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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter III. The Scots at the Battle of Fleura


Thus, honoured beyond their English comrades, the Scots of Sir Andrew Gray guarded the Bohemian king until after the battle of Prague, where, on the 8th November 1620, his relation Maximilian, duke of Bavaria, at the head of the imperial troops, defeated him, and stripped him in one day of the kingdom of Bohemia and the Palatine Electorate. Four thousand Bohemians were slain; and on that day began, in grim earnest, the long and terrible war of Thirty Years. There, on the White Mountain, the electoral hat and the proffered crown were both torn from his brow; and being, like too many of his race, better suited for the banquet than the battle field, the Elector fled like a coward to the plains of Silesia, and thence successively to Denmark, to Holland, to England, and to France. His queen, Elizabeth Stuart, endured great hardship in his rapid flight. When compelled to quit the great lumbering coach in which she had followed the army, she sprang on horseback behind Ensign Hopton, a young cavalier of good family, who "trailed a pike,” as the phrase was, in the English band of Sir Horace Vere.

He conveyed her to Breslau; and it was ever afterwards the ensign’s proudest boast, that, in her saddest extremity, "he had served and protected the Scottish Queen of Bohemia.”

Thus, abandoned by the prince whose fortunes they had followed, Sir Andrew Gray’s bands formed part of the force rallied by Ernest, count of Mansfeldt, under whom they performed many brilliant actions; and, after retreating from the Palatinate, they were employed in Germany and Alsace.

In 1622, the Scottish companies under Colonels Sir Andrew Gray and Henderson, and the Captains John Hepburn and Hume, defended Bergen-op-Zoom, the strong fortress which secures the intercourse between Holland and Zealand, and bars the way to Spanish Brabant. It had high walls and deep trenches, flanked by demi-lunes and other fortifications; a strong half-moon faced the road to Antwerp; the Zoom filled its ditches, which were strong and deep, and bristling with many a grim tier of iron ordnance. Eleven other forts lay between it and the sea, strengthened with stockades and so many batteries, that the Dutch deemed Bergen impregnable.

In the summer of that year, the Marquis de Spinola, having left thirty thousand men to keep the conquered Palatinate in awe, invested this city, and assaulted it with all his energies. The cannonading began on the 23d July; Baglioni attacked it on the south, and Borgia on the north; the garrison met them in the breaches, and the Scottish bands fought bravely.

Colonel Sir John Henderson, (son of the Laird of Fordel in Fifeshire,) one of their officers, was slain here, and left a numerous family in Scotland; but, by a will made before the death-shot struck him, all his money and property were divided among them.

There, too, is old Morgan, with his English brigade, gave them their hands full, and many of the enemy fell on every side; for it is a great disadvantage for living bodies to fight against dead walls.”

The garrison fired “two hundred thousand cannon shot” on the Spaniards, who on the approach of Prince Maurice (in whose army the great Turenne of future fields was serving as a subaltern) were compelled to raise the siege and retire, leaving twelve thousand men slain in the trenches behind them.

The Elector, now a fugitive, by the hollow advice of his father-in-law, James VI., dismissed his only real defender, the Count Mansfeldt, and in Holland awaited his own fate from the mercy of the victorious Emperor, with whom all the princes of the Union had made peace; thus leaving those soldiers of fortune, whom Mansfeldt had led from the Palatinate, destitute alike of purpose, pay, and employment. That wandering noble had now under his banner a strong force of many thousands, all well-armed and well-trained men—resolute, determined, and inured to every hardship incident to war.

The cause of the discomfited Elector had not alone made these condottieri draw the sword; so neither could his order to disband make them sheath it. War was their object, and it was quite the same to most of them, with whom, or against whom, they waged it.

Thus was the Protestant religion almost entirely rooted out of Bohemia; the electoral dignity torn from the Palatine family; and thus—until Gustavus drew his sword—were the liberties of Germany overthrown. The artful policy of the Spaniards had lulled King James so fast asleep, says Welwood, that it was remarked "that neither the cries of his daughter nor her children, nor the solicitations of his people, could awaken him.”

Under Gray and Hepburn the Scots remained with Mansfeldt, who, after some vain attempts to be received with his errant bands under the banners of that emperor against whom they had warred, marched without any object into Lorraine, where their excesses caused a terror that reached even the heart of Paris. In Lorraine they waited long for a leader to purchase their swords and services, until the Dutch, being sorely pressed by the Spaniards under Spinola, offered to take them into pay, upon which these cavaliers of fortune, with drums beating and colours flying, marched in high spirits towards the rich Netherlands.

"The Mansfeldters were twelve thousand strong, horse and foot.” The cavalry had only pistols, the foot had muskets, but there was scarcely a pike or corslet among them, for necessity had compelled many to dispose of their arms and armour. To prevent these dangerous visitors from entering Flanders, Spinola pushed forward a powerful force, which intercepted them at Fleura in Hainault, eight miles from Namur, where, on the 30th August 1622, there ensued a most sanguinary battle, wherein the Scottish bands, led by Captains John Hepburn, Hume, and Sir James Bamsay, are recorded to have evinced the greatest bravery.

Under two distinguished cavaliers, Verdugo and Gonzalez de Cordova, the Spaniards were well posted near the Sambre, with every resolution to repel the advance of Mansfeldt’s condottieri.

The latter, perceiving a conflict unavoidable, drew up his soldiers in order of battle, and exhorted them to conquer or die. Half armed, and almost wholly starving, it seemed a rash and bold attempt for those military wanderers to attack the splendidly-accoutred and well-disciplined troops of Spain, fresh from their good quarters at Brussels; but Mansfeldt and the gallant Bishop of Halbertstadt, sheathed in complete armour, led them to the charge, and prodigies of valour were performed. Mansfeldt surpassed even himself, and the fighting bishop lost his bridle arm by a musket ball.

“Many gentlemen, both English and Scots, out of love to the Queen of Bohemia, behaved themselves gallantly, and let the Spaniard know it was more than an ordinary shocke they encountered; among whom Sir Charles Bich, brother to the Earl of Warwick, was a principal person; Sir James Hayes, Knevet, Hume, Heibum, and other commanders, all striving for corrival-ship in bravery.”

The Spaniards remained masters of the field; but the retreat of Mansfeldt was equal to a victory, for he broke through the glittering columns of Cordova, and reached the frontiers in spite of every effort to detain him. Entering Holland, where his appearance compelled Spinola to raise the new siege of Bergen-op-Zoom, he allowed his troops to recruit themselves for new enterprises in the comfortable towns and peaceful villages of East Freizeland, where their free quartering wearied even the patient Dutch, for they lived on the best of everything, and paid all their scores with a roll on the drum.

He hovered for a time on the banks of the Lower Rhine, where by lack of pay and employment his army soon fell to pieces, and in 1623 was totally disbanded.

Leaving the remnant of his Scottish followers, who had survived the battles in Bohemia and that at Fleura, to seek, under the guidance of the young Captain Hepburn, a new prince, and what was of more importance, a new paymaster, in other lands, old Sir Andrew Gray returned to Scotland. In 1624 he was in London seeking military employment, and was presented to King James at the Theobalds. He usually wore buff and armour, even in time of peace; and the timid monarch if ever saw the grim veteran without emotions of uneasiness, for, in addition to his long sword and formidable dagger, he always wore a pair of iron pistols in his girdle. On one occasion, the king, seeing him thus accoutred, "told him merrily, he was now so fortified, that if he were but well victualled, he would be impregnable."

He was appointed colonel in the force of twelve thousand English, sent from Dover under Count Mansfeldt, in 1624, to Holland, where, says Balfour, "the most pairt of them deyed miserablie with cold and hunger." The scarcity of food and other necessaries brought on a deadly pestilence, for in small transports they were “heaped one upon another.” The poor soldiers died in thousands, and their bodies lay in piles unburied on the shores of Zealand, where their limbs and bowels were torn and eaten "by dogs and swine, to the horror of the beholders.”

After this we hear no more of old Sir Andrew Gray, unless he be the same who is mentioned by the Knight of Cromarty, in his list of Scottish Colonels serving Louis XIII. of France.


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