Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Poyntz, Sydenham

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POYNTZ, SYDENHAM (fl. 1650), soldier, fourth son of John Poyntz of Reigate, Surrey, and Anne Skinner, was baptised on 3 Nov. 1607. He usually signs himself ‘Sednham Poynts.’ Poyntz was originally apprenticed to a London tradesman, but, being ill-treated by his master, he took service as a soldier in Holland, passed then into the imperial army, and finally rose to the rank of sergeant-major, and was knighted on the battle-field (Maclean, Memoir of the Family of Poyntz, p. 159). He returned to England in 1645, and on 27 May was ordered by the House of Commons to have the command of a regiment of horse and a regiment of foot in the army raised by the seven associated northern counties. He was also appointed commander-in-chief of the forces of the northern association, with the title of colonel-general, and, on 19 Aug., governor of York (Commons' Journals, iv. 156, 248; Lords' Journals, vii. 548). On taking command, Poyntz found his troops mutinous for want of pay, and at the siege of Skipton was more in danger from his own men than from the enemy (ib. vii. 533; Grey, Examination of Neal's Puritans, iii. 68, Appendix). He was ordered after Naseby to follow the king's motions, and succeeded in forcing him to an engagement at Rowton Heath, near Chester, on 24 Sept. (ib. p. 92; Report on the Portland MSS. i. 278; A Letter from Colonel-general Poynts to the Hon. William Lenthall, 4to, 1645). Charles lost about eight hundred men killed and wounded and fifteen hundred prisoners (Lords' Journals, vii. 608). The House of Commons voted Poyntz a reward of 500l. (Commons' Journals, iv. 292). He next captured Shelford House and Wiverton House in Nottinghamshire, and then laid siege to Newark (Report on the Portland MSS. i. 306; Life of Colonel Hutchinson, ed. 1885, ii. 80–9, 376). He was still besieging Newark when Charles I took refuge in the camp of the Scottish army there, of which Poyntz at once informed the speaker (Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, i. 19).

In Feb. 1646 Poyntz published a vindication of himself, in which he included an account of his earlier life as well as of his recent services (The Vindication of Colonel-General Poyntz against the false and malicious slanders secretly cast forth against him ,’ 1645–6, 4to. Parliament, however, was so satisfied with his conduct that he was voted 300l. a year, and it was decided that his regiment of horse should be one of four to be retained at the general disbanding (Commons' Journals, iv. 602, v. 128). The presbyterian leaders relied upon Poyntz and his troops to oppose the independents of the new model, but the soldiers of the northern association entered into communication with those of Fairfax's army, and, in spite of the orders of their commander, held meetings and elected agitators. Poyntz was seized by the agitators on 8 July 1647 and sent a prisoner to Fairfax's headquarters, charged with endeavouring to embroil the kingdom in a new war (Cary, Memorials, i. 282, 298; Clarke Papers, i. 142–5, 163–9). He was released by Fairfax on parole; but the latter, who now became commander-in-chief of all the land forces in the service of the parliament, appointed Colonel Lambert to take command in the north (Fairfax Correspondence, iii. 370; Lords' Journals, ix. 339).

At the end of July 1647 an open breach took place between London and the army. The common council chose Major-general Edward Massey [q. v.] to command the forces of the city, and Poyntz, who was also given a command, actively assisted in enlisting ‘reformadoes.’ On 2 Aug. Poyntz and other officers dispersed a body of citizens who brought to the common council a petition ‘praying that some means might be used for a composure.’ According to the newspapers, they hacked and hewed many of the petitioners with their swords and ‘mortally wounded divers’ (Rushworth, vi. 647, vi. 741). On the collapse of the resistance of London, Poyntz fled to Holland, publishing, in conjunction with Massey, a declaration ‘showing the true grounds and reasons that induced them to depart from the city, and for a while from the kingdom.’ ‘Finding,’ said they, ‘all things so uncertain, and nothing answering to what was promised or expected, we held it safer wisdom to withdraw to our own friends’ (Rushworth, vii. 767). On 14 May 1648 Poyntz wrote to the speaker from Amsterdam, begging that he might at least receive the two months' pay voted to his forces when they were disbanded. ‘When I peruse the letters which I have formerly received from both houses of parliament, with all their great promises and engagements to me, never to forget the great services which I have done them … it would almost make a man desperate to see how I am deserted and slighted in place of the great rewards which the honourable houses were pleased to promise me’ (Cary, Memorials, i. 418).

Receiving no answer to this or previous appeals, Poyntz in 1650 accompanied Lord Willoughby to the West Indies, and there became governor of the Leeward Islands, establishing himself at St. Christopher's. When Willoughby surrendered Barbados to the parliamentary fleet under Sir George Ayscue, Poyntz found St. Christopher's untenable, and retired to Virginia (Whitelocke, Memorials, iii. 405; Oldmixon, British Empire in America, ii. 15, 280; Oliver, History of Antigua, 1894, vol. i. p. xx). But the articles between Willoughby and Ayscue contain a clause permitting Poyntz to retire to Antigua with other gentlemen having estates there (Cal. State Papers, Col. 1675–6, p. 86). It is stated that in 1661 he was again appointed governor of Antigua, and held the post till superseded by Lord Willoughby in 1663, but no trace of his tenure of office appears among the colonial state papers. It is added that he then retired to Virginia, and died there at some unknown date (Maclean, p. 183; Antigua and the Antiguans, 1844, i. 20). A portrait of Poyntz, from an original in the possession of Earl Spencer, is engraved in Sir John Maclean's ‘Memoir.’ Others appear in Ricraft's ‘Survey of England's Champions,’ 1647, chap. xix., and in ‘England's Worthies,’ by John Vicars, 1647, p. 91. Sir John Maclean also gives a picture of a contemporary portrait-medal (p. 169).

Poyntz, according to the pedigree given in Aubrey's 'History of Surrey' (iv. 212), married 'Anne Eleanor de Court Stephanus de Cary in Wirtemberg.' In a letter from his wife to Speaker Lenthall in 1647 she signs her name 'Elisabeth.'

Poyntz was the author of the following pamphlets:

  1. The ‘Vindication’ cited above (1645–6).
  2. ‘The Vindication of Colonel-general Poyntz against the Slanders cast forth against him by the Army; with the barbarous manner of the Adjutator's surprisal of him at York,’ 4to, 1648 [no place].

The ‘British Museum Catalogue’ also gives a list of letters by Poyntz, which were printed in pamphlet form between 1645 and 1647. Some unprinted letters by Poyntz are to be found among the Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian Library, and among the manuscripts of the Duke of Portland.

An elder brother, John Poyntz (fl. 1660), born in 1606, was active in the civil war in Ireland and England on the parliamentary side (cf. A True Relation of the Taking of Roger Manwaring, Bishop of St. David's, London, 1642, 4to). In 1658 he was captain in the navy, and in 1663 clerk of the revels. He subsequently travelled ‘in the greatest part of the Caribee Islands and most parts of the continent of America, and almost all his Majesty's foreign plantations;’ in 1683 he projected a scheme for the purchase and colonisation of Tobago (cf. The Present Prospect of the … Island of Tobago, London, 1683, 4to, by Captain John Poyntz, and Proposals offered by Capt. John Poyntz); but his plan came to nothing (A Geographical Description of Tobago [1750?], p. 66).

[A life of Poyntz, by Sir John Maclean, is contained in the Historical and Genealogical Memoir of the family of Poyntz, 1886, pp. 159–84.]

C. H. F.