Imágenes de páginas

enemy and, as he himself said, "Leave the issue with the God of battles."

On the 29th of August, 1586, the Duke of Parma entered Zutphen. He had previously sent on a reinforcement of horse and foot, but he was well aware of the encouragement given by his own personal appearance; he knew that the people were devotedly attached to him, regarding him both as saint and soldier, and he was therefore the more anxious to show himself amongst them. He had besides another object in view; he was desirous by personal observation of ascertaining the exact position of the enemy. He found Gibbet Hill, as we have seen, occupied by Sir John Norris, who was supposed to have thirty-five thousand men under his command. Sir John, in the opinion of Parma, was the best soldier the English had, and his position was impregnable. The rest of the English were on the other side of the river, and Parma observed with satisfaction that they had abandoned a small redoubt, outside the Low-gate, through which reinforcements might enter the city. Availing himself of this capital error on the part of Leicester, Parma determined to seize the opportunity of sending to Zutphen the much needed supplies. All through the night there was skirmishing between the Spaniards and the English; a Scotch officer who was captured assured Parma that Leicester had no less than fifteen thousand men under his command-rather more than double his real number-but had he declared, and had it been true, that thirty instead of fifteen thousand beleaguered the city, Parma would still have hazarded his experiment.

In the morning Parma returned to his camp and at once made rapid work in collecting victuals. Wheat and other provisions sufficient to feed four thousand men for three months were soon in readiness, and these he determined to send into Zutphen immediately, at every risk.

The incidents which followed are thus graphically related by the historian of the Netherlands:

The convoy which was now to be dispatched required great care and a powerful escort. Twenty-five hundred musketeers and pikemen, of whom one thousand were Spaniards, and six hundred cavalry, Epirotes, Spaniards, and. Italians, under Hannibal Gonzago, George Crescia, Bentivoghu, Sesa, and others, were accordingly detailed for this expedition. The Marquis del Vasto, to whom was entrusted the chief command, was ordered to march from Berkelo at midnight, on Wednesday, October 1. It was calculated that he would reach a certain hillock not far from

Warnsfeld by dawn of day. Here he was to pause and send forward an officer towards the town communicating his arrival, and requesting the co-operation of Verdugo, who was to make a sortie with one thousand men, according to Alexander of Parma's previous arrangements. The plan was successfully carried out. The marquis arrived by daybreak at the spot indicated, and dispatched Captain de Vego, who contrived to send intelligence of the fact. A trooper whom Parma had himself sent to Verdugo with earlier information of the movement, had been captured on the way. Leicester had therefore been apprized, at an early moment, of the prince's intentions; but he was not aware that the convoy would be accompanied by so strong a force as had really been detailed.

Leicester had accordingly ordered Sir John Norris, who commanded on the outside of the town, near the road which the Spaniards must traverse, to place an ambuscade in the way. Sir John, always ready for adventurous enterprises, took a body of two hundred cavalry, all picked men, and ordered Sir William Stanley, with three hundred pikemen, to follow. A much stronger force of infantry was held in reserve; but it was not thought it would be required. The ambuscade was successfully placed before the dawn of Thursday morning, in the neighbourhood of Warnsfeld Church. On the other hand, the Earl of Leicester himself, anxious as to the result, came across the river just at daybreak. He was accompanied by the chief gentlemen in his camp, who could never be restrained when blows were passing current.

The business that morning was commonplace enough-to "impeach" a convoy of wheat and barley, butter and cheese-but the names of the noble and knightly volunteers who took share in it, sound like the roll call for some chivalrous tournament. There were Essex and Audley, Stanley, Pelham, Russell, both the Sidneys, all the Norrises, Lord Willoughby "of courage fierce and full." Twenty such volunteers as these sat on horseback that morning around the stately Earl of Leicester. It seemed an incredible extravagance to send a handful of such heroes against an army.

It was five o'clock of a chill autumn morning. It was time for day to break, but the fog was so thick that a man at the distance of five yards was quite invisible. The creaking of wheels, and the measured tramp of soldiers, soon became faintly audible, however, to Sir John Norris and his five hundred as they sat there in the mist. Presently came galloping forward in hot haste those noblemen and gentlemen, with their esquires,

fifty in all, whom Leicester had been no longer due to restrain from taking part in the adventure.

A force of infantry, the mount of winch and be sunsductory sertained, had been crdered by the ears ross the bridge at a later momEA. Sir Philip Sidney's Crian of brse was the Iuventer, to whicà place it had been sent in order to assist in gating an anticipated revolt; so that he came, like most of his companions as a private rater and knight errant.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

The arrival of the expected convoy was soon more distinctly heard; but no scouts or outposts had been stationed to give notice of the enemy's movements. Suddenly the fog which had shrouded the scene so closely rolled away like a curtain, and in the full light of an October morning the English found themselves face to face with a compact body of three thousand men. The Marquis del Vasto rode at the head of the force,

surrounded by a band of mounted arquebus men. The cavalry was under other distinguished commanders; columns of pikemen and musketeers lined the hedgerow on both sides, while between them the long train of waggons slowly advanced under their protection. The whole force had got in motion, after having sent notice of their arrival to Verdugo, who with one or two thousand men was expected to sally forth almost immediately from the city gate.

There was but brief time for deliberation. Notwithstanding the tremendous odds there was no thought of retreat. Norris called to Stanley, with whom he had lately been at variance:

"There hath been ill blood between us. Let us be friends together this day and die side by side, if need be, in her Majesty's cause."

"If you see me not serve my prince with faithful courage now," rang out the voice of Stanley, "account me for ever a coward. Living or dying, I will stand or die by you in friendship."

While they spake the gallant young Earl of Essex spurred his horse and called to his troopers :

"Follow me, good fellows-for England, and for England's Queen!" As he spoke he dashed, lance in rest, upon the enemy's cavalry, overthrew the foremost man, horse and rider, shivered his own spear to splinters, and then, swinging his curtle-axe, rode merrily forward. His whole troop, compact as an arrow-head, flew with an irresistible shock against the opposing columns, pierced clean through them, and scattered them in all directions. At the very first charge one hundred English horsemen drove the Spanish and Albanian cavalry back upon the musketeers and pikemen. Wheeling with rapidity, they retired before a volley of musket shot, by which many riders and a few horses were killed, and then formed again to renew the attack. Sir Philip Sidney, in coming into the field, having met Sir William Pelham, a veteran soldier, lightly armed, had with chivalrous devotion thrown off his cuishes and now rode to the battle with no armour but his cuirass. At the second charge his horse was shot under him, but, mounting another, he was seen everywhere in the thick of the fight, behaving himself with a gallantry which extorted admiration even from the enemy.

The battle was a series of personal encounters in which high officers were doing the work of private soldiers. Lord North, who had been lying "bed-rid" with a musket shot in the leg, had got himself on horseback, and "with one boot on and one boot off," bore himself most valiantly

through the whole affair. As to Sir William Russell, he laid about him with his curtle-axe to such purpose, that the Spaniards pronounced him a devil and not a man. "Wherever," said an eye-witness, "he saw five or six of the enemy together, thither would he; and with his hard knocks soon separated their friendship." Lord Willoughby encountered George Crescia, general of the famed Albanian cavalry, unhorsed him at the first shock, and rolled him in the ditch. "I yield me thy prisoner," cried out Crescia in French, "for thou art a preux chevalier;" while Willoughby, trusting to his captive's word, gallopped onward, and with him the rest of the little troop, till they seemed swallowed up by the superior number of the enemy. His horse was shot under him, his bosses were torn from his legs, and he was nearly taken prisoner, but fought his way back with incredible strength and good fortune. William Stanley's horse had seven bullets in him, but bore his rider unhurt to the end of the battle.

Hannibal Gonzago, leader of the Spanish cavalry, fell mortally wounded... The Marquis del Vasto, commander of the expedition, nearly met the same fate. An Englishman was just about to cleave his head with a battle-axe, when a Spaniard transfixed the soldier with his pike. The most obstinate struggle took place about the train of waggons. The teamsters had fled in the beginning of the action, but the English and Spanish soldiers, struggling with the horses and pulling them forward and backward, tried in vain to obtain exclusive possession of the convoy which was the cause of the action. The carts at last forced their way nearer and nearer to the town, while the combat still went on, warm as ever, between the hostile squadrons. The action lasted an hour and a half, and again and again the Spanish horsemen wavered and broke before the handful of English, and fell back upon their musketeers. Sir Philip Sidney, in the last charge, rode quite through the enemy's ranks until he came upon their entrenchments, when a musket ball from the camp struck him upon the thigh, three inches above the knee. Although desperately wounded in a part which should have been protected by the cuishes he had thrown aside, he was disinclined to leave the field; but his own horse had been shot under him in the beginning of the action, and the one upon which he was now mounted became too restive for him thus crippled to control. He turned reluctantly away, and rode a mile and a half back to the entrenchments, suffering extreme pain, for his leg was dreadfully shattered. As he was supported by his attendants at the edge of the battle-field, one of them brought him a bottle of water to quench his raging thirst. At

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »