VILLEROY all this while lay in fight, with his Army of One Hundred Thousand Men, without making the least Offer to incommode the Besiegers; or even without doing any thing more than make his Appearance in favour of the Besieged, and reconnoitring our Encampment: And, at last, seeing, or imagining that he saw, the Attempt would be to little purpose, with all the good Manners in the World, in the Night, he withdrew that terrible Meteor, and reliev'd our poor Horses from feeding on Leaves, the only Inconvenience he had put us to.
This Retreat leaving the Garrison without all Hope of Relief, they in the Castle immediately capitulated. But after one of the Gates had been, according to Articles, delivered up and Count Guiscard was marching out at the Head of the Garrison, and Bouflers at the Head of the Dragoons; the latter was, by order of King William, arrested, in reprize of the Garrison of Dixmuyd (who, contrary to the Cartel, had been detain'd Prisoners) and remain'd under Arrest till they were set free.
At the very Beginning of the Year 1696 was discover'd a Plot, fit only to have had its Origin from Hell or Rome. A Plot, which would have put Hottentots and Barbarians out of Countenance. This was call'd the Assassination Plot, from the Design of it, which was to have assassinated King William a little before the Time of his usual leaving England to head the Army of the Confederates in Flanders. And as nothing could give a nobler Idea of the great Character of that Prince than such a nefarious Combination against him; so, with all considerate Men, nothing could more depreciate the Cause of his inconsiderate Enemies. If I remember what I have read, the Sons of ancient Rome, though Heathens, behav'd themselves against an Enemy in a quite different Manner. Their Historians afford us more Instances than a few of their generous Intimations to Kings and Generals, under actual Hostilities, of barbarous Designs upon their Lives. I proceed to this of our own Countrymen.
Soon after the Discovery had been made, by Persons actually engag'd in that inhuman Design, the Regiment, in which I served, with some others then in Flanders, receiv'd Orders, with all Expedition, to embarque for England; though, on our Arrival at Gravesend, fresh Orders met us to remain on board the Transports, till we had surther Directions.
On my going to London, a few Days after, I was told, that two Regiments only were now design'd to come a-shore; and that the rest would be remanded to Flanders, the Danger apprehended being pretty well over. I was at White Hall when I receiv'd this Notice; where meeting my Lord Cutts (who had ever since the storming of the Terra Nova at Namur allow'd me a Share in his Favour) he express'd himself in the most obliging Manner; and at parting desir'd he might not fail of seeing me next Morning at his House; for he had somewhat of an extraordinary Nature to communicate to me.
At the time appointed, I waited on his Lorship, where I met Mr. Steel (now Sir Richard, and at that time his Secretary) who immediately introduc'd me. I found in company with him three Gentlemen; and after common Salutations, his Lordship deliver'd into my Hands, an Order from the King in Council to go along with Captain Porter, Mr. de la Rue, and Mr. George Harris (who prov'd to be those three with him) to search all the Transports at Gravesend, in order to prevent any of the Conspirators getting out of England that Way. After answering, that I was ready to pay Obedience, and receiving, in private, the further necessary Instructions, we took our Leave, and Oars soon after for Gravesend. 'Twas in our Passage down, that I understood that they had all been of the Conspiracy, but now reluctant, were become Witnesses.
When we came to Gravesend, I produc'd my Authority to the Commanding Officer, who very readily paid Obedience, and gave Assistance; But after our most diligent Search, finding nothing of what we look'd for, we return'd that very Night to London.
Next Day a Proclamation was to come out for the apprehending three of four Troopers, who were sent over by King James, with a thousand Pounds Reward for each: Mr. George Harris, who was the fourth, being the only Evidence against the other three. No sooner were we return'd from Gravesend, but Harris had Intelligence brought him, that Cassells, one of the three, was at Mr. Allens in the Savoy, under the Name of Green. Upon which we went directly to the Place; and enquiring for Mr. Green, we were told he lodg'd there, and was in his Room.
I was oblig'd by my Order to go along with them, and assist 'em; and very well was it that I was so: For in consideration of the Reward in the Proclamation, which, as I have said, was to come out the next Day, Harris and the rest were for deferring his Seizure, till the coming out of that Proclamation; but making answer, that in case of his Escape that Night, I must be responsible to my Superiors; who, under the most favourable Aspect, would construe it a Neglect of Duty, they were forc'd to comply; and so he was taken up, and his Name that Night struck out of the Proclamation. It is very true, by this faithful Discharge of my Trust, I did save the Government one Thousand Pounds; but it is equally so, that I never had of my Governors one Farthing Consideration for what others term'd an over-officious Piece of Service; though in Justice it must be own'd a Piece of exact and disinterested Duty.
Some few Days after, attending by Direction at the Secretary's Office, with Mr. Harris, there came in a Dutchman, spluttering and making a great Noise, that he was sure he could discover one of the Conspirators; but the Mein and the Behaviour of the Man, would not give any Body Leave to give him any Credit or Regard. However, the Man persisting in his Assertions, I spoke to Mr. Harris to take him aside, and ask him what Sort of a Person he was; Harris did so; and the Dutchman describing him, says Harris, returning to me, I'll be hang'd if it be not Blackburn. Upon which we had him question'd somewhat more narrowly; when having no room to doubt, and understanding where he was, Colonel Rivet of the Guards was sent for, and order'd to go along with us to seize him. We went accordingly; and it proving to be Blackburn, the Dutchman had five Hundred Pounds, and the Colonel and others the Remainder. Cassels and Blackburn, if still alive, are in Newgate, confin'd by Act of Parliament, one only Witness, which was Harris, being producible against them.
When Blackburn was seiz'd, I found in the Chamber with him, one Davison, a Watch-maker, living in Holbourn. I carry'd him along with me to the Secretary of State; but nothing on his Examination appearing against him, he was immediately discharg'd. He offer'd afterwards to present me with a fine Watch of his own making, which I refus'd; and he long after own'd the Obligation.
So soon as the Depth of this Plot was fathom'd, and the intended Evil provided against, as well as prevented, King William went over into Flanders, and our Regiment thereupon receiv'd Orders for their immediate Return. Nothing of any Moment occurr'd till our Arrival at our old Quarters, the Camerlins, where we lay dispers'd amongst the Country Boors or Farmers, as heretofore. However, for our better Security in those Quarters, and to preserve us from the Excursions of the neighbouring Garrison of Furnes, we were oblig'd to keep an Out-guard at a little Place call'd Shoerbeck. This Guard was every forty-eight Hours chang'd, and remounted with a Captain, a Lieutenant, an Ensign, and threescore Men.
When it came to my Turn to relieve that Guard, and for that Purpose I was arriv'd at my Post, it appear'd to me with the Face of a Place of Debauch, rather than Business; there being too visible Tokens, that the hard Duty of both Officers and Soldiers had been that of hard Drinking, the foulest Error that a Soldier can commit, especially when on his Guard.
To confirm my Apprehensions, a little after I had taken Possession of my Guard, the Man of the House related to me such Passages, and so many of'em, that satisfy'd me, that if ten sober Men had made the Attack, they might have fairly knock'd all my Predecessors of the last Guard on the Head, without much Difficulty. However, his Account administer'd Matter of Caution to me, and put me upon taking a narrower View of our Situation. In consequence whereof, at Night I plac'd a Centinel a Quarter of a Mile in the Rear, and such other Centinels as I thought necessary and convenient in other Places; with Orders, that upon Sight of an Enemy the Centinel near should fire; and that upon hearing that, all the other Centinels, as well as he, should hasten in to strengthen our Main Guard.
What my Jealousy, on my Landlord's Relation, had suggested, happen'd accordingly: For about one in the Morning I was alarm'd with the Cry of one of my Centinels, Turn out for God's sake; which he repeated, with Vehemence, three or four times over. I took the Alarm, got up suddenly; and with no little Difficulty got my Men into their Ranks, when the Person who made the Outcry came running in, almost spent, and out of Breath. It was the Centinel, that I had luckily plac'd about a Quarter of a Mile off, who gave the Alarm, and his Musket flashing in the Pan, without going off, he endeavour'd to supply with his Voice the Defect of his Piece. I had just got my Men into their Ranks, in order to receive the Enemy, when by the Moonlight, I discover'd a Party advancing upon us. My out Centinel challeng'd 'em, and as I had precaution'd, they answer'd, Hispanioli; though I knew 'em to be French.
However, on my Survey of our Situation by Day-light, having mark'd in my Mind a proper Place for drawing up my Men in Case of an Attack, which was too narrow to admit of more than two on a Breast; and which would secure between us and the Enemy a Ditch of Water: I resolv'd to put in practice what had entertain'd me so well in the Theory. To that Purpose I order'd my first Rank to keep their Post, stand still and face the Enemy, while the other two Ranks stooping should follow me to gain the intended Station; which done, the first Rank had Orders to file off and fall behind. All was perform'd in excellent Order; and I confess it was with no little Pleasure, that I beheld the Enemy, for the best Part of an Hour, in Consultation whether they should attack us or no. The result, nevertheless, of that Consultation ended in this; that, seeing us so well upon our Guard, it was most adviseable to draw off. They soon put their Resolution into practice, which I was very glad to see; on Examination a little before having found that my Predecessor, as in other Things, had fail'd of Conduct in leaving me a Garrison without Ammunition.
Next Morning I was very pleasingly surpriz'd with a handsome Present of Wine, and some other necessary Refreshments. At first I made a little Scruple and Hesitation whether or no to receive 'em; till the Bearer assur'd me, that they were sent me from the Officers of the next Garrison, who had made me a Visit the Night before, as a candid Acknowledgment of my Conduct and good Behaviour. I return'd their Compliment, that I hop'd I should never receive Men of Honour otherwise than like a Man of Honour; which mightily pleas'd them. Every of which Particulars the Ghent Gazettier the Week after publish'd.
We had little to do except Marching and Counter-marching all the Campaign after; till it was resolv'd in a Council of War, for the better preserving of Brussels from such Insults, as it had before sustain'd from the French, during the Siege of Namur, to fortify Anderlech; upon which our Regiment, as well as others, were commanded from our more pacifick Posts to attend that Work. Our whole Army was under Movement to cover that Resolution; and the Train fell to my Care and Command in the March. There accompany'd the Train a Fellow, seemingly ordinary, yet very officious and courteous, being ready to do any thing for any Person, from the Officer to the common Soldier. He travell'd along and mov'd with the Train, sometimes on Foot, and sometimes getting a Ride in some one or other of the Waggons; but ever full of his Chit-chat and Stories of Humour. By these insinuating Ways he had screw'd himself into the general good Opinion; but the Waggoners especially grew particularly fond of him. At the End of our March all our Powder-Waggons were plac'd breast a-breast, and so close, that one miscarrying would leave little doubt of the Fate of all the rest. This in the Camp we commonly call the Park; and here it was that our new Guest, like another Phaeton, though under Pretence of Weariness, not Ambition, got Leave of the very last Carter to the Train to take a Nap in his Waggon. One who had entertain'd a Jealousy of him, and had watch'd him, gave Information against him; upon which he was seiz'd and brought to me as Captain of the Guard. I caus'd him to be search'd; and upon search, finding Match, Touchwood, and other dangerous Materials upon him; I sent him and them away to the Provoe. Upon the Whole, a Council of War was call'd, at which, upon a strict Examination, he confess'd himself a hir'd Incendiary; and as such receiv'd his Sentence to be burnt in the Face of the Army. The Execution was a Day or two after: When on the very Spot, he further acknowledged, that on Sight or Noise of the Blow, it had been concerted, that the French Army should fall upon the Confederates under those lamentable Circumstances.
The Peace of Riswick soon after taking place, put an End to all Incendiarisms of either Sort. So that nothing of a Military Kind, which was now become my Province, happen'd of some Years after. Our Regiment was first order'd into England; and presently after into Ireland: But as these Memoirs are not design'd for the Low Amuzement of a Tea-Table, but rather of the Cabinet, a Series of inglorious Inactivity can furnish but very little towards 'em.
Yet as little as I admir'd a Life of Inactivity, there are some Sorts of Activity, to which a wise Man might almost give Supineness the Preference: Such is that of barely encountring Elements, and wageing War with Nature; and such, in my Opinion, would have been the spending my Commission, and very probably my Life with it, in the West Indies. For though the Climate (as some would urge) may afford a Chance for a very speedy Advance in Honour, yet, upon revolving in my Mind, that those Rotations of the Wheel of Fortune are often so very quick, as well as uncertain, that I my self might as well be the First as the Last; the Whole of the Debate ended in somewhat like that Couplet of the excellent Hudibras:
Then he, that ran away and fled, Must lie in Honour's Truckle-bed.
However, my better Planets soon disannull'd those melancholy Ideas, which a Rumour of our being sent into the West Indies had crowded my Head and Heart with: For being call'd over into England, upon the very Affairs of the Regiment, I arriv'd there just after the Orders for their Transportation went over; by which Means the Choice of going was put out of my Power, and the Danger of Refusing, which was the Case of many, was very luckily avoided.
It being judg'd, therefore, impossible for me to return soon enough to gain my Passage, one in Power propos'd to me, that I should resign to an Officer then going over; and with some other contingent Advantages, to my great Satisfaction, I was put upon the Half-pay List. This was more agreeable, for I knew, or at least imagin'd my self wise enough to foretel, from the over hot Debate of the House of Commons upon the Partition Treaty, that it could not be long before the present Peace would, at least, require patching.
Under this Sort of uncertain Settlement I remain'd with the Patience of a Jew, though not with Judaical Absurdity, a faithful Adherer to my Expectation. Nor did the Consequence fail of answering, a War was apparent, and soon after proclaim'd. Thus waiting for an Opportunity, which I flatter'd my self would soon present, the little Diversions of Dublin, and the moderate Conversation of that People, were not of Temptation enough to make my Stay in England look like a Burden.
But though the War was proclaim'd, and Preparations accordingly made for it, the Expectations from all receiv'd a sudden Damp, by the as sudden Death of King William. That Prince, who had stared Death in the Face in many Sieges and Battles, met with his Fate in the Midst of his Diversions, who seiz'd his Prize in an Hour, to human Thought, the least adapted to it. He was a Hunting (his customary Diversion) when, by an unhappy Trip of his Horse, he fell to the Ground; and in the Fall displac'd his Collar-bone. The News of it immediately alarm'd the Court, and all around; and the sad Effects of it soon after gave all Europe the like Alarm. France only, who had not disdain'd to seek it sooner by ungenerous Means, receiv'd new Hope, from what gave others Motives for Despair. He flatter'd himself, that that long liv'd Obstacle to his Ambition thus remov'd, his Successor would never fall into those Measures, which he had wisely concerted for the Liberties of Europe; but he, as well as others of his Adherents, was gloriously deceiv'd; that God-like Queen, with a Heart entirely English, prosecuted her royal Predecessor's Counsels; and to remove all the very Faces of Jealousy, immediately on her Accession dispatch'd to every Court of the great Confederacy, Persons adequate to the Importance of the Message, to give Assurances thereof.
This gave new Spirit to a Cause, that at first seem'd to languish in its Founder, as it struck its great Opposers with a no less mortifying Terror; And well did the great Successes of her Arms answer the Prayers and Efforts of that royal Soul of the Confederacies; together with the Wishes of all, that, like her, had the Good, as well as the Honour of their Country at Heart, in which the Liberties of Europe were included. The first Campaign gave a noble Earnest of the Future. Bon, Keyserwaert, Venlo, and Ruremond, were sound Forerunners only of Donawert, Hochstet, and Blenheim. Such a March of English Forces to the Support of the tottering Empire, as it gloriously manifested the ancient Genius of a warlike People; so was it happily celebrated with a Success answerable to the Glory of the Undertaking, which concluded in Statues and princely Donatives to an English Subject, from the then only Emperor in Europe. A small Tribute, it's true, for ransom'd Nations and captiv'd Armies, which justly enough inverted the Exclamations of a Roman Emperor to the French Monarch, who deprecated his Legions lost pretty near the same Spot; but to a much superior Number, and on a much less glorious Occasion.
But my good Fortune not allowing me to participate in those glorious Appendages of the English Arms in Flanders, nor on the Rhine, I was resolv'd to make a Push for it the first Opportunity, and waste my Minutes no longer on Court Attendances. And my Lord Cutts returning with his full Share of Laurels, for his never to be forgotten Services at Venlo, Ruremond, and Hochstet, found his active Genius now to be repos'd, under the less agreeable Burden of unhazardous Honour, where Quiet must provide a Tomb for one already past any Danger of Oblivion; deep Wounds and glorious Actions having anticipated all that could be said in Epitaphs or litteral Inscriptions. Soon after his Arrival from Germany, he was appointed General of all her Majesty's Forces in Ireland; upon which going to congratulate him, he was pleas'd to enquire of me several Things relating to that Country; and particularly in what Part of Dublin I would recommend his Residence; offering at the same time, if I would go over with him, all the Services that should fall in his Way.
But Inactivity was a Thing I had too long lamented; therefore, after I had, as decently as I could, declin'd the latter Part, I told his Lordship, that as to a Place of Residence, I was Master of a House in Dublin, large enough, and suitable to his great Quality, which should be at his Service, on any Terms he thought fit. Adding withal, that I had a Mind to see Spain, where my Lord Peterborow was now going; and that if his Lordship would favour me with a Recommendation, it would suit my present Inclinations much better than any further tedious Recess. His Lordship was so good to close with both my Overtures; and spoke so effectually in my Favour, that the Earl of Peterborow, then General of all the Forces order'd on that Expedition, bad me speedily prepare my self; and so when all Things were ready I embarqu'd with that noble Lord for Spain, to pursue his well concerted Undertaking; which, in the Event, will demonstrate to the World, that little Armies, under the Conduct of auspicious Generals, may sometimes produce prodigious Effects.
The Jews, in whatever Part of the World, are a People industrious in the increasing of Mammon; and being accustom'd to the universal Methods of Gain, are always esteem'd best qualify'd for any Undertaking, where that bears a Probability of being a Perquisite. Providing Bread, and other Requisites for an Army, was ever allow'd to carry along with it a Profit answerable; and Spain was not the first Country where that People had engag'd in such an Undertaking. Besides, on any likely Appearance of great Advantage, it is in the Nature as well as Practice of that Race, strenuously to assist one another; and that with the utmost Confidence and prodigious Alacrity. One of that Number, both competent and willing enough to carry on an Undertaking of that kind, fortunately came at that Juncture to solicit the Earl of Peterborow to be employ'd as Proveditor to the Army and Troops, which were, or should be sent into Spain.
It will easily be admitted, that the Earl, under his present Exigencies, did not decline to listen. And a very considerable Sum being offer'd, by way of Advance, the Method common in like Cases was pursu'd, and the Sum propos'd accepted; by which Means the Earl of Peterborow found himself put into the happy Capacity of proceeding upon his first concerted Project. The Name of the Jew, who sign'd the Contract, was Curtisos; and he and his Friends, with great Punctuality, advanc'd the expected Sum of One Hundred Thousand Pounds Sterling, or very near it; which was immediately order'd into the Hands of the Pay-master of the Forces. For though the Earl took Money of the Jews, it was not for his own, but public Use. According to Agreement, Bills were drawn for the Value from Lisbon, upon the Lord Godolphin (then Lord Treasurer) all which were, on that Occasion, punctually comply'd with.
The Earl of Peterborow having thus fortunately found Means to supply himself with Money, and by that with some Horse, after he had obtain'd Leave of the Lord Galoway to make an Exchange of two Regiments of Foot, receiv'd the Arch-Duke, and all those who would follow him, aboard the Fleet; and, at his own Expense, transported him and his whole Retinue to Barcelona: For all which prodigious Charge, as I have been very lately inform'd, from very good Hands, that noble Earl never to this Day receiv'd any Consideration from the Government, or any Person whatsoever.
We sail'd from Lisbon, in order to join the Squadron under Sir Cloudsley Shovel: Meeting with which at the appointed Station off Tangier, the Men of War and Transports thus united, made the best of their Way for Gibraltar. There we stay'd no longer than to take aboard two Regiments out of that Garrison, in lieu of two out of our Fleet. Here we found the Prince of Hesse, who immediately took a Resolution to follow the Arch-Duke in this Expedition. He was a Person of great Gallantry; and having been Vice-Roy of Catalonia, was receiv'd on board the Fleet with the utmost Satisfaction, as being a Person capable of doing great Service in a Country where he was well known, and as well belov'd.
Speaking Latin then pretty fluently, it gave me frequent Opportunies of conversing with the two Father Confessors of the Duke of Austria; and upon that Account I found my self honour'd with some Share in the Favour of the Arch-Duke himself. I mention this, not to gratify any vain Humour, but as a corroborating Circumstance, that my Opportunities of Information, in Matters of Consequence, could not thereby be suppos'd to be lessen'd; but that I might more reasonably be imagin'd to arrive at Intelligence, that not very often, or at least not so soon, came to the Knowledge of others.
From Gibraltar we sail'd to the Bay of Altea, not far distant from the City of Valencia, in the Road of which we continu'd for some Days. While we were there, as I was very credibly inform'd, the Earl of Peterborow met with some fresh Disappointment; but what it was, neither I nor any Body else, as far as I could perceive, could ever dive into: Neither did it appear by any outward Tokens, in that noble General, that it lay so much at his Heart, as those about him seem'd to assure me it did.
However, while we lay in Altea Bay, two Bomb-Vessels, and a small Squadron, were order'd against Denia, which had a small Castle; but rather fine than strong. And accordingly, upon our Offer to bring to bear with our Cannon, and preparing to fix our Bomb-Vessels, in order to bombard the Place, it surrender'd; and acknowledg'd the Arch-Duke as lawful King of Spain, and so proclaim'd him. From this time, therefore, speaking of that Prince, it shall be under that Title. General Ramos was left Commander here; a Person who afterwards acted a very extraordinary Part in the War carry'd on in the Kingdom of Valencia.
But notwithstanding no positive Resolutions had been taken for the Operations of the Campaign, before the Arch Duke's Departure from Lisbon, the Earl of Peterborow, ever solicitous of the Honour of his Country, had premeditated another Enterprize, which, had it been embrac'd, would in all Probability, have brought that War to a much more speedy Conclusion; and at the same time have obviated all those Difficulties, which were but too apparent in the Siege of Barcelona. He had justly and judiciously weigh'd, that there were no Forces in the Middle Parts of Spain, all their Troops being in the extream Parts of the Kingdom, either on the Frontiers of Portugal, or in the City of Barcelona; that with King Philip, and the royal Family at Madrid, there were only some few Horse, and those in a bad Condition, and which only serv'd for Guards: if therefore, as he rightly projected within himself, by the taking of Valencia, or any Sea-Port Town, that might have secur'd his Landing, he had march'd directly for Madrid; what could have oppos'd him? But I shall have occasion to dilate more upon this Head a few Pages hence; and therefore shall here only say, that though that Project of his might have brought about a speedy and wonderful Revolution, what he was by his Orders afterwards oblig'd to, against his Inclinations, to pursue, contributed much more to his great Reputation, as it put him under a frequent Necessity of overcoming Difficulties, which, to any other General, would have appear'd unsurmountable.