The Sussex Smugglers. 83
the smugglers wrested some muskets from the blockade-men, beat them with the butt ends, and ran one through with a bayonet. The smugglers at length retreated, leaving one of their number dead ; another was found afterwards, having been apparently dropped by the smugglers; a third, some distance on the way to Icklesham, the body scarcely cold; the rest of the wounded men were carried off by their companions; and I have been informed that one of the party alone carried one of his fellows on his back from the scene of the conflict at Fairlight to his residence at Udimore, a distance of six miles at least."
It was, indeed, one of the best traits in these lawless men that they always carried off their wounded comrades; and we will do them the credit to attribute it to a fellow-feeling on their part, and not to the fear of being " split upon" by their captured comrades.
One of the latest of the smugglers' battles—for such they often really were—in Sussex, was fought in 1828, near Bexhill. A lugger having landed its illicit cargo between that village and the little public-house at Bopeep, a party of smugglers, armed with "bats" (large clubs), rushed down to the beach, and, placing it in carts, on horses, and on men's backs, made straight to Sidley Green. But here they were overtaken by a Blockade force of 40 men, and the smugglers halting, and drawing up in a line, a regular engagement took place. With such resolution did the smugglers fight on this occasion that they repulsed their assailants, after killing Quartermaster Collins, and severely bruising several others. In the first volley from the Blockade an old smuggler named Smethurst was shot dead and his body was found the next morning, his " bat" still grasped in his hand, but almost hacked to pieces by the cutlasses of the Blockade-men. As usual, all the wounded smugglers were carried off.
For this fatal affair eight men were tried at the Old Bailey, and, pleading guilty, received sentence of death. But the sentence was eventually commuted to transportation.