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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter VIII. Mackay's Regiment rescued at Rugen


A Highland regiment, one thousand five hundred strong, which had been raised by the predatory chieftain, Sir Donald Mackay of Farre and Strathnaver, (afterwards Lord Reay,) in March 1626, for the service of the King of Denmark, and was now commanded by his lieutenant-colonel, volunteered in 1630 to take new service under Gustavus of Sweden, an offer which was immediately accepted; and on the 12th of August the Chancellor Oxenstiem sent orders to Lieutenant-Colonel Munro to embark his "soldiers at Pillau, and from thence to transport them into Dutchland, towards Wolgast in Pomerne.”

Accordingly, at Pilau, a town upon the Bay of Courland, situated at the mouth of the sluggish Pregel, and defended by two fortresses, which the Swedes had captured five years before, Munro (a cousin of the Laird of Foulis) embarked his men on board of two Swedish ships, the Lillynichol and the Hound, with provisions for one week. The companies of Captains Robert Munro, Hector Munro, and Bullion, were on board the former; and those of Major Sennot, Captains Learmonth and John Munro, were on board the latter; while all the baggage, horses, drums, and ammunition, were in a smaller vessel, called a shoote.

These three sailed towards the coast of Pomerania with a fair wind, which freshened into a tempest from the west, and drove them into the roads of Burnholme, among the most easterly of all the Danish isles, where the Lillynichol parted company from the Hound, and sprang a leak. Notwithstanding this, Munro kept forty-eight Highland soldiers working incessantly at the pumps, and sailed towards Wolgast, his destination; but finding that his water-logged ship made but slow progress, and was in imminent danger of sinking, as she rolled on the heavy ground-swell of that dangerous sea, he bore away for Dantzic, a city where the Scots of old possessed numerous and important privileges, acquired for them in the fourteenth century by the valiant Lord of Nithsdale.

Night came on; the fury of the storm increased, and the ship became quite unmanageable among the shoal water; while, to make matters worse, the Pomeranian isles, with all their rocks and reefs, were on their lee.

In 1389, William Douglas, Lord Nithsdale, (husband of Egidia, daughter of Robert BruceJ with a train of Scottish knights, fighting under Waldenrodt, Grand-master of the Teutonic Order, defended Dantzic. or Ztanemdb, against the Pagans of Prussia, who besieged it under Udislaus JageUo. Douglas and his knights made a furious sally, cut the besiegers to pieces, and cleared the district, for which he was created Prince of Danesrick, Duke of Spruce, and Admiral of the fleet. Thenceforth all Scotsmen were declared freemen of Dantzic; and in token thereof, the aims of the nation, with those of Douglas, were placed orer the great gate, where they remained until it was lately (1711) rebuilt." A part of the suburbs is still named Liitk Scotland^ and near it was the bridge where Douglas was basely murdered by the English Lord Clifford and a band of imurninn—Atlas Geographical Godscroft, &c.

By eleven o’clock, amid the pitchy darkness of the storm, the Lillynichol ran with a crash upon the coast of Rugen, the largest and most picturesque of the German islands, being seventeen miles in circumference, and abounding in beautiful scenery. The vessel parted in two, and in a moment her crew, with the three companies of Highlanders, were struggling among the waves.

Till one o’clock next day they clung to parts of the wreck, the whole poop and gallery of which, being wedged fast on the rocks and sand, were above water; but the fierce surf incessantly broke over them. All their boats had been swamped among these white breakers, where a Highland soldier and a Danish seaman had both perished in an attempt to swim ashore with a rope.

Having cut away the masts and yards that lay alongside, and with fragments of the deals and deck formed a raft, Munro, by means of this, at which he made the ablest of his soldiers work without intermission—and by a boat, which some boors brought to the opposite beach upon a cart—got the whole of his men ashore, he being the last who abandoned the wreck; nor did he do so until the whole of the swords, pikes, muskets, corslets, helmets, &c., that could be saved, were also landed.

This was on the 19th August.

Munro, on addressing the boors, who spoke a barbarous German, discovered that he had been wrecked upon the remote isle of Rugen, all the forts of which were in possession of the Imperialists. He was eighty miles from the Swedish outposts; “and lacking ammunition,” he continues in his narrative, “we had nothing to defend us but swords, pikes, and some wet muskets: the enemy being near, our resolution behoved to be short.” In addition to this, his soldiers were drenched, starving, and exhausted with danger and toil. He desired them to remain in concealment among the chalky cliffs, which were fringed with thick masses of green thorns, briars, and wild-flowers, that filled the summer air with perfume. There they continued unseen till nightfall, when he sent Captain Bullion (a Walloon officer, who afterwards became quartermaster-general of cavalry) to the captain of Rugen walde, an ancient castle belonging to Bogislaus IV., duke of Pomerania, to inform him that three hundred Scottish Highlanders, in the service of his Swedish Majesty, had been shipwrecked on the coast, for whom he requested the loan of a few firelocks, some dry powder, and bullets, in return for which they would clear the town of the Imperialists, and maintain it for the Duke and Gustavus Adolphus.

The Pomeranian seneschal gladly accepted the offer, and by a secret postern of the old feudal fortress (where, according to tradition, Odoacer, an ancient king of Italy, was born) supplied the Scots with fifty six muskete, and ammunition; after which the whole, being admitted by the same secret passage into the castle, which was in possession of the Duke’s retainers only, passed easily from thence into the town below. There Munro, with his musketeers and pikemen, fell so suddenly and briskly upon a night-guard of Imperial horsemen, that they were all shot down or unhorsed before they had time to sound a trumpet or draw their swords. In short, such was the impetuosity of the gallant men of Lochshin and Strathnaver, that the whole squadron were killed or taken prisoners, save two corporals and eleven troopers, who, on crying for quarter, received it, and were afterwards ransomed by the governor of Golberg, a post seven miles distant, where a strong garrison of Austrians lay.

Thus by a daring midnight attack, resolutely executed under the most disadvantageous circumstances, a few Scottish Highlanders rewon the fertile isle of Rugen for Gustavus, and restored his patrimonial castle and city to Duke Bogislaus, who has been characterised as a weak, feeble, and superannuated prince, who had long been wearied by the outrages of the Austrians on his territories, but, lacking the power of resistance, had contented himself with fruitless murmurs.

Five days afterwards, an order came from Oxenstiera, desiring Lieutenant-Colonel Munro to maintain this new and valuable acquisition to the last; but ere its arrival that able soldier had taken every precaution to defend himself against the foe, who were in strong force at Colberg. He blew up the bridge, which crossed a deep river, and, arming a company of boors, ordered them to guard the passage. He strengthened the castle of Rugenwalde by the erection of turf sconces and redoubts, and by his foraging parties laid the whole country under contribution, even to the Douglas gate of Dantzic. But as the Austrians closed in upon all sides, his situation soon became one of the greatest peril. Yet he maintained Rugenwalde for nine weeks, during which the
cannonading, firing, and skirmishing were incessant, until he was succoured by the arrival of his old friend and fellow-student, Sir John Hepburn, who, with his "Invincible Regiment,” advanced from Spruce or Polish Prussia, having, by order of the Chancellor, pushed forward by forced marches to his relief.

Hepburn now assumed the command, as being senior to Munro, and as having received from the King a commission as governor of the town and castle of Rugenwalde. Among the gentlemen and boors of this island (whose inhabitants remained in a state of vassalage till 1806) he mustered eight thousand fighting men, whom he armed, disciplined, and divided into companies; and with the aid of these and Mackay’s Highlanders, his regiment soon cleared all further Pomerania of the Imperialists.

In the early part of the seventeenth century there were many Scottish merchants in this island, and other parts of Prussian Pomerania; and there is still preserved a petition sent by them to James VI. in 1613, complaining of the restrictions laid upon them by the Duke of Wolgast, a noble of the house of Pomerania—or Pomerland, as they name it in their humble address.


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