The Bravest of the Brave by G. A. Henty
Chapter VIII: A Tumult in the City
As the Spanish column retired to Barcelona under the idea that the whole English army was on the hill, the Miquelets, as the armed bands of peasants were called, swarmed down from the hills. Incapable of withstanding an attack by even a small force, they were in their element in harassing a large one in retreat. Halfway between Montjuich and the town was the small fort of San Bertram. The garrison, seeing the column in retreat toward the town, pursued by the insurgent peasantry, feared that they themselves would be cut off, and so abandoned their post and joined the retreat.
The peasants at once took possession of San Bertram, where there were five light guns. As soon as the news reached Peterborough he called together two hundred men and led them down to the little fort. Ropes were fastened to the guns, and with forty men to each gun these were quickly run up the hill and placed in position in the captured bastions. So quickly was this done that in less than an hour from the abandonment of San Bertram by the Spanish the guns had opened fire upon Montjuich.
While the troops worked these five guns and the three captured in Southwell's first attack Jack Stilwell was sent off on horseback at full speed with an order for the landing of the heavy guns and mortars from the fleet. The news of the attack on Montjuich and the retreat of the Spanish column spread with rapidity through the country, and swarms of armed peasants flocked in. These the earl dispersed among the ravines and groves round the city, so as to prevent any parties from coining out to ascertain what was going on round Montjuich, and to mask the movements of the besiegers.
Velasco appeared paralyzed by the energy and daring of his opponent, and although he had in hand a force equal if not superior to that which Peterborough could dispose of, he allowed two days to pass without attempting to relieve Montjuich. In those two days wonders had been performed by the soldiers and sailors, who toiled unweariedly in dragging the heavy guns from the landing place to the hill of Montjuich. The light cannon of the besiegers had had but little effect upon the massive walls of the fortress, and the Prince Caraccioli held out for two days even against the heavier metal of the mortars and siege guns that were quickly brought to bear upon him.
On the 17th, however, Colonel Southwell by a well aimed shot brought the siege to a close. He noticed that a small chapel within the fort appeared to be specially guarded by the besieged, and ordered a Dutch sergeant of artillery, who was working a heavy mortar, to try to drop a shell upon it. The artilleryman made several attempts, but each time missed the mark. Colonel Southwell undertook the management of the mortar himself, and soon succeeded in dropping a shell upon the roof of the building, which proved, as he had suspected, to be in use as a magazine. There was a tremendous explosion, the chapel was shattered into fragments, Caraccioli and three other officers were killed, and a great breach was blown in the main rampart.
A loud cheer broke from the besiegers, and Colonel Southwell at once put himself at the head of the men in the trenches and advanced to storm the breach before the enemy could recover from their confusion. The disastrous effects of the explosion had, however, scared all idea of further resistance out of the minds of the defenders, who at once rushed out of the works and called out that they surrendered, the senior surviving officer and his companions delivering up their swords to Colonel Southwell, and begging that protection might at once be given to their soldiers from the Miquelets, whose ferocity was as notorious then as it was a hundred years afterward.
Peterborough appointed Colonel Southwell governor of Montjuich, and at once turned his attention to the city. The brilliant result of the attack on the citadel had silenced all murmurs and completely restored Lord Peterborough's authority. Soldiers and sailors vied with each other in their exertions to get the guns into position, and the Miquelets, largely increased in number, became for once orderly and active, and labored steadily in the trenches.
The main army conducted the attack from the side at which it had been originally commenced, while General Stanhope, his force considerably increased by troops from the main body, conducted the attack from the side of Montjuich. Four batteries of heavy guns and two of mortars soon opened fire upon the city, while the smaller vessels of the fleet moved close in to the shore and threw shot and shell into the town.
A breach was soon effected in the rampart, and Velasco was summoned to surrender; but he refused to do so, although his position had become almost desperate. The disaffection of the inhabitants was now openly shown. The soldiers had lost confidence and heart, and the loyalty of many of them was more than doubtful. The governor arrested many of the mutinous soldiers and hostile citizens, and turned numbers of them out of the city.
On the 3d of October the English engineers declared the breach on the side of Montjuich to be practicable, and Peterborough himself wrote to the governor offering honorable terms of capitulation, but declaring that if these were rejected he would not renew his offer.
Velasco again refused. He had erected a formidable intrenchment within the breach, and had sunk two mines beneath the ruins in readiness to blow the assailing columns into the air.
The guns again opened fire, and in a very short time a Dutch artillery officer threw two shells upon the intrenchment and almost destroyed it, while a third fell on the breach itself, and crashing through the rubbish fired Velasco's two mines and greatly enlarged the breach. The earl could now have carried the town by storm had he chosen, but with his usual magnanimity to the vanquished he again wrote to Velasco and summoned him to surrender.
The governor had now no hope of a successful resistance, and he therefore agreed to surrender in four days should no relief arrive. The terms agreed upon were that the garrison should march out with all the honors of war, and should be transported by sea to San Felix, and escorted thence to Gerona; but as a few hours later the news arrived that Gerona had declared for King Charles, Velasco requested to be conveyed to Rosas instead. The capitulation was signed on the 9th of October, and the garrison were preparing to march out on the 14th, when, in the English camp, the sound of a tumult in the city was heard.
"Quick, Stilwell!" the earl cried, running out of his tent, "to horse! The rascals inside are breaking out into a riot, and there will be a massacre unless I can put a stop to it."
The earl leaped on to his horse, called to a few orderly dragoons who were at hand to accompany him, and ordered that four companies of grenadiers should follow as quickly as possible.
Galloping at full speed Peterborough soon arrived at the gate of San Angelo, and ordered the Spanish guard to open it. This they did without hesitation, and followed by his little party he rode into the city. All was uproar and confusion. The repressive measures which the governor had been obliged to take against the disaffected had added to the Catalan hatred of the French, and the Austrian party determined to have vengeance upon the governor. A report was circulated that he intended to carry away with him a number of the principal inhabitants in spite of the articles of capitulation. This at once stirred up the people to fury, and they assailed and plundered the houses of the French and of the known partisans of the Duke d'Anjou.
They then turned upon the governor and garrison. The latter dispersed through the city, and, unprepared for attack, would speedily have been massacred had not their late enemy been at hand to save them. Peterborough, with his little party of dragoons, rode through the streets exhorting, entreating, and commanding the rioters to abstain. When, as in some cases, the mob refused to listen to him, and continued their work, the dragoons belabored them heartily with the flats of their swords; and the surprise caused by seeing the British uniforms in their midst, and their ignorance of how many of the British had entered, did more even than the efforts of the dragoons to allay the tumult. Many ladies of quality had taken refuge in the convent, and Peterborough at once placed a guard over this.
Dashing from street to street, unattended even by his dragoons, Peterborough came upon a lady and gentleman struggling with the mob, who were about to ill treat them. He charged into the thick of the tumult.
His hat had been lost in the fray, and the mob, not recognizing the strange figure as the redoubted English general, resisted, and one discharged a musket at him at a distance of a few feet, but the ball passed through his periwig without touching the head under it.
Fortunately two or three of his dragoons now rode up, and he was able to carry the lady and gentleman to their house hard by, when, to his satisfaction, he found that the gentleman he had saved was the Duke of Popoli, and the lady his wife, celebrated as one of the most beautiful women in Europe.
Jack Stilwell had soon after they entered the town become separated from his general. Seeing a mob gathered before a house in a side street, and hearing screams, he turned off and rode into the middle of the crowd. Spurring his horse and making him rear, he made his way through them to the door, and then leaping off, drawing as he did so a pistol from his holster, he ran upstairs.
It was a large and handsomely furnished house. On the first floor was a great corridor. A number of men were gathered round a doorway. Within he heard the clashing of steel and the shouts of men in conflict. Bursting his way in through the doorway he entered the room.
In a corner, at the furthest end, crouched a lady holding a little boy in her arms. Before her stood a Spanish gentleman, sword in hand. A servant, also armed, stood by him. They were hard pressed, for six or eight men with swords and pikes were cutting and thrusting at them. Three servants lay dead upon the ground, and seven or eight of the townspeople were also lying dead or wounded. Jack rushed forward, and with his pistol shot the man who appeared to be the leader of the assailants, and then, drawing his sword, placed himself before the gentleman and shouted to the men to lay down their arms. The latter, astounded at the appearance of an English officer, drew back. Seeing he was alone, they would, however, have renewed the attack, but Jack ran to the window and opened it, and shouted as if to some soldiers below.
The effect was instantaneous. The men dropped upon their knees, and throwing down their arms begged for mercy. Jack signified that he granted it, and motioned to them to carry off their dead and wounded comrades. Some of the men in the corridor came in to aid them in so doing. Jack, sword in hand, accompanied them to the door, and saw them out of the house. Then he told a boy to hold his horse, and closing the door returned upstairs. He found the gentleman sitting on a chair exhausted, while his wife, crying partly from relief, partly from anxiety, was endeavoring to stanch the blood which flowed from several wounds.
Jack at once aided her in the task, and signed to the servant to bring something to drink. The man ran to a buffet and produced some cordials. Jack filled a glass and placed it at the lips of the wounded man, who, after drinking it, gradually recovered his strength.
"My name, sir," he said, "is Count Julian de Minas, and I owe you my life and that of my wife and child. To whom am I indebted so much?"
Jack did not, of course, understand his words, but the title caught his ear, and he guessed that the Spaniard was introducing himself.
"My name is Stilwell," Jack said; "I am one of General Peterborough's aides de camp. I am very glad to be of assistance; and now, seeing you are so far recovered, I must leave you, for there is much to do in the town, and the general has entered with only a few troops. I think you need not fear any return on the part of these ruffians. The English troops will enter the town in the coarse of a few hours."
So saying Jack immediately hurried away, and mounting his horse rode off to find the general.
The news that Lord Peterborough and the English had entered spread rapidly through the city, and the rioters, fearing to excite the wrath of the man who in a few hours would be master of the town, scattered to their homes, and when all was quiet Peterborough again rode off to the camp with his troops and there waited quietly until the hour appointed for the capitulation. The Spanish then marched out, and the earl entered with a portion of his troops.
He at once issued a proclamation that if any person had any lawful grievances against the late governor they should go to the town house and lay them in proper form, and that he would see that justice was done. An hour later some of the principal inhabitants waited upon him, and asked which churches he desired to have for the exercise of his religion. He replied:
"Wherever I have my quarters I shall have conveniency enough to worship God, and as for the army they will strictly follow the rules of war, and perform divine service among themselves without giving any offense to any one."
This answer gave great satisfaction to the people, as the French had spread a report among them that the Protestants, if they captured the town, would take their churches from them.
In the evening the earl gave a great banquet, at which he entertained all the people of distinction of both parties, and his courtesy and affability at once won for him the confidence of all with whom he came in contact. The next day the shops were all opened, the markets filled, and there were no signs that the tranquillity of Barcelona had ever been disturbed. Soon after breakfast Jack, who was quartered in the governor's palace with the general, was informed that a gentleman wished to speak to him, and the Count de Minas was shown in. He took Jack's hand and bowed profoundly. As conversation was impossible Jack told his orderly to fetch one of the interpreters attached to the general.
"I tried to come last night," the count said, "but I found that I was too weak to venture out. I could not understand what you said when you went away so suddenly, but I guessed that it was the call of duty. I did not know your name, but inquiring this morning who were the officers that entered with the general yesterday, I was told that his aide de camp, Lieutenant Stilwell, was alone with him. That is how I found you. And now, let me again thank you for the immense service you have rendered me and my wife and child. Remember, henceforth the life of the Count de Minas and all that he possesses is at your service."
When the interpreter had translated this, Jack said in some confusion, "I am very glad, count, to have been of service to you. It was a piece of good fortune, indeed, on my part that I happened so providentially to ride along at the right moment. I was about this morning to do myself the honor of calling to inquire how the countess and yourself were after the terrible scene of yesterday."
"The countess prayed me to bring you round to her," the count said. "Will you do me the honor of accompanying me now?"
Jack at once assented, and, followed by the interpreter, proceeded with the count to his house. The room into which the count led him was not that in which the fray had taken place the day before. The countess rose as they entered, and Jack saw that, though still pale and shaken by the events of the previous day, she was a singularly beautiful woman.
"Ah, senor," she said, advancing to meet him, and taking his hand and laying it against her heart, "how can I thank you for the lives of my husband and my boy! One more minute and you would have arrived too late. It seemed to me as if heaven had opened and an angel had come to our aid when you entered."
Jack colored up hotly as the interpreter translated the words. If he had expressed his thoughts he would have said, "Please don't make any more fuss about it;" but he found that Spanish courtesy required much more than this, so he answered:
"Countess, the moment was equally fortunate to me, and I shall ever feel grateful that I have been permitted to be of service to so beautiful a lady."
The countess smiled as Jack's words were translated.
"I did not know that you English were flatterers," she said. "They told us that you were uncouth islanders, but I see that they have calumniated you."
"I hope some day," Jack said, "that I shall be able to talk to you without the aid of an interpreter. It is very difficult to speak when every word has to be translated."
For a quarter of an hour the conversation was continued, the count and countess asking questions about England. At the end of that time Jack thought he might venture to take his leave. The count accompanied him to the door, and begged him to consider his house as his own, and then with many bows on each side Jack made his way into the street.
"Confound all this Spanish politeness!" he muttered to himself; "it's very grand and stately, I have no doubt, but it's a horrible nuisance; and as to talking through an interpreter, it's like repeating lessons, only worse. I should like to see a man making a joke through an interpreter, and waiting to see how it told. I must get up a little Spanish as soon as possible. The earl has picked up a lot already, and there will be no fun to be had here in Spain unless one can make one's self understood."
The next day there were rumors current that the population were determined to take vengeance upon Velasco. The earl marched eight hundred men into the town, placed the governor in their center and escorted him to the shore, and so took him safely on board a ship. He was conveyed, by his own desire, to Alicante, as the revolt had spread so rapidly through Catalonia that Rosas was now the only town which favored the cause of the Duke d'Anjou.
The capture of Barcelona takes its place as one of the most brilliant feats in military history, and reflects extraordinary credit upon its general, who exhibited at once profound prudence, faithful adherence to his sovereign's orders, patience and self command under the ill concealed hatred of many of those with whom he had to cooperate--the wrong headedness of the king, the insolence of the German courtiers, the supineness of the Dutch, the jealousy of his own officers, and the open discontent of the army and navy-- and a secrecy marvelously kept up for many weary and apparently hopeless days.
On the 28th of October King Charles made his public entry into Barcelona, and for some days the city was the scene of continual fetes. The whole province rose in his favor, and the gentlemen of the district poured into the town to offer their homage to the king. Only about one thousand men of the Spanish garrison had to be conveyed to Rosas in accordance with the terms of capitulation, the rest of the troops taking the oath of allegiance to King Charles and being incorporated with the allied army.
Jack Stilwell entered into the festivities with the enjoyment of youth. The officers of the allied army were made much of by the inhabitants, and Jack, as one of the general's aides de camp, was invited to every fete and festivity. The Count de Minas introduced him to many of the leading nobles of the city as the preserver of his life; but his inability to speak the language deprived him of much of the pleasure which he would otherwise have obtained, and, like many of the other officers, he set to work in earnest to acquire some knowledge of it. In one of the convents were some Scottish monks, and for three or four hours every morning Jack worked regularly with one of them.
Although Lord Peterborough threw himself heart and soul into the festivities, he worked with equal ardor at the military preparations. But here, as before, his plans for energetic action were thwarted by the Germans and Dutch. At last, however, his energy, aided by the active spirit of the king, prevailed, and preparations were made for the continuance of the campaign. The season was so late that no further operations could be undertaken by sea, and the allied fleet therefore sailed for England and Holland, leaving four English and two Dutch frigates in support of the land forces at Barcelona.
Garrisons of regular troops were dispatched to the various towns which had either declared for the king or had been captured by the Miquelets headed by the Marquis of Cifuentes, engineer officers being also sent to put them in a state of defense. Of these Tortosa was, from its position, the most important, as it commanded the bridge of boats on the Ebro, the main communication between Aragon and Valencia. To this town two hundred dragoons and one thousand foot were sent under Colonel Hans Hamilton. The king turned his attention to the organization of the Spanish army. He formed a regiment of five hundred dragoons for his bodyguard, mounting them upon the horses of the former garrison, while from these troops, swelled by levies from the province, he raised six powerful battalions of infantry. He excited, however, a very unfavorable feeling among the Spaniards by bestowing all the chief commands in these corps upon his German followers.
But while the conquest of Barcelona had brought the whole of Catalonia to his side, the cause of King Charles was in other parts of Spain less flourishing. Lord Galway and General Fagel had been beaten by Marshal Tesse before Badajos, and the allied army had retreated into Portugal, leaving the French and Spanish adherents of Philip free to turn their whole attention against the allies in Catalonia.
Weary weeks passed on before Lord Peterborough could overcome the apathy and obstinacy of the Germans and Dutch. At a council of war held on the 30th of December Peterborough proposed to divide the army, that he in person would lead half of it to aid the insurrection which had broken out in Valencia, and that the other half should march into Aragon; but Brigadier General Conyngham and the Dutch General Schratenbach strongly opposed this bold counsel, urging that the troops required repose after their labors, and that their numbers were hardly sufficient to guard the province they had won. Such arguments drove Peterborough almost to madness; the troops had, in fact, gone through no hard work during the siege of Barcelona, and two months and a half had elapsed since that city surrendered. Moreover, far from being reinvigorated from rest, they were suffering from illness caused by inactivity in an unhealthy country.
Already all the benefits derivable from the gallant capture of Barcelona had been lost. The enemy had recovered from the surprise and dismay excited by that event. The friendly and wavering, who would at once have risen had the king boldly advanced after his striking success, had already lost heart and become dispirited by the want of energy displayed in his after proceedings, and from all parts of Spain masses of troops were moving to crush the allies and stamp out the insurrection.
In Valencia only had the partisans of Charles gained considerable advantages. In the beginning of December Colonel Nebot, commanding a regiment of Philip's dragoons, declared for Charles, and, accompanied by four hundred of his men, entered the town of Denia, where the people and Basset, the governor, at once declared for Charles.
On the 11th Nebot and Basset attacked the little town of Xabea, garrisoned by five hundred Biscayans, and carried it, and the same night took Oliva and Gandia. The next day they pushed on through Alzira, where they were joined by many of the principal inhabitants, and a detachment of the dragoons under Nebot's brother, Alexander, surprised and routed three troops of the enemy's horse, captured their convoy of ammunition, and pursued them to the very gates of Valencia.
On the night of the 15th the main body marched from Alzira, and appeared next morning before Valencia and summoned the town to surrender. The Marquis de Villa Garcia refused, but Alexander Nebot put himself at the head of his dragoons and galloped up to the gates shouting "Long live the king!" The inhabitants overpowered the guard at the gate and threw it open and Valencia was taken. When the news of these reverses reached Madrid the Conde de las Torres, a veteran officer who had seen much service in the wars of Italy, marched from Madrid in all haste to prevent if possible the junction of the forces of Catalonia with the Valencians.
He at once marched upon San Matteo, which lay on the main line of communication, and commenced a vigorous siege of that city. The king received the news on the 18th of January, 1706, and wrote at once to Peterborough, urging him to go to the relief of San Matteo, but giving him no troops whatever to assist him in his enterprise; and Peterborough's difficulties were increased by General Conyngham, who commanded a brigade at Fraga, hastily falling back upon Lerida upon hearing exaggerated rumors of the strength of the enemy.
Peterborough, however, did not hesitate a moment, but mounting his horse, and accompanied only by his aides de camp, Jack Stilwell and Lieutenant Graham, rode for Tortosa. Changing his horse at the various towns through which he passed, and riding almost night and day, he reached Tortosa on the 4th, and at once summoned the magnates of the town to give information as to the real state of things. He then found, to his astonishment, that the details which the king had sent him respecting the force of the enemy were entirely incorrect. Charles had written that they were two thousand strong, and that sixteen thousand peasants were in arms against them, whereas Las Torres had with him seven thousand good troops, and not a single peasant had taken up arms.
General Killigrew, who now commanded the two hundred dragoons and the thousand British infantry at Tortosa, together with his officers, considered that under such circumstances it was absolutely hopeless to attempt any movement for the relief of San Matteo; but Peterborough did not hesitate a moment, and only said to his officers:
"Unless I can raise that siege our affairs are desperate, and therefore capable only of desperate remedies. Be content; let me try my fortune, whether I cannot by diligence and surprise effect that which by downright force is apparently impracticable."
The officers had unbounded confidence in their general, and although the enterprise appeared absolutely hopeless, they at once agreed to undertake it. Accordingly the three weak English regiments marched from Tortosa under Killigrew, and the next day the earl followed with the dragoons and a party of Miquelets, and overtook the infantry that night. The next morning he broke up his little army into small detachments in order that they might march more rapidly, and, dividing the Miquelets among them as guides, ordered them to assemble at Fraiguesa, two leagues from San Matteo.
The advance was admirably managed. Small parties of dragoons and Miquelets went on ahead along each of the roads to occupy the passes among the hills. When arrived at these points they had strict orders to let no one pass them until the troops appeared in sight, when the advance again pushed forward and secured another position for the same purpose.
Thus no indication of his coming preceded him; and the troops arriving together with admirable punctuality before Fraiguesa, the place was taken by surprise, and guards were at once mounted on its gates, with orders to prevent any one from leaving the town on any excuse whatever. Thus while the English force were within two leagues of San Matteo, Las Torres remained in absolute ignorance that any hostile force was advancing against him. Graham and Jack were nearly worn out by the exertions which they had undergone with their indefatigable general. They had ridden for three days and nights almost without sleep, and on their arrival at Tortosa were engaged unceasingly in carrying out their chief's instructions, in making preparations for the advance, and in obtaining every possible information as to the country to be traversed.
Both the young officers had now begun to speak Spanish. A residence of four months in the country, constant communication with the natives, and two months and a half steady work with an instructor had enabled them to make great progress, and they were now able to communicate without difficulty with the Spaniards with whom they came in contact.