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- Won by the Sword - 5/68 -
of the sieges of fortified towns or of measures for their relief.
In all these Turenne took much more than his full share, paying attention not only to his own duties but to all that was being done, spending his whole time in the batteries and the trenches, and in learning all that was possible of war carried on under such conditions. In the winter, operations were always suspended, and Turenne spent his time in Paris, where his manner and conduct won for him the favour of all with who he came in contact. He had been severely brought up under a Calvinist tutor; his habits were simple, his tastes quiet and almost ascetic, and he cared little for the amusements of the brilliant and corrupt court. When the war with Lorraine broke out, Turenne at once sought for employment with the French army.
He recognized that there was comparatively little to be done in the war of sieges in Holland, and longed to enter a wider field. His request was gladly granted, for the presence of the Duc de Bouillon's brother in the French army was in itself some guarantee of the duke's fidelity to his engagements with France, and Turenne was at once appointed to the colonelcy of a regiment. He devoted himself as assiduously to his work as he had done in Holland, and it was not long before his regiment gained the reputation of being the best disciplined in the king's service. He took part in a short expedition in 1630, but there was on that occasion no fighting, and he first saw real service under Marshal de la Force in 1634. After the siege of La Motte, the success of which was due to the storming of the breach by Turenne and his regiment, and for which exploit he was promoted to the rank of Marechal de Camp, a rank equivalent to that of major general, he took part in several sieges, until Lorraine was completely conquered and its duke driven to abdicate and retire to Austria.
The battle of Nordlingen showed Richelieu that if France did not resolutely enter into the conflict the Austrians would become absolute masters of all Germany. He at once signed a treaty with the Swedes, agreeing to grant them large subsidies to carry on the war. By a similar treaty he promised subsidies and the province of Alsace to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar. He entered into an arrangement with the Dutch, who were to aid France to conquer Flanders, which was to be divided between the two powers; while the Dukes of Savoy, Parma, and Mantua agreed to undertake, in alliance with France, the invasion of Milan, and to receive in return a portion of the territory won from Spain. At the same time France declared war against Spain. It was to the army commanded by Cardinal de la Valette, which was to act with that of Saxe-Weimar against the Imperialists, that Turenne was attached.
The campaign began unfavourably. The impetuosity of Saxe-Weimar, who hoped to recover his own principality, induced Valette to cross the Rhine; but he was forced to retire in all haste, and the army suffered terribly in the retreat. Turenne was in command of the advanced guard, and his courage and activity alone saved the army from complete destruction -- seizing upon defiles, overthrowing the enemy who barred the passages, and enabling the army to recross the Rhine with numbers diminished only by sickness, fatigue, and hunger. At the siege of Saverne, Turenne led the French troops to the attack after three repulses, and succeeded in gaining a footing in the town, but received himself a very severe wound in the arm with a musket ball. During the following year several towns were captured but no decisive operations took place.
In 1638, the Duke of Saxe-Weimar gained some great successes, defeated the Imperialists with heavy loss at Rheinfelden, and besieged Breisach, the key of southern Germany. The Imperialist army marched to relieve the place, but reinforcements were sent from France under the command of Turenne and Longueville. Three battles were fought and the Austrians driven off. After an assault by Turenne, Breisach capitulated, and all Alsace had now fallen into the hands of Saxe-Weimar. Having been promised Alsace he refused, as Richelieu desired, to hand over Breisach to France; but on the death of the duke in the following year, Richelieu bought over his lieutenants, the French flag waved over the towns of Alsace, and the Upper Rhine became the French frontier. Turenne returned to court, where he was received with enthusiasm, and was a short time afterwards ordered to Italy to assist De la Valette, who had been faring but badly there.
Matters had not gone there as Richelieu had calculated. The Duke of Savoy remained true to his engagement with France, but he died in October, 1637. The Spaniards had captured Vercelli, and the emperor had bestowed the regency of the duchy on the Cardinal of Savoy and on Prince Thomas, brother-in-law of the duchess. These, supported by the Duke of Modena and the Governor of Milan, the Marquess of Leganez, declared that they were determined to protect the people against the French and to deliver the young duke from French domination. The duchess implored help from France, and la Valette advanced to her aid.
While in Paris, Turenne had obtained from the cardinal permission to raise a regiment of dragoons and also that a company of dragoons should be attached to each regiment of cavalry. These troops were not intended to fight on horseback, but were, in fact, mounted infantry, an arm which, after being in disuse for many years, has lately been recognized as a very valuable one, possessing as it does the mobility of cavalry with the fighting power of infantry. It was at the head of this regiment that the general started for Italy. The position of affairs in Savoy was dark indeed, for the whole of Piedmont had risen against the duchess. Many considerable towns had been captured by the Spanish, others, including the city of Turin, had opened their gates to them, and with the exception of Susa, Carignano, Chivasso, Casale, and the citadel of Turin, the whole country was lost to her. The French forces were, however, too weak to take the offensive, and the ill health of La Valette deprived him of his former energy and rendered him unwilling to undertake any offensive movement. Nevertheless, Turenne's counsels infused a new spirit into the army, and indeed the news that the young general, whose name was already known throughout Europe, had arrived, and the belief that his coming would be followed by that of large reinforcements from France, at once reanimated the remaining supporters of the duchess and dispirited the Piedmontese, who began to fear that they had been too hasty in siding with Spain.
But if, for the time, Turenne was not in a position to act in the field, he began at once to take steps to prepare to meet the coming storm. Early in October La Valette died. The general opinion was that Turenne would have succeeded to the command, but his brother the Duc de Bouillon had broken with Richelieu and joined the party opposed to him. When in Paris, the duke had been on terms of intimate friendship with the Count of Soissons and had invited him to stay with him at Sedan. The invitation had been declined, but the count, having been implicated in a plot against Richelieu, had been obliged to fly and had taken refuge at Sedan, where he had been most warmly received by the duke. Richelieu had at first invited, and then in the name of the king commanded, Bouillon to expel his guest. This the duke absolutely refused to do, and becoming deeply offended at the manner in which he was pressed, joined the party opposed to Richelieu.
It was for this reason that the cardinal decided not to appoint Turenne to the command, knowing the warm affection that existed between the brothers, and fearing that Turenne might be influenced by Bouillon, and might, beloved as he was by the soldiers, lead many of the troops away from their allegiance were he to join the party opposed to him. He therefore appointed the Count d'Harcourt to the command. He had proved himself a brilliant officer on many occasions, and Turenne did not feel in any way aggrieved at his being placed over him. He made a rapid journey to Paris to arrange with the cardinal and d'Harcourt the general plan of the campaign, and was now setting out again to make preparations for it.
Hector Campbell enjoyed the journey greatly. His duties were nominal; and the party always halted at towns, where the troops were billeted upon the inhabitants, and the viscount and his suite entertained by the authorities. After crossing the Alps, however, by the pass of Mount Cenis, and arriving at Susa, his work began in earnest. Turenne himself was almost entirely occupied in consultations with the duchess; his three aides-de-camp, however, were kept hard at work carrying messages to the governors of towns that still adhered to the duchess, with orders for the strengthening of the defences and for the collection of stores and provisions in case of siege. Each was provided with three horses, and almost lived in the saddle.
"You seem to be tireless, Campbell," de Lisle said, when it one day happened that all three were together at headquarters. "I feel as if I had not a whole bone in my body; as I have not had a whole night in bed for the last six days, I can hardly keep my eyes open, while you, who have been doing as much as we have, are going about as actively as if you had had nothing to do for a week."
"I have the advantage of riding so much lighter than you do," Hector said; "weight tells both on horse and rider, and when the horse is tired his pace soon adds to the weariness of his rider. If we had had to do this work when we first left Paris, I have no doubt that I should have felt it, but the journey here has been a fine preparation. Another thing is, that every morning I take a dip in the first mountain stream I come to, and that does one almost as much good as a night's sleep."
De Lisle shivered. "It may do good, Campbell, but I would not jump into one of these icy streams for anything. It makes one shudder to think of it."
"I always had a swim in the Seine every morning when it was not closed by ice," Hector said. "I was told that there was nothing braced one up and made one so hardy as that; and I certainly found that even in the coldest weather I never felt the need of a cloak."
"Well, I don't deny that it may be a good custom, and if all Scotchmen do it, it may account for their hardiness; but I like comfort when I can get it."
"But it is not comfort to be always in the saddle, and to feel so sleepy that you fancy that at any moment you may fall off. Even if a dip in snow water is, to those unaccustomed to it, somewhat sharp, it is better than having to struggle against sleep for hours."
"Well, possibly I may try the experiment some day when I feel that I must either lie down by the roadside and sleep or take a dip, but until I feel like breaking down altogether I shall postpone the experiment."
Turenne several times spoke approvingly to Hector. On one occasion, when the lad presented himself on being told that an aide-de-camp was required to carry a message, Turenne said to him: "But it is not your turn, Campbell; de Lisle and Chavigny both returned some hours ago, while it is not an hour since you came in."
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