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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XVIII. The Scots under Munro, Douglas and others


The gallant Hepburn was still rising daily in the favour of Gustavus, who found the impossibility of undertaking an expedition of importance unaided by his able counsel, and that dashing valour for which he was renowned throughout the armies of Sweden, Austria, and afterwards of Prance, and which won for him the reputation of being the best and most fortunate soldier of the age.

His career, spent as it was among the contingent woes and horror of a religious war, had all the personal attributes of heroism; for the time was one when battle was the pastime of the brave and chivalric.

Amid the most tempestuous weather, in a country covered with snow, and when the cold was so intense that the breath froze in icicles on the moustaches and steel cheekplates of the soldiers, the army began its march towards the Lower Rhine; and at five o’clock on a Sunday evening the green banners of Hepburn’s brigade appeared before the walls of Mentz, reputed by the Germans of old the strongest of their fortresses, and their best bulwark against the power and pride of France.

Well fortified, and commanded by a citadel on the summit of a neighbouring hill, the city is built in the form of a semicircle, of which the Rhine is the basis; towards it lie the weakest bastions; but on the landward they are so complicated and extensive as to require, in the present time, a garrison of thirty thousand men. Then, the citadel and the Elector’s palace (a massive and ancient edifice of dark red stone, formerly a preceptory of the Teutonic Knights) were defended by eighty pieces of cannon, and occupied by Don Philip de Sylvia with two thousand chosen men, all animated by the spirit of old Castilians.

Investing the place at once, Gustavus ordered all his troops to dose up the blockade. "Colonell Hepbume’s briggad (according to use) was directed to the most dangerous poste, next the enemy,” who cannonaded him briskly from the citadel, and killed a number of his men as they approached within musket-shot of a gate called the Gallows Port, where he commenced to dig his parallels, and get under cover, running his lines to the very edge of the town ditch.

Except those guards which he had posted on the colours, the artillery, and the trenches, the whole brigade were actively employed making cannon-baskets or fascines and bundles of chandeliers, and deepening the lines, so that daylight saw his whole force under cover; and the cannoniers of Don Philip fired in vain. Their shot either whistled over the helmets of the Scots, or sank heavily into the solid banks of earth which protected them.

Next night Colonel Axel Lily, a Swedish officer of distinction, came to visit Hepburn at his post near the town ditch; and being invited to sup with him and Colonel Munro in a place from which the snow had been shovelled away, the three cavaliers sat down by a large fire which the soldiers had lighted, and regaled themselves on such viands as their foragers had procured, and their servants could cook spitted upon old ramrods or sword-blades, Every moment the flashes broke brightly from the dark ramparts of the lofty citadel, and the cannon-shot boomed away over their heads into the obscurity of the night, or plashed into the deep waters of the Rhine behind them. They were all u discoursing merrily,” when Axel Lily said to Hepburn, laughing as he listened to the Spanish cannon, and ducked his head as a ball passed, "If any misfortune should happen to me now, what would be thought of it? for I have no business to be here, exposed to the enemy’s shot.”

Very soon after, another cannon-ball came crashing over the rough rampart, and carried off one of his legs just at the shin-bone. A party of Hepburn’s soldiers bore him away to such shelter as they could procure, and left him under care of the* surgeons. The King made him all the amends in his power, by heaping military sinecures upon him, till even honest Munro and other veterans could not resist the temptation of complaining at the good fortune of Axel Lily, though he had to march ever after "with a tree or woodden legge.” Next day Don Philip de Sylvia, perceiving that Gustavus had erected several strong batteries in a garden, and that the brigade of Hepburn, to whose reputation he was no stranger, was preparing to. storm under cover of their fire, capitulated; and on the 13th December marched out with flying colours, two pieces of cannon, and all the baggage, which his soldiers increased as much as possible by pillaging the town and cloisters. Eighty pieces of cannon, one hundred and twenty lasts of powder, the Elector’s library, two hundred and twenty thousand dollars from the citizens as the ransom of the city, and one hundred and eighty thousand more from the Jews for the redemption of their gorgeous synagogue, enriched Gustavus, who entered Mentz on the next day (which completed his thirty-seventh year) with all the triumph of a conqueror, surrounded by the generals and brigadiers of his army, and escorted by bands of bristling Scottish pikes.

There he kept the Christmas with great splendour and festivity, while his court was attended by the six chief princes of the Empire, twelve ambassadors, and the flower of the German nobles. What share Hepburn received of the prize-money taken is not recorded: the valuable library of the Elector was presented to the Chancellor Oxenstiern, who intended it for the academy of Wes-terrah; but the vessel on board of which it was shipped unfortunately foundered in the Baltic.

Three days before Christmas, Hepburn’s hardy soldiers left their miserable bivouac in the snow-covered trenches, and obtained quarters in the town, which was under the charge of Bernard, duke of Saxe Weimar; and there they remained until the 5th March 1632, recruiting in vigour and numbers, and preparing for fresh campaigns and other dangers.

The regiment, vacant by the resignation of Sir John Hamilton, had, previous to this, been bestowed upon old Colonel Ludovick Leslie.

While Hepburn lay at Mentz, Gustavus, in February, opened a new campaign against the Spaniards, by the investment of Creutzenach, whither he marched three hundred of Ramsay’s regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel George Douglas.

This cavalier, of whom Fowler, his secretary, has left so ample an account,! was a cadet of the noble house of Carlyle and Torthorwald, whose castle, now a ruin, looks down on Lochar Moss and the beautiful Yale of the Nith. The eldest son of Sir George Douglas of Mordington and Margaret Dundas of Fingask, he had studied at Oxford; was perfect master of the Greek and Latin languages; and was one of the most accomplished officers in Sweden. "he began his apprenticeship,” says Fowler, “in that honourable profession under the great and excelling tutor in the art of war, the invincible Gustavus Adolphus, for whose service he first transported a company of foot of his owne natione into Suethland about the year 1623.”

At the head of the same Scottish veterans who had stormed the castle of Oppenheim, Douglas, emulating a party of English volunteers under the Lord Craven, intrenched himself before the most exposed part of the approaches to this fortress, the first fire from which slew forty-seven of his men. Next day he stormed one of the gates, driving the garrison, which was composed of six hundred Walloons and Burgundians, out of the small town, and into the castle of Kansemberg, which, in point of situation, was considered the best in Germany; for the bastions rose above each other with an aspect so steep and formidable that they were popularly named the Devivs Works.

The garrison raked the streets with their demi-cannon and arquebuses-and, slaying many of the Scots, and among them a Captain Douglas, whose corslet failed against a bullet, which passed right through his heart. The castle was taken by storm, and Lieutenant-Colonel Douglas was made governor of Creutzenach protempore, until the recovery of Colonel Alexander Ramsay (who was lying wounded at Wiirtzburg) would permit him to assume the command. Fowler says that Douglas was to have held that office, "but a reverse of fortune made him captive.” He incurred the displeasure of Gustavus, and remained a prisoner until he returned to England, shortly before the fatal victory at Lutzen.

He was afterwards ambassador from Charles I. to Sweden and Poland, and died in 1635.

About the same time that Creutzenach and its castle on the mountain were taken, the rich and important town of Ulm on the Danube consented to receive a Swedish garrison of twelve hundred men. Sir Patrick Ruthven of Bandean, (in Perthshire,) then governor of Mariburg, and colonel of a Dutch regiment, was appointed commandant; and by his courage and vigilance he suppressed two dangerous conspiracies in their infancy. Gustavus never retained any generals on active service after they had completed their sixtieth year; therefore, when Sir Patrick reached that age, he made him governor of Ulm—a very respectable sinecure. He used jocularly to style him “field-marshal of the bottles and glasses,” for the old Perthshire laird could drink an enormous quantity, and preserve his senses to the last.

He could decide better in the field by his eye than in the cabinet by his ear, and bore a distinguished part in the Cavalier army of Charles I., who created him Lord Ruthven of Ettrick, earl of Forth and Brentford, general of horse, and governor of Edinburgh Castle; for, in extreme old age, he fought valiantly at the battles of Edgehill and Newberry.

While Hepburn remained inactive, his comrade Munro was despatched from Mentz, with a party of musketeers, to Bingen, a pleasant little town sixteen miles distant, on the Rhine, where a party of Sir James Ramsay’s regiment lay, occupying the town and an old square fortalice called the Mouse Tower, wherein, according to tradition, Hatto II., bishop of Mentz, was so fearfully punished for having taunted the poor who begged at his gates, “as rats and mice that eat up the com.” On this, legions of these vermin came swarming out of the city, the woods, and rocks. Hatto fied in horror, and took refuge in. this tower. Butinvain was his flight, for, according to a veracious chronicler, they swam the Rhine, the broad blue surface of which was covered with millions and myriads of great grey rats and mice, who scrambled up the walls of the tower, and gnawing and tearing their way through floors and windows, cracks and crevices, reached at last the inner chamber of the terrified Hatto, and devoured him alive.

Here Munro drew off a captain with a hundred Scots musketeers, according to his orders, and marched to Coblentz to succour Otto Louis the Rhinegrave, who, with his brigade of twenty troops of horse, was about to be attacked by ten thousand Spaniards and Walloons from Spire. Four regiments of Spanish horse, which fell suddenly on his quarters, (several open villages,) were bo warmly received and so resolutely charged by four troops of Swedish dragoons, led by Rittmaster Hume of Carrolside, (who on that night happened luckily to command the out-piquets,) that after losing three hundred men, who were slain, and the Earl of Nassau, who was taken prisoner, they were compelled to retreat, not only from the Rhinegrave’s cantonments, but even beyond the Moselle. Eight standards were captured, one of them by Rittmaster

Soon after Baccarach, a small town on the Rhine, twenty miles from Hepburn’s quarters, and another, named Shaule, were stormed by a party of Ramsay’s, muskesteers, led by Major Hana, who, in consequence of the resistance he encountered, put all within them to the sword, officers excepted.

Everywhere the troops of Gustavus were victorious!

Marshal Home’s soldiers drove back the foe at Heidelberg and Heilbrunn; while those of General Lowenhausen scoured all the shores of the Baltic, and on the 10th January 1632 obtained by capitulation, from the Imperialists, the Hanse town of Wismar, with its noble citadel, which had five lofty bastions defended by three thousand men under Colonel Grahame, a Scottish soldier of fortune who served the Emperor. He marched out with the honours of war, en route for Silesia. But, contrary to terms, having spiked the cannon, plundered the shipping, and slain a Swedish lieutenant, his troops were overtaken by Lowenhausen; a battle ensued; five hundred were slain and two thousand taken prisoners, with the colonel, who, after a gallant resistance, found himself marched a captive to Grifswald, another Hanse town on the Baltic, there to await a Swedish court-martial.

General Otto Todt was moving up the Elbe, towards Liineburg, at the head of fourteen thousand horse and foot. Among the latter were five battalions of Scots— viz., one of Lumsden’s, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Stuart; Lieutenant-General the Master of Forbes's regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Arthur Forbes; Sir Frederick Hamilton's regiment; Colonel Munro of Obstell’s regiment; Colonel Robert Lesly's old Scots regiment; and one English corps, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Vavasour, who bore all before them with their accustomed gallantry.

By the skill of his generals and the bravery of his auxiliaries, Gustavus made himself master of all Germany, from the waters of the Elbe to those of the Rhine, a distance of more than a hundred leagues, full of strong castles and fortified towns, most of which were governed by Scottish officers. So great was the terror excited by their achievements that, on his advancing towards the Moselle, and threatening to overrun Alsace and Lorraine, the vicinity of these Presbyterian soldiers to the Papal states alarmed Cardinal Richelieu, and furnished that able minister with a plausible argument for attempting to withdraw Louis XIII. from the Swedish alliance, by the circulation of a report that, after the conquest of Germany, it was their intention to join with the Huguenots for the subjugation of France, the passage of the Alps, the storming of Rome, and utter extirpation of the Catholic religion.

While Gustavus hovered on the Rhine, his generals in the other circles swept the whole length and breadth of the land with their victorious banners.

Todt, with Munro of Obstell and other Scottish and Swedish colonels, cleared the whole duchy of Mecklenburg, storming all the towns and fortresses in rapid succession. The Duke of Saxe-Weimar and Sir Francis Ruthven marched in other directions; Sir Patrick Ruthven advanced by the shores of the Bodinzee, driving the foe headlong before him, till the roll of his drums was heard among the stupendous crests of the Tyrolean Alps. Magdeburg was captured by General Banier; the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel reduced all Fulda, Paderbom, and the adjacent districts. The Elector, John George, was no less fortunate in Bohemia; and stout old Sir Alexander Leslie of Balgonie—the champion of the Covenant —with his Dutch and Swedish veterans, was soon to move like a cloud of battle over the plains of Lower Saxony.


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