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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter IV. Hepburn takes service in Sweden


Led by Captain Hepburn, the survivors of the Scottish bands were conducted to Sweden, where he and they offered their services to the great Gustavus Adolphus, with the fame of whose achievements all Europe was ringing. Yearly the Scots came crowding to his standard, with a military enthusiasm which that politic monarch knew well how to turn to the best advantage.

Gustavus had already heard of the young and gallant cavalier who led these war-worn soldiers of fortune, and immediately accepted his offer. Hepburn "in his first essay in arms (under his new banner) displayed an ardour which procured him the favour and approbation of Gustavus, whose vigilant eye soon detected, in this aspiring youth, all the qualities requisite to constitute an excellent soldier.”

Inspired by the same ardour for military fame, his cousin James Hepburn, heir-apparent of the ancient house of Waughton, followed him to the Swedish wars, and was his companion in all their triumphs, toils, and dangers, amid which he soon attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

The court and camp of Gustavus Adolphus were then the great military school of Europe, for that warlike monarch introduced the most decided improvements in the art of war that the world had witnessed since the days of the Romans. He reduced the strength of regiments to a thousand men each, and caused ammunition, for the first time, to be made up into ball-cartridges and carried in pouches and bandoliers. He formed regiments into right and left wings of musqueteers, with the centre division of pikemen, who guarded the colours, which were three in number. Four regiments of foot or horse formed a brigade, and, departing from the dense formation of his predecessors, he drew up the former six ranks deep, and the latter three; while Tilly and Wallenstein formed theirs in columns of thirty deep. But, though less dense, so compact were the ranks of Gustavus, that they could resist the most tremendous charges of the savage Poles, and the heavily mailed horse of the empire. Each regiment had two chaplains and four surgeons, who, like other members of the army, were subject to the general and regimental courts-martial, then first instituted.

The infantry were now reduced to two distinct classes, — musketeers, clad in helmets, gorgets, buff coats, and breastplates, armed with matchlock-muskets, swords, and daggers; and pikemen, similarly clad, but armed with swords, and pikes varying from fourteen to eighteen feet long. The corslets were made larger than before, to cover the well-padded doublets; and thicker, to resist the dint of bullets. The plumed morion—acorn-shaped, and having a gilt rim turning up in front—was the favourite head-dress both for horse and foot; and save some prince, or officer of high military rank, few wore the visor or close helmet. The hair was worn cut short, d la soldatesque; but long mustaches, like long swords and spurs, were quite the rage.

An officer of rank always hung a gold chain over his gorget; and cavaliers were usually apparelled in the richest stuffs, and wore the most beautiful armour that the forges of Parma and Milan could produce. A general was always armed cap-a-pie.

Hepburn, in the splendour of his arms and attire, outshone his comrades so far that he drew upon himself the reprehension of Gustavus,—an affront which the haughty soldier never forgot.

The military scarf was usually scarlet; and the jackboots were so thick that they resisted pistol-shot, and were accoutred with enormous spurs, having each six rowels, measuring three inches from point to point, and projecting from a ball of bell-metal, within which were four iron drops, to jangle when the wearer rode or walked. Enchanted or bullet-proof armour, like swords that slew all against whom they were drawn, was one of the popular fallacies of the time. Another was, that a king could never be slain by a common ball.

The common day’s march of the Swedish infantry was about eighteen miles a-day. "In a journal of each day’s marching, which a Scottish regiment made for six years successively, I find,” says Harte, "that quantity to establish the medium.”

Gustavus was not partial to heavy cannon. “The guns of the Swedish light artillery consisted, besides falconets, of four, six, and twelve pounders, constructed upon a new and improved principle by a Scotch gentleman named Hamilton.”

This was Sir Alexander Hamilton, whose gun-forges were at Urbowe, in Sweden. He became afterwards famous in the wars of the Covenant; and his invention, the canon d la Suedois, was used in the French army until the year 1780.

In 1612 Gustavus Adolphus had procured several companies from Scotland and the Netherlands, and formed them into two Scottish regiments. He had also fifteen Scottish ships of war, which captured the town and district of Drontheim, and afterwards sailed to the southern shores of Sweden. The Scottish troops served him faithfully in his Russian war, at the storming of Kexholm and Plesko, and in the invasion of Poland. In 1620 he had a stronger body of these auxiliaries, led by the Colonels Seaton and Sir Patrick Ruthven of Bandean, who signalised themselves at the siege and capture of Eiga, the Livonian capital, the storming of Dunamond and Mittau.

On his war with the Empire, the Scots still came flocking to the standard of Gustavus, who was extolled as “the star and lion of the north, and the bulwark of Protestant Europe.” But many Scottish gentlemen, who had Catholic sympathies, joined the banner of the Empire.

Seven cavaliers of the house of Crawford joined Gustavus, and one (Ludovick Lindsay) the Austrians.

In the year 1625 Gustavus appointed the young Captain Hepburn (of whose bravery at Fleura he had heard such honourable mention) colonel of one of those auxiliary regiments, which was composed of his old Bohemian comrades; and of which the First or Royal Scots Begiment of the British Line is now the direct representative. In this important command the young soldier, eager for adventure, burning for distinction, and impassioned for glory, acquitted himself with a valour and ability that few have equalled.

Hepburn possessed, in an eminent degree, all those requisites necessary in the leader of soldiers of fortune —frankness and generosity, prudence or rashness, as the occasion required; with a strong power of perception and stratagem, instantaneous decision and action,—all of which are so necessary to form the character of a great military commander; while his adventurous valour endeared him to his soldiers. Every historian of the wars of Gustavus extols the brave Hepburn as the most famous of his cavaliers. Defoe, who introduces him prominently in one of his most graphic novels, says “he was a complete soldier indeed, and so well beloved by the gallant king (Gustavus) that he hardly knew how to go about any great action without him.”

His pay as colonel of infantry was £380 per annum; he was also entitled to have a coach as part of his equipage; but though he had one for form’s sake, or the convenience of a wounded comrade, he preferred to ride—where we always find him—on horseback at the head of his Scottish musketeers. A lieutenant-colonel had £190 yearly; a captain £128; the musketeer and pikeman received 6d. daily; the cuirassier, 11d.

At this time each Swedish regiment consisted of eight companies, and each company of seventy-two musketeers and fifty-four pikemen, which, exclusive of officers, made one thousand and eight men.

An old work, published at London in 1711, records that in 1633 two Scottish regiments were employed to guard the person of Gustavus and the King of Bohemia, though at that time he had both Swedes and Dutch in camp; and he is said to have ascribed his great victory at Leipzig fo Hepburn’s Scottish brigade alone. There were sixty Scottish governors of towns, castles, and forts in the conquered provinces of Germany. Military discipline was first introduced into Sweden by the Scots, of which nation, at one time, Gustavus had no less than four field-marshals, three generals, one lieutenant-general, thirteen major-generals, three brigadier-generals, twenty-seven colonels, fifty-one lieutenant-colonels, and fourteen majors, with an unknown number of captains and subalterns; besides seven regiments of Scots that lay in Sweden and Livonia (and six elsewhere.) The Dutch in Gustavus’s service were many times glad to beat ‘the old Scots march’ when they designed to frighten or alarm the enemy; and ’tis observed that Sir John Hamilton abandoned the army, though earnestly pressed by Gustavus to stay, only because the Swedes and the Dutch were ordered to storm the enemy’s works before him at Wurtzburg, after he and his men had boldly hewn out the way for them.”

The reproach of a mere mercenary spirit would be unjust to the memory of those brave men, whom a peace with England compelled to draw their swords in other lands; and it must be remembered that military service, under some great leader, no matter who or where, was a necessary part of a gentleman’s education. The recruiting in all parts of Scotland continued during most of the Thirty Years’ War with the greatest spirit, for the love of military enterprise and hatred of the Imperial cause were strong in the hearts of the nation; and thus, until the era of the Covenant, the drums of the Scoto-Swedes rang in every glen from Caithness to the Cheviots.

Robert Munro, laird of Foulis, commanded two regiments,—one of horse, the other of foot; and of his sirname there were three generals, twenty-four field-officers, eleven captains, and many subalterns, in Sweden.

Among other methods for making levies was the circulation of a spirited camp-song, of which the following is a fragment:—

“All brave lads that would hazard for honor,
Hark how Bellona her trumpet doth blow;
While Mars, with many a warlike banner
Bravely displayed, invites you to go !
German!, Suedden, Denmarke, are smoking,
With a crew of brave lads, others provoking;
All in their armour bright,
Dazzling great Cesar’s sight,
Summoning you to ane fight! Tan-ta-ra+a-ra!
0, Viva! viva! Gustavus we cry!
Heir we shall either win honor or dye!

“Fy boyes! fy boyes! leave it not there,
No honor is gotten by hunting the hare.
Thou fyne thing that still art resorting
To the palace of princes, decked up like an ape;
Flattering, fawning, cringing, and courting,
Taking each moment a new monkish shape;
Thinkst thou of a dainty thing, or a fyne galliard,
Or of my ladle’s glove honors appallart;
Or madam’s sqwivering voice,
Or any such fiddling noise,
Sounding like, Sa, sa, boyes!
Oh, tan-ta-m-ra ra!

“Fy man! fy man! leave them for shame;
Honor’s not got by so easy a gain.
All brave lads, raise up your spirits!
Honor abides you attended by fame;
All are rewarded according to merits,—
Honor begetteth, that winneth the same.
Vivat Gustavus 1 I pray God protect him,
Send the Devil to the Colstreat, for it doth expect him!
Charge lads! all fall in around,
Till Caesar shall give ground;
Hark how the trumpets sound,—
Tan-ta-ra-ra-ra!
Oh ! Vivat Gustavus Adolphus we cry,
Heir we shall either win honor or dye!”

Many Scots also went to Denmark. A Highland regiment raised among the clan Mackay embarked, in March 1625, for the service of King Christian; in June, Sir James Leslie levied another of one thousand men; and Captain Alexander Seaton, in obedience to letters of service, raised five hundred more for the German wars. The forces of Leslie and Mackay mustered four thousand four hundred in all;' and a letter among the Balfour MSS. shows that Philip Burlamachi, a London merchant, paid, by the king’s order, £3000 for their transport to Hamburg. In the following year the king paid £8000 to the Earl of Nithsdale, the Lord Spynie, and Sir James Sinclair of Murkle, "for levying of three regiments of foot, of three thousand men a-piece, for his unckell the Eng of Denmark’s service”; and notwithstanding this incessant drain upon her population, Scotland was able, in that year, to send three thousand men, under the Earl of Morton, on the unfortunate expedition to the Isle of Rhe.

The cannon cast at Urbowe, by Sir Alexander Hamilton of Redhouse, (a turreted mansion, now in ruins, in East Lothian,) were long famous in Germany. This veteran, in his old age, was blown up in the castle of Dunglass. In a list of pictures belonging to the Scottish Benedictines at Wurtzburg, we find "a full-length of the famous General Hamilton, who served under Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. This picture was done by Van Dyck;” but whether representing the artillerist, or one of his many namesakes, it is impossible to determine.

At Skug-Kloster, the castle of General Wrangel, are still preserved many portraits of his comrades, which possess a deep, interest to the student of European history. The gallery is filled with likenesses of those whose names are most familiar to us as the favourite soldiers of Gustavus; and on many of them are their names—David Drummond, Captain Kammell (Campbell,) Sir James King (Lord Eythen,) Patrick Ruthven (Earl of Forth,) with their military designations. There is also a portrait of the gallant Major Sinclair, who died defending Charles XII. in Turkey, and was the founder of a noble Swedish family. “The best families in the kingdom are of Scottish descent;—Leslies, Montgomeries, Gordons, Balfour, Duffs, Hamiltous, Douglases, (lately extinct,) Murrays; in short, all the best names of Scotland are to be found in Sweden, haying been introduced by the cadets of our noble families who served under Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years’ War.”

There are now, Count Hamilton of Christianstadt, in the province of Scania; Baron Hamilton of Boo, near Orebro; and there was John Hugue, Baron Hamilton, premier Ecuyer de madame la Duchesse de Sudermanie, et Ajutant- GbiSral du Roi de Suide, who was alive in 1803, —all of Scottish descent.


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