Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XXVII. Hepburn crosses the Rhine


In all French works of the period, Hepburn’s name is invariably spelt Hebron, and sometimes Esbron, Pere Daniel gives the following reason:—

"Le Chevalier Hepburn,” says he, when writing of the regiment de Douglas, "etoit un homme d’un mdrite distingu, qui fut fort aim£ du Roy Henri IV. et de Louis XIII.; on l’appelloit en France le Chevalier d’Hebron,’ son nom de Hepbume Stant difficile ci prononcer.” But the reverend father was mistaken, so far as regarded Henry IV.

On the fall of La Mothe, as no other place in Lorraine dared to hold out for the ancient lords of the province, Sir John Hepburn received orders to rejoin and cooperate with the Marshal de la Force, who, with twenty-five thousand infantry and four thousand cavalry, was on his march towards the German frontier, to oppose the Imperial army which was preparing to enter Lorraine.

In obedience to these orders, at the head of his own and six other regiments of pikemen and musketeers, seven squadrons of horse and a train of artillery, on the 19th December he crossed the Rhine and advanced to Mannheim, where he took up a position near the river and town, which had been strongly fortified thirty years before; but its situation, being lower than the Rhine, was so unhealthy as to render active operations immediately necessary, and he sent forward parties of cavalry to reconnoitre the Imperialists, who were about to form a junction with the troops of the Marquis d’Aytona, and those of Prince Thomas de Carignan, brother of the Duke of Savoy.

Having thus with the vanguard so boldly secured the passage of the Rhine, and enabled the Marshal de la Force to cross that important river with all his army, Hepburn next pushed on with his column to relieve Heidelberg, marching by the beautiful vale of the Neckar, in view of the ruin-crowned rocks of the Oden-wald, which were covered with vineyards, forests, and moss-grown orchards, then, however, leafless and bare, for the season was winter. One day’s journey brought him to that ancient city, which is situated on the margin of the Neckar, and is overshadowed by the dark mountain of the Geissberg. There a small garrison of his old brothers in arms, the Swedish veterans of Gustavus Adolphus, were defending themselves with characteristic resolution against an overwhelming force of Imperialists.

The famous capuchin, Father Joseph du Tremblay, usually accompanied the French army at this time, and, as he pretended to have great skill in military matters, frequently contrived to thrust himself into councils of war, and would there give his opinion with the utmost confidence to the oldest and most distinguished of the French marshals.

As the army approached the Rhine, he was one day, during a halt on the march, exhibiting his talents in this manner to Hepburn, and, with a large map spread before him, was pointing out a number of strongly-fortified towns, which he affirmed could be reduced with the greatest ease. Leaning against a culverin with a baton in his hand, and his helmet open, Hepburn listened for a time to the garrulous capuchin, as he pointed from fortress to fortress, and then said with a smile—

"Go not so fast, good Father Joseph, for, believe me, towns are not taken with a finger-end,” a reply which became a current jest or anecdote in the French army for many years after. This capuchin was the spy, the friend, and tyrannical favourite of Cardinal Richelieu, that terrible Father Joseph, who was then styled “his "Grey Eminence,” and who now figures so prominently in the romances of de Vigny and Dumas. Acting as the Cardinal’s secret informer, he kept a strict watch over all the leading nobles and the generals of the army.

A frightful character is given of him in a work published in 1635, entitled La Verits Defendue, and in his own memoirs, which are also given to the world.

The season, we have said, was winter; the mountains were mantled with snow, and, swollen by the dissolving ice, the Neckar foamed on its winding way towards the Rhine through the rocky gorges of the valley; and the boom of the adverse cannon reverberated incessantly among the oak-covered summits of the Geissberg, and the darker rocks of the Kaiserstuhl. High and hoary, the stately electoral palace, from the steep brow of the Juttenbuhl, overlooked the city, on the close roofs of which a stone might have been thrown from its broad paved terraces. It was then, or shortly after, according to Ray, an old traveller, enclosed by a strong wall and deep ditch. An inscription over the gate imported it to have been built by Louis V. in 1519, but several parts, called the English Buildings, had been added. These were erected immediately under the eye of the same Elizabeth Stuart for whom Hepburn and so many Scottish cavaliers had drawn the sword; and she had tastefully fashioned it after the florid architecture of her happy Scottish home—the old palace by the loch of Linlithgow. Now the Heidelberg is one of the most imposing ruins in Europe, and is embalmed in the annals of renown for its long-passed glories and its mighty tun, which held five hundred and twenty-eight hogsheads of wine.

Hepburn broke the blockade of the Imperialists sword in hand, and after several sharp conflicts, in which he always fought at the head of his own regiment, and showed the most brilliant courage, he drove them completely out of the vale of the Neckar, and relieved the exhausted Swedish veterans, who, on the 23d December, gladly delivered over to him the strong city and castle of Heidelberg, with all their cannon.

On thus obtaining this important post from his allies, King Louis sent orders to the Marshals de la Force, de Br£z£, and Hepburn, not to move beyond the mountains of the Bergstrasse until both Mannheim and Heidelberg were fortified as well as their situation would permit and in the mean time one hundred and fifty thousand more troops were levied in France for the next campaign. The expenses of the war were so enormous that the treasury soon became exhausted; and such vast bodies of troops were poured toward the German frontier that Paris was left open and defenceless.

However, the Marshal de la Force and Hepburn, whether with or without orders it is impossible to say, marched to Landau, where they formed a junction with the Swedish army of Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, who had long been hovering on the Rhine, and holding at bay the Counts of Galas and Mansfeldt, two generals of the Empire. By the result of the Diet of Worms, it was decided that the troops of Duke Bernard should be taken into the pay of France. They consisted of four thousand horse and seven thousand foot, the latter being almost entirely Scotsmen. "This was a small army,” says the old author of Richelieu’s Memoirs, "but there were none save brave and experienced men in it; and the officers were all soldiers of fortune, who expected to raise their fame by the sword alone.”

These veterans were the remnants of the thirteen gallant Scottish regiments that had served Gustavus Adolphus so long, and among these were all that survived of the Green Brigade, (the regiments of Bamsay and Munro, the latter reduced, as we have said, to one company after the slaughter of Nordlingen,) and Hepburn’s own corps, which had served with him twice in Bohemia. All greeted their old commander with acclamation and joy, by beating the Scottish march as he approached, while a deafening cheer rang along their sunburnt lines, and the last solitary piper of Mackays Highlanders blew long and loudly a note of welcome on the great war-pipe of the north and, as they all wished to "take service” under him in France, the whole were incorporated into one corps, to be styled in future Le Rigiment de Hebron.

It consisted of 3 field-officers—viz., the colonel, the Lieutenant-Colonel Munro, and Major Sir Patrick Monteith; 45 captains; 1 captain-lieutenant; 45 lieutenants; 48 ensigns; 4 surgeons; 6 adjutants; 2 chaplains; 1 drum-major; 1 piper; 88 sergeants; 288 corporals; 288 lance-pesades; 96 drummers; and 48 companies, consisting of 150 musketeers and pikemen each—making a grand total of 8316 men; and forming altogether, when their experience and valour, spirit, bearing, and splendour of equipment are considered, one of the finest regiments that ever unfurled its banners in battle. In itself, it represented many other corps; the Bohemian bands of Sir Andrew Gray, all the Scottish regiments of Gustavus, and even the Scottish Archer Guard of the French kings, to which venerable body many of its officers belonged.

This regiment was ordered by Louis XIII. to take the right of all others then being embodied.

“The king has granted to Colonel Hepburn,” says Richelieu in a letter to the Cardinal de la Valette, "the ransom of Metternich, and to his regiment precedence before all the new ones of twenty companies that have been raised since.”

Several Scottish officers still remained in the service of Sweden, but Marshal Leslie quitted the army of Queen Christiana two years after this period. At Melville House in Fifeshire there is still preserved a document entitled, “Passport, under the seal and signature of King Charles, to Sir Alexander Leslie of Balgonie, Equitem Auratumdated at Westminster, 20th March, 1637,” by which that wary old Presbyterian chief secured a safe-conduct home, to unsheath his sword against the very monarch who granted it. Many who never returned to Scotland attained the highest honours in the land of their adoption: the chief of these was Field-Marshal Sir Robert Douglas, of the house of Whittinghame in East Lothian, who became Councillor of Sweden, and of the college of war, Lord of Shalby, Hochstaten, and Earl of Schonengem. He died on the 14th June 1662 at Stockholm, where he was solemnly interred, his magnificent funeral being attended by the queen and court. “First marched four companies of horse in their armour, carrying the muzzles of their pistols downward, one beating the kettle-drums, and three trumpets riding before them; five companies of foot carrying their muskets under their left arms and trailing their pikes.” His obsequies were of the most gorgeous description; the several pieces of his armour were borne on cushions of velvet, together with a hundred standards taken by his brigade in battle, each being borne by an officer in black. The funeral sermon lasted three hours; and, when the body was lowered into the vault, one hundred and twenty pieces of cannon were twice discharged, while “all the horse and foot souldiers gave two pales of shot.”

He was among the last surviving of the Scottish veterans of Gustavus Adolphus.


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