Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XV. Storming of Marieburg


Destined to take a brilliant part in subduing the circle of Franconia, Hepburn’s brigade marched with the army through the famous forest of Thuringia to Erfurt, capturing its strong citadel, which from an eminence looks down on a vale, where the bright blue waters of the Gera wound between masses of the darkest forest scenery.

Here Gustavus broke his army into columns. Appointing Wurtzburg as the place of rendezvous, while he retained to himself the route by Konighausen, he directed Lieutenant-General Bauditzen, with Hepburn as his brigadier-general, to cross the Vault, and make a circuit by the way of Neustadt, with orders to bring all the districts through which they marched under contribution. He left the Count of Lowenstien governor of Erfurt, with a garrison consisting of the Laird of Foulis’ regiment fifteen hundred strong, while those of the Colonels Munro, Forbes, and Mitzval, with Courville’s troopers, were quartered in the wild district of Thuringia to overawe it, in addition to a regiment of horse raised by the Laird of Foulis, in obedience to a letter of service given him by Ernest, duke of Weimar.

After a minute inspection of arms and armour, Gustavus proceeded through that wooded district, the beautiful country of Thuringia, which lies between Saxony and Franconia, once an independent state, but now divided among a host of pauper princelings, a land of wild forests and ruined castles, with the blue Hartz mountains in the distance.

The column of Hepburn and Bauditzen, after marching a hundred and eleven miles, by roads of the worst description, in seven days, captured six large towns, and on the eighth made the embattled towers of Wiirtzburg echo to the old Scots march, as the advanced guard of the Green Brigade came in front of that fortress and formed a junction with the troops of the king.

Marching by the banks of the Maine, which sweeps through a district of hills covered with the richest forest scenery and terraced vineyards, Neustadt, Milerstadt, Gemund, Carlstadt, and many other large and populous places, had been by beat of drum brought under heavy contribution by Bauditzen—a soldier who was brave as a lion but rapacious as a Jew. He received fifty thousand silver dollars, but, putting the whole in his own pocket, never paid a stiver to Sir John Hepburn or the other officers under his command. “Indeed,” according to Harte, “they would not have taken it; but, when the king heard the story, he thought proper to remove him to a more remote command in Pomerania.” To amass this money, Bauditzen took bribes from every burgomaster who paid for relief from “inquartering;” and thus the soldiers, instead of being comfortably billeted in the towns and villages, were bivouacked at night in the open fields and on the hard dusty roadways, with no other covering than their iron panoplies, and no other pillows than their knapsacks and swords.

Hepburn’s brigade approached Franconia’s capital by the base of those steep hills that are skirted by the dark blue Maine, and found that Gustavus, on the preceding day, had entered the city in peace, according to terms he had granted to Father Ogilvie, a venerable priest of the Scottish cloister, who had visited him on behalf of the bishop and terrified burghers, in whose name he surrendered the keys to him as the Protestant conqueror.

Though this rich and populous city was so easily won, all the valour of Gustavus’ Scottish auxiliaries was required to gain for him the castle of Marienburg, which overlooked it, and from whence a resolute garrison began a destructive and incessant cannonade the moment his troops came Within gunshot. Situated amidst a fertile plain, and protected from the north winds by a lofty chain of verdant hills, that in summer are covered with purple vineyards, this city belonged to the bishop, who was styled Duke of Franconia. Lord of four hundred villages and fifteen thousand soldiers, his power was supreme in temporal as well as in spiritual matters; and, when mass was said, a sword lay before him on the altar, but it remained undrawn at the approach of Gustavus, who took up his quarters in the palace behind the cathedral.

Hepburn and his comrades knew well that this stately edifice was dedicated to a Scottish saint, and the cavalier Munro boasted that “a Scotsman first brought the Christian religion into Franconia, but was evil rewarded, being murdered there.”

In the year 688, three of the Scottish Culdees—viz., St Kilian the bishop, Colman the priest, and Totnan the deacon, left the mountains of northern Caledonia, being authorised by Pope Conon (who had assumed the purple two years before) to preach the gospel among the German idolaters of Franconia. These missionaries converted and baptised many at Wiirtzburg, and among them Gospert, duke of that country. This barbarian lord had espoused Geilana, the relict of his deceased brother; and, though he tenderly loved her, on being reminded by St Elian that the marriage was obnoxious to the Church, he promised to dismiss her. Fired with jealousy and rage, on her husband marching to repel an invasion of the infidel Saxons, the Pagan lady ordered the three pious missionaries to be slain by ruffians, who (according to Alban Butler) u were pursued by divine vengeance, and all perished miserably.”

Local tradition avers that they were carried off by the devil; and a hole in the wall through which he bore them away is yet shown by the burghers. The bodies of the three Scots were thrown into a well, where, according to the same veritable account, they remained for years without decomposing. So lately as 1713, the remains of St Kilian were preserved in the treasury of Brunswick Liineburg; and when the Scottish troops were at Wiirtzburg, there was yet remaining on the Kreutzberg (or mountain of the cross) a gigantic emblem of the Redemption, erected by the hands of St Elian.

The Imperial garrison, understanding that Tilly had collected his scattered forces, formed a junction with the Duke of Lorraine, and, burning with a desire of avenging his wounds at Leipzig, was marching from the Weser to their relief, resolved on a vigorous defence of the Marienburg, which occupies an eminence, and, with its grim fortifications and church, is the first object that arrests the eye on entering Wiirtzburg. The communication with the latter they destroyed, by blowing up the principal arch of an ancient bridge that crossed the Maine. The passage of the river was swept by all their ordnance; and Captain Keller, the Austrian commandant, with one thousand men, made every preparation to fight to the last.

All the nuns of the city had fled to him for protection from the heretic king, and there was also a strong band of friars who had buckled on armour in the Catholic cause. Being considered inaccessible, the whole wealth of the surrounding country was stored up in this fortress, which possessed a noble arsenal and strong bastions. In one of the courts there sprang a fountain, which shot the water two hundred fathoms high. In the cellars of the bishop were sixty gigantic tuns of stone, the least of which would have held twenty-five waggon loads of wine. Some were filled with liquor a hundred years old. Monconys, an old author, says the castle was every way strong by nature and art. Its architecture had all the aspect of a magnificent Gothic palace, flanked with four towers, and surrounded by a deep moat hewn in the solid rock. One side of the hill on which it stood was covered with vines, the other with steep rocks.

Inspired by rumours of the vast wealth, the ocean of rich wine, and the priceless library of the Jesuits, stored up in this stately stronghold, the troops of Gustavus prepared with alacrity to carry it by storm—a duty which his gallant Scottish regiments essayed with their usual fortune, though the castellan—"a brave good fellow, who mortally hated all Protestants and their religion”— believed that none could reach him unless they had wings as well as weapons. In this service Hepburn’s friend, Sir James Ramsay, bore a distinguished part.

His orders being to take the place at all risks, as Tilly and the Duke of Lorraine were advancing to its relief, and were only three days’ march off, Ramsay resolved to make the attack from two quarters, and sent a Lieutenant Robert Ramsay of his regiment to borrow a few boats from the peasantry. Though the lieutenant spoke German as well as his native Scottish, and was disguised, a richly laced vest which he wore below his doublet excited suspicion, and he was delivered up to Captain Keller, who made him a close prisoner.

Nothing could be more hazardous than the approach to Marienburg. Its heaviest cannon swept the entire length of the shattered bridge, which by six arches crossed the Maine, where it was three hundred paces in breadth. Though sixty men abreast could march along the bridge, but one at a time might pass the plank that was laid across the broken arch; and by this frail passage over a deep fierce current that rolled eight-and-forty feet below, the undaunted Scottish infantry advanced to the assault on the 5th October.

A storm of cannon-shot raked the parapets of the bridge; while the musketry and heavier arquebuses-a-croc swept the whole line of the passage and the terrible chasm that yawned mid-way, and which was so deep that some soldiers declared “they would rather have marched up to a cannon’s mouth than passed it.” While Sir James Ramsay and Sir John Hamilton, with the main body of their regiments, crossed the river in small boats, exposed to a cannonade which lashed and tore the water into foam, but always luckily missed them—for the Scots enveloped themselves in a cloud of smoke as they fired upwards—Major Bothwell, (of Ramsay’s,) a cadet of the family of Holyroodhouse, with a few picked soldiers, advanced by the bridge, and rushing across the plank, opened such a brisk fire upon the lower works, that their comrades were enabled to effect a landing from the river. This terrible duty was performed with the greatest resolution; but Major Bothwell and his brother were both shot dead at the very gorge of the tate-du-pont: and most of their party perished with them.

Making a sally at the head of his pikemen and musketeers, Keller now endeavoured to repel the Scots and hurl them into the Maine, but without success; they formed on the river side, and made a decisive lodgment, in spite of all opposition, by mere strength of arm, driving the Imperialists up the rocky hill, and into a halfmoon battery which overlooked the stream. Gustavus, who from a ruined archway was observing these movements, narrowly escaped a ball from a culverin, which hurled the masonry about him; almost at the same moment the top of his left gauntlet was carried away by one arquebus shot, while another pierced his buff coat and wounded him in the breast. The Scottish troops having thus effected a lodgment on the Bouth side of Maine, being protected by the rocks and bushes from the enemy’s fire, bivouacked for the night in their armour, with swords unsheathed and matches lit.

Expecting every moment to hear the trumpets of Tilly’s dragoons, Gustavus, who had strengthened the plank which crossed the river, and made it passable, prepared to storm the place at push of pike.

The first grey streak of dawn was brightening in the east, when “a certane Leiftenant of Liefland (borne of Scottish parents) comming in the darke (with onely seven men at that instant behind him) unto the drawbridge that entered into the forehoff, or outter court of the castle,” to his surprise found the drawbridge down; but the sentinels of a guard two hundred strong, which kept the barrier, demanded, "in the forme usual among souldiers" 'Was vor voUcs?’ what are you for, men? "Sweden" cried the Scoto-Swede, upon which the Imperial guard rushed to the counterpoise to draw up the bridge; but the brave lieutenant and his seven men sprang upon it and kept it down, until a few companies of Swedes came up, and, driving in the guard, took possession of the outer court.

At the same instant, the gleam of sixteen brass cannon reddened the bosom of the river, and a roar of musketry announced that the regiments of Ramsay and Hamilton had commenced their assault on the strong half-moon, which, after a two hours9 struggle, they valiantly carried by storm, driving the Imperialists headlong into the inner works. The forlorn hope was principally composed of officers, each of whom was armed with a partisan, and carried a pair of loaded pistols in his swordbelt. Sir James Ramsay’s left arm was broken by a bullet, yet he disdained to quit the strife, though he resigned the more active command to Hamilton, a cavalier of equal bravery.

The moment the Scots obtained possession of the halfmoon—an arduous task, as they had to fight and clamber at the same moment, while the Austrian bullets rattled among their helmets, corslets, and muskets—they rushed to the inner platforms, which were heaped with corpses, and slippery with blood and brains, where they wheeled round the cannon, and fired several times upon the strong and gigantic gate of the keep, from the battlements and four towers of which the musketeers of Keller were pouring down a shower of death; and, in the gloom of the October morning, the flashes of their fire-arms seemed to wreath the old donjon-tower as with a ridge of fire.

The gate was soon beaten down, and the Scots were about to advance at push of pike into the heart of the place, when Gustavus ordered them to halt and retire, sending on the Swedish regiment of Axel Lily and the Blue Brigade to perform this service—an affront which the Scottish troops, whose valour had thus hewn out a passage for them, never forgot or forgave; and none felt it more deeply, and afterwards resented it more keenly, than Sir John Hepburn.

Against these fresh troops the gallant Keller made a spirited resistance, but was captured at last after a furious personal contest; for, sheathed in mail of proof, he made sharp use of his long rapier, until disarmed of it. Leonard Tortensohn, general of the artillery, protected him on condition that he would show the secret vault in the castle rock wherein the plate and treasures of the bishoprick were hidden.

“Magdeburg quarter! give them Magdeburg quarter!” were the cries by which the Swedes animated each other to slay; and the destruction of human life, before resistance ceased, was great. All the nuns were conveyed under a guard of pikes into the city; but not less than twenty friars were found in armour among the slain. All these men fell fighting bravely for the Catholic faith, according to one author; for their wine and their wealth, according to anotherand "had their crownes (poore men) new shaven with a sword instead of a razor,” adds the editor of the Swedish Intelligencer. One poor old Capuchin was slain unarmed in the confusion.

Thirty-four brass cannon were taken, and the treasures found were enormous. A rittmaster of Austrian horse revealed a chest of ducats that might have ransomed a king. "Many a hundred wayne load of wine there was, and victuals enough for twenty yeeres’ provision for such a garrison. Some two hundred Swedish lost their lives upon the service; all the defendants being either slain or taken prisoners.”

While the king found a valuable prize in the library of the Jesuits, which he sent to Upsala, his soldiers had a more agreeable one in the vast wine tons of the bishop, where they helped themselves liberally, using their helmets for lack of other vessels.

Indignant that the Swedish troops had been permitted to storm the keep through that very path which the Scottish pikes had cleared for them, the moment the place was taken Colonel Sir John Hamilton advanced to Gustavus and resigned his commission on the spot. The king endeavoured to excuse himself, on the plea that he had wished “to preserve his brave Scots;” but their fiery leader would admit of no delay or apology, and, though earnestly pressed to remain, sheathed his sword on the instant, abandoning the Swedish standard, as a lesson (says an old writer) to all those princes who were served by cavaliers of fortune to respect the good service rendered them by the Scottish nation.

For his bravery Sir James Ramsay received a grant of lands in the duchy of Mecklenburg, with the government of Hanau, a city taken by the SwedeB in 1631.

Major Bothwell and his brother were interred with all honour in the cathedral church of St Kilian the Scot; and with their obsequies closed the service of the Green Brigade at Wiirtzburg.


Return to Book Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast