CUENCA is a considerable City and a Bishoprick; therefore to pretend to sit down before it with such a Company of Forragers, rather than an Army, must be plac'd among the hardy Influences of the Earl of Peterborow's auspicious Administration. On the out Part of Cuenca there stood an old Castle, from which, upon our Approach, they play'd upon us furiously: But as soon as we could bring two Pieces of our Cannon to bear, we answered their Fire with so good Success, that we soon oblig'd them to retire into the Town. We had rais'd a Battery of twelve Guns against the City, on their Rejection of the Summons sent them to come under the Obedience of King Charles; going to which from the old Castle last reduc'd, I receiv'd a Shot on the Toe of one of my Shoes, which carry'd that Part of the Shoe intirely away, without any further Damage.
When I came to that Battery we ply'd them warmly (as well as from three Mortars) for the Space of three Days, their Nights included; but observing, that in one particular House, they were remarkably busy; People thronging in and out below; and those above firing perpetually out of the Windows, I was resolv'd to have one Shot at that Window, and made those Officers about me take Notice of it. True it was, the Distance would hardly allow me to hope for Success; yet as the Experiment could only be attended with the Expence of a single Ball, I made it. So soon as the Smoak of my own Cannon would permit it, we could see Clouds of Dust issuing from out of the Window, which, together with the People's crouding out of Doors, convinc'd the Officers, whom I had desir'd to take Notice of it, that I had been no bad Marksman.
Upon this, two Priests were sent out of the Place with Proposals; but they were so triflingly extravagant, that as soon as ever the General heard them, he order'd their Answer in a fresh Renewal of the Fire of both Cannon and Mortars. And it happen'd to be with so much Havock and Execution, that they were soon taught Reason; and sent back their Divines, with much more moderate Demands. After the General had a little modell'd these last, they were accepted; and according to the Articles of Capitulation, the City was that very Day surrender'd into our Possession. The Earl of Duncannon's Regiment took Guard of all the Gates; and King Charles was proclaim'd in due Form.
The Earl of Peterborow, during this Expedition, had left Valencia, and was arriv'd at my Lord Galway's Camp at Guadalaxara; who for the Confederates, and King Charles in particular, unfortunately was order'd from Portugal, to take the Command from a General, who had all along been almost miraculously successful, and by his own great Actions pay'd the Way for a safe Passage to that his Supplanter.
Yet even in this fatal Place the Earl of Peterborow made some Proposals, which, had they been embrac'd, might, in all Probability, have secur'd Madrid from falling into the Hands of the Enemy; But, in opposition thereto, the Lord Galway, and all his Portugueze Officers, were for forcing the next Day the Enemy to Battle. The almost only Person against it was the Earl of Peterborow; who then and there took the Liberty to evince the Impossibility of coming to an Engagement. This the next Morning too evidently made apparent, when upon the first Motion of our Troops towards the River, which they pretended to pass, and must pass, before they could engage, they were so warmly saluted from the Batteries of the Enemy, and their small Shot, that our Regiments were forc'd to retire in Confusion to their Camp. By which Rebuff all heroical Imaginations were at present laid aside, to consider how they might make their Retreat to Valencia.
The Retreat being at last resolv'd on, and a Multiplicity of Generals rendering our bad Circumstances much worse, the Earl of Peterborow met with a fortunate Reprieve, by Solicitations from the Queen, and Desires tantamount to Orders, that he would go with the Troops left in Catalonia to the Relief of the Duke of Savoy. It is hardly to be doubted that that General was glad to withdraw from those Scenes of Confusion, which were but too visible to Eyes even less discerning than his. However, he forebore to prepare himself to put her Majesty's Desires in execution, as they were not peremptory, till it had been resolv'd by the unanimous Consent of a Council of War, where the King, all the Generals and Ministers were present. That it was expedient for the Service that the Earl of Peterborow, during the Winter Season, should comply with her Majesty's Desires, and go for Italy; since he might return before the opening of the Campaign, if it should be necessary. And return indeed he did, before the Campaign open'd, and brought along with him one hundred thousand Pounds from Genoa, to the great Comfort and Support of our Troops, which had neither Money nor Credit. But on his Return, that noble Earl found the Lord Galway had been near as successful against him, as he had been unsuccessful against the Enemy. Thence was the Earl of Peterborow recall'd to make room for an unfortunate General, who the next Year suffer'd himself to be decoy'd into that fatal Battle of Almanza.
The Earl of Peterborow, on his leaving Valencia, had order'd his Baggage to follow him to the Camp at Guadalaxara; and it arriv'd in our little Camp, so far safe in its way to the greater at Guadalaxara. I think it consisted of seven loaded Waggons; and General Windham gave Orders for a small Guard to escorte it; under which they proceeded on their Journey: But about eight Leagues from Cuenca, at a pretty Town call'd Huette, a Party from the Duke of Berwick's Army, with Boughs in their Hats, the better to appear what they were not (for the Bough in the Hat is the Badge of the English, as white Paper is the Badge of the French) came into the Town, crying all the way, Viva Carlos Tercero, Viva. With these Acclamations in their Mouths, they advanc'd up to the very Waggons; when attacking the Guards, who had too much deluded themselves with Appearances, they routed 'em, and immediately plunder'd the Waggons of all that was valuable, and then march'd off.
The Noise of this soon reach'd the Ears of the Earl of Peterborow at Guadalaxara. When leaving my Lord Galways Camp, pursuant to the Resolutions of the Council of War, with a Party only of fourscore of Killigrew's Dragoons, he met General Windham's little Army within a League of Huette, the Place where his Baggage had been plunder'd. The Earl had strong Motives of Suspicion, that the Inhabitants had given Intelligence to the Enemy; and, as is very natural, giving way to the first Dictates of Resentment, he resolv'd to have lay'd the Town in Ashes: But when he came near it, the Clergy and Magistrates upon their Knees, disavowing the Charge, and asserting their Innocence, prevail'd on the good Nature of that generous Earl, without any great Difficulty, to spare the Town, at least not to burn it.
We march'd however into the Town, and that Night took up our Quarters there; and the Magistrates, under the Dread of our avenging our selves, on their part took Care that we were well supplied. But when they were made sensible of the Value of the Loss, which the Earl had sustain'd; and that on a moderate Computation it amounted to at least eight thousand Pistoles; they voluntarily presented themselves next Morning, and of their own accord offer'd to make his Lordship full Satisfaction, and that, in their own Phrase, de Contado, in Ready Money. The Earl was not displeas'd at their Offer; but generously made Answer, That he was just come from my Lord Galway's Camp at Chincon, where he found they were in a likelihood of wanting Bread; and as he imagin'd it might be easier to them to raise the Value in Corn, than in ready Money; if they would send to that Value in Corn to the Lord Galway's Camp, he would be satisfy'd. This they with Joy embrac'd, and immediately complied with.
I am apt to think the last Century (and I very much fear the Current will be as deficient) can hardly produce a parallel Instance of Generosity and true public Spiritedness; And the World will be of my Opinion, when I have corroborated this with another Passage some Years after. The Commissioners for Stating the Debts due to the Army, meeting daily for that Purpose at their House in Darby Court in Channel Row, I there mentioned to Mr. Read, Gentleman to his Lordship, this very just and honourable Claim upon the Government, as Monies advanced for the Use of the Army. Who told me in a little Time after, that he had mention'd it to his Lordship, but with no other Effect than to have it rejected with a generous Disdain.
While we stayed at Huette there was a little Incident in Life, which gave me great Diversion. The Earl, who had always maintain'd a good Correspondence with the fair Sex, hearing from one of the Priests of the Place, That on the Alarm of burning the Town, one of the finest Ladies in all Spain had taken Refuge in the Nunnery, was desirous to speak with her.
The Nunnery stood upon a small rising Hill within the Town; and to obtain the View, the Earl had presently in his Head this Stratagem; he sends for me, as Engineer, to have my Advice, how to raise a proper Fortification upon that Hill out of the Nunnery. I waited upon his Lordship to the Place, where declaring the Intent of our coming, and giving plausible Reasons for it, the Train took, and immediately the Lady Abbess, and the fair Lady, came out to make Intercession, That his Lordship would be pleas'd to lay aside that Design. The divine Oratory of one, and the beautiful Charms of the other, prevail'd; so his Lordship left the Fortification to be the Work of some future Generation.
From Huette the Earl of Peterborow march'd forwards for Valencia, with only those fourscore Dragoons, which came with him from Chincon, leaving General Windham pursuing his own Orders to join his Forces to the Army then under the Command of the Lord Galway. But stopping at Campilio, a little Town in our Way, his Lordship had Information of a most barbarous Fact committed that very Morning by the Spaniards, at a small Villa, about a League distant, upon some English Soldiers.
A Captain of the English Guards (whose Name has slip'd my Memory, tho' I well knew the Man) marching in order to join the Battalion of the Guards, then under the Command of General Windham, with some of his Soldiers, that had been in the Hospital, took up his Quarters in that little Villa. But on his marching out of it, next Morning, a Shot in the Back laid that Officer dead upon the Spot: And as it had been before concerted, the Spaniards of the Place at the same Time fell upon the poor, weak Soldiers, killing several; not even sparing their Wives. This was but a Prelude to their Barbarity; their savage Cruelty was only whetted, not glutted. They took the surviving few; hurried and dragg'd them up a Hill, a little without the Villa. On the Top of this Hill there was a Hole, or Opening, somewhat like the Mouth of one of our Coal-Pits, down this they cast several, who, with hideous Shrieks and Cries, made more hideous by the Ecchoes of the Chasm, there lost their Lives.
This Relation was thus made to the Earl of Peterborow, at his Quarters at Campilio; who immediately gave Orders for to sound to Horse. At first we were all surpriz'd; but were soon satisfy'd, that it was to revenge, or rather, do Justice, on this barbarous Action.
As soon as we enter'd the Villa we found that most of the Inhabitants, but especially the most Guilty, had withdrawn themselves on our Approach. We found, however, many of the dead Soldiers Cloaths, which had been convey'd into the Church, and there hid. And a strong Accusation being laid against a Person belonging to the Church, and full Proof made, that he had been singularly Industrious in the Execution of that horrid Piece of Barbarity on the Hill, his Lordship commanded him to be hang'd up at the Knocker of the Door.
After this piece of military Justice, we were led up to the fatal Pit or Hole, down which many had been cast headlong. There we found one poor Soldier alive, who, upon his throwing in, had catch'd fast hold of some impending Bushes, and sav'd himself on a little Jutty within the Concavity. On hearing us talk English he cry'd out; and Ropes being let down, in a little Time he was drawn up; when he gave us an ample Detail of the whole Villany. Among other Particulars, I remember he told me of a very narrow Escape he had in that obscure Recess. A poor Woman, one of the Wives of the Soldiers, who were thrown down after him, struggled, and roared so much, that they could not, without all their Force, throw her cleaverly in the Middle; by which means falling near the Side, in her Fall she almost beat him from his Place of Security.
Upon the Conclusion of this tragical Relation of the Soldier thus saved, his Lordship gave immediate Orders for the Firing of the Villa, which was executed with due Severity: After which his Lordship march'd back to his Quarters at Campilio; from whence, two Days after, we arriv'd at Valencia, Where, the first Thing presented to that noble Lord, was all the Papers taken in the Plunder of his Baggage, which the Duke of Berwick had generously order'd to be return'd him, without waste or opening.
It was too manifest, after the Earl's arrival at this City, that the Alteration in the Command of the English Forces, which before was only receiv'd as a Rumour, had deeper Grounds for Belief, than many of his Friends in that City could have wish'd. His Lordship had gain'd the Love of all by a Thousand engaging Condescensions; even his Gallantries being no way prejudicial, were not offensive; and though his Lordships did his utmost to conceal his Chagrin, the Sympathy of those around him made such Discoveries upon him, as would have disappointed a double Portion of his Caution. They had seen him un-elated under Successes, that were so near being unaccountable, that in a Country of less Superstition than Spain, they might almost have pass'd for miraculous; they knew full well, that nothing, but that Series of Successes had pav'd a Passage for the General that was to supersede him; those only having removed all the Difficulties of his March from Portugal to Madrid; they knew him the older General; and therefore not knowing, that in the Court he came from, Intrigue was too often the Soul of Merit, they could not but be amazed at a Change, which his Lordship was unwilling any body should perceive by himself.
It was upon this Account, that, as formerly, he treated the Ladies with Balls, and to pursue the Dons in their own Humour, order'd a Tawridore or Bull-Feast. In Spain no sort of public Diversions are esteemed equal with this. But the Bulls provided at Valencia, not being of the right Breed, nor ever initiated in the Mysteries, did not acquit themselves at all masterly; and consequently, did not give the Diversion, or Satisfaction expected. For which Reason I shall omit giving a Description of this Bull-Feast; and desire my Reader to suspend his Curiosity till I come to some, which, in the Spanish Sense, were much more entertaining; that is, attended with much greater Hazards and Danger.
But though I have said, the Gallantries of the General were mostly political at least very inoffensive; yet there happen'd about this Time, and in this Place, a piece of Gallantry, that gave the Earl a vast deal of Offence and Vexation; as a Matter, that in its Consequences might have been fatal to the Interest of King Charles, if not to the English Nation in general; and which I the rather relate, in that it may be of use to young Officers, and others; pointing out to them the Danger, not to say Folly, of inadvertent and precipitate Engagements, under unruly Passions.
I have said before, that Valencia is famous for fine Women. It indeed abounds in them; and among those, are great Numbers of Courtezans not inferior in Beauty to any. Nevertheless, two of our English Officers, not caring for the common Road, however safe, resolv'd to launch into the deeper Seas, though attended with much greater Danger. Amours, the common Failing of that fair City, was the Occasion of this Accident, and two Nuns the Objects. It is customary in that Country for young People in an Evening to resort to the Grates of the Nunneries, there to divert themselves, and the Nuns, with a little pleasant and inoffensive Chit-chat. For though I have heard some relate a World of nauseous Passages at such Conversations, I must declare, that I never saw, or heard any Thing unseemly; and therefore whenever I have heard any such from such Fabulists, I never so much wrong'd my Judgment as to afford them Credit.
Our two Officers were very assiduous at the Grates of a Nunnery in this Place; and having there pitch'd upon two Nuns, prosecuted their Amours with such Vigour, that, in a little time, they had made a very great Progress in their Affections, without in the least considering the Dangers that must attend themselves and the Fair; they had exchang'd Vows, and prevail'd upon the weaker Vessels to endeavour to get out to their Lovers. To effect which, soon after, a Plot was lay'd; the Means, the Hour, and every thing agreed upon.
It is the Custom of that Nunnery, as of many others, for the Nuns to take their weekly Courses in keeping the Keys of all the Doors. The two Love-sick Ladies giving Notice to their Lovers at the Grate, that one of their Turns was come, the Night and Hour was appointed, which the Officers punctually observing, carry'd off their Prey without either Difficulty or Interruption.
But next Morning, when the Nuns were missing, what an Uproar was there over all the City? The Ladies were both of Quality; and therefore the Tidings were first carry'd to their Relations. They receiv'd the News with Vows of utmost Vengeance; and, as is usual in that Country, put themselves in Arms for that Purpose. There needed no great canvassing for discovering who were the Aggressors: The Officers had been too frequent, and too publick, in their Addresses, to leave any room for question. Accordingly, they were complain'd of and sought for, but sensible at last of their past Temerity, they endeavour'd, and with a great deal of Difficulty perfected their Escape.
Less fortunate were the two fair Nuns; their Lovers, in their utmost Exigence, had forsaken them; and they, poor Creatures, knew not where to fly. Under this sad Dilemma they were taken; and, as in like Offences, condemn'd directly to the Punishment of immuring. And what greater Punishment is there on Earth than to be confin'd between four narrow Walls, only open at the Top; and thence to be half supported with Bread and Water, till the Offenders gradually starve to Death?
The Earl of Peterborow, though highly exasperated at the Proceedings of his Officers, in compassion to the unhappy Fair, resolv'd to interpose by all the moderate Means possible. He knew very well, that no one Thing could so much prejudice the Spaniard against him, as the countenancing such an Action; wherefore he inveigh'd against the Officers, at the same time that he endeavour'd to mitigate in favour of the Ladies: But all was in vain; it was urg'd against those charitable Intercessions, that they had broke their Vows; and in that had broke in upon the Laws of the Nunnery and Religion; the Consequence of all which could be nothing less than the Punishment appointed to be inflicted. And which was the hardest of all, the nearest of their Relations most oppos'd all his generous Mediations; and those, who according to the common Course of Nature should have thank'd him for his Endeavours to be instrumental in rescuing them from the impending Danger, grew more and more enrag'd, because he oppos'd them in their Design of a cruel Revenge.
Notwithstanding all which the Earl persever'd; and after a deal of Labour, first got the Penalty suspended; and, soon after, by the Dint of a very considerable Sum of Money (a most powerful Argument, which prevails in every Country) sav'd the poor Nuns from immuring; and at last, though with great Reluctance, he got them receiv'd again into the Nunnery. As to the Warlike Lovers, one of them was the Year after slain at the Battle of Almanza; the other is yet living, being a Brigadier in the Army.
While the Earl of Peterborow was here with his little Army of great Hereticks, neither Priests nor People were so open in their superstitious Fopperies, as I at other times found them. For which Reason I will make bold, and by an Antichronism in this Place, a little anticipate some Observations that I made some time after the Earl left it. And as I have not often committed such a Transgression, I hope it may be the more excusable now, and no way blemish my Memoirs, that I break in upon the Series of my Journal.