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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XX. Hepburn captures a Castle, and Leads the Van at the Lech

Among the many Scottish generals of Gustavus, Sir James King of Barrocht, in Aberdeenshire, was one of the most eminent, and obtained the government of Vlotho, a fortified town on the Weser, which belonged to the Dukes of Brunswick and Counts of Waldeck. Some unfortunate circumstances had compelled him to leave Scotland for the Swedish service; for there is still extant a letter from the Earls of Mar and Melrose to James VI., dated 30th March 1619, praying to have him pardoned for slaying Alexander Seaton of Meldrum, with whom his family were at feud. "He was a person of great honour; but the little he had saved of it at Vlotho in Germanie, where he made shipwrecke of much of it, he losd in England,” says a cavalier, with some asperity. For his eminent services to Charles I. he was raised to the peerage as Lord Eythen, in March 1642, and commanded the royal troops against the Parliament; but, being forfeited, he died in obscurity, and childless. His title has never since been claimed.

The capture of Donauworth laid open to Gustavus the opposite shores of the Danube, and now the small river Lech alone separated him from Bavaria, whose dark mountains of granite bounded the horizon beyond that winding river. The immediate danger of his dominions roused all the activity of Duke Maximilian; and, however little he had disturbed the advance of the victorious invaders hitherto, he now resolved to dispute resolutely what remained of their course.

On the opposite bank of the Lech, near the small town of Raine, Count Tilly occupied a strong fortified camp, which was surrounded by three rivers, and seemed to bid defiance to the foe. Every bridge on the Lech was destroyed, and the passes of the stream were protected by garrisons as far as Augsburg; and into this camp the Bavarian Elector threw himself with all the troops he could collect.

After resting for four days at Donauworth, Gustavus advanced at the head of thirty-two thousand horse and foot, to force the passage of the river.

Previous to this, Hepburn had been engaged in the capture of one of the fortresses which defended it. Accompanied by a body of horse under the command of the Baron Kochtictke, a Bohemian noble, his brigade marched to a rocky gorge three miles from Donauworth, where the castle of Oberndorff guarded a ford of the Lech, which there emptied itself into the Danube, among some little islets covered with foliage. This was a massive feudal fortress, a seat of the Counts of Fugger, who were lords of all that district. The family were originally rich merchants of Augsburg; but having become soldiers, they were ennobled, and the Count paid yearly for his Graveshaft ten thouqpnd rix-dollars. He had served the Emperor long and faithfully, and bore on his person the marks of innumerable wounds. Munro describes him as being handsome, strong, and stately beyond most men, and of undoubted courage in single combat, being fortunate among all his compeers in proving victorious.

Situated on the very verge of the Lech, his castle was one of those donjon towers which are so characteristic of the wild and varied scenery of the Danube, and carry back the mind to the romance and chivalry, the wars and terrors of the Middle Ages—the abode of iron barons and gliding spectres—having been built in that lawless time when an electoral “archbishop thought he had a fair revenue before him when he built his fortress at the junction offour cross-roads."

The garrison of Oberndorff consisted of four hundred men. It had twelve pieces of cannon, and a deep graff or moat, which Hepburn encircled by dividing the brigade. But no sooner did the Count’s soldiers perceive, by the smoke curling from the blown matches, that the enemy were about to “make service” against them, than they became seized by a sudden panic, and endeavoured to escape. At their head he sallied from a postern, mounted on a fleet horse, and sheathed in mail of proof. Pouring down the steep and dark defile, among rocks and overhanging trees, they escaped—by dint of pike and sword cutting a passage towards the bridge of Baine, a well-fortified town on the Lech. Hepburn despatched the Baron after them on the spur, with his dragoons, who overtook them at the end of the bridge. Two hundred were cut to pieces, and two hundred taken prisoners; but the strong Count of Fligger hewed his way through like a mailed Hercules, and reached the Bavarian frontier. Hepburn then rejoined the army, which advanced with all speed to force the passage of the Lech, which formed the last hope of falling Bavaria.

The eyes of all Europe were fixed on this movement, for the whole power of the Empire was arrayed on the Bavarian side of the stream, and seventy pieces of cannon swept the deep gorge through which its waters rush impetuously from the mountains of the Tyrol to mingle with the Danube. Every means that the art of war could furnish had been ably adopted by Tilly and the Bavarian Elector; and thick, like a field of corn, the dense battalions of their pikes and musketeers were formed along the banks, at that very point towards which the army of Gustavus was marching.

They came in view of each other on the 5th April 1632.

The Swedish train, seventy-two pieces of cannon, opened on the foe, and seventy pieces replied. The Bavarian troops were soon thrown into disorder; but the bronzed veterans of old Tilly stood firm, and for six-and-thirty hours one hundred and forty-two pieces of heavy ordnance maintained thus a cross fire from opposite sides of the stream, dashing the trees and rocks to fragments, ploughing up the grassy banks, and making frightful havoc in the ranks of the Austrians and Swedes. The leg of Count Tilly, then in his seventieth year, was taken off by a cannon-shot, and the great Baron Altringer was severely wounded by another. Count MerodŁ and one thousand Bavarians were literally torn to shreds; and, on being deprived of the animating presence of their great leader Tilly, their comrades retired in confusion to the wood. Gustavus, under cover of the thick white smoke of the batteries, and a denser vapour purposely caused by burning piles of damp wood and wet straw, threw across from bank to bank a bridge, which his able engineers had constructed in a peculiar manner; and by this his infantry began to pass the Lech, Sir John Hepburn with his men forming the vanguard of the whole—for on every desperate duty the Green Brigade had the post of honour. To feel the way as Gustavus advanced, Captain Forbes, with thirty Scottish musketeers, was sent towards the wood which had received the fugitives, and found they had already retired beyond gunshot, leaving behind two steel-clad videttes, whom he found sitting on horseback, carbine in hand, at the edge of the thicket, and made prisoners.

The Bavarian Elector retreated with all his troops towards Ingolstadt, leaving his territories exposed to the whole tide of the Swedish war, which now flowed from the ensanguined frontier over his hitherto peaceful and fertile realm. At Ingolstadt the veteran Tilly expired. In him the Imperial army sustained a loss that was irreparable, and Romanism lost its most able defender.

In his dying moments the Jesuit soldier remembered his duty to the Emperor, and his last orders to the Elector were, to take Ratisbon, to maintain the command of the Danube, and keep open the communication with Bohemia; and so he died in great bodily agony, only a few days before he must have endured the humiliation of resigning his baton to a successor—the great Wallenstein, doke of Friedland. The tidings of his death, and the invasion of Bavaria, struck the Protestants of Europe with astonishment; but die Catholics heard of them with rage and alarm.

The old Laird of Bandean—“with the young cavaliers of the Scots nation that followed him, such as Colonell Hngh Hamilton, Colonell John Forbesse, Lieutenant-Colonell Gonne, Lieutenant-Colonell Mongomerie, Major Ruthven, Major Bruntisfield, and divers other Scots captaines, such as Captain Dumbarre, who was killed by the boores”—overran all Swabia, and laid every town under contribution, from Ulm on the Danube to Bavarian Lindau.

So low fell the pride of the Emperor that be begged both money and troops from Rome, imploring that a new crusade might be preached against Gustavus and his soldiers; but Urban VIII. declined his requests, and, strange to say, instead of them promised a jubilee.

The army of Gustavus swept on like a comet! Raine, Neuburg, and Augsburg, were all stormed and captured in succession. As he marched through Bavaria, almost every city opened its gates to him; and now the whole country, to the barriers of the capital, lay open to his soldiers, for their valour was irresistible.

Eleven centuries before this period, St Robert the Scot had first preached the Christian faith in these districts, and baptised Theodo III., the prince of that Pagan territory.

From Augsburg, after establishing there the Reformirte Kirche, the army marched to Ingolstadt, where the unfortunate Tilly had so lately expired; and for eight days the Green Brigade was employed in the siege of this town, which stands near the Danube, and was defended by a castle built by George the Rich, and strengthened by the fortifications added by Duke Wilhelm in 1537. It was famous for the almost priceless reliquiary and shrines of its great church, which then contained a pure golden image of the Virgin, worth fifty thousand crowns, before which knelt a King of France, also of gold, and worth the same sum—which would no doubt have formed a notable prize for Hepburn’s bold Presbyterians.

The Duke of Bavaria had just marched through Ingolstadt, and encamped on the other side of the Danube, on which the strong garrison closed their gates against Gustavus; and, resolving to make the utmost resistance, caused Hepburn to lose many of his best men in operations which were ultimately futile.

On the evening of Thursday the 19th April, the King, expecting a sally, ordered him to post the brigade on some high ground, to repel any issue of the enemy from a gate that lay near. His soldiers remained under arms there the whole night, which was bitterly cold; but, the glow of their lighted matches enabling the foe to fire with precision, a deadly and destructive cannonade was unshrinkingly endured by them from sunset till sunrise on Friday—a night which seemed, says Munro, "the longest in the yeare, though in Aprill; for at one shot I lost twelve men of my owne companie, not knowing what became of them.” So hot was the service that this cavalier vowed, “He who was not that night afraid of cannon-shot might next day, without harm, have been brayed into gunpowder.”

Three hundred men were killed on the ground, yet the Scots never flinched from their post, and never did soldiers stand to be slaughtered with greater coolness, courage, and discipline; and the morning sun, as he rose above the hills of Bavaria, saw still their diminished but steady ranks standing, like an iron rampart, by the shore of the Danube.

Gustavus had his horse shot under him, and was wounded, when making dispositions to storm a high halfmoon which was defended by fifteen hundred Bavarian arqubusiers; and the young Margrave of Badendourlach, who stood by his side, had his head carried off by a cannon-shot. After eight days of incessant fighting on both sides, Gustavus deemed it advisable to raise the siege, and penetrate into the interior of Bavaria, that the Elector might be drawn inwards for the defence of his own territories, and thus be compelled to strip the Danube of its defenders.

He marched to Gysenfeld, where the whole army paid the honours of military burial to the remains of the young Margrave, with two rounds of cannon and musketry; and there, too, they interred Captain David Ramsay, a veteran cavalier of the Green Brigade, who on the march expired of a fever.

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