DENIA was the first Town, that in our Way to Barcelona, declar'd for King Charles; and was then by his Order made a Garrison. The Town is but small, and surrounded with a thin Wall; so thin, that I have known a Cannon-Ball pierce through it at once.
When I arriv'd at Denia, I found a Spaniard Governor of the Town, whose Name has slipt my Memory; tho' his Behaviour merited everlasting Annals. Major Percival, an Englishman, commanded in the Castle, and on my coming there, I understood, it had been agreed between 'em, that in case of a Siege, which they apprehended, the Town should be defended wholly by Spaniards, and the Castle by the English.
I had scarce been there three Weeks before those Expectations were answered. The Place was invested by Count D'Alfelt, and Major General Mahoni; two Days after which, they open'd Trenches on the East Side of the Town. I was necessitated upon their so doing, to order the Demolishment of some Houses on that Side, that I might erect a Battery to point upon their Trenches, the better to annoy them. I did so; and it did the intended Service; for with that, and two others, which I rais'd upon the Castle (from all which we fir'd incessantly, and with great Success) the Besiegers were sufficiently incommoded.
The Governor of the Town (a Spaniard as I said before, and with a Spanish Garrison) behav'd very gallantly; insomuch, that what was said of the Prince of Hesse, when he so bravely defended Gibraltar against the joint Forces of France and Spain, might be said of him, that he was Governor, Engineer, Gunner, and Bombardier all in one; For no Man could exceed him, either in Conduct or Courage; nor were the Spaniards under him less valiant or vigilant; for in case the Place was taken, expecting but indifferent Quarter, they fought with Bravery, and defended the Place to Admiration.
The Enemy had answer'd our Fire with all the Ardour imaginable; and having made a Breach, that, as we thought was practicable, a Storm was expected every Hour. Preparing against which to the great Joy of all the Inhabitants, and the Surprize of the whole Garrison, and without our being able to assign the least Cause, the Enemy suddenly raised the Siege, and withdrew from a Place, which those within imagined in great Danger.
The Siege thus abdicated (if I may use a modern Phrase) I was resolved to improve my Time, and make the best Provision I could against any future Attack. To that purpose I made several new Fortifications, together with proper Casemets for our Powder, all which render'd the Place much stronger, tho' Time too soon show'd me that Strength it self must yield to Fortune.
Surveying those works, and my Workmen, I was one Day standing on the great Battery, when casting my Eye toward the Barbary Coast, I observ'd an odd sort of greenish Cloud making to the Spanish Shoar. Not like other Clouds with Rapidity or Swiftness, but with a Motion so slow, that Sight itself was a long time before it would allow it such. At last, it came just over my Head, and interposing between the Sun and me, so thickened the Air, that I had lost the very Sight of Day. At this moment it had reach'd the Land; and tho' very near me in my Imagination, it began to dissolve, and lose of its first Tenebrity, when all on a sudden there fell such a vast multitude of Locusts, as exceeded the thickest storm of Hail or Snow that I ever saw. All around me was immediately cover'd with those crauling Creatures; and they yet continu'd to fall so thick, that with the swing of my Cane I knock'd down thousands. It is scarce imaginable the Havock I made in a very little space of time; much less conceivable is the horrid Desolation which attended the Visitation of those Animalcula. There was not in a Day or two's time, the least Leaf to be seen upon a Tree, nor any green Thing in a Garden. Nature seem'd buried in her own Ruins; and the vegetable World to be Supporters only to her Monument. I never saw the hardest Winter, in those Parts, attended with any equal Desolation. When, glutton like, they had devoured all that should have sustained them, and the more valuable Part of God's Creation (whether weary with gorging, or over thirsty with devouring, I leave to Philosophers) they made to Ponds, Brooks, and standing Pools, there revenging their own Rape upon Nature, upon their own vile Carkasses. In every of these you might see them lie in Heaps like little Hills; drown'd indeed, but attended with Stenches so noisome, that it gave the distracted Neighbourhood too great Reason to apprehend yet more fatal Consequences. A Pestilential Infection is the Dread of every Place, but especially of all Parts upon the Mediterranean. The Priests therefore repair'd to a little Chapel, built in the open Fields, to be made use of on such like Occasions, there to deprecate the miserable Cause of this dreadful Visitation. In a Week's time, or there abouts, the Stench was over, and every Thing but verdant Nature in its pristin Order.
Some few Months after this, and about eight Months from the former Siege, Count D'Alfelt caus'd Denia to be again invested; and being then sensible of all the Mistakes he had before committed, he now went about his Business with more Regularity and Discretion. The first Thing he set upon, and it was the wisest Thing he could do, was to cut off our Communication with the Sea. This he did, and thereby obtained what he much desired. Next, he caus'd his Batteries to be erected on the West side of the Town, from which he ply'd it so furiously, that in five Days' time a practicable Breach was made; upon which they stormed and took it. The Governor, who had so bravely defended it in the former Seige, fortunately for him had been remov'd; and Francis Valero, now in his Place, was made Prisoner of War with all his Garrison.
After the taking the Town, they erected Batteries against the Castle, which they kept ply'd with incessant Fire, both from Cannon and Mortars. But what most of all plagu'd us, and did us most Mischief, was the vast showers of Stones sent among the Garrison from their Mortars. These, terrible in Bulk and Size, did more Execution than all the rest put together. The Garrison could not avoid being somewhat disheartened at this uncommon way of Rencounter; yet, to a Man, dedar'd against hearkening to any Proposals of Surrender, the Governor excepted; who having selected more Treasure than he could properly, or justly call his own, was the only Person that seem'd forward for such a Motion. He had more than once thrown out Expressions of such a Nature, but without any effect. Nevertheless, having at last secretly obtained a peculiar Capitulation for himself, Bag, and Baggage; the Garrison was sacrific'd to his private Interest, and basely given up Prisoners of War. By these Means indeed he saved his Money, but lost his Reputation; and soon after, Life it self. And sure every Body will allow the latter loss to be least, who will take Pains to consider, that it screened him from the consequential Scrutinies of a Council of War, which must have issued as the just Reward of his Demerits.
The Garrison being thus unaccountably delivered up and made Prisoners, were dispersed different ways: Some into Castile, others as far as Oviedo, in the Kingdom of Leon. For my own part, having received a Contusion in my Breast; I was under a necessity of being left behind with the Enemy, till I should be in a Condition to be remov'd, and when that time came, I found my self agreeably ordered to Valencia.
As Prisoner of War I must now bid adieu to the active Part of the military Life; and hereafter concern my self with Descriptions of Countries, Towns, Palaces, and Men, instead of Battles. However, if I take in my way Actions of War, founded on the best Authorities, I hope my Interspersing such will be no disadvantage to my now more pacifick MEMOIRS.
So soon as I arriv'd at Valencia, I wrote to our Pay-master Mr. Mead, at Barcelona, letting him know, that I was become a Prisoner, wounded, and in want of Money. Nor could even all those Circumstances prevail on me to think it long before he returned a favourable Answer, in an Order to Monsieur Zoulicafre, a Banker, to pay me on Sight fifty Pistoles. But in the same Letter he gave me to understand, that those fifty Pistoles were a Present to me from General (afterward Earl) Stanhope; and so indeed I found it, when I return'd into England, my Account not being charged with any part of it: But this was not the only Test I received of that generous Earl's Generosity. And where's the Wonder, as the World is compell'd to own, that Heroick Actions and Largeness of Soul ever did discover and amply distinguish the genuine Branches of that illustrious Family.
This Recruit to me however was the more generous for being seasonable. Benefits are always doubled in their being easily conferr'd and well tim'd; and with such an Allowance as I constantly had by the order of King Philip, as Prisoner of War, viz. eighteen Ounces of Mutton per diem for my self, and nine for my Man, with Bread and Wine in proportion, and especially in such a Situation; all this I say was sufficient to invite a Man to be easy, and almost forget his want of Liberty, and much more so to me if it be consider'd, that, that want of Liberty consisted only in being debarr'd from leaving the pleasantest City in all Spain.
Here I met with the French Engineer, who made the Mine under the Rock of the Castle at Alicant. That fatal Mine, which blew up General Richards, Colonel Syburg, Colonel Thornicroft, and at least twenty more Officers. And yet by the Account, that Engineer gave me, their Fate was their own choosing: The General, who commanded at that Siege being more industrious to save them, than they were to be say'd: He endeavour'd it many ways: He sent them word of the Mine, and their readiness to spring it; he over and over sent them Offers of Leave to come, and take a view of it, and inspect it: Notwithstanding all which, tho' Colonel Thornicroft, and Captain Page, a French Engineer, in the Service of King Charles, pursued the Invitation, and were permitted to view it, yet would they not believe; but reported on their Return, that it was a sham Mine, a feint only to intimidate 'em to a Surrender, all the Bags being fill'd with Sand instead of Gun-powder.
The very Day on which the Besiegers design'd to spring the Mine, they gave Notice of it; and the People of the Neighbourhood ran up in Crowds to an opposite Hill in order to see it: Nevertheless, altho' those in the Castle saw all this, they still remain'd so infatuated, as to imagine it all done only to affright 'em. At length the fatal Mine was sprung, and all who were upon that Battery lost their Lives; and among them those I first mentioned. The very Recital hereof made me think within my self, who can resist his Fate?
That Engineer added further, that it was with an incredible Difficulty, that he prepar'd that Mine; that there were in the Concavity thirteen hundred Barrels of Powder; notwithstanding which, it made no great Noise without, whatever it might do inwardly; that only taking away what might be not improperly term'd an Excrescence in the Rock, the Heave on the Blast had render'd the Castle rather stronger on that Side than it was before, a Crevice or Crack which had often occasioned Apprehensions being thereby wholly clos'd and firm.
Some further Particulars I soon after had from Colonel Syburg's Gentleman; who seeing me at the Play-house, challenged me, tho' at that Time unkown to me. He told me, that the Night preceeding the unfortunate Catastrophe of his Master, he was waiting on him in the Casemet, where he observed, sometime before the rest of the Company took notice of it, that General Richards appeared very pensive and thoughtful, that the whole Night long he was pester'd with, and could not get rid of a great Flie, which was perpetually buzzing about his Ears and Head, to the vexation and disturbance of the rest of the Company, as well as the General himself; that in the Morning, when they went upon the Battery, under which the Mine was, the General made many offers of going off; but Colonel Syburg, who was got a little merry, and the rest out of a Bravado, would stay, and would not let the General stir; that at last it was propos'd by Colonel Syburg to have the other two Bottles to the Queen's Health, after which he promised they would all go off together.
Upon this my Relator, Syburg's Gentleman, said, he was sent to fetch the stipulated two Bottles; returning with which, Captain Daniel Weaver, within thirty or forty Yards of the Battery, ran by him, vowing, he was resolv'd to drink the Queen's Health with them; but his Feet were scarce on the Battery, when the Mine was sprung, which took him away with the rest of the Company; while Major Harding now a Justice in Westminster coming that very Moment off Duty, exchang'd Fates.
If Predestination, in the Eyes of many, is an unaccountable Doctrine, what better Account can the wisest give of this Fatality? Or to what else shall we impute the Issue of this whole Transaction? That Men shall be solicited to their Safety; suffered to survey the Danger they were threatened with; among many other Tokens of its approaching Certainty, see such a Concourse of People crowding to be Spectators of their impending Catastrophe; and after all this, so infatuated to stay on the fatal Spot the fetching up of the other two Bottles; whatever it may to such as never think, to such as plead an use of Reason, it must administer Matter worthy of the sedatest Consideration.
Being now pretty well recover'd of my Wounds, I was by Order of the Governor of Valencia, removed to Sainte Clemente de la Mancha, a Town somewhat more Inland, and consequently esteem'd more secure than a Semi-Seaport. Here I remain'd under a sort of Pilgrimage upwards of three Years. To me as a Stranger divested of Acquaintance or Friend (for at that instant I was sole Prisoner there) at first it appear'd such, tho' in a very small compass of Time, I luckily found it made quite otherwise by an agreeable Conversation.