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 X. Slaughter of the Scotland at Brandenburg Revenged at Frankfort

“When cannons are roaring and colours are flying,
The lads that seek honour must never fear dying;
Then, stout cavaliers, let us toil our brave trade in,
And fight for the gospel and bold King of Sweden."

Such is the fragment of a camp song which Scott has placed in the mouth of that admirable portraiture of a Scottish soldier of fortune, Major Dugald Dalgetty, and which is nearly the same as one with which the worthy cavalier, Munro, commences one of his chapters or duties; and it was in that spirit that Sir John Hepburn and his brigade—with carried pikes, matches it, six standards displayed, and all the drums beating the "old Scots march,” which the shrill fifes poured to the morning wind—led the van of the Swedish army, which, in admirable order, with armour burnished and weapons glittering, began its march for Frankfort on the Oder, “being led by the Lyon of the North, the invincible King of Sweden, of never-dying memory.”

It was now the 24th March: the weather was intensely cold; the wooded hills of the Middle Mark were still covered with deep snow; and the rivers and marshes, which had been frozen during the severe winter that was past, were bursting their icy barriers; and the melting snows had deepened the morasses on the banks of the Havel, until they had expanded into reedy lakes.

Previous to this the Scottish troops had distinguished themselves at the capture of Trepto, a town and castle on the sea-shore; at the defence of New Brandenburg, where six hundred of Lord Reay’s Highlanders were placed in garrison, under his lieutenant-colonel, a brave officer, who had received three dangerous wounds at the siege of Stralsund. Major Sinclair, with two companies of Scots, took their quarters at Trepto, on the same night that another party of their countrymen stormed the castle of Letts from six hundred Italians.

They were also at the capture of Dameine, (a fortress garrisoned by seven companies of Holcke’s musketeers, each company carrying a red banner,) where Munro’s Highlanders and Sir John Banier’s regiment repelled a bold attempt to scour their trenches. On that occasion, a Swedish captain, being left wounded within range of the Austrian cannon, was abandoned by his own soldiers; and, on their refusal to rescue him, was courageously carried off by a small party of Highlanders, among whom he expired that night in great agony, with his last breath reprehending bitterly the ungenerous conduct of his countrymen.

The capture of New Brandenburg, where, after nine days’ desperate resistance, (all mercy and quarter being refused them,) the six hundred of Lord Reay’s Highlanders were ruthlessly cut to pieces, with Lieutenant-colonel Lindesay, Captain Moncrieff, Lieutenant Keith, and Ensign Haldane, filled Sir John Hepburn and his Scottish comrades with fury against the Imperialists and their savage leader, John of Isercla, the Count Tilly. The brave Lindesay fell in the breach, fighting valiantly with his pike in his hand, and his tartaned soldiers perished in a heap around him.

"In the old town records, which give an afflicting account of the cruelty exercised towards the citizens, a Scotch nobleman called Earl Lindz is mentioned as having defended his post long after all other resistance had ceased.”

He was slain in his twenty-eighth year; and his brother, also a colonel, fell invading Bavaria soon after.

A lamentable account of this slaughter was brought to the Scottish quarters by two officers (Captain Innes and Lieutenant Lumsden) who escaped by swimming the wet ditch in their armour; and, full of hope, ardour, and revenge, Hepburn’s brigade pressed on the march to Frankfort on the Oder, where Count Schomberg barred the way with ten thousand veteran troops, among whom they had resolved to make a monument of their vengeance.

The troops expected under the Marquis of Hamilton were supposed to be paid and armed by that noble solely; for the Government of Charles I. was anxious to preserve an appearance of neutrality in this great and doubtful contest between Gustavus and the Emperor. The twelve thousand livres received by the former from Cardinal Richelieu, though a small sum, were a valuable acquisition to the prince of a poor country, where the more precious minerals were extremely rare.

The list given in the notes will show that the Scottish officers were the very flower of the so-called Swedish army; and that many of the glories of Gustavus Adolphus were owing to English prudence and Scottish valour.

He had soon under his banner eleven thousand eight hundred horse and thirty-four thousand infantry, exclusive of a column of Scots, Germans, and English, acting under Axel Oxenstiern in Polish Prussia, and eight others employed in the blockade of Colbergen. Nothing could surpass the astonishment of the haughty house of Hapsburg to find the long-despised monarch of a petty northern state, with an army composed of needy soldiers of fortune—men who fed themselves with the blades of their swords—beating the most able generals of the Empire, and bearing all before them; for the time was now come when the names of Hepburn, Lesley, Ruthven, Home, Banier, Bauditzen, and Hamilton, were to carry terror to the heart of Vienna.

In his seventieth year, John de Tsercla, count of Tilly, received the supreme command of the army of Ferdinand, who perceived that his other generals were unable to cope with those of Gustavus. In early life he had been a monk of the order of Jesus; but, having in a vision seen the Virgin, who commanded him to take up arms in defence of the Church, he entered the army, where his talents and bravery soon won him a baton, and he now had long enjoyed the reputation of being a most fortunate general.

Short in stature, he was meagre and terrible in aspect; his cheeks were sunken, his nose long and pointed, his eyes fierce and dark. When not sheathed in gilded armour, he usually wore a slashed doublet of green silk, a preposterously broad-brimmed and conical hat, adorned by a large red ostrich feather, a long beard, a long dagger, and mighty Toledo—and in everything seemed a revival of the far-famed Duke of Alva, el Castigador de Flamencos, and the terror of the Protestant religion.

Hepburn’s Brigade formed, I have said, the van of Gustavus’s army, or rather of a column of it, consisting of eighteen thousand men, which, with a pontoon bridge, and two hundred pieces of cannon, marched along the winding banks of the Oder to Frankfort, where Count Schomberg and Teiffenbach, camp-master-general of the Imperial army, commanded. The latter had destroyed all the suburbs, and, after burning the country houses and mills, laid waste the rich orchards, the fertile fields and vineyards which environed the city.

The brave Finlander, Field-marshal Gustave Horne, occupied the pass of Schewdt, to prevent Tilly from attacking the Swedish rear.

Frankfort, a well-built city, was surrounded by strong ramparts and enclosed by well-defended gates, being the capital of the Middle Mark of Brandenburg. It was then, as it is still, the seat of three annual fairs, and of considerable manufactures in silk and leather. In 1379 the Elector Sigismund granted the burghers important privileges, on their joining the Confederation of the Hanse Towns. It is only forty-eight miles from Berlin, and is divided in two by the Oder, which was then crossed by a large wooden bridge; and without the walls lay the ruin of an ancient Carthusian monastery. The market-place was spacious, and the street stately; but most of the inhabitants had fled, and abandoned their homes, at the approach of the dreaded Imperialists.

Aided and directed by the advice of Sir John Hepburn, Gustavus, on coming in front of the town, made his dispositions for investing it, appointing to every column a place of occupation and approach; and these they immediately assumed, marching in view of the enemy—the horse with trumpets sounding, the foot with drums beating, and all with matches lit, pikes advanced, and colours flying.

By Hepburn’s advice, Gustavus posted the Blue and Yellow Brigades among the vineyards, on the road to Ciistrin, and the White Brigade in "the fore towne,” covering the flank of a body of musketeers, who were to approach one of the principal ports or barriers of the place. "Hepbume his briggade was commanded to be near vnto the other port, and to advance his guards.”

The whole artillery and ammunition that were not required were placed in rear of Hepburn’s Green Brigade, under guard of the Rhinegrave’s regiment of heavy-mailed horse.

Commanded by the Counts Schomberg and Montecuculi, Teiffenbach and Herbertstein, the Imperialists (those ferocious bands which had so cruelly ravaged all Brandenburg and Pomerania) were all under arms to the number of ten thousand men, and the whole line of embattled wall that girt the city was bright with the glitter of their helmets; while pike-heads, the burnished barrels of muskets, and sword-blades, were seen incessantly flashing in the sunshine, when for a moment the smoke of the cannon and firearms was blown aside. Relying on their native bravery, the defence of the weakest point was assigned to a regiment of Irish musketeers, led by Walter Butler, a gallant cavalier of the noble house of Ormond.

In the evening, Hepburn and other officers accompanied the King, who approached somewhat too near the town to reconnoitre, for a party sallied forth and fired on them. Lieutenant Munro, of Munro’s regiment, was shot in the leg, below his cuisses; and Maximilian Teuffel, baron of Ginersdorf and colonel of the Life Guards, was wounded in the arm. Gustavus, says Munro, made “a great moane for him, alleaging he had no help then but of Hepbume,” a body of whose musketeers, led by his major, John Sinclair, repelled the sally, driving in the Imperialists under cover of their cannon; and, after capturing a lieutenant-colonel and captain, made a lodgment on high ground, where, covered by the grey head-stones and grassy wall of an old churchyard, they could securely enfilade and sweep the enemy’s works in flank.

Immediately on this being effected, Gustavus called Captain Gunter of Hepburn’s regiment.

"Put on a light corslet,” said he, “draw your sword, (officers generally carried a half-pike,) take a serjeant and twelve other good fellows with you; wade through the graff, ascend to the top of yonder wall, and see if men can be commodiously lodged between the outer rampart of the town and the inner stone wall.”

While twelve pieces of heavy cannon opened a fire upon the Guben gate, the twelve Scottish soldiers performed this dangerous service, and their captain returned with a favourable report, escaping the shower of bullets that greeted his approach; so, everything being prepared, at five o’clock on the afternoon of Palm Sunday, the 3d April, the King ordered a general assault. Previous to this, Hepburn and other brave cavaliers expressed a wish to throw aside their armour, which was somewhat cumbersome, the suits worn by mounted officers being nearly complete.

“Nay,” said Gustavus; “he that loves my service will not hazard his life out of pure gaiety. If my officers are killed, who then shall command my soldiers?” Ordering all to retain their armour, to have their fascines and scaling-ladders prepared, and, when the gun-batteries fired a grand salvo against the walls, to advance to a general assault, under cover of the smoke, he called to both Sir John Hepburn and Sir James Lumsden of Invergellie by name, and added—

“Now, my valiant Scots, remember your brave countrymen who were slain at New Brandenburg!” A trumpet sounded.

The whole Swedish artillery poured a general salvo upon the enemy’s works, while from every point of their approaches the musketeers poured volley after volley— for platoon-firing was one of the supposed improvements of the age; and while the Imperial cannon, muskets, pistolettes, and arquebuses-vomited a cloud of fire and dense white smoke, with bullets of every size—lead, iron, and brass—from the walls, parapets, and palisadoes, from casemate and cavalier, the brave Scottish Brigade with the green banners rushed on with levelled pikes to storm the Guben gate.

Sir John Hepburn and Colonel Lumsden, side by side, led them on. They both bore lighted petards, to burst open the gates. These military engines are of gun-metal, and hold about twenty pounds of powder, the vent of which is secured by a thick piece of plank, which is hung to the gate by an iron hook.

Hepburn and Lumsden resolutely advanced, hung their petards, and retired a pace or two: the engines burst, and blew the strong barrier to a thousand fragments. And now the bullets poured through the gap thick as a hailstorm; for, charged to the muzzle, two pieces of Austrian cannon swept the approach, and made tremendous havoc among the dense ranks of the Scots Brigade, forming absolute lanes through them.

While Munro’s regiment crossed the wet ditch, among mud and water which came up to their gorgets, and, boldly planting their ladders, clambered over the sloping bastions, under a murderous fire, storming the palisades at point of sword and push of pike, Gustavus, with the blue and yellow Swedish brigades, all officered by Scottish cavaliers, fell sword in hand upon that quarter which was defended by the gallant Butler with his Irishmen, who made a noble and resolute defence, fighting nearly to the last man around him.

The Green Scots Brigade still pressed desperately to gain the strong Guben gate, "the valorous Hepbume leading on the pikes, and, being advanced within a halfpike’s length of the door, was shot above the knee that he was lame of before.” Finding himself struck "Bully Munro,” he cried jocularly to his old friend and fellow-student, whose soldiers had so gallantly carried the outer palisades—“bully Munro, I am shot!” A major advancing to take his place was shot dead, and, with the blood streaming from their wounds, the soldiers were falling fast on every side, till even "the stubborn pikemen” wavered for a moment; upon which Lumsden and Munro, each at the head of his own regiment, having their helmets closed, and half-pikes in their hands, cheered on their men, and, shoulder to shoulder, led the way.

"My hearts!” exclaimed Lumsden, brandishing his weapon—"my brave hearts, let’s enter!”

"Forward!” cried Munro; "advance pikes!” and the gate was stormed in a twinkling, the Austrians driven back, their own cannon turned on them, and fired point-blank, blowing their heads and limbs into the air.

Munro, in his narrative, says that by this time excess of pain, and his sight becoming faint, had compelled Hepburn to retire; but another account tells us distinctly that he and Lumsden entered the town together, slaying the Austrians on every hand, and that to every cry of, "Quarter! quarter!” their soldiers replied—"New Brandenburg! Remember New Brandenburg!” One Scottish pikeman slew eighteen Imperialists with his own hand; and Lumsden’s regiment alone captured nine pair of colours, which so pleased Gustavus that he told this brave cavalier of Fife to ask whatever he wished that a king could bestow, and he should have it.

Led by Major Sinclair, the fifty of Hepburn’s musketeers who were in the churchyard now forced their way into a street of the town, where they were suddenly charged by a regiment of cuirassiers; but, retiring a few paces, they drew up with their backs to a wall, and by a brisk fire compelled the horse to retreat.

Hepburn’s brigade pressed on from the Guben gate through one street, which was densely filled with Imperial troops, who contested every foot of the way, while General Sir John Banier scoured another with his brigade. Twice the Imperialists beat a parley; but amid the roar of the musketry, the boom of the cannon from bastion and battery, with the uproar, shouts, and yells in every contested street and house, the beat of the drum was unheard. Still the combat continued, the carnage went on; and still the Scots Brigade advanced in close column of regiments, shoulder to shoulder, like moving castles, the long pikes levelled in front, while the rear ranks of musketeers volleyed in security from behind.

The veteran Imperialists, "hunger and cold beatten souldiers,” met them almost foot to foot and hand to hand, with a bravery which, however indomitable, fell far short of the gallant Irish who fought under the same banner. The stem aspect of Tilly’s soldiers excited even the admiration of their conquerors; for their armour was rusted red with winter storms, and dinted with sword-cuts and musket-balls; their faces seamed with scars, and bronzed by constant exposure in every kind of weather; but they were forced to give way, and a frightful slaughter ensued.

The savage Dutch also too well remembered New Brandenburg, and butchered all who fell into their hands. At last Walter Butler, on being shot in the arm, and pierced by a halbert, fell; the remnant of his Irishmen gave way, and then resistance ceased on every side. Schomberg, Montecuculi, Teiffenbach, and Herbertstein mounted, and, with a few cuirassiers, fled by a bridge towards Glogau, leaving four colonels, thirty-six junior officers, and three thousand soldiers dead in the streets—fifty colours, and ten baggage-waggons laden with plate; and so precipitate was their retreat that their caissons blocked up the passage to the bridge,— while cannon, tumbrils, chests of powder and ball, piles of dead and dying soldiers, with their ghastly and distorted visages, and battered coats of mail, covered with blood and dust, smoke, mud, and the falling masonry of the ruined houses, made up a medley of horrors, and formed a barricade that obstructed the immediate pursuit of the foe.

Hundreds of Austrians who threw themselves into the Oder were drowned.

Two colonels (Sir John Hepburn and the Baron Teuffel) were the sole officers of rank wounded in the army of Gustavus, who had only three hundred men killed.

Notwithstanding the pain of his wound, which was the greater in consequence of being in the vicinity of an old scar, immediately on getting it dressed Hepburn resumed his post at the head of the Green Brigade. Through the irregularity of the troops several houses now took fire, on which Gustavus ordered the drums to beat, and commanded all soldiers to repair to their several colours on the other side of the Oder; while Sir John Hepburn, with his regiment, took possession of the captured town, and posted his guards, with orders to take charge of the works.

Next day, Major-General Leslie was appointed governor, with a strong garrison; and he immediately set about the repair of the ruined walls, under the cannon of which the dead were buried, friend and foe being laid side by side, a hundred in every grave.

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