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- Won by the Sword - 60/68 -
drilled as cavalry as well as infantry. He, with the twenty men of the regular garrison on foot and ten of the tenants, will make straight for the guns. I shall be with the horsemen, and as soon as we have scattered the mob, we will harness the horses to the guns and bring them up here, so that I shall strengthen the castle as well as weaken the peasants."
The tenants were all informed of what was going to be done.
"It will be to your benefit as well as ours," he said, "for you may be sure that in the morning, if they give up the idea of again attacking us, they will scatter all over the estates and sack and burn every house, whereas if we succeed in dispersing them, no small portion of them will at once scatter to their homes, and the rest will take care not to come near this neighbourhood again."
At twelve o'clock MacIntosh sent a man to say that the road down was clear, and that three hundred and twenty dead bodies had been thrown over. At three o'clock in the morning the horses, round whose hoofs pieces of sacking had been tied, were led across the fosse. One of MacIntosh's sergeants was put in charge of the ten men who were to remain at the intrenchment, the castle being left entirely in the hands of the women and boys. The mounted tenants were eighty in number, all carrying long spears and swords. The torches had long since burnt out, and each man leading his horse went noiselessly down the road, MacIntosh with the footmen leading the way. They halted at the bottom of the road. There was no sound from the spot where the insurgents were lying a couple of hundred yards down the valley, fatigued by a very long march on the previous day, and the exertion of dragging the cannon, for only a few of these were horsed. Presently the day began to break, but not until it became light enough to see perfectly, did Hector give the order to mount, and leaping into the saddle prepared to lead them.
The mounted men had been divided into four bands of twenty each. Paolo and the three troopers each took the command of a party. Hector's orders were: "Keep together until the peasants are in full flight, then separate in pursuit. The movement must be put down or the whole province will be ruined, therefore give no quarter, and pursue until your horses are tired, then return here. Now, MacIntosh, do you advance straight upon the guns; it is probable that they are all loaded, therefore carry them with a rush. The moment we see you engaged we will charge."
The horsemen were in single line, extending from side to side of the valley. Hector kept his eye upon MacIntosh's party. They were close to the guns before any of the sleepers awoke. Then there was a sudden shout, and numbers of the men rushed to the cannon. MacIntosh was there as soon as they were, and pouring in a volley rushed upon the guns. At the same moment Hector gave the word to charge, and with levelled spears the horsemen rode down into the midst of the crowd. Appalled by this sudden attack, which was wholly unexpected, the resistance was but slight. Many of the peasants at once threw away their arms and fled. Those who resisted were speared or overthrown by the horses. As the valley widened the four troops separated a little, each cutting a way for itself through the peasants. It was no longer a fight; and a wild panic seized upon the whole of the insurgents. Some rushed straight down the valley, others ran up the opposite hillside; but the slope here was gradual, and the horsemen were able to pursue.
"Paolo, take your troop up the hill. Let the others keep straight down the valley." And, heading these, Hector galloped on, shouting to MacIntosh to harness what teams there were to some of the guns and take them up to the top of the road, and then bring the horses back for some more.
For two hours the pursuit continued. Occasionally a group of peasants gathered together and tried to stem the tide, but these were speedily overcome, the long spears bearing them down without their being able to strike a blow at the riders, and at the end of that time the insurgents were scattered over a wide extent of country, all flying for their lives. Hector now ordered trumpets to sound; he was soon joined by the other troops, and at a leisurely pace they rode back to their starting point. Not more than half the guns had as yet been taken up, for MacIntosh had found it necessary to put double teams to them in order to drag them up the steep road. The mounted men had all brought ropes with them, and, dismounting, eight yoked their horses to each gun, and in an hour the whole were brought up to the plateau, the drawbridge was lowered, the sacks of earth cleared away, and the portcullis raised, the gates thrown open, and the garrison filed into the courtyard, greeted by cries of welcome from the women.
"I think that we have crushed the insurrection in this part of Poitou," Hector said to Madame de Blenfoix. "We have certainly killed six or seven hundred of them, and I am sure that the remainder will never rally. We will rest today, and tomorrow morning we will set to work to complete the defences of the chateau, so that it may be held by a comparatively small number of men."
The joy of the women was extreme when they found that not a single man had fallen, though a few had received gashes more or less severe. The next morning the whole of the men and boys set to work under Hector's directions. The intrenchment at the top of the road was greatly strengthened, an opening through which a cart could pass being left in the middle.
A gun was placed on each side of this, and twenty sacks of earth laid down by the side of the opening, so that this in the course of a few minutes could be closed, and a gun placed close by run into position between the other two. The greater part of the men, however, were employed in raising a mound of stones and earth in front of the gateway, so as to cover this from the fire of any guns which, after the outward intrenchment had been stormed, might be brought up on to the plateau. The women, and even the children, assisted in the work by carrying earth, while men, with the horses and carts, brought stones up from the valley.
It took a fortnight's hard work before the outwork was completed. It was twenty feet high, triangular in form, and solid in construction. Many of the tenants were accustomed to stonework; and while the rest of the bastion was constructed of rough stones mixed with earth, a parapet four feet thick, of roughly dressed stones, was carried along on the crest of the two outward sides. Four guns were mounted here; the rest of the cannon were placed on the outer wall instead of the honeycombed guns before in position, and the castle was thus prepared to stand a regular siege.
Hector remained for a week after the work was completed, paid the tenants liberally for the services they had rendered, and dismissed them to their homes, for the terrible blow that had been inflicted upon them had so cowed the peasants that order had been completely restored in that part of Poitou. Then, after taking an affectionate adieu of Madame de Blenfoix and her daughter, he rode back to Paris, where he remained for two months.
At the end of that time, being heartily tired of the frivolity and intrigues, and disgusted at the immorality of the court, he obtained leave from Mazarin to rejoin his regiment, as the campaign might be expected to open shortly again. The cardinal had warmly congratulated him upon the suppression of the insurrection in Poitou, of which he had received full details from his agents long before Hector reached Paris.
"I have always exhorted the officers and the troops engaged in putting down these risings to spill no more blood than is absolutely necessary. But it needed a great lesson, such as you have given them. Otherwise, as soon as the troops were withdrawn the peasants would rise again."
Turenne had also been in Paris, and had strongly represented to Mazarin the necessity for the armies of France and Sweden in Germany acting together, since while they were acting separately, and at great distances apart, the Austrians and Bavarians could unite and crush the one, while the other could offer it no assistance. It was owing to this that the conquests made by the troop of France and Weimar had been repeatedly wrested from them. The cardinal listened to his advice, and determined to bring about a union between the two armies of the confederation. In the meantime a conference was going on at Munster between the representatives of the various conflicting powers, but each put forward such exorbitant demands that no progress was made.
The Duke of Bavaria, indignant at the small support that Austria had given him, was playing off France against the latter power. Mazarin was persuaded that he was only waiting for an opportunity to desert the Imperialist cause, and therefore ordered Turenne not to cross the Rhine, as the duke had promised that he would remain neutral unless the French advanced into Germany, when the feelings of his subjects might force him to take the field again on the side of Austria.
Turenne was therefore ordered to besiege Luxembourg. The marshal, however, had no belief in the Bavarian promises, and on arriving on the Rhine early in April, and seeing that were he to march with his army away to Luxembourg the cause of France and Germany would be lost, he continued to make various excuses for not moving, until the Duke of Bavaria, having obtained many concessions from Austria, threw off the mask, and marching with his army joined that of the emperor in Franconia. Thus the whole Imperial forces were posted between the French and the Swedes.
Turenne saw that his only hope of success would be to effect a juncture with the Swedes, and wrote to the cardinal to that effect; then, without waiting for an answer, he set his army in motion. A tremendous circuit had to be made. He forded the Moselle six leagues above Coblenz, the bridges over the Rhine being all in possession of the enemy, marched up into Holland, and obtained permission from the king to cross at Wesel, which he reached after fourteen days' march. Crossing the Rhine on the 15th of July he marched through the country of La Mark, and through Westphalia, and on the 10th of August joined the Swedes under General Wrangel, who had received news of his coming, and had intrenched himself so strongly that the enemy, who had arrived before him, did not venture to attack him. The enemy now fell back at once and encamped near Freiburg. Their army was superior in force to that of the allies, they having fourteen thousand horse and ten thousand foot, while the allies had but ten thousand horse and seven thousand foot. The allies had, however, sixty pieces of cannon against fifty of the Imperialists. The allies advanced to Freiburg and offered battle, but the Archduke Leopold, who commanded the Imperialists, declined to come out of the great intrenchments he had thrown up round his camp.
Turenne then marched towards the Maine, and, halting ten leagues from Mayence, sent for the infantry, of which he had left a portion there, to join him. The whole force of the allies was now united, and took many towns. As, however, they were still inferior in
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