser general might well have sought refuge north of the Siene, he had pushed Blücher and Schwarzenberg apart and now stood poised at Nogent with his whole army, except for MacDonald’s XI Corps, concentrated between two and perfectly balanced to attack either. The hand of the great master had lost none of it’s cunning.

Meanwhile Blücher, under the happy delusion that Schwarzenberg pinned down a Napoleon still reeling from his recent defeat, confidently began his march on Paris. Only MacDonald and perhaps a few semi-trained National Guards without proper weapons stood in his way. It might have been wise to wait till Kleist and Kapzevich, who were marching up from the Rhine, to arrive, but old Marshal ‘Forwards’ hated to wait for anything or anyone and it was unthinkable to miss the chance to trap MacDonald with his weak corps little more than 5,000 strong.

By 4 February Blücher had already thrust 30 miles north of Brienne to Sommesous. Here everything seemed eminently satisfactory. Yorck had pushed the French out of Châlons and was repairing the bridge there, cavalry patrols had fanned out as far as Sézanne 25 miles to the west, and now came the splendid news from Schwarzenberg that Napoleon had taken refuge in Troyes and was still well south of the Aube-Siene river-line. With Wittgenstein guarding his flank at Arcis-sur-Aube and linking him with Schwarzenberg, Blücher seemed like a matador poised to deliver the fatal blow on Paris.

However, he had to wait three days until the bridges at Châlons, blown by Marshal MacDonald, was again fit to take traffic; despite the fortunate capture of a French ammunition column, his stocks were still dangerously low. By 7 February, however, the wagons were rolling over the bridge and by the 8th the old Field Marshal, who had been straaining impatiently at his administrative leash, plunged forward.

From Châlons, as already mentioned, the great highway to Paris followed the valley of the Marne through Épernary to Château-Thierry; here it crossed the north bank to avoid the wide loop in the river and ran direct to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre to cross again to the south. MacDonald, retreating down it, was somewhere between Éoernary and Château-Thierry. From Châlons, however, another road to Paris described a shallow arc to the south of the main road and the river and followed the valley to the Petit Morin through Bergéres, Étoges, Champaubert, Vauchamps, Montirial and Viels-Maisons to join the main road again at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre.

About eight miles further south a road went westward from Vitry-le-François by Sommesous, La Fère-Champenoise and Sézanne to La Ferté-Gaucher to join the main road at Trilport. It was not a particularly good road. Napoleon himself described the secondary roads as affreux and in places covered in mud to a depth of six feet.

Blücher told Yorck to follow MacDonald by the main road along the valley of the Marne, while Sacken, leaving some of his cavalry under General Karpov at Sézanne, raced along the southern road for Châlons to cut the French marshal off north of the river at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. Blücher himself intended to remain at Étoges with Olsufiev’s detachment near by until Kliest and Kapzevich arrived with their men. Probably on about the 10th or 11th. He understood that General Seslawin with 12 regiments of Cossacks would take over responsibility for Sézanne in a couple of days.

By the evening of the 9th Blücher had set up his headquarters in the château at Étoges with Olsufiev holding forward to Champaubert; Sacken was at Montmirail on the southern road, about 12 miles west, Yorck on the northern near Dormans, roughly halfway between Épernay and Château-Thierry; Kliest with most of his sorps had arrived at Châlons and Kapzevoich at Vitry. During the course of the day Karpov reported that the day before (8th February) some French troops had driven in his Cossack outposts at Villenauxe 14 miles south of Sézanne.

That evening a courier brought dispatches from Schwarzenberg and the Tsar, dated 6 February. Schwarzenberg stated,’ I will not follow Napoleon who has retreated from Troyes towards Nogent, but prefer marching to the left by Sens to Fountainbleau’. But if Napoleon came northwards after Schwarzenberg had disappeared south, the strategic sistuation would be radically altered and not for the better. The Tsar clearly felt so. He wrote that he was worried by the exposed situation of Wittgenstein at Arcis-sur-Aube and wished Kliest to be sent to join him. To replace him Winzingerode, who was thought to be not far from Laon, would be placed under Blücher’s command when he arrived.

A 8 o’clock that evening, as Blücher with his staff officers was sitting in a room of the château pondering the situation, a Russian officer rushed in shouting,” The enemy is here.’ The russian battalion garrisoning the château stood-to, while Blücher and his staff hurriedly assembled in the courtyard and mounted their chargers. Nothing happened, but Blücher had experienced some uncomfortable moments in the château. He took his headquarters to spend an unpleasant night in the field of Vertus. It transpired that some squadrons of French lancers had charged Olsufiev’s headquarters at Baye several times before vanishing in the direction of Sézanne.

This was very strange: Karpov, left in Sézanne by Sacken, must have abandoned that town without bothering to inform anyone. Even though the Cossacks, admirable as light irregular cavalry, were not much value in large-scale cavalry combat, Müffling felt anxious. Sitting on his horse in the cold dark night he discussed the matter with Gneisenau. ‘I represented…that squadrons coming from Sézanne announced not only the occupation of Sézanne…thier resolute attack indicated an offensive power stationed between Sézanne and Baye. The first thing to be done was to recall General Sacken from Montmirail to Champaubert’.

Gneisenau dismissed the first suggestion. Sackens cavalry had been holding Sézanne and Sacken was best placed to judge the situation. Gneisenau suspected the French had merely station abody of troops in Sézanne to block the Vitry-Paris road. He agreed that Müffling should send an ADC to Sacken recalling him from Montmirail to Champaubert, but flustrated Müffling’s intentions by adding that if Sacken thought it safe to do so, he could continue the advance to La Freté-sur-Jouarre.

The next problem was the Tsar’s request to send Kleist south to join Wittgenstein, presumably at Arcis-surAube (in fact he had moved father south). Müffling suggested an ingenious plan. If Kleist and Kapzevich were to move tomorrow to Sézanne it would meet the Tsar’s requirements, allow Blücher to retain control over his two commanders and help clear up the mystery of Sézanne. The Field-Marshal assented, and the necessary orders were issued.

During the long, cold and uncomfortable night news came in that Napoleon himself had been at Villenauxe. Matters began to look serious. If Yorck crossed to the north bank of the Marne at Château-Thierry he would be separated by the river from Sacken. Blücher dispatched orders to him to maintain the closest possible touch with Sacken at Montmirail. Then from some prisoners he learned positively that Napoleon had spent the night at Sézanne. Blücher thought it most probable that the Emperor intended no more than to march west, unite with MacDonald at Meaux and cover the Marne valley route to Paris, but one never knew with Napoleon. At 7 AM he wrote to Yorck: “ Vertus 10 February 7AM; The Emperor Napoleon has moved from Nogent by Villenauxe on Sézanne where according to prisoners he spent the night. This move may be to enable the enemy to join MacDonald and begin an offensive towards the Marne. In that case I must concentrate the army at Vertus. If you have not begun your move on Montmirail do so at once. Send out cavalry patrols from Montmirail towards Sézanne. The bridge at Château-Thierry must be re-established and abridge of boats thrown across the river, so that if unfortunately the enemy cuts you and Sacken off from my army you can save yourselves on the right bank of the Marne”

SOURCE: Napoleon: the Last Campaigns 1813-15: By; James Lawford

Napoleonic War: Montmirail Champaign 1-10 February 1814 (Part 2)

Napoleonic Wars: Battle of La Rothière 1 February 1814

Napoleonic Wars: Battle of La Rothière 1 February 1814

Now the great conjurer, the great gambler, face with his accustomed courage and confidence the greatest game of chance of his life. The day after the action at Brienne, while his army took up a position near La Rothère with its right on the Aube and its left on the wooded slopes by La Giberie, he laid ot his maps, studied the dispositions of both sides and prepared his plans. Next day his clerks laboured from dawn to dust; letters poured out from the château while Blücher’s patrols skirmished in the plain before La Rothère, and the battalions of the Grande Armée came marching up. The blow against Blücher had miscarried; it was time to be gone. However, the bridge at Lesmont had been badly damaged and it would be another 24 hours before it could be used; so, unmindful of the deadly peril developing near Trannes, Napoleon on the 31st laid out the foundations of the coming campaign.

Paris was the key. If it fell, he fell. He had to withdraw so that the advancing enemy armies again became dispersed; then he must aim to keep some columns in play with a light screen of troops while with the main strength of the army he crushed the remainder. River-lines and bridges would offer him the best opportunities. Here the geography of Champagne was well suited to his plans.

The River Aude flowed into the Seine to form with that river a great moat barring the approaches to Paris from the south and south-east, while the River Yonne, flowing from the south into the Seine near Montereau, bounded the area to the west. Three great roads led to Paris. One passed through Brienne, crossed to the south bank of Aude at Lesmont, one followed that bank to Arcis, then turned west to cross the Seine at Méry and again at Nogent; from there it ran to Paris by way of Provins, Nangis and Guignes. Gygines, about 18 miles from Paris, lay just south of the River Yerres, the last barrier before the capital.

The second principal road ran in the north from Verdun to Châlons-sur-Marne; from that town it followed the south bank of the Marne through Épernay to Château-Thierry; here it changed to the north bank to go to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre where it crossed to the south to cross again at Trilport, going from there to Meaux and Paris.

The third, the southern route, started from Troyes, the ancient capital of Champagne, ran westwards to the River Yonne, crossing it at Pont-sur-Yonne, then went over the Seine at Montereau to continue up the east bank through Melun to Paris. In addition to these, a good road ran north from Troyes, cut across the central highway to Paris at Arcis and continued on to Châlons-sur-Marne.

Napoleon planned to concentrate his forces at Troyes then to pivot on Arcis-sur-Aube, using that north-south highway to fall swiftly on the flanks of any enemy column marching westwards towards Paris. He wished to be able to move north or south of the rivers at will, so all the bridges had to be preserved; he ordered the engineers to build redoubts or block-houses at either end, from which small forces of infantry could hold them securely against any attack by cavalry. He directed that his main administrative installations should be sited in the area enclosed by the Marne in the north and the Aube-Siene in the south. His main administrative headquarters he sited at Sézanne, a central positon between Vitry and Paris. Depots holding 20 days rations of biscuited bread-cheaper, Napoleon thriftily noted, than biscuits-together with hospitals were to be formed at La Fert é-sous-Jouarre, Château-Thierry, Meaux and Épernay. The sick and wounded were to be evacuated from them to Picardy. They were not to pass through Paris. It was infortunate that the central highway betweenArcis and Nogent lay south of the river. To General Clarke in Paris he wrote, “I Require a route to Arcis-sur Aube from Paris which does not cross the Aube…I require a route from Arcis to Sézanne and thence to Ferté-sous-Jouarre. Send sappers and surveyors to reconnoitre the route and improve the roads and bridges as much as possible. No convoy is to move south of the Seine or Aube, with out my special permission.”

He sent a note to his Chief of Engineers instructing him that Vitry should be fortified as strongly as possible. Troyes, Arcis and Châlons were to be capable of beating off a sudden assualt. ‘All bridges from here to Nogent and from Nogent to Melun and the Pont-sur-Yonne are to be put in a state of defense.’

During the afternoon of 31 January 1814 he prepared for the move to Troyes, He instructed Berthier at 1 P.M., ‘Order the Duke of Ragusa [Marmont] to take his corps to Lesmont [from Vassy] and place a rearguard at Maizières. On arrival at Lesmont he will find the bridge established. He will consolidate it…and push an advanced guard to Piney [about six miles west of the river].‘ But he had left to late. On the morning of 1 February dense columns of enemy troops began to descend into the plains before La Rothière. He hastily recalled Marmont from Vassy and summoned Gérard from Piney to cross the Aube by Dienville.

While Napoleon had been perfecting his plans Schwarzenberg had been bring up his men. Aggressive patrolling by the French on the 31st misled the Allies into expecting an attack. Standing on the heights above Trannes with the Aube on their left and a trackless forest on their right, nothing could have suited them better; they waited patiently for an attack that never came.

By the 31st Schwarzenberg had concentrated about Trannes the corps of Gyulai, that of Prince Eugen of Württenberg and the reserve under Barclay de Tolly, which included the Prussian and Russian Guards. Colloredo with his corps was already west of the Aube and might soon threaten the road to Troyes; Wrede marching up from Joinville was to attack Vassy with Wittgenstein. With about 54,000 troops Napoleon confronted perhaps 80,000 in battle array with another 30,000 menacing his flanks. It seemed the war might end that day. Used as he was to making his enemy conform to his wishes, perhaps on occasion he took too little note of what his opponents intended. But it was in part just his arrogant near-contemp for his enemy that made his movements so swift and unpredictable.

Schwarzenberg entrusted the conduct of the Battle of La Rothière to Blücher and put under his orders for the occasion his two corps at Trannes, those of Gyulai and Württemberg. No doubt Schwarzenberg reflected that if Blücher succeeded everyone would be pleased, whereas if he failed the Emperor of Austria might not entirely regret an Allied reverse; in such an event he personally (Schwarzenberg) might find Blücher easier to handle.

On the morning of 1 February the weather grew even more vile; the damp cold bit into the waiting soldiers while a gloomy sky heavy with snow enfolded the scene. At 1 P.M. the allied columns came to grips with the French and snow started to fall, blanketing the whole area in a swirling white fog. The ground, however, was not frost bound and the glutinous blue clay clung to the boots of the infantry and hooves of the cavalry while the guns and transports sand axle-deep. Yet despite these appalling conditions a sanguinary struggle developed. Caring nothing for the numbers opposed to them, the French infantry stubbornly stood their ground. On the allied side Württembergs corps seized the wooded slopes above La Giberie only to be driven out. Müffling related that Prince Eugen sent messengers asking for reinforcements; Blücher replied that the battle must be decided on the plain of La Rothière where Napoleon stood with his principal forces and reserves. Then, Müffling went on, the Swedish General Toll arrived ‘and called out loudly in German, “The Crown Prince must have reinforcements’. Blücher looked at the General in some surprise then looked away without speaking. General Toll started to scream at him.’ Müffling intervened. “I was so irritated by hi behaviour that I called out to him that he who holds the valley holds the heights and he who attempts to decide the battle on a false point deserves to be beaten.’ Perhaps not altogether surprisingly, Toll galloped off in a fury to the Tsar, who with Schwarzenberg and the King of Prussia were gazing at the battle in the plain rather as though they were romans enjoying a gladiatorial show. Even the Tsar was cautious about crossing Blücher and said no more than that the old man could call on reserve of he needed more troops.

The French lines sagged but did not break. Wrede attacking into a vacuum at Vassy, pushed on towards the sound of the guns. At about 5 o’clock in the evening he drove in on Marmonts left. Marmont gave ground and turned to the new threat; then the grey day turned into a blustery night and coordinated operations came to an end. {Some accounts trace attack and counterattack up till 11 P.M. Napoleon left he battle field about 8:30 P.M. and it can be assumed that by that time the serious fighting had ended.} Nappoleon had staved off a disaster, but now he had no alternative but to withdraw or be surrounded the next day. The withdrawal would be perilous enough in the face of such odds.

Napoleon returned to the château at Brienne and at 9 o’clock that evening dictated his orders for the withdrawal. Marmont was to cover it and remain on the west bank of Aube, the remained to file over the bridge at Lesmont and march on Piney. Any vehicle found on the road after 2 0’clock in the morning was to be burnt. He had to leave some 60 guns and much valuable equipment behind him; there was no hope of extricating them.

At 4 A.M. on 2 February he stood on the terrace of the château looking out over the battle field. The retreat had progressed remarkably well. Over by La Rothière flickering pinpoints of lights revealed some bivouac fires still alight, but those of the French by now were deserted. All was quiet and his men were beyond the low ridge that separates Lesmont from Brienne. It was time to go. He had broken contact with great skill but had suffered an undeniable reverse. The affair had begun badly. His men trampling over the river and towards Piney through the darkness felt weary and depressed. They had fought like heroes, and now it appeared that it had all been for nothing.

To General Caulaincourt, about to open vital peace negotiations at Châtillon, he wrote on 5 February bidding him to accept any terms he could obtain; then withdrew his carte blanche by insisting that they must neither demean France nor himself. His misfortunes weighed on his spirits, but his inner conviction that his star would reassert itself and triumph in the end, remained unchanged. But meanwhile the Allies made it very clear to Caulaincourt that there could be no question now of conceding the ‘natural boundaries of France.’

On the morning of 2 February Müffling rode into Brienne and entered the château once again. The bridge at Lesmont had been destroyed and no immediate pursuit seemed either possible or wise, taking into account the appalling weather and the fatigue suffered by the troops. It did not appear to be necessary anyway. As they exchanged bitter weather outside for the hospitable atmosphere of the château and the baggage came up, the Tsar optimistically toasted Blücher, ‘Today you have set the crown of all your victories; mankind will bless you’. Blücher wrote his wife, ‘for me it is the happiest day of my life…‘ The men were as jubilant, and when Blücher went around their bivouacs next morning wild cheering greeted him wherever he went. To General Reynier, about to be released on parole, they boasted that they would be in Paris before him.


FRENCH: (Napoleon)[Total 54,000] included: Gérard (5,000); Victor (15,000); Marmont (18,000); Ney (16,00)

ALLIED: (Blücher) [Total 112,000] Included: Gyulai (15,000); Sacken (20,000); Olsufiev (5,000); Württemberg (12,000); Wrede (25,000); Barclay de Tolly (35,000)

SOURCE: Napoleon: The last Campaigns 1813-15; BY ; James Lawford

Napoleonic Wars:Montmirail Campaign 1-10 February 1814 (After La Rothiére, Part 1)