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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XIX. March into Bavaria - Capture of Donauworth


On a bright morning in the beginning of March, Hepburn’s brigade marched from Mentz for Frankfort Their aspect was changed since they had entered that city, with their harness dinted by many a battle, and rusted by the winter storms, by long bivouacking in fields and ditches, rarely in tents or cantonments. Their armour and accoutrements were now all polished till they shone like silver in the spring sunshine, as with their green silk standards unfurled, and their drums beating and tall pikes glittering, the three regiments of the brigade crossed the Rhine by the pontoon bridge. Lord Reay’s kilted Highlanders, with pipes playing and matches lighted, formed the leading column of the brigade, which, conform to his orders, Hepbum marched straight to Frankfort on the Maine. From thence they advanced in one day to Aschaffenburg, more than thirty miles distant,—a long march, when the weight of the morions and corslets, muskets and accoutrements, of the soldiers is considered.

Reay bad several pipers, only one of whom survived in 1635, when the Green Brigade entered France.

In the fields before that place the brigade was reviewed on the 6th March, by Gustavus, the fugitive king of Bohemia, and the Marquis of Hamilton, attended by all the cavaliers and men of rank who accompanied the court.

Crossing the Maine by a stately bridge of stone, Hepburn’s column wound on its way among the fields that border the Aschaff, under the shelter of a wooded mountain; and next morning, before the dawn was glinting on the red spires of the Electoral Palace, commenced the march towards Bavaria, which the King had resolved to invade, and clear of the Imperialists.

Passing through Lohr and Gemunden, two towns on the Maine, Hepburn halted for the night of the 7th March at Karlstadt, on the Bavarian frontier, and twelve miles distant from Ramsay’s garrison at Wurtzburg. There thirty-six troops of horse, led by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, joined him.

On the 8th, after traversing those fertile districts that border on the great river which forms the Franconian boundary, he halted in the Bailliwick of Dettelbach, and formed a junction with the main army under the King.

On the 9th they marched again, leaving their quarters in flames behind them, an accident for which the Scottish regiment of Alexander, lord Spynie (called Lord Spence in mistake by Munro,) was blamed by the King. That night they were cantoned in their old quarters at Oxenford, and on the 10th at Weinsheim. The season was now spring; the air was mild, the country rich and fertile, affording the soldiers plenty of food and good wine.

There, on the banks of the Aisch, the Green Brigade were again reviewed by Gustavus and the Bohemian king, who complimented the gallant Hepburn on the fine appearance and distinguished bravery of his soldiers. The latter naturally admired in others those qualities in which he was so deficient, and had a deep interest in the Scottish troops, as being the countrymen of Elizabeth Stuart, his beautiful and high-spirited queen. There were twenty thousand horse and foot on the ground that day, with all their cannon, baggage, and caissons.

After this review the whole poured on towards Bavaria, defeating, as they advanced, the same general who had formerly been captured by the Scottish Colonel Edmond, the great Count de Bucquoi, who was severely wounded, and retreated with the loss of one hundred and ninety- six of his soldiers killed and captured. Then pressing on, the army hoped to encounter their old antagonist the Count Tilly, who, after. repulsing Marshal Home, and capturing Bamberg, had retired towards the granite mountains that overlook the green plains of the Danube.

While the King continued advancing, the Rex-Chancellor Oxenstiera, who had remained with a strong force to guard his conquests on the Rhine, repelled the Spaniards, who had again crossed the Moselle with the intention of relieving Frankenthal. The Chancellor and Duke Bernard of Weimar advanced against them, and a sharp encounter ensued. The Dutch, who formed the Chancellor’s first column, here resorted to their old ruse of beating the Scottish March as they approached the glittering dines of the Spanish arcabuziers, whose steady fire soon threw them into disorder, and, on being charged, they fled en masse.

Immediately upon this, the Scottish regiment of Sir Ludovick Leslie and the battalion of Sir John Ruthven, whose officers “were all valiant Scots, Lievtennant-Colonell John Lesly, Major Lyell, Captaine David King, and divers other resolute cavaliers" fell on with sword and levelled pike, and drove the Spaniards before them headlong in confusion. So furious was their charge, and so complete the victory, that the Psatzgrave Christian, in applauding their conduct, declared to the Chancellor of Sweden, in front of the whole line, “that had it not been for the valour of that Scots Briggad,” the day would have been lost, and the Spaniards victorious.

On the 26th March, Gustavus displayed his banners before Donauworth, where he was joined by the Laird of Foulis, with his two regiments of horse and foot.

In a fertile district, where in summer the yellow corn, the light-green vine, and the broad-leaved tobacco plant cover the hills with their luxuriance, stands Donauwdrth, the key to Swabia, and the, capital of a Bavarian bailliwick, guarded by a fortified mountain, the Schellemberg. Strong by its ditches and embattled walls, the town guarded the passage of the Danube, where a toll was paid by all who passed the bridge; and Rodolph Maximilian, duke of Saxe-Lauenburg, (the same gallant noble whose strength and courage rescued Tilly at Leipzig,) occupied the city with two thousand two hundred men— twelve hundred being Austrian infantry, five hundred Cronenberg’s horse, and five hundred the trained bands of Bavaria. With these Rodolph had resolved that, without paying toll by the lives of his bravest soldiers, Gustavus should never pass that far-famed river.

Night was descending, and the lofty precipices—which are covered with drooping pines, and crowned with feudal castles, (ruined now, but then in the noon of their strength and pride,) the seats of those German tyrants of the middle ages, whose avarice, brutality, and reckless disregard of right and wrong are so vividly pourtrayed by Froissart—were growing dark as the Swedish army approached the rocky shores of this deep and rapid river, whose waters, from their source in the recesses of the Black Forest to their confluence with, the Black Sea, traverse nearly two thousand miles, “whose waves have witnessed the march of Attila, and whose shores have echoed to the blast of the Boman trumpet, the hymn of the Crusader, and the wild haloo of the sons of Islam.”

The roar of the thundering river (for such its name imports it to be) was now lost in the deeper din of the artillery with which Duke Bodolph greeted the army of Gustavus, who posted a strong force on the height which overhung the town, and lay between it and the Danube. The Bavarian troops, who occupied a partly-erected fort on the summit, retired into the town through a gallery as the Swedes approached.

This fort was without cannon. At its base lay a handsome suburban street, which, led straight to a gate of the town. In this suburb Gustavus posted five hundred musketeers to prevent a sortie, while on the hill-side his pioneers worked the whole night, without a moment’s cessation, and by daybreak on the morning of the 27th had completed a twenty-gun battery, which was guarded by a body of infantry under the Scottish captain Semple. These cannon were pointed in such a manner, that, when firing in unison with the musketeers in the suburbs below, they swept the walls of the town on one hand, and flanked the whole bridge of the Danube on the other.

A trumpeter was sent to demand a surrender. "The king Gustavus," replied the gallant Rodolph, "knoweth better than any man living the duty of men who have nothing to rely on but their honour and the point of the sword. We have no tribute to pay, except in gunpowder.”

On this the battery opened, and there ensued, on both sides, a cannonade which lasted the whole day. The Swedes fired principally upon a long stone edifice, which stood close by the river side, and was occupied by two troops of Cronenberg’s horse, and a company of infantry. The walls were rent, the roof dashed in, and many were slain before the place was abandoned, after which the whole fury of the cannonade was poured upon the gates of the town. Night came on dark and cloudy, but still the boom of the cannon continued without intermisision, and the troops remained in their ranks, watchful and on the alert.

It was fortunate they did so; for, favoured by the gloom and obscurity of the smoke that had settled on the dark bosom of the Danube, a troop of Cronenberg’s Reiters, in full armour, rode softly to the town gate, and, issuing out at full speed, cut a passage through the musketeers in the suburb. Galloping up the hill, they fell sword in hand upon the artillery, most of which they spiked; and, after cutting to pieces the guard under Captain Semple, retired at a furious gallop down the declivity and into the town, the gates of which were again closed upon their entrance.

Semple was put under arrest; but being in no way to blame, was pardoned at the intercession of several Scottish general officers.

The acute and able Hepburn now advised Gustavus "to consider the situation of the town with fresh attention,” pointing out to him "an angle of the ground to the westward, formed by the influx of the Wernitz into the Danube, which angle commanded the bridge that crossed the river and led to Bavaria.”

Immediately on receiving this advice, Gustavus, perceiving its value, with thanks ordered him to take possession of that point with his brigade, for he knew the service was one of importance, as it would flank the bridge, and cut off all means of relief and retreat from the garrison of Rodolph.

Drawing off his brigade with its field-pieces, Hepburn, after marching for five miles up the Danube, crossed the river at the bridge of Hasfort, and descended on the opposite bank until he came opposite Donauworth, on the Swabian shore, where, with the utmost silence and precision, about midnight, he posted his cannon in such a manner as to sweep, point-blank, the whole length of the bridge. He then placed the musketeers of the brigade, in platoons of one hundred each, behind the garden walls and hedges of a suburb that faced the river, all posted admirably; so that, while their fires crossed each other, they all bore directly upon the bridge of* the Danube and the western gate of Donauworth. The pikemen were drawn up in three close columns on the roadway, each having the drums and colours of their battalion in the centre. These preparations were scarcely completed when the enemy became alarmed, and resolved to give this active young brigadier an alert.

Either the clank of armour had been heard by the Bavarians, or they had seen the masses of men moving amid the obscurity on the Swabian side of the river, for Duke Bodolph, finding his retreat cut off, while the March morning was yet cold and dark, sallied boldly out at the head of eight hundred musketeers.

"Open pans, musketeers—give fire!” cried Hepburn, as the dark column debouched upon the bridge.

The firearms flashed redly over the stone walls and through the budding hedgerows, and, pouring a leaden storm along the bridge, swept it from end to end; the field-pieces belched forth, and their redder glow gleamed on the rapid Danube as their discharges made so many distinct lanes through the approaching Bavarians, who fell into immediate disorder and precipitately retired, leaving the way strewn with u dead bodyes, which even covered the most part of the bridge, and foulely encumbered the whole passage of it.”

More rashly courageous than his soldiers, the gallant Duke of Saxe-Lauenberg, escaping the cannon and musketry, dashed spurs into his horse, and, sword in hand, cut a passage through the pikemen, and escaped, leaving his garrison to its fate.

While the artillery now opened against Donauworth upon the opposite side, and the rapid roar of fireartns announced that Gustavus had assailed the gate called the Lederthor, Hepburn, ever the first in the breach and the foremost in the charge, put spurs to his horse, and crying u Advance pikemen!—forward musketeers! ” led them across the corpse-heaped bridge, and, entering with the fugitives, penetrated into the very heart of the town, fighting on, amid bristling pikes and the incessant flashes of arquebuses and muskets, levelled from every roof and window on his Scottish ranks; while the sullen boom of the Swedish artillery, which echoed with a thousand reverberations among the beetling cliffs that overhung the river, has been likened by more than one writer to the sound of thunder among their peaks.

“The night was dark, and the thick mist allowed Naught to be seen save the artillery's flame, Which arched the horizon like a fiery cloud, And in the Danube’s waters shone the same."

"A mirrored hell! the volleying roar and loud Long booming of each peal on peal, o’ercame The ear far more than thunder; for Heaven’s flashes Spare, or smite rarely.”

Prodigal of life, and heedless who were slain, if some survived for glory and Gustavus, the brigade poured into Donauworth, led by Hepburn, who was ably seconded by Major Sidserf of Ramsay’s regiment— "a cavalier both prudent and valorous.” Four hundred Bavarians were slain, and as many more were taken captive in the passage of the bridge. Many poor Jesuits and monks fell in the confusion among the soldiers, and were killed.

Amid the grey twilight of the dawning day, the conflict and slaughter with sword, pike, and bullet, continued in the streets, which were encumbered by the heavily-laden baggage-waggons of the Bavarians and Austrians, an immense number of whom were drowned in the Danube, into which they recklessly threw themselves. Five hundred more were cut down before quarter was granted by the excited Scots, who had thus made themselves masters of the key to Swabia before Gustavus and his Swedes had even achieved the passage of the Leathergate.

"Sir John Hepbume being thus gotten in,” says the editor of the Intelligencer, "and having first cut in pieces all resistance, his souldiours fall immediately to plundering, when many a gold chaine, with much other plate and treasure of the enemie, were made prize of.” Gustavus gave strict orders that nothing should be pillaged but the baggage of the Bavarians, a thousand of whom took service under his standard, and then deserted in ten days after.

At sunrise, when the uproar and carnage of the assault were over, the King sent for Hepburn. Through streets encumbered with rifled waggons, dismounted cannon, broken drums and arms, and terrified citizens wandering wildly among dead and dying soldiers—through whose coats of buff and iron the blood was running to the swollen gutters that crimsoned the Danube—he made his way to a handsome house which had escaped the cannon-shot, and where he found Gustavus with Frederick of Bohemia, the long-bearded Augustus of Psalzbach, and other men of rank, resting from the fatigues of the past night, with their armour unbuckled, and flagons of cool Rhenish before them.

In their presence Gustavus thanked him for his good service, ascribing the whole honour of the capture to his courage and good counsel in outflanking the town by the Hasfort bridge, and for having achieved that desperate service with so little loss.

In modest silence Hepburn received this tribute of praise, and immediately repaired to his brigade, which was ordered to recross the Danube, and throw up a strong half-moon at the foot of the bridge, the post of danger, and close by the battered building in which Cronenberg’s Reiters had been so severely cannonaded.


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