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'BEAT 'EM UP AND KNOCK 'EM DOWN': THE ANTI- RECRUITMENT RIOT IN ABERGAVENNY IN 1706 by John Evans On a Tuesday in late September 1706 all hell broke loose in Abergavenny when Captain John Dutton Colt of Llanfihangel Crucorney seized Peter Powle, 'a very idle lusty fellow', in an attempt to conscript him into service in the army.1 At that time, the country had been at war for eleven of the previous eighteen years. The Nine Years War had come to an end in 1697. It had been followed by a five year break in hostilities before the War of Spanish Succession broke out in 1702. For a small country, the campaign had been remarkably successful and the country was full of epic stories of victories on the continent. Marlborough's heroic triumphs had particularly captured the public's imagination. He had beaten the French and Bavarians at the battle of Blenheim just over two years before. He had then been victorious again over the French at the battle of Ramillies in Brabant, Belgium, just four months earlier on 23 May 1706. These conflicts had gained the country immense prestige but had sapped the country's military manpower. The government had the effective but hated pressgangs for the navy, and passed further acts in the early years of Anne's reign to supplement recruitment for the fleet from the ranks of apprentices, etc. The army's traditional method of recruiting was 'beating up'. This consisted of sending a recruiting party accompanied by a drummer to 'drum up' recruits. They were especially active in country areas in late autumn when the harvest had finished, and in the wintertime when young farm hands were likely to be unemployed and desperate enough to join up. This method rarely produced the number of soldiers needed by the various regiments at this period.2 The government reacted by passing various laws to allow convicted prisoners such as debtors to exchange debtor's prison for army or navy service.3 These various acts still left the army with a serious shortfall in men and the government reacted by introducing conscription for the army and marines for the first time in 1704.4 Dutton Colt appears to have been determined to do his bit for recruitment. The above victories meant that much of the country was awash with patriotic feelings, and the captain actively supported the enforced recruitment of what he appears to have regarded as the lazy and work-shy. He was a local justice of the peace and the new conscription act now gave him direct authority to conscript such men. Having been informed of Powle's presence in Abergavenny, he took steps to have him arrested and impressed into the army. Dutton Colt was warned that Powle would be accompanied by a number of his cronies and was likely to be 'a very dangerous