Abbildungen der Seite
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

prospect, that I am extremely out of heart; but God's will be done! In all the other campaigns, I had an opinion of being able to do something for the common cause; but in this I have no other hopes than that some lucky accident may enable me to do good. And on informing Godolphin that he had concluded everything in Holland, as far as could be done in a country where nobody had power to conclude any thing, he expressed a hope that the blessing of God would make them succeed much better than they could propose to themselves ; ' for,' said he, • Providence makes the wheel go round.'

The letters of Leopold, and the representations of the Imperial minister, produced the intended effect upon the English cabinet; and without yet entirely disclosing his views, even to Godolphin and the Queen, he obtained general powers for concerting with the States such measures as might be deemed proper for relieving the Emperor. The first hint of an effort in Germany awakened in England a party cry against hazardous enterprizes and continental connections; and the Dutch were so averse to go beyond a mere defensive system, that Marlborough declared he would lead the English troops alone to the Moselle, ceasing any further to consult with so inefficient and impracticable a government. This declaration alarmed the hostile faction; and the same timidity which had made the States refuse their assent before, induced them now to vest him with sufficient powers. He then apprized Godolphin that he thought it absolutely necessary to march into Germany, and take measures with the Margrave of Baden against the Elector of Bavaria; and in a subsequent letter he added, that if he found at Philipsburgh that the French had joined the Elector, he should make no hesitation at marching to the Danube. The main difficulties were now removed; the impediments that might be expected from a person with whom he was to cooperate seemed little in comparison to what he had overcome : he felt no doubt of success when he should reach the scene of action; and in that confidence looked forward to the good name which he should leave behind him. It is curious to contrast the feelings of the general relying thus hopefully upon Providence for the success of a good cause, with those of an officer in his army, who had been bred up among the Scotch covenanters, and whose melancholy temperament suited their austere opinions. Lord,' says this officer, a man as thoroughly brave as he was religious, ' 1 tremble to think on the profanity and wickedness of the army that I am in, and what judgments we are like to pull down

upon our own heads. For the English army are sinners exceedingly before the Lord ; and I have no hopes of success, or that this expedition shall prove to our honour. Howsoever much

[ocr errors][merged small]


we think of ourselves, Thou wilt humble us.' Nor was it merely because of the profligacy of the troops that he augured thus unhappily of the event; he thought it unlawful to act in behalf of the Emperor, because of his intolerance. “When I consider this,' says he, that we are assisting those oppressors who have wasted the church and people of God, persecuted and oppressed them, it makes me afraid the quarrel is not right, and that we shall not prosper, though I be satisfied that our quarrel against France is a very just one. O Lord, it is sad to be in an army, where I have not confidence to pray for success, and dare not seek in faith. If any thing could have made this brave man a coward, it would have been his wrong notions in religion.

Colonel Blackader, from whose journal these passages are extracted, describes the troops as the scum and dregs of mankind earthly devils, who seemed as if they were broke loose from hell. Allowing for the exaggeration of a man who says of himself, that all his comfort was poisoned by a melancholy temper, inclined to discontent; and who, in addition to this, had from his childhood been dosed with the essential acid of puritanism, it may be believed that the morals of the army were like those of all men whose moral and religious education has been totally neglected. The manner therefore in which Marlborough, without any extraordinary severity, (for of that, his nature was incapable,) made such an army a model for its discipline and good behaviour whereever it went, will not appear the least remarkable, nor the least meritorious part of his character. Wherever the French went, their armies were at free quarters, and the Germans followed the same cruel system. But Marlborough was particularly careful to spare the people whom he came to defend. He saw the men regularly paid, and duly provided with all things necessary (as far as was possible) for their well-being and comfort. And by the order which he established the inhabitants were conciliated, and the troops supplied better and more surely than could have been done by any measures of oppression and severity. In his first interview with Eugene, that Prince expressed his admiration at the appearance of the men.

He had heard much of the English cavalry, he said, which were reviewed before him, and he found it to be the best-appointed and the finest that he had ever seen : money, of which there was no want in England, could buy clothes and accoutrements, but nothing could purchase the spirit which he saw ip their looks; and that spirit was an earnest of victory.

It had not been possible for the enemy to perceive what were Marlborough's intentions for this campaign; the secret had been confined to himself and Prince Eugene till the latest moment; and


[ocr errors]

B 4

the plan itself was so much beyond the usual policy of the English cabinet, and its vacillating allies, that the French were as little able to divine as to discover it. When they heard that he was at Coblentz, they apprehended an attack on the Moselle; when he advanced to Mentz, they feared for Alsace: lastly, they suspected that Landau was to be besieged; and when at length they knew that he was on his march toward the Danube, it was too late to take any measures for opposing him on the way.

At Hippach the Margrave of Baden joined him. It was Marlborough's wish that this commander would remain with the army on the Rhine, and leave Eugene to be his colleague on the Danube; but as the Danube was likely to be the more brilliant scene of „action, the Margrave claimed the privilege of seniority in rank, .and it was not without great difficulty that he was prevailed upon to share the command with the English general by alternate days. Eugene therefore was sent to the Rhine, against his own inclination, and against the judgment of Marlborough, who had full confidence in the Prince, and rightly appreciated his generous character, as well as his military genius ; but the Margrave was a man whom it was scarcely possible to guide, and by whom it might easily have been destruction to be guided. There were difficulties enough before him; the States, alarmed at a report that the Netherlands

would be attacked, reclaimed a part of the auxiliary force : Villeroy and Tallard had had a meeting at Landau ; and it was reasonable to suppose that they had concerted some important enterprize; and though he himself was not shackled as he had been by Dutch deputies, and generals who were more desirous to frustrate his plans than to execute his orders, he knew too well the evil which might result from an alternate command, when the moment for action was to be seized. But Marlborough was of a hopeful nature, without which vo man is fit for the charge of an army, be his other qualifications what they may.

The first object, after the junction of the confederates, was to „secure Donawerth as a place of arms for the invasion of Bavaria. This city, upon the frontiers of Bavaria and Swabia, is situated where the Wernitz flows into the Danube. The Elector, who occupied a strong position between Lawingen and Dillingen, and was waiting for reinforcements from France, had detached General D'Arco with 10,000 foot and 2500 horse, to protect this point by occupying the Schellenberg, a commanding height on the left bank of the river near the town, from which the course of the Danube may be seen as far as Ingolstadt. Its ascent is gradual, and on the summit, which is about half a mile wide, the enemy were encamped, and fortifying themselves with the utmost exertions. Marlborough well knew that if they arrived before

this position on the day of the Margrave's authority, it would be wasted in deliberations, Seizing therefore his own time of command, he marched fourteen miles, though a heavy train of artillery was to be conducted over roads that had been drenched by incessant rains, and resolved upon immediately making the attack. To those who expressed a doubt whether this celerity were advisable, he replied with characteristic decision, Either the enemy will escape, or will have time to finish their works; in the latter case, the delay of every hour will cost the loss of a thousand men. While the preparations were making, dispatches arrived from Eugene with news that Villeroy and Tallard were at Strasburgh, preparing a powerful reinforcement for the Elector, and the intelligence made him the more anxious that a blow should be struck without delay. The Bavarian generals did not believe that an army, after such a march, would begin an attack toward the close of day; and they hoped to complete their works during the night, and to receive a further supply of troops. But it soon appeared that their men must desist from work, and take their arms. Surprised as they were, they made a skilful and brave resistance. The position was strong; the works, although unfinished, gave them great advantage, and having broken the assailants by a tremendous fire, they boldly rushed out and charged them with the bayonet. They were repulsed principally by a battalion of English guards, who maintained their ground singly while most of their officers were wounded or killed. At length the enemy were giving way, partly in consequence of a panic occasioned by the explosion of some powder, when the Margrave came up with the Imperialists, and completed the victory. The carnage was very great; the fugitives broke down the bridge by their numbers, and inany perished in the Danube ; the general's son was among them. Only 3000 of the Gallo-Bavarians escaped to rejoin the elector, and every thing upon the ground was taken. But the victory was not purchased without a heavy loss. 1500 were killed, 4000 wounded, and among the slain were 8 generals, 11 colonels, and 26 captains, for the officers exerted themselves particularly in the action, and Marlborough exposed his own person greatly. The action lasted from six tiil eight in the evening. We have no reason to boast,' says Colonel Blackader; the British value themselves too much, and think nothing can stand before them.-Oh that God would reform this army, that good men might have some pleasure in it! I see that the smallest accidents give turn to the greatest actions, either to prosper or defeat them, in spite of human reason, prudence, or courage. In the evening (of the ensuing day) I went into the field of battle, and got a preaching from the dead. The carcasses were very

thick strewed upon the ground, naked and corrupted : yet all this makes no impression upon us, seeing our counrades and friends' bodies lying as dung upon the earth. Lord make us humble and thankful!'

Marlborough too was a religious man, though of a different stamp. In announcing his success to the queen he ascribed it to the particular blessing of God, and the unparalleled bravery of the troops. It was because the British thought that nothing could stand before them, because they felt and knew themselves capable of doing whatever could be done by determined courage, that they won the victory. Their general said they had done so well that the cannon ought to be fired in London; he understood the value which brave men set upon the honour they have deserved. The victory also was important enough to be entitled to this mark of public approbation. Donawerth, which might have held out ten days, was immediately evacuated, and Leopold, who knew that had it not been for this timely and effectual expedition of the English, the elector would then have been in Vienna, wrote with his own hand' to congratulate the victorious commander. Alreadý Marlborough's merits were properly appreciated on the continent. Writing to him from Rome, the Duke of Shrewsbury says, “In this holy ignorant city they have an idea of you as of a Tamerlane; and had I a picture of old Colonel Birch with his whiskers, I could put it off for yours, and change it for one done by Raphael. There was now a probability of detaching Bavaria froin its fatal alliance with France; the victory laid that country open to the allies; and the elector, who could not speak without tears of the favourite regiment which had been destroyed there, entered into a treaty with the conquerors; the terms had been agreed upon, and the day fixed on which he was to ratify them; but before it arrived he received an assurance that Marshal Tallard was on the way to his assistance with 35,000 of the best troops of France, and he broke off the negociation. The consequence was that, by the severe laws of war, his country was given up to military execution. _This has been foully misrepresented by the French historian M. Targe: he says it was done pending the negociations, and that Marlborough made no satisfactory reply when the elector accused him of proceedings more suited to the barbarity of the Turks, than to the observance of war among civilized nations. Whereas the threat was held out to induce him to make terms, and the blow was struck, when the treaty was put an end to on his part. What the feelings of Marlborough were in executing the threat appears in that private correspondence which has now for the first time come before the public. In one etter to his wife, he says, this is so contrary to my nature, that


« ZurückWeiter »