Corporal Ebenezer Scumme (1628 – 1677)

Ebenezer Scumme was in military service for thirty years. He never rose above the rank of Corporal. He joined the army in 1642 at the age of fourteen and served in many different regiments.

His years of experience prompted him to put down on paper (actually he couldn’t write but got Private Scrape Moulds to write it for him on pain of pain if he didn’t) how a soldier could have successful and safe career. He was once heard to say, ‘It’s only fair that I give something back in return and, truthfully, I’ll never be able to give back anywhere near as much as I took.’

Scumme was a quick learner; he was often a couple of steps ahead of the officers and sergeants in thought and cunning. By the age of twenty he was a corporal and had settled into his long and undistinguished career. He never asked for promotion to Sergeant, believing that the responsibility was too much and would cramp his activities.

Scumme was never cited for courage or bravery in action and was unrecognized by his superiors (due to his ability to be where they were not). This was a talent that he prized above all else as he felt it was essential to his ongoing successful and mostly hazard-free career. His specialised area of logistics enabled him to remain well supplied and well away from the front line.

Corporal Scumme started his career in the English Civil War. It is unclear for which side he fought, there being reports of him being seen in either uniform at one time or another. After that he mainly fought the Dutch, but also served with the navy in Jamaica during conflicts with Spain. His ship, The Founder, had problems with the rum barrels being mysteriously empty after each stop in port. Corporal Scumme denied any involvement.

While in Holland he was in charge of rations and often reported thefts of food and clothing. He always denied any involvement himself.

Ebenezer Scumme retired at age 44. He was, much to nobody’s surprise, suddenly found to be mysteriously wealthy with a mansion in rural Hampshire. He also travelled often to Jamaica where he had ‘business interests’. In 1675 he eventually moved permanently to Jamaica to live next to his large warehouse full of rum. He set up a distillery and promptly drank himself to death within two years.

The following extracts are all that remains of Corporal Scumme’s Rules of Engagement.

• Those who are first to arrive on the battlefield are insane! Those who are last to the battlefield get to pick valuables off the corpses.

• When an army is travelling, if there is hilly territory with streams and ponds or depressions overgrown with reeds, or wild forests with a luxuriant growth of plants and trees, it is imperative to search them carefully and thoroughly. These are the places you can hide when the sergeant discovers you have stolen his money.

• Those who use the military skillfully are never on the front line and do not volunteer

• By stealing equipment from your own army, you always have something to sell if the battle goes badly and you need to leave in a hurry.

• A sharp bayonet, a devious mind, and a stupid sergeant; these are the makings of a successful corporal’s career.

About George Fripley
I am a writer who enjoys writing humour, satire, poetry and sometimes a bit of philosophy. I live in Perth, Western Australia and occasionally get a poem or article published. It's all good fun! I have two books available for unwary readers, Grudges, Rumours and Drama Queens- The Civil Servant's Manual (This contains all that anybody could ever want to know about why government runs so slowly) and More Gravy Please! - the Politician's Handbook. (available through Amazon)

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