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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XII. The Marquis of Hamilton's Troops


From a district where the soldiers had nothing but a scanty allowance of black beer to rectify the mal-influence of the frowsy fogs by which they were surrounded, in the middle of July, the army marched towards Rateno, which the Imperialists abandoned at their approach, crossing the Elbe by a pontoon bridge. Wolmerstadt and Werben were captured by two columns of Swedish cavalry; while the Laird of Foulis, with his regiment, stormed and plundered the castle of Blae; and General Banier took Havelburg, putting to the sword a small garrison which had been left there by Pappenheim. The latter was an Imperial general, not less remarkable for talents than for courage; and he is said to have carried on his person the marks of no fewer than a hundred wounds.

During the advance into this fertile and sunny district, which, as it abounded in fruit and richly-cultivated lands, was named of old the Galilee of Germany, Hepburn was engaged in numerous sharp skirmishes, outfalls, and other duties, till his brigade halted for a time on the banks of the noble Elbe, where an intrenched camp was formed in the vicinity of Werben.

This town, which Henry the Fowler built on the ruins of the Castellum Vari of the ancients, is situated on the confluence of the Havel with the broader waters of the Elbe; and Gustavus, conceiving that it might be made one of the strongest fortresses in Germany, ordered a castle to be built, which still overlooks the town.

Here he resolved to watch the motions of Count Tilly, who, taking advantage of the delay caused by the negotiations with the Electoral Duke of Brandenburg, had invested Magdeburg, a strong and rich city that crowns a rising ground on the left bank of the Elbe, having a magnificent tower attached to the Domkirche, and other stately buildings. Though defended by a brave garrison, and strengthened by powerful batteries, deep ditches, a river and marshes, it was stormed, plundered, and burnt. The savage Walloons, and still more savage Croats, put all to the sword, without mercy, and without regard to sex or age, committing atrocities which were never paralleled since that event, or the fall of Ismail and Warsaw in later times. The cruelties and horrors of that day are incalculable; and of all the thousands who dwelt in that rich and prosperous city, four hundred alone escaped.

Gustavus published a manifesto, declaring that the irresolution of the German people had alone prevented him from succouring that unfortunate town, the terrible fate of which drove the Protestants to despair.

The fortified camp at Werben was more than once assailed by the Imperialists, but without success. The Swedish army was intrenched on a beautiful green plain, past which the Elbe was flowing. Its broad blue waters washed the breastworks or earthen dykes on one side, while a deep ditch strengthened those on the other. A pontoon bridge afforded a ready retreat, while the garrisons left in the castles on the Havel, at Perleburg, and Eateno, covered the rear. Hepburn’s brigade worked in succession with others at forming the strong ramparts of earth, which they faced with stone, and mounted with one hundred and fifty pieces of cannon. The King’s tent stood within a large central area, defended by a parapet and ditch ; the tents of Hepburn and other leaders were within the same secure enclosure. The strength of this fortified camp rendered futile every assault of the Imperialists, and they were frequently repulsed with great loss.

During these operations the young Queen of Sweden, Maria Eleonora, (daughter of the late Electoral Duke of Brandenburg,) brought a reinforcement of eight thousand men; and, soon after, the long-expected six thousand two hundred arrived under the command of the Marquis of Hamilton, K.G., a gallant noble of high cavalier spirit, master of the horse to Charles I., and raised agreeably to a treaty between himself and Gustavus, but sanctioned, of course, by King Charles.

This treaty had been conducted by Sir Alexander Hamilton, (fifth son of Sir Thomas of Priestfield, and brother of the Earl of Haddington,) and an officer named David Ramsay, who concluded with Gustavus an agreement that four thousand Swedes should meet the marquis on his landing, and conduct him to the Swedish camp.

These troops would have arrived sooner in Sweden, had not a groundless charge been preferred against the marquis, by James Stewart, lord Ochiltree, who accused him of making these levies to enforce a claim to the Scottish crown. A trial proved the accusation to be utterly groundless; and the Lord Ochiltree was committed to Blackness, where he remained twenty years, until relieved from captivity by Cromwell.

The Scots sailed from Leith to Yarmouth Boads, and joined the English: the united fleets made forty sail in all. ‘The marquis lost only two men on his voyage; and touching at Oresund, after a fourteen days’ voyage, landed on the 3d August at Wolgast, one of the best harbours in Pomerania, defended by a castle which the Swedes had taken in 1630. Gustavus had appointed Bremen on the Weser as Hamilton’s landing-place, and ordered Sir Alexander Leslie of Balgonie to negotiate with the archbishop of that city about supplying the new Scottish auxiliaries with provisions, especially bread and beer, of which he had amassed great stores from the country about Bremen and Hamburg; but the marquis, instead of arriving there, by some mistake in the diplomacy, disembarked at Wolgast.

His troops were nearly all Scots, as the few English who followed his banner had perished on the march from Wolgast to Werben, by too freely (says the historian of Gustavus) eating German bread, which is heavier, darker coloured, and sourer than that of their own country: they suffered, too, by an inordinate fondness for new honey, of which they found great abundance in those parts; nor did the German beer agree with their constitutions. There were four regiments, consisting each of ten companies, and in every company were one hundred and fifty pikes and musketeers; they had several pieces of cannon, under Sir Alexander Hamilton (already mentioned,) who was the marquis’s general of artillery.

They were all completely armed; and the brightness of their untarnished and undinted mail, fresh and glittering from the hands of the cutler and armourer, formed a strong contrast to the war-rusted harness of their Scottish comrades, who had been serving Gustavus for years. In the magnificence of his table, his equipage, and liveries, their leader rivalled the princes of the Empire, and outshone the Swedish monarch. Forty gentlemen followed him as pages and volunteers; while two hundred chosen Scottish yeomen, splendidly mounted and armed, and sheathed in the brightest steel, attended him as a bodyguard. He was received with the greatest respect in the camp at Werben, where Gustavus made many apologies for the poor quarters he could afford him; and on the day after his arrival, they walked together round the trenches and inspected the works.

On being ordered by Gustavus to guard the passages of the Oder, and so cover the rear of his army in case of a retreat, the marquis marched with all his troops to Stettin, and afterwards into the rich and fertile duchy of Silesia, where Marshal Home lay. He compelled the Imperialists to raise the siege of the ducal city of Crossen, on the Oder, and retire with the loss of their cannon and baggage; and he stormed Guben, a small but well-fortified town in Lower Lusatia, where, in the heat of the assault, his Scots put most of the Austrians to the sword, taking only two hundred prisoners.

The report of his arrival, and the fame of the Scottish valour, says Dr Burnet, struck a terror into the troops of the Empire, compelled the Saxon Elector to league with Sweden, encouraged the Protestants of Germany, and obliged Count Tilly to weaken his army by reinforcing every garrison in the route of these new auxiliaries, whose landing was said to be one great cause of the Protestant victory at Leipzig.

The gallant marquis and his Scots still continued to press up the Oder; and though many perished of the fevers incident to marshy districts, Glogau would next have been won by their valour, had not the great Gustavus been somewhat jealous of this rapid and astonishing success, and, in consequence, recalled Hamilton, giving him to understand, briefly, that the Saxon Elector had undertaken to complete the conquests he had nearly made. Indignant and elated, the marquis was half disposed to retain Silesia in defiance of both Gustavus and his army; but as pestilence, famine, and fatigue were thinning fast his ranks, he marched to Magdeburg at the head of three thousand five hundred men, various casualties having deprived him of two thousand seven hundred men. There he assisted Sir John Banier in blockading Count Tilly’s garrison; and there they quarrelled about giving battle to Pappenheim, whom the fiery marquis proposed to engage, but whom the more wary Banier declined at that time to encounter. By the month of April 1632, those troops, which the spirited noble had levied at so much labour and expense, dwindled down to two small regiments, commanded by Colonels Sir Alexander Hamilton and Sir William Bellenden of Auchintoule, (afterwards created Lord Bellenden of Broughton, a small village near Edinburgh;) and after these were incorporated with the troops of Bernard, duke of Saxe-Weimar, the marquis followed the staff of Gustavus as a simple volunteer.

Persecuted by the Catholic League on one hand, encouraged by the landing of Hamilton (as has been stated) on the other, the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse joined Gustavus, who, on the 15th August 1631, broke up from his fortified camp, and made every preparation for taking the field with strength and success against the Count Tilly, who had invaded Saxony and captured several towns, among which was Leipzig; and there that wary old corporal, as the Scottish and Swedish cavaliers named him, had concentrated all those forces that were not required to oppose the Marquis of Hamilton by strengthening the garrisons on the Oder.

Leaving Sir John Hepburn to command a body of infantry at Werben for a short time, in conjunction with a column of Reiters under Lieutenant-General Bauditzen, Gustavus marched with his main body towards the important pass of Wittenberg. On the route he recalled the Laird of Foulis, with his regiment, from the castle of Havelberg, and a new company of Scottish recruits from Stettin, "with whom did come from Scotland Robert Munro, Kilternie’s sonne, out of love to see his friends.” There, at Wittenberg in Saxony, the young Highlander died in camp of a marsh fever, and was honourably interred by his clansmen under the walls of that church in which Luther first preached those doctrines for which they drew their swords.


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