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Letter from Henry Bertie to his brother Peregrine Bertie describing the battle of Sedgemoor

For the Honble Peregrine Bertie att his house in yourk Buildings, London

Harcott July ye 4: 1685

Deare Brother

This is still to give you an account of affares in the Army / wee have done nothing since my Last only marched after the Enimy who is now gott to Bridgwater and our head quarters is att Sumerton / sume horse the Generall sent out to descover the enimy and they fell upon a party of them and killed six and maied the rest flie home to ther quarters and wee Lost neare a man / this day being the 5 of July wee marched from Sumerton towrds Bridgwater the head quarters being with in a mile and a halfe of the Towne / wee have taken  severall tha<t> ware goeing into him / he fortifies the place and has sumensed all the Cuntrey to bring in provezions and other nesiceres for to hold out a seage but this Night I was with the Generall and ther cam in scouts that brought woord he was marching out of Towne and it was thought twards Bristoll agane / wee have all orders to have our horses redy and to gett up att the sound of Troumpet to march after him / the 6 of July a bout one a Clock this morning the Enimy fell upon our Campe and att furst killed sum of our men but as soone as our men gott out of ther Tentes they maed the enimy give backe and took two of ther Cannon and att Last maed them flie Cleare backe to Bridgwater / wee have kiled a great many men of thers and I beleave alredy taken 500 presnors and are in persute of a great many more / the Millita did nothing in this bisnes / my Troup Laye three milles of the Campe but after the first fiering I marched my troupe with all spead but came a Littel to Late for the Enimy was gott all into the en Closers and our foot after them / this is all att present being in hast and in the field and soe I hope you will excuse this bad writing who am
your Most affectionate
Brother
Hen: Bertie

Praye send this to my Brother Abingdon

put your Letter into ye Ld Sunderland office[s] an enquier for Mr Yard and desire him to put your Letters into the Duke of Graftons packet telling him that Capt Bertie is with his Troupe in the Army for now I Longe to heare from sum of my friends and to know how things goe with you att London / Nead came to me yester day from my Brother but gives me noe account who are my officer of my new Troupe

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Letter from Henry Bertie to his brother Peregrine Bertie describing the battle of Sedgemoor

Author
Henry Bertie
Date
4-6 July 1685
Medium
Manuscript

On 21 June 1685 Henry Bertie left Oxford, with the militia horse, to join the royal army at Reading commanded by the Earl of Feversham (MS. Top. Oxon. c. 325, fol. 46v). As the army marched to engage the Duke of Monmouth's rebel force in the West Country, Henry Bertie chronicled its progress in his letters to his brothers Peregrine Bertie and James Bertie, 1st Earl of Abingdon, the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire. The letters, which are now preserved in the Bodleian Library, provided the Earl of Abingdon with an essential source of reliable and frequent news. This letter describes Monmouth's defeat at the battle of Sedgemoor, in Somerset, on 6 July 1685. The letter is remarkable for Henry Bertie's extremely idiosyncratic spelling.

Transcript

For the Honble Peregrine Bertie att his house in yourk Buildings, London

Harcott July ye 4: 1685

Deare Brother

This is still to give you an account of affares in the Army / wee have done nothing since my Last only marched after the Enimy who is now gott to Bridgwater and our head quarters is att Sumerton / sume horse the Generall sent out to descover the enimy and they fell upon a party of them and killed six and maied the rest flie home to ther quarters and wee Lost neare a man / this day being the 5 of July wee marched from Sumerton towrds Bridgwater the head quarters being with in a mile and a halfe of the Towne / wee have taken  severall tha<t> ware goeing into him / he fortifies the place and has sumensed all the Cuntrey to bring in provezions and other nesiceres for to hold out a seage but this Night I was with the Generall and ther cam in scouts that brought woord he was marching out of Towne and it was thought twards Bristoll agane / wee have all orders to have our horses redy and to gett up att the sound of Troumpet to march after him / the 6 of July a bout one a Clock this morning the Enimy fell upon our Campe and att furst killed sum of our men but as soone as our men gott out of ther Tentes they maed the enimy give backe and took two of ther Cannon and att Last maed them flie Cleare backe to Bridgwater / wee have kiled a great many men of thers and I beleave alredy taken 500 presnors and are in persute of a great many more / the Millita did nothing in this bisnes / my Troup Laye three milles of the Campe but after the first fiering I marched my troupe with all spead but came a Littel to Late for the Enimy was gott all into the en Closers and our foot after them / this is all att present being in hast and in the field and soe I hope you will excuse this bad writing who am
your Most affectionate
Brother
Hen: Bertie

Praye send this to my Brother Abingdon

put your Letter into ye Ld Sunderland office[s] an enquier for Mr Yard and desire him to put your Letters into the Duke of Graftons packet telling him that Capt Bertie is with his Troupe in the Army for now I Longe to heare from sum of my friends and to know how things goe with you att London / Nead came to me yester day from my Brother but gives me noe account who are my officer of my new Troupe

Your comments: Add to the archive

This letter is remarkable - not only does it give an interesting account of the Monmouth rebellion from the perspective of an army officer sent out to help in its suppression, but the spelling is extraordinary, especially for the brother of an earl. It reads as one long sentence with no punctuation, which gives it immediacy and the feel of a hastily dispatched report. As he remarks towards the end of the letter, it was written ‘in hast and in the field’.

Mike Webb (Bodleian Libraries) 07/03/2013

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