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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XXVIII. Le Regiment D'Hebron


As the strongest attachment existed between this corps and their leader, who had been their companion in all the toils and dangers of the German wars, and as he was distinguished beyond all other officers in France for his chivalric daring and fortunate decision, the greatest achievements were confidently expected from them by King Louis and his court; nor were these expectations disappointed; and volumes would be required to relate the instances they displayed of valour and headlong courage in the new campaign in Germany, under the Cardinal de la Valette.

This celebrated Churchman assumed the supreme command in 1635, about the same time that the Marshal de Chatillon carried all before him in Luxembourg, defeating sixteen thousand Spaniards commanded by Prince Thomas de Carignan, with the loss of only fifty men, according to one account; of sixty troopers and two hundred foot according to another.

This century beheld three cardinal priests of the Sacred College, Richelieu, Sourdis, and La Yalette, accoutred in armour, and marching, sword in hand, at the head of their respective troops.

The greatest preparations were made by the first of these great ministers for carrying on the war with vigour, and the name of Hepburn is ever prominent.

"On the twentieth of this month,” says the Cardinal in one of his letters, “the Messieurs d’Angoulone and de la Force will be reinforced by Matignon’s regiment of horse and above two thousand five hundred gentlemen. Besides this, we shall have at Langres a body of eight hundred horse and one thousand dragoons to hinder the enemy's insults on that side. The levies of the Switzers are completed. We are raising twenty regiments (of foot) and four thousand horse, as I have already sent you word; and besides this we are going to raise two thousand horse of the new cavalry, about which you wrote me. They will carry a cuirass, a helmet to cover the cheeks and nose, a carabine and pistol; and I believe we shall call them the Hungarian Cavalry, unless Monsieur Hebron gives us a better name. There is no question but we shall have forces enough; all the difficulty will be to employ them well. Endeavours will be used on one side to beat back the Duke of Lorraine. As for you, my lord, I do not doubt but you will do what is possible. The King has not ordered what you are to do, but has such good opinion of your prudence and conduct that he leaves you to act at your own discretion; for he knows that you will weigh everything deliberately before taking the last resolution.” In September, Louis was to take the field at the head of fifteen thousand foot, to support the Cardinal; but, instead, he marched to the frontiers of Lorraine, to press the war more vigorously against Duke Charles.

Frequent quarrels and jealousies ensued between the regiment of Hepburn and that of Picardie, which was then commanded by Louis de Bethune, Comte, and afterwards Duc de Charost.

Raised in 1562, and being the oldest regiment in France, the latter were somewhat anxious, on all occasions, to obtain precedence, and take the right flank of le Rigiment de Hebron, which, in consequence of being incorporated with some of the Scottish Archer Guard, (which dated its origin to the days of St Louis and the eighth Crusade,) considered its right to certain military honours indisputable. The Regiment de Picardie treated these claims to antiquity with ridicule, as being somewhat overstrained, and gave Hepburn’s corps the sobriquet of Pontius Pilate'8 Guard, which the Royal Scots retain at the present day.

On one occasion, after a sharp dispute on some contested point of honour, a Scottish cavalier of Hepburn’s said, laughingly, to an officer of the regiment de Picardie—

“We must be mistaken, Monsieur; for, had we really been the guards of Monsieur Pontius Pilate, and done duty on the Sepulchre, the Holy Body had never left it implying that Scottish sentinels would not have slept on their posts, whereas those of the regiment de Picardie did.

Neither advantage nor glory accrued to France from placing the Cardinal de la Yalette at the head of an army; and not one event corresponded to the great measures he had concerted, although he had both Hepburn and Turenne with him.

Count Galas, the veteran and experienced general of the Emperor, had fixed his headquarters at Worms, from whence he daily sent forth detachments to ravage the country, and surprise the towns garrisoned by the Swedish allies of Louis XIII. Mansfeldt blocked up Mentz, and Galas stormed the strong town of Kaisers-lautern, where the old Yellow Brigade of the immortal Gustavus perished to the last man, in defence of the breaches, ere the Duke of Weimar could relieve them; and, pushing on from thence, had invested Deux-Ponts; hut the Duke’s army being by this time reinforced by La Yalette with eighteen thousand troops, among which was Hepburn’s strong regiment or division, the Imperial general was soon compelled to abandon his undertaking.

The united forces of the Counts of Galas and Mansfeldt amounted to twelve thousand horse and fifteen thousand foot; and, as the Duke of Lorraine was approaching to form a junction with them, it was feared he would burst into France, and by fire and sword avenge his outlawry and expulsion. Weimar and La Yalette did all in their power to oppose their progress; and to see a Protestant soldier and a cardinal priest, both in their helmets, riding side by side under the same banner, was considered somewhat remarkable in that age. During these operations, the Duke of Lorraine having obtained intelligence that Hepburn and the Cardinal de la Valette, with an escort of five hundred chosen cavalry, were proceeding, by a certain obscure route, with the military chest for the payment of the troops, made a bold attempt to intercept them among the mountains. Receiving some hint of his intentions, they fortunately escaped by a forced march, and before Duke Charles took possession of the point of attack, Hepburn and the Cardinal, with their convoy and treasure, had passed it.

By his superior numbers, Galas was enabled to make such dispositions that the Cardinal and his two camp marshals could neither forage with safety, nor fight him with any prospect of success. Their supplies were intercepted, and the French troops became reduced to the greatest straits: they had to subsist on roots and herbs which they gleaned about the mountain villages, and to forage their horses on the strewn leaves of the autumn woods; while sickness and fever thinned their ranks, and the incessant onslaughts and “outfalls” of the German Beiters and light-armed Croatian cavalry left them not a moment for rest or repose.

At the village of Fresche, the Duke of Lorraine fell unexpectedly upon the troops of Hepburn and Turenne, when a furious conflict ensued.

While the main body disputed the ground manfully with the fresh levies of Lorraine, Hepburn, by a circuitous route, led two hundred of his Scottish musketeers to a height on their left flank, while the Chevalier Orthe, a brave captain of the Regiment de Turenne, appeared with a hundred others on their right; and both at once poured in a cross fire, which threw the Lorrainers into immediate disorder. Following up the effect of this mousquetade Hepburn gave the order to "Charge” and rushing down the green hill-sides on both flanks, with that hardy enthusiasm which leaves no time for considering or calculating the danger incurred, the three hundred Scots and French fell on so furiously with their clubbed muskets that the soldiers of Lorraine were routed in an instant.

Famine and disease at last compelled the Cardinal to yield; but a contrivance of Duke Bernard saved him from ruin, and enabled their soldiers to make a more speedy retreat. He burned his own baggage as an example; Hepburn and other officers immediately destroyed theirs; the cannon were secretly dismounted and buried: and thus, completely disencumbered, the army commenced its homeward retreat towards St Avend, where one of their garrisons lay. But Galas twice overtook, and compelled them to seek the wilder mountain route towards Vaudervange, a town which had suffered severely during this protracted war. Crossing the Rhine at Bingen by a bridge of boats, they marched with the utmost rapidity, but the enemy were ever at their backs. Taking the post of danger, Hepburn covered the rear, and many a desperate stand was made by his sturdy Scots against the elated Imperialists. "They fought for eight days together almost without intermission, leaving the ways by which they retreated more remarkable by the blood of their enemies than by their own!

Without food, not daring to halt, and encumbered by their arms, armour, and ammunition, and suffering under all the misfortunes incident to want and excessive fatigue, the dejected French troops traversed the pathless woods and mountains of the district, pursued by the Imperialists, who covered all the country. One part of the army, chiefly Hepburn’s veteran Scots, marched with greater order and steadiness; but there were others who hoped, by escaping the vigilance of their officers, to throw themselves upon the enemy, that by being taken prisoners they might at least have the pangs of ravening hunger assuaged, or their miseries ended by death.

During this unhappy time Hepburn and the gallant Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne were as eminent for the manner in which they consoled and encouraged the disconsolate, the sick, and the weary, as for the spirit and decision with which they quelled the mutinous and disorderly. A number of sick and wounded, who were conveyed in baggage waggons, were at last abandoned to die by the way, to become the prey of the wolf, the eagle, or the death hunters—a band of female fiends who generally followed the army like a flock of vultures, to strip the dead and the wounded, many of whom perished under their knives and poniards. Of all the troops on this frightful retreat, it was generally remarked that none suffered less than the hardy Scots of le Rigiment de Hebron.

Marching on by day and night without a moment’s repose, they were at last, when reduced by various casualties to no more than sixteen thousand men, attacked by Galas, who, at the head of nine thousand Imperial cavalry, all splendidly mounted and freshly equipped, had rapidly traversed the duchy of Deux-Ponts, passed the Sarre, entered Lorraine, and waited for them among the heights between Vaudervange and Boulai.

There, in a narrow defile between the wooded mountains, a long and desperate conflict took place. Hepburn and his Scots behaved with a valour that was increased to desperation by the danger of their predicament; and by his skilfully posting them among the steep rocks that overhung the gorge, so close, deadly, and concentrated was the fire they poured upon the Imperial ranks, that the great masses of Galas's mail-clad cavalry were compelled to retire, leaving the mountain-path strewn for miles with killed and wounded men and horses, over which the retreating troops were compelled to pick their way.

After this the French and Scots marched to Pont-a-Mousson, the Swedes to Moyenvi^; while Galas, on being joined by his main body, encamped near Zagermunde, that he might be ready to join the Duke of Lorraine.

The latter had repossessed himself of several of his patrimonial castles and cities, and had been joined by a strong Imperial force under John de Werth. Their junction with Galas rendered them formidable enough to reduce all Lorraine, and winter on the confines of France if they chose. The greatest alarm prevailed in Paris; new councils of war were held, and the levy of a new army ordered: thus Hepburn’s friend, the great Richelieu found himself on the very brink of ruin, by the ebbing of that flood of war which, for the glory and aggrandisement of France, he had rolled beyond Lorraine—and thus, amid doubt and dread, closed the year 1635.


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