Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

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


Events of the Campaign—Major Blackader joins his Regiment— Siege of Tournay—Battle of Malplaquet—Letters—Surrender of Mons—Major Blackader made Lieutenant Colonel.

The most distinguished achievements of the Allies this year were the reduction of Tournay one of the strongest towns in Flanders; the battle of Malplaquet or Blaregnies; and the recovery of Mons. The campaign did not open until the summer was far advanced, owing to the extreme backwardness of the season and the negotiations for peace, which proved ineffectual.

Major Blackader did not leave Rotterdam until the middle of March. He was in the covering army at the siege of Tournay, and present at the battle of Malplaquet; and from the great loss of officers sustained at this latter place, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Proposals for his advancement, it would appear, were .made before the opening of the campaign, but more by the instigation of friends than his own desire; for his honours were urged upon him, and always shunned rather than sought. In reference to this he observes, (January) I went to court this morning, and spoke to the Duke about something that others rather push me to, than I have any great benefit for myself. I bless God who makes me so easy. I have more already than I deserve. I am never troubled with ambitious thoughts of rising and growing great. I should he very unthankful if I were not well content with my lot. I leave all to the disposal of Providence. Man’s heart deviseth his ways, but the Lord directeth his steps.

January 9. Extremely cold weather. Thankful for so many of the comforts and accommodations of life which I have this severe season.

February 9. Now the time is coming about that I must be thinking on another campaign, to launch out again into new dangers—new fatigues and difficulties. If I look to them upon this side, That now I am growing old, strength and natural endowments not so vigorous as before, this would make me melancholy. But I look, by faith, to the other side; God is the strength of my life, he is my shield and buckler, my fortress and my high tower. When young men faint and fail, they that wait upon the Lord shall receive their strength. His grace is still sufficient; I trust to this as my only refuge, my prop and plight-anchor.

February 28, The severity of the storm still hinders our going up to Ghent. Here we enjoy every comfort, while others are pinched with excessive cold and want. Lord pity them, and make us grateful.

March 12. Making ready to go away. I observe Providence seemed to point out several ways of our going up to Flanders, and lias still disappointed these again and stopt us.

March 14. This day we left Rotterdam. Good accommodation in the yacht.

March 16. We came safe to Sas, and next night arrived at Ghent. No sooner were we come off the water, than a great storm came on which continued all night. Here I joined the regiment; and was busy going about making visits.

March 26. I dined with the General; but I find there are temptations in great men’s company that much overbalance all the advantage we can get from their good-will.

April 15. I went upon command this day, and got pretty well through. I was well accommodated at night, considering circumstances, for the poor soldiers had nothing but the heavens above them, and it was a very cold night.

May 11. There was a talk of peace, but now we hear it is all blown up, and we are making ready for a vigorous campaign. I was employed all the morning, from five o’clock, in exercising the regiment.

May 15. Sabbath. Taking a review of my last campaign. God has been the hearer of prayer to me, both for the public and for myself. The hopes of peace increase again. Lord, send peace and truth together.

May 25. All tlie news this day say that the peace is blown up: That the French King refuses to sign the preliminaries. This makes me thoughtful and dejected. Yet I hope it shall be for the confusion of that tyrant, if God harden his heart to reject peace. It is also talked that he is plagued, as Herod was, with vermin, (Acts xii. 23.) and it will he a just judgment, for he has permitted divine attributes to be asserted to him on several occasions. I had entertained some hopes that I should not dwell any more in the tents of wickedness; but now that peace is set aside, it makes me serious in the view of launching out again into new storms. The will of the Lord be done.

June 6. I have been busy about the regiment, and going among several of our Generals. This morning we marched out of the garrison.

The Confederate Army, to the number of 110,000 men, had now assembled between Courtray and Menin. As the French were strongly posted in their neighbourhood, some detachments, in which Major Blackader’s Regiment appears to have been, were sent out to reconnoitre and examine the enemy’s camp. The position being deemed too advantageous to render an attack practicable, the siege of Tournay was instantly resolved upon. The troops decamped at night without beat of drum, and as the resolution had been kept secret, they were surprised to find themselves, next day, under the walls of Tournay, which they invested without giving the enemy time to reinforce the garrison.

June 10. We have here the best army that ever we had in this country; and if God be the Captain of our host, it will give us weight, and strength, and success. We have two, perhaps, the best Generals in the world; but we ought not to trust in prince’s nor in men’s sons. We had a fatiguing march which continued from five in the morning till five at night, and very had roads.

June 16. We marched yester-night at eight o’clock, all night; a wearisome fatiguing march till four o’clock this day. We are also much surprised and disappointed, for we believed all the night that we were marching straight up to attack the French army, or to take some pass upon them, so as to oblige them to move and quit their strong retrenchments. But instead of that, we are marching straight to Tournay, and investing it to besiege it. For my own share I would more heartily have gone to attack the enemy, and was hopeful God would have delivered them into our hands. I wish our Generals had seconded Providence, when he gave us such a favourable opportunity. We boast of 170 battalions, and 280 squadrons. It may be as in Gideon’s case, this is too many for God to work by, lest we be proud and say, Our great army brought us deliverance. I got very good accommodation at night in a cottage.

June 20. This morning again vexed with the immorality and scandals committed by some in our society. I immediately punished them so far as military law allows. I know I get ill-will among many of the officers for this way of dealing; but I will glory in it. I bless God I hate no man’s person, it is only their vices. Lord, give me zeal for thee, and let not passion, or humour, or any thing of self mix with it. I went in the afternoon to view Tournay with some company, pretty near their guards, and they fired some cannon at us.

June 28. Taken up about securing ourselves here in our post, wherein I thought I observed too much anxiety and care. I would not neglect any necessary care or means; only I would keep my mind easy. If the Lord watch not over us, all our guards are vain; and we have this promise, That his angel encamps round about those that fear him. I was busy, and abroad late at night posting guards. It is really unnatural judgment-like weather; heaven frowning upon us, threatening famine. I rode out in the afternoon with company to see the siege. They fired some cannon at us, and one of their bullets lighted within a few yards of me: but I look upon nothing as coming by chance.

June 30. This day twelvemonth was the battle of Oudenard, a day never to be forgotten by me. I kept at home all day, serious and meditating on the goodness of God.

July 1. Quietly employed about the regiment. Too late in company, and falling hot in debate and dispute. O where shall I enjoy the benefit of good company, that may do me good and not evil. I desire now in every debate to be found on the side of truth, religion, and virtue. Long ago I used to dispute pro and con., for argument’s sake; but it is not right. By taking always the side against sin, vice, and error, zeal is strengthened.

July 8. I went this evening through the trenches. I bless God who preserves me in my outgoings and incomings. On the one hand, I desire not to value my life more, or to think dangers greater than they are; but, on the other hand, I would not let mercies and deliverances, even the smallest, pass stupidly without taking notice of them, as the most part do.

Involved all night in a multitude of promiscuous company. But they put the conversation on such a footing, either by swearing, profane talking, bantering, or some impiety or other, that I can take little part in it. To reprove would be needless, and to join them is sinful.

July IT. There has been an attack made on the town these two nights; and this morning (Sabbath) we got an alarm just before our sermon began, at the time of singing the psalm. It came to nothing; but we had no sermon all day.

July 19. Yesterday our recruits and officers from Scotland came up; and this day I was busy in dividing them, which prospered well. I am always glad when my companions are kept from kindling and clashing together from selfishness, for self-interest, as the proverb says, makes Homo homini lupus.

July 20. This day I have taken hoine an old servant who has been wandering through Spain, Portugal, and France, these five years; and Providence has at last brought him back to my hand like the prodigal. We are now masters of Tournay, (the town,) and they are going to put on new regiments to the siege of the citadel, which probably will bring the next siege of a town to our door. But I am not anxious about any of these things. No General can send me till Providence sign the order.

July 24. Day appointed by public orders as a thanksgiving for the reduction of Tournay. I went into the town and had another preservation, for a cannon-ball grazed just before me; but fortunately I saw it bounding ere it came my length; so I stopt and it passed close by me.

August 9. We were reviewed by these two great men, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene. All went very well. Our regiment appeared in good order and full.

August 18. Our siege (he observes in a letter, of this date,) goes on slowly, and in the dark underground. I have not yet been near it, and need not wish it over except for the sake of the public; for when it is over our fatigue will probably begin, if a cessation of arms prevent not. But I cannot with any ground flatter you with that, for indeed I know nothing of the matter, either for or against; and they that are much more conversant with great men than I, and think they know their secrets know as little. I pray the Lord send it in his own good time; for these countries have much need of it. There is a great mortality among the boors through the country, occasioned, no doubt, by the famine, and scarcity, and unwholesome food they are forced to eat. And as pestilence often treads upon the heels of famine, so we are getting melancholy, and alarming accounts of the plague being in several places in Germany, and some say in France.

August 19. On command these two days, but easy. My time was divided between my duty and charitable offices, for there are in this castle above fifty poor boors sick, and starving for hunger. I assisted them as much as I could, and I bless God who gives me a heart to do it.

These charitable offices, and the nature of his com*-mand, are explained more at large in a letter.

Sabbath, August 21.

I went out upon command on Thursday last. It is the first I have had since the business of Lisle, which is now very near a twelvemonth. It was an easy post. I was in a castle guarding the horses of the army grazing, and stayed there two days. I had not a British man with me, which I was very well pleased with; for, indeed, I think them, generally speaking, the worst company in the army. They have a heaven-daring boldness and effrontery in sin beyond other men, without any shame; and that impudent pertness in wickedness, and boasting of it, is the humour I most abhor of any thing. I lived very pleasantly and quietly with two Prussian captains; But there I had melancholy spectacles of misery before my eyes every moment. The boors, about a hundred of them, had retired in there for shelter and protection ; and of these there were between fifty and sixty lying sick, by reason of the unwholesome food they are obliged to use. The want of bread is alarming. I assisted them what I could; I caused buy bread about a pistole’s worth, and distributed among them; and I gave my little bottle of orange-water to some that were worst. I thought it the best bestowed of all that I have made use of yet. There is great reason to fear a plague in this country. War, famine, and pestilence do frequently follow each other. But for all these things, we are wickedly hardened in sin, and will keep back nothing which our vanity and lusts crave, to relieve our fellow-creatures. The great ones of the earth will set themselves to fight against Providence, and against nature, and when the hand of God is lifted up they will not see it. But when his judgments are on the earth, the inhabitants thereof shall learn righteousness.

The Lord preserve and bless you. I am thine.

J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Serjeant J. Reid,
of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

August 23. The citadel capitulated this morning.

The siege of the town, as we have seen, lasted about three' weeks, hut the citadel stood out a month longer. From the regularity of its fortifications, and the strength of its out-works, it was reckoned one of the strongest in Europe. The progress of the besiegers was much retarded by being obliged to adopt the slow and laborious method of sapping; the enemy having wrought all the ground into mines, which rendered it unsafe to approach from the hazard of explosion. Every step they took was under the apprehension of being blown into the air. Hostilities were carried on chiefly under ground, and in total darkness. In counter-mining, it frequently happened that adverse parties met and fought with their shovels, spades, and pick-axes. In these subterraneous attacks, the besiegers had to contend with new and appalling dangers. They were sometimes crushed by the falling in of the earth, or destroyed by the springing of the mine. Great numbers perished in this manner. Above 400 were killed in a single explosion. Sometimes they were inundated with water which the garrison let in upon them, or suffocated with the smoke of straw or hemp and gun-powder. Yet nothing could repress the gallantry and perseverance of the assailants. They confronted these hidden terrors with the greatest resolution, and made themselves masters of the citadel although they had lost, during the siege, above 4000 men.

In the reduction of the town Major Blackader was not employed, though occasionally a spectator. He was stationed with his regiment in the neighbourhood, where they had remained peaceably in their camp above two months. They were soon, however, to be called into activity, and sustain a part in * one of the most obstinate and bloody battles that had occurred in the whole course of the war.

Upon the surrender of Tournay, the next deliberation was, either to besiege Mons, or force the enemy to an engagement; both of which took place, and in both the Allies were successful. Marshal Villars, suspecting their design, had advanced with the French army as far as Malplaquet in the vicinity of Mons, where he had chosen a camp of great natural strength which was augmented by several lines and trenches. Each of his wings was defended in front by a deep thick-Wood, the left being covered by the wood of Sart, and the right by that of Lagniere. The centre was posted on the open ground in the middle, with the cavalry behind. This position was so advantageous, that to hazard an attack was reckoned a very rash and dubious enterprise. The Allies, however, made the attempt, and after an engagement which lasted nearly six hours, they purchased the name of victory at the expense of 18,000 men; the loss on both sides being nearly equal. The two armies lay for two days in their camps, adjoining each other; the Duke of Marlborough having deferred the attack, in expectation of some detachments which he had ordered from Tournay, and the blockade of Mons. These joined him on the morning of the battle. We now return to the narrative in the Diary, which is given at some length, and shews with what ardour and animatiop, troops inured to conquest will face the most discouraging obstacles. '

August 24. We marched (from the camp near Tournay this morning at three o’clock. We know not where we are going; some say to besiege Mons, some say to the French lines. Go where we will, I commit all to God. We had a had march by reason of the rainy weather. It was a bad night, and I was ill accommodated, lying in a Soldier’s tent wet and cold. But I have no cause to complain, considering the good accommodation I have had hitherto all this campaign. In two days, and after a long march, we encamped near Mons. We expected to have rested a day, and prepared ourselves for the siege; but we have got sudden orders to march, the French army appearing near to us on their march, so we expect to come to action. I pray for strength and courage to discharge my duty in my post. We lay at our arms all this night.

August 27. Expecting a battle to-morrow. I am no way afraid; I trust not to my own strength or parts, but to the Lord of Hosts; through him I shall do valiantly. Next morning we marched in line and order of battle. But about ten o’clock, we got notice that the French were gone off again, and that their design was not to fight. I was uneasy at this as a disappointment. This was not out of vanity to shew myself, for God knows I have no reason to boast of self.

August 29. The enemy being now near, we marched suddenly. In the afternoon they came in view, and our line of battle was formed and posted. They are in strong ground. They raised batteries, and played upon us with their cannon. There was not a place in the whole line so much exposed as where our regiment, and two or three more stood; and we had considerable loss. Many a cannon-ball came very near, but He gave his angels charge over me. Thou art my shield and buckler. This I trusted in, and repeated several times when I saw the cannon-balls coming straight towards me, as I thought; hut the goodness of God let none of them touch me. This night was an unpleasant uneasy night to our regiment, for they have wanted bread these five days, and are faint. It was a cold wet night, and we lay at our arms. I laid me down and slept sound, for God sustained me; and I am not afraid of ten thousands that set themselves against us round about.

August 30. Next morning we expected to have been saluted by break of day with their batteries, as last night; and we laid our account, if we stayed upon the same spot of ground, with having a third of our regiment killed and wounded, for the General would not allow us to draw back our men a little way behind a rising ground that covered us. But God in mercy prevented us; for the enemy had drawn off their cannon from that place, and did not trouble us all the day. In the afternoon an extraordinary thing happened. The French officers and oursj as if it had been concerted between them, went out between the two camps, and conversed with one another, and called for their acquaintances, and talked together as friends, as if there had been a cessation of arms; but it was broken off by the Generals on both sides. I was unwell all night by reason of the cold, and bad diet I had got these days by-gone.

We have got an Order this night, that we are to attack the enemy to-morrow by break of day. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep, for thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety. I never was more serene and easy. Early in the morning, (the 31st) we attacked the enemy in their camp, a strong cafrip, and strongly intrenched by two days working. We fought, and by the mercy and goodness of God, have obtained a great and glorious victory. The battle began about seven o’clock, and continued till near three in the afternoon. It was the most deliberate, solemn, and well ordered battle that ever I saw,—a noble and fine disposition, and as nobly executed. Every man was at his post; and I never saw troops engage with more cheerfulness, boldness, and resolution. In all the soldiers’ faces appeared a brisk and lively gaiety which presaged victory. The Lord of Hosts went forth at our head as Captain of our host, and the army followed with a daring cheerful boldness, for we never doubted but we would beat them.

Providence ordered it so, that our regiment was no farther engaged than by being cannonaded, which was, indeed, the most severe that ever our regiment suffered, and by which we had considerable loss. But the soldiers endured it without shrinking, very patiently, and with great courage. For my own part I was nobly and richly supplied, as I have always been on such occasions, with liberal supplies of grace and strength, as the exigencies of the day called for. I never had a more pleasant day in my life. I was kept in perfect peace; my mind stayed, trusting in God. All went well with me; and not being in hurry and hot action, I had time for plying the throne of grace, sometimes by prayer, sometimes by praise, as the various turns of Providence gave occasion; sometimes for the public, sometimes for myself. I did not seek any assurance of protection for my life; I thought it enough to believe in general, to depend with resignation, and hang about his hand.

Our regiment with some others, were honoured in particular to do some very good service, by marching up, and manning a retrenchment which the enemy had left. And there we sustained our own horse, which were pushed by the French horse, and might have been of dangerous consequence, had not the foot sustained them. Not unto us, O Lord, be the glory, but to thyself. It was not our SWord or our bow, but it was the Lord’s doing.

The French foot did not behave themselves well. They soon quitted their retrenchments; but the horse stood more stiffly to it. I did not expect to see a cowed army fight so well. I believe the loss may be about equal on both sides. It Was as bloody a battle as has been fought, either this war or the last. God is working his holy ends, sweeping off sinners in both armies from the face of the earth. But God be blessed for this, that though he be angry with us, and mowing down our carcases thick on the fields, yet he is not With our enemies; he is angry with them too, and laying their carcases upon the face of the earth. He is staining their pride, for they are a Vain-glorious nation. How would they insult and boast if they were suffered to beat us as we do them. The earth could not bear them.

September 1. This morning I went to view the field of battle to get a preaching from the dead, which might have been very edifying, for in all my life, I have not seen the dead bodies lie so thick as they were in some places about the retrenchments, particularly at the battery where the Dutch Guards attacked.

For a good way I could not go among them, lest my horse should tread on the carcases that were lying, as it were, heaped on one another. I was also surprised to see how strong they had made their camp. They had a breast-work before them, round about like the rampart of a town, to fire over. The Dutch have suffered most in this battle of any. Their infantry is quite shattered; so that it is a dear victory. The potsherds of the earth are dashed together, and God makes the nations a scourge to each other to work his holy ends, by sweeping sinners off the face of the earth. It is a wonder to me the British escape so cheap, who are the most heaven-daring sinners in this army. But God’s judgments are a great depth. He has many arrows in his quiver, and is not tied to our times and ways. We marched hack at night to our camp which we left on the 29th. I bless the Lord who brings me back in peace, while the carcases Oi others are left as a prey in the fields to the beasts and birds. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, hut it shall not once come near to thee. That Psalm has many times been made out to me literally, every promise in it; and shall be, I trust in God.

In a letter to his wife, written the day after the battle, he gives some account of the loss the regiment sustained in officers, and mentions some others of the English Regiments that had suffered.

September 1, Thursday.

I doubt not but this has been a time of great anxiety to you, but now I send you a new Ebenezer, and one of the greatest of my whole life. Yesterday we fought a battle, and by the great goodness of God have obtained a great victory.—It has not been a cheap battle to the army, especially the Dutch foot, who have suffered much. We attacked them in strong intrenchments. The most that we suffered was by their cannon. Our loss is considerable, but the greatest is poor Colonel Cranston. He was killed by a cannonball, (sitting at the head of the regiment,) shot in at the left breast, and out at the back : He spoke not a word. Captain Shaw also is killed, his thigh-bone being broken; and also Ensign Inglis. You will have heard that Captain Lawson, and Lieutenant Simpson were wounded two days ago at another cannonading, when we came up first to this camp; for our regiment happened to be posted in a place which was most exposed to their cannon of any in the army. Lawson’s is very slight. It is a contusion on the chin, but no bones broken. Simpson’s is in the body, but not dangerous.

Ensign Burnet also got a more dangerous wound in the neck, which I am afraid of; and Lieutenant Cockburn is shot through the body. Sergeant Wilson is wounded in the arm. I have three men killed. We buried the Colonel, Captain Shaw and Inglis yesternight at the colours. It is put upon you to prepare Mrs. Cranston, and to give her the doleful news. Every body sympathises tenderly with her, and none, I am sure, more than myself. None is more universally regretted than he.

My dearest, what reason have we to adore the divine goodness who puts such songs of praise in our mouths, while others are employed in mournful lamentations and sorrow. Go as soon to her as you can, for she will be suspicious at not getting a letter with the first. We found , a letter to her in his pocket, which he wrote that same morning I wrote the inclosed, but none of us could send it away. You are almost the only wife in the regiment who will not be in tears and anxiety, either of grief or concern about their friends and husbands. Let us have our hearts the more filled with thankfulness, and our mouths with praise to the God of our mercies, who gives us such signal and frequent deliverances.

For as busy a day as it was, and hot action, I never had a pleasanter in my life, for all was well with me.— The French stood stiffly to it, especially their horse, (they behaved well,) and repulsed ours several times ; but our foot sustained our horse. Brigadier Lalo is killed, and poor Captain Monro. Argyle’s and theirs have suffered most of the English, and the Guards. Lord Tullibardin is killed, and Colonel Swinton, Colonel Holborn and his Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton, and their regiments are almost ruined. Brigadier Douglas is ill wounded. In short, it has been a very dear victory, but it was a glorious day. The Lord of Hosts went at our head as Captain of our host, and all the army followed with courage and resolution. I never saw troops go on with more hearty briskness in my life. I cannot tell you what will be the fruit of our victory : I hope a lasting peace. We are now lying in the field of battle, and I have been this morning riding through the intrenchments, getting a very edifying preaching from the dead. In some places they are lying so thick that we cannot, for a good way, pass through without treading on them. We are going to march back this afternoon to our camp near Mons, from which we came before the battle.

The Lord be with you, and make you thankful, and give you grace never to forget the last of August.

I am thine. J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Seijeant J. Reid, of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

The death of Colonel Cranston having opened a way for promotion, the Major immediately waited upon the Duke for that purpose, expressing himself, however, in his usual terms of indifference as to the success of his application.

September 2. I: went this day to court to put in my claims for advancement in my turn. I commit all to God. I know promotion comes not from the east or the west. I leave myself in thy hands, O Lord, to dispose of me as thou seest fit; Thou knowest what is best for me. If it be for thy honour and glory, and my good, to keep me in this employment, and to raise me higher in it, no man will have leave to keep me’ from it. If thou hast ordered it otherwise, and if it be better for me to leave this trade, let them distribute their places among them as they please ; I shall not seek them. Only guide me by thy counsel, and direct me what I should do. I depend upon thee, and through grace am very easy.

September 8. I went to court again, and found the Generals and everybody more favourable and friendly than I could have expected, who am not much in the practice of going to courts. It is God that gives me favour, and makes my ways prosperous. -

September 4, This Sabbath is appointed to be kept-a thanksgiving through the army for our victory^ Alas, I fear it may be said of us as of Israel of old.

They sang his praise, but they soon forgot his mighty works, and tempted him.

There is another letter to his wife of this date, written from Mons, which they were then preparing to invest.

Sabbath, September 4.

I hope by this time you have received mine of Thursday, the day after the battle, which, I trust, will turn your melancholy and anxiety into songs of praise, while many others are sobbing in the anguish of their spirits, with tears and lamentations.—I never had more reason to bless God, or was more signally delivered. He. carefully kept all my bones, while the cannon-balls came so thick among us and swept away whole files of men, crushing them as one would crush a worm. I heartily sympathise with poor Mrs. Cranston. The Lord support and comfort her, and be a father to the fatherless, and a husband to the widow. That day has made many widows. I pray God,. the fruit of all this may be his honour and glory, and a good peace. I believe our campaign may end with the siege of this town. . We lay our account to be one of the besieging regiments, so that there is nothing in the world but one wave upon the back of the other. The just must live by faith. The Lord of Hosts is the God of battles, and has preserved me many a time there. He is also the God of sieges, and has preserved me as wonderfully there. I desire to put my trust in him. When' you grow anxious and thoughtful, take my riddled hat and hang it up before you, and trust in God who hath delivered and doth daily deliver. .

As to my advancement, I shall say but little about it. I bless God I am very easy, go as it will. I am using the ordinary means, and have promises enough. If it be good for me, and for God’s glory, I shall get it; if it be not so, I do not seek it, I have no business with it. It is a crisis in my life, as I hinted in mine before the battle; though I did not know how it would be, yet I had impressions that the campaign would take another turn, and would not be idle. This day was appointed to be a thanksgiving. We had sermon, and a feu-de-joie at night. The Lord’s peace rest with thee. I am thine, &c. J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Serjeant J. Reid, of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

Notwithstanding his want of talents “in making his court to great men,” his prospects of advancement were becoming more favourable. Several of his illustrious countrymen acted with great friendship towards him, and took an interest in his promotion; among others the gallant Earl of Orkney, as appears in the following letter.

Friday, September 9.

I have received yours of the 4th. The Lord has been very gracious both to you and me,—and you see it is not in vain to trust in him, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength ; there is none ashamed that trust in him. What a mercy is it that providence did not pitch upon you to be the melancholy widow as others are, who stand so much in need of the sympathy of their friends, and that you are serving God cheerfully, lifted up in his ways, while others are sitting disconsolate and desolate.—Every day we have new funerals of some friend or other. Major Row died yesterday, who was a kind friend to me.

Lord Orkney told me to-day, that he had spoken in my favour about my advancement; I praise God I am kept very easy about this matter. My inclination stands in a kind of poise or balance, either as to my staying in, or leaving the army. What is most for God’s glory and my good, let him do it. I trust that mercy and goodness, as it has done, shall follow me either the one way or the other. Give my humble service to poor Mrs. Cranston; if there he any thing she would have done, let her signify her mind to Captain Dickson. The Lord’s presence, blessing and peace rest with you. I am, &c, J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Serjeant J. Reid,? of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

He appears to have taken a kindly concern, and felt much sympathy for Mrs. Cranston in her melancholy situation, and wrote her about this time a very affectionate letter of condolence and consolation. And it is a most amiable trait of his character, that instead of a callous spectator of the sorrows of others, or forgetting their bereavements in the selfish contemplation of his own happy escape, he could thus own kindred with the unfortunate, and appropriate their distresses to himself. The letter itself is not preserved, hut we have the reflections it suggested to his mind in the following to his wife.

Sabbath, September 11.

I have complied with your desire, with my own duty and charitable office, to write poor Mrs. Cranston. The Lord bless and sanctify the rod to her. And O what songs of praise have we to sing in extolling the Lord for his mercy to us, that he deals with us in quite another manner. He brings us in by mercy and goodness, and singular providences; working great salvation and signal deliverances for us, while he is scourging others with sharp rods. O let-us be as a towardly kindly child, that needs not to he whipped into his duty; but that seeing the rod upon others, and shaking it over our heads, may be sufficient to bring us in to him. O let us serve him cheerfully, and have our hearts lifted up in his ways. Let us not be like the children of Israel who sung his* praise, but soon forgot his wondrous works. But his grace must be sufficient for us, his strength must be perfected in our weakness. Through him we can do all things : Without him, nothing.

We have still the hopes of being free of the siege, by these regiments coming out of the gafrison. The Providence of God is kinder to us than we could have expected, for we laid our accounts so firmly for the siege, that we thought nothing could put us by it. But kind Providence has fallen upon a way to prevent it. I can give you no farther information yet about my affair, but I am no way solicitous about it. I proposed to Colonel Preston, who is very much concerned for Mrs. Cranston, about advancement for her son, and he told me he had been thinking of the same thing, and that he resolves to propose it to the Duke. But do not speak of this. I do not like to puff up any body with empty promises; I had far rather do a favour, and speak nothing of it till it were done. I have had many letters from Scotland, from Dean of Guild Brown, Mrs. Balderstone, Mr. Car-stairs, &c. The Lord’s blessing and peace rest with you. I am, &c. J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Serjeant J. Reid, of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

Their expectations of being upon the siege of Mons were fortunately disappointed, other regiments being draughted from the garrisons for that service. They were however employed in covering it.

September 9. . How great is the goodness of God to us unworthy sinners ! We laid our account to he on this siege; we thought we could not miss it; hut kind Providence has found out a way to put it by us, by. bringing so many regiments out of the garrisons. I desire to observe all these things, and see the loving kindness of the Lord. We this day marched back to our post in the army for covering the siege.

While they continued in this camp, he wrote several letters to his wife, which we shall insert in their order, as the Diary, for this period contains nothing particularly interesting.

Wednesday, September 14.

I have no news since my last. I spoke to the Duke yesterday about my advancement, and told him I did not like to importune his grace, for I depended entirely upon his word. He told me that I might do so. There is no help for these delays but patience. I am ready either to stay or go as Providence shall see best for me. I dare hardly own it in a public company that I am so easy; for they do not think a man deserves any post in the army, who either gives himself rest or any other about him, General or other, till he get what he is seeking. But as I do not look upon ambition to be any Christian virtue, so neither do I look upon that carking anxious care to be any greatness of mind, rather the contrary.

Faith is a grace to be exercised at all times, and on all occasions. It keeps the soul in its seat, in a sedate composed temper. The mind stayed on God is in peace; it makes no haste, but is patient.

Our regiment does not go to the siege unless new regiments are called for. This is a mercy we were not expecting, and God presents us daily with his mercies. But detachments may go from the army. I do not say this to frighten you, but the contrary, that we should humbly depend and trust on God, and rejoice that he puts us in "a necessity of dependence; for we would gladly have all our enjoyments out of the reach of hazards and dangers. But it is not good for us that they be so; we may easily see, that when they are so we turn secure.

The weather begins now to be somewhat cold. I lie in my tent, for houses are difficult to be got; but I am very well, and lie very warm. This is my birth-day, as I think; but the 12th is a day I remember more, and ought never to forget. I am thine.

J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Serjeant J. Reid, ) of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

Monday, September 19. Nothing new has occurred since my last, nor can I give you any further account of my affair. Let Providence work its work for me. I am satisfied that it is not greatness, nor any thing else in the world that can make us more happy. That gentleman, as you observe, may give us an edifying lesson on the vanity of ambition—how, in a moment, our designs and prospects may be extinguished, and vanish away. Happy they who have God for the portion of their inheritance and cup; they have a goodly heritage, and the lines fall to them in pleasant places.

The four garrison regiments are now yoked to this siege, and we give no more detachments from the army. The rainy weather makes the trenches a very uncomfortable post; yea, I find a tent begins to be a cold lodging. But I have reason to be very thankful for the good accommodation I have had all this campaign. I must change the day of writing, for we lie a day’s journey from the Duke’s quarters. I am just now at his quarters, but only to make my bow. The Lord’s peace rest with you. I am thine. J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Serjeant Reid,
of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

Wednesday, September 21.

I received yours of the 16th. It troubles me much to find you are so indisposed, and that melancholy preys so much upon your spirits. I know you are more reasonable than to indulge yourself in it. But such is the composition of our machine, that these things do not depend upon us. We cannot keep our spirits in that temper and frame they should be in, or as we would have them. You are very sensible that none in the world have less reason than we to be melancholy. None have more reason to be cheerful, and to have their hearts lifted up in the ways of God ; for while he is writing bitter things to others, and giving them occasions of mournful and melancholy lamentation, he is compassing, us about with new songs of deliverance. To that great deliverance he gave me at the battle, he has added this other, which indeed we could not have expected, viz. to keep us free from this siege, which I would have looked upon as ten times worse , than the battle, for that is my nature.

Danger, though it be great, yet being soon over, and nothing in it to occasion anxiety of mind, seems to me a small thing in comparison of a constant tract of fatigue either of body or mind. The former rouses the spirits, the other sinks them. It is very probable that your room may be partly the occasion of it. But I am veiy well pleased, and desire you earnestly to change it if you can get a better, and get a more cheerful and heartsome lodging. Do as you please; you know I never was nice. about these things, and indeed I have no very fashionable fancy about them. You will get the Colonel’s rooms, when we come into garrison, for 300 gilders in the winter. I. think of keeping three horses in the garrison if I stay.

Our affair here begins to weary our patience. The Duke seems to be uneasy at the pressing him to fill up the commissions, as if it were taking something from him; and he was never better trysted upon this head with any body than with me, for I hate as much to importune as he does to be importuned; and except when my friends push me and hector me to go, I never incline to go near the court; for I had always that bashfulness of nature, that I cannot endure to be where I think I am troublesome. Let others whose talent it is get places and posts by assurance and forwardness, I shall have mine by modesty or want them, for I cannot force nature. I know promotion comes not from the east nor from the west. It is He who has the disposing of our lot, who has promised, that neither Grace, nor glory, nor any good thing, will he withheld from them that fear him.

This winter probably will make you either a Lieu-tenant-Colonel’s. Lady, or a Farmer’s wife; and I must say in your commendation, you are fit for either of them, which is more than I can say of myself. I hope Providence shall give a comfortable close to this campaign, and that there is not much of it now before our hand; and that he will give us a joyful meeting, with hearts filled with thankfulness and love to our kind benefactor. Remember me kindly to Mrs. Cranston. The Colonel has spoken to the Duke, and given in her son’s name to be an Ensign, and I hope the Duke will do it. Her friends are advising her rather to seek a pension from the Queen than to take the widow’s gratuity; but I humbly differ from them. The gratuity is a certain thing ; she comes to it of course, and without any trouble. The other is uncertain, and depends upon interest and friends. Let her once enter herself into the first, and afterwards, if she can procure a better pension it is well; but a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. I am thine. . J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Serjeant Reid, of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

Sabbath, September 25.

I received yours, and bless the Lord you are no worse. I entreat you not to give way to melancholy. Neither of us have reason for it, but much the contrary ; and if grace were stronger, and sanctification more deeply rooted, it would be more our element to serve God with delight, and more natural to us. We have great cause to be thankful that we missed this siege, for such judgment-like weather I have hardly seen in a camp. Just now it rains and blows so hard, that it is like to blow down all our tents about our ears. I have got the shelter of a house, which I reckon no small mercy in such weather; though it he but a sad house, for I am sitting in water at the fireside, which blows in; the soldiers having unthatched one side of it. However, I am very thankful for what I have.

If I can get time I shall answer Mrs. Cranston’s letter. There seems to he a work upon her spirit—a sense of sin, and of the wrath of God contending for sin, and great. doubting and fears as to mercy and pardon. I pray the Lord may carry it on with his spirit to be a saving work of grace, and make her flee to Christ.

Let me know as soon as you can what you design about a lodging. , As yet it is not altogether certain whether Ghent will be our garrison. Some speak of Brussels; but it is more than a month to garrison time yet. We do not know how things will he. I have seen much of the vanity of far fore-thought projects, how they are ordinarily disappointed; so that as we are directed to seek our daily bread from day to day only, so I seek direction from day to day without grasping at long tracts of time. Now that the weather is broken, and the roads become very had, and our horses harrassed with foraging five or six miles, every thing looks like garrison, and every body longs for it. But the great ones of the earth will fight against Providence. I pray God to give a comfortable, close to' the campaign, and send peace and truth upon the earth. The Lord’s presence he with you. I am thine. . J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Serjeant Reid, of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

Wednesday, September 29.

I received yours yesterday. I am here in a village close by the rear of the army, on command guarding the train horses. I go home to-morrow, and I hope to have no more command this campaign. Now that you are in Mrs. Hamilton’s lodgings, I hope your mutual company will divert each other. Give my humble service to her. I ordered you to drink our healths in a glass of wine as often as we do yours, which is twice a-day at least. It is a shame and a sin both that you should look lean after such a great campaign as this has been, when we in particular have been so mercifully dealt with. How would you look if the battle had been lost, and your husband killed, when you grow lean upon victories and deliverances. I must shame you out of it. Do you want, or need you want any thing that maybe for your good. I told you long ago that no detachments were to go from*our army, and that I had got a cottage to lodge in. So all your grievances are redressed; pray grow fat again.

We have a report this morning (Friday) that the town is capitulating; and indeed we have not heard any firing all the night since yesterday afternoon, I know not what truth is in it, till I go to the army to hear farther. We hardly wish it to be over so soon, for fear we be employed at another siege. But I am glad for the sake of the public interest, and let Providence dispose of our particular concerns as seems good. I am thine. J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Serjeant Reid,
of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

This report of the surrender of Mons was rather premature, as it did not take place until the 12th of October. The siege lasted about a month, but the enemy were so much haunted by the terrors of Mal-plaquet, that they made no attempts to relieve it.

September 30. Coming off command where I had the charge of 1200 horses. While in the fields I met with one of the greatest storms of hail and rain I have seen. Was surprised when I came home with the account of my Ensign’s being killed this morning by another officer who is also ill wounded; they were both very drunk. God’s judgments are just and righteous. O that men would take example when they see their comrades hung up in chains as terrible monuments of the divine displeasure against sin !

October 4. There is a report to-day that the French design to pay us another visit here. I do not believe it. Yet God may harden their hearts as he did Pharaoh’s and his host to follow Israel into the Red Sea, that they might perish there. Be it as it will, O Lord, I put my trust still in thee.

October 7. Again we have got intelligence that the French are coming to attack us. The Lord plucked them out of our hand last day at the battle of Tannier, and they are grown vain and insolent upon it; but he can humble their pride, and bring them down like the mire of the streets. .

I was at court in the morning, and got promises, but I see nothing but delays in this affair. I know not how Providence will order it. I cannot cringe at a court, neither is it decent or becoming for a child of the house to be fawning upon the servants for a favour. A child of God should have a nobler spirit, and carry their suit straight to their Father in heaven, and make their court there; and then they need not cringe to any creature. Our heavenly Father knows what we stand in need of. I seldom go to court, (says he in a letter of this date) for I see it is to no purpose to importune; the Duke stands impregnable against the solicitations of Generals and Colonels to fill up the vacancies, so what can such as I a poor obscure fellow do. Besides, I find that a constant plying and working about court and among Generals, would but create an uneasiness and anxiety in my. mind about these things; and I esteem serenity and contentedness to he a far greater blessing than all the posts they can bestow upon me.

October 12. Our alarm has turned to nothing, the town has capitulated. It is good news; Providence is very kind to us. I went to see the garrison march out, and Lord he blessed, that we have such a sight to see, and that sooner than we expected. They were a parcel of poor miserable creatures.

Thursday, October 13.

The French marched out of Mons yesterday. We are going to march, they say, on Monday, and I hope it shall not he long ere it please God to give us a comfortable meeting. Every body is now leaving the army. The Colonel goes away to-morrow. The Duke has given him new promises this morning, that we shall get justice; hut he has not signed the commissions yet, and perhaps it will cost a journey to the Hague ere it he done, which I shall >be very unwilling to undertake, if I he not obliged to it. . I think you had best go into the Colonel’s house now, as we may he down towards the end of next week. Cause provide forage, corn, and hay for my horses. I am busy now at the Colonel’s going away, about the re--giment, and the recruiting officers, &c. I make no apology for my short letter, for you may be thankful you hear at all from a man of so much business.

I am thine. J. B.

To Madam Blackader, care of Serjeant Reid,
of Colonel Preston’s Regiment, Ghent.

October 16. Sabbath. Yesterday we marched. Blessed be God that has put a comfortable close, to this campaign. This day is appointed by the Duke a thanksgiving for our taking of Mons, and the success of the campaign. I hope the Lord will bless the Duke for his piety and gratitude. Some laugh at these things, and many have taken this opportunity to leave the army. I believe indeed that God will be mocked by the generality of us. I beg grace to praise and magnify his name for the great things he has done me. With a heart filled with gratitude and love, let me never forget his goodness. We have all cause to bless him for his mercies, for it has been a very great campaign—two such strong considerable towns as Tour-nay and Mons taken, and a great victory; and with all this, it is a shorter campaign than any we have had this war.

Our fears have also been mercifully disappointed. For my part, I laid my account we should he hard put to it for scarcity, both for man and horse. I expected little less than famine. On the contrary, we had abundance of provisions. Neither my horses nor myself ever had so little fatigue. I have been but twice upon command, and have likewise had quarters in houses almost the whole time; so that I did not lie more than three weeks in my tent all the summer, whereby I got living more retiredly out of ill company. It is also to be remembered with great thankfulness, that we Were also threatened with pestilence; for in all the villages the poor boors were lying starving and dying with the bad nourishment, and victuals they were obliged to eat. Yet God in mercy kept this infection out of the army.

October 17. I have now got my commission, and the charge of the regiment. I pray the Lord to take charge both of me and them, otherwise they will be very ill ordered. After three days march, we reached Ghent, where I had a happy meeting with my dear concern here. The Lord has brought me back in peace and safety, may he give us his presence and blessing.

October 24. Kept in continual hurry with business, and people about Die. I am sure greatness must be a troublesome thing, when this small shadow of command I have is so troublesome.

November 1. My time almost wholly spent with company and business. I am so afraid of neglecting my duty, that I fear it will make the contract a carking careful temper. Company come thronging in upon me in the morning before I get retiring alone. I must rise earlier; for if my heart get a right set in the morning it possesses it all day, and keeps the world out.

Being now in winter-quarters, and much occupied with regimental affairs, the Colonel passed the winter cheerful in his own mind, and prosperous in all his concerns.

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