Edison and the Electric Chair

Military Punishments,
page 5 of 9

Similar in nature to running the gantlope, and equally cowardly and cruel, was “passing the pikes.”

In the fierce Summarie of Marshall Lawes for the colony of Virginia under Dale, I find constantly appointed the penalty of “passing the pikes:” it was ordered for disobedience, for persistence in quarrelling, for waylaying to wound, etc.

“That Souldier that having a quarrell with an other, shall gather other of his acquaintances, and associates, to make parties, to bandie, brave second, and assist him therein, he and those braves, seconds and assistants shall pass the pikes.”

This was not an idle threat, for duelling was discouraged and forbidden by Virginia rulers. In 1652 one Denham of Virginia carried a challenge from his father-in-law to a Mr. Fox. He was tried for complicity in promoting duelling and thus sentenced:

“For bringinge and acknowledgeinge it to be a chalenge, for deliveringe it to a member of ye court during ye court’s siting, for his slytinge and lessinge ye offense together with his premptory answers to ye court ye sd Denham to receave six stripes on his bare shoulder with a whip.”

Another common punishment for soldiers (usually for rioting or drinking) was the riding the wooden horse. In New Amsterdam the wooden horse stood between Paerel street and the Fort, and was a straight, narrow, horizontal pole, standing twelve feet high. Sometimes the upper edge of the board or pole was acutely sharpened to intensify the cruelty. The soldier was set astride this board, with his hands tied behind his back. Often a heavy weight was tied to each foot, as was jocularly said, “to keep his horse from throwing him.” Garret Segersen, a Dutch soldier, for stealing chickens, rode the wooden horse for three days, from two o’clock to close of parade, with a fifty-pound weight tied to each foot, which was a severe punishment. In other cases in New Amsterdam a musket was tied to each foot of the disgraced man. One culprit rode with an empty scabbard in one hand and a pitcher in the other to show his inordinate love for John Barleycorn.


:: Previous Page :: Next Page ::

Books & articles appearing here are modified adaptations
from a private collection of vintage books & magazines.
Reproduction of these pages is prohibited without written permission. © Laurel O'Donnell, 1996-2006.