G. A. (George Alfred) Henty.

The bravest of the brave : or, with Peterborough in Spain online

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tion, and stores of all kinds.

Had Marshal Tesse marched at once to join Las Torres
Peterborough's little force must have been crushed; but
the court of King Philip decided to dispatch the marshal
against Barcelona. Fortunately Peterborough was well
informed by the country people of everything that was
passing, for in every town and village there were men or
women who sent him news of all that was going on in
their neighborhood.

It was but a week after they entered Valencia that the
earl happening to pass close by Jack Stilwell at a brill-
iant ball, paused for a moment and said :

**Get away from this in half an hour, find Graham,
and bring him with you to my quarters. Before you go
find Colonel Zinzendorf and tell him to have two hun-
dred men ready to mount at half-past one. He is here
somewhere. If you find he has left you must go round
to the barracks. Tell him the matter is to be kept an
absolute secret. I know, ' ' the earl said gallantly to the
lady on his arm and to Jack's partner, **we can trust
you two ladies to say nothing of what you have heard.
It is indeed grief and pain to myself and Captain Stil-
well to tear ourselves away from such society, and you
may be sure that none but the most pressing necessity
could induce me to do it.**

Jack at once led his partner to a seat and set out on
the search for Graham and the colonel of dragoons. Hd


Wa0 mtCi,n time finding them both, and it was already
past one when the three issued together from the palace
where ih^fete was held, and hurried off, the two young
officers to Peterborough's quarters, the colonel to his

The earl was already in his chamber. He had slipped
away unobserved from the ball, and had climbed the wall
of the garden, to avoid being noticed passing out of the
entrance. His great wig and court uniform were thrown
aside, and he was putting on the plain uniform which he
used on service when his aidt-de-camp entered.

"Get rid of that finery and gold-lace," he said as they
entered. "You have to do a forty-mile ride before
morning. I have received glorious news. One of my
partners told me that she had, just as she was starting
for the ball, received a message from a cousin saying
that a vessel had come into port from Genoa with six-
teen brass twenty-four pounder guns, and a quantity of
ammunition and stores, to enable Las Torres to com-
mence the siege. The stores were landed yesterday, and
carts were collected from the country round in readiness
for a start at daybreak this morning. As these things
will be even more useful to us than to the Spaniards, I
mean to have them now. Be as quick as you can. I
have already ordered your horses to be brought round
with mine.**

In five minutes they were in the saddle and rode
quickly to the cavalry barracks. The streets were still
full of people ; but the earl in his simple uniform passed
unnoticed through them. The dragoons were [already
mounted when they reached the barracks.

"We will go out at the back gate colonel,** the earl
said. "Take the most quiet streets by the way, and
make for the west gate. Break your troop up into four


parties, and let them go by different routes, so that any
they meet will suppose they are merely small bodies
going out to relieve the outposts. If it was suspected
that I was with you, and that an expedition was on foot,
the Spaniards would hear it in an hour. Loyal as the
population are here, there must be many adherents of
Philip among them, and Las Torres no doubt has his
spies as well as we have.'*

The earl's orders were carried out, and half an hour
later the four parties again assembled at a short distance
outside the city gates. Peterborough placed himself at
their head and rode directly for the sea.

"The Spaniards are sure to have outposts placed on all
the roads leading inland," he said to Colonel Zinzendorf,
*'and the Spanish irregulars will be scattered all over the
country ; but I do not suppose they will have any down
as far as the seashore. ' *

When they reached the coast they followed a small
road running along its margin. Two or three miles
further they turned off and rode inland till they struck a
main road, so as to avoid following all the windings of
the coast. They now pushed on at a sharp trot, and
just at four o'clock came down upon the little port.

Its streets were cumbered with country carts, and as
the dragoons dashed into the place a few shots were fired
by some Spanish soldiers belonging to a small detach-
ment which had been sent by Las Torres to act as a con-
voy for the guns and stores, and who were sleeping on
the pavement or scattered among the houses in readiness
for a start at daybreak. The resistance soon ceased.
Before entering the place Peterborough had placed a
cordon of dragoons in a semicircle round it to prevent
any one passing out.

No time was lost ; the carts were already loaded, and a


troop of cavalry horses stood picketed by the guns.
These were soon harnessed up, and the few other horses
in the place were seized to prevent any one riding off
with the news. The order was given to the peasants to
start their carts, and in ten minutes after their entering
the place the convoy was on its way with its long row of
carts laden with ammunition and its sixteen guns.

The cordon of dragoons was still left round the town,
the officer in command being ordered to allow no one to
pass for an hour and a half, after which time he was to
gallop on with his men to overtake the convoy, as by
that time it would be no longer possible for any one to
carry the news to Las Torres in time for him to put his
troops into motion to cut off the convoy from Valencia.
The journey back took much longer than the advance,
for the carts, drawn for the most part by bullocks, made
but slow progress. Three hours after the convoy started
the dragoons left behind overtook them. "When within
three miles of the town, they were met by a small party
of the enemy's Spanish militia; but these were at once
scattered by a charge of the dragoons, and the convoy
proceeded without further molestation until just at noon
it entered the gates of Valencia, where the astonishment
and delight of the inhabitants at its appearance were

In a few hours the cannon were all mounted in posi-
tion on the ramparts, adding very much to the defensive
power of the town, which was now safe for a time from
any attempt at a siege by Las Torres, whose plans would
be entirely frustrated by the capture of the artillery in-
tended for the siege.

But Peterborough was not yet contented. The junc-
tion of the four thousand Castilians, of whose approach
he had heard, with Las Torres would raise the force


under that general to a point which would enable him to
blockade the town pending the arrival of artillery for
siege works ; and no sooner had the earl returned to his
quarters, after seeing the cannon placed upon the walls,
than he began his preparations for another expedition.
He ordered Colonel Zinzendorf to march quietly out of
the city at eight o'clock with four hundred of his
dragoons, and four hundred British and as many Spanish
infantry were to join him outside the walls. The colo-
nels of these three bodies were ordered to say nothing
of their intended movement, and to issue no orders until
within half an hour of the time named. At the same
hour the rest of the troops were to march to the walla
and form a close cordon round them, so as to prevent
any one from letting himself down by a rope and taking
the news that an expedition was afoot to Las Torres.

At a few minutes past eight, eight hundred foot and
four hundred horse assembled outside the gates, and
Peterborough took the command. His object was to
crush the Castilians before they could effect a junction
with Las Torres. In order to do this it would be neces-
sary to pass close by the Spanish camp, which covered
the road by which the reinforcements were advancing to
join them.

In perfect silence the party moved forward and
marched to a ford across the river Xucar, a short distance
only below the Spanish camp. Peterborough rode at
their head, having by his side a Spanish gentleman
acquainted with every foot of the country. They forded
the river without being observed, and then, making aa
wide a circuit as possible round the camp, came down
upon the road without the alarm being given ; then they
pushed forward, and after three hours* march came upon
the Castilians at Fuente de la Higuera. The surprise


>,as- complete. The Spaniards, knowing that the Spanish
army lay between them and the town, had taken no pre-
cautions, and the British were in possession of the place
before they were aware of their danger.

There was no attempt at resistance beyond a few h&sl^"
shots. The Castilians were sleeping wrapped up in their
cloaks around the place, and on the alarm they leaped up
and fled wildly in all directions. In the darkness great
numbers got away, but six hundred were taken p>risoB*
ers. An hour was spent in collecting and breaking the
arms left behind by the fugitives, and the force, with
their prisoners in their midst, then started back on their
return march. The circuit of the Spanish camp was
made, and the ford passed as successfully as before, and
just as daylight was breaking the little army marched
jinto Valencia,

The news rapidly spread, and the inhabitants hurried
into the streets, unable at first to credit the news that
the Castilian army, whose approach menaced the safety
of the town was destroyed. The movement of the troops
on the previous night to the ramparts and the absence of
the greater part of the officers from the festivities had
occasioned some comment; but as none knew that an ex-
pedition had set out, it was supposed that the earl had
received news from his spies that Las Torres intended to
attempt a sudden night attack, and the people would
have doubted the astonishing news they now received
had it not been for the presence of the six hundred Cas-
tilian prisoners.

These two serious misadventures caused Las Torres td
despair of success against a town defended by so ener-
getic and enterprising a commander as Peterborough,
and he now turned, his thoughts toward the small towns
of Sueca and Alcira. Below these towns and commanded


by their guns was the important bridge of Cullera, by
■which by far the greater portion of the supplies for the
town was brought in from the country. Las Torres
therefore determined to seize these places, which were
distant about fifteen miles from his camp, and so to
straiten the town for provisions.

As usual, Peterborough's spies brought him early in-
telligence of the intended movement, and the orders
issued by Las Torres were known to the earl a few hours
later. It needed all his activity to be in time. Five
hundred English and six hundred Spanish infantry, and
four hundred horse, were ordered to march with all
speed to the threatened towns, and, pushing on without
a halt, the troops reached them half an hour before the
Spanish force appeared on the spot. On finding the two
towns strongly occupied by the British, Las Torres
abandoned his intention and drew off his troops.

A portion of the Spanish army were cantoned in a
village only some two miles from Alcira, and a few days
later Peterborough determined to surprise it, and for
that purpose marched out at night from Valencia with an
English force of a thousand men, and reached the spot
intended at daybreak as he had arranged. The Spanish
garrison of Alcira, also about a thousand strong, had
orders to sally out and attack the village at the same
jBour- The Spaniards also arrived punctually, but just
fts they were preparing to burst upon the unconscious
enemy, who were four thousand strong, they happened
to come upon a picket of twenty horse. An unaccounta-
ibie panic seized them ; they broke their ranks and fled
in such utter confusion that many of the terror-stricken
soldiers killed each other. The picket aroused the
enemy, who quickly fell into their ranks, and Peterbor-
oughy seeing that it would be madness to attack them


with bis wearied and unsupporied force, reluctantly
ordered a retareat, which he conducted in perfect order
and without the loss of a man.

This was Peterborough's only failure ; with this excep-
tion every one of his plans had proved successful, and he
only failed here from trusting for once to the co-operation
of his wholly unreliable Spanish allies. After this noth-
ing was done on either side for several weeks.

The campaign had been one of the most extraordinary
ever accomplished, and its success was due in no degree
to chance, but solely to the ability of Peterborough him-
self. Wild as many of his schemes appeared, they were
always planned with the greatest care. He calculated
upon almost every possible contingency, and prepared
for it. He never intrusted to others that which he could
do himself, and he personally commanded every expedi-
tion even of the most petty kind.

Eis extraordinary physical powers of endurance en-
abled him to support fatigue and to carry out adventure
which would have prostrated most other men. The
highest praise, too, is due to the troops, who proved
themselves worthy of such a leader. Their confidence in
their chief inspired them with a valor equal to his own.
They bore uncomplainingly the greatest hardships and
fatigues, and engaged unquestioningly in adventures and
exploits against odds which made success appear abso-
lutely hopeless. The hundred and fifty dragoons who
followed the Earl of Peterborough to the conquest of
Valencia deserve a place side by side with the greatest
heroes of antiquity

188 ^^^ ^^^ y^^^ 0^ ^^^ ^^^ y^*



From the moment that the news of the loss of Barce*
lona had reached Madrid, Philip of Anjou had labored
strenuously to collect a force sufficient to overwhelm his
enemies. He had, moreover, written urgently to Louis
XIV. for assistance, and although France was at the mo-
ment obliged to make strenuous efforts to show a front
to Marlborough and his allies, who had already at Blen-
heim inflicted a disastrous defeat upon her, Louis re-
sponded to the appeal. Formidable French armies were
assembled at Saragossa and Eoussillon, while a fleet of
twelve ships of the line, under the command of the
Count of Toulouse, sailed to blockade Barcelona, and the
Duke of Berwick, one of the ablest generals of the day,
was sent to head the southern army.

In January the French army of Catalonia, under Mar-
shal Tesse, reached Saragossa, where the arrogance and
brutality of the marshal soon excited a storm of hatred
among the Aragonese. The towns resisted desperately
the entry of the French troops ; assassinations of officers
and men were matters of daily occurrence, and the
savage reprisals adopted by the marshal, instead of sub-
duing, excited the Spaniards to still fiercer resistance.
But savage and cruel as was the marshal, he was in no
haste to meet the enemy in the field, and Philip, who
was with him, had the greatest difficulty in getting him
to move forward.


It was in the last week of February that the news
reached the Earl of Peterborough that Marshal Tesse had
left Saragossa, and was marching toward Lerida. This
was two days after the unsuccessful attempt to surprise
the enemy's camp near Alcira; and menaced as Valencia
was by a force greatly superior to his own, he could not
leave the city, which in his absence would speedily have
succumbed to the attack of Las Torres. He walked
quickly up and down his room for some minutes and
then said.

"Captain Stilwell, I cannot leave here myself , butlwiU
send you to the Marquis of Cifuentes. You have shown
the greatest activity and energy with me, and I do not
doubt that you will do equally well when acting inde*
pendently. I will give you a letter to the marquis, say-
ing that you are one of my most trusted and valued
officers, and begging him to avail himself to the fullest
of your energy and skill. I shall tell him that at present
I am tied here, but that when the enemy reach Barce-
lona, I shall at all hazards march hence and take post in
their rear and do what I can to prevent their carrying on
the siege. In the meantime I beg him to throw every
obstacle in the way of their advance, to hold every pass
to the last, to hang on their rear, attack baggage trains,
and cut off stragglers. He cannot hope to defeat Tesse,
bat he may wear out and dispirit his men by constant
attacks. You speak Spanish fluently enough now, and
will be able to advise and suggest. Eemember, every
day that Tesse is delayed gives so much time to the king
to put Barcelona in a state of defense. "With my little
force I cannot do much even when I come. The sole hope
of Barcelona is to hold out until a fleet arrives from Eng-
land. If the king would take my advice I will guarantee
that he shall be crowned is Madrid in two months; bul


those pig-headed Germans who surround him set him
against every proposition I make. You had better start
to-night as soon as it gets dark, and take a mounted
guide with you who knows the country thoroughly.

"It will be a change for you, from the pleasures of
Valencia to a guerrilla warfare in the mountains in this
inclement season, Stilwell,'* Graham said as they left the
general. "I don't think I should care about your mis-
sion. I own I have enjoyed myself in Valencia, and I
have lost my heart a dozen times since we arrived.**

*'I have not lost mine at all,'* Jack said, laughing,
"and I am sick of all these balls and festivities. I was
not brought up to it, you know, and rough as the work
may be I shall prefer it to a long stay here.**

"Yes,** Graham agreed, "I should not care for a long
stay, but you may be quite certain the earl will not re-
main inactive here many weeks. He is waiting tc see
how things go, and the moment the game is fairly opened
you may be sure he will be on the move. ' '

"Yes, I don*t suppose you will be very long after me,"
Jack said; "still I am not sorry to go.*'

At seven o'clock in the evening Jack set out, taking
with him two dragoons as orderlies, the earl having
suggested that he should do so.

"Always do a thing yourself if it is possible. Captain
Stilwell; but there are times when you must be doing
something else, and it is as well to have some one that
you can rely upon ; beside, the orderlies will give you
additional importance in the eyes of the peasants. Most
of the men have picked up some Spanish, but you had
better pick out two of my orderlies who are best up in

Jack had spent the afternoon in making a round of
calls at the houses where he had been entertained, and


after the exchange of adieus, ceremonial speeches, and
compliments, he was heartily glad when the gates closed
behind him and he set out on his journey. As the road
did not pass anywhere near the Spanish camp there was
little fear of interruption in the way. The guide led
them by little-frequented tracks across the hills, and by
morning they were far on their road.

They were frequently obliged to make detours to avoid
towns and villages favorable to King Philip. "Why on&
town or village should take one side, and the next the
other, was inexplicable to Jack, but it was so, and
throughout the country this singular anomly existed.
It could be accounted for by a variety of causes. A
popular mayor or a powerful landed proprietor, whose
sympathies were strong with one side or the other,
would probably be followed by the townspeople or peas-
ants. The influence of the priests, too, was great, and
this also was divided. However it was, the fact remained
that, as with Villa-Keal and Nules, neighboring towns
were frequently enthusiastically in favor of opposite
parties. As Jack had seen all the dispatches and letters
which poured in to the earl, he knew what were the cir-
cumstances which prevailed in every town and village.
He knew to what residences of large proprietors he could
ride up with an assurance of welcome, and those which
must be carefully avoided.

In some parts of the journey, where the general feel-
ing was hostile. Jack adopted the tactics of his general,
riding boldly into the village with his two dragoons
clattering behind him, summoning the head men before
him, and peremptorily ordering that provisions and
forage should be got together for the five hundred horse-
men who might be expected to come in half an hour.
The terror caused by Peterborough's raids was so greal


that the mere sight of the English uniform was sufficient
fco insure obedience and without any adventure of im«
portance Jack and his companions rode on, until, on the
third day after leaving Valencia, they approached Lerida^
Groups of armed peasants hurrying in the same direc-
tion were now overtaken. These saluted Jack with
shouts of welcome, and he learned that, on the previous
day. Marshal Tesse with his army had crossed from
Aragon into Catalonia, and that the alarm bells had
been rung throughout the district.

From the peasants Jack learned where the Count of
Cifuentes would be found. It was in a village among
the hills, to the left of the line by which the enemy were
advancing. It was toward this place that the peasants
were hastening. Jack had frequently met the count af
the siege of Barcelona, and had taken a strong liking for
the gallant and dashing Spanish nobleman. The village
was crowded with peasants armed with all sorts of
weapons— rough, hardy, resolute men, determined to
defend their country to the last against the invaders.
A shout of satisfaction arose as Jack and his two troop-
ers rode in, and at the sound the count himself appeared
at the door of the principal house in the village.

"Ah, Senor Stilwell,'* he said, "this is an unexpected
pleasure. I thought that you were with the earl at

"So I have been, count, but he has sent me hither
with a dispatch for you, and, as you will see by its con-
tents, places me for awhile at your disposal.'*

"I am pleased indeed to hear it," the count saidj
**but pray, senor '*

"Captain, count," Jack said with a smile, "for to such
rank the earl has been pleased to promote me as a recog-
nition for such services as I was able to perform in his
campaign against Valencia."


•'Ah,*' the count said, "you earned it well. Every
Bsan in that wonderful force deserved promotion. It
was an almost miraculous adventure, and recalled the
feats of the Cid. Truly the days of chivalry are not
passed; your great earl has proved the contrary.'*

They had now entered the house, and, after pouring
out a cup of wine for Jack after the fatigue of his ride,
the count opened the dispatch of which Jack was the

*'It is well,** he said when he had read it. "As you see
for yourself I am already preparing to carry out the first
part, for the alarm bells have been ringing out from every
church tower in this part of Catalonia, and in another
twenty-four hours I expect six thousand peasants will be
out. But as the earl says, I have no hope with such
levies as these of offering any effectual opposition to the
advance of the enemy.

"The Miquelets cannot stand against disciplined
troops. They have no confidence in themselves, and a
thousand Frenchmen could rout six thousand of them ;
but as irregulars they can be trusted to fight. You shall
give me the advantage of your experience and wide
knowledge, and we will dispute every pass, cut off their
convoys, and harass them. I warrant that they will have
to move as a body, for it will go hard with any party
who may be detached from the rest.**

* *I fear, count, you must not rely in any way upon my
knowledge,'* Jack said. **I am a very young officer,
though I have had the good fortune to be promoted to
the rank of captain. **

"Age goes for nothing in this warfare," the count
said. "The man of seventy and the boy of fifteen who
can aim straight from behind a rock are equally welcome.
It is not a deep knowledge of military silence that will


be of any use to us here. "What is wanted is a quica
eye, a keen spirit, and courage. These I know that you
have, or you would never have won the approbation of

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Online LibraryG. A. (George Alfred) HentyThe bravest of the brave : or, with Peterborough in Spain → online text (page 14 of 22)