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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XI. Landsberg


Though still suffering from his wound, Hephurn was ordered to prepare for another arduous duty—the reinforcing of Marshal Horne, who with a strong column of cavalry had blocked up Landsberg, a town on the eastern bank of the Oder, where colonel the Count Gratz commanded five thousand Imperial infantry, and twelve troops of horse.

Leaving Major-General Leslie at Frankfort, and Sir John Banier to command the army, Gustavus selected three thousand two hundred musketeers, eight hundred of Dewbatte's horse, and twelve pieces of cannon, to-be commanded by a famous artillerist, Colonel Leonard Tortensohn.

Hepburn was so weak that he could scarcely sit on his horse, and was compelled to ride slowly; but he paraded and inspected these troops at grey daybreak on the 5th of April, and saw that they were well furnished with ammunition and matches, pickaxes, shovels, sledgehammers, and scaling-ladders. He chose Lieutenant-Colonel Munro as his second; and having reported to the King that all were in fighting order, on procuring as guide a blacksmith who had formerly resided in Landsberg, the command was given to "march.”

After traversing a long and wearying route of more than forty miles in two days, they halted before Landsberg, having repelled on the march an attack of the bold and hardy Croats. These irregular troops were usually ordered on every desperate service, as their mode of fighting resembled that of the ferocious Pan-dours. They wore short doublets, and corslets of steel, long white breeches, and fur caps; their arms were long matchlocks with rifled barrels, sabres and poniards— plunder was their only pay, and sole incentive to war.

Leading on the advanced guard, Hepburn routed them and slew their colonel. They retreated towards Landsberg hallooing in a wild mob, keeping up an incessant fire, and breaking down or blowing up all the bridges,— a measure which retarded the march of the troops and the transmission of their cannon.

Landsberg, situated on the Warta, had long been famous for the manufacture of iron culverins, and Gustavus had twice failed in his attempts to take it. Three years had been spent by the Imperial engineers in fortifying it, and all the peasantry, for ten miles around, had been forced into their service as pioneers and sappers. To Gustavus it had long been a barrier, as it secured Pomerania, overawed the Mark, and formed the key to Silesia.

Sir John Hepburn took up a position on one side of the town with his column of musketeers, while Marshal Horne had already occupied the other with his troopers.

A strong sconce, or redoubt, fortified with cannon, and having a graff or wet ditch, (through which ran a rapid stream,) lay in front of the town, barring the principal approach; and before this Lieutenant-colonel Munro ran his parallels, and got his troops intrenched, with the loss of six men only.

By daybreak next morning this active cavalier had the twelve pieces of cannon mounted on a high platform, from which they battered the sconce; but so thick was the bank, and so solid its face of masonry, that Gustavus (who had passed the night at a neighbouring village) was again compelled to have recourse to the blacksmith, who offered to point out a private entrance if a floating bridge was constructed to cross the water, which then covered all a deep morass that defended the town, and flanked the sconce or redoubt in front of it.

Lieutenant-Colonels Munro and Dewbattel (the former with two hundred and fifty pikemen, the latter with two hundred and fifty dragoons) at nightfall crossed this dangerous place by a hastily-constructed floating bridge, which formed an uncertain and unsteady path, that sunk and rose alternately among the turgid water of the starlit swamp; and the heavier ranks of the mail-clad horsemen made it surge and sink among the mud and water, more deeply than the measured tread of the Scottish pikemen; but under the blacksmith’s guidance, without losing a man, the first column reached the skirts of the town in safety. Hepburn followed with the second, which consisted of a thousand select musketeers, as the King depended most on him.

All was still and silent in the dark streets of the town, which bordered close on the swamp; but the gleam of arms, and the moving of a gloomy column of troops, was soon visible by the dim starlight; and Munro with his pikemen fell briskly on them. They proved to be three hundred Imperialists, about to make a sally under the young Colonel Gratz, son of the governor.

A short but desperate conflict ensued. Munro cut off the Austrians, and killed their leader, losing only thirty of his own men, who fell by the first fire. Hurrying on, when he heard the din of this contest, and saw the flashing of the musketry that reddened the darkened thoroughfares, Hepburn marched between the town and the redoubt, which he thus assailed in rear, and stormed in three minutes, making all within it prisoners. These, with their officers, in the true Germanic mercenary spirit, immediately offered to take service under Sweden,—an offer which Hepburn accepted in the name of Gustavus.

His sudden capture of the sconce on one side, with the approaches of Marshal Home on the other, compelled the old Count of Gratz to send a drummer to Munro to beg for terms. His eyes were bound up with a scarf, and he was conducted to Gustavus, who required an immediate capitulation of the town; at the same time he thanked Munro and Dewbattel for their good service, "with large promises of reward; and to Colonel Hepburn also, for taking in of the Skonce.”

At eight o’clock next morning the Count of Gratz, leaving his gallant son lying shot in the streets behind him, at the head of his soldiers, marched out with the honours of war, having all their baggage with them, and
four field-pieces, with four balls and charges of powder for each. They crossed the Warta with all their drums beating and colours displayed, (the white standard with the black Austrian eagle,) on their march to Great Glogau, in Silesia; and such was the state of morality among the Imperialists, that with this small garrison there came forth no less than two thousand female camp-followers. "Thus,” saith the Swedish Intelligencer, "was a goodly towne and a strong most basely given vpe by a company of cullions.”

Next day (Sunday) Sir John Hepburn and all the officers had a jovial meeting in one of the best houses in Landsberg, of which they made the blacksmith burgomaster, with a largesse of two hundred ducats.

Leaving a garrison there, the detachments on the 18th April commenced their march back to Frankfort, and rejoined their main body under General Banier; and on the 29th the whole Swedish army marched for Berlin. A brief halt was made at Panco, a hunting-house of the Duke of Brandenburg, to induce him to join the Swedes. Three days were given him to consider; but persuasion proved unavailing, although he had put Gustavus in possession of Spandau, a strong square citadel, having four ramparts forty feet high, overlooking the confluence of the Havel and the Spree, with one hundred and fifty pieces of cannon, and having an arsenal for arming twenty thousand horse and foot.

Sir John Hepburn’s brigade formed part of the force that invested Berlin, which, even then, was one of the most beautiful of the German cities, and possessed a stately palace, with the old castle of Joachim II., who was poisoned there by a Jew in 1572. Alarmed by this hostile movement of Gustavus, the duke, George-William, sent his duchess to entreat forbearance; but the Swedish monarch was inexorable, and the forces of Brandenburg were forced to join his banner. This prince was a zealous Protestant, and in an assembly held at Leipzig endeavoured to effect a union between the Lutherans and Calvinists,—a proposal which the jealousies of the clergy rendered vain.

In July, Hepburn was ordered with his brigade to Old Brandenburg, thirty-four miles west from Berlin; and after an easy march of three days, halting by night in the villages, he arrived there without molestation, and remained until quite cured of his wound. At that ancient city of the Prussian States, which is situated in the fertile Middle Mark, and is divided by the waters of the Havel, Gustavus had ordered a general rendezvous of his army, calling in all detachments and outposts, previous to those operations against the great Austrian general which ended in the decisive field of Leipzig.

Owing to the swampy state of the morasses amidst which the city stood, (the houses being built on piles set in the water, which at certain seasons found its way within the walls, and flowed like a river through the damp and slimy streets,) a deadly pestilence had broken out, and the inhabitants were dying by hundreds. A thick vapour, exhaled from the marshes of the Havel, had settled over the gloomy city and all the country around it; but above this pestilential fog, the spire of the old cathedral church stood forth, a landmark to the marching troops a& they approached it by the Berlin road.

Hepburn encamped the brigade in the open fields, beyond the influence of the malaria and its scourge; but on being ordered to work as pioneers at the fortifications, the pest immediately began to thin the ranks of his three regiments. Thirty of Munro’s musketeers died in one week, with Robert Munro, a Fourrier de Campement and Sergeant Robert Munro, son of the Laird of Culcraig—for many gentlemen of good family u trailed a pike in the ranks of Hepburn until commissions became vacant.

About this time one of those volunteers was ignominiously hanged at Stettin, the capital of Pomerania, for having, contrary to the rules of war, beaten an insolent boor on whom he was billeted. He had been "well bred by his parents at home" and had also studied in France. He had served with distinction under the King of Denmark, especially at the siege of Stralsund, where he received a wound in the left arm, of which he never fully recovered the use. His youth and bravery brought the fair Duchess of Pomerania, and many noble ladies, to plead for his life: but they sued in vain; and the poor Scottish pikeman was hanged, "because the governor, being a churlish Swede, would not remit the satisfaction due to his Majesty.”


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