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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter VII. Invasion of Germany


We are told that Hepburn frequently volunteered on desperate duties; for he was one to whom life had no charm if deprived of its struggles and victories. A thorough cavalier of fortune, he had ever one great end before him—the attainment of a high reputation for military glory; and the camp of Gustavus was eminently suited for such a spirit, as it is only amid a crowd of chivalric competitors that all the energies of life are called into action.

With his regiment he accompanied Gustavus into Prussia in 1627, where he bore a prominent part in all the operations of that brave and well-disciplined army, which stormed Kesmark, a free town of Hungary, situated on a tributary of the Vistula; defeated the Poles who were marching to its relief; besieged and captured Marienburg; and again defeated the Poles at Dirschau, a city of the Teutonic Knights. The capture of Marienburg was of the first importance, as a general, by possessing it, becomes master of Polish Prussia.

In 1628 Gustavus received fresh levies from Scotland. Among these was a strong regiment, commanded by Alexander Lindsay, Lord Spynie, which, with other Scots regiments, and a small party of English volunteers, made an additional force of nine thousand men. Immediately on its debarkation, Spynie’s regiment was added to the garrison of Stralsund, which was then blockaded by the Imperialists.

In 1629 the Emperor assisted the Poles with a few troops; but Gustavus was able to cope with their combined forces, and a fierce encounter took place between the advanced guards, a few miles from Thom, in the Palatinate of Culm. There the Scottish troops made a desperate onslaught, and Hepburn’s old comrade, Hume, who led them, was taken prisoner; while Gustavus, though twice taken also, escaped, being accoutred like a private pikeman. He encountered a French officer named the Baron de Sirot, whom he would have shot, but for a coat of mail which he wore under his hongreline. He lost his plumed hat, which Sirot wore, without knowing to whom it belonged. Next day Captain Hume, on seeing him with the hat, uttered an exclamation of anger and sorrow, supposing that Gustavus, the idol of his soldiers, had fallen; and the Baron de Sirot, on ascertaining the rank of his late antagonist, had the hat sent to Lorretto, where, with all solemnity, it was laid at the shrine of the Virgin.

Jealous of the designs of the great Catholic powers, on Gustavus concluding a six years’ truce with Sigismund, Britain, Holland, and even France, (for its own deep purposes,) lent him willingly their aid, that he might turn his victorious arms against the Emperor Ferdinand II. in support of the King of Bohemia, and of the Protestant interests in Germany, where the Reformed faith was gradually being laid prostrate beneath the encroaching ambition and absolute power of Austria. Christian IV. of Denmark, in whose army were also many Scottish regiments, had already declared for the Protestant cause, but was defeated by the Imperialists, who swept like a torrent over Lower Saxony, and captured many places on the Baltic.

Alarmed by these approaches, Gustavus pressed the Poles to conclude a peace with him; and on his representing to the Swedish States the danger incurred by the vicinity of an army which had already become master of part of Denmark, they unanimously and boldly resolved that immediate war with the Emperor Ferdinand was necessary, not only for the safety of Scandinavia, but of Protestant Europe. The haughty chief of the house of Hapsburg had already avowed himself the foe of Sweden, by the interest he had taken in the Polish war, and by declining to acknowledge the kingly title of Gustavus, who, animated with joy and a hope of vengeance, prepared to unfurl his banners against him.

It was now well known that the proud Ferdinand aimed at nothing less than the total subversion of German liberty, the extirpation of the Lutheran heresy by fire and sword, and the conquest of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden—a stupendous undertaking, which arrested the attention of all Europe. He commenced operations by depriving the dukes of Mecklenburg of their hereditary territories, violating all the laws of the Germanic Confederation, and vesting Wallenstein with a commission as general of the Baltic and Oceanic seas, the dominion of which he was to assert against the two kings of Scandinavia. His fleet seized Wismar and Rostock, where ships were ordered to be built, in furtherance of this visionary scheme of universal dominion. Stralsund, though it had taken no part in the Danish war, was exposed to a vigorous siege; and the two northern kings, forgetting all their jealousies, united to relieve it.

The Danish fleet protected the town from the Imperialists on one side, while, led by Lieutenant-General Sir Alexander Leslie, five thousand Scottish and Swedish infantry forced their way in on the other, sword in hand, reinforced the garrison with ammunition, and supplied the starving citizens with food.

Animated by the gallant Balgonie and his Scottish veterans, the burghers defended themselves valiantly; and, with renewed vigour, the Imperialists pressed the siege with their whole force, Wallenstein vowing "to God that he would possess Stralsund, even if He slung it in chains between heaven and earth! ”

Incessant cannonading ruined the works; the plague broke out in the city; provisions ran short; and the sick, the dead, and the dying crowded every house and thoroughfare: but Leslie acquitted himself with such prudence and valour, that Wallenstein was compelled to set fire to his camp and retire, leaving twelve thousand two hundred men slain in those trenches where his laurels were lost for ever. So sensible were the citizens of the great services of Leslie and his division of Scots, that they rewarded him by a valuable present, and caused medals to be struck in remembrance of his honour and their gratitude.

While Hepburn, who by this time had been knighted for his eminent services, and always appears in the Swedish Intelligencer of the time as "Sir John Habron,” was quartered with his regiment in Sweden, Gustavus was making every preparation for war. The year 1630 was to form a new era in his history, for he took the field in earnest against his mighty antagonist, and sent Leslie with a body of troops to drive the Imperialists out of the isle of Rugen, a duty which he duly performed.

Gustavus had now in his service more than a thousand officers, and twelve thousand soldiers, all Scotsmen—well experienced in the use of arms—brave, determined, and inured to military toil—men to whom danger was a pastime, and before whom death was an hourly occurrence; and on these he conferred the glory of achieving every critical duty and desperate adventure. "Amongst these forces,” says the annalist of the British army, "Colonel Hepburn’s Scots regiment appears to have held a distinguished character for gallantry on all occasions; and no troops appear to have been found better qualified for this important enterprise than the Scots, who proved brave, hardy, patient of fatigue and privation, frugal, obedient, and sober soldiers.”

Hepburn embarked with the main body, which consisted of ninety-two companies of infantry and sixteen squadrons of horse, and sailed in two hundred small vessels from Elfsnaben, in Sweden; and, arriving in Pomerania on the 24th June 1630, disembarked near Penemtinde, in the isle of Usedom, where Gustavus knelt upon the sandy shore, and returned thanks to God for the safe passage vouchsafed to his gallant army.

Hepburn was placed under the command of Oxenstiern, the renowned Rex-Chancellor, as he was named, who quartered him with his regiment win Spruce, after being engaged in many skirmishes in Outer Pomerania. There he remained in cantonments until he received an order to march to Rugenvalde, in consequence of the brilliant affair, which will be narrated in the following chapter.


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