TEARS OF THE FOOT GUARDS
ALLEGRO - STAVE XI
S T A V E
Elliot crossed the ground naked to the waist. His broad, white hide stark under the morning sun and scarred from untold stories – stab wounds, old cuts, stripes from floggings. Blotches up and down his arm as if he’d tattooed them with a burning ember.
What great bloody things you must do.
Obedience watched as the women paraded on the left. The entire battalion turned out to witness punishment. An instruction.
He proceeded with an escort of First Guards from #4 Company, the Drum Major and a cadre of Musicians in ammunition shirts. The D. M. carried the Cats in bloodstained bags. Solemn theatre. Tried and found Guilty and countersigned by the Commander-in-Chief.
Five Hundred. To be taken all at once. Enough to end an ordinary fellow. Would it be for Elliot? Not likely, he looked cruel enough, all stone faced. Twenty-five’ll soon change that. He’ll be weeping at fifty. At a hundred, a number would be getting sick wanting to turn away.
That it kill him, Obedience prayed. Beat him ‘til he gives up the ghost . . . She had no idea what was coming . . . She was out there with him . . . Gossip said it was her made him do it. Lash all Gossipers. What did she have to do with him? In everyone’s mind – something. And now it’s part of an official record:
At a General Court Martial held at Flushing, in the Province of New York, on Friday the 6th of September, by Virtue of a Warrant, bearing date the same, from Lieutenant Colonel, Henry Trelawny, Major 1st Battalion of the Brigade of Guards on American Service.
Lieutenant Colonel William Meadows, 55th Regiment of Foot, President.
Lieut. Col. William Walcot, 5th Foot
Lieut. Col. West Hyde, 1st F. Guards
Capt.. John Peebles, 42nd Foot
Capt. Thos. Thomlinson, 5th Foot
Capt. John Barker, 10th Foot
Capt. John Westropp, 5th Foot
Capt. Thos. Gibbings, 23d Foot
Lieut. Myrick Shaw, 4th Foot
Lieut. William Cox, 5th Foot
Lieut. John Browne, 23d Foot
Ensign Florintius Boscawen 3d F. Guards
Ensign Robert Haddin 5th Foot
Richard Dalrymple Esqr. Deputy Judge Advocate
Thomas Elliot private soldier in His Majesty’s Regiment of Coldstream Guards and William Willcock private soldier in Same were brought prisoners before the Court and accused of brawling, & the following Witnesses were examined in support of the Charge viz:
Capt. Edward Bourne of His Majesty’s Regiment of Coldstream Guards, being duly sworn, deposed that on the evening of the 4th Instant he heard shouting and a scuffle from said Privates’ tent, and upon investigation found Privates James Moddy, Jeffrey True and John Notton restraining Private Elliot on his back on the floor of the tent.
Private Willcock was on the ground and clutched his throat in much Physical distress. Capt. Bourne inquired to the nature of the struggle and that if the men knew the Penalty for brawling. Private True stated there was not a fight, but that Private Elliot had ‘gone mad’.
Q. Was there any indication for you to believe Private Elliot ‘Mad’?
Q. Did you inquire of Private Elliot?
A. Yes. I ordered the men to let him up. I asked if he was drunk, which he denied in a clear and sober voice.
Q. Did Private Elliot display unbalanced behavior?
A. He did not. I asked him if he had lost his wits, which he denied in the same manner.
Q. You inquired of Private Willcock?
A. I did. Private Willcock stated he had done nothing.
Q. Were there any circumstances you observed to indicate the contrary?
A. There were no other than what I have described. Still, Private Willcock is known to me as a man of questionable character. I placed both men under arrest.
Jeffrey True, Private in the Coldstream Guards, being duly sworn deposed he and Privates Notton, Moddy and Willcock entered the tent upon the Tattoo and found Private Elliot there alone. The soldiers repaired themselves to bed and before sleeping, conversed over entertainments to be purchased behind the camp. It was then Private Elliot attacked Private Willcock by the throat.
Q. In the course of the conversation, did Private Willcock make any remarks toward Private Elliot?
A. He did not. Private Elliot did not engage in the conversation.
Q. Did Private Willcock make reference or implication to Private Elliot in his remarks?
A. He did not.
Q. Did Private Willcock touch Private Elliot’s person?
A. Not that I observed.
The Prisoner being then put upon his defense, stated on the evening Prvts. Notton, True, Moddy and Willcock came into the tent from a storm and regaled in conversation, Private Willcock said that he would like to ‘f—k’ the Widow Gill. It was the tent flap blew open. Private Willcock kicked the defendant because he was not quick to close it. It was then Private Elliot grabbed Private Willcock about the neck.
Q. You stated Private Willcock kicked you? Where on your person did he kick you?
A. On my foot.
Q. You attacked Private Willcock?
Q. This provoked your attack?
Q. What provoked your attack?
A. What he said about Mrs. Gill.
Q. Why would this provoke an attack? What is Mrs. Gill to you?
A. She is the widow of my file partner.
Q. Were you defending her honour?
Q. You believed there was a threat to Mrs. Gill?
Q. You and the Widow Gill are involved?
Q. Did you feel threatened?
Q. You have no defense and have admitted to the crime, Private Elliot. Why did you plead ‘Not Guilty’? Do you expect the Court’s Mercy?
A. prisoner silent
The Court having considered the evidence against Prisoner Thomas Elliot together with what he had offered in his Defense, he is guilty of the crime laid to his charge & therefore is sentenced to receive 500 lashes to be administered in full.
She clenched her teeth. I’d fuck Mrs. Gill. They’d all fuck Mrs. Gill. Do it in public.
Applause! Hail the Actress! She shut her eyes and there she was, stripped naked with Elliot crossing the ground.
“Must we watch this?”
“Watch it,” Jaruesha said. “It might’ve saved your skin. Did it for you, I think.”
“Quiet,” Grace said. “No brawl deserves this.”
“Some deserve it,” Bess said. “And a burning Hell after it.”
At the poles, the detail halted. They tied together his knees so he couldn’t run. They took his wrists, how easily he could’ve thrown them down, and cinched him to the cross pole. It moaned. They strapped on a protective kidney belt. How kind. “Thomas Elliot,” pronounced Captain Bayley the duty officer from the Brigade Company. “Having been duly tried before a Court of Military Justice and found Guilty of Assault, you are to receive before the battalion the sentence of five hundred lashes complete. Drum Major, lay on.”
A leather strip between his teeth and two musicians with sleeves rolled up made ready.
Drum roll. Beat. Crack. “One,” cried the Drum Major.
Obedience heard the lash more than she saw it, the cords with a snap on Elliot’s drum tight back.
Drum roll. Beat. Crack. The fifer had reared back like a Cricket bowler and whipped across Elliot’s shoulder.
The Roll. The Beat. The Crack. The thick scars resisted.
Roll. Beat. Crack.
Roll-Beat-Crack. Roll-Beat-Crack. Roll-Beat-Crack.
“Seven” . . . “Eight” . . . “Nine” . . . “Ten” . . .
Obedience forced herself to look. It lessened the Sound, and in the Sound the greater horror . . .
He shifted his weight. Contusions grew supple. Welts appeared.
“Twenty-seven.” Roll-Beat-Crack. “Twenty-eight.” Roll-Beat-Crack. “Twenty-nine.”
Did they hear it? Did it come from him?
He squirmed. Muscles rolling beneath the skin. A sleet of sharp bits.
“Forty-five . . . Forty-six . . .”
“Ugh.” Louder than before.
A line of welts split.
Obedience pressed her stomach. An eternity at this pace. And something dirty in it. None there were clean.
“Sixty-eight . . .”
“Oh!” Elliot cried out. More welts split and tears of blood trickling. Wounds on his shoulder blades, Lats, the small of the back. They nicked his cheek. Cut the lobe of his ear. The waistband of his trowsers sopped red.
The fifers sweated.
“Ninety-nine . . . One-hundred.”
The Drum Major halted so the musicians could switch out. Fresh arms laid into him for the next Hundred, and Elliot, his face swollen, his lips dribbling spittle, screamed with every hit.
Obedience wept – even a mad dog in this state deserves pity. If he had any decency, he’d just die and leave the world in sympathy.
Roll-Beat-Crack-Scream. Roll-Beat-Crack Scream.
“One hundred-ninety-eight . . . One hundred ninety-nine . . . Two hundred.”
Musicians changed again. Welts wrapped around the chest. In his armpits. On his belly.
The brigade surgeon examined his breathing and took his pulse. “Give him water.”
Elliot gulped as he hung from his tied hands and then the surgeon nodded to Captain Bayley. The leather bit shoved back between his teeth.
“Lay on,” said the D.M. Roll-Beat-Crack. “Two hundred-one . . .”
Stop, Obedience wanted to cry, but it whispered, “Stop . . . screaming. Stop screaming – stop screaming . . .”
At three hundred he hung like meat. The hits perfunctory. All wanting to be done – Major Trelawny, Captain Bayley, the musicians, the Drum Major, the battalion. A punishment for them all. God, if this be the consequence would any soldier disobey? By God he would not – at least for this moment.
“Four hundred ninety-eight . . . Four hundred ninety-nine . . . Five Hundred.”
They doused him as a stretcher waited.
“Cut him down.”
Elliot forced himself to stand as should a Coldstream Private. Eyes watery, wanting to stare his peers down, but instead with a look of horror only to collapse into the musicians’ arms that had laid him open.
“He didn’t die,” Obedience muttered.
“Not yet,” Jaruesha responded.