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The Life and Diary of Lieut. Col. J. Blackader
Chapter IX


Opening of the Campaign—Captain Blackader kills a brother Officer —Declines a Challenge—Strictures on Duelling—Extracts—Successes of the Allies.

The Duke of Marlborough arrived at the Hague on the 17th of March, to open the campaign of 1703. Ten days afterwards he reviewed the English forces which were garrisoned in the country about Liege, and ordered all the troops to be in readiness to take the field. Operations commenced (14th of April) with the siege of Bonn, a very ancient and strong city in the circle of the Lower Rhine, within the Archbishoprick of Cologne, and usually the residence of the Princes of that name. The siege was carried on with vigour and success, and on the 15th of May the city surrendered. On this service, Captain Blackader was not employed, being then at Meastricht; in the neighbourhood of which, a number of the Confederates lay.

As he was not engaged in any particular action, for little of importance was transacted in course of the campaign, his Diary for this year, is rather uninteresting. While in quarters he laments, as usual, his want of opportunities frequently to attend religious ordinances, and that the discourses he heard, were not calculated to make that impression on his mind he could have wished.

February 21. Sabbath. I heard a Dutch sermon in the forenoon, and a French one in the afternoon, hut felt little the better for either of them. They had not that quickening and reviving influence to put an edge and fervour on my mind. In the evening, I retired to pray to God for more tender meltings of heart, and more intenseness of desires towards him; and when I had poured out my soul, I came away easy and cheerful.

The following passage refers to the death of his brother’s wife in Edinburgh, which affected him very sensibly.

March 24. This day I got the sad account of the death of a near and dear relation. I bless the Lord she has died in the full assurance of faith. Her soul is now wafted beyond this boisterous sea of afflictions and crosses, into a delightful haven of rest and happiness. May the Lord be a comfort to the disconsolate, solitary husband, and a parent to his poor small children. I trust to him, and cast upon his care these five motherless children, with my sister’s five fatherless children; his goodness can supply their loss. May he sanctify this providence to us all, and make us submissive when his rod speaks to us.

Most of this, and the subsequent month, he coinplains of fatiguing marches; want of repose; and danger of being surprised by the enemy. His arrival at Meastricht, which he now visited after an interval of many years, brought to his recollection a very memorable and fatal accident of which he had been the innocent occasion, hut for which he ever entertained the sincerest regret. This refers to a duel which he fought with a brother officer, the son of a noble family in this country, and in which he was unhappily instrumental in depriving him of his life.

The affair took place in 1691, when he was a very young man: It is said to have originated in some trifling verbal dispute with a Captain S , while over their wine, in a company after dinner. Captain S. it appears, had taken offence at some expressions dropt by his friend in conversation, as if intended to call in question his veracity. Meeting with him some time afterwards, he reminded him of the alleged insult, and insisted upon having immediate satisfaction. His friend, astonished and unconscious of giving offence, asserted his innocence, as he could recollect of nothing he had said that could have the least tendency to asperse or injure his character. In vain, however, did he attempt to justify himself, and to shew him that the words he had used were on a trifling occasion, and not capable of the construction he put upon them. In vain did he assure him, that if he had given him just provocation, he was ready to make any proper apology, or any concession or reparation he had a right to demand. In a paroxysm of rage, and incapable of listening to reason, Captain S. drew his sword, and rushed on Lieutenant Blackader, who, for some time, kept retreating and expostulating; willing to terminate the dispute in some more amicable way. At length, finding all his remonstrances ineffectual, and perceiving his own life in danger, he saw himself obliged, in self-defence, to close with his antagonist. An unfortunate thrust soon laid the Captain lifeless at his feet. The consequences of this rash misadventure might have proved fatal to himself, but fortunately the whole contest was seen from the ramparts of the town, by several soldiers who bore witness to the necessity under which he was laid to defend his life. The matter was speedily adjusted; and after a regimental trial, the Lieutenant was honourably acquitted. The event, however, was too solemn, and made too deep an impression on his mind ever to be forgotten ; and it is said, as long as he lived, he observed the anniversary of it as a day of mourning, of penitence, and prayer.

April 28. Marching all this day. We came to Maestricht in the evening, but things here have a bad aspect; the enemy preventing us, and disappointing <our designs: although, I bless God, I am not anxious about events; he keeps me in perfect peace, I have nothing to fear. At night I went alone to visit that spot of ground, as near as I could find it, where, twelve years ago, I committed that unhappy action : There I fell down on my knees, and prayed as I had done several times throughout the day, that God would deliver me from blood-guiltiness; that the blood of the Lamb might purify the stain, and wash away the crimson dye of that poor man’s blood. I hope the Lord heard my prayer, and cleansed my heart as well as my hands from that pollution.

May 2. This night I went again to the same place, where I had serious thoughts, and some assurance of my sin’s being pardoned.

While upon this subject, we may notice another occurrence of a similar nature, that took place at a subsequent period of his military life. The precise date cannot now be ascertained, but it must evidently have happened during some of the campaigns, either in Germany or the Netherlands. He is said, upon what occasion we know not, to have received a challenge, which he refused to accept; as he did not see sufficient cause to justify so desperate a resource. His adversary, in consequence of this refusal, threatened to post him as a coward, to which he replied coolly, “That he was not afraid of his reputation being impaired, even if the threat were carried into execution.” It happened at this time, that an attempt was determined on against the enemy, of a kind so desperate, that the Duke of Marlborough hesitated to what officer he should assign the command, and had resolved to decide the matter by throwing the dice. Captain Blackader went immediately to him, and offered to undertake the duty. His offer was accepted; and by the Providence of God, he came off with great loss of men, but without any personal injury; and with the complete establishment of his character, not only as a brave man, and an able officer, but also with general estimation as a consistent Christian.

These anecdotes exhibit Captain Blackader’s character in a very interesting and instructive point of view. Though persuaded that the profession of arms is not, in principle, incompatible with the profession of religion; yet when the laws of the one were found to be directly at variance with the laws of the other, he had no hesitation in ’deciding which of the two ought to regulate his conduct. Though a soldier, he did not forget that he was a Christian; and he has shewn, that while he served with zeal and fidelity under the standard of an earthly sovereign, he could maintain an allegiance no less inviolable to the sacred banner of the cross. He had too much regard for the sanctions of the Divine Law, and the express declarations of Scripture against murder and revenge, to shed innocent blood from the caprice of fashion; or submit to be regulated in his actions by the fanciful and arbitrary enactments of human authority. In the first unhappy accident related above, he drew his weapon with reluctance, and not until self-defence had made it absolutely necessary. If he had injured . his antagonist, he was willing to repair the injustice.

If he had been betrayed into any inadvertence of speech, from levity or want of due circumspection, (for he disclaimed all intentional offence,) he was ready to apologize or offer any reasonable satisfaction. He considered it no humiliation—nothing derogatory to his reputation as an officer or a gentleman, to acknowledge his imprudence or his error. But the unfortunate victim, deaf to every remonstrance, rushed headlong on destruction, and paid with his blood the price of his folly.

In the second instance, Captain Blackader prevented the repetition of a similar tragedy, at the fearful risk of committing a trespass against the omnipotent laws of military honour. He • was threatened with the odious and appalling imputation of a coward, because he refused to expose his life to the fury of a madman, or become himself a deliberate murderer. This refusal was not made from any want of courage, or on any ground of fear, which the most pusillanimous are always the most reluctant to acknowledge; hut from his conviction, that no law of honour, though enforced by all the penalties of infamy and disgrace among men, and sanctioned by the patronage and example of the highest military authorities, could possibly impart to any human being a right to shed the blood of his fellow-creature. He would have been content to relinquish his friends and his commission, sooner than he in any way a willing accomplice in an affair so repugnant to his conscience and his feelings, so utterly in violation of every principle he had been accustomed to venerate as sacred. To purchase the esteem of the world on these terms, would he to incur an indelible disgrace, to establish an idle reputation on the ruins of his own peace and innocence. Having expressed his contrition for the undesigned offence, and tendered overtures of reconciliation, he may he considered as having done enough to acquit himself—not perhaps according to the refined maxims of his profession, hut certainly in the judgment of every candid and sober mind.

As to the charge of cowardice, he might perhaps have repelled it by an appeal to his former rencontre— to the many dangers he had already faced—and the unimpeachable honour of his military reputation. In the general tenor of his character for meekness, forbearance, and aversion to stir up strife, he had a moral armour that might have blunted the shafts of calumny, and made the false or petty accusations of his adversary recoil upon his own head. He might have rebutted the charge with the truly noble reply of his celebrated countryman and companion in arms, “I fear sinning, though you know I do not fear fighting.” But he went a step farther. He retrieved his honour without violating his principles. He made his sword cancel the imputation of cowardice—not by plunging it, without provocation, into the bosom of his friend—not by depriving the service, it may be, of a brave officer—or involving perhaps, in sorrow and disgrace, a widow and orphan family; but by signalizing his courage against the enemies of his country—by venturing fearlessly, and of his own accord, on a desperate expedition of chance, where neither duty nor necessity called him. Here he displayed his bravery where alone it could be most honourably and most advantageously displayed. And how much more creditable does this conduct appear, I may venture to say, even in the eye of his own profession, than if he had come off with the heroism of running his antagonist through the body, or fallen himself a victim to this imaginary test of valour.

It has been matter of just and frequent astonishment, how this detestable practice of duelling, should not only be tolerated as an indispensible evil, but meet with advocates and defenders, who would retain it either from motives of virtue,—as if this barbarous and Gothic custom were of a more polishing and civilizing influence than the spirit of Christianity; or of necessity,—as if no other principle on earth were powerful enough to maintain order and propriety among men. The laws of murder and assassination they have exalted' into a study, and a science which must be cultivated as an accomplishment by every pretender to genteel education; which forms the cabalistic charm of admittance into the company of honourable men or the circle of polite society. A few such instances, however, as the one recorded above, would go far to alter the prevailing taste, and direct the current of public opinion against these absurd and erroneous maxims. We know well what unbounded efficacy the patronage and example of official or leading characters exert over matters of fashion or amusement. Places of public resort sink rapidly into discredit and decay, the moment they cease to frequent them. Manners or opinions that may have held long and undisputed sway over the human mind, whenever they cease to be honoured by their countenance and. support, are proscribed the circles of politeness, and abandoned as the relics of a vulgar and antiquated age. In short, even pleasures and dissipations that have all the advantages of secrecy, and may plead the desires of nature, no sooner lose the magic attraction of fashionable names, than the general taste instantly declares against them. Examples of this kind, therefore, would operate as a salutary antidote against the epidemic contagion of single combat, and furnish a more successful weapon than all the argument and raillery that has been employed against it, for attacking and putting down a custom, which is contrary to the principles of reason and justice—repugnant to the feelings of humanity,—and condemned by the laws of God and man.

While the allies were besieging Bonn, the Marshals Villeroi and Boufflers conceived the project of attacking Liege, and with this design had provided 15,000 pioneers, 8000 waggons, and other necessaries. In the beginning of May they advanced unexpectedly with an army of 40,000 men, to Tongres, 13 miles from Liege. This obliged the confederate troops in that place to retreat with all possible speed, under the cannon of Maestricht, eight miles off. The enemy fell upon the small garrison of Tongres, and compelled them to surrender at discretion, after a brave defence of 28 hours. This delay gave the rest of the forces about Maestricht time to draw together; and when the enemy approached they found, to their surprise and disappointment, the confederates drawn up in order of hattle, under General D’Auverquerque, and prepared for an engagement, though much inferior in number. An opposition so unexpected staggered the resolution of the two Marshals. From ten in the morning until three in the afternoon, the two armie stood gazing at each other, within cannon reach; when the enemy, not daring to attack, returned back to Tongres, leaving to the Allies an unstained victory.

May 1. Now there is some appearance of action. I bless God, I need not be afraid to face death or go to fight, for the Lord of armies is my covenanted God, and I commit myself cheerfully to him.

May 3. This has been a remarkable day. In the morning, the whole French army advanced to attack us: Our army drew out, and there was all the appearance could he of a battle. Their lines came so near us, that our camion played upon them. For myself, I had a serious spiritual composed frame through the day; was in no hurry or fear, and not anxious ahout the event. I did not depend on any stock of courage within myself, but sought it from God, and he gave it me. ToAvards e\rening the enemy retired, and we returned to our camp.

May 15. Marching from four in the morning till eleven : much fatigued. I was surprised a little with passion, and spake a rash ill-chosen word, for which I was sorry, and implored Christ for pardon. Lying now near Tongres, which brings to my mind a providence of twelve years old, and stirs me up to bless God and he thankful.

The whole month of June was spent in pursuing the enemy from place to place, and endeavouring to draw them to a battle, which they carefully avoided. The Duke of Marlborough, who had proceeded to Maestricht after the siege of Bonn, pressed them so hard, that they were obliged to continue at arms night and day, retreating before him with great precipitation. Finding it impossible to provoke them to an engagement, the Duke resolved to force their in-trencliments, which was done in two different places by General Cohorn and Baron Spar.

June 9. This day we were reviewed.

June 15. On command this and the three following days, which discomposes me, as I am never right unless I have quiet retirement in the intervals of business.

June 18. Marching all this week, often both night and day. It has been the hardest for fatigue I ever marched in. Yet I bless God, I was serene arid contented. Though a slave in the galleys, I should think it heaven to enjoy communion with him. With His presence, all places of the earth are alike to me. I see frorii the ill company around me, that the peace of conscience, satisfaction and tranquillity of soul, flowing from the reflection of having employed time well, far surpasses all the sensual pleasures that earthly men are capable of relishing in this world.

Speaking of the decline of morality in the regiment, and contrasting the general conduct of the military with what it used to he, he observes, “ This is a sad corps I am engaged in; vice raging openly and impudently. They speak just such language as devils would do. I find this ill in our trade, that there is now so much tyranny and knavery in the army, that it is a wonder how a man of a straight, generous, honest.soul can live in it. I own I am, on many accounts, unfit for it, or for any business or dealing that requires a suppleness and dexterity of temper to ply and manage every body according to their various humours and passions. Armies which used to be full of men of great and noble souls, are now turned to a parcel of mercenary, fawning, lewd, dissipated creatures ; the dregs and scum of mankind: And those who will not fawn and crouch, are made the butt of malice, and oppressed by the joint conspiracy of wicked men.”

On the last day of June, the battle of Eckeren was fought between General Obdam, with a few battalions of the Dutch, not exceeding 10,000 men, and Marshal Boufflers, who was detached from the main army, with a body of about 30,000 troops, and came upon the Allies, by surprise, at the village of Eckeren, four miles north of Antwerp. In this action, the Marshal had the advantage, though he lost more than double the number of men, and was obliged to abandon the field of battle by night, without beat of drum. That part of the army, under the Duke of Marlborough, was not present at this engagement; but in order to repair the disadvantages they had sustained, his Grace, on the 27th of July, again attempted to draw Marshal Villeroi to a battle, which the latter avoided, setting fire to his camp, and retiring within his lines.

Of these operations, the Diary for this month, takes, no notice. The only passage worth extracting, is one which gives, very distinctly, the Writer’s notions on his favourite, though somewhat fanciful theory of prayer.

July 6. I met with something very remarkable this morning. I was praying for sanctification, and for more grace, without thinking on any temporal mercy. The Spirit of God impressed me, of a sudden, to seek a temporal blessing, which I did; and I found such access and enlargement, and faith so lively and strong, that I had reason to think he heard me; and I believed in the performance of it. Now, ordinarily I do not seek temporal mercies peremptorily or positively, but with submission to his will and Providence; nor do I think I am inclined to enthusiasm; but I think I should slight and neglect the motions of God’s Spirit, which certainly impress the soul sensibly on frequent occasions, if I should not take special notice of these impulses, when I find so many concurring marks. I wait therefore patiently for the accomplishment; and am also well satisfied to want it, if the Lord please; but I think it 'was sealed to me, and his Spirit never seals a lie.

I have this uptaking of prayer, and the hearing of prayer: When Christ, who has purchased all good things for us, has a mind to give us a particular mercy, he intercedes with the Father as our Advocate, and having obtained it, the Spirit, who being God equal with the Father and Son, and is witness, to what Christ intercedes for and obtains for us, comes down, or is sent down, and suggests to the believer’s soul; impressing it strongly to put up that very suit, and ask the same mercy he heard granted to Christ’s intercession in heaven. The believer entertains and cherishes the motion, and puts up the suit in Christ’s hand. The Spirit intercedes boldly with us, because he knows Christ has obtained it. The believer begs boldly, because Christ having a mind to give, does always give faith the honour of it, by setting it to work; and whenever faith interposes, he sees the business is done. When faith draws, Christ lets go the hold to us; and when it stops, he stops.

August 2. Marching all this day. In this our trade We are hurried about and carried as straws down a water. There is little freedom or comfort in spending most of our time; fatigued till our spirits are spent, and we are good for nothing; then we must eat, drink, and sleep; then come new fatigues which must be repaired; again we must eat, drink, and sleep; and so we go our round like the beasts of the field.

August 26. We had a design of fighting, the enemy making as if they intended action, but it was again put off.

August 27. Riding all this day. In the afternoon, I retired all alone to the fields to offer my grateful remembrance of God’s goodness to me and mine through this campaign.

On the 17th of this month Huy was invested by a detachment from the grand army, and in ten days the town and castle surrendered; the allies having not lost above twenty men. At this siege Captain Blackader was not present, Colonel Frederick Hamilton being the only English brigadier in that service.#

The siege of Limburg was next determined upon. This, though a small, was a very strong city, and capital of the Dukedom or territory of that name. The Duke of Marlborough took the command in person. On the 10th of September the town was invested, and on the 27th it capitulated. The city of Guelders was bombarded in December by a detachment of Prussians, and reduced to a heap of ruins, and with these achievements ended the campaign for this year. The allies thus quitted the field with honour, having made themselves masters of the Duchy of Limburg, and the whole Spanish Guelderland; and secured the country of Liege and the Electorate of Cologne from the incursions of the enemy. In October, orders were issued for the necessary disposition of the troops in their quarters, and the Duke of Marlborough soon after returned to England.

Captain Blackader immediately repaired to Rotterdam, where his lady usually remained during the campaign.

October 11. This afternoon I arrived at Tongres. Next day I came to a place where I might well set up my Ebenezer; mercy was on all hands: on the right was that place, where, twelve years ago, that ever to be regretted and mournful business fell out; but God, I trust, has delivered me from blood-guiltiness, and pardoned my sin. On the left was that place where the enemy thought to have surprised us, and cut us off; and where I had a merciful deliverance the beginning of this same campaign, about half a-year ago. .

October 19. Marching towards Breda.

October 23. Travelling still, sometimes by land, sometimes by water, and with good company. Came at night to Dort, where we have likewise reason to set up our Ebenezer, and remember God’s vast goodness and mercy in this same place.

November 20. My lot is full of mercy, hut like a spoiled child, except I have that which I am most fond of, I cannot relish any other mercy. After a long and weary march we came into Rotterdam. O what shall I render unto God for all his goodness to me; now he has brought me home, after a long campaign, to the same place I went from. I beg grace to pay my vows, and mind those engagements I entered into when I went out. The Lord has mercifully preserved me, amongst the hazards of a camp, kept me from the infection of ill company—let no evil befal me—no plague come near my dwelling. But ah ! what shall I say; I am not pleased with myself since I came into garrison. I see I cannot carry right either under the want of enjoyments, or under the possession of them; I have too much complacency and satisfaction in them; I am ready to turn secure and fall asleep, and forget that this is not my home.

December 9. I am learning, and to learn to know myself every day; and since I came here I have made a discovery of myself I knew not before. There is the half of religion, and the best half too, that I am a great stranger too, viz. submission and resignation to God’s will, and a giving up of my own will. I see that strong affections with weak grace, is like a sword in a madman’s hand. When the inferior passions, appetites, and desires, come to get the sway and command, we resemble a crazy vessel manned by drunk slaves, who run it among rocks and shelves, in storms and hurricanes, and in danger of shipwreck every moment. But when the Spirit of God, (the true pilot of the soul,) calm reason and grace take the helm, and clap these unruly slaves under hatches again, then all goes well; the soul glides smoothly tinder the gentle gales and breezes of the Spirit, and pursues its steady course to the desired haven of everlasting rest and happiness.

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