But to proceed, the Dutch had one Man of War sunk, though so near the Shore, that I saw some part of her Main Mast remain above Water, with their Admiral Van Ghent, who was slain in the close Engagement with the Earl of Sandwich. This Engagement lasted fourteen Hours, and was look'd upon the greatest that ever was fought between the English and the Hollander.
I cannot here omit one Thing, which to some may seem trifling; though I am apt to think our Naturalists may have a different Opinion of it, and find it afford their Fansies no undiverting Employment in more curious, and less perilous Reflections. We had on board the London where, as I have said, I was a Voluntier, a great Number of Pidgeons, of which our Commander was very fond. These, on the first firing of our Cannon, dispers'd, and flew away, and were seen no where near us during the Fight. The next Day it blew a brisk Gale, and drove our Fleet some Leagues to the Southward of the Place where they forsook our Ship, yet the Day after they all returned safe aboard; not in one Flock, but in small Parties of four or five at a Time. Some Persons at that Time aboard the Ship admiring at the Manner of their Return, and speaking of it with some Surprize, Sir Edward Sprage told them, That he brought those Pidgeons with him from the Streights; and that when, pursuant to his Order, he left the Revenge Man of War, to go aboard the London, all those Pidgeons, of their own accord, and without the Trouble or Care of carrying, left the Revenge likewise, and removed with the Sailors on board the London, where I saw them; All which many of the Sailors afterwards confirm'd to me. What Sort of Instinct this could proceed from, I leave to the Curious.
Soon after this Sea Engagement I left the Fleet. And the Parliament, the Winter following, manifesting their Resentments against two of the Plenipotentiaries, viz. Buckingham and Arlington, who had been sent over into Holland; and expressing, withal, their great Umbrage taken at the prodigious Progress of the French Arms in the United Provinces; and warmly remonstrating the inevitable Danger attending England in their Ruin. King Charles from all this, and for want of the expected Supplies, found himself under a Necessity of clapping up a speedy Peace with Holland.
This Peace leaving those youthful Spirits, that had by the late Naval War been rais'd into a generous Ferment, under a perfect Inactivity at Home; they found themselves, to avoid a Sort of Life that was their Aversion, oblig'd to look out for one more active, and more suitable to their vigorous Tempers Abroad.
I must acknowledge my self one of that Number; and therefore in the Year 1674,1 resolv'd to go into Flanders, in order to serve as Voluntier in the Army commanded by his Highness the Prince of Orange. I took my Passage accordingly at Dover for Calais, and so went by way of Dunkirk for Brussels.
Arriving at which Place, I was inform'd that the Army of the Confederates lay encamp'd not far from Nivelle; and under the daily Expectation of an Engagement with the Enemy. This News made me press forward to the Service; for which Purpose I carry'd along with me proper Letters of Recommendation to Sir Walter Vane, who was at that time a Major-General. Upon further Enquiry I understood, that a Party of Horse, which was to guard some Waggons that were going to Count Montery's Army, were to set out next Morning; so I got an Irish Priest to introduce me to the Commanding Officer, which he readily oblig'd me in; and they, as I wish'd them, arriv'd in the Camp next day.
I had scarce been there an Hour, when happen'd one of the most extraordinary Accidents in Life. I observ'd in the East a strange dusty colour'd Cloud, of a pretty large Extent, riding, not before the Wind (for it was a perfect Calm) with such a precipitate Motion, that it was got over our Heads almost as soon as seen. When the Skirts of that Cloud began to cover our Camp, there suddenly arose such a terrible Hurricaine, or Whirlwind, that all the Tents were carry'd aloft with great Violence into the Air; and Soldiers' Hats flew so high and thick, that my Fansy can resemble it to nothing better than those Flights of Rooks, which at Dusk of Evening, leaving the Fields, seek their roosting Places. Trees were torn up by the very Roots; and the Roofs of all the Barns, &c. belonging to the Prince's Quarters, were blown quite away. This lasted for about half an Hour, until the Cloud was wholly past over us, when as suddenly ensued the same pacifik Calm as before the Cloud's Approach. Its Course was seemingly directly West; and yet we were soon after inform'd, that the fine Dome of the great Church at Utrecht had greatly suffer'd by it the same Day. And, if I am not must mistaken, Sir William Temple, in his Memoirs, mentions somewhat of it, which he felt at Lillo, on his Return from the Prince of Orange's Camp, where he had been a Day or two before.
As soon after this, as I could get an Opportunity, I deliver'd, at his Quarters, my recommendatory Letters to Sir Walter Vane; who receiv'd me very kindly, telling me at the same time, that there were six or seven English Gentlemen, who had enter'd themselves Voluntiers in the Prince's own Company of Guards: And added, that he would immediately recommend me to Count Solmes, their Colonel. He was not worse than his Word, and I was enter'd accordingly. Those six Gentlemen were as follows, ---- Clavers, who since was better known by the Title of Lord Dundee; Mr. Collier, now Lord Portmore; Mr. Rooke, since Major-General; Mr. Hales, who lately died, and was for a long time Governor of Chelsea-Hospital; Mr. Venner, Son of that Venner remarkable for his being one of the Fifth-Monarchy Men; and Mr. Boyce. The four first rose to be very eminent; but Fortune is not to all alike favourable.
In about a Week's Time after, it was resolv'd in a Council of War, to march towards Binch, a small wall'd Town, about four Leagues from Nivelle; the better to cut off the Provisions from coming to the Prince of Condé's Camp that Way.
Accordingly, on the first Day of August, being Saturday, we began our March; and the English Voluntiers had the Favour of a Baggage Waggon appointed them. Count Souches, the Imperial General, with the Troops of that Nation, led the Van; the main Body was compos'd of Dutch, under the Prince of Orange. as Generalissimo; and the Spaniards, under Prince Vaudemont, with some Detachments, made the Rear Guard.
As we were upon our March, I being among those Detachments which made up the Rear Guard, observ'd a great Party of the Enemy's Horse upon an Ascent, which, I then imagin'd, as it after prov'd, to be the Prince of Condé taking a View of our Forces under March. There were many Defiles, which our Army must necessarily pass; through which that Prince politickly enough permitted the Imperial and Dutch Forces to pass unmolested. But when Prince Vaudemont, with the Spaniards, and our Detachments, thought to have done the like, the Prince of Condé fell on our Rear Guard; and, after a long and sharp Dispute, entirely routed 'em; the Marquiss of Assentar, a Spanish Lieutenant-General, dying upon the spot.
Had the Prince of Condé contented himself with this Share of good Fortune, his Victory had been uncontested: But being pushed forward by a vehement Heat of Temper (which he was noted for) and flush'd with this extraordinary Success, he resolv'd to force the whole Confederate Army to a Battle. In order to which, he immediately led his Forces between our Second Line, and our Line of Baggage; by which means the latter were entirely cut off; and were subjected to the Will of the Enemy, who fell directly to plunder; in which they were not a little assisted by the routed Spaniards themselves, who did not disdain at that time to share with the Enemy in the plundering of their Friends and Allies.
The English Voluntiers had their Share of this ill Fortune with the rest; their Waggon appointed them being among those intercepted by the Enemy; and I, for my Part, lost every Thing but Life, which yet was saved almost as unaccountably as my Fellow-Soldiers had lost theirs. The Baggage, as I have said, being cut off, and at the Mercy of the Enemy, every one endeavour'd to escape through, or over the Hedges. And as in all Cases of like Confusion, one endeavours to save himself upon the Ruins of others: So here, he that found himself stopt by another in getting over the Cap of a Hedge, pull'd him back to make way for himself, and perhaps met with the same Fortune from a Third, to the Destruction of all. I was then in the Vigour of my Youth, and none of the least active, and perceiving how it had far'd with some before me, I clapt my left Leg upon the Shoulders of one who was thus contending with another, and with a Spring threw my self over both their Heads and the Hedge at the same time. By this Means I not only sav'd my Life (for they were all cut to Pieces that could not get over) but from an Eminence, which I soon after attain'd, I had an Opportunity of seeing, and making my Observations upon the remaining Part of that glorious Conflict.
It was from that advantageous Situation, that I presently discover'd that the Imperialists, who led the Van, had now join'd the main Body. And, I confess, it was with an almost inexpressible Pleasure, that I beheld, about three a-Clock, with what intrepid Fury they fell upon the Enemy. In short, both Armies were universally engag'd, and with great Obstinacy disputed the Victory till Eleven at Night. At which Time the French, being pretty well surfeited, made their Retreat. Nevertheless, to secure it by a Stratagem, they left their lighted Matches hanging in the Hedges, and waving with the Air, to conceal it from the Confederate Army.
About two Hours after, the Confederate Forces follow'd the Example of their Enemies, and drew off. And tho' neither Army had much Reason to boast; yet as the Prince of Orange remained last in the Field; and die French had lost what they before had gain'd, the Glory of the Day fell to the Prince of Orange; who, altho' but twenty-four Years of Age, had the Suffrage of Friend and Foe, of having play'd the Part of an old and experienc'd Officer.
There were left that Day on the Field of Battle, by a general Computation, not less than eighteen Thousand Men on both Sides, over and above those, who died of their Wounds: The Loss being pretty equal, only the French carried off most Prisoners. Prince Waldeck was shot through the Arm, which I was near enough to be an Eye-witness of; And my much lamented Friend, Sir Walter Vane, was carried off dead. A Wound in the Arm was all the Mark of Honour, that I as yet could boast of, though our Cannon in the Defiles had slain many near me.
The Prince of Condé (as we were next Day inform'd) lay all that Night under a Hedge, wrapp'd in his Cloke: And either from the Mortification of being disappointed in his Hopes of Victory; or from a Reflection of the Disservice, which is own natural over Heat of Temper had drawn upon him, was almost inconsolable many Days after. And thus ended the famous Battle of Seneff.
But though common Vogue has given it the Name of a Battle, in my weak Opinion, it might rather deserve that of a confus'd Skirmish; all Things having been forcibly carried on without Regularity, or even Design enough to allow it any higher Denomination: For, as I have said before, notwithstanding I was advantagiously stationed for Observation, I found it very often impossible to distinguish one Party from another. And this was more remarkably evident on the Part of the Prince of Orange, whose Valour and Vigour having led him into the Middle of the Enemy, and being then sensible of his Error, by a peculiar Presence of Mind, gave the Word of Command in French, which he spoke perfectly well. But the French Soldiers, who took him for one of their own Generals, making Answer, that their Powder was all spent, it afforded Matter of Instruction to him to persist in his Attack; at the same Time, that it gave him a Lesson of Caution, to withdraw himself, as soon as he could, to his own Troops.
However, the Day after the Prince of Orange thought proper to march to Quarignan, a Village within a League of Mons; where he remain'd some Days, till he could be supply'd from Brussells with those Necessaries which his Army stood in need of.
From thence we march'd to Valenciennes, where we again encamp'd, till we could receive Things proper for a Siege. Upon the Arrival whereof, the Prince gave Orders to decamp, and march'd his Army with a Design to besiege Aeth. But having Intelligence on our March, that the Mareschal De Humiers had reinforc'd that Garrison, we march'd directly to Oudenard, and immediately invested it.
This Siege was carried on with such Application and Success, that the Besiegers were in a few Days ready for a Storm; but the Prince of Condé prevented them, by coming up to its Relief. Upon which the Prince of Orange, pursuant to the Resolution of a Council of War the Night before, drew off his Forces in order to give him Battle; and to that purpose, after the laborious Work of filling up our Lines of Contravallation, that the Horse might pass more freely, we lay upon our Arms all Night. Next Morning we expected the Imperial General, Count Souches, to join us; but instead of that, he sent back some very frivolous Excuses, of the Inconveniency of the Ground for a Battle; and after that, instead of joining the Prince, marched off quite another way; the Prince of Orange, with the Dutch and Spanish Troops, marched directly for Ghent; exclaiming publickly against the Chicanery of Souches, and openly declaring, That he had been advertis'd of a Conference between a French Capuchin and that General, the Night before. Certain it is, that that General lay under the Displeasure of his Master, the Emperor, for that Piece of Management; and the Count de Sporck was immediately appointed General in his Place.
The Prince of Orange was hereupon leaving the Army in great Disgust, till prevail'd upon by the Count de Montery, for the general Safety, to recede from that Resolution. However, seeing no likelihood of any Thing further to be done, while Souches was in Command, he resolv'd upon a Post of more Action, though more dangerous; wherefore ordering ten Thousand Men to march before, he himself soon after foliow'd to the Siege of Grave.
The Grave, a strong Place, and of the first Moment to the Hollanders, had been block'd up by the Dutch Forces all the Summer; the Prince of Orange therefore leaving the main Army under Prince Waldeck at Ghent, follow'd the Detachment he had made for the Siege of that important Place, resolving to purchase it at any Rate. On his Arrival before it, Things began to find new Motion; and as they were carried on with the utmost Application and Fury, the Besieged found themselves, in a little Time, oblig'd to change their haughty Summer Note for one more suitable to the Season.
The Prince, from his first coming, having kept those within hotly ply'd with Ball, both from Cannon and Mortars, Monsieur Chamilly, the Governor, after a few Days, being weary of such warm Work, desired to capitulate; upon which Hostages were exchanged, and Articles agreed on next Morning. Pursuant to which, the Garrison march'd out with Drums beating and Colours flying, two Days after, and were conducted to Charleroy.
By the taking this Place, which made the Prince of Orange the more earnest upon it, the French were wholly expell'd their last Year's astonishing Conquests in Holland. And yet there was another Consideration, that render'd the Surrender of it much more considerable. For the French being sensible of the great Strength of this Place, had there deposited all their Cannon and Ammunition, taken from their other Conquests in Holland, which they never were able to remove or carry off, with tolerable Prospect of Safety, after that Prince's Army first took the Field.
The Enemy being march'd out, the Prince enter'd the Town, and immediately order'd public Thanksgivings for its happy Reduction. Then having appointed a Governor, and left a sufficient Garrison, he put an End to that Campaign, and return'd to the Hague, where he had not been long before he fell ill of the Small Pox. The Consternation this threw the whole Country into, is not to be express'd; Any one that had seen it would have thought, that the French had made another Inundation greater than the former. But when the Danger was over, their Joy and Satisfaction, for his Recovery, was equally beyond Expression.
The Year 1675 yielded very little remarkable in our Army. Limburgh was besieged by the French, under the Command of the Duke of Enguien, which the Prince of Orange having Intelligence of, immediately decamp'd from his fine Camp at Bethlem, near Louvain, in order to raise the Siege. But as we were on a full March for that purpose, and had already reach'd Ruremond, Word was brought, that the Place had surrender'd the Day before. Upon which Advice, the Prince, after a short Halt, made his little Army (for it consisted not of more than thirty Thousand Men) march back to Brabant. Nothing of moment, after this, occurr'd all that Campaign.
In the Year 1676, the Prince of Orange having, in concert with the Spaniards, resolv'd upon the important Siege of Maestrich (the only Town in the Dutch Provinces, then remaining in the Hands of the French) it was accordingly invested about the middle of June, with an Army of twenty Thousand Men, under the Command of his Highness Prince Waldeck, with the grand Army covering the Siege. It was some Time before the heavy Cannon, which we expected up the Maes, from Holland, arrived; which gave Occasion to a Piece of Raillery of Monsieur Calvo, the Governor, which was as handsomely repartec'd. That Governor, by a Messenger, intimating his Sorrow to find, we had pawn'd our Cannon for Ammunition Bread. Answer was made, That in a few Days we hoped to give him a Taste of the Loaves, which he should find would be sent him into the Town in extraordinary plenty. I remember another Piece of Raillery, which pass'd some Days after between the Rhingrave and the same Calvo. The former sending Word, that he hoped within three Weeks to salute that Governor's Mistress within the Place. Calvo reply'd, He'd give him leave to kiss her all over, if he kiss'd her any where in three Months.
But our long expected Artillery being at last arriv'd, all this Jest and Merriment was soon converted into earnest. Our Trenches were immediately open'd towards the Dauphin Bastion, against which were planted many Cannon, in order to make a Breach; my self as a Probationer being twice put upon the forlorn Hope to facilitate that difficult Piece of Service. Nor was it long before such a Breach was effected, as was esteem'd practicable, and therefore very soon after it was ordered to be attack'd.
The Disposition for the Attack was thus ordered; two Serjeants with twenty Grenadiers, a Captain with fifty Men, my self one of the Number; then a Party carrying Wool Sacks, and after them two Captains with one Hundred Men more; the Soldiers in the Trenches to be ready to sustain them, as Occasion should require.
The Signal being given, we left our Trenches accordingly, having about one Hundred Yards to run, before we could reach the Breach, which we mounted with some Difficulty and Loss; all our Batteries firing at the same instant to keep our Action in countenance, and favour our Design. When we were in Possession of the Bastion, the Enemy fir'd most furiously upon us with their small Cannon through a thin brick Wall, by which, and their hand Grenadoes, we lost more Men than we did in the Attack it self.
But well had it been had our ill Fortune stopp'd there; for as if Disaster must needs be the Concomitant of Success, we soon lost what we had thus gotten, by a small, but very odd Accident. Not being furnished with such Scoopes as our Enemies made use of, in tossing their hand Grenadoes some distance off, one of our own Soldiers aiming to throw one over the Wall into the Counterscarp among the Enemy, it so happen'd that he unfortunately miss'd his Aim, and the Grenade fell down again on our side the Wall, very near the Person who fir'd it. He starting back to save himself, and some others who saw it fall, doing the like, those who knew nothing of the Matter fell into a sudden Confusion, and imagining some greater danger than there really was, every body was struck with a panick Fear, and endeavour'd to be the first who should quit the Bastion, and secure himself by a real Shame from an imaginary Evil. Thus was a Bastion, that had been gloriously gain'd, inadvertently deserted; and that too, with the Loss of almost as many Men in the Retreat, as had been slain in the Onset, and the Enemy most triumphantly again took Possession of it.
Among the Slain on our Side in this Action, was an Ensign of Sir John Fenwick's Regiment; and as an Approbation of my Services his Commission was bestowed upon me.
A few Days after it was resolv'd again to storm that Bastion, as before; out of three English, and one Scotch Regiment, then in the Camp, a Detachment was selected for a fresh Attack. Those Regiments were under the Command of Sir John Fenwick (who was afterwards beheaded) Colonel Ralph Widdrington, and Colonel Ashley, of the English; and Sir Alexander Collier, Father of the present Lord Portmore, of the Scotch. Out of every of these four Regiments, as before, were detach'd a Captain, a Lieutenant, and an Ensign, with fifty Men: Captain Anthony Bamwell, of Sir John Fenwick's Regiment, who was now my Captain, commanding that Attack.
At break of Day the Attack was begun with great Resolution; and though vigorously maintain'd, was attended with the desir'd Success. The Bastion was again taken, and in it the commanding Officer, who in Service to himself, more than to us, told us, that the Center of the Bastion would soon be blown up being to his Knowledge undermin'd for that purpose. But this Secret prov'd of no other use, than to make us, by way of Precaution, to keep as much as we could upon the Rampart. In this Attack Captain Barnwell lost his Life; and it happened my new Commission was wetted (not, as too frequently is the Custom, with a Debauch) but with a Bullet through my Hand, and the Breach of my Collar Bone with the Stroke of a Halberd.
After about half an hour's Possession of the Bastion, the Mine under it, of which the French Officer gave us warning, was sprung; the Enemy at the same Time making a furious Sally upon us. The Mine did a little, though the less, Execution, for being discovered; but the Sally no way answer'd their End, for we beat them back, and immediately fix'd our Lodgment; which we maintain'd during the Time of the Siege. But to our double Surprize, a few Days after they fir'd another Mine under, or aside, the former, in which they had plac'd a quantity of Grenadoes, which did much more Execution than the other: Notwithstanding all which, a Battery of Guns was presently erected upon that Bastion, which very considerably annoy'd the Enemy.
The Breach for a general Storm was now render'd almost practicable; yet before that could be advisably attempted, there was a strong Horn-work to be taken. Upon this Exploit the Dutch Troops only were to signalize themselves; and they answered the Confidence repos'd in them; for though they were twice repuls'd, at the third Onset they were more successful, and took Possession; which they likewise kept to the Raising of the Siege.
There was a Stratagem lay'd at this Time, which in its own Merit one would have thought should not have fail'd of a good Effect; but to shew the Vanity of the highest human Wisdom it miscarry'd. On the other side of the Maes, opposite to Maestrich, lies the strong Fortress of Wyck, to which it is join'd by a stone Bridge of six fair Arches. The design was, by a false Attack on that regular Fortification to draw the Strength of the Garrison to its Defence, which was but very natural to imagine would be the Consequence. Ready to attend that well concerted false Attack, a large flat bottom'd Boat, properly furnish'd with Barrels of Gun-Powder, and other Necessaries, was to fall down under one of the middle Arches, and when fix'd there, by firing the Powder to have blown up the Bridge, and by that means to have prevented the Return of the Garrison to oppose a real Attack at that instant of Time to be made upon the Town of Maestrich by the whole Army.
The false Attack on Wyck was accordingly made, which, as propos'd, drew the Main of the Garrison of Maestrich to its Defence, and the Boat so furnish'd fell down the River as projected, but unfortunately, before it could reach the Arch, from the Darkness of the Night, running upon a Shoal, it could not be got off; for which Reason the Men in the Boat were glad to make a hasty Escape for fear of being discovered; as the Boat was, next Morning; and the whole Design laid open.
This Stratagem thus miscarrying, all Things were immediately got ready for a general Storm, at the main Breach in the Town; and the rather, because the Prince of Orange had receiv'd incontestable Intelligence, That Duke Schomberg, at the Head of the French Army, was in full march to relieve the Place. But before every Thing could be rightly got ready for the intended Storm (though some there were who pretended to say, that a Dispute rais'd by the Spaniards with the Dutch, about the Propriety of the Town, when taken, was the Cause of that Delay) we heard at some distance several Guns fir'd as Signals of Relief; upon which we precipitately, and, as most imagin'd, shamefully drew off from before the Place, and join'd the grand Army under Prince Waldeck. But it was Matter of yet greater Surprize to most on the Spot, that when the Armies were so joyn'd, we did not stay to offer the Enemy Battle. The well known Courage of the Prince, then Generalissimo, was so far from solving this Riddle, that it rather puzzled all who thought of it; however, the prevailing Opinion was, that it was occasion'd by some great Misunderstanding between the Spaniards and the Dutch. And Experience will evince, that this was not the only Disappointment of that Nature, occasion'd by imperfect Understandings.
Besides the Number of common Soldiers slain in this Attack, which was not inconsiderable, we lost here the brave Rhingrave, a Person much lamented on account of his many other excellent Qualifications, as well as that of a General. Colonel Ralph Widdrington, and Colonel Doleman (who had not enjoy'd Widdrington's Commission above a Fortnight). Captain Douglas, Captain Barnwell, and Captain Lee, were of the Slain among the English; who, indeed, had born the whole brunt of the Attack upon the Dauphin's Bastion.
I remember the Prince of Orange, during the Siege, receiv'd a Shot through his Arm; which giving an immediate Alarm to the Troops under his Command, he took his Hat off his Head with the wounded Arm, and smiling, wav'd it, to shew them there was no danger. Thus, after the most gallant Defence against the most couragious Onsets, ended the Siege of Maestrich; and with it all that was material that Campaign.
Early in the Spring, in the Year 1677, the French Army, under the Duke of Orleans, besieged at once, both Cambray and Saint Omers. This last the Prince of Orange seem'd very intent and resolute to relieve. In order to which, well knowing by sad Experience, it would be to little purpose to wait the majestick Motions of the Spaniards, that Prince got together what Forces he could, all in Dutch Pay, and marching forward with all speed, resolv'd, even at the Hazard of a Battle, to attempt the Raising the Siege. Upon his appearing the Duke of Orleans, to whose particular Conduct the Care of that Siege was committed, drew off from before the Place, leaving scarce enough of his Men to defend the Trenches. The Prince was under the Necessity of marching his Forces over a Morass; and the Duke, well knowing it, took care to attack him near Mont Cassel, before half his little Army were got over. The Dispute was very sharp, but the Prince being much out number'd, and his Troops not able, by the Straitness of the Passage, to engage all at once, was oblig'd at last to retreat, which he did in pretty good Order. I remember the Dutch Troops did not all alike do their Duty; and the Prince seeing one of the Officers on his fullest speed, call'd to him over and over to halt; which the Officer in too must haste to obey, the Prince gave him a Slash over the Face, saying, By this Mark I shall know you another Time. Soon after this Retreat of the Prince, Saint Omers was surrender'd.
Upon this Retreat the Prince marching back, lay for some time among the Boors, who from the good Discipline, which he took care to make his Troops observe, did not give us their customary boorish Reception. And yet as secure as we might think our selves, I met with a little Passage that confirm'd in me the Notions, which the generality as well as I, had imbib'd of the private Barbarity of those People, whenever an Opportunity falls in their Way. I was stroling at a Distance from my Quarters, all alone, when I found my self near one of their Houses; into which, the Doors being open, I ventur'd to enter. I saw no body when I came in, though the House was, for that Sort of People, well enough furnish'd, and in pretty decent Order. I call'd, but no body answering, I had the Curiosity to advance a little farther, when, at the Mouth of the Oven, which had not yet wholly lost its Heat, I spy'd the Corpse of a Man so bloated, swoln and parch'd, as left me little room to doubt, that the Oven had been the Scene of his Destiny. I confess the Sight struck me with Horror; and as much Courage and Security as I enter'd with, I withdrew in haste, and with quite different Sentiments, and could not fansy my self out of Danger till I had reach'd our Camp. A wise Man should not frame an Accusation on Conjectures; but, on Inquiry, I was soon made sensible, that such barbarous Usage is too common among those People; especially if they meet with a Straggler, of what Nation soever.
This made me not very sorry when we decamp'd, and we soon after receiv'd Orders to march and invest Charleroy; before which Place we stay'd somewhat above a Week, and then drew off. I remember very well, that I was not the only Person then in the Camp that was at a Loss to dive into the Reason of this Investiture and Decampment: But since I at that time, among the Politicians of the Army, never heard a good one, I shall not venture to offer my Sentiments at so great a Distance.
We, after this march'd towards Mons; and, in our March, pass'd over the very Grounds on which the Battle of Seneff had been fought three Years before. It was with no little Pleasure, that I re-survey'd a Place, that had once been of so much Danger to me; and where my Memory and Fansy now repeated back all those Observations I had then made under some unavoidable Confusion. Young as I was, both in Years and Experience, from my own Reflections, and the Sentiments of others, after the Fight was over, methought I saw visibly before me the well order'd Disposition of the Prince of Condé; the inexpressible Difficulties which the Prince of Orange had to encounter with; while at the same Moment I could not omit to repay my Debt to the Memory of my first Patron, Sir Walter Vane, who there loosing his Life, left me a solitary Wanderer to the wide World of Fortune.
But these Thoughts soon gave place to new Objects, which every Hour presented themselves in our continu'd March to Enghien, a Place famous for the finest Gardens in all Flanders, near which we encamp'd, on the very same Ground which the French chose some Years after at the Battle of Steenkirk: of which I shall speak in its proper Place. Here the Prince of Orange left our Army, as we afterwards found, to pass into England; where he marry'd the Princess Mary, Daughter of the Duke of York. And after his Departure, that Campaign ended without any thing further material.
Now began the Year 1678, famous for the Peace, and no less remarkable for an Action previous to it, which has not fail'd to employ the Talents of Men, variously, as they stood affected. Our Army, under the Prince of Orange, lay encamp'd at Soignies, where it was whisper'd that the Peace was concluded. Notwithstanding which, two Days after, being Sunday the 17th Day of August, the Army was drawn out, as most others as well as my self apprehended, in order to feux de Joye; but in lieu of that, we found our March order'd towards St. Dennis, where the Duke of Luxembourg lay, as he imagin'd, safe in inaccessible Entrenchments.
About three of the Clock our Army arriv'd there, when we receiv'd Orders to make the Attack. It began with a most vigorous Spirit, that promis'd no less than the Success which ensu'd. The three English and three Scotch Regiments, under the Command of the ever renown'd Earl of Ossory, together with the Prince of Orange's Guards, made their Attack at a Place call'd the Château; where the French took their Refuge among a Parcel of Hop-Poles; but their Resource was as weak as their Defence; and they were soon beaten out with a very great Slaughter.
It was here that a French Officer having his Pistol directed at the Breast of the Prince, Monsieur D'Auverquerque interpos'd, and shot the Officer dead upon the Spot.
The Fight lasted from three in the Afternoon till Nine at Night; when growing dark, the Duke of Luxembourg forsook his Entrenchments, into which we march'd next Morning. And to see the sudden Change of Things! that very Spot of Ground, where nothing but Fire and Fury appear'd the Day before, the yest saw solac'd with the Proclamation of a Peace.
About an Hour before the Attack began, the Duke of Monmouth arriv'd in the Army, being kindly receiv'd by the Prince of Orange, bravely fighting by his Side, all that Day. The Woods and the Unevenness of the Ground, render'd the Cavalry almost useless; yet I saw a Standard, among some others, which was taken from the Enemy, being richly embroidered with Gold and Silver, bearing the Sun in the Zodiack, with these haughty Words, Nihil obstabit eunte. On the News of this unexpected Victory, the States of Holland sent to congratulate the Prince; and to testify how much they valued his Preservation, they presented Monsieur D'Auverquerque, who had so bravely rescued him, with a Sword, whose Handle was of massy Gold set with Diamonds. I forgot to mention that this Gentleman receiv'd a Shot on his Head at the Battle of Seneff; and truly in all Actions, which were many, he nobly distinguished himself by his Bravery. He was Father of this present Earl of Grantham.
The Names of the English Officers which I knew to be killed in this Action.
Lieut. Col. Archer, Capt. Pemfield, Capt. Charleton, Lieut. Charleton, Capt. Richardson, Lieut. Barton, Capt. Fisher, Ensign Colville.
With several others, whose Names I have forgot.
Lieut. Col. Babington, who began the Attack, by beating the French out of the Hop Garden, was taken Prisoner. Col. Hales, who was a long time Governor of Chelsea College, being then a Captain, received a Shot on his Leg, of which he went lame to his dying Day.
The War thus ended by the Peace of Nimeugen, The Regiment in which I serv'd, was appointed to be in Garrison at the Grave. We lay there near four Years, our Soldiers being mostly employ'd about the Fortifications. It was here, and by that Means, that I imbib'd the Rudiments of Fortification, and the practick Part of an Enginier, which in my more advanc'd Years was of no small Service to me.
Nevertheless, in the Year 1684, our Regiment receiv'd Orders to march to Haren, near Brussels, where, with other Forces, we encamp'd, till we heard that Luxemburg, invaded by the French, in a Time of the profoundest Peace, had surrender'd to them. Then we decamp'd, and march'd to Mechlin; where we lay in the Field till near November. Not that there was any War proclaim'd; but as not knowing, whether those who had committed such Acts of Hostility in time of Peace might not take it in their Heads to proceed yet further. In November we march'd into that Town, where Count Nivelle was Governor: The Marquiss de Grana, at the same time, governing the Netherlands in the Jurisdiction of Spain.
Nothing of any Moment happen'd after this, till the Death of King Charles II. The Summer after which, the three English and three Scotch Regiments receiv'd Orders to pass over into England, upon the Occasion of Monmouth's Rebellion; where, upon our Arrival, we receiv'd Orders to encamp on Hounslow-Heath. But that Rebellion being soon stifled, and King James having no farther Need of us, those Regiments were order'd to return again to Holland, into the proper Service of those who paid them.
Tho' I am no stiff Adherer to the Doctrine of Predestination, yet to the full Assurance of a Providence I never could fail to adhere. Thence came it, that my natural Desire to serve my own native Country prevail'd upon me to quit the Service of another, though its Neighbour and Allie. Events are not always to direct the Judgment; and therefore whether I did best in following those fondling Dictates of Nature, I shall neither question nor determine.
However, it was not long after my Arrival in England before I had a Commission given me by King James, to be a Lieutenant in a new rais'd Regiment under the Command of Colonel Tufton, Brother to the Earl of Thanet. Under this Commission I sojourn'd out two peaceable Campaigns on Hounslow-Heath; where I was an Eye-Witness of one mock Siege of Buda: After which our Regiment was order'd to Berwick, where I remained till the Revolution.
King James having abdicated the Throne, and the Prince of Orange accepting the Administration, all Commissions were order'd to be renew'd in his Name. The Officers of our Regiment, as well as others, severally took out theirs accordingly, a very few excepted, of which Number was our Colonel; who refusing a Compliance, his Commission was given to Sir James Lesley.
The Prince of Orange presently after was declar'd and proclaim'd King, and his Princess Queen, with a conjunctive Power. Upon which our Regiment was order'd into Scotland, where Affairs appear'd under a Face of Disquietude. We had our Quarters at Leith, till the Time the Castle of Edinburgh, then under the Command of the Duke of Gordon, had surrender'd. After which, pursuant to fresh Orders, we march'd to Inverness, a Place of no great Strength, and as little Beauty; though yet I think I may say, without the least Danger of an Hyperbole, that it is as pleasant as most Places in that Country. Here we lay two long Winters, perpetually harrass'd upon Parties, and hunting of somewhat wilder than their wildest Game, namely, the Highlanders, who were, if not as nimble footed, yet fully as hard to be found.
But General Mackay having receiv'd Orders to build a Fort at Inverlochy, our Regiment, among others, was commanded to that Service. The two Regiments appointed on the same Duty, with some few Dragoons, were already on their March, which having join'd, we march'd together through Louquebar. This sure is the wildest Country in the Highlands, if not in the World. I did not see one House in all our March; and their Oeconomy, if I may call it such, is much the same with that of the Arabs or Tartars. Hutts, or Cabins of Trees and Trash, are their Places of Habitation; in which they dwell, till their half-horn'd Cattle have devour'd the Grass, and then remove, staying no where longer than that Convenience invites them.
In this March, or rather, if you please, most dismal Peregrination, we could be very rarely go two on a Breast; and oftner, like Geeze in a String, one after another. So that our very little Army had sometimes, or rather most commonly, an Extent of many Miles; our Enemy, the Highlanders, firing down upon us from their Summits all the Way. Nor was it possible for our Men, or very rarely at least, to return their Favours with any Prospect of Success; for as they pop'd upon us always on a sudden, they never stay'd long enough to allow any of our Soldiers a Mark; or even time enough to fire: And for our Men to march, or climb up those Mountains, which to them were natural Champion, would have been as dangerous as it seem'd to us impracticable. Nevertheless, under all these disheartning Disadvantages, we arriv'd at Inverlochy, and there perform'd the Task appointed, building a Fort on the same Spot where Cromwell had rais'd one before. And which was not a little remarkable, we had with us one Hill, a Colonel, who had been Governor in Oliver's Time, and who was now again appointed Governor by General Mackay. Thus the Work on which we were sent being effected, we march'd back again by the Way of Gillycrancky, where that memorable Battle under Dundee had been fought the Year before.
Some time after, Sir Thomas Levingston, afterwards Earl of Tiviot, having receiv'd Intelligence that the Highlanders intended to fall down into the lower Countries, in a considerable Body, got together a Party of about five Hundred (the Dragoons, call'd the Scotch Greys, inclusive) with which he resolv'd, if possible, to give them a Meeting. We left Inverness the last Day of April, and encamp'd near a little Town call'd Forrest, the Place where, as Tradition still confidently avers, the Witches met Mackbeth, and greeted him with their diabolical Auspices. But this Story is so naturally display'd in a Play of the immortal Shakespear, that I need not descend here to any farther Particulars.
Here Sir Thomas receiv'd Intelligence, that the Highlanders design'd to encamp upon the Spey, near the Laird of Grant's Castle. Whereupon we began our March about Noon; and the next Day, about the Break thereof, we came to that River, where we soon discover'd the Highlanders by their Fires. Sir Thomas immediately, on Sight of it, issued his Orders for our fording the River, and falling upon them as soon after as possible. Both were accordingly perform'd, and with so good Order, Secrecy and Success, that Cannon and Balfour, their Commanders, were obliged to make their Escape naked.
They were about one Thousand in Number, of which were kill'd about three Hundred; we pursued them, till they got up Crowdale-Hill, where we lost them in a Fog. And, indeed so high is that Hill, that they, who perfectly knew it, assured me that it never is without a little dark Fog hanging over it. And to me, at that Instant of Time, they seem'd rather to be People receiv'd up into Clouds, than flying from an Enemy.
Near this there was an old Castle, call'd Lethendy, into which about Fifty of them made their Retreat, most of them Gentlemen, resolving there to defend themselves to the last. Sir Thomas sent a Messenger to them, with an Offer of Mercy, if they would surrender: But they refus'd the profer'd Quarter, and fir'd upon our Men, killing two of our Grenadiers, and wounding another. During my Quarters at the Grave, having learnt to throw a Grenado, I took three or four in a Bag, and crept down by the Side of a Ditch, or Dyke, to an old thatch'd House near the Castle, imagining, on my mounting the same, I might be near enough to throw them, so as to do execution. I found all Things answer my Expectation; and the Castle wanting a Cover, I threw in a Grenado, which put the Enemy immediately into Confusion. The Second had not so good Success, falling short, and the Third burst as soon as it was well out of my Hand, though without Damage to my self. But throwing the Fourth in at a Window, it so increas'd the Confusion, which the first had put them into, that they immediately call'd out to me, upon their Parole of Safety, to come to them.
Accordingly I went up to the Door, which they had barricaded, and made up with great Stones; when they told me they were ready to surrender upon Condition of obtaining Mercy. I return'd to Sir Thomas; and telling him what I had done, and the Consequence of it, and the Message they had desir'd me to deliver (a great many of the Highland Gentlemen, not of this Party, being with him) Sir Thomas, in a high Voice, and broad Scotch, best to be heard and understood, order'd me back to tell 'em, He would cut them all to Pieces, for their Murder of two of his Grenadiers, after his Proffer of Quarter.
I was returning full of these melancholy Tidings, when Sir Thomas, advancing after me a little Distance from the rest of the Company; Hark ye, Sir, says he, I believe there may be among 'em some of our old Acquaintance (for we had serv'd together in the Service of the States in Flanders) therefore tell them they shall have good Quarter. I very willingly carry'd back a Message to much chang'd to my Mind; and upon delivering of it, without the least Hesitation, they threw down the Barricado, open'd the Door, and out came one Brody, who, as he then told me, had had a Piece of his Nose taken off by one of my Grenadoes. I carry'd him to Sir Thomas, who confirming my Message, they all came out, and surrendered themselves Prisoners. This happen'd on May Day in the Morning; for which Reason we return'd to Inverness with our Prisoners, and Boughs in our Hats; and the Highlanders never held up their Heads so high after this Defeat.
Upon this Success Sir Thomas wrote to Court, giving a full Account of the whole Action. In which being pleas'd to make mention of my Behaviour, with some Particularities, I had soon after a Commission order'd me for a Company in the Regiment under the Command of Brigadier Tiffin.
My Commission being made out, sign'd, and sent to me, I repair'd immediately to Portsmouth, where the Regiment lay in Garrison. A few Days after I had been there, Admiral Russel arriv'd with the Fleet, and anchor'd at St. Hellen's, where he remain'd about a Week. On the 18th of May the whole Fleet set Sail; and it being my Turn the same Day to mount the Main Guard, I was going the Rounds very early, when I heard great shooting at Sea. I went directly to acquaint the Governor, and told him my Sentiments, that the two contending Fleets were actually engag'd, which indeed prov'd true; for that very Night a Pinnace, which came from our Fleet, brought News that Admiral Russel had engag'd the French Admiral Turvile; and, after a long and sharp Dispute, was making after them to their own Coasts.
The next Day, towards Evening, several other Expresses arriv'd, one after another, all agreeing in the Defeat of the French Fleet, and in the Particulars of the burning their Rising Sun, together with many other of their Men of War, at la Hogue. All which Expresses were immediately forwarded to Court by Mr. Gibson, our Governor.
About two Months after this, our Regiment, among many others, was, according to Order, shipp'd off on a Secret Expedition, under the Command of the Duke of Leinster, no Man knowing to what Place we were going, or on what Design; no, not the Commander himself. However, when we were out at Sea, the General, according to Instructions, opening his Commission, we were soon put out of our Suspence, and inform'd, that our Orders were to attack Dunkirk. But what was so grand a Secret to those concern'd in the Expedition, having been intrusted to a Female Politician on Land, it was soon discover'd to the Enemy; for which Reason our Orders were countermanded, before we reach'd the Place of Action, and our Forces receiv'd Directions to land at Ostend.
Soon after this happen'd that memorable Battle at Steenkirk, which as very few at that Time could dive into the Reason of, and mistaken Accounts of it have pass'd for authentick, I will mention somewhat more particularly: The Undertaking was bold; and, as many thought, bolder than was consistent with the Character of the wise Undertaker. Nevertheless, the French having taken Namure; and, as the Malecontents alledg'd, in the very Sight of a superior Army; and nothing having been done by Land of any moment, Things were blown into such a dangerous Fermentation, by a malicious and lying Spirit, that King William found himself under a Necessity of attempting something that might appease the Murmurs of the People. He knew very well, though spoke in the Senate, that it was not true, that his Forces at the Siege of Namure exceeded those of the Enemy; no Man could be more afflicted than he at the overflowing of the Mehaigne, from the continual Rains, which obstructed the Relief he had designed for that important Place; yet since his Maligners made an ill Use of these false Topicks, to insinuate that he had no Mind to put an End to the War, he was resolv'd to evince the contrary, by shewing them that he was not afraid to venture his Life for the better obtaining what was so much desired.
To that Purpose, receiving Intelligence that the Duke of Luxemburg lay strongly encamp'd at Steenkirk, near Enghien (tho' he was sensible he must pass through many Defiles to engage him; and that the many Thickets between the two Armies would frequently afford him new Difficulties) he resolv'd there to attack him. Our Troops at first were forc'd to hew out their Passage for the Horse; and there was no one difficulty that his Imagination had drawn that was lessen'd by Experience; and yet so prosperous were his Arms at the Beginning, that our Troops had made themselves Masters of several Pieces of the Enemy's Cannon. But the farther he advanc'd, the Ground growing straiter, so strait as not to admit his Army's being drawn up in Battalia, the Troops behind could not give timely Succour to those engag'd, and the Cannon we had taken was forcibly left behind in order to make a good Retreat. The French had lost all their Courage in the Onset; for though they had too fair an Opportunity, they did not think fit to pursue it; or, at least, did it very languidly. However, the Malecontents at Home, I remember, grew very well pleas'd after this; for so long as they had but a Battle for their Money, like true Englishmen, lost or won, they were contented.
Several Causes, I remember, were assign'd for this Miscarriage, as they call'd it; Some there were who were willing to lay it upon the Dutch; and alledge a Saying of one of their Generals, who receiving Orders to relieve some English and Scotch that were over-power'd, was heard to say, Dam 'em, since they love Fighting let 'em have their Bellies full. But I should rather impute the Disappointment to the great Loss of so many of our bravest Officers at the very first Onset. General Mackay, Colonel Lanier, the Earl of Angus, with both his Field-Officers, Sir Robert Douglas, Colonel Hodges, and many others falling, it was enough to put a very considerable Army into Confusion. I remember one particular Action of Sir Robert Douglas, that I should think my self to blame should I omit: Seeing his Colours on the other Side the Hedge, in the Hands of the Enemy, he leap'd over, slew the Officer that had them, and then threw them over the Hedge to his Company; redeeming his Colours at the Expense of his Life. Thus the Scotch Commander improv'd upon the Roman General; for the brave Posthumius cast his Standard in the Middle of the Enemy for his Soldiers to retrieve, but Douglas retriev'd his from the Middle of the Enemy, without any Assistance, and cast it back to his Soldiers to retain, after he had so bravely rescued it out of the Hands of the Enemy.
From hence our Regiment receiv'd Orders to march to Dixmuyd, where we lay some time employ'd in fortifying that Place. While we were there, I had one Morning stedfastly fix'd my Eyes upon some Ducks, that were swimming in a large Water before me; when all on a sudden, in the Midst of a perfect Calm, I observ'd such a strange and strong Agitation in the Waters, that prodigiously surpriz'd me. I was at the same Moment seiz'd with such a Giddiness in my Head, that, for a Minute or two, I was scarce sensible, and had much a-do to keep on my Legs. I had never felt any thing of an Earthquake before, which, as I soon after understood from others, this was; and it left, indeed, very apparent Marks of its Force in a great Rent in the Body of the great Church, which remains to this Day.
Having brought the intended Fortifications into some tolerable Order, we receiv'd a Command out of hand to reimbarque for England. And, upon our Landing, Directions met us to march for Ipswich, where we had our Quarters all that Winter. From thence we were order'd up to London, to do Duty in the Tower. I had not been there long, before an Accident happen'd, as little to be accounted for, without a divine Providence, as some would make that Providence to be, that only can account for it.
There was at that Time, as I was assur'd by my Lord Lucas, Constable of it, upwards of twenty Thousand Barrels of Gun-powder, in that they call the White-Tower, when all at once the middle Flooring did not only give way, or shrink, but fell flat down upon other Barrels of Powder, together with many of the same combustible Matter which had been placed upon it. It was a Providence strangely neglected at that Time, and hardly thought of since; But let any considerate Man consult the Consequences, if it had taken fire; perhaps to the Destruction of the whole City, or, at least, as far as the Bridge and Parts adjacent. Let his Thoughts proceed to examine, why, or how, in that precipitate Fall, not one Nail, nor one Piece of Iron, in that large Fabrick, should afford one little Spark to enflame that Mass of sulphurous Matter it was loaded with; and if he is at a loss to find a Providence, I fear his Friends will be more at a loss to find his Understanding. But the Battle of Landen happening while our Regiment was here on Duty, we were soon remov'd to our Satisfaction from that pacifick Station, to one more active in Flanders.
Notwithstanding that fatal Battle the Year preceding, namely, A.D. 1694, the Confederate Army under King William lay encamp'd at Mont. St. André, an open Place, and much expos'd; while the French were entrench'd up to their very Teeth, at Vignamont, a little Distance from us. This afforded Matter of great Reflection to the Politicians of those Times, who could hardly allow, that if the Confederate Army suffer'd so much, as it really did in the Battle of Landen, it could consist with right Conduct to tempt, or rather dare a new Engagement. But those sage Objectors had forgot the well-known Courage of that brave Prince, and were as little capable of fathoming his Designs. The Enemy, who to their Sorrow had by Experience been made better Judges, was resolv'd to traverse both; for which Purpose they kept close within their Entrenchments; so that after all his Efforts, King William finding he could no way draw them to a Battle, suddenly decamp'd, and march'd directly to Pont Espiers, by long Marches, with a Design to pass the French Lines at that Place.
But notwithstanding our Army march'd in a direct Line, to our great Surprize, we found the Enemy had first taken possession of it. They gave this the Name of the Long March, and very deservedly; for though our Army march'd upon the String, and the Enemy upon the Bow, sensible of the Importance of the Post, and the Necessity of securing it, by double horseing with their Foot, and by leaving their Weary and Weak in their Garrisons, and supplying their Places with fresh Men out of them, they gain'd their Point in disappointing us. Though certain it is, that March cost 'em as many Men and Horses as a Battle. However their Master, the French King, was so pleas'd with their indefatigable and auspicious Diligence, that he wrote, with his own Hand, a Letter of Thanks to the Officers, for the great Zeal and Care they had taken to prevent the Confederate Army from entring into French Flanders.
King William, thus disappointed in that noble Design, gave immediate Orders for his whole Army to march through Oudenard, and then ecamp'd at Rofendale; after some little Stay at that Camp we were remov'd to the Camerlins, between Newport and Ostend, once more to take our Winter Quarters there among the Boors.
We were now in the Year 1695 when the strong Fortress of Namur, taken by the French in 1692 and since made by them much stronger, was invested by the Earl of Athlone. After very many vigorous Attacks, with the Loss of many Men, the Town was taken, the Garrison retiring into the Castle. Into which soon after, notwithstanding all the Circumspection of the Besiegers, Mareschal Bouflers found means, with some Dragoons, to throw himself.
While King William was thus engag'd in that glorious and important Siege, Prince Vaudemont being posted at Watergaem, with about fifty Battallions, and as many Squadrons, the Mareschal Villeroy laid a Design to attack him with the whole French Army. The Prince imagin'd no less, therefore he prepar'd accordingly, giving us Orders to fortify our Camp, as well as the little time we had for it would permit. Those Orders were pursu'd; nevertheless, I must confess, it was beyond the Reach of my little Reason to account for our so long Stay in the Sight of an Army so much superior to ours. The Prince in the Whole could hardly muster thirty Thousand; and Villeroy was known to value himself upon having one Hundred Thousand effective Men. However, the Prince provisionally sent away all our Baggage that very Morning to Ghent, and still made shew as if he resolv'd to defend himself to the last Extremity in our little Entrenchments. The enemy on their Side began to surround us; and in their Motions for that Purpose, blew up little Bags of Gun-powder, to give the readier Notice how far they had acomplish'd it. Another Captain, with my self, being plac'd on the Right, with one Hundred Men (where I found Monsieur Montal endeavouring, if possible, to get behind us) I could easily observe, they had so far attain'd their Aim of encompassing us, as to the very Fashion of a Horse's Shoe. This made me fix my Eyes so intently upon the advancing Enemy, that I never minded what my Friends were doing behind me; though I afterwards found that they had been fileing off so very artfully and privately, by that narrow Opening of the Horse-Shoe, that when the Enemy imagin'd us past a Possibility of Escape, our little Army at once, and of a sudden, was ready to disappear. There was a large Wood on the Right of our Army, through which lay the Road to Ghent, not broader than to admit of more than Four to march a breast. Down this the Prince had slid his Forces, except to that very small Party which the Captain and my self commanded, and which was designedly left to bring up the Rear. Nor did we stir till Captain Collier, then Aid de Camp to his Brother, now Earl of Portmore, came with the Word of Command for us to draw off.
When Villeroy was told of our Retreat, he was much surpriz'd, as thinking it a Thing utterly impossible. However, at last, being sensible of the Truth of it, he gave Orders for our Rear to be attack'd; but we kept fireing from Ditch to Ditch, and Hedge to Hedge, till Night came upon us; and so our little Army got clear of its gigantick Enemy with very inconsiderable Loss. However, the French fail'd not, in their customary Way, to express the Sense of their vexation, at this Disappointment, with Fire and Sword in the Neighbourhood round. Thus Prince Vaudemont acquir'd more Glory by that Retreat than an intire Victory could have given him; and it was not, I confess, the least Part of Satisfaction in Life, that my self had a Share of Honour under him to bring off the Rear at that his glorious Retreat at Arfeel.
However, in further Revenge of this political Chicane of the Prince of Vaudemont, and to oblige, if possible, King William to raise the Siege from before Namur, Villeroy enter'd into the Resolution of Bombarding Brussells. In order to which he encamp'd at Anderleck, and then made his Approaches as near as was convenient to the Town. There he caus'd to be planted thirty Mortars, and rais'd a Battery of ten Guns to shoot hot Bullets into the Place.
But before they fir'd from either, Villeroy, in complement to the Duke of Bavaria, sent a Messenger to know in what Part of the Town his Dutchess chose to reside, that they might, as much as possible, avoid incommoding her, by directing their Fire to other Parts. Answer was return'd that she was at her usual Place of Residence, the Palace; and accordingly their fireing from Battery or Mortars little incommoded them that Way.
Five Days the Bombardment continu'd; and with such Fury, that the Centre of that noble City was quite lay'd in Rubbish. Most of the Time of Bombarding I was upon the Counterscarp, where I could best see and distinguish; and I have often counted in the Air, at one time, more than twenty Bombs; for they shot whole Vollies out of their Mortars all together. This, as it must needs be terrible, threw the Inhabitants into the utmost Confusion. Cartloads of Nuns, that for many Years before had never been out of the Cloister, were now hurry'd about from Place to Place, to find Retreats of some Security. In short, the Groves, and Parts remote, were all crowded; and the most spacious Streets had hardly a Spectator left to view their Ruins. Nothing was to be seen like that Dexterity of our People in extinguishing the Fires; for where the red-hot Bullets fell, and rais'd new Conflagrations, not Burghers only, but the vulgar Sort, stood stareing, and with their Hands impocketted, beheld their Houses gradually consume; and without offering prudent or charitable Hand to stop the growing Flames.
But after they had almost thus destroy'd that late fair City, Villeroy, finding he could not raise the Siege of Namur, by that vigorous Attack upon Brussels, decamp'd at last from before it, and put his Army on the March, to try if he could have better Success by exposing to Show his Pageant of one Hundred Thousand Men. Prince Vaudemont had timely Intelligence of the Duke's Resolution and Motion; and resolv'd, if possible to get there before him. Nor was the Attempt fruitless: He fortunately succeeded, though with much Fatigue, and no little Difficulty, after he had put a Trick upon the Spies of the Enemy, by pretending to encamp, and so soon as they were gone ordering a full March.
The Castle of Namur had been all this Time under the Fire of the Besieger's Cannon; and soon after our little Army under the Prince was arriv'd, a Breach, that was imagin'd practicable, being made in the Terra Nova (which, as the Name imports, was a new Work, rais'd by the French, and added to the Fortifications, since it fell into their Hands in 1692 and which very much increas'd the Strength of the Whole) a Breach, as I have said, being made in this Terra Nova, a Storm, in a Council of War, was resolv'd upon. Four entire Regiments, in conjunction with some Draughts made out of several others, were order'd for that Work, my self commanding that Part of 'em which had been drawn out of Colonel Tiffins. We were all to rendevouze at the Abbey of Salsines, under the Command of the Lord Cutts; the Signal, when the Attack was to be made, being agreed to be the blowing up of a Bag of Gun-powder upon the Bridge of Boats that lay over the Sambre.
So soon as the Signal was made, we march'd up to the Breach with a decent Intrepidity, receiving all the Way we advanc'd the full Fire of the Cohorn Fort. But as soon as we came near enough to mount, we found it vastly steep and rugged. Notwithstanding all which, several did get up, and enter'd the Breach; but not being supported as they ought to have been, they were all made Prisoners. Which, together with a Wound my Lord Cutts receiv'd, after he had done all that was possible for us, necessitated us to retire with the Loss of many of our Men.