Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 6

BARCELONA being thus reliev'd, and King Philip forc'd out of Spain, by these cautious Steps taken by the Earl of Peterborow, before we bring him to Valencia, it will be necessary to intimate, that as it always was the Custom of that General to settle, by a Council of War, all the Measures to be taken, whenever he was oblig'd for the Service to leave the Arch-Duke; a Council of War was now accordingly held, where all the General Officers, and those in greatest Employments at Court assisted. Here every thing was in the most solemn Manner concerted and resolv'd upon; here Garrisons were settled for all the strong Places, and Governors appointed: But the main Article then agreed upon was, that King Charles should immediately begin his Journey to Madrid, and that by the Way of Valencia. The Reason assign'd for it was, because that Kingdom being in his Possession, no Difficulties could arise which might occasion Delay, if his Majesty took that Rout. It was likewise agreed in the same Council, that the Earl of Peterborow should embark all the Foot, not in Garrisons, for their more speedy, as well as more easy Conveyance to Valencia. The same Council of War agreed, that all the Horse in that Kingdom should be drawn together, the better to insure the Measures to be taken for the opening and facilitating his Majesty's Progress to Madrid.

Accordingly, after these Resolutions were taken, the Earl of Peterborow embarks his Forces and sails for Valencia, where he was doubly welcom'd by all Sorts of People upon Account of his safe Arrival, and the News he brought along with it. By the Joy they express'd, one would have imagin'd that the General had escap'd the same Danger with the King; and, in truth, had their King arriv'd with him in Person, the most loyal and zealous would have found themselves at a loss how to have express'd their Satisfaction in a more sensible Manner.

Soon after his Landing, with his customary Vivacity, he apply'd himself to put in execution the Resolutions taken in the Councils of War at Barcelona; and a little to improve upon them, he rais'd an intire Regiment of Dragoons, bought them Horses, provided them Cloaths, Arms, and Acoutrements; and in six Weeks time had them ready to take the Field; a thing though hardly to be parallell'd, is yet scarce worthy to be mentioned among so many nobler Actions of his; yet in regard to another General it may merit Notice, since while he had Madrid in Possession near four Months, he neither augmented his Troops, nor lay'd up any Magazines; neither sent he all that time any one Express to concert any Measures with the Earl of Peterborow, but lay under a perfect Inactivity, or which was worse, negotiating that unfortunate Project of carrying King Charles to Madrid by the roundabout and ill-concerted Way of Aragon; a Project not only contrary to the solemn Resolutions of the Council of War; but which in reality was the Root of all our succeeding Misfortunes; and that only for the wretched Vanity of appearing to have had some Share in bringing the King to his Capital; but how minute a Share it was will be manifest, if it be consider'd that another General had first made the Way easy, by driving the Enemy out of Spain; and that the French General only stay'd at Madrid till the Return of those Troops which were in a manner driven out of Spain.

And yet that Transaction, doughty as it was, took up four most precious Months, which most certainly might have been much better employ'd in rendering it impossible for the Enemy to re-enter Spain; nor had there been any Great Difficulty in so doing, but the contrary, if the General at Madrid had thought convenient to have join'd the Troops under the Earl of Peterhorow, and then to have march'd directly towards Pampelona, or the Frontiers of France. To this the Earl of Peterborow solicited the King, and those about him; he advis'd, desir'd, and intreated him to lose no time, but to put in Execution those Measures resolv'd on at Barcelona. A Council of War in Valencia renew'd the same Application; but all to no Purpose, his Rout was order'd him, and that to meet his Majesty on the Frontiers of Arragon. There, indeed, the Earl did meet the King; and the French General an Army, which, by Virtue of a decrepid Intelligence, he never saw or heard of till he fled from it to his Camp at Guadalira. Inexpressible with the Confusion in this fatal Camp: The King from Arragon, The Earl of Peterborow from Valencia arriving in it the same Day, almost the same Hour that the Earl of Galoway enter'd under a hasty Retreat before the French Army.

But to return to Order, which a Zeal of Justice has made me somewhat anticipate; the Earl had not been long at Valencia before he gave Orders to Major-General Windham to march with all the Forces he had, which were not above two thousand Men, and lay Siege to Requina, a Town ten Leagues distant from Valencia, and in the Way to Madrid. The Town was not very strong, nor very large; but sure the odliest fortify'd that ever was. The Houses in a Circle conneftively compos'd the Wall; and the People, who defended the Town, instead of firing from Hornworks, Counterscarps, and Bastions, fir'd out of the Windows of their Houses.

Notwithstanding all which, General Windham found much greater Opposition than he at first imagin'd; and therefore finding he should want Ammunition, he sent to the Earl of Peterborow for a Supply; at the same time assigning, as a Reason for it, the unexpected Obstinacy of the Town. So soon as the Earl receiv'd the Letter he sent for me; and told me I must repair to Requifia, where they would want an Engineer; and that I must be ready next Morning, when he should order a Lieutenant, with thirty Soldiers and two Matrosses, to guard some Powder for that Service. Accordingly, the next Morning we set out, the Lieutenant, who was a Dutchman, and Commander of the Convoy, being of my Acquaintance.

We had reach'd Saint Jago, a small Village about midway between Valencia and Requina, when the Officer, just as he was got without the Town, resolving to take up his Quarters on the Spot, order'd the Mules to be unloaded. The Powder, which consisted of forty-five Barrels, was pil'd up in a Circle, and cover'd with Oil-cloth, to preserve it from the Weather; and though we had agreed to sup together at my Quarters within the Village, yet being weary and fatigu'd, he order'd his Field-Bed to be put up near the Powder, and so lay down to take a short Nap. I had scarce been at my Quarters an Hour, when a sudden Shock attack'd the House so violently, that it threw down Tiles, Windows, Chimneys and all. It presently came into my Head what was the Occasion; and as my Fears suggested so it prov'd: For running to the Door I saw a Cloud ascending from the Spot I left the Powder pitch'd upon. In haste making up to which, nothing was to be seen but the bare Circle upon which it had stood. The Bed was blown quite away, and the poor Lieutenant all to pieces, several of his Limbs being found separate, and at a vast Distance each from the other; and particularly an Arm, with a Ring on one of the Fingers. The Matrosses were, if possible, in a yet worse Condition, that is, as to Manglement and Laceration. All the Soldiers who were standing, and any thing near, were struck dead. Only such as lay sleeping on the Ground escap'd, and of those one assur'd me, that the Blast remov'd him several Foot from his Place of Repose. In short, enquiring into this deplorable Disaster, I had this Account: That a Pig running out of the Town, the Soldiers endeavour'd to intercept its Return; but driving it upon the Matrosses, one of them, who was jealous of its getting back into the Hands of the Soldiers, drew his Pistol to shoot it, which was the Source of this miserable Catastrophe. The Lieutenant carry'd along with him a Bag of Dollars to pay the Soldiers' Quarters, of which the People, and the Soldiers that were say'd, found many; but blown to an inconceivable Distance.

With those few Soldiers that remain'd alive, I proceeded, according to my Order, to Requina; where, when I arriv'd, I gave General Windham an Account of the Disaster at St. Jago. As such it troubled him, and not a little on account of the Disappointment. However, to make the best of a bad Market, he gave Orders for the forming of a Mine under an old Castle, which was part of the Wall. As it was order'd, so it was begun, more in Terrorem, than with any Expectation of Success from it as a Mine. Nevertheless, I had scarce began to frame the Oven of the Mine, when those within the Town desir'd to capitulate. This being all we could aim at, under the Miscarriage of our Powder at St. Jago (none being yet arriv'd to supply that Defect) Articles were readily granted them; pursuant to which, that Part of the Garrison, which was compos'd of Castilian Gentry, had Liberty to go wherever they thought best, and the rest were made Prisoners of War. Requina being thus reduc'd to the Obedience of Charles III a new rais'd Regiment of Spaniards was left in Garrison, the Colonel of which was appointed Governor; and our Supply of Powder having at last got safe to us, General Windham march'd his little Army to Cuenca.

Daniel Defoe

Sorry, no summary available yet.