On the morning of this eventful day, I started from Pontypool with a neighbour, in my gig, for Newport, on my way to Cardiff, in Glamorganshire, to visit an invalid sister. On my arrival at Newport (ten miles on my journey) failing to get other conveyance on to Cardiff, and the horse's shoulder showing symptoms of being galled, I was compelled to ride him the rest of the way (twelve miles) to Cardiff. On arriving there, I was a second time wet through. (I had changed part of my clothes before, at Newport.) Again I got my clothes dried, paid my visit, and returned in the same way, in the evening, to Newport; again wet through. During the process of once more drying my dress, I was informed that the authorities of Newport had received information that the Chartists, thousands strong, were coming down that night to attack Newport, led by Frost, Williams, and Jones. On hearing this, as soon as possible, I repaired to the Westgate Inn, where I found Sir Thomas Phillips, the Mayor, with the military and a large force of special constables. The Mayor assured me the report was to be relied on, and advised me not to proceed home.
The cry of 'The Chartists are coming,' like the cry of 'Wolf,' had so often been given before, that I turned a deaf ear to the Mayor's kind recommendation, ordered my gig, and, with my friend, started for Pontypool! Would we had not!! We proceeded slowly, in consequence of the horse's galled shoulder, for above six miles, when it was evidently becoming worse; so much so, that after considerable jibbing the horse fairly stood still, and would not proceed farther. The Cock Inn at Cross-y-ceilog, kept by a customer of mine, being close at hand, we determined on leaving the poor brute there, and walking the remainder of the distance (four miles) home. We saw the horse properly attended to, and set off per turnpike-road, on foot, for Pontypool, regardless of the reports that the Chartists were coming. We reckoned, however, without our host, - they came.
We had reached the great oak at the Race Farm, within about three miles and a half of home, when we suddenly heard the heavy tread of a multitude of feet, and, ere we could exchange a question and answer, were surrounded by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of armed men; for the night was so pitchy dark, that the eye could not penetrate the gloom a single yard in advance. The first words I heard were from a voice which I fancied I knew, uttering, with military authority, the command, 'Halt' He then demanded my name and business, and also my companion's; on my mentioning who I was, there was an evident sensation, whispering, and communicating around us. On this, he demanded if we were armed; and, notwithstanding he was answered in the negative, we were instantly ordered to be searched, during the performance of which ceremoney (not over gently performed) I addressed the leader, stating that I was certain I was perfectly well known to him, and to most of the assembled throng, and that, if any violence were committed on the persons of my friend or myself, he would be held responsible. The answer was, - 'Hold your tongue; obey orders, and you'll be taken care of; offer resistance, or attempt to escape, and it will be the worse for you.' He then ordered four pikemen to take possession of, and guard, the prisoners; which, to their credit be it said, they did most carefully; and, in addition to the four pikemen, two rough and determined fellows, with pistols, took me under their especial care and protection, and never left my side for hours.
At day-break we were conducted through hosts of drenched, begrimed, fatigued, and many apparently frightened men, who lined the road for a considerable distance, without let, hindrance, or molestation. This party was the section immediately under Mr Frost's command, waiting for the other divisions to join them, and consisted of several thousands of men, nearly all armed, some with pikes, fixed on well-made handles or shafts, some more roughly made; crude spears, formed of rod iron sharpened at one end, and turned into a loop at the other as a handle; guns, muskets, pistols, coal mandrills (a sharp double-pointed pick-axe used in cutting coals), clubs, scythes, crow-bars; and, in fact, any and every thing that they could lay their hands on. The whole presented one of the most heterogeneous collection of instruments and munitions of war that ever were brought into the field to compete with disciplined and well-armed forces. It was folly; it was frenzy; it was sheer insanity; downright madness!