Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

SIEGE OF CALAIS.

71 stows upon them is, that they were not much afraid of the enemy, and thought if there were only three of them against one Englishman they should carry the day. The duke had two narrow escapes from death and from capture. One day, as he was reconnoitring, a cannonball killed four of his attendants close by; and shortly after, as he was riding along the coast to inspect some works which he had ordered to be constructed, he was saved from a party of English by the speed of his horse, and still more by the devoted fidelity of Jan van Platteels, who, instead of looking to his own safety, engaged the pursuers, and was taken prisoner, when he had the satisfaction of knowing that his master was in safety.*

Meantime, the sieur Jean de Croy, to whom the fortress of Balingen had surrendered on condition that the English should retire with part of their baggage, was ordered to besiege Guisnes. He got little profit there, says Holinshed, and did less harm. His force, however, was such, and his engines produced such effect upon the town, that the garrison thought it prudent to withdraw into the castle; and while that siege was prosecuted with little ad. vantage, à detachment of the besiegers, under Robert de Saveuses, took the castle of Zantgate by capitulation, and regarrisoned it. All this while it was a cooling card unto the Flemings, still to see ships from England · arriving in the harbour openly, before their faces, laden with provisions, munition, and men.” Their impatience, which, at first, vented itself in murmurs, broke out at length into loud complaints against the duke's council, and especially against aamiral Jan van Horne, seneschal of Brabant. The duke appeased them with gentle words, fair representations, and hopeful expectations: the fleet, he said, would soon arrive; he had letters announcing this; and if the wind had not hitherto been against them they would have sailed sooner. It was even more mortifying to perceive that the English seemed to consider themselves as much masters of the land as of the sea, and that every day they turned out their cattle to

* Sueyro, 282. Monstrelet, 362. Holinshed, 188.

66

pasture as if in defiance of the besiegers. The Picards were such expert marauders, that this was not always done with impunity; and their occasional success exciting some little envy or emulation, about 200 of the Ghentmen, including some who were above the common rank, set out upon a forage in the marshes before Calais. They were seen from the town, and recognised by their dress: incontinently a sally was made; and the foragers were attacked with such vigour, that some twenty were slain, some thirty taken, and the rest fled to their quarters in all haste, and in such fear that they spread confusion in the camp. Want of discipline, indeed, was continually betrayed, to the grief and mortification of the duke. The Flemings were on the alert and under arms at the slightest alarm, or apprehension of alarm : any trifling occurrence, therefore, at any moment might set the hole army in motion, and the duke could do nothing to prevent this, or to establish a better order; “ for these people,” says Monstrelet,“ would have every thing according to their own good pleasure.'

It was not long before a herald arrived from duke Humphrey, who delivered this bidding from his master, the duke of Gloucester, protector of England, to Philip duke of Burgundy ; “s that he would give him and his whole army battle where they then were, if they would tarry for his arrival ; or if they decamped thence, that he would seek them in any other place within their own territories, wherever the duke might appoint, and that with speed, if God would vouchsafe him wind and weather.”, Philip of Burgundy made answer in the noble spirit of the times:-“Sir, say to your master, that his challenge is both honourable and reasonable ; howbeit, he shall not need take the pains to seek me in my own country, for, God willing, he shall find me here till I have my will of the town, ready to abide him and all the power he can bring." After the herald had received this reply, he was treated with good cheer, and a cup with a hundred guilders was given him as a guer

* Monstrelet, 361-366. Sueyro, 282.

"*

SIEGE OP CALAIS.

73 don for his message. The duke had consulted only his own heart in returning this ready and becoming reply: he called a council on the morrow at the head quarters of the Flemings; and there, by master Gilles de la Voustine, his counsellor in the courts of Ghent, laid before the captains and nobles of Flanders the challenge which he had received, and his acceptance of it, entreating them, at the same time, as his true friends, to remain with him, and assist him in maintaining his honour. This they promised with unanimous good-will; and when the news was divulged, the nobles, who were ambitious of renown, hastened from all the neighbouring places to his camp, in expectation of a glorious day.*

At the same council it was determined to erect a high and strong bastile upon an eminence near the town, for the twofold purpose of commanding from thence a view of the movements within the walls, and of impeding the sallies of the garrison. It was mounted with sundry pieces of cannon, and manned with 400 troops under experienced leaders; Robert de Saveuses, whose military deserts had obtained for him the appellation of Le Bon, being one. This was greatly to the displeasure of the English, and they lost no time in attacking the new work; but it was so well defended, and reinforcements came to its support in such strength, that the attempt failed, and they retreated into Calais, leav. ing some dead. Much skirmishing ensued on the morrow and the following days at the barriers : in one of these affairs, the sieur de Plateaux was made prisoner, a half-witted knight, who, notwithstanding his folly, was a brave and resolute man in battle. On the 25th of July a fleet was descried, making towards the port. The duke mounted his horse and rode to the shore, eager to be certified that it was his own naval force, which had been so long and anxiously expected. A light vessel ad. vanced as near as the surf would permit, and a man, jumping into the water, assured him of the joyful fact. The tidings occasioned a jubilant commotion in his dis

* Holinshed, 188. Monstrelet, 367. Sueyro, 232.

orderly army; and so many hastened upon the downs, to enjoy the sight, that all the exertion of their captains was required to make as many as they could return for the defence of the camp.

The duke and his engineers had formed a notable project for blocking up the port. For this purpose six huge hulks had been filled with great square stones, well cemented, and, moreover, cramped with lead,

os to the intent that they should lie still like a mount, and not sever in sunder." Four of these, on the evening that the fleet arrived, were conveyed to the mouth of the harbour and there sunk, the fleet meantime keeping up a constant fire upon the ships in the port, one of which went down in consequence. The other two stone ships, at the next full sea were, by the same craft and policy, sunk also. “But,” says the English chronicler, “whether God would not that the haven should be destroyed, or that the conveyers of the hulks knew not the

channel, these ships, at low water, lay openly upon the sands.” At ebb tide the English, women as well as men, hastened from the town, and working at the demolition with hearty good-will, pulled them to pieces, in spite of a continual fire from the ships, to the great astonishment, as Monstrelet observes, of the duke and his admirals, and carried both the stones and the timber into the town, to be used for strengthening their own fortifications. * The fleet, which had the mortification

very

* Monstrelet, 369. Holinshed, 188. Sueyro says (p. 282.) fue gasto y trabajo inutil, pues quemando las los Ingleses se llevd los impedimentos la marea. Deziam algunos que no havian acertado con el puerto, los mas se burlaron de la traza. - Hall, 182.

Had this story found its way into any popular history of England, the experiment would not have been repeated at Boulogne during the war with Buonaparte ; but it had long been the fashion for modern historians to reject all the circumstances of history, and present little more than a caput mortuum of results. That a first lord of the admiralty should have read Monstrelet or Holinshed was not to be expected; but it might have been expected that he would have known what the rise of the tide is upon that coast.

The port of Calais was closed in a more extraordinary manner in the year 1679. “ The entrance," says Mr. Malcolm (Miscellaneous Anecdotes, p. 54.) “was so narrow that only one vessel could pass at a time, and not without considerable skill in the pilot, aided by the highest flow of the tide A ship from Amsterdam was entering under full sail, and received a violent shock, in consequence of which, the ship being repelled with great force, the crew moored in the roads, and waited for the next tide. They then made a second attempt, with the same result, and some damage to the ship. The captain sent the long boat at low water to sound about the place where this unaccou accident had happened. They found full grown whale lying directly across the channel,

[blocks in formation]

of seeing this extraordinary device thus frustrated, set sail for Holland on the morrow,

because the seamen knew how dangerous it was to keep the sea on that station; and also because they dreaded still more the appearance of the English armament, which it was reported was on the point of sailing. But the Flemings looked upon this as a desertion on the admiral's part, and as a proof of treason in the duke's ministers : they had been assured before they left Flanders, they said, that Calais should be besieged by sea as well as by land, and see how they had been betrayed ! With much difficulty the chiefs succeeded in pacifying them for the time; and when the duke convened the principal leaders of the commonalty to a grand council, and laid before them the whole plan of his intended operations, they seemed to be perfectly satisfied. He had ordered the ground to be examined by persons well acquainted with the country, and competent to such a task, and with their advice he had fixed upon a spot whereon to offer duke Humphrey battle, whenever he should arrive.

Hardly had the council in which the Flemings had thus resolutely concurred in the duke's brave determination been broken up, when the English sallied from the town in great force, and attacked the bastile : a cry went through the camp; all were in confusion, so little were they prepared for an alarm which ought always to have been expected : they hastened from all quarters to the defence, the duke himself hurrying there on foot; but horse as well as foot had sallied ; and while the infantry attacked the work, the horsemen interposed between it and the disorderly multitude, and presented so formidable a front, that before any assistance could be given, it was taken by pure force. About eight score of the garrison were slain, the greater part of the

dead, as if the first stroke from the ship had killed it; and the port was blocked up till it could be cut in pieces and removed."

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »