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 The regiment of Poitou had suffered heavily in the battles of Freiburg. In the first advance Turenne had placed it in the rear of his infantry. “I must have, Hector,” he said, “a reserve upon which I can implicitly rely; brought up at the right moment it might decide the fate of a battle, if we are beaten it can allow the disorganized regiments to pass, check the pursuit of the enemy, and retire in good order, contesting every foot of the ground until the rest of the force have emerged from the mouth of the defile and been enabled to form up in sufficient order to withstand the effect of the enemy's cavalry.”
The regiment, therefore, took no part in the work of clearing the defile of the enemy's infantry, and for the first four hours of the battle remained in the rear. Then Turenne ordered it to the front, to take the place of the regiments which had already lost half their strength, and were no longer capable of resisting the continued assaults of the Imperialists. Turenne himself rode with Hector at the head of the regiment. They pushed their way through the hardly pressed troops in front, and when they faced the enemy deployed and poured a terrible volley into their assailants, and for the remaining three hours bore the whole brunt of the battle. Standing four deep, their flanks resting upon the rising ground on either side of the mouth of the pass, the two front lines alone maintained their fire so long as infantry only pressed them, the two lines behind being ordered by Hector not to fire a shot. When, however, the Bavarian infantry drew aside and the cavalry thundered down, the front lines fell back through those behind them, and the latter received the cavalry with such terrible volleys of musketry that they each time broke and fled.
Turenne, after seeing the Poitou regiment take up its post, occupied himself in reforming the remains of the other regiments, and raising their spirits by warm words of commendation at the manner in which they had fought, until assured that they in turn could, if necessary, join the first line if it were forced to give way. When he had done this he rejoined Hector, who had dismounted and moved backwards and forwards among the men, seeing that the gaps caused by the enemy's fire were constantly filled up, and encouraging the soldiers with praise and exhortations. Turenne sat upon his horse some paces behind the rear line. When he saw the Bavarian infantry draw aside, and heard the roar of the cavalry charge, his lips tightened, and he half turned his horse as if to call up the regiments behind. When, however, he saw the lines that had hitherto been in rear take up their place in front and stand there quiet and immovable, the look of irresolution passed from his face, and, after the Bavarian horse had fallen back, shattered by their volleys, he pressed a pace or two forward and shouted, “Regiment of Poitou, I thank you in the name of France; never saw I a regiment fight more bravely or steadily!”
The men responded with a loud cheer to this praise from one whom all respected and loved. Turenne then rode up to Hector.
“Splendidly done, Colonel Campbell! I had rather wondered why you kept half your men idle in such a fight; I now understand why you did so. Had all been firing, three-quarters of their muskets would have been empty, and you would possibly have been overthrown. It was a stroke of genius. I may have taught you many lessons in war, but tonight you have given me one.”
Turenne remained with the regiment till the end of the fight, and marked with approval the way in which each line fought by turns, while the other remained behind them ready to receive the charges of the cavalry. As soon as the Bavarians drew off he saw that all the wounded were carried to the rear, where the surgeons rendered what aid was possible, while the rest of the troops threw themselves down to snatch a few hours' sleep. When, three hours later, Enghien's troops came down from the hill they had won, Turenne's force marched out from the defile. Turenne mounted his horse, and, calling upon Hector to follow him, rode forward with his principal officers to meet Enghien.
“It has been a terrible battle, prince, and if your loss equals mine the victory has indeed been won at a terrible cost.”
“Mine has been heavy, too,” Enghien said, “but we have gained our object.”
“Not wholly,” Turenne replied, “for Merci has taken up a position as strong as that from which we have driven him.”
“I wish that I could have lent you a hand in the fight,” Enghien said, “but the Bavarians had fallen back into the woods, and we knew not whether they still held their ground there. In the rain and darkness it would have been dangerous to have crossed the broken ground with its woods and ravines, and the troops, after their exertions and heavy marches, were incapable of such an effort. Indeed, I had lost fully half my infantry, and the cavalry would be useless for such work. You must indeed have been sorely pressed, having Merci's whole force to contend with. Still, I had no doubt even if you could not issue from the defile you would be able to check the enemy.” Then the generals in turn repeated the details of the battles in which they had been engaged and the losses they had suffered.
Turenne then introduced his principal officers to Enghien, and when he had done so called up Hector.
“I need not introduce this officer to you, prince,” he said.
“No, indeed,” Enghien replied, holding out his hand; “I have good reason to recollect you, Colonel Campbell. You have heard, marshal, what a good service he rendered me at Rocroi?”
“He has rendered me one no less this night,” Turenne said. “I never saw a regiment stand more steadily than the one which he commands, and which he has trained to what seems to me perfection. For the last three hours that regiment alone bore the brunt of the battle, although assailed alternately by infantry and cavalry, and thus afforded time to reform the regiments that fought earlier in the afternoon and to give me hope that even were the enemy to overcome the resistance of his men, I could still be able to check their further advance.”
He then told Enghien the manner in which Hector had arranged and fought his troops.
“A good device indeed,” Enghien said warmly, “and methinks it worthy of adoption whenever infantry have to meet other infantry and cavalry, for the muskets take so long to reload that there might not be half a dozen men ready to give fire when the cavalry charge. Is that one of the many lessons that he tells me you have given him?”
“No, indeed; it has not, so far as I am aware, ever been tried before. Parts of regiments are often held in reserve to reinforce their comrades if necessary, but this method, whereby half the regiment are able at a moment's notice to meet cavalry with their muskets loaded, is methinks, entirely new, and in such cases as the present very valuable.”
In the second day's fighting Turenne's army had taken but small share, for during the retreat of the Bavarians the cavalry alone had come into play.
The Bavarians having retreated into Wurtemberg, a council of war was held to decide in what manner the greatest advantage could be gained during their absence. Most of the chief officers were in favour of retaking Freiburg. Turenne was of a different opinion. He represented that the siege would occupy a considerable time, and that if successful they would, at the end of a campaign, have simply retaken a town that was theirs when it began. They could therefore point to no advantage gained by their efforts or by the loss of so many men. He advised, therefore, that as the Bavarian army was now sixty miles away, and could not very well return, as it would need large reinforcements, fresh cannon, and baggage wagons, they should take the opportunity of making themselves masters of the whole course of the Rhine and even of the Palatinate.
The Duc d'Enghien declared for this plan. Turenne went at once to Breisach, and arranged for the transport, by boat down the Rhine, of all the necessaries for the siege of Philippsburg. The army started on the 16th of August, a part of Turenne's army being detached to capture small towns and castles. On the 23rd of August Philippsburg was invested by Turenne, Enghien's force arriving on the following day. Philippsburg stood on the Rhine, which at this point formed a sharp elbow, and the land being low, many morasses surrounded the town, and the approach therefore was exceedingly difficult. Eight hundred paces from the town stood a square fort, which commanded the river, and was connected with the town by a causeway. The town itself had seven bastions, round these ran a very thick hedge, and the moat was wide and full of water. The garrison was a weak one, not exceeding a thousand men, but they had a hundred pieces of cannon and a large store of ammunition.
Feeling that he could not hold a fort so far from the town, the commander withdrew the garrison from it, and Turenne seized it, and placed a strong force there. Enghien then threw up strong lines in a semicircle round the town to protect the army in case any large force of the enemy should endeavour to relieve it. This occupied four days, and in the meantime the boats had arrived with cannon, ammunition, and provisions. A bridge was thrown across the river in twenty-four hours, and a force was sent over; this attacked and captured Germersheim, and then marched to Spires, which at once opened its gates on the 29th of August. In the meantime the siege of Philippsburg was begun in earnest. The approaches could only be carried on in one place, where the ground was sandy, and continued so up to two of the bastions of the town.
Turenne commanded the attack against the right bastion, de Gramont that on the left. They first diverted a brook running through the plain, and were enabled to use its channel as an approach, thus advancing fifteen hundred paces nearer to the town. They then formed an intrenchment that could be used by both columns, and from this on the 1st of September they began to open their trenches against their respective bastions. De Gramont's works were attacked on the following day by a sortie; this, however, was driven back. On the fifth night both columns made a lodgment on the counterscarp, and their batteries opened fire. After some days' work they filled up the ditch, and seeing that his force was too weak to oppose so strong an attack, the commander surrendered on the 12th of September.
Although Merci was advancing with an army, Enghien continued the project that had been formed, and, remaining with his own troops to protect Philippsburg, sent Turenne with all his horse and five hundred foot to Worms, which threw open its gates. Oppenheim surrendered without resistance, and he arrived in front of Mayence. The garrison was very small, and upon the threat of Turenne that he would attack it on all sides the citizens sent a deputation offering to capitulate. Turenne sent word of this to Enghien, who rode there at once, and received the surrender of the town. Bingen capitulated; Landor, Mannheim, Neustadt, and several other places were taken; and thus from Strasburg to a point near Coblenz, the whole course of the Rhine, the Palatine, and all the country between the Rhine and the Moselle fell into the hands of the French. Enghien returned to pass the winter in Paris. The greater part of the army was recalled, and Turenne was left with but a few regiments to hold the newly acquired territory.
“Do you wish for leave, Campbell?” Turenne asked Hector. “You had but a few days in your new lordship, and have a right to spend at least a portion of the winter there.”
“I thank you, marshal, but I have no idea of leaving you. You have been good enough to say that you will fill up the gaps in my regiment by embodying in it the remains of the regiment of Ardennes, which will bring it up to nearly its former strength. I certainly should not like to be away while the work of fusion is being carried out. The new men must be divided equally among the companies, and the officers so arranged that one of those now appointed shall be attached to each company with two of my own. Then I must see that all so work together as to arrive at the same standard as before. I should have wished that if possible the captains of the Ardennes regiment should be appointed to the new regiment that you are about to form, and that the places of those who fell in action should be filled from my list of lieutenants.”
“Certainly. You lost five captains, did you not?”
“Yes, sir.”
“If you send me the names of the five senior lieutenants, I will promote them at once.”
“Thank you, marshal; that will make all my lieutenants captains. I lost five of them and three second lieutenants.”
“Then you will require thirteen more officers.” He looked at a list. “There are eight belonging to the Ardennes, the rest I will draw from other regiments. There is little fear of their objecting to the exchange, for your corps won such a reputation that all will be glad to join it; I will send you back to Nancy. There are barracks there, and no other troops; and as we are not likely to be disturbed until the spring, you will have plenty of time to bring the regiment up to its former mark.”
The winter, indeed, passed quietly. The officers were all greatly pleased when they heard the arrangements Hector had made, by which most of them obtained a step in rank instead of being, as they had feared, passed over by officers belonging to the Ardennes regiment. The battle of Freiburg had shown them the great advantage that had been gained by the steadiness and discipline of their men. They took up the work of drilling again with even more zeal than before, and it was not long before the regiment was restored to its former state of efficiency. The reason why he had sent the regiment back from the Rhine was explained by Turenne to Hector before he started.
“The orders from court were,” he said, “that I was to retain only the Weimar regiments, and I should have been obliged to send you back with those of Enghien had I not represented to him that it might be of the greatest importance to me to have even one good French regiment within call. We talked it over at some length, and he finally agreed to take upon himself the responsibility of ordering that your regiment should not go beyond Nancy, upon the ground that there were very few troops in Lorraine; and that peasant risings had taken place there, as in other departments, owing to the terrible distress caused by heavy taxation. He has handed to me a paper authorizing you to take such steps as you may think fit, as soon as you receive news of such risings, to aid the civil authorities, if they should take place at any point within reasonable reach. The regiments stationed at Metz will naturally maintain order north of Pont-a-Mousson, while you will send detachments to points south and east of Nancy. You will understand that you are not to move troops on the strength of mere rumours, but only when requests for aid are sent by local authorities.”
Indeed, during the winter of 1644-45, as in that preceding it, troubles broke out in many parts of France, and in some the risings of “the barefooted ones,” as they were called, became for a time very formidable. The rage of the unhappy peasantry was principally directed, as during the Jacquerie, against the nobles, and any chateaux were sacked and burned, all within killed, and terrible excesses committed.
In February serious outbreaks took place. A messenger arrived at Nancy with an urgent appeal for help, and Hector took four companies and marched with all speed to the disturbed district. As soon as he reached it he broke up his force, despatching each company in a different direction, his instructions being that any body of armed peasants they might meet were to be dispersed, but, once beaten, were not to be pursued and cut up, and that life was not to be unnecessarily sacrificed. He himself, with one company, marched towards Poissons. He was within a mile of the town when a mounted man, bleeding from several wounds, rode up.
“The chateau of Blenfoix has been attacked by two hundred peasants,” he said. “My lady and a dozen retainers are holding a tower, but they cannot long resist; even now the place may have been captured. I broke my way through, and, hearing that there were troops in this direction, I have galloped at full speed to implore your aid.”
“How far is it?”
“About ten miles.”
“You hear, de Mieville; bring the men on with all speed. I will gallop forward with my troopers and do what I can. Do I go straight along the road?”
“Yes, sir, nine miles hence you will see the chateau on an eminence a mile away to the right.”
Followed by his troopers and Paolo, Hector dashed off at full speed. In three quarters of an hour, at a turn of the road, they caught sight of the chateau. Flames were pouring through most of the windows.
“Now, lads,” he said to the men, “we have got long odds to face, but there is a lady to be rescued, and if any men can accomplish it we will.”
The chateau was partly castellated, the new portion having been built against what had formerly been a small castle. On its summit a flag was still flying. Riding on at the top of their speed they soon saw a number of men swarming round a gate which opened into the older portion of the building.
“Put your pistols in your belts, lads. Don't use them if you can help it, but trust to your swords. Cut your way through that crowd. Ride in at the gate, and dismount at the door leading up to the turret. Then do you, Macpherson and Hunter, cover our rear while we fight our way up the steps. Follow us as we go, and if you want aid, shout and we will come down to you.”
On hearing the sound of the galloping hoofs the peasants for a moment made a movement of retreat, but when they saw that the six horsemen were alone, they began to gather courage, and again waved their arms, which were mostly axes, or poles to which scythes or billhooks were attached. Riding three abreast, the horsemen burst in among them, hewing and hacking with their swords; and the crowd, unable to resist the impetus of the charge, opened a way for them, and in a moment they had passed through the gate. A group of men round an open door that marked the position of the turret stairs, scattered with cries of alarm as they galloped up. In a moment they sprang from their horses and entered the doorway. The stairs were narrow, and but one man could mount and use his weapons at a time. They were, however, densely packed with men.
Hector sprang up, closely followed by the others. The resistance was feeble, for the height above the winding steps was but six feet, and insufficient for the use of either axes or longer weapons. Many of the peasants, astounded at seeing the armed men mounting from below them, and wholly ignorant of their numbers, threw down their weapons and cried for mercy. Hector contented himself with pushing past them, and running his sword through any who showed signs of resistance. One or two men armed with rough pikes made a stand; these he shot, and pressed upwards until within some twenty feet of the top, when the peasants, half maddened at finding themselves caught, rushed down in a body. “Close up!” he shouted to his followers. These pressed close up to him, but the weight was too much for them, and they were borne by the rush backwards down the stairs, when the peasants darted out through the door. Hector had received several knife cuts on the shoulder and arms, and would have suffered still more severely had not Paolo and Nicholl, who were next to him, thrust their pistols over his shoulder and shot his assailants, who............
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