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

Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter IX. The Green Brigade

I have stated that a numerous Austrian force lay a few miles from Hepburn’s post, at Colberg, a Prussian seaport in Outer Pomerania, having a harbour on the Baltic, and a stately cathedral.

The Lord of Kniphausen, a sergeant-major-general in the Swedish service, ordered Munro’s Highlanders to assist him in blockading the place, which he closely invested on every side. Though this petty lordling (whose territories were the smallest of all the German princes) cherished a bitter jealousy and hatred of the Scots, he did not disdain to avail himself of the skill and military talent of Sir John Hepburn; for, on hearing that the Imperialists were pushing forward a strong force from GrifFenhagen on the Oder, to raise the blockade of Colberg, he despatched him to reconnoitre the town and castle of Shevelbrune on the Rega, in the Marke, a pass five miles distant from Colberg, by which he foresaw the enemy would approach.

Accompanied by a squadron of steel-clad troopers, Hepburn rode forward and examined the position: he found the castle ruined, and the small town almost deserted, nearly half the inhabitants having died of a pestilence, and the rest being fled. He reported it, "though a scurvie hole for any honest cavalier to maintaine his credit in,” a post of strength, and advised Kniphausen to throw into it a resolute garrison, to bar the advance of the Austrians.

With orders to fight to the last man, this important post was assigned, on the 6th November, to the Highlanders of Munro, who fortified the place by ramparts of earth and stockades breast-high; the gates were barricaded with rubbish, to resist the explosion of petards; and these preparations were barely ended before the glittering of armour lightened the green mountain-sides, and the post was assailed by a column of eight thousand Imperialists, led by Ernest, count de Montecuculi, an accomplished officer, who was descended from an ancient family in Modena, and had passed through all the ranks, from a pikeman to a general of artillery and commander in Alsatia.

He had the regiments of Coloredo, Isolani, Goetz, Sparre, and Charles Wallenstein. His advanced-guard consisted of three troops of Imperial cuirassiers, accoutred in bright armour; three troops of light-armed Croats, and a thousand arquebusiers, who, on their first approach, were driven back by the steady fire of the Highlanders.

The command sent by Kniphausen to Munro, on this occasion, is a remarkable specimen of the clearness and brevity so characteristic of a military despatch, which should strictly contain all that requires to be known, and no more:—

"Maintain the town as long as you can; hut give not up the castle, while a single man remains with you”

Obedient to this, on the Imperial trumpeter appearing before the half-ruined town to propose a treaty of surrender, the brave Munro replied coolly,—

"The word treaty having by some chance been omitted in my instructions, I have only powder and ball at the service of the Count de Montecuculi.”

Upon this the latter pressed forward, at the head of his eight thousand men, who approached on all sides, to a general storm. But the little band of Highlanders behaved to admiration; and, after keeping the foe in check for several hours, by a close and deadly fire, which piled every lane and alley chin-deep with killed and wounded, they laid the whole town in ashes, and, through the blazing streets, retired into the castle, keeping their faces to the enemy. Upon this, the wary Montecuculi auguring from the resolution of the governor, and the sturdy valour of his bare-kneed soldiers, that no laurels would be won before the round towers of Shevel-brune—retired in the night without beat of drum, and under cover of a dense mist.

Thus did five hundred Highlanders repel sixteen times their number of Imperialists.

“I being retired into the castle,” says Munro, and the enemy marching to Colberg, having made up eighteine dragoniers to march after them, for bringing me intelligence if his majestie’s forces from Statin were come betwixt the enemy and Colberg, this party retiring shewes that the Field-marshall Gustave Home and Collonel Mackay, that comanded the musketiers, were joyned with Kniphausen, Bawtish, and Sir John Hepbume, and were lying overnight before a passage betwixt the enemy and Colberg.”

They thus barred Montecuculi’s retreat into a fortress which was of such strength that Torquato de Conti, and other officers of the Emperor, had chosen it as a place wherein to store up the vast pillage of their long campaigns.

Having been blockaded for some time in vain by Kniphausen, General Bauditzen came with four thousand men and eighteen pieces of cannon, to press the siege with greater vigour; and soon after, the Highlanders of Lord Reay, and Sir John Hepburn—with his regiment, which had been relieved from garrison duty at Rugenwalde—came in on the same service, in which a detachment of his men was sharply engaged with the Imperialists of Montecuculi, who made more than one attempt to relieve Colberg, after his warm repulse by Munro at Shevelbrune.

A wing of each regiment, commanded by the colonel, marched on this duty, leaving the other wings under the next senior officer in the trenches at Colberg, where Leslie of Balgonie commanded.

"The Lord Reay commanded the resolute Scottish-men of his owne nation.” Hepburn led the right wing of his own musketeers, and the Baron Teuffel led the Dutch.

The encounter took place amid mist and darkness, at four o’clock on the morning of the 13th November, among the green hedgerows, gardens, and cottages of a little straggling dorf or village; and, as they fell on with levelled pikes and clubbed muskets, friend could scarcely be distinguished from foe, so much alike were the arms and armour of both armies.

The Imperialists were above seven thousand strong.

The Swedish infantry, who were led by the young Grave of Thurn, fled almost without firing a shot; but the Scottish musketeers of Hepburn and Lord Beay, who were in the van of this confused skirmish, stood like a rampart, pouring in their volleys from right to left; but the flight of the Swedish cavalry—who were also seized by an unaccountable panic—made it necessary for the Scots to retire with Kniphausen, which they did under cover of the thick mist, leaving five hundred killed among the fields and hedges. "Many slew their comrades in the confusion,” says Harte; "nor can I agree with a brave Scottish officer, who, in his relation of this engagement, where he happened to be present, calls it a mighty pretty and comical sort of a battle.”

In consequence of the able manner in which Hepburn, Kniphausen, and Bauditzen closed up every avenue to Colberg, with twelve thousand men, the garrison were compelled to capitulate; and on the 26th of February were permitted to march out with the honours of war, fifteen hundred strong, (being nine companies of infantry and two troops of horse,) all in their armour, with pikes carried, colours flying, drums beating, and matches lighted, with bag and baggage, and two pieces of cannon with balls in their muzzles, and lintstocks burning.

They marched by the pass of Shevelbrune, where some of Munro’s Highlanders were under arms to receive and salute them as they proceeded to Landsberg, which was garrisoned by the troops of the Empire.

During the winter of 1630 Hepburn marched to the vicinity of Stettin, the ancient Pomeranian capital, the burghers of which were famous alike for their hospitality to strangers, and their courage in resisting an enemy. A Major-General Leslie commanded the garrison of the strong castle which overawed the town.

On the march from Prymhausen, en route to Stettin, a quarrel ensued between Gustavus and Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Munro, which was amicably adjusted by the mediation of Hepburn.

Munro had the right of filling up the vacant commissions in his own regiment, and was offended at Gustavus for appointing a Captain Dumaine to the company of Captain Bullion, who had received the rank of quarter-master-general of horse.

At Colnoe he requested Hepburn—whom he knew to stand high in the favour of their warlike leader—to accompany him, and use all his interest for a clansman on whom he wished to bestow the vacant company.

"Have you placed the Captaine Dumaine?” asked Gustavus, on their entering, and before the request was made.

"I have not, sire,” replied Munro, “finding it prejudicial to your service, as he lacked the language to command a company.” "He will soon learn enough to command a company,” said the King; "but on whom would you bestow it?” "On a cavalier that deserves well of your Majesty— David Munro, now my lieutenant.”

"What shall I think of this?” said Gustavus, turning haughtily to Hepburn and General Banier; "to appoint his own cousin he will disobey my orders.”

At Hepburn's intercession the matter was arranged by the sturdy Highlander waiving his right for the time, and bestowing the command of the company on Dumaine.

Major Sennot, Lieutenant Pringle, and many soldiers of his regiment, died of a pestilence then raging in Stettin.

In the beginning of 1631 Gustavus concluded a treaty with France, by which he was to have yearly four hundred thousand crowns to carry on the war, on the proviso that, if successful, he was to respect the Catholic faith and the ancient constitution of the Empire. On representing his ardent desire to relieve Germany from the oppressions of Ferdinand, he received £108,000 from England and other quarters, together with the promise of six thousand infantry, raised by the Marquis of Hamilton, who, previous to his sailing from Yarmouth Boads, received the Order of the Garter from Charles I.

The aim of Louis was to create a diversion, and humble the Emperor: the desire of Charles was the restoration of his brother-in-law, the exiled Elector-Palatine.

Colonel John Munro of Obstell (or Obisdale) offered to raise another regiment of Highlanders for the Swedish service; and Colonel Sir James Lumsden, brother of Robert Lumsden of Invergellie, brought over a noble regiment of Lowland infantry, which joined Gustavus in Brandenburg. Sir James's eldest brother, the laird, was senior captain of this battalion; and the ensign of his company was the celebrated Sir James Turner, the Cavalier officer, whose military memoirs are so well known. Robert Lumsden, afterwards a major-general in the Scottish service, was cruelly murdered by the English at the sack of Dundee, "in cold blood, one hour after he got quarter; but the gallant Munro of Obstell was slain in his armour at Wetterau, on the banks of the Bhine.2

Anthony Haig of Beimerside—a spirited young cavalier—among his vassals in Tweedside and the vale of Melrose, raised, armed, and mounted, at his own expense, a gallant troop of fifty horsemen for the Swedish army: three sons of Boswell of Auchinleck, (whose descendants still remain in Sweden;) John and Bobert Durham, sons of the Laird of Pitkerrow; Francis and Alexander Leslie, sons of Sir John Leslie, baronet of Wardis, (both of whom were slain;) and many other cavaliers, came crowding from Scotland to the German wars.

In the second campaign against the Empire, the Swedish army was almost entirely commanded by Scottish officers, and there is many a plaintive song which records with pathos the slaughter of those brave men who left our pastoral glens to follow the various banners that were then unfurled in northern Europe.

"Oh, woe unto these cruel wars,
That ever they began;
For they have reft my native isle
Of many a pretty man.

“First they took my brethren twain,
Then wiled my love frae me;
Oh, woe unto the cruel wars
In Low Germanie.”

The army of Gustavus, when reviewed on the 23d December 1630, previous to crossing the Oder, mustered twelve thousand musketeers and pikemen, eighty-five troops of horse and dragoons, with seventy pieces of cannon—a force which few armies have ever equalled, and none ever surpassed, in discipline, steadiness, confidence, and bravery, or completeness of equipment in every respect.

In March, Colonel Hepburn, with his old regiment, as it was named, encamped at Schewdt in the province of Brandenburg, a district then covered by dense forests, infested by wild horses and boars, wolves, bulls, and beavers. There, without any increase of rank, he received command of a brigade of four chosen Scottish regiments—viz., Mackay’s Highlanders, Sir James Lumsden’s musketeers, and Stargate’s corps. It was denominated Hepburns Scots Brigade, or the Green Brigade; and to his own regiment was assigned the right flank when in line.

Throughout the army it was generally known as the Green Brigade, from the colour of the doublets, scarfs, feathers, and standards of its soldiers—as other divisions of the army were designated the Yellow, the Blue, and the White Brigades.

Thus, in his thirtieth year, Hepburn found himself the head of the four best regiments of the army—a post of increased importance and responsibity in which he acquitted himself to the admiration of all the Swedish generals; for, the greater the command, the greater were his means of displaying that courage and conduct for which he was so distinguished.

The regiment of Stargate was, after a time, withdrawn from the brigade.

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