BARCELONA being now under King Charles, the Towns of Gironne, Tarragona, Tortosa, and Lerida, immediately declar'd for him. To every one of which Engeneers being order'd, it was my Lot to be sent to Tortosa. This Town is situated on the Side of the River Ebro, over which there is a fair and famous Bridge of Boats. The Waters of this River are always of a dirty red Colour, somewhat fouler than our Moorish Waters; yet is it the only Water the Inhabitants drink, or covet to drink; and every House providing for its own Convenience Cisterns to preserve it in, by a few Hours standing it becomes as clear as the clearest Rock-water, but as soft as Milk. In short, for Softness, Brightness, and Pleasantness of Taste, the Natives prefer it to all the Waters in the World. And I must declare in favour of their Opinion, that none ever pleas'd me like it.
This Town was of the greater Moment to our Army, as opening a Passage into the Kingdom of Valencia on one Side, and the Kingdom of Arragon on the other: And being of it self tolerably defensible, in human Appearance might probably repay a little Care and Charge in its Repair and Improvement. Upon this Employ was I appointed, and thus was I busy'd, till the Arrival of the Earl of Peterborow with his little Army, in order to march to Valencia, the Capital of that Province. Here he left in Garrison Colonel Hans Hamilton's Regiment; the Place, nevertheless, was under the Command of a Spanish Governor, appointed by King Charles.
While the Earl stay'd a few Days at this Place, under Expectation of the promis'd Succours from Barcelona, he receiv'd a Proprio (or Express) from the King of Spain, full of Excuses, instead of Forces. And yet the very same Letter, in a paradoxical Manner, commanded him, at all Events, to attempt the Relief of Santo Mattheo, where Colonel Jones commanded, and which was then under Siege by the Conde de los Torres (as was the Report) with upwards of three thousand Men. The Earl of Peterborow could not muster above one thousand Foot, and about two hundred Horse; a small Force to make an Attempt of that Nature upon such a superior Power: Yet the Earl's Vivacity (as will be occasionally further observ'd in the Course of these Memoirs) never much regarded Numbers, so there was but room, by any Stratagem, to hope for Success. True it is, for his greater Encouragement and Consolation, the same Letter intimated, that a great Concourse of the Country People being up in Arms, to the Number of many Thousands, in Favour of King Charles, and wanting only Officers, the Enterprize would be easy and unattended with much Danger. But upon mature Enquiry, the Earl found that great Body of Men all in nubibus; and that the Conde, in the plain Truth of the Matter, was much stronger than the Letter at first represented.
Santo Mattheo was a Place of known Importance; and that from its Situation, which cut off all Communication between Catalonia and Valencia; and, consequently, should it fall into the Hands of the Enemy, the Earl's Design upon the latter must inevitably have been postpon'd. It must be granted, the Commands for attempting the Relief of it were pressing and peremptory; nevertheless, the Earl was very conscious to himself, that as the promis'd Reinforcements were suspended, his Officers would not approve of the Attempt upon the Foot of such vast Inequalities; and their own declar'd Sentiments soon confirm'd the Dictates of the Earl's Reason. He therefore addresses himself to those Officers in a different Manner: He told 'em he only desir'd they would be passive, and leave it to him to work his own Way. Accordingly, the Earl found out and hired two Spanish Spies, for whose Fidelity (as his great Precaution always led him to do) he took sufficient Security; and dispatch'd 'em with a Letter to Colonel Jones, Governor of the Place, intimating his Readiness, as well as Ability, to relieve him; and, above all, exhorting him to have the Miquelets in the Town ready, on Sight of his Troops, to issue out, pursue, and plunder; since that would be all they would have to do, and all he would expect at their Hands. The Spies were dispatch'd accordingly; and, pursuant to Instructions, one betray'd and discover'd the other who had the Letter in charge to deliver to Colonel Jones. The Earl, to carry on the Feint, having in the mean time, by dividing his Troops, and marching secretly over the Mountains, drawn his Men together, so as to make their Appearance on the Height of a neighbouring Mountain, little more than Cannot-shot from the Enemy's Camp. The Tale of the Spies was fully confirm'd, and the Conde (though an able General) march'd off with some Precipitation with his Army; and by that Means the Earl's smaller Number of twelve Hundred had Liberty to march into the Town without Interruption. I must not let slip an Action of Colonel Jones's just before the Earl's Delivery of them: The Conde, for want of Artillery, had set his Miners to work; and the Colonel, finding they had made some dangerous Advances, turned the Course of a Rivulet, that ran through the Middle of the Town, in upon them, and made them quit a Work they thought was brought to Perfection.
SANTO Mattheo being reliev'd, as I have said, the Earl, though he had so far gain'd his Ends, left not the flying Enemy without a Feint of Pursuit; with such Caution, nevertheless, that in case they should happen to be better inform'd of his Weakness, he might have a Resource either back again to Santo Mattheo, or to Vinaros on the Sea-side; or some other Place, as occasion might require. But having just before receiv'd fresh Advice, that the Reinforcements he expected were anew countermanded; and that the Duke of Anjou had increas'd his Troops to twelve thousand Men; the Officers, not enough elated with the last Success to adventure upon new Experiments, resolv'd, in a Council of War, to advise the Earl, who had just before receiv'd a discretionary Commission in lieu of Troops, so to post the Forces under him, as not to be cut off from being able to assist the King in Person; or to march to the Defence of Catalonia, in case of Necessity.
Pursuant to this Resolution of the Council of War, the Earl of Peterborow, tho' still intent upon his Expedition into Valencia (which had been afresh commanded, even while his Supplies were countermanded) orders his Foot, in a truly bad Condition, by tedious Marches Day and Night over the Mountains, to Vinaros; and with his two hundred Horse, set out to prosecute his pretended Design of pursuing the flying Enemy; resolv'd, if possible, notwithstanding all seemingly desperate Circumstances, to perfect the Security of that Capital.
To that Purpose, the Earl, with his small Body of Patrolers, went on frightning the Enemy, till they came under the Walls of Nules, a Town fortify'd with the best Walls, regular Towers, and in the best Repair of any in that Kingdom. But even here, upon the Appearance of the Earl's Forlorn (if they might not properly at that time all have pass'd under that Character) under the same Panick they left that sensible Town, with only one Thousand of the Town's People, well arm'd, for the Defence of it. Yet was it scarce to be imagin'd, that the Earl, with his small Body of two hundred Horse, should be able to gain Admission; or, indeed, under such Circumstances, to attempt it. But bold as the Undertaking was, his good Genius went along with him; and so good a Genius was it, that it rarely left him without a good Effect. He had been told the Day before, that the Enemy, on leaving Nules, had got Possession of Villa Real, where they put all to the Sword. What would have furnish'd another with Terror, inspir'd his Lordship with a Thought as fortunate as it was successful. The Earl rides up to the very Gates of the Town, at the Head of his Party, and peremptorily demands the chief Magistrate, or a Priest, immediately to be sent out to him; and that under Penalty of being all put to the Sword, and us'd as the Enemy had us'd those at Villa-Real the Day or two before. The Troops, that had so lately left the Place, had left behind 'em more Terror than Men; which, together with the peremptory Demand of the Earl, soon produc'd some Priests to wait upon the General. By their Readiness to obey, the Earl very justly imagin'd Fear to be the Motive; wherefore, to improve their Terror, he only allow'd them six Minutes time to resolve upon a Surrender, telling them, that otherwise, so soon as his Artillery was come up, he would lay them under the utmost Extremities. The Priests return'd with this melancholy Message into the Place; and in a very short time after the Gates were thrown open. Upon the Earl's Entrance he found two hundred Horse, which were the Original of his Lordship's forming that Body of Horse, which afterwards prov'd the saving of Valencia.
The News of the taking of Nules soon overtook the flying Enemy; and so increas'd the Apprehensions of their Danger, that they renew'd their March, the same Day; though what they had taken before would have satisfy'd them much better without it. On the other hand, the Earl was so well pleas'd with his Success, that leaving the Enemy to fly before their Fears, he made a short Turn towards Castillon de la Plana, a considerable, but open Town, where his Lordship furnish'd himself with four hundred Horses more; and all this under the Assurance that his Troops were driving the Enemy before them out of the Kingdom. Hence he sent Orders to Colonel Pierce's Regiment at Vinaros to meet him at Oropesa, a Place at no great Distance; where, when they came, they were very pleasingly surpriz'd at their being well mounted, and furnish'd with all Accoutrements necessary. After which, leaving 'em canton'd in wall'd Towns, where they could not be disturb'd without Artillery, that indefatigable General, leaving them full Orders, went on his way towards Tortosa.
At Vinaros the Earl met with Advice, that the Spanish Militia of the Kingdom of Valencia were assembled, and had already advanc'd a Day's March at least into that Country. Upon which, collecting, as fast as he could, the whole Corps together, the Earl resolv'd to penetrate into Valencia directly; notwithstanding this whole collected Body would amount to no more than six hundred Horse and two thousand Foot.
But there was a strong Pass over a River, just under the Walls of Molviedro, which must be first disputed and taken. This Brigadier Mahoni, by the Orders of the Duke of Arcos, who commanded the Troops of the Duke of Anjou in the Kingdom of Valencia, had taken care to secure. Molviedro, though not very strong, is a wall'd Town, very populous of it self; and had in it, besides a Garrison of eight hundred Men, most of Mahoni's Dragoons. It lies at the very Bottom of a high Hill; on the upper Part whereof they shew the Ruins of the once famous SAGUNTUM; famous sure to Eternity, if Letters shall last so long, for an inviolable Fidelity to a negligent Confederate, against an implacable Enemy. Here yet appear the visible Vestigia of awful Antiquity, in half standing Arches, and the yet unlevell'd Walls and Towers of that once celebrated City. I could not but look upon all these with the Eyes of Despight, in regard to their Enemy Hannibal; with those of Disdain, in respect to the uncommon and unaccountable Supineness of its Confederates, the Romans; but with those of Veneration, as to the Memory of a glorious People, who rather than stand reproach'd with a Breach of Faith, or the Brand of Cowardice, chose to sacrifice themselves, their Wives, Children, and all that was dear to them, in the Flames of their expiring City.
In Molviedro, as I said before, Mahoni commanded, with eight hundred Men, besides Inhabitants; which, together with our having but little Artillery, induc'd the Officers under the Earl of Peterborow reasonably enough to imagine and declare, that there could be no visible Appearance of surmounting such Difficulties. The Earl, nevertheless, instead of indulging such Despondencies, gave them Hope, that what Strength serv'd not to accomplish, Art might possibly obtain. To that Purpose he proposed an Interview between himself and Mahoni; and accordingly sent an Officer with a Trumpet to intimate his Desire. The Motion was agreed to; and the Earl having previously station'd his Troops to advantage, and his little Artillery at a convenient Distance, with Orders they should appear on a slow March on the Side of a rising Hill, during the time of Conference, went to the Place appointed; only, as had been stipulated, attended with a small Party of Horse. When they were met, the Earl first offer'd all he could to engage Mahoni to the Interest of King Charles; proposing some Things extravagant enough (as Mahoni himself some time after told me) to stagger the Faith of a Catholick; but all to little Purpose: Mahoni was inflexible, which oblig'd the Earl to new Measures.
Whereupon the Earl frankly told him, that he could not however but esteem the Confidence he had put in him; and therefore, to make some Retaliation, he was ready to put it in his Power to avoid the Barbarities lately executed at Villa-Real.
"My Relation to you," continued the General, "inclines me to spare a Town under your Command. You see how near my Forces are; and can hardly doubt our soon being Masters of the Place: What I would therefore offer you, said the Earl, is a Capitulation, that my Inclination may be held in Countenance by my Honour. Barbarities, however justified by Example, are my utter Aversion, and against my Nature; and to testify so much, together with my good Will to your Person, was the main Intent of this Interview."
This Frankness so far prevail'd on Mahoni, that he agreed to return an Answer in half an Hour. Accordingly, an Answer was returned by a Spanish Officer, and a Capitulation agreed upon; the Earl at the same time endeavouring to bring over that Officer to King Charles, on much the same Topicks he us'd with Mahoni. But finding this equally fruitless, whether it was that he tacitly reproach'd the Officer with a Want of Consideration in neglecting to follow the Example of his Commander, or what else, he created in that Officer such a Jealousy of Mahoni, that was afterward very serviceable to him in his further Design.
To forward which to a good Issue, the Earl immediately made choice of two Dragoons, who, upon promise of Promotion, undertook to go as Spies to the Duke of Arcos, whose Forces lay not far off, on the other Side a large Plain, which the Earl must unavoidably pass, and which would inevitably be attended with almost insuperable Dangers, if there attack'd by a Force so much superior. Those Spies, according to Instructions, were to discover to the Duke, that they over-heard the Conference between the Earl and Mahoni; and at the same time saw a considerable Number of Pistoles deliver'd into Mahoni's Hands, large Promises passing at that Instant reciprocally: But above all, that the Earl had recommended to him the procuring the March of the Duke over the Plain between them. The Spies went and deliver'd all according to Concert; concluding, before the Duke, that they would ask no Reward, but undergo any Punishment, if Mahoni did not very soon send to the Duke a Request to march over the Plain, in order to put the concerted Plot in execution. It was not long after this pretended Discovery before Mahoni did send indeed an Officer to the Duke, desiring the March of his Forces over the Plain; but, in reality, to obstruct the Earl's Passage, which he knew very well must be that and no other way. However, the Duke being prepossess'd by the Spies, and what those Spanish Officers that at first escap'd had before infus'd, took Things in their Sense; and as soon as Mahoni, who was forc'd to make the best of his way over the Plain before the Earl of Peterborow, arriv'd at his Camp, he was put under Arrest and sent to Madrid. The Duke having thus imbib'd the Venom, and taken the Alarm, immediately decamp'd in Confusion, and took a different Rout than at first he intended; leaving that once formidable Plain open to the Earl, without an Enemy to obstruct him. In some little time after he arriv'd at Madrid, Mahoni made his Innocence appear, and was created a General; while the Duke of Arcos was recall'd from his Post of Honour.
The Day after we arriv'd at Valencia, the Gates of which fine City were set open to us with the highest Demonstrations of Joy. I call'd it a fine City; but sure it richly deserves a brighter Epithet, since it is a common Saying among the Spaniards, that the Pleasures of Valencia would make a Jew forget Jerusalem. It is most sweetly situated in a very beautiful Plain, and within half a League of the Mediterranean Sea. It never wants any of the Fragrancies of Nature, and always has something to delight the most curious Eye. It is famous to a Proverb for fine Women; but as infamous, and only in that so, for the Race of Bravoes, the common Companions of the Ladies of Pleasure in this Country. These Wretches are so Case-hardened, they will commit a Murder for a Dollar, tho' they run their Country for it when they have done. Not that other Parts of this Nation are uninfested with this sort of Animals; but here their Numbers are so great, that if a Catalogue was to be taken of those in other Parts of that Country, perhaps nine in ten would be found by Birth to be of this Province.
But to proceed, tho' the Citizens, and all Sorts of People, were redundant in their various Expressions of Joy, for an Entry so surprizing, and utterly lost to their Expedition, whatever it was to their Wishes, the Earl had a secret Concern for the Publick, which lay gnawing at his Heart, and which yet he was forced to conceal. He knew that he had not four thousand Soldiers in the Place, and not Powder or Ammunition for those; nor any Provisions lay'd in for any thing like a Siege. On the other Hand, the Enemy without were upwards of seven Thousand, with a Body of four Thousand more, not fifteen Leagues off, on their March to join them. Add to this, the Marechal de Thesse was no farther off than Madrid, a very few Days' March from Valencia; a short Way indeed for the Earl (who, as was said before, was wholly unprovided for a Siege, which was reported to be the sole End of the Mareschal's moving that Way.) But the Earl's never-failing Genius resolv'd again to attempt that by Art, which the Strength of his Forces utterly disallow'd him. And in the first Place, his Intelligence telling him that sixteen twenty-four Pounders, with Stores and Ammunition answerable for a Siege, were ship'd off for the Enemy's Service at Alicant, the Earl forthwith lays a Design, and with his usual Success intercepts 'em all, supplying that way his own Necessities at the Expence of the Enemy.
The four thousand Men ready to reinforce the Troops nearer Valencia, were the next Point to be undertaken; but hic labor, hoc opus; since the greater Body under the Conde de las Torres (who, with Mahoni, was now reinstated in his Post) lay between the Earl and those Troops intended to be dispers'd. And what inhaunc'd the Difficulty, the River Xucar must be passed in almost the Face of the Enemy. Great Disadvantages as these were, they did not discourage the Earl. He detach'd by Night four hundred Horse and eight hundred Foot, who march'd with such hasty Silence, that they surpriz'd that great Body, routed 'em, and brought into Valencia six hundred Prisoners very safely, notwithstanding they were oblig'd, under the same Night-Covert, to pass very near a Body of three Thousand of the Enemy's Horse. Such a prodigious Victory would hardly have gain'd Credit in that City, if the Prisoners brought in had not been living Witnesses of the Action as well as the Triumph. The Conde de las Torres, upon these two military Rebuffs, drew off to a more convenient Distance, and left the Earl a little more at ease in his new Quarters.
Here the Earl of Peterborow made his Residence for some time. He was extreamly well belov'd, his affable Behaviour exacted as much from all; and he preserv'd such a good Correspondence with the Priests and the Ladies, that he never fail'd of the most early and best Intelligence, a thing by no means to be slighted in the common Course of Life; but much more commendable and necessary in a General, with so small an Army, at open War, and in the Heart of his Enemy's Country.
The Earl, by this Means, some small time after, receiving early Intelligence that King Philip was actually on his March to Barcelona, with an Army of upwards of twenty five thousand Men, under the Command of a Mareschal of France, began his March towards Catalonia, with all the Troops that he could gather together, leaving in Valencia a small Body of Foot, such as in that Exigence could best be spar'd. The whole Body thus collected made very little more than two thousand Foot and six hundred Horse; yet resolutely with these he sets out for Barcelona: In the Neighbourhood of which, as soon as he arriv'd, he took care to post himself and his diminutive Army in the Mountains which inviron that City; where he not only secur'd 'em against the Enemy; but found himself in a Capacity of putting him under perpetual Alarms. Nor was the Mareschal, with his great Army, capable of returning the Earl's Compliment of Disturbance; since he himself, every six or eight Hours, put his Troops into such a varying Situation, that always when most arduously fought, he was farthest off from being found. In this Manner the General bitterly harrass'd the Troops of the Enemy; and by these Means struck a perpetual Terror into the Besiegers. Nor did he only this way annoy the Enemy; the Precautions he had us'd, and the Measures he had taken in other Places, with a View to prevent their Return to Madrid, though the Invidious endeavour'd to bury them in Oblivion, having equally contributed to the driving of the Mareschal of France, and his Catholick King, out of the Spanish Dominions.
But to go on with the Siege: The Breaches in the Walls of that City, during its Siege by the Earl, had been put into tolerable Repair; but those of Monjouick, on the contrary, had been as much neglected. However, the Garrison made shift to hold out a Battery of twenty-three Days, with no less than fifty Pieces of Cannon; when, after a Loss of the Enemy of upwards of three thousand Men (a Moiety of the Army employ'd against it when the Earl took it) they were forc'd to surrender at Discretion. And this cannot but merit our Observation, that a Place, which the English General took in little more than an Hour, and with inconsiderable Loss, afforded the Mareschal of France a Resistance of twenty-three Days.
Upon the taking of Fort Monjouick, the Mareschal de Thess gave immediate Orders for Batteries to be rais'd against the Town. Those Orders were put in Execution with all Expedition; and at the same time his Army fortify'd themselves with such Entrenchments, as would have ruin'd the Earl's former little Army to have rais'd, or his present much lesser Army to have attempted the forcing them. However, they sufficiently demonstrated their Apprehensions of that watchful General, who lay hovering over their Heads upon the Mountains. Their main Effort was to make a Breach between Port St. Antonio and that Breach which our Forces had made the Year before; to effect which they took care to ply them very diligently both from Cannon and Mortars; and in some few Days their Application was answer'd with a practicable Breach for a Storm. Which however was prudently deferr'd for some time, and that thro' fear of the Earl's falling on the Back of them whenever they should attempt it; which, consequently, they were sensible might put them into some dangerous Disorder.
And now it was that the Earl of Peterborow resolv'd to put in practice the Resolution he had some time before concerted within himself. About nine or ten Days before the Raising of the Siege, he had receiv'd an Express from Brigadier Stanhope (who was aboard Sir John Leake's Fleet appointed for the Relief of the Place, with the Reinforcements from England) acquainting the Earl, that he had us'd all possible Endeavours to prevail on the Admiral to make the best of his way to Barcelona. But that the Admiral, however, persisted in a positive Resolution not to attempt the French Fleet before that Place under the Count de Thoulouse, till the Ships were join'd him which were expected from Ireland, under the Command of Sir George Bing. True it was, the Fleet under Admiral Leake was of equal Strength with that under the French Admiral; but jealous of the Informations he had receiv'd, and too ready to conclude that People in Distress were apt to make Representations too much in their own Favour; he held himself, in point of Discretion, oblig'd not to hazard the Queen's Ships, when a Reinforcement of both cleaner and larger were under daily Expectation.
This unhappy Circumstance (notwithstanding all former glorious Deliverances) had almost brought the Earl to the Brink of Despair; and to increase it, the Earl every Day receiv'd such Commands from the King within the Place, as must have sacrificed his few Forces, without the least Probability of succeeding. Those all tended to his forcing his Way into the Town; when, in all human Appearance, not one Man of all that should make the Attempt could have done it, with any Hope or Prospect of surviving. The French were strongly encamp'd at the Foot of the Mountains, distant two Miles from Barcelona; towards the Bottom of those Hills, the Avenues into the Plain were possess'd and fortify'd by great Detachments from the Enemy's Army. From all which it will be evident, that no Attempt could be made without giving the Enemy time to draw together what Body of Foot they pleas'd. Or supposing it feasible, under all these difficult Circumstances, for some of them to have forc'd their Passage, the Remainder, that should have been so lucky to have escap'd their Foot, would have found themselves expos'd in open Field to a Pursuit of four thousand Horse and Dragoons; and that for two Miles together; when in case of their inclosing them, the bravest Troops in the World, under such a Situation, would have found it their best way to have surrender'd themselves Prisoners of War.
Nevertheless, when Brigadier Stanhope sent that Express to the Earl, which I just now mention'd, he assur'd him in the same, that he would use his utmost Diligence, both by Sea and Land, to let him have timely Notice of the Conjunction of the Fleets, which was now all they had to depend upon. Adding withal, that if the Earl should at any time receive a Letter, or Paper, though directed to no Body, and with nothing in it, but a half Sheet of Paper cut in the Middle, he, the Earl, might certainly depend upon it, that the two Fleets were join'd, and making the best of their Way for Barcelona. It will easily be imagin'd the Express was to be well paid; and being made sensible that he ran little or no Hazard in carrying a Piece of blank Paper, he undertook it, and as fortunately arriv'd with it to the Earl, at a Moment when Chagrin and Despair might have hurry'd him to some Resolution that might have prov'd fatal. The Messenger himself, however, knew nothing of the Joining of the Fleets, or the Meaning of his Message.
As soon as the Earl of Peterborow receiv'd this welcome Message from Brigadier Stanhope, he march'd the very same Night, with his whole little Body of Forces, to a Town on the Sea-Shore, call'd Sigeth. No Person guess'd the Reason of his March, or knew any thing of what the Intent of it was. The Officers, as formerly, obey'd without Enquiry; for they were led to it by so many unaccountable Varieties of Success, that Affiance became a second Nature, both in Officer and Soldier.
The Town of Sigeth was about seven Leagues to the Westward of Barcelona; where, as soon as the Earl with his Forces arriv'd, he took care to secure all the small Fishing-Boats, Feluccas, and Sattées; nay, in a Word, every Machine in which he could transport any of his Men: So that in two Days' time he had got together a Number sufficient for the Conveyance of all his Foot.
But a Day or two before the Arrival of the English Fleet off Sigeth, The Officers of his Troops were under a strange Consternation at a Resolution their General had taken. Impatient of Delay, and fearful of the Fleets passing by without his Knowledge, the Earl summon'd them together a little before Night, at which time he discover'd to the whole Assembly, that he himself was oblig'd to endeavour to get aboard the English Fleet; and that, if possible, before the French Scouts should be able to make any Discovery of their Strength: That finding himself of no further Use on Shore, having already taken the necessary Precautions for their Transportation and Security, they had nothing to do but to pursue his Orders, and make the best of their Way to Barcelona, in the Vessels which he had provided for them: That they might do this in perfect Security when they saw the English Fleet pass by; or if they should pass by in the Night, an Engagement with the French, which would give them sufficient Notice what they had to do further.
This Declaration, instead of satisfying, made the Officers ten times more curious: But when they saw their General going with a Resolution to lie out all Night at Sea, in an open Boat, attended with only one Officer; and understood that he intended to row out in his Felucca five or six Leagues distance from the Shore, it is hardly to be express'd what Amazement and Concern surpriz'd them all. Mr. Crow, the Queen's Minister, and others, express'd a particular Dislike and Uneasiness; but all to no purpose, the Earl had resolv'd upon it. Accordingly, at Night he put out to Sea in his open Felucca, all which he spent five Leagues from Shore, with no other Company than one Captain and his Rowers.
In the Morning, to the great Satisfaction of all, Officers and others, the Earl came again to Land; and immediately began to put his Men into the several Vessels which lay ready in Port for that Purpose. But at Night their Amaze was renew'd, when they found their General ready to put in execution his old Resolution, in the same Equipage, and with the same Attendance. Accordingly, he again felucca'd himself; and they saw him no more till they were landed on the Mole in Barcelona.
When the Earl of Peterborow first engag'd himself in the Expedition to Spain, he propos'd to the Queen and her Ministry, that Admiral Shovel might be join'd in Commission with him in the Command of the Fleet. But this Year, when the Fleet came through the Straites, under Vice-Admiral Leake, the Queen had sent a Commission to the Earl of Peterborow for the full Command, whenever he thought fit to come aboard in Person. This it was that made the General endeavour, at all Hazards, to get aboard the Fleet by Night; for he was apprehensive, and the Sequel prov'd his Apprehensions too well grounded, that Admiral Leake would make his Appearance with the whole Body of the Fleet, which made near twice the Number of the Ships of the Enemy; in which Case it was natural to suppose, that the Count de Tholouse, as soon as ever the French Scouts should give Notice of our Strength, would cut his Cables and put out to Sea, to avoid an Engagement. On the other hand, the Earl was very sensible, that if a Part of his Ships had kept a-stern, that the Superiority might have appear'd on the French Side, or rather if they had bore away in the Night towards the Coast of Africa, and fallen to the Eastward of Barcelona the next Day, a Battle had been inevitable, and a Victory equally certain; since the Enemy by this Means had been tempted into an Engagement, and their Retreat being cut off, and their whole Fleet surrounded with almost double their Number, there had hardly been left for any of them a Probability of Escaping.
Therefore, when the Earl of Peterborow put to Sea again the second Evening, fearful of loosing such a glorious Opportunity, and impatient to be aboard to give the necessary Orders, he order'd his Rowers to obtain the same Station, in order to discover the English Fleet. And according to his Wishes he did fall in with it; but unfortunately the Night was so far advanc'd, that it was impossible for him then to put his Project into practice. Captain Price, a Gentleman of Wales, who commanded a Third Rate, was the Person he first came aboard of; but how amaz'd was he to find, in an open Boat at open Sea, the Person who had Commission to command the Fleet? So soon as he was enter'd the Ship, the Earl sent the Ship's Pinnace with Letters to Admiral Leake, to acquaint him with his Orders and Intentions; and to Brigadier Stanhope with a Notification of his safe Arrival; but the Darkness of the Night prov'd so great an Obstacle, that it was a long time before the Pinnace could reach the Admiral. When Day appear'd, it was astonishing to the whole Fleet to see the Union Flag waving at the Main-top-mast Head. No body could trust his own Eyes, or guess at the Meaning, till better certify'd by the Account of an Event so singular and extraordinary.
When we were about six Leagues Distance from Barcelona, the Port we aim'd at, one of the French Scouts gave the Alarm, who making the Signal to another, he communicated it to a Third, and so on, as we afterward sorrowfully found, and as the Earl had before apprehended: The French Admiral being thus made acquainted with the Force of our Fleet, hoisted sail, and made the best of his Way from us, either pursuant to Orders, or under the plausible Excuse of a Retreat.
This favourable Opportunity thus lost, there remain'd nothing to do but to land the Troops with all Expedition; which was executed accordingly: The Regiments, which the Earl of Peterborow embark'd the Night before, being the first that got into the Town. Let the Reader imagine how pleasing such a Sight must be to those in Barcelona, reduc'd as they were to the last Extremity. In this Condition, to see an Enemy's Fleet give way to another with Reinforcements from England, the Sea at the same Instant cover'd with little Vessels crouded with greater Succours; what was there wanting to compleat the glorious Scene, but what the General had projected, a Fight at Sea, under the very Walls of the invested City, and the Ships of the Enemy sinking, or tow'd in by the victorious English? But Night, and a few Hours, defeated the latter Part of that well intended Landskip.
King Philip, and the Mareschal of France, had not fail'd to push on the Siege with all imaginable Vigour; but this Retreat of the Count de Tholouse, and the News of those Reinforcements, soon chang'd the Scene. Their Courage without was abated proportionably, as theirs within was elated. In these Circumstances, a Council of War being call'd, it was unanimously resolv'd to raise the Siege. Accordingly, next Morning, the first of May, 1706, while the Sun was under a total Eclypse, in a suitable Hurry and Confusion, they broke up, leaving behind them most of their Cannon and Mortars, together with vast Quantities of all sorts of Ammunition and Provisions, scarce stopping to look back till they had left all but the very Verge of the disputed Dominion behind them.
King Charles look'd with new Pleasure upon this lucky Effort of his old Deliverers. Captivity is a State no way desirable to Persons however brave, of the most private Station in Life; but for a King, within two Days of falling into the Hands of his Rival, to receive so seasonable and unexpected a Deliverance, must be supposed, as it really did, to open a Scene to universal Rejoicing among us, too high for any Words to express, or any Thoughts to imagine, to those that were not present and Partakers of it. He forthwith gave Orders for a Medal to be struck suitable to the Occasion; one of which, set round with Diamonds, he presented to Sir John Leake, the English Admiral. The next Orders were for re-casting all the damag'd brass Cannon which the Enemy had left; upon every one of which was, by order, a Sun eclyps'd, with this Motto under it: Magna parvis obscurantur.
I have often wonder'd that I never heard any Body curious enough to enquire what could be the Motives to the King of Spain's quitting his Dominions upon the raising of this Siege; very certain it is that he had a fine Army, under the Command of a Mareschal of France, not very considerably decreas'd, either by Action or Desertion: But all this would rather increase the Curiosity than abate it. In my Opinion then, though Men might have Curiosity enough, the Question was purposely evaded, under an Apprehension that an honest Answer must inevitably give a higher Idea of the General than their Inclinations led them to. At first View this may carry the Face of a Paradox; yet if the Reader will consider, that in every Age Virtue has had its Shaders or Maligners, he will himself easily solve it, at the same time that he finds himself compell'd to allow, that those, who found themselves unable to prevent his great Services, were willing, in a more subtil Manner, to endeavour at the annulling of them by Silence and Concealment.
This will appear more than bare Supposition, if we compare the present Situation, as to Strength, of the two contending Powers: The French, at the Birth of the Siege, consisted of five thousand Horse and Dragoons, and twenty-five thousand Foot, effective Men. Now grant, that their kill'd and wounded, together with their Sick in the Hospitals, might amount to five Thousand; yet as their Body of Horse was entire, and in the best Condition, the Remaining will appear to be an Army of twenty-five Thousand at least. On the other Side, all the Forces in Barcelona, even with their Reinforcements, amounted to no more than seven thousand Foot and four hundred Horse. Why then, when they rais'd their Siege, did not they march back into the Heart of Spain, with their so much superior Army? or, at least, towards their Capital? The Answer can be this, and this only; Because the Earl of Peterborow had taken such provident Care to render all secure, that it was thereby render'd next to an Impossibility for them so to do. That General was satisfy'd, that the Capital of Catalonia must, in course, fall into the Hands of the Enemy, unless a superior Fleet remov'd the Count de Tholouse, and threw in timely Succours into the Town: And as that could not depend upon him, but others, he made it his chief Care and assiduous Employment to provide against those Strokes of Fortune to which he found himself again likely to be expos'd, as he often had been; and therefore had he Resource to that Vigilance and Precaution which had often retriev'd him, when to others his Circumstances seem'd to be most desperate.
The Generality of Mankind, and the French in particular, were of opinion that the taking Barcelona would prove a decisive Stroke, and put a Period to the War in Spain; and yet at that very Instant I was inclin'd to believe, that the General flatter'd himself it would be in his Power to give the Enemy sufficient Mortification, even though the Town should be oblig'd to submit to King Philip. The wise Measures taken induc'd me so to believe, and the Sequel approv'd it; for the Earl had so well expended his Caution, that the Enemy, on the Disappointment, found himself under a Necessity of quitting Spain; and the same would have put him under equal Difficulties had he carry'd the Place. The French could never have undertaken that Siege without depending on their Fleet, for their Artillery, Ammunition, and Provisions; since they must be inevitably forc'd to leave behind them the strong Towns of Tortosa, Lerida, and Taragona. The Earl, therefore, whose perpetual Difficulties seem'd rather to render him more sprightly and vigorous, took care himself to examine the whole Country between the Ebro and Barcelona; and, upon his doing so, was pleasingly, as well as sensibly satisfy'd, that it was practicable to render their Return into the Heart of Spain impossible, whether they did or did not succeed in the Siege they were so intent to undertake.
There were but three Ways they could attempt it: The first of which was by the Sea-side, from Taragona towards Tortosa; the most barren, and consequently the most improper Country in the Universe to sustain an Army; and yet to the natural, the Earl had added such artificial Difficulties, as render'd it absolutely impossible for an Army to subsist or march that Way.
The middle Way lay through a better Country indeed, yet only practicable by the Care which had been taken to make the Road so. And even here there was a Necessity of marching along the Side of a Mountain, where by vast Labour and Industry, a high Way had been cut for two Miles at least out of the main Rock. The Earl therefore, by somewhat of the same Labour, soon made it impassable. He employ'd to that End many Thousands of the Country People, under a few of his own Officers and Troops, who cutting up twenty several Places, made so many Precipices, perpendicular almost as a Wall, which render'd it neither safe, or even to be attempted by any single Man in his Wits, much less by an Army. Besides, a very few Men, from the higher Cliffs of the Mountain, might have destroy'd an Army with the Arms of Nature only, by rolling down large Stones and Pieces of the Rock upon the Enemy passing below.
The last and uppermost Way, lay thro' the hilly Part of Catalonia, and led to Lerida, towards the Head of the Ebro, the strongest Place we had in all Spain, and which was as well furnish'd with a very good Garrison. Along this Road there lay many old Castles and little Towns in the Mountains, naturally strong; all which would not only have afforded Opposition, but at the same time had entertain'd an Enemy with variety of Difficulties; and especially as the Earl had given Orders and taken Care that all Cattle, and every Thing necessary to sustain an Army, should be convey'd into Places of Security, either in the Mountains or thereabouts. These three Ways thus precautiously secur'd, what had the Earl to apprehend but the Safety of the Arch-Duke; which yet was through no Default of his, if in any Danger from the Siege?
For I well remember, on Receipt of an Express from the Duke of Savoy (as he frequenly sent such to enquire after the Proceedings in Spain) I was shew'd a Letter, wrote about this time by the Earl of Peterborow to that Prince, which rais'd my Spirits, though then at a very low Ebb. It was too remarkable to be forgot; and the Substance of it was, That his Highness might depend upon it, that he (the Earl) was in much better Circumstances than he was thought to be: That the French Officers, knowing nothing of the Situation of the Country, would find themselves extreamly disappointed, since in case the Siege was rais'd, their Army should be oblig'd to abandon Spain: Or in case the Town was taken, they should find themselves shut up in that Corner of Catalonia, and under an Impossibility of forcing their Way back, either through Aragon or Valencia: That by this Means all Spain, to the Ebro, would be open to the Lord Galoway, who might march to Madrid, or any where else, without Opposition. That he had no other Uneasiness or Concern upon him, but for the Person of the Arch-Duke, whom he had nevertheless earnestly solicited not to remain in the Town on the very first Appearance of the intended Siege.