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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XXIV. Hepburn leaves the Swedish Army


A THICK mist arose, the night became cold and wet, and the poor wounded soldiers lay bleeding on the field. Many of them were half immersed in the water of the Rednitz, or buried under piles of dead men and horses, fallen stockades and breastworks—enduring thus additional miseries, which death terminated before morning.

By grey dawn the first thought of Gustavus was the Scottish musketeers of Sinclair and Munro, who lay far in advance among the rocks, immediately under the ruins on the Altenburg.

"Is any officer of the field near me?” he asked one of his attendants.

"There is none but the Colonel Hepburn,” was the reply; and that gallant soldier, who, having no post to repair to, had remained near him, and slept in his armour by the side of his charger, appeared immediately.

"Colonel Hepburn,” said Gustavus, "may I beg of you to make one visit to our poor soldiers on the Altenburg, and observe if there is any place from whence ordnance may act against the old castle*”

Notwithstanding his indignant threat never to serve again, touched by the trustful confidence of the King, and anxious to see how his old comrades were lodged, Hepburn rode to the position occupied by the wounded Munro and his gallant companions, and after a short time returned safely to Gustavus.

"I found, sire,” said he, "the Scottish musketeers almost buried among mud and water, but have discovered a piece of ground from whence, if the earth were raised a little, four pieces of battering artillery might be brought to bear against the Altenburg fortress, at the distance of only forty paces.”

“I had rather that you had found me a place at ten times that distance,” replied the King with emotion; "I cannot bear the thought of seeing my brave soldiers torn to pieces a second time.”

After a short consultation (continues Harte) Gustavus gave orders for a general retreat, before which he went in person to draw off the thousand Scots on the Altenburg; and seeing Munro so severely wounded that he was scarcely able to walk, he took that officer’s half pike, and; desiring him immediately to retire as fast as he could, closed up the rear of the whole, marching on foot like a subaltern officer.

Though a retreat was decided on, it was not put in execution for fourteen days after this affair, during which time the armies remained in view of each other without hostility, but suffering excessively by the scarcity of food, till the 14th of September, when, after leaving five thousand men (the Laird of Foulis’s regiment and four others) in Nuremberg under General Kniphausen, Gustavus marched from his trenches, and with drums beating and colours flying commenced a retreat towards Neustadt, leaving no less than ten thousand citizens and twenty thousand soldiers dead behind him, in and around Nuremberg; for such were the terrible effects of sickness, famine, and the casualties of war.

Around the city the summer fields and pastures were trampled into mire by the rolling cannon and marching' columns; villages were in ashes, and the plundered peasantry lay by the highways faint and dying; “dead bodies infected the air; and bad food, the exhalations from a population so dense, and from so many putrifying-carcasses, together with the heat of the dog-days, produced a desolating pestilence, which raged among men and beasts, and, long after the retreat of both armies, continued to load the country with misery and distress.”

The right wing led the van as Gustavus marched, and Bernard, duke of Saxe-Weimar, with a thousand horse, and Lieutenant-Colonel Sinclair with five hundred musketeers of the Green Brigade, covered the retreat of the whole army to Neustadt, where Gustavus halted for five days to refresh his troops.

Hepburn attached himself to the diminished retinue of his countryman the Marquis of Hamilton.

This noble, who had expected the full command of all the volunteers from Britain who followed the fortunes of Gustavus, on the dissolution of his forces petitioned for a new army, but was amused by the King with evasions and delays. High words ensued between them, and the haughty chief of Chatelherault repelled pride with pride, and defiance with defiance. In this quarrel Sir John Hepburn sided with the Marquis against Gustavus, who spoke somewhat bitterly of Charles I. Upon this, Hamilton at once laid down the nominal commission of general which he bore in the Swedish army.

At Neustadt, Sir John Hepburn took leave of Gustavus, and obtained permission to accompany the Marquis, who was about to return to London, together with Sir James Hamilton of Priestfield and Sir James Ramsay, called the fair colonel, who ended his life more peacefully than his namesake, the valiant governor of Wurtzburg, who in 1638 closed a long and brilliant career of military achievement in the castle of Dillingen, on the Danube, where he was cruelly starved to death, a prisoner of war in the hands of the Imperialists.

All the Scottish officers then serving in the Swedish army accompanied Hepburn and his three companions along the road a long German mile from Neustadt; and when the moment came that these gallant cavaliers were (as Colonel Munro says) to bid "a long good night to all their loving camarades, the separation was like that which death makes betwixt friends and the soule of man; being sorry that those who had lived so long together in amitie and friendship, also in mutuall dangers, in weale and woe, should part; fearing we should never meet againe, the splendour of our former mirth was overshadowed with a cloud of grief and sorrow which dissolved in mutuall teares.”

So parted these brave men—Hepburn, with the Marquis, Ramsay, and Hamilton, to pursue their journey to England by the way of France; while their comrades prepared for advancing to relieve Raine, on which duty we must leave them: but many a Iong and weary march under the summer sun and the winter storm, many a tentless bivouac and night of misery, many a day of blood and danger were before them ere again, on the banks of the Rhine, they saw their old commander, with his helmet on his brow, and in his hand the baton of a marfchal-de-camp. They had to capture Raine and Landsberg, to scour the shores of the Danube, to storm Kautbeuren, besiege Kempten, and fight the great battle of Nordlingen, where, on the 26th of August 1634, Munro’s regiment was literally cut to pieces, one company out of twelve alone surviving, but surviving in victory.

One month after Hepburn left him the great Gustavus fell. Exhausted by incessant toil, and decreased in numbers, the regiments of the Green Brigade had been ordered into Bavaria for quarters of refreshment, and before their departure he thanked them for their services and valour on all occasions, and then marched into Saxony, never to see his favourite soldiers again; for on the 6th November 1632, in a second battle near Leipzig, on the plains of Liitzen, he was slain by the Imperial cuirassiers; and it is remarkable that this unfortunate occasion was the first in which he had engaged the enemy without the mass of his Scottish troops.

He received five wounds in the body, and was shot through the head. With him were buried the hopes of the Elector Frederick, who, finding the Bohemian throne was lost to him for ever, died soon after of grief and chagrin. The blood-stained doublet of Gustavus is preserved in the arsenal of Vienna, and his plate armour now hangs in the armoury of Dresden.

His sword, which from the extent of his conquests was thought to be enchanted, was said to have been in possession of St Machars’ masonic lodge at Aberdeen, during the eighteenth century; but a second was shown in the arsenal at Stockholm, and a third at Vienna. His large-rowelled spurs, which were richly ornamented and gilt, are now preserved in the museum of the Scottish Antiquaries at Edinburgh.

"I told you I had promised my Lord Buchan a piece of antiquity for your collection,” says Sir G. Colquhoun, Bart., in a letter to the secretary, dated 8th July 1761. "I send you herewith a curious pair of spurs, which were taken off the heels of King Gustavus Adolphus, (when he was killed on the field of battle) by Col. Hugh Somerville, a Scottish gentleman, then his aide-de-camp.”


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