Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- The Lion of the North - 20/57 -
last. But just as I was about to march the news came that a party of Imperialist horse, three hundred strong, was about to attack Mansfeld, a place of whose existence I had never heard; but hearing that its count was a staunch Protestant, and that the inhabitants intended to make a stout defence, I thought that I could not be doing wrong in the service of the king by marching to aid them, the place being but twenty-four miles away across the hills. We got there in time, and aided the townspeople to repulse the first assault. After two days they brought up a reinforcement of four hundred infantry and some cannon. As the place is a small one, with but about two hundred and fifty fighting men of all ages, we deemed it impossible to defend the town, and while they were breaching the walls fell back to the castle. The Imperialists occupied it at sunset, and at night, leaving a party to hold the castle, we sallied out from the other side, and marching round, entered by the breaches, and, raising the Swedish war cry fell upon the enemy, who were for the most part too drunk to offer any serious resistance. We killed two hundred and fifty of them, and the rest fled in terror, thinking they had the whole Swedish army upon them. The next day I started on my march back here, and though we have not spared speed, it seems that the Imperialists have arrived before us."
A burst of laughter and applause greeted the solution of the mystery.
"You have done well, sir," Munro said cordially, "and have rendered a great service not only in the defeat of the Imperialists, but in its consequences here, for the prisoner said that last night five thousand men were marched away from Tilly's army to observe and make head against this supposed Swedish force advancing from the east. When I have done my meal I will go over to the king with the news, for his majesty is greatly puzzled, especially as the prisoner declared that he himself had seen the Scots of the Green Brigade in the van of the column, and had heard the war cry, 'A Hepburn! A Hepburn!'
"Hepburn himself could make neither head nor tail of it, and was half inclined to believe that this avenging force was led by the ghosts of those who had been slain at New Brandenburg. Whenever we can't account for a thing, we Scots are inclined to believe it's supernatural.
"Now tell me more about the affair, Malcolm. By the way do you know that you are a lieutenant now? Poor Foulis died of the fever a few days after you left us, and as the king had himself ordered that you were to have the next vacancy, I of course appointed you at once. We must drink tonight to your promotion."
Malcolm now related fully the incidents of the siege.
"By my faith, Malcolm Graheme," Munro said when he had finished, "you are as lucky as you are brave. Mansfeld is a powerful nobleman, and has large possessions in various parts of Germany and much influence, and the king will be grateful that you have thus rendered him such effective assistance and so bound him to our cause. I believe he has no children."
"He has a daughter," Malcolm said, "a pretty little maid some fourteen years old."
"In faith, Malcolm, 'tis a pity that you and she are not some four or five years older. What a match it would be for you, the heiress of Mansfeld; she would be a catch indeed! Well, there's time enough yet, my lad, for there is no saying how long this war will last."
There was a general laugh, and the colonel continued:
"Malcolm has the grace to colour, which I am afraid the rest of us have lost long ago. Never mind, Malcolm, there are plenty of Scotch cadets have mended their fortune by means of a rich heiress before now, and I hope there will be many more. I am on the lookout for a wealthy young countess myself, and I don't think there is one here who would not lay aside his armour and sword on such inducement. And now, gentlemen, as we have all finished, I will leave you to your wine while I go across with our young lieutenant to the king. I must tell him tonight, or he will not sleep with wondering over the mystery. We will be back anon and will broach a cask of that famous wine we picked up the other day, in honour of Malcolm Graheme's promotion."
Sir John Hepburn was dining with Gustavus, and the meal was just concluded when Colonel Munro was announced.
"Well, my brave Munro, what is it?" the king said heartily, "and whom have you here? The young officer who escaped from New Brandenburg and Tilly, unless I am mistaken."
"It is, sir, but I have to introduce him in a new character tonight, as the leader of your majesty's army who have defeated the Imperialists at Mansfeld."
"Say you so?" exclaimed the king. "Then, though I understand you not, we shall hear a solution of the mystery which has been puzzling us. Sit down, young sir; fill yourself a flagon of wine, and expound this riddle to us."
Malcolm repeated the narrative as he had told it to his colonel, and the king expressed his warm satisfaction.
"You will make a great leader some day if you do not get killed in one of these adventures, young sir. Bravery seems to be a common gift of the men of your nation; but you seem to unite with it a surprising prudence and sagacity, and, moreover, this march of yours to Mansfeld shows that you do not fear taking responsibility, which is a high and rare quality. You have done good service to the cause, and I thank you, and shall keep my eye upon you in the future."
The next day Malcolm went round the camp, and was surprised at the extensive works which had been erected. Strong ramparts and redoubts had been thrown up round it, faced with stone, and mounted with 150 pieces of cannon. In the centre stood an inner entrenchment with earthworks and a deep fosse. In this stood the tents of the king and those of his principal officers. The Marquis of Hamilton had, Malcolm heard, arrived and gone. He had lost on the march many of the soldiers he had enlisted in England, who had died from eating German bread, which was heavier, darker coloured, and more sour than that of their own country. This, however, did not disagree with the Scotch, who were accustomed to black bread.
"I wonder," Malcolm said to Nigel Graheme, "that when the king has in face of him a force so superior to his own he should have sent away on detached service the four splendid regiments which they say the marquis brought."
"Well, the fact was," Nigel said laughing, "Hamilton was altogether too grand for us here. We all felt small and mean so long as he remained. Gustavus himself, who is as simple in his tastes as any officer in the army, and who keeps up no ostentatious show, was thrown into the shade by his visitor. Why, had he been the Emperor of Germany or the King of France he could not have made a braver show. His table was equipped and furnished with magnificence; his carriages would have created a sensation in Paris; the liveries of his attendants were more splendid than the uniforms of generals; he had forty gentlemen as esquires and pages, and 200 yeomen, splendidly mounted and armed, rode with him as his bodyguard.
"Altogether he was oppressive; but the Hamiltons have ever been fond of show and finery. So Gustavus has sent him and his troops away to guard the passages of the Oder and to cover our retreat should we be forced to fall back."
Tilly, finding that the position of Gustavus was too strong to be forced, retired to Wolmirstadt, whence he summoned the Elector of Saxony to admit his army into his country, and either to disband the Saxon army or to unite it to his own. Hitherto the elector had held aloof from Gustavus, whom he regarded with jealousy and dislike, and had stood by inactive although the slightest movement of his army would have saved Magdeburg. To disband his troops, however, and to hand over his fortresses to Tilly, would be equivalent to giving up his dominions to the enemy; rather than do this he determined to join Gustavus, and having despatched Arnheim to treat with the King of Sweden for alliance, he sent a point blank refusal to Tilly.
The Imperialist general at once marched towards Leipzig, devastating the country as he advanced. Terms were soon arranged between the elector and Gustavus, and on the 3d of September, 1631, the Swedish army crossed the Elbe, and the next day joined the Saxon army at Torgau. By this time Tilly was in front of Leipzig, and immediately on his arrival burned to the ground Halle, a suburb lying beyond the wall, and then summoned the city to surrender.
Alarmed at the sight of the conflagration of Halle, and with the fate of Magdeburg in their minds, the citizens of Leipzig opened their gates at once on promise of fair treatment. The news of this speedy surrender was a heavy blow to the allies, who, however, after a council of war, determined at once to march forward against the city, and to give battle to the Imperialists on the plain around it.
Leipzig stands on a wide plain which is called the plain of Breitenfeld, and the battle which was about to commence there has been called by the Germans the battle of Breitenfeld, to distinguish it from the even greater struggles which have since taken place under the walls of Leipzig.
The baggage had all been left behind, and the Swedish army lay down as they stood. The king occupied his travelling coach, and passed the night chatting with Sir John Hepburn, Marshal Horn, Sir John Banner, Baron Teuffel, who commanded the guards, and other leaders. The lines of red fires which marked Tilly's position on the slope of a gentle eminence to the southwest were plainly to be seen. The day broke dull and misty on the 7th of September, and as the light fog gradually rose the troops formed up for battle. Prayers were said in front of every regiment, and the army then moved forward. Two Scottish brigades had the places of honour in the van, where the regiments of Sir James Ramsay, the Laird of Foulis, and Sir John Hamilton were posted, while Hepburn's Green Brigade formed part of the reserve -- a force composed of the best troops of the army, as on them the fate of the battle frequently depends. The Swedish cavalry were commanded by Field Marshal Horn, General Banner, and Lieutenant General Bauditzen.
The king and Baron Teuffel led the main body of infantry; the King of Saxony commanded the Saxons, who were on the Swedish left. The armies were not very unequal in numbers, the allies numbering 35,000, of whom the Swedes and Scots counted 20,000, the Saxons 15,000. The Imperialists numbered about 40,000. Tilly was fighting unwillingly, for he had wished to await the arrival from Italy of 12,000 veterans under General Altringer, and who were within a few days' march; but he had been induced, against his own better
Previous Page Next Page
1 10 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 30 40 50 57
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything