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The Scot Abroad
Chapter 2 - The Soldier - Part 3


"In March 1756 the King found time, and was in the humour, to listen to proposals addressed to his artistic taste. Keith became the medium of ordering pictures from the Italian painters, Pompeo Battoni and Constanzo; also from the then celebrated Mengs, whom the King wished to paint for him two pictures, for which he proposes as suitable subjects ‘The Education of Adonis’ and ‘The Judgment of Tiresias.’ The prices to be paid, and the conclusion of the business, he leaves altogether to Keith’s decision and judgment; who in April, during his journey through the country to Karlsbad, arranges the affair in Dresden, -and sends the pictures, together with the correspondence about them, to the King. On this Frederick answers: ‘My dear Field-Marshal,—I send you back your correspondence about the pictures, thanking you for the trouble you have taken in the affair. Would you have the kindness to order the two pictures from Mengs, and to tell me to whom and by whom I should have the money placed, so that I may pay in advance on my return from Magdeburg? I hope with all my heart that the waters may do you all the good possible, assuring you of the high esteem and friendship which I shall preserve for you all my life.'

The soldier who puts his sword at the command of a foreign power, whether from merely mercenary or from higher motives, cannot expect that lofty fame which attends the patriot hero. There are few interested in immortalising him. It is not a pleasant task to the historian of the country he has served, to dwell on the merits and achievements of the stranger, and give him the fame of their national victories. The enemy cannot be expected to sound his praise; and to his own countrymen he is in some measure a deserter. Whether it be from the natural propensity of the biographer to construct a hero, or from the influence of honest truth, the German biographer gives Keith a far more important place in the Seven Years’ War than one finds usually assigned to him. He felt as every native of this country should feel, a loathing at the waste of human life he had seen in Russian operations; and from Frederick’s difficulty of getting troops, and his policy of making them valuable by training, an economical commander was a great object to him. Here are some of the incidents of the campaign of 1757. When Frederick had recovered from his great disaster, had fought the battle of Prague, and was besieging that town, Keith’s division was seriously endangered by an attempt at a surprise. "During the night between the 23d and the 24th of May, Prince Charles of Lorraine, with twelve thousand men, made a violent attack on Keith’s post. The best Austrian troops were chosen for this purpose; the greater part of their cavalry, the whole of the grenadiers, and sixteen volunteers out of each ordinary company, had formed before the ramparts, to take immediate advantage of every success, and to cut their way through the Prussian line. Brandy was distributed to the men, and the assurance was given at the same time that a French army would attack the Prussian rear. In dead silence the troops marched out of the camp under the command of General Laudon, arranged themselves in battle array, and then pressed forwards towards the left wing of the Prussian army. At about half-past one the first shots were fired. Keith was immediately on horseback, and gave orders; in fifteen minutes the Prussians stood ready. The troops in the intrenchments, which were first stormed, fought bravely, and kept the enemy’s superior force at bay until they received support. Reiterated assaults were vigorously driven back. At three o’clock Keith himself appeared on the front, and flung the Austrians back, with the loss of 1000 killed and wounded. . . . The King, who heard of the battle in his camp at Saint Michael, on the other side of the Moldau, without being able to participate in it, was much delighted at Keith’s victory, and hoped to reap great results from it. He wrote, May 24, in his own handwriting: "My dear FieldMarshal,—The night of the 23d will prove as decisive as the day of the 6th. I thank Heaven for the advantages which you have gained over the enemy—above all, for the a light loss which we have sustained. I hope now, more than ever, that all that race of Austrian princes and gueuz will be obliged to lay down their arms. It is possible for four thousand men to attack Kirschfeldt; but the Austrians from Prague undertake more than their forces are capable of accomplishing in attacking a corps of my alert and well-posted troops. I believe that the honour of the generals will force them to make another attempt on my position; but if that fails, and if the bombardment makes some progress, all will be well. I salute you, my dear Field-Marshal, with all my heart—FREDERICK"

In a postscript he again refers ‘with glee to Ie peu de pert.

The ordinary histories state how, in October 1757, Keith was driven into Leipzic, and there held out till relieved by the King; but the biographer tells us a good deal more. "On October the 22d, Keith informed the King that the enemy were advancing towards Leipzic — both French and Imperialists. It appeared impossible to hold the town against such a superior force. But Frederick wrote from Grochwitz on the 23d: ‘You will not be attacked by these people at Leipzic; they fear destroying the town; but as they are growing audacious now, I flatter myself that, in marching towards them, a battle may ensue which will rid me of them.’ Besides this the King promises speedy help; Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick is advancing round by Halle, and he himself only waits for Prince Maurice of Dessau to march on Leipt also. Keith promised to hold out, although he did not conceal the fact that, in the case of a serious attack, he would be lost; for the place had scarcely any fortifications left, and he was destitute of ammunition — even cartridges. On the 24th of October, Austrian hussars appeared, against whom Keith sent a party, who skirmished with them for three hours. On the same day a division of the enemy’s army, consisting of more than 8000 men, followed, and summoned the Prussians to surrender in the name of the Prince of Hildburghausen, who commanded the Imperial army. Counting all the men hurriedly collected by Keith out of Halle, Merseburg, and Weiszenfels, his forces scarcely amounted to 4000 men. The Prince of Hildburghansen and the Prince of Soubise had already been informed at Nurenburg, on the 22d, that the number did not exceed this, and had joked a great deal about that ‘army;’ they scarcely expected resistance. But Keith let them know, through the cornmandants of the town, that he would defend it to the last man, and in his own name he added: ‘Tell the Prince of Hildburghausen that by birth I am a Scotchman, by choice arid duty a Prussian; and I am determined so to defend the town that neither the Scotch nor the Prussians shall be ashamed of me. The King my master has commanded me to keep the place, and I shall keep it.’ The next morning early he assembled the town-council before him, and made the following address to them: ‘I must inform you, gentlemen, that the Prince of Hildburghausen has sent me a summons to surrender the town to him, which, however, I am not going to do. He threatens, in case of a refusal, to resort to extreme measures. Thus he sets me an example to do so likewise; and so to him you must impute the misfortune to which your town is exposed. If you wish to avoid this, I advise you to go to him, and persuade him, for your sakes, and those of the rest of the inhabitants, to spare the town, for otherwise I will burn the suburbs on the first news of his attack; and if that will not stop him, I shall go and not even spare the town.’ The delegates could make nothing of the Prince; he would grant no more than permission to the Prussians to leave the town unhindered. When Keith rejected a second summons, and also this degrading offer, the Prince was enraged, and sent him a message to say, that if Leipzic was set on fire he would lay Berlin and Potsdam in ashes. Keith laughed at this threat, and made every preparation for defence, had trenches dug, ramparts raised, and set hussars and riflemen to skirmish with the enemy. Frederick wrote to Keith from Eulenburg, October 25th: ‘Be easy; the Prince of Hildburghausen will not eat you; I will answer for it.’ And Keith answered on the 26th: ‘I have just received the letter in which your Majesty tells me that you are going to bring me powder, artillery, and everything needful. When I have that; he who wishes to eat me will perhaps find me a very tough morsel.’

There is not perhaps very much colour in the following sketch of Keith’s social character, but it gives glimpses of a fine nature: "The friendly intimacy between Keith and the King was never shaken, unless that sometimes the press of business and the emergencies of warfare called forth a hasty or harsh word, which, however, never awakened anger in Keith, and was soon followed by expressions of confidence and affection from the King. All Frederick’s generals had to suffer from his bad humour, but he no less from their touchiness and Jealousy. Winterfeldt and Keith were exceptions; and Keith was the least burdensome to the King through discontent and ambition, agreed with his brother officers, obeyed and commanded with the same zeal, and led the smallest corps as willingly as he would a whole army. He stood on amicable terms with Sehwerin. Schmettau was devoted to him; Winterfeldt enjoyed his esteem; Seydlitz md Zieten seemed, without any near personal relation, to hold by him. The only person spoken of as really an enemy of Keith is Prince Maurice of Dessau, who tried secretly to slander him to the King; but that brave, but at the same time unsociable and reckless prince, who could not speak French, and only stuttered German, had consequently very few collisions with Keith; and when he once, in Dresden, in a fit of hypocrisy or humour, showed Keith the most enthusiastic devotion, and even kissed his saddle-cloth, Keith responded only with a smile, and the words ‘Good, good!’ which Kalckreuth interprets as, ‘Be off! I don’t believe you.’

His end was that which the true soldier desires. He was killed by a cannon-shot in the great battle of Hochkirche in 1758. Besides other and more conspicuous commemorations, his monument, with Metastasio’s inscription, was placed in the village church of Hochkirche by his cousin Sir Robert Murray Keith, who thus writes about it: "Lord Marischil has agreed to my erecting a decent gravestone to the memory of his late brother, and in the place where he fell. They sent me two inscriptions, but they were long and languid. I have engaged Baron Hagen and his friend Metastasio to touch me up something manly and energetic; and in the course of this summer my tribute of veneration for the memory of a brave and honest man will be recorded in monumental marble."

Besides Keith, there were many—one is inclined to think, too many—Scotsmen employed in the construction and consolidation of the power of Russia. Our old friend Sir Thomas Urquhart, writing before the middle of the seventeenth century, professes to give a list of "those Scottish colonels that served under the great Duke of Muscovy against the Tartar and Polonian." Of these, one very conspicuous man, Thomas Garne or Garden, was elected king of Bukharia "for the height and grossness of his person— being in his stature taller, and greater in his compass of body, than any within six kingdoms about him." Urquhart, who professes to have been acquainted with this giant and who maintains that his mental was as conspicuous as his corporeal superiority, states that, on account of a small personal sacrifice that was required of him, he declined the Mohammedan principality, and remained in the Muscovite service. The bearded grim old Dalyell of Binns was bred in the same service, and hence his paroxysm of rage on being called at the council-board "a Muscovy beast, who had roasted men."

Gordons seem to have been in great force in the court and camp of Peter the Great. One of them, a general, wrote a life of the Czar; another wrote what is far more interesting, his own life in the form of a diary, from which I have drawn the following sketches :-

Gordon was a native of Buchan. Washington Irving attributed in a great measure to the influence of the fine scenery of the Hudson, that genial and imaginative turn of mind which has made his works so pleasing. Perhaps the scenery of Buchan had its influence in toning the intellect of Patrick Gordon. The staple of the district is a flat cake of granite, which nature has clothed inland with heather and seaward with sand, although the indomitable perseverance of the inhabitants has made many an acre smile in grain and pasture. How hard their struggle has been is exemplified by one parish, which, after being rescued from barrenness, was again, in one night, covered deep in sand; the walls of the church may be seen peeping through the yellow waste. This unlovely district signally contradicts the theory that grand scenery is necessary to the production of great men. Perhaps it has not given much to the world in the shape of esthetics or the lyre—though there are a set of curious poems in "broad Buchan." But it has supplied men of the clearest brains, the strongest arms, and the most determined wills, to a country in which these commodities have never been wanting.

There is something savouring of granite and east wind in the harsh nomenclature of Gordon’s surroundings. The paternal estate—dreary and sterile enough, no doubt—bore the name of Auchleuchries, of old a dependency of the barony of Ardendraught. Then we have among his ancestry Ogilvy of Blarac, and the Gordons of Pitlurg, of Straloch, and of Coclarachy, and their feudal foe, Strachan of Achnagat, and Patrick’s neighbour, Buchan of Auchmacoy, with whom, after he has become a great man, he has a merry rouse and a reminiscence of auld langsyne at my Lord Chancellor’s table. To such topographical characteristics might be added Bothmagoak, Ardendracht, Auchmedane, Auckmyliny, Kynknoky, Auchquhorteis, Creichie, Petuchry, and others equally adapted for pronunciation by Cockney lips.

Patrick was born in 1635. His father was not the laird but "the gudernan" of Auchleuchries—an important distinction in the homely hierarchy of ranks beyond the Grampians. An estate held directly of the crown was a lairdship; when lands were held of any of the great families, such as the Dukes of Gordon or Earls of Sutherland, they were but a gudemanship. In 1640, on Lammas-day, he was sent to school at Grochdan, "and put to lodge and dyet by a widow called Margaret Allan." Four years afterwards he migrated to a school at Achridy; and then, the great troubles of the seventeenth century having broken out, "all public schools were abandoned;" so he went to live with his father at Achmade, the genius of the Buchan guttural seeming still to guide his steps.

In 1651, being sixteen years of age, he entering on the great resolution which decided his destiny. He belonged to a family, or to "a house," as he calls it—for it was not becoming to apply the humble word family to his illustrious ancestors— who followed the old faith, the prospects of which were becoming darker every day; and so, after giving certain reasons for the step he was going to take, he says, "But most of all, my patrimony being but small, as being the younger son of a younger brother of a younger house, I resolved, I say, to go to some foreign country, not caring much on what pretence, or to which country I should go, seeing I had no known friend in any foreign place." Patrick being obstinate, his father and, uncle accompanied him to Aberdeen, where, with a provision in clothes and money, he went on board a merchant-ship belonging to Dantzic, David Bartlman, skipper. The vessel touched at Elsinore, where, he says, "we went ashore, and dined in a Scotsman’s house very well for twelvepence a man, and at night returned to the ship." On reaching his destination at Dantzic, he "lodged in a Scotsman’s house, in the Holy Ghost Street, our landlord being called John Donaldson." As he began, so he went on, finding fellow-countrymen dotted here and there at convenient posting distances, on through Austria and Russia, to the very extremities of European civilisation. He set off for Konigsberg with another countryman of his own, Thomas Menzies, and on the way met with Father Blackball, also a native of Scotland, eminent among the Jesuits. Another countryman and Jesuit priest, named Alexander Michael Menzies, now casts up; and Gordon finds himself—how he does not explain, nor does he seem to have himself known—in the toils of this scheming and zealous order. He found himself a student at a college they had at Branensburg, near Konigsberg; but, though a zealous Romanist, this was far from being the destiny he desired: "albeit," he says, "I wanted not for anything, the Jesuits always bestowing extraordinary pains, and taking great care in educating youth; yet could not my humour endure such a still and strict way of living." He resolved to be off. It is evident that a feeling of respect prevents him from explaining that he was in some shape under restraint, since the method of his departure was an escape, planned with a special view to avoid the vigilance of Father Blackhall. Not seeing any other path open to him, it was his intention to return home—an intention in which he was frustrated by his destiny.

He thus rather picturesquely describes his departure: "On a Tuesday, about ten o’clock, I took my journey on foot to save expense; for I had no more money left than seven rixdollars and a half; and one suit of clothes which I had on. So, taking my cloak and a little bag, wherein were my linens and some books, with a staff in my hand, I pilgrim’d it away all alone. I had not leaned any Dutch, by reason of our speaking Latin in the college, but had acquired and written down some words necessary for asking the Way, victuals, and suchlike. My portmantel I carried for ease on my back betwixt villages, or when I did see nobody; but, coming to any village or meeting anybody, I took it under my arm. Thus accoutred, I went privately round the old town, P. Menzies only convoying me to the highway. I walked the well-known way through the wood to Frawensberg, pleasing myself either with trifling fancies, or such objects as offered on the way."

It was all very pleasant at first, and until the hardships and dangers of such an enterprise began to press upon him. After a while, he came to that established curse of the pedestrian’s existence—a severance of the roads to right and left, with nothing whatever except a fortunate guess to indicate the one he ought to take. To add to the unpleasantness of the difficulty, he had entered a forest; but there was nothing for it save to choose the likelier of the two ways. It was then that the first cloud passed over the boy’s heart.

"After I had gone a pretty way into the wood, and doubting whether I was right or not, I began with serious thoughts to consider my present condition, calling to mind from whence I was come— from my good, loving parents and friends—and where I was now, among strangers whose language I understood not, travelling, myself knew not well whither, having but seven dollars by me, which could not last long, and when that was gone I knew not where to get a farthing more for the great journey and voyage which I intended. To serve or work I thought it a disparagement; and to beg, a greater. With these and suchlike thoughts, I grew so pensive and sad, that, sitting down, I began to lament and bewail my miserable condition. Then, having my recourse to God Almighty, I, with many tears, implored His assistance, craving also the intercession of the blessed Virgin and all the saints in heaven. Then, getting up, I went forward, continuing in prayer with great fervency, when, on a sudden, from the right hand, came an man riding, whose grey hairs might exact and force reverence from the haughtiest heart. He, seeing me stying in crossing my way, said to me in Dutch, which I understood so—’ Cry not, my child; God will comfort you.’ I was very astonished at his sudden appearance and words, and also ashamed that anybody should see me in such a plight. However, keeping on my way, I began to recollect myself, and to think that God had sent this old man of purpose to direct me from such passionate fits, the conceit whereof made me rouse up myself and walk on more cheerfully."

He does not tell how it was that the old man spoke in a language understood by him; but the passage is sufficient to show how, even when he feels himself subdued by the overwhelming conditions he is surrounded by, the natural pride and self-reliance of the Scot break forth. Far from seeking help or protection from the august stranger, he is ashamed that human eyes should have beheld him in his moment of transitory weakness. At night he comes to a village, and lodges in the true, the term by which he almost always designates an alehouse or village tavern: it is a variation of the low-Dutch kroeg, which has the same signification. The landlord asked him various questions, to which he returned no answer, for the satisfactory reason that he did not understand them. However, they sat at meals together, and he indulged in half a stoup of beer. When he asked for a sleeping-place, he was shown an empty waggon in the stable, and then he laid his cloak one half above and one half under him, with his coat and portmanteau under his head; and so (being exceedingly wearied), he laid him down.

A good-natured maid of the inn had already shown the boy some kindness; and ere he went to sleep, "by-and-by came the maid, and, reaching me a pillow, began to laugh downright, then jumped away in such haste, as if she had been afraid of some infection. I made but one sleep the whole night, and got up half an hour before the sun, and, bringing my pillow to the room, asked what I had to pay. The landlady told me a stoup of beer, which I paid; and then asked what I had to pay for victuals, and, she answering, Nothing, I thanked, and went on my way."

The full significance of such a picture of sordid hardship can only be felt by keeping in view the climax to which the narrative is gradually coming. The poor youth who endures all that is endured by the beggars brat, except that he will not beg, rises to an eminence which, in power and external pomp, far excels that of the greatest nobles in his own poor but free country. Covered with the many honours and decorations of the barbarian court of the Czar - invested with vast estates and feudal powers—he becomes more like a petty sovereign than a subject.

In his next day’s journey he fell in with two "sturdy fellows," both professing to be, like himself; on their way to Dantzic. They pestered him with questions, against which he had his old defence; and although he appears to have believed that they had evil designs, and was warned against one of them as a professed robber, he seems to have thought that the meagreness of his purse would protect him against this, as his deficiency in language protected him from the lesser evil. Two days being passed, he says, "The next morning I was not able to go farther. My feet, not being used to such hard travel, were full of blisters, and the skin off in many places." He got a cast in a waggon, and at last reached Dantzic, where he found his old landlady. Poor comfort awaited him here, however: he was told that the last ship of the season bound for the British Isles had sailed, and he must have to wait some ten months for the next year’s fleet. What was he to do?

His countrymen seem to have swarmed in the district, for his landlady had only to let it be known that she had a Scottish youth on her hands who seemed in great perplexity, and was, as she feared, in need of money, to bring a crowd of them to her table. They offered aid to their countryman, but not in the direction of his ambition, for they had followed the arts of peace, but his selected destiny was war. Yet they were kind in advising him, and it was his interest as well as his desire to be civil to them. "So, the next day at dinner, these merchants began to persuade me to turn merchant, to the which I, finding my nature averse, answered in fair terms however, not being willing to disoblige any."

The practical conclusion of the advice he received was, that his best chance was in Poland; and he set out, consequently, on a devious journey to Warsaw. He was recommended to take on his way a countryman, of his own clan, "living in a town called CuIm, about twenty miles off who was a very civil man, and would be very glad of my company."

He sailed along the Vistula in a flat-bottomed barge. There was no room for stepping about; he could only crouch in one position; and his only relaxation was an occasional walk on the bank, as the lazy vessel sweltered along. But the view, whether from the vessel or the towing-path, was not interesting, for the river was lined with high embankments, over which nothing could be seen but the occasional top of a house.

At CuIm his countryman received him, and harboured him during the winter months, when travelling was impracticable. His impatience to start for Warsaw was excited by the welcome news that the Duke Ivan Radzevill "had a life-company, all or most Scotsmen," which he might pretty securely calculate on entering.

He arrived at Warsaw when the Seym, or national parliament, was sitting, and took a lodging in the Lescziniski suburb. There was no Radzevill with his life-company of Scots there, however; and, bitterly disappointed, Gordon again thought there was nothing for it but to return to Scotland. There were many of his countrymen in Warsaw, but his pride would not permit him approach them in his penury and dejection, for he had but eight or nine forms left, wherewith, as he justly remarks, he "was not able to subsist long in Warsaw, nor travel far either." He got an opportunity of being franked to Posen by a man who went thither in charge of several horses, and seems to have worked his way by assisting in driving the horses. Posen is one of the few places which have tempted him out of his Spartan or Buchan brevity: — "The buildings are all brick—more after the ancient form, but very convenient, especially those lately builded. The marketplace is spacious, having a pleasant fountain in each corner; the shops all in rows, each trade apart, and a stately Radthouse, &c. There are divers monasteries of both sexes and several orders, and a vast cathedral, which make a stately show. The suburbs are large, and decored with churches and monasteries. The city is fortified with a brick wall, yet very tenable by reason of its vastness. But that which surpasseth all is the civility of the inhabitants, which is occasioned by its vicinity to Germany, and the frequent resorting of strangers to the two annual fairs, and every day almost. The Poles also, in emulation of the strangers dwelling amongst them, strive to transcend one another in civility."

There he immediately met a fellow-countryman named Lindsay, whose conduct put the youth’s pride and sagacity both to the test. "He was imperiously inquisitive of my parents, education, travels, and intentions?’ On being told of this birth, the stranger exclaimed—" Gordon and Ogilvie!! these are two great clans; sure you must be a gentleman." Patrick knew this to be said in derision of his sordid condition; but he sagaciously made answer, that he hoped he "was not the worse for that." The kindness he received at Posen probably gave him his favourable impression of the place, for he was seized on by a swarm of his fellow-Scots—"Robert Farquhar, James Fergusson, James Lindsay, James White, James Watson, and others." They recommended him to the good graces of a young nobleman named Oppalinski, with whom he travelled, in what capacity does not dearly appear, to Hamburg.

This was in the year 1655, when Hamburg like many towns in Northern Germany, was filled with emissaries recruiting for the great Swedish army,


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