Chapter XVI. The Siege of Nuremberg

Drearily passed the days in the beleaguered camp, varied only by an occasional raid by small parties to drive in cattle from the surrounding country, or to intercept convoys of provisions on their way to the Imperialists' camp. So active and watchful were the Croats that these enterprises seldom succeeded, although, to enable his men to move with celerity, Gustavus mounted bodies of infantry on horseback. Thus they were enabled to get over the ground quickly, and if attacked they dismounted and fought on foot.

To these mounted infantry the name of dragoons was given, and so useful were they found that the institution was adopted in other armies, and dragoons became a recognized portion of every military force. In time the custom of dismounting and fighting on foot was gradually abandoned, and dragoons became regular cavalry; but in modern times the utility of Gustavus's invention of mounted infantry has been again recognized, and in all the small wars in which England has been engaged bodies of mounted infantry have been organized. Ere long mounted infantry will again become a recognized arm of the service.

But these raids in search of provisions occupied but a small portion of the army. The rest passed their time in enforced idleness. There was nothing to be done save to clean and furbish their arms and armour; to stand on the ramparts and gaze on the distant heights of the Alte Veste, to watch the solid columns of the Imperial army, which from time to time Wallenstein marched down from his stronghold and paraded in order of battle, as a challenge to the Swedes to come out and fight, or to loiter through the narrow streets of Nuremberg, and to talk to the citizens, whose trade and commerce were now entirely at a standstill. Malcolm, with the restlessness of youth, seldom stayed many hours quiet in camp. He did not care either for drinking or gambling; nor could he imitate the passive tranquillity of the old soldiers, who were content to sleep away the greater part of their time. He therefore spent many hours every day in the city, where he speedily made many acquaintances.

In the city of Nuremberg time dragged as slowly as it did in the camp. At ordinary times the centre of a quiet and busy trade, the city was now cut off from the world. The shops were for the most part closed; the artisans stood idle in the streets, and the townsfolk had nought to do, save to gather in groups and discuss the times, or to take occasional excursions beyond the gates into the camp of their allies. The advances then of the young Scottish officer were willingly responded to, and he soon became intimate in the houses of all the principal citizens; and while the greater part of his comrades spent their evenings in drinking and gambling, he enjoyed the hours in conversation and music in the houses of the citizens of Nuremberg.

The long inaction brought its moral consequences, and the troops became demoralized and insubordinate from their enforced idleness. Plundering and acts of violence became so common that Gustavus was obliged to issue the most stringent ordinances to restore discipline; and an officer and many men had to be executed before the spirit of insubordination was quelled. In order to pass some of the hours of the days Malcolm obtained leave from one of the great clockmakers of the town -- for Nuremberg was at that time the centre of the craft of clockmaking -- to allow him to work in his shop, and to learn the mysteries of his trade.

Most of the establishments were closed, but Malcolm's acquaintance was one of the wealthiest of the citizens, and was able to keep his craftsmen at work, and to store the goods he manufactured until better times should return. Malcolm began the work purely to occupy his time, but he presently came to take a lively interest in it, and was soon able to take to pieces and put together again the cumbrous but simple machines which constituted the clocks of the period.

Workshops were not in those days factories. The master of a craft worked, surrounded by his craftsmen and apprentices. Every wheel and spring were made upon the premises, fashioned and finished with chisel and file; and there was an interest in the work far beyond any which it possesses in the present day, when watches are turned out wholesale, the separate parts being prepared by machinery, and the work of the artisan consisting solely in the finishing and putting them together.

Laying aside his armour and gay attire, and donning a workman's apron, Malcolm sat at the bench by the side of the master, shaping and filing, and listening to his stories connected with the trade and history of Nuremberg. He anticipated no advantage from the knowledge he was gaining, but regarded it simply as a pleasant way of getting through a portion of the day.

Thus for three months the armies confronted each other. Provisions were becoming terribly scarce, the magazines of the city were emptying fast, and although working night and day, the mills of the place did not suffice to grind flour for the needs of so many mouths. The population of the city itself was greatly swollen by the crowds of Protestant fugitives who had fled there for refuge on the approach of the Imperialists, and the magazines of the city dwindled fast under the demands made upon them by this addition, and that of the Swedish army, to the normal population. Fever broke out in the city and camp. The waters of the Pegnitz were tainted by the carcasses of dead horses and other animals. The supplies of forage had long since been exhausted, and the baggage and troop animals died in vast numbers.

Still there was no sign of a change. Wallenstein would not attack, Gustavus could not. The Swedish king waited to take advantage of some false move on the part of the Imperial commander; but Wallenstein was as great a general as himself, and afforded him no opening, turning a deaf ear to the entreaties and importunities of Maximilian that he would end the tedious siege by an attack upon the small and enfeebled army around Nuremberg.

All this time Gustavus was in constant communication with his generals outside, his messengers making their way by speed or stratagem through the beleaguering Croats, and kept up the spirits of his men by daily reviews and by the cheerful countenance which he always wore.

The Swedish columns were gradually closing in towards Nuremberg. One was led by the chancellor Oxenstiern, to whom had been committed the care of the Middle Rhine and the Lower Palatinate, where he had been confronted by the Spanish troops under Don Philip de Sylva.

On the 11th July, leaving Horn with a small force to oppose the Spaniards, the chancellor set out to join his master. On the way he effected a junction with the forces of the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. This general had been opposed in Westphalia by Pappenheim, but he seized the opportunity when the latter had marched to relieve Maestricht, which was besieged by Frederic of Nassau, to march away and join Oxenstiern.

The Scotch officers Ballandine and Alexander Hamilton were with their regiment in the Duchy of Magdeburg. When the news of the king's danger reached them without waiting for instructions they marched to Halle and joining a portion of the division of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, to which they were attached, pushed on to Zeitz, and were there joined by the duke himself, who had hurried on from the Lake of Constance, attended only by his guards, but, picking up five Saxon regiments in Franconia. Together they passed on to Wurtzburg, where they joined Oxenstiern and the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. General Banner, with the fourth corps, was at Augsburg, opposed to Cratz, who was at the head of the remains of Tilly's old army.

Slipping away from his foes he marched to Windsheim, and was there joined by a body of troops under Bernhard of Weimar. The force from Wurtzburg soon afterwards came up, and the whole of the detached corps, amounting to 49,000 men, being now collected, they marched to Bruck, ten miles north of Nuremberg. Three days later, on the 16th of August, Gustavus rode into their camp, and on the 21st marched at their head into Nuremberg, unhindered by the Imperialists.

Gustavus probably calculated that the Imperialists would now move down and offer battle; but Wallenstein, who had detached 10,000 men to bring up supplies, could not place in the field a number equal to those of the reinforcements, and preferred to await an attack in the position which he had prepared with such care. He knew the straits to which Nuremberg and its defenders were reduced, and the impossibility there would be of feeding the new arrivals.

The country round for a vast distance had been long since stripped of provisions, and Gustavus had no course open to him but to march away with his army and leave the city to its fate, or to attack the Imperialists in their stronghold.

On the day after his arrival, the 21st of August, Gustavus marched out and opened a cannonade upon the Imperialists' position, in order to induce Wallenstein to come down and give battle. Wallenstein was not, however, to be tempted, but kept his whole army busy with the spade and axe further intrenching his position. The next day the king brought his guns nearer to the enemy's camp, and for twenty-four hours kept up a heavy fire. The only result, however, was that Wallenstein fell back a few hundred yards on to two ridges, on one of which was the ruined castle called the Alte Veste; the other was known as the Altenburg. The ascent to these was steep and craggy, and they were covered by a thick forest. Here Wallenstein formed in front of his position a threefold barrier of felled trees woven and interlaced with each other, each barrier rising in a semicircle one above the other. Before the Swedish cannon ceased to fire the new position of the Imperialists had been made impregnable.

Unfortunately for Gustavus he had at this moment lost the services of the best officer in his army, Sir John Hepburn, whom he had always regarded as his right hand. The quarrel had arisen from some trifling circumstance, and Gustavus in the heat of the moment made some disparaging allusion to the religion of Hepburn, who was a Catholic and also to that officer's love of dress and finery. The indignant Hepburn at once resigned his commission and swore never again to draw his sword in the service of the king -- a resolution to which he adhered, although Gustavus, when his anger cooled, endeavoured in every way to appease the angry soldier.

As he persisted in his resolution Colonel Munro was appointed to the command of the Green Brigade. It is probable that the quarrel was the consummation of a long standing grievance. Hepburn as well as the other Scottish officers had shared the indignation of Sir John Hamilton when the latter resigned in consequence of the Swedish troop being placed in the post of honour at the storm of the castle of Marienburg after the Scots had done all the work. There had, too, been much discontent among them concerning the Marquis of Hamilton, whom they considered that Gustavus had treated ungenerously; and still more concerning Lieutenant Colonel Douglas, whom Gustavus had committed to a common prison for a slight breach of etiquette, a punishment at which the English ambassador, Sir Harry Vane, remonstrated, and which the whole Scottish officers considered an insult to them and their country.

There were probably faults on both sides. The Scottish troops were the backbone of the Swedish army, and to them were principally due almost the whole of the successes which Gustavus had gained. Doubtless they presumed upon the fact, and although Gustavus recognized his obligations, as is shown by the immense number of commands and governorships which he bestowed upon his Scottish officers, he may well have been angered and irritated by the insistance with which they asserted their claims and services. It was, however, a most unfortunate circumstance that just at this critical moment he should have lost the services of an officer whose prudence was equal to his daring, and who was unquestionably one of the greatest military leaders of his age.

It is probable that had Hepburn remained by his side the king would not have undertaken the attack upon the impregnable position of the Imperialists. Deprived of the counsellor upon whose advice he had hitherto invariably relied, Gustavus determined to attempt to drive Wallenstein from his position, the decision being finally induced by a ruse of the Imperialist commander, who desired nothing so much as that the Swedes should dash their forces against the terrible position he had prepared for them. Accordingly on the 24th of August he directed a considerable portion of his force to march away from the rear of his position as if, alarmed at the superior strength of the Swedes, he had determined to abandon the heights he had so long occupied and to march away.

Gustavus fell into the trap, and prepared at once to assault the position. Two hundred pieces of artillery heralded the advance, which was made by the whole body of the musketeers of the army, drafted from the several brigades and divided into battalions 500 strong, each commanded by a colonel. It was a terrible position which they were advancing to storm. Each of the lines of intrenchments was surmounted by rows of polished helmets, while pikes and arquebuses glittered in the sunshine; but it was not long that the scene was visible, for as the battalions approached the foot of the Altenburg 80 pieces of artillery opened from its summit and from the ridge of the Alte Veste, while the smoke of the arquebuses drifted up in a cloud from the lines of intrenchments.

Steadily and in good order the Scotch and Swedish infantry pressed forward, and forcing the lower ditch strove to climb the rocky heights; but in vain did they strive. Over and over again they reached the intrenchments, but were unable to force their way through the thickly bound fallen trees, while their lines were torn with a storm of iron and lead. Never did the Scottish soldiers of Gustavus fight with greater desperation and valour. Scores of them rolled lifeless down the slope, but fresh men took their places and strove to hack their way through the impenetrable screen through which the Imperialist bullets whistled like hail.

At last, when nigh half their number had fallen, the rest, exhausted, broken, and in disorder, fell suddenly back. Gustavus in person then led on his Finlanders, but these, after a struggle as obstinate and heroic as that of their predecessors, in their turn fell back baffled. The Livonians next made the attempt, but in vain.

In the meantime a sharp conflict had taken place between the Imperial cavalry and the Swedish left wing. Wallenstein's cuirassiers, hidden by the smoke, charged right through a column of Swedish infantry; but this success was counterbalanced by the rout of Cronenberg's Invincibles, a magnificent regiment of 1500 horsemen, by 200 Finland troopers. The troops of Duke Bernhard of Weimar, among whom were still the Scottish regiments of Hamilton and Douglas, marched against the heights which commanded the Alte Veste, and drove back the Imperialists with great loss. Five hundred musketeers of the Green Brigade under Colonel Munro then pushed gallantly forward and posted themselves far in advance, resisting all attempts of the Imperialists to drive them back, until Lieutenant Colonel Sinclair, who was now in command of Munro's own regiment, brought it forward to his assistance. Until the next morning this body of one thousand men maintained the ground they had won in spite of all the efforts of the Imperialists to dislodge them.

Colonel Munro was severely wounded in the left side. Lieutenant Colonel Maken, Capt. Innis, and Capt. Traill were killed, and an immense number of other Scottish officers were killed and wounded. The news was brought down to Gustavus of the advantage gained by Duke Bernhard, but he was unable to take advantage of it by moving his army round to that position, as he would have exposed himself to a counter attack of the enemy while doing so. He therefore launched a fresh column of attack against the Alte Veste.

This was followed by another and yet another, until every regiment in the army had in its turn attempted to storm the position, but still without success.

The battle had now raged for ten hours, and nightfall put an end to the struggle. Hepburn had all day ridden behind the king as a simple cavalier, and had twice carried messages through the thick of the fire when there were no others to bear them, so great had been the slaughter round the person of the king.

It was the first time that Gustavus had been repulsed, and he could hardly yet realize the fact; but as messenger after messenger came in from the different divisions he discovered how terrible had been his loss. Most of his generals and superior officers had been killed or wounded, 2000 men lay dead on the field, and there were nigh three times that number of wounded.

The Imperialists on their side lost 1000 killed and 1500 wounded; but the accounts of the losses on both sides differ greatly, some placing the Imperial loss higher than that of the Swedes, a palpably absurd estimate, as the Imperialists, fighting behind shelter, could not have suffered anything like so heavily as their assailants, who were exposed to their fire in the open.

Hepburn bore the order from the king for Munro's troops and those of Duke Bernhard to retire from the position they had won, as they were entirely cut off from the rest of the army, and would at daylight have had the whole of the Imperialists upon them. The service was one of great danger, and Hepburn had to cut his way sword in hand through the Croats who intervened between him and his comrades of the Green Brigade. He accomplished his task in safety, and before daylight Munro's men and the regiments of Duke Bernhard rejoined the army in the plain. But though repulsed Gustavus was not defeated. He took up a new position just out of cannon shot of the Altenburg, and then offered battle to Wallenstein, the latter, however, well satisfied with his success, remained firm in his policy of starving out the enemy, and resisted every device of the king to turn him from his stronghold.

For fourteen days Gustavus remained in position. Then he could hold out no longer. The supplies were entirely exhausted. The summer had been unusually hot. The shrunken waters of the Pegnitz were putrid and stinking, the carcasses of dead horses poisoned the air, and fever and pestilence raged in the camp. Leaving, then, Kniphausen with eight thousand men to aid the citizens of Nuremberg to defend the city should Wallenstein besiege it, Gustavus marched on the 8th of September by way of Neustadt to Windsheim, and there halted to watch the further movements of the enemy.

Five days later Wallenstein quitted his camp and marched to Forsheim. So far the advantage of the campaign lay with him. His patience and iron resolution had given the first check to the victorious career of the Lion of the North.

Munro's regiment, as it was still called -- for he was now its full colonel, although Lieutenant Colonel Sinclair commanded it in the field -- had suffered terribly, but less, perhaps, than some of those who had in vain attempted to force their way up the slopes of the Alte Veste; and many an eye grew moist as at daybreak the regiment marched into its place in the ranks of the brigade and saw how terrible had been the slaughter among them. Munro's soldiers had had but little of that hand to hand fighting in which men's blood becomes heated and all thought of danger is lost in the fierce desire to kill. Their losses had been caused by the storm of cannonball and bullet which had swept through them, as, panting and breathless, they struggled up the steep slopes, incapable of answering the fire of the enemy. They had had their triumph, indeed, as the Imperial regiments broke and fled before their advance; but although proud that they at least had succeeded in a day when failure was general, there was not a man but regretted that he had not come within push of pike of the enemy.

Malcolm Graheme had passed scatheless through the fray -- a good fortune that had attended but few of his brother officers. His uncle was badly wounded, and several of his friends had fallen. Of the men who had marched from Denmark but a year before scarce a third remained in the ranks, and although the regiment had been strengthened by the breaking up of two or three of the weaker battalions and their incorporation with the other Scottish regiments, it was now less than half its former strength. While Gustavus and Wallenstein had been facing each other at Nuremberg the war had continued without interruption in other parts, and the Swedes and their allies had gained advantages everywhere except in Westphalia and Lower Saxony, where Pappenheim had more than held his own against Baudissen, who commanded for Gustavus; and although Wallenstein had checked the king he had gained no material advantages and had wrested no single town or fortress from his hands. Gustavus was still in Bavaria, nearer to Munich than he was, his garrisons still holding Ulm, Nordlingen, and Donauworth, its strongest fortresses.

He felt sure, however, that it would be impossible for Gustavus to maintain at one spot the army which he had at Windsheim, and that with so many points to defend he would soon break it up into separate commands. He resolved then to wait until he did so, and then to sweep down upon Northern Germany, and so by threatening the king's line of retreat to force him to abandon Bavaria and the south and to march to meet him.

At present he was in no position to risk a battle, for he had already detached 4000 men to reinforce Holk, whom he had sent with 10,000 to threaten Dresden. The 13,000 Bavarians who were with him under Maximilian had separated from him on his way to Forsheim, and on arriving at that place his army numbered but 17,000 men, while Gustavus had more than 40,000 gathered at Windsheim.

Gustavus, on his part, determined to carry out his former projects, to march against Ingolstadt, which he had before failed to capture, and thence to penetrate into Upper Austria. But fearful lest Wallenstein, released from his presence, should attempt to recover the fortresses in Franconia, he despatched half his force under Duke Bernhard to prevent the Imperial general from crossing the Rhine. Could he succeed in doing this he would be in a position to dictate terms to the emperor in Vienna.

On the 12th of October he reached Neuberg, on the Danube, and halted there, awaiting the arrival of his siege train from Donauworth. While making the most vigorous exertions to press on the necessary arrangements for his march against Vienna he received the most urgent messages to return to Saxony. Not only, as he was told, had Wallenstein penetrated into that province, but he was employing all his influence to detach its elector from the Protestant cause, and there was great fear that the weak prince would yield to the solicitations of Wallenstein and to his own jealousy of the King of Sweden.

No sooner, in fact, had Gustavus crossed the Danube than Wallenstein moved towards Schweinfurt, and by so doing drew to that place the Swedish army under the command of Duke Bernhard. He then suddenly marched eastward at full speed, capturing Bamberg, Baireuth, and Culmbach, and pushed on to Colberg.

The town was captured, but the Swedish Colonel Dubatel, who was really a Scotchman, by name M'Dougal, a gallant and brilliant officer, threw himself with his dragoons into the castle, which commanded the town, and defended it so resolutely against the assaults of Wallenstein that Duke Bernhard had time to march to within twenty miles of the place. Wallenstein then raised the siege, marched east to Kronach, and then north to Weida, on the Elster. Thence he pressed on direct to Leipzig, which he besieged at once; and while the main body of his troops were engaged before the city, others took possession of the surrounding towns and fortresses.

Leipzig held out for only two days, and after its capture Wallenstein marched to Merseburg, where he was joined by the army under Pappenheim. Thus reinforced he was in a position to capture the whole of Saxony. The elector, timid and vacillating, was fully conscious of his danger and the solicitations of Wallenstein to break off from his alliance with the King of Sweden and to join the Imperialists were strongly seconded by Marshal Von Arnheim, his most trusted councillor, who was an intimate friend of the Imperialist general.

It was indeed a hard decision which Gustavus was called upon to make. On the one hand Vienna lay almost within his grasp, for Wallenstein was now too far north to interpose between him and the capital. On the other hand, should the Elector of Saxony join the Imperialists, his position after the capture of Vienna would be perilous in the extreme. The emperor would probably leave his capital before he arrived there, and the conquest would, therefore, be a barren one. Gustavus reluctantly determined to abandon his plan, and to march to the assistance of Saxony.