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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XVI. Hepburn defends Oxenford


The Green Brigade was quartered in the town of Wiirtzburg, where the soldiers had no lack of provisions; for the stores of the bishop’s castle furnished them with every necessary and luxury; while plenty of good old Rhenish wine, and the more fiery Wurzburger^ were to be had for the trouble of carrying them away.

Gustavus sent out detachments in every direction to subdue Franconia, to lay the towns under contribution, (for he had resolved to make Germany pay the expense of its own conquest,) and only ten thousand men remained at headquarters, when he suddenly received intelligence that the Duke of Lorraine, who had formed a junction with Tilly’s shattered force, was advancing against him at the head of fifty thousand men. It was late at night when these startling tidings reached him at Wurtzburg, and Hepburn was the first officer he thought of.

As there was no time to be lost, attended only by one servant he went in person to seek him. The cantonments of the Green Brigade were in a remote part of the town; and there, chancing to discover the quarters of Colonel Robert Munro, who was at supper, without saying what were his ultimate intentions.

"Munro,” said he, "with all haste get the musketeers of your brigade under arms. Draw them up in the square before the house, and desire Sir John Hepburn to meet me there.”

By a roll of the drum eight hundred musketeers were soon arrayed in the dark street, with Hepburn, in his hastily buckled armour, at their head, awaiting the orders of the king, who desired him to leave all his pikemen and colours behind, and march off the musketeers of the brigade alone. As he and Munro had come forth in such haste that they were both without their servants and horses, they left Wurtzburg by the Oxenford road, marching on foot by the right bank of the Maine,

It was a night early in October, and the atmosphere was dark and stormy. They traversed the level margin of the deep broad river, and after marching with the utmost silence and rapidity for two hours, without knowing for what desperate duty Gustavus intended them, the tramp of horses and clink of arms were heard through the gloom, and they were reinforced by eighty of Colonel Muschamp’s troopers, who had been ordered to mount and follow on the spur. Immediately on this, Gustavus, who had hitherto ridden on in silence and abstraction, acquainted Hepburn that his design was to defend Oxenford, a pleasant little town on the Maine, against the Imperialists, and so prevent their vast force from crossing the river. It was remarked that his mind and manner were considerably agitated; and his anxiety for the success of this undertaking, at an emergency so pressing, was visible to all; thus the Scottish veterans pushed on with ardour, and after traversing sixteen miles in heavy marching order, without one moment’s halt, entered Oxenford by the bridge, driving in a small piquet of fifty arquebusiers, whom they found in possession of the town.

There was no time for rest or refreshment. The Scots occupied the bridge and market-place, with orders to stand by their arms, and keep on the alert; for the streets were involved in obscurity, and there was no possibility of knowing when or from where they might be attacked.

Gustavus then sent fifty troopers to post themselves half-a-mile in front of the town, where they were soon driven back by a party of the Imperialists. On seeing the red flashes of the firearms, and hearing, by the incessant discharge of calivers and pistolettes, that the foe was in great strength, a lieutenant with fifty musketeers of Lumsden’s regiment was sent off double quick to reinforce the outpost; but the Lorrainera were coming on in such numbers that neither the Scottish infantry nor the Swedish troopers could withstand them. On this Colonel Munro sallied forth with only one hundred of his own men, and advanced so spiritedly that the Imperialists were driven in disorder over a neighbouring hill.

"bravely done!” exclaimed Gustavus, as he saw how briskly the musketry flashed through the gloom; "they skirmish well—my valiant Scots!”

As soon as day broke Hepburn accompanied him in a tour round the walls, which were found to be poorly fortified. After this, saying that by the disappearance of the enemy he feared they had a design to beat up his headquarters at Wurtzburg by some other road, Gustavus assigned to Hepburn the entire defence of Oxenford, or Ochsenfurt, as the Germans sometimes term it.

“Defend yourself, Hepburn, as you are sure to do, like a man of honour,” said he; "but if the service prove too desperate blow up the bridge, and retire to Wurtzburg.” The moment the King left, Hepburn, aware of the arduous and important duty assigned him—the defence of a half-ruined wall, with only eight hundred musketeers to confront Count Tilly, with fifty thousand men — made the most vigorous preparations. He pulled down several wooden houses and old walls which impeded the fire from his defences, cut down and destroyed all trees and hedges that might shelter an approaching foe, and strengthened the walls with barricades of earth and platforms of wood; posted the sentinels and guards judiciously; ordered fresh ball-cartridges to be prepared; had the bridge undermined, for the purpose of blowing it up; and on these works the Scots musketeers toiled incessantly until the third night, when again the advance of the enemy was heard, and the din of the infantry drums, with the trumpets of their cavalry, u made such noise as though heaven and earth were coming together.”

The Scots stood to their arms, and Hepburn, expecting a general storm, exhorted them to “remember the honour of their native land, and the confidence of the King;” but he could discern neither the movements nor the numbers of Tilly and Lorraine. The advanced videttes of Muschamp’s horse, and thirty-six Scots musketeers of Lumsden’s regiment, commanded by Serjeant-Major Monipennie, were driven back, fighting every foot of the way, till they were sheltered by the walls of Oxenford. But such was the resolution of this little party, and of the valiant Sergeant-Major, whose armour was battered by a storm of pistol-balls, that the Imperialists, after receiving several destructive vollies from his men, supposing probably that the whole force of Gustavus was in Oxenford, retired with precipitation; and when day broke the anxious Hepburn discovered, by the distant clouds of dust, that the whole Imperial army was on the march for Nuremberg, by the way of Weinsheim. Controlled by the Emperor, who had cautioned him if possible to avoid a battle, Tilly’s movements in Franconia were vacillating, slow, and desultory, that Gustavus had perfect time to overrun the whole country at his ease. As soon as he heard of this movement, the King felt uneasy for the brave Scottish brigade left in Oxenford, and despatching on the very instant a reinforcement of five hundred musketeers to Hepburn, enjoined him to dislodge forthwith, under favour of the darkness, and, pushing on with that rapidity of which he knew his Scots were capable, pass the Imperialists on their march by a detour, and occupy Weinsheim before they could reach it—thus to confront them again in. the very town to which they were marching.

Rash and desperate as these orders appeared to him, and though foreseeing that they would assuredly end in the utter annihilation of himself and his men, the gallant Hepburn remembered that obedience was his first duty as a soldier, and was preparing to obey, when another cavalier arrived on a foam-covered horse, with the King’s orders to abandon Oxenford without a moment’s delay, and retire to Wurtzburg, where an intrenched camp was to be formed.

These new orders were obeyed with equal alacrity. The town was abandoned and the bridge blown up by the Scots, who retired double quick, with pikes and muskets trailed, just as day began to break on the mountains of Bavaria.

“Hepburn’s officers and soldiers were all amazed at the King revoking his first order,” says the lively historian of Gustavus; “it being remarked by them that they had rarely, or never, known him to change a military disposition after he had once formed it.”


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