Won by the Sword by G. A. Henty
Chapter XIII: The Battles of Freiburg
The cardinal did not address Hector until he had entered his private room, when he turned and said sharply, "What means this, colonel? When I saw you and your officers on the road I felt sure that you were not there for nothing, and still more sure when on alighting I found you so closely following me."
"I was convinced, cardinal, that there was a plot against your life, and I believe that it was only because the Duke of Orleans returned with you that it was not carried into effect."
"And possibly because they saw your troop behind the carriage. Now tell me your reason for supposing that I was in danger."
Hector related the various steps that he had taken.
"Your spies worked better for you than mine did for me," the cardinal said. "That a dozen or so of Beaufort's friends were for some reason or other spending their time at the Angel Inn and other cabarets I was aware, but I have had no word of their proceedings today. You have been better served, doubtless, because your plans were better laid. I hardly think that they would have attacked me when Orleans was with me, but there is no saying; for if Beaufort has daring and insolence enough to attempt to slay the queen's minister within a quarter of a mile of the Louvre, he would not trouble greatly whether princes of the blood were in the carriage or not, especially if he had some reason for believing that Orleans would not regard the deed with very great disapproval.
"However, whatever his intentions might be, it is clear that the appearance of your party of twelve armed men decided the question. We may regard it as certain that the news that I had such an escort was carried to them by the man who galloped on ahead. I thank you, sir, I thank you very heartily, not only for my sake, but for that of France. I will ask you to go across to the Louvre; I will take half a dozen armed servants with me, but there is little fear that the attempt will be renewed today. They must be too much disconcerted by the failure of their plot to make fresh arrangements so speedily. I shall go first to the Louvre and inform her majesty of what has taken place. You will remain here for half an hour, and will then leave by the gate at the back of the house and make a circuit, and enter the palace by the river gate. The musketeers on guard will stop you, but I will give you a pass." And he wrote a few lines on paper. "The queen's confidential servant, Laporte, will be at the door to meet you, and will have instructions to escort you by corridors where you will be unobserved, and so to her majesty's private closet. Were you to accompany me, Beaufort would soon hear of it, and would be shrewd enough to perceive that your meeting with me was by no means a matter of chance."
Hector followed out his instructions, and on presenting himself at the palace was at once taken up to the queen's closet. Laporte went in, and returning immediately requested him to enter. The queen was walking up and down the room, her face flushed with indignation.
"Her majesty would fain hear from your own lips, monsieur le baron, the statement that you have made to me."
The queen sat down and listened intently while Hector repeated the story.
"There can be no doubt about it, cardinal; this keeping of a number of armed men within call for days, the summons to them to gather in the Rue St. Honore, while he himself with others took up his post at the convent of the Capuchins hard by, the moment his spies had discovered that you had left for Maisons, could but have been for one purpose. But they shall learn that although a woman, Anne of Austria, Queen of France, is not to be deprived of her minister and faithful friend without striking back in return. Monsieur de Villar, you have rendered me a great service. Is there any boon that you would ask of me? it is granted beforehand."
"I thank your majesty most humbly," Hector said. "Already I have received honours far beyond anything I deserve. I had the honour when thanking your majesty, to hope some day to be able to give proof that they were not unworthily bestowed, and still hope to do so."
"You have already shown yourself worthy," the queen said, "by the manner in which you have in so short a time rendered the regiment to which we appointed you so efficient. However, if there is at present no boon that we can bestow, then remember that the Queen of France holds herself your debtor, and that you have my royal word that any boon that you may hereafter ask for, that is in my power to grant, will be given you. Take this as a pledge of my promise." And she took off a gold chain exquisitely worked, and gave it him. He received it kneeling. "Now, sir, we will keep you here no longer. I have much to say to his excellency. I trust that you will present yourself at the levee this evening."
"One thing more, colonel," Mazarin added; "I doubt not that some of Beaufort's people will endeavour to find out how it was that you came to be behind my carriage. If they do so you might carelessly mention that you and your officers had ridden out in a party at St. Germain, and that on your way back you chanced to fall in with my carriage."
At the barracks Hector called the officers together. "Gentlemen," he said, "I have no doubt that your little ride today has somewhat puzzled you. I am not at liberty to tell you the reason why I requested you to ride with me; but it is very probable that you may be asked the question, and I beg you all to remember that we have been on a little party of pleasure to St. Germain, and having dined there were on our way back when we overtook the carriage of the cardinal; and seeing that he had the Duke of Orleans with him, we reined back and followed him, deeming that it would not appear respectful were we to gallop past the carriage. Please bear this story in mind. Recall also that we dined at the Lion d'Or there, that our dinner was a good one and that it was a sort of celebration on my part of our two companies having the honour to be chosen for duty in Paris. This is a matter upon which much depends; it is, in fact, a matter of state; and you may well imagine that I should not be recalling these events to your mind were it not that a good deal depends upon it, and that I have received strict orders that this little comedy shall be carried out. I know that I can rely implicitly upon your discretion, and I have indeed answered for you all. The story will be true in every respect. Instead of the excursion having come off today it shall come off on the first day I can arrange that we can be all off duty."
That evening at the palace Hector was, as the cardinal predicted, accosted by one of Beaufort's officers, to whom he had been previously introduced. After talking on other subjects for a few minutes, he said:
"I saw you today, monsieur, riding with a party of your officers along the Rue St. Honore. You did not notice me?"
"I assure you that I did not, sir, or I should not have been so rude as to pass without saluting you." Then he added with a laugh, "We were riding slowly, too, for the cardinal's coach was in front of us, and it would not have been good manners to have galloped past him, especially as he had the Duke of Orleans with him."
"Had you been far?" the other asked carelessly.
"No great distance; a little party of pleasure with my officers to eat a dinner together, to celebrate the honour we had received in being brought into Paris. My officers have worked very hard, and the matter served as a good excuse for giving them a little dinner."
For the next day or two everything passed off quietly, but four of the officers reported that when dining at a cabaret two or three of the duke's officers had come in and entered into conversation with them, and had brought up the subject of their riding in after the cardinal.
"You almost looked as if you were serving as a bodyguard to him," one of them laughed.
"I daresay we did," was the answer. "It was rather a nuisance; but it would not have been courteous to have ridden past the carriage." And he then repeated the story as had been arranged.
Although the Duke of Beaufort had been told by some of his friends that there were rumours abroad of a plot against Mazarin's life, and that it would be best for him to leave Paris for a time, he refused to do so, saying that even if it was discovered the cardinal would not dare to lay hands on him. Moreover, the replies which had been obtained from Hector and his officers convinced him that their riding behind Mazarin's carriage was an accident.
On the 2nd of September the duke presented himself at the Louvre as usual. After speaking with him for a few minutes, the queen left the room with Mazarin, and Guibaut, captain of the Guards, at once came forward and arrested him. He was kept at the Louvre that night, and next day was taken to the castle of Vincennes. Two companies of Swiss guards marched first, followed by a royal carriage containing the duke and Guibaut. The carriage was surrounded by the royal musketeers. A body of light cavalry followed, and the two companies of the Poitou regiment brought up the rear. Thus the people of Paris were shown that the queen had both the will and the power to punish, and the fickle population, who would the day before have shouted in honour of Beaufort, were delighted at seeing that the royal authority was once again paramount in Paris. The other members of the party of Importants either fled or were arrested. The Campions, Beaupuis, and others, succeeded in making their escape from France. The Marquis of Chateauneuf, governor of Touraine, was ordered back to his province. La Chatres, colonel general, was dismissed from his post; the Duc de Vendome was forced to leave France; and the ambitious Bishop of Beauvais and several other prelates were commanded to return to their dioceses. All the members of the Vendome family were exiled to the chateau of Annette. Madame de Chevreuse, de Hautefort, and a large number of other members of the party were ordered to leave Paris. Thus the party of the Importants ceased to exist.
The people of Paris seemed greatly pleased at what appeared to them the end of the troubles, and they exclaimed that Richelieu was not dead, but that he had simply changed his appearance, and had become twenty years younger. Mazarin chose a number of soldiers belonging to his own regiment, and several officers who belonged to Richelieu's own guard. These were at all times to follow him wherever he went. He selected a number of noblemen, all of distinguished merit and influence, and created five of them dukes, and thus secured to himself a party that would to some extent balance the power of his adversaries.
He also made an effort to bring about a union between the Duke of Orleans and the Condes, but failed, owing to the enormous demands that each put forward. Conde demanded the government of Languedoc for himself, of Burgundy for Enghien, and Normandy for the Duc de Longueville, and the entire domains of his late brother-in-law, Henry of Montmorency. Orleans on his part demanded the province of Champagne, the three bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, and the town and castle of Sedan. As these demands, if granted, would have rendered the two families all powerful, Mazarin gave up the attempt, and decided that the best plan to prevent troubles was to let these dangerous families continue to be hostile to each other.
As soon as he had finished his work of crushing the Importants, Mazarin sent for Hector.
"Now, Monsieur Campbell," he said, "I have breathing time. The conspiracy among the nobles is for the time crushed, and now that they see that the queen is determined to protect me, and that I am not afraid of using the power committed to me, I hope that it will be some time before they venture to conspire again. I have further strengthened my position by granting honours to many distinguished gentlemen who were well inclined towards me, and on whose support in the future I shall be able to rely. Now it is time that I should turn to the man who has probably saved my life, and to whose evidence given before the queen I in no small degree owe it that she resolved to suppress these insolent nobles. I have not hurried in this matter, since, by your answer to the queen, it was evident that you desired no change in your position, and that the matter could wait.
"Still, monsieur, her offer was to grant honours for services rendered to the state. The matter of the service that you have rendered to Cardinal Mazarin is still untouched. It is something so new to me that anyone in France should be so perfectly contented with his lot as to refuse such an offer as that made to you by the queen, that I feel somewhat at a loss what to do. I can understand that, young and ardent, increased rank would have no charm for you. Were it otherwise I could bestow the highest rank upon you. I am aware that your habits are simple, for I have made inquiries, and that money in itself goes for little in your eyes; still, sir, one who has the honour of being first minister of France, and who is also a very rich man, cannot remain with a debt of gratitude wholly uncancelled. I hear from my agent in Poitou that you have voluntarily remitted the fine that your vassals would pay on the occasion of a new lord taking possession, on account of the heavy taxation that presses so sorely upon them.
"I honour you, sir, for such a step, and have even mentioned it to the queen as a proof of the goodness of your disposition, and I feel sure that there is nothing that would please you better than that I should grant the tenants of your estate an immunity from all taxation; but this I cannot do. All private interests must give way to the necessities of the state. I deplore the sufferings of the cultivators of France, sufferings that have of late driven many to take up arms. It is my duty to repress such risings; but I have ordered the utmost leniency to be shown to these unfortunate men, that the troops should not be quartered upon their inhabitants, and that the officers shall see that there is no destruction of houses and no damage to property; that would increase still further their difficulty in paying the imposts, which I regret to say press so sorely and unduly upon them. Tell me frankly what is the greatest object of your ambition?"
"I thank your excellency most heartily for your kind intentions towards me, but any ambition that I may have had is already much more than gratified. I have never for a moment thought of, or even wished that I might some day become lord of a fair estate and a noble of France. I had not ventured to hope that I might become colonel of a regiment for another fifteen years. Both these things have, thanks to the kind appreciation of her majesty and yourself for a very simple act of duty, fallen to me. If I might ask a boon, it would be that my regiment may be sent to join the force of Marshal Turenne. So long as there was danger here I should not have wished to be removed from a position where I might be of some assistance, however slight, to the queen and yourself, but now that all danger is at an end I should be glad to return to active duty. I have endeavoured humbly to make Marshal Turenne my model. He has but one thought and one desire -- namely, to do his duty and to make the soldiers under his command contented and happy, but I have no hope of ever emulating his great merits as a commander."
"That request is easily granted," Mazarin said, and drawing a sheet of paper towards him, he wrote:
The regiment of Poitou will at once proceed to the Rhine, where it will place itself under the orders of Marshal Turenne.
He added his signature, and handed the paper to Hector.
"That counts for nothing," he said. "You must remember that life is short and, especially in the case of a minister of France, uncertain. In your own case you might be disabled in the field and unable to serve further. The advent of a party hostile to me in power would doubtless be signalized by acts of vengeance against those who have been friends, and estates change hands so frequently in France that la Villar might well be confiscated. No man is above the chances of fortune. I have agents in England, and have this morning given an order to my intendant to place in the hands of Monsieur Wilson, a well known citizen of London, a goldsmith, the sum of fifty thousand crowns to stand in your name, and to be payable to your order. Here is his address. It is but a small sum for the saving of my life, but it will place you above the risk of the contingencies of fortune in this country. I wish for no thanks," he said, with a wave of his hand as Hector was about to speak. "I have given more for the most trifling favours. I now bid you adieu, and doubt not that I shall hear that you and your regiment have greatly distinguished yourselves in the east, where hostilities will in all probability shortly be commenced. You had better present yourself at the levee this evening to make your adieus to the queen."
This Hector did, and early the next morning rode with his two companies to St. Denis, where the news that the regiment was to march towards the Rhine was received with great satisfaction. It was now the middle of October, and when, after ten days' march, the regiment reached Epernay, they heard that Turenne had withdrawn his troops from the Rhine, where the Imperialists had already gone into winter quarters, and had stationed them in the various towns of Lorraine. His headquarters were at Nancy. Turenne greeted him warmly upon his arrival.
"Matters have been going on slowly since I saw you in Paris. I have been too weak to fight the Bavarians, who fortunately were too undecided to attack me. Could they but have made up their minds to throw in their fortune with Austria, they might have overrun all Lorraine, for aught I could have done to withstand them. The troopers were without horses, the infantry almost without clothes, and as the court was unable to send me any remittances I have been forced to borrow money upon my own estates for the public service, and have mounted five thousand horse and enrolled three thousand foot and am still sustaining them. However, I hear from Mazarin that he will in a week send off a large convoy of treasure, which will be welcome indeed, for I am nearly at the end of my resources. Some of my troops are quartered in the town, but the most part are among the mountains, where they trouble the inhabitants less and have small temptations towards rioting and excesses. Which would you rather?"
"I would much rather go into the country, marshal; my regiment is in good condition now, but to stay in quarters in a town is bad for discipline."
"So be it. You might make your headquarters at the village of Saline; there are no other troops within thirty miles of it. On arriving there you will make inquiries as to the supplies to be obtained within a circle of fifteen miles round. Fortunately I have a good supply of tents, and any men for whom you cannot find quarters in the villages can be placed under canvas. You can draw as much wine as you require for three months' rations from the stores here, and two months' rations of flour. I will direct the intendants to take up carts for the transport of the supplies you take from here. You will doubtless be able to buy meat up there, and I hope that you will be able to obtain sufficient flour and wine to last you till the end of the winter, for transport will be very difficult when the snow is on the ground. Firewood your soldiers will, of course, cut for themselves in the forests."
The winter passed quietly. Hector managed to obtain quarters for all his troops -- a village being allotted to each company. Before they marched off to their various quarters, Hector urged the officers to impress upon their men the advantage of behaving well to the villagers.
"Of course the presence of so many men will be of serious inconvenience to them, but they will doubtless make the best of it if they find that they are treated civilly and that their lodgers endeavour to give as little trouble as possible. See that everything down to the smallest article is paid for, and investigate every complaint, and I will punish any offenders severely. I have inquired into the average prices that sheep, fowls, pigs, goats, and other articles fetch, and have made out a list for each company; the peasants will be gainers by it, for they will be saved the journey down to the towns. Let this be stuck up in a conspicuous place in each village.
"The intendant will go round and make contracts for the supply of meat, and will see whether it will be more advantageous to erect ovens for the baking of bread in each village or to arrange to buy it ready baked there, we supplying the flour; for the troops, after being accustomed to good bread at St. Denis, will not be content with the black bread upon which these poor people exist. I shall pay a visit to each company in regular order, see that all is going on well, try men who have misbehaved themselves, and listen gladly to any suggestions that the respective captains may make to me."
The first company was quartered at Saline, and although the cold was severe and the life rough the troops were well contented, and Hector was glad to find that his instructions were carried out and that excellent relations were maintained between the troops and their hosts.
Early in the spring Turenne collected a force of three regiments of cavalry and two of infantry, and, passing the Rhine at Breisach, fell suddenly upon a force of Imperialists in the Black Forest, defeated them, and took three or four hundred prisoners, among whom were many officers, the rest of them escaping to the army commanded by Count Merci. In May the Bavarian army, numbering eight thousand foot and seven thousand horse, marched to besiege Freiburg, five leagues from Breisach, and Turenne followed with all his force, which now numbered ten thousand men. He found, however, that the Imperialists had occupied all the strong positions in the neighbourhood of the town, and not caring to run the risk either of defeat or great loss, and receiving information that the town had already opened negotiations for surrender, he fell back some five miles from the town, sending news to the court that his force was insufficient to attack the Imperialists. Mazarin thereupon sent orders to Enghien to set out at once for Germany. As soon as he reached the Rhine and his army prepared to cross, Enghien, who had been appointed generalissimo, rode forward with Marshal de Gramont, who was in command of the army under him, to the camp of Turenne. The meeting between Enghien and Turenne was most cordial. Enghien had always felt the warmest admiration for the talents of the older marshal, had been most intimate with him whenever he was at court, and regarded him as his master in the art of war. Turenne was free from the vice of jealousy; and as the armies of France were almost always placed under the supreme if sometimes nominal command of princes of the blood, it seemed nothing but natural to him that Enghien should receive supreme authority.
The characters of the two men were in complete contrast with each other -- the one was ardent, passionate, prompt in action and swift in execution; the other, though equally brave, was prudent and careful, anxious above all things to accomplish his object with the smallest possible loss of men, while Enghien risked the lives of his soldiers as recklessly as his own. They always acted together in the most perfect harmony, and their friendship remained unimpaired even when in subsequent days they stood in arms against each other. At the council Turenne was in favour of making a circuit and taking up their post in the valley of St. Pierre, by which they would intercept the Bavarians' communications and force them by famine to issue out from their strong lines and fight in the open, and urged that to attack a position so strongly fortified would entail terrible loss, even if successful.
Marshal de Gramont, and d'Erlac, governor of Breisach, were of the same opinion. The Duc d'Enghien, however, was for attacking the enemy in their intrenchments; the idea of starving out an enemy was altogether repugnant to one of his impetuous disposition, and as generalissimo he overruled the opinions of the others. He himself, led by Turenne, reconnoitred the position of the enemy, and decided that the one army, which was called the army of France, consisting of six thousand foot and four thousand horse, commanded by Marshal de Gramont, should attack the enemy's position in front and on their right flank, and the other, called the army of Weimar, of five thousand foot and as many horse, under Turenne, should move round by a narrow pass and attack the enemy on the left flank. Merci's army occupied an almost inaccessible hill whose summit was strongly fortified, and it was against this that de Gramont's army was to hurl itself. The entrance to the valley by which Turenne was to fall upon their left flank was closed at its mouth by very strong intrenchments, and it was behind this that the main body of horse was posted.
To gain his point of attack Turenne had to make a very wide circuit, and started at break of day on the 3rd of August. It was arranged that Enghien, who remained with de Gramont, should not attack until three hours before sunset, in order to give Turenne time to attack at the same hour. At the time agreed upon, Enghien sent forward two battalions to begin the attack. The regiments of Conde and Mazarin were to follow, while the duke held two others in reserve. In order to get at the enemy the assailants were forced to climb a very steep ascent, and cross a vineyard intersected by many walls four feet high facing the terrace on which the vines grew. These were occupied by the Bavarians, but the French attacked with such vigour that the enemy were driven back. When, however, the latter reached the great cheval-de-frise, formed by felled trees, in front of the intrenchments, they could make no further progress, so heavy was the fire maintained by the enemy.
Enghien, seeing this, dismounted, placed himself at the head of the regiment of Conde, and led them forward, while Marshal Gramont and the officers did the same. Encouraged by this example, the troops were filled with enthusiasm, and, following their leaders unfalteringly, made their way through the cheval-de-frise, and, pressing forward without a pause, obtained possession of the intrenchments, driving the Bavarians into the woods behind. The battle had lasted three hours, and had cost the Bavarians three thousand men, while the French suffered at least equally.
Turenne's force had been as hotly engaged. Merci, the best general in the Austrian army, had foreseen that an attempt might be made through the defile, and had posted strong bodies of infantry among the trees on either side.
As soon as Turenne entered the defile he was encountered by a heavy fire from his unseen foes, who, falling back through the trees as he advanced, continued to gain strength. Turenne had to fight every foot of his way in order to dislodge the enemy, and it was not until Enghien had brought the battle to a conclusion on his side, that Turenne arrived and, forcing the intrenchments guarding the mouth of the defile, found himself in contact with Merci, who was now able to concentrate his whole force against him. The combat was a furious one. The troops were engaged at but forty paces apart, and sometimes had hand-to-hand encounters. Merci brought the whole of his cavalry into play, but Turenne was unable to use his, as they were behind his infantry and could not make their way out through the mouth of the defile.
For seven hours the battle raged in the darkness. After losing three thousand men here, General Merci decided that his army would be totally destroyed if Enghien should bring his troops down from the hill at daybreak. Accordingly, leaving a body of musketeers to hide the movement by their fire, he withdrew the rest of his army and took up another strong position, partly on a height known as the Black Mountain, covering the entrance of the valley of St. Pierre and partly in the valley itself, thus covering his line of retreat. Had the French been able to attack early the next morning before the Bavarians had time to intrench themselves they might have won an easy victory; but for the past twenty-four hours the rain had been falling incessantly, Turenne's army had been marching on the previous day, and had been fighting for seven hours, and was incapable of further exertions, while that of Enghien was in little better plight, having passed the night in the rain on the ground it had won.
After such hard fighting both commanders agreed that a twenty-four hours' halt was absolutely necessary. The day could not be termed one of rest, for there were thousands of wounded to be collected and cared for, arms to be cleaned, for they had been rendered useless by the rain, and provisions to be brought up from the rear. Merci made the most of the time thus given him. The bottom of the mountain towards the plain was fortified by several rows of felled trees, and a portion of his infantry was posted between this point and the town of Freiburg, which was but half a mile away. The intrenchments that had been formed during the siege of the town were occupied by them; and as their front was covered by the fire of the guns from the fortress, as well as by that of the infantry on the hill, he considered the position to be impregnable, and therefore placed the main body of his army at the edge of the flat top of the hill, a strong body behind a wood about halfway up the slope, and his cavalry extended from that point to the walls of the city.
After reconnoitering the position, Enghien determined to make two attacks, one on the trenches between the foot of the hill and the town, and the other on the rows of felled trees at the foot of the mountain. A false attack was to be made between the two points. Turenne's force advanced nearly to the foot of the hill, the prince's army followed him, and also took up its position. But just as the attack was about to be made a great tumult was heard on the hill, and Enghien and Turenne rode to a neighbouring height in order to ascertain what was going on, leaving strict orders that no movement was to be made until their return. Count d'Espenan, who commanded the two advanced regiments of Enghien's army, however, ordered a detachment to attack a redoubt which stood within the line of attack, and Merci sent supports to its defenders.
D'Espenan sent more troops on his side and the engagement became serious. Suddenly the Imperialist artillery opened fire along the whole of their line, and Enghien's troops, apparently taking this for the signal of the beginning of the battle, moved forward for the assault without order or leader. As they were broken and confused by endeavouring to pass through the abattis of felled trees, the Bavarians rushed out and drove them back with great slaughter. Enghien and Turenne, galloping up in all haste, in vain attempted to rally them. Officers and men alike were panic stricken. The two generals then rode to Turenne's army and advanced against the defence of trees. For a long time the battle raged without any marked success on either side. Several times the French made their way in to the intrenchments and were as often repulsed. Merci ordered his cavalry to dismount, and led them into the fray, but, darkness falling suddenly, the assailants ceased to attack, and occupied for the night the ground on which the struggle had taken place. The fight that day had cost them two thousand troops, and the Bavarians twelve hundred, but as the latter had lost half their infantry in the first day's fighting the French were still superior in numbers. During the night Turenne had all the wounded of both nationalities carried to Breisach. After giving the army four days' rest, Enghien determined to resort to the tactics that Turenne had from the first recommended, and, marching along the plain, ascended the valley of Bloterthal and made for St. Pierre, where he would cut the Bavarian line of retreat. As soon as Merci saw the movement he gave orders for his army to fall back with all haste, and although Turenne pressed hard on his rear he succeeded in drawing his troops off, though, in order to do so, he was obliged to abandon his baggage and cannon. Altogether he lost between eight and nine thousand men, with their artillery and most of their horses. The French loss was equally great, and though the battle was claimed as a victory by them owing to the Bavarians having finally fallen back, it was really a drawn one.