“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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
"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
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
Hundreds of Austrians who threw themselves into the Oder were
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.