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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Revolt Of The Netherlands - Siege Of Antwerp By The Prince Of Parma, In The Years 1584 And 1585
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The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Siege Of Antwerp By The Prince Of Parma, In The Years 1584 And 1585 Post by :frenzy Category :Nonfictions Author :Frederich Schiller Date :May 2012 Read :3381

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The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Siege Of Antwerp By The Prince Of Parma, In The Years 1584 And 1585

It is an interesting spectacle to observe the struggle of man's inventive genius in conflict with powerful opposing elements, and to see the difficulties which are insurmountable to ordinary capacities overcome by prudence, resolution, and a determined will. Less attractive, but only the more instructive, perhaps, is the contrary spectacle, where the absence of those qualities renders all efforts of genius vain, throws away all the favors of fortune, and where inability to improve such advantages renders hopeless a success which otherwise seemed sure and inevitable. Examples of both kinds are afforded by the celebrated siege of Antwerp by the Spaniards towards the close of the sixteenth century, by which that flourishing city was forever deprived of its commercial prosperity, but which, on the other hand, conferred immortal fame on the general who undertook and accomplished it.

Twelve years had the war continued which the northern provinces of Belgium had commenced at first in vindication simply of their religious freedom, and the privileges of their states, from the encroachments of the Spanish viceroy, but maintained latterly in the hope of establishing their independence of the Spanish crown. Never completely victors, but never entirely vanquished, they wearied out the Spanish valor by tedious operations on an unfavorable soil, and exhausted the wealth of the sovereign of both the Indies while they themselves were called beggars, and in a degree actually were so. The league of Ghent, which had united the whole Netherlands, Roman Catholic and Protestant, in a common and (could such a confederation have lasted) invincible body, was indeed dissolved; but in place of this uncertain and unnatural combination the northern provinces had, in the year 1579, formed among themselves the closer union of Utrecht, which promised to be more lasting, inasmuch as it was linked and held together by common political and religious interests. What the new republic had lost in extent through this separation from the Roman Catholic provinces it was fully compensated for by the closeness of alliance, the unity of enterprise, and energy of execution; and perhaps it was fortunate in thus timely losing what no exertion probably would ever have enabled it to retain.

The greater part of the Walloon provinces had, in the year 1584, partly by voluntary submission and partly by force of arms, been again reduced under the Spanish yoke. The northern districts alone had been able at all successfully to oppose it. A considerable portion of Brabant and Flanders still obstinately held out against the arms of the Duke Alexander of Parma, who at that time administered the civil government of the provinces, and the supreme command of the army, with equal energy and prudence, and by a series of splendid victories had revived the military reputation of Spain. The peculiar formation of the country, which by its numerous rivers and canals facilitated the connection of the towns with one another and with the sea, baffled all attempts effectually to subdue it, and the possession of one place could only be maintained by the occupation of another. So long as this communication was kept up Holland and Zealand could with little difficulty assist their allies, and supply them abundantly by water as well as by land with all necessaries, so that valor was of no use, and the strength of the king's troops was fruitlessly wasted on tedious sieges.

Of all the towns in Brabant Antwerp was the most important, as well from, its wealth, its population, and its military force, as by its position on the mouth of the Scheldt. This great and populous town, which at this date contained more than eighty thousand inhabitants, was one of the most active members of the national league, and had in the course of the war distinguished itself above all the towns of Belgium by an untamable spirit of liberty. As it fostered within its bosom all the three Christian churches, and owed much of its prosperity to this unrestricted religious liberty, it had the more cause to dread the Spanish rule, which threatened to abolish this toleration, and by the terror of the Inquisition to drive all the Protestant merchants from its markets. Moreover it had had but too terrible experience of the brutality of the Spanish garrisons, and it was quite evident that if it once more suffered this insupportable yoke to be imposed upon it it would never again during the whole course of the war be able to throw it off.

But powerful as were the motives which stimulated Antwerp to resistance, equally strong were the reasons which determined the Spanish general to make himself master of the place at any cost. On the possession of this town depended in a great measure that of the whole province of Brabant, which by this channel chiefly derived its supplies of corn from Zealand, while the capture of this place would secure to the victor the command of the Scheldt. It would also deprive the league of Brabant, which held its meetings in the town, of its principal support; the whole faction of its dangerous influence, of its example, its counsels, and its money, while the treasures of its inhabitants would open plentiful supplies for the military exigencies of the king. Its fall would sooner or later necessarily draw after it that of all Brabant, and the preponderance of power in that quarter would decide the whole dispute in favor of the king. Determined by these grave considerations, the Duke of Parma drew his forces together in July, 1584, and advanced from his position at Dornick to the neighborhood of Antwerp, with the intention of investing it.

But both the natural position and fortifications of the town appeared to defy attacks. Surrounded on the side of Brabant with insurmountable works and moats, and towards Flanders covered by the broad and rapid stream of the Scheldt, it could not be carried by storm; and to blockade a town of such extent seemed to require a land force three times larger than that which the duke had, and moreover a fleet, of which he was utterly destitute. Not only did the river yield the town all necessary supplies from Ghent, it also opened an easy communication with the bordering province of Zealand. For, as the tide of the North Sea extends far up the Scheldt, and ebbs and flows regularly, Antwerp enjoys the peculiar advantage that the same tide flows past it at different times in two opposite directions. Besides, the adjacent towns of Brussels, Malines, Ghent, Dendermonde, and others, were all at this time in the hands of the league, and could aid the place from the land side also. To blockade, therefore, the town by land, and to cut off its communication with Flanders and Brabant, required two different armies, one on each bank of the river. A sufficient fleet was likewise needed to guard the passage of the Scheldt, and to prevent all attempts at relief, which would most certainly be made from Zealand. But by the war which he had still to carry on in other quarters, and by the numerous garrisons which he was obliged to leave in the towns and fortified places, the army of the duke was reduced to ten thousand infantry and seventeen hundred horse, a force very inadequate for an undertaking of such magnitude. Moreover, these troops were deficient in the most necessary supplies, and the long arrears of pay had excited them to subdued murmurs, which hourly threatened to break out into open mutiny. If, notwithstanding these difficulties, he should still attempt the siege, there would be much occasion to fear from the strongholds of the enemy, which were left in the rear, and from which it would be easy, by vigorous sallies, to annoy an army distributed over so many places, and to expose it to want by cutting off its supplies.

All these considerations were brought forward by the council of war, before which the Duke of Parrna now laid his scheme. However great the confidence which they placed in themselves, and in the proved abilities of such a leader, nevertheless the most experienced generals did not disguise their despair of a fortunate result. Two only were exceptions, Capizucchi and Mondragone, whose ardent courage placed them above all apprehensions; the rest concurred in dissuading the duke from attempting so hazardous an enterprise, by which they ran the risk of forfeiting the fruit of all their former victories and tarnishing the glory they had already earned.

But objections, which he had already made to himself and refuted, could not shake the Duke of Parma in his purpose. Not in ignorance of its inseparable dangers, not from thoughtless overvaluing his forces had he taken this bold resolve. But that instinctive genius which leads great men by paths which inferior minds either never enter upon or never finish, raised him above the influence of the doubts which a cold and narrow prudence would oppose to his views; and, without being able to convince his generals, he felt the correctness of his calculations in a conviction indistinct, indeed, but not on that account less indubitable. A succession of fortunate results had raised his confidence, and the sight of his army, unequalled in Europe for discipline, experience, and valor, and commanded by a chosen body of the most distinguished officers, did not permit him to entertain fear for a moment. To those who objected to the small number of his troops, he answered, that however long the pike, it is only the point that kills; and that in military enterprise, the moving power was of more importance than the mass to be moved. He was aware, indeed, of the discontent of his troops, but he knew also their obedience; and he thought, moreover, that the best means to stifle their murmurs was by keeping them employed in some important undertaking, by stimulating their desire of glory by the splendor of the enterprise, and their rapacity by hopes of the rich booty which the capture of so wealthy a town would hold out.

In the plan which he now formed for the conduct of the siege he endeavored to meet all these difficulties. Famine was the only instrument by which he could hope to subdue the town; but effectually to use this formidable weapon, it would be expedient to cut off all its land and water communications. With this view, the first object was to stop, or at least to impede, the arrival of supplies from Zealand. It was, therefore, requisite not only to carry all the outworks, which the people of Antwerp had built on both shores of the Scheldt for the protection of their shipping; but also, wherever feasible, to throw up new batteries which should command the whole course of the river; and to prevent the place from drawing supplies from the land side, while efforts were being made to intercept their transmission by sea, all the adjacent towns of Brabant and Flanders were comprehended in the plan of the siege, and the fall of Antwerp was based on the destruction of all those places. A bold and, considering the duke's scanty force, an almost extravagant project, which was, however, justified by the genius of its author, and crowned by fortune with a brilliant result.

As, however, time was required to accomplish a plan of this magnitude, the Prince of Parma was content, for the present, with the erection of numerous forts on the canals and rivers which connected Antwerp with Dendermonde, Ghent, Malines, Brussels, and other places. Spanish garrisons were quartered in the vicinity, and almost at the very gates of those towns, which laid waste the open country, and by their incursions kept the surrounding territory in alarm. Thus, round Ghent alone were encamped about three thousand men, and proportionate numbers round the other towns. In this way, and by means of the secret understanding which he maintained with the Roman Catholic inhabitants of those towns, the duke hoped, without weakening his own forces, gradually to exhaust their strength, and by the harassing operations of a petty but incessant warfare, even without any formal siege, to reduce them at last to capitulate.

In the meantime the main force was directed against Antwerp, which he now closely invested. He fixed his headquarters at Bevern in Flanders, a few miles from Antwerp, where he found a fortified camp. The protection of the Flemish bank of the Scheldt was entrusted to the Margrave of Rysburg, general of cavalry; the Brabant bank to the Count Peter Ernest Von Mansfeld, who was joined by another Spanish leader, Mondragone. Both the latter succeeded in crossing the Scheldt upon pontoons, notwithstanding the Flemish admiral's ship was sent to oppose them, and, passing Antwerp, took up their position at Stabroek in Bergen. Detached corps dispersed themselves along the whole Brabant side, partly to secure the dykes and the roads.

Some miles below Antwerp the Scheldt was guarded by two strong forts, of which one was situated at Liefkenshoek on the island Doel, in Flanders, the other at Lillo, exactly opposite the coast of Brabant. The last had been erected by Mondragone himself, by order of the Duke of Alvaa, when the latter was still master of Antwerp, and for this very reason the Duke of Parma now entrusted to him the attack upon it. On the possession of these two forts the success of the siege seemed wholly to depend, since all the vessels sailing from Zealand to Antwerp must pass under their guns. Both forts had a short time before been strengthened by the besieged, and the former was scarcely finished when the Margrave of Rysburg attacked it. The celerity with which he went to work surprised the enemy before they were sufficiently prepared for defence, and a brisk assault quickly placed Liefkenshoek in the hands of the Spaniards. The confederates sustained this loss on the same fatal day that the Prince of Orange fell at Delft by the hands of an assassin. The other batteries, erected on the island of Doel, were partly abandoned by their defenders, partly taken by surprise, so that in a short time the whole Flemish side was cleared of the enemy. But the fort at Lillo, on the Brabant shore, offered a more vigorous resistance, since the people of Antwerp had had time to strengthen its fortifications and to provide it with a strong garrison. Furious sallies of the besieged, led by Odets von Teligny, supported by the cannon of the fort, destroyed all the works of the Spaniards, and an inundation, which was effected by opening the sluices, finally drove them away from the place after a three weeks' siege, and with the loss of nearly two thousand killed. They now retired into their fortified camp at Stabroek, and contented themselves with taking possession of the dams which run across the lowlands of Bergen, and oppose a breastwork to the encroachments of the East Scheldt.

The failure of his attempt upon the fort of Lillo compelled the Prince of Parma to change his measures. As he could not succeed in stopping the passage of the Scheldt by his original plan, on which the success of the siege entirely depended, he determined to effect his purpose by throwing a bridge across the whole breadth of the river. The thought was bold, and there were many who held it to be rash. Both the breadth of the stream, which at this part exceeds twelve hundred paces, as well as its violence, which is still further augmented by the tides of the neighboring sea, appeared to render every attempt of this kind impracticable. Moreover, he had to contend with a deficiency of timber, vessels, and workmen, as well as with the dangerous position between the fleets of Antwerp and of Zealand, to which it would necessarily be an easy task, in combination with a boisterous element, to interrupt so tedious a work. But the Prince of Parma knew his power, and his settled resolution would yield to nothing short of absolute impossibility. After he had caused the breadth as well as the depth of the river to be measured, and had consulted with two of his most skilful engineers, Barocci and Plato, it was settled that the bridge should be constructed between Calloo in Flanders and Ordain in Brabant. This spot was selected because the river is here narrowest, and bends a little to the right, and so detains vessels a while by compelling them to tack. To cover the bridge strong bastions were erected at both ends, of which the one on the Flanders side was named Fort St. Maria, the other, on the Brabant side, Fort St. Philip, in honor of the king.

While active preparations were making in the Spanish camp for the execution of this scheme, and the whole attention of the enemy was directed to it, the duke made an unexpected attack upon Dendermonde, a strong town between Ghent and Antwerp, at the confluence of the Dender and the Scheldt. As long as this important place was in the hands of the enemy the towns of Ghent and Antwerp could mutually support each other, and by the facility of their communication frustrate all the efforts of the besiegers. Its capture would leave the prince free to act against both towns, and might decide the fate of his undertaking. The rapidity of his attack left the besieged no time to open their sluices and lay the country under water. A hot cannonade was opened upon the chief bastion of the town before the Brussels gate, but was answered by the fire of the besieged, which made great havoc amongst the Spaniards. It increased, however, rather than discouraged their ardor, and the insults of the garrison, who mutilated the statue of a saint before their eyes, and after treating it with the most contumelious indignity, hurled it down from the rampart, raised their fury to the highest pitch. Clamorously they demanded to be led against the bastion before their fire had made a sufficient breach in it, and the prince, to avail himself of the first ardor of their impetuosity, gave the signal for the assault. After a sanguinary contest of two hours the rampart was mounted, and those who were not sacrificed to the first fury of the Spaniards threw themselves into the town. The latter was indeed now more exposed, a fire being directed upon it from the works which had been carried; but its strong walls and the broad moat which surrounded it gave reason to expect a protracted resistance. The inventive resources of the Prince of Parma soon overcame this obstacle also. While the bombardment was carried on night and day, the troops were incessantly employed in diverting the course of the Dender, which supplied the fosse with water, and the besieged were seized with despair as they saw the water of the trenches, the last defence of the town, gradually disappear. They hastened to capitulate, and in August, 1584, received a Spanish garrison. Thus, in the space of eleven days, the Prince of Parrna accomplished an undertaking which, in the opinion of competent judges, would require as many weeks.

The town of Ghent, now cut off from Antwerp and the sea, and hard pressed by the troops of the king, which were encamped in its vicinity, and without hope of immediate succor, began to despair, as famine, with all its dreadful train, advanced upon them with rapid steps. The inhabitants therefore despatched deputies to the Spanish camp at Bevern, to tender its submission to the king upon the same terms as the prince had a short time previously offered. The deputies were informed that the time for treaties was past, and that an unconditional submission alone could appease the just anger of the monarch whom they had offended by their rebellion. Nay, they were even given to understand that it would be only through his great mercy if the same humiliation were not exacted from them as their rebellious ancestors were forced to undergo under Charles V., namely, to implore pardon half-naked, and with a cord round their necks. The deputies returned to Ghent in despair, but three days afterwards a new deputation was sent to the Spanish camp, which at last, by the intercession of one of the prince's friends, who was a prisoner in Ghent, obtained peace upon moderate terms. The town was to pay a fine of two hundred thousand florins, recall the banished papists, and expel the Protestant inhabitants, who, however, were to be allowed two years for the settlement of their affairs. All the inhabitants except six, who were reserved for capital punishment (but afterwards pardoned), were included in a general amnesty, and the garrison, which amounted to two thousand men, was allowed to evacuate the place with the honors of war. This treaty was concluded in September of the same year, at the headquarters at Bevern, and immediately three thousand Spaniards marched into the town as a garrison.

It was more by the terror of his name and the dread of famine than by the force of arms that the Prince of Parma had succeeded in reducing this city to submission, the largest and strongest in the Netherlands, which was little inferior to Paris within the barriers of its inner town, consisted of thirty-seven thousand houses, and was built on twenty islands, connected by ninety-eight stone bridges. The important privileges which in the course of several centuries this city had contrived to extort from its rulers fostered in its inhabitants a spirit of independence, which not unfrequently degenerated into riot and license, and naturally brought it in collision with the Austrian-Spanish government. And it was exactly this bold spirit of liberty which procured for the Reformation the rapid and extensive success it met with in this town, and the combined incentives of civil and religious freedom produced all those scenes of violence by which, during the rebellion, it had unfortunately distinguished itself. Besides the fine levied, the prince found within the walls a large store of artillery, carriages, ships, and building materials of all kinds, with numerous workmen and sailors, who materially aided him in his plans against Antwerp.

Before Ghent surrendered to the king Vilvorden and Herentals had fallen into the hands of the Spaniards, and the capture of the block-houses near the village of Willebrock had cut off Antwerp from Brussels and Malines. The loss of these places within so short a period deprived Antwerp of all hope of succor from Brabant and Flanders, and limited all their expectations to the assistance which might be looked for from Zealand. But to deprive them also of this the Prince of Parma was now making the most energetic preparations.

The citizens of Antwerp had beheld the first operations of the enemy against their town with the proud security with which the sight of their invincible river inspired them. This confidence was also in a degree justified by the opinion of the Prince of Orange, who, upon the first intelligence of the design, had said that the Spanish army would inevitably perish before the walls of Antwerp. That nothing, however, might be neglected, he sent, a short time before his assassination, for the burgomaster of Antwerp, Philip Marnix of St. Aldegonde, his intimate friend, to Delft, where he consulted with him as to the means of maintaining defensive operations. It was agreed between then that it would be advisable to demolish forthwith the great dam between Sanvliet and Lillo called the Blaaugarendyk, so as to allow the waters of the East Scheldt to inundate, if necessary, the lowlands of Bergen, and thus, in the event of the Scheldt being closed, to open a passage for the Zealand vessels to the town across the inundated country. Aldegonde had, after his return, actually persuaded the magistrate and the majority of the citizens to agree to this proposal, when it was resisted by the guild of butchers, who claimed that they would be ruined by such a measure; for the plain which it was wished to lay under water was a vast tract of pasture land, upon which about twelve thousand oxen--were annually put to graze. The objection of the butchers was successful, and they managed to prevent the execution of this salutary scheme until the enemy had got possession of the dams as well as the pasture land.

At the suggestion of the burgomaster St. Aldegonde, who, himself a member of the states of Brabant, was possessed of great authority in that council, the fortifications on both sides the Scheldt had, a short time before the arrival of the Spaniards, been placed in repair, and many new redoubts erected round the town. The dams had been cut through at Saftingen, and the water of the West Scheldt let out over nearly the whole country of Waes. In the adjacent Marquisate of Bergen troops had been enlisted by the Count of Hohenlohe, and a Scotch regiment, under the command of Colonel Morgan, was already in the pay of the republic, while fresh reinforcements were daily expected from England and France. Above all, the states of Holland and Zealand were called upon to hasten their supplies. But after the enemy had taken strong positions on both sides of the river, and the fire of their batteries made the navigation dangerous, when place after place in Brabant fell into their hands, and their cavalry had cut off all communication on the land side, the inhabitants of Antwerp began at last to entertain serious apprehensions for the future. The town then contained eighty-five thousand souls, and according to calculation three hundred thousand quarters of corn were annually required for their support. At the beginning of the siege neither the supply nor the money was wanting for the laying in of such a store; for in spite of the enemy's fire the Zealand victualling ships, taking advantage of the rising tide, contrived to make their way to the town. All that was requisite was to prevent any of the richer citizens from buying up these supplies, and, in case of scarcity, raising the price. To secure his object, one Gianibelli from Mantua, who had rendered important services in the course of the siege, proposed a property tax of one penny in every hundred, and the appointment of a board of respectable persons to purchase corn with this money, and distribute it weekly. And until the returns of this tax should be available the richer classes should advance the required sum, holding the corn purchased, as a deposit, in their own magazines; and were also to share in the profit. But this plan was unwelcome to the wealthier citizens, who had resolved to profit by the general distress. They recommended that every individual should be required to provide himself with a sufficient supply for two years; a proposition which, however it might suit their own circumstances, was very unreasonable in regard to the poorer inhabitants, who, even before the siege, could scarcely find means to supply themselves for so many months. They obtained indeed their object, which was to reduce the poor to the necessity of either quitting the place or becoming entirely their dependents. But when they afterwards reflected that in the time of need the rights of property would not be respected, they found it advisable not to be over-hasty in making their own purchases.

The magistrate, in order to avert an evil that would have pressed upon individuals only, had recourse to an expedient which endangered the safety of all. Some enterprising persons in Zealand had freighted a large fleet with provisions, which succeeded in passing the guns of the enemy, and discharged its cargo at Antwerp. The hope of a large profit had tempted the merchants to enter upon this hazardous speculation; in this, however, they were disappointed, as the magistrate of Antwerp had, just before their arrival, issued an edict regulating the price of all the necessaries of life. At the same time to prevent individuals from buying up the whole cargo and storing it in their magazines with a view of disposing of it afterwards at a dearer rate, he ordered that the whole should be publicly sold in any quantities from the vessels. The speculators, cheated of their hopes of profit by these precautions, set sail again, and left Antwerp with the greater part of their cargo, which would have sufficed for the support of the town for several months.

This neglect of the most essential and natural means of preservation can only be explained by the supposition that the inhabitants considered it absolutely impossible ever to close the Scheldt completely, and consequently had not the least apprehension that things would come to extremity. When the intelligence arrived in Antwerp that the prince intended to throw a bridge over the Scheldt the idea was universally ridiculed as chimerical. An arrogant comparison was drawn between the republic and the stream, and it was said that the one would bear the Spanish yoke as little as the other. "A river which is twenty-four hundred feet broad, and, with its own waters alone, above sixty feet deep, but which with the tide rose twelve feet more--would such a stream," it was asked, "submit to be spanned by a miserable piece of paling? Where were beams to be found high enough to reach to the bottom and project above the surface? and how was a work of this kind to stand in winter, when whole islands and mountains of ice, which stone walls could hardly resist, would be driven by the flood against its weak timbers, and splinter them to pieces like glass? Or, perhaps, the prince purposed to construct a bridge of boats; if so, where would he procure the latter, and how bring them into his intrenchments? They must necessarily be brought past Antwerp, where a fleet was ready to capture or sink them."

But while they were trying to prove the absurdity of the Prince of Parma's undertaking he had already completed it. As soon as the forts St. Maria and St. Philip were erected, and protected the workmen and the work by their fire, a pier was built out into the stream from both banks, for which purpose the masts of the largest vessels were employed; by a skilful arrangement of the timbers they contrived to give the whole such solidity that, as the result proved, it was able to resist the violent pressure of the ice. These timbers, which rested firmly and securely on the bottom of the river, and projected a considerable height above it, being covered with planks, afforded a commodious roadway. It was wide enough to allow eight men to cross abreast, and a balustrade that ran along it on both sides, protected them from the fire of small-arms from the enemy's vessels. This "stacade," as it was called, ran from the two opposite shores as far as the increasing depth and force of the stream allowed. It reduced the breadth of the river to about eleven hundred feet; as, however, the middle and proper current would not admit of such a barrier, there remained, therefore, between the two stacades a space of more than six hundred paces through which a whole fleet of transports could sail with ease. This intervening space the prince designed to close by a bridge of boats, for which purpose the craft must be procured from Dunkirk. But, besides that they could not be obtained in any number at that place, it would be difficult to bring them past Antwerp without great loss. He was, therefore, obliged to content himself for the time with having narrowed the stream one-half, and rendered the passage of the enemy's vessels so much the more difficult. Where the stacades terminated in the middle of the stream they spread out into parallelograms, which were mounted with heavy guns, and served as a kind of battery on the water. From these a heavy fire was opened on every vessel that attempted to pass through this narrow channel. Whole fleets, however, and single vessels still attempted and succeeded in passing this dangerous strait.

Meanwhile Ghent surrendered, and this unexpected success at once rescued the prince from his dilemma. He found in this town everything necessary to complete his bridge of boats; and the only difficulty now was its safe transport, which was furnished by the enemy themselves. By cutting the dams at Saftingen a great part of the country of Waes, as far as the village of Borcht, had been laid under water, so that it was not difficult to cross it with flat-bottomed boats. The prince, therefore, ordered his vessels to run out from Ghent, and after passing Dendermonde and Rupelmonde to pass through the left dyke of the Scheldt, leaving Antwerp to the right, and sail over the inundated fields in the direction of Borcht. To protect this passage a fort was erected at the latter village, which would keep the enemy in check. All succeeded to his wishes, though not without a sharp action with the enemy's flotilla, which was sent out to intercept this convoy. After breaking through a few more dams on their route, they reached the Spanish quarters at Calloo, and successfully entered the Scheldt again. The exultation of the army was greater when they discovered the extent of the danger the vessels had so narrowly escaped. Scarcely had they got quit of the enemy's vessels when a strong reinforcement from Antwerp got under weigh, commanded by the valiant defender of Lillo, Odets von Teligny. When this officer saw that the affair was over, and that the enemy had escaped, he took possession of the dam through which their fleet had passed, and threw up a fort on the spot in order to stop the passage of any vessels from Ghent which might attempt to follow them.

By this step the prince was again thrown into embarrassment. He was far from having as yet a sufficient number of vessels, either for the construction of the bridge or for its defence, and the passage by which the former convoy had arrived was now closed by the fort erected by Teligny. While he was reconnoitring the country to discover a new way for his, fleets an idea occurred to him which not only put an end to his present dilemma, but greatly accelerated the success of his whole plan. Not far from the village of Stecken, in Waes, which is within some five thousand paces of the commencement of the inundation, flows a small stream called the Moer, which falls into the Scheldt near Ghent. From this river he caused a canal to be dug to the spot where the inundations began, and as the water of these was not everywhere deep enough for the transit of his boats, the canal between Bevern and Verrebroek was continued to Calloo, where it was met by the Scheldt. At this work five hundred pioneers labored without intermission, and in order to cheer the toil of the soldiers the prince himself took part in it. In this way did he imitate the example of the two celebrated Romans, Drusus and Corbulo, who by similar works had united the Rhine with the Zuyder Zee, and the Maes with the Rhine?

This canal, which the army in honor of its projector called the canal of Parma, was fourteen thousand paces in length, and was of proportion able depth and breadth, so as to be navigable for ships of a considerable burden. It afforded to the vessels from Ghent not only a more secure, but also a much shorter course to the Spanish quarters, because it was no longer necessary to follow the many windings of the Scheldt, but entering the Moer at once near Ghent, and from thence passing close to Stecken, they could proceed through the canal and across the inundated country as far as Calloo. As the produce of all Flanders was brought to the town of Ghent, this canal placed the Spanish camp in communication with the whole province. Abundance poured into the camp from all quarters, so that during the whole course of the siege the Spaniards suffered no scarcity of any kind. But the greatest benefit which the prince derived from this work was an adequate supply of flat-bottomed vessels to complete his bridge.

These preparations were overtaken by the arrival of winter, which, as the Scheldt was filled with drift-ice, occasioned a considerable delay in the building of the bridge. The prince had contemplated with anxiety the approach of this season, lest it should prove highly destructive to the work he had undertaken, and afford the enemy a favorable opportunity for making a serious attack upon it. But the skill of his engineers saved him from the one danger, and the strange inaction of the enemy freed him from the other. It frequently happened, indeed, that at flood-time large pieces of ice were entangled in the timbers, and shook them violently, but they stood the assault of the furious element, which only served to prove their stability.

In Antwerp, meanwhile, important moments had been wasted in futile deliberations; and in a struggle of factions the general welfare was neglected. The government of the town was divided among too many heads, and much too great a share in it was held by the riotous mob to allow room for calmness of deliberation or firmness of action. Besides the municipal magistracy itself, in which the burgomaster had only a single voice, there were in the city a number of guilds, to whom were consigned the charge of the internal and external defence, the provisioning of the town, its fortifications, the marine, commerce, etc.; some of whom must be consulted in every business of importance. By means of this crowd of speakers, who intruded at pleasure into the council, and managed to carry by clamor and the number of their adherents what they could not effect by their arguments, the people obtained a dangerous influence in the public debates, and the natural struggle of such discordant interests retarded the execution of every salutary measure. A government so vacillating and impotent could not command the respect of unruly sailors and a lawless soldiery. The orders of the state consequently were but imperfectly obeyed, and the decisive moment was more than once lost by the negligence, not to say the open mutiny, both of the land and sea forces. The little harmony in the selection of the means by which the enemy was to be opposed would not, however, have proved so injurious had there but existed unanimity as to the end. But on this very point the wealthy citizens and poorer classes were divided; so the former, having everything to apprehend from allowing matters to be carried to extremity, were strongly inclined to treat with the Prince of Parma. This disposition they did not even attempt to conceal after the fort of Liefkenshoek had fallen into the enemy's hands, and serious fears were entertained for the navigation of the Scheldt. Some of them, indeed, withdrew entirely from the danger, and left to its fate the town, whose prosperity they had been ready enough to share, but in whose adversity they were unwilling to bear a part. From sixty to seventy of those who remained memorialized the council, advising that terms should be made with the king. No sooner, however, had the populace got intelligence of it than their indignation broke out in a violent uproar, which was with difficulty appeased by the imprisonment and fining of the petitioners. Tranquillity could only be fully restored by publication of an edict, which imposed the penalty of death on all who either publicly or privately should countenance proposals for peace.

The Prince of Parma did not fail to take advantage of these disturbances; for nothing that transpired within the city escaped his notice, being well served by the agents with whom he maintained a secret understanding with Antwerp, as well as the other towns of Brabant and Flanders. Although he had already made considerable progress in his measures for distressing the town, still he had many steps to take before he could actually make himself master of it; and one unlucky moment might destroy the work of many months. Without, therefore, neglecting any of his warlike preparations, he determined to make one more serious attempt to get possession by fair means. With this object he despatched a letter in November to the great council of Antwerp, in which he skilfully made use of every topic likely to induce the citizens to come to terms, or at least to increase their existing dissensions. He treated them in this letter in the light of persons who had been led astray, and threw the whole blame of their revolt and refractory conduct hitherto upon the intriguing spirit of the Prince of Orange, from whose artifices the retributive justice of heaven had so lately liberated them. "It was," he said, "now in their power to awake from their long infatuation and return to their allegiance to a monarch who was ready and anxious to be reconciled to his subjects. For this end he gladly offered himself as mediator, as he had never ceased to love a country in which he had been born, and where he had spent the happiest days of his youth. He therefore exhorted them to send plenipotentiaries with whom he could arrange the conditions of peace, and gave them hopes of obtaining reasonable terms if they made a timely submission, but also threatened them with the severest treatment if they pushed matters to extremity."

This letter, in which we are glad to recognize a language very different from that which the Duke of Alva held ten years before on a similar occasion, was answered by the townspeople in a respectful and dignified tone. While they did full justice to the personal character of the prince, and acknowledged his favorable intentions towards them with gratitude, they lamented the hardness of the times, which placed it out of his power to treat them in accordance with his character and disposition. They declared that they would gladly place their fate in his hands if he were absolute master of his actions, instead of being obliged to obey the will of another, whose proceedings his own candor would not allow him to approve of. The unalterable resolution of the King of Spain, as well as the vow which he had made to the pope, were only too well known for them to have any hopes in that quarter. They at the same time defended with a noble warmth the memory of the Prince of Orange, their benefactor and preserver, while they enumerated the true cases which had produced this unhappy war, and had caused the provinces to revolt from the Spanish crown. At the same time they did not disguise from him that they had hopes of finding a new and a milder master in the King of France, and that, if only for this reason, they could not enter into any treaty with the Spanish king without incurring the charge of the most culpable fickleness and ingratitude.

The united provinces, in fact, dispirited by a succession of reverses, had at last come to the determination of placing themselves under the protection and sovereignty of France, and of preserving their existence and their ancient privileges by the sacrifice of their independence. With this view an embassy had some time before been despatched to Paris, and it was the prospect of this powerful assistance which principally supported the courage of the people of Antwerp. Henry III., King of France, was personally disposed to accept this offer; but the troubles which the intrigues of the Spaniards contrived to excite within his own kingdom compelled him against his will to abandon it. The provinces now turned for assistance to Queen Elizabeth of England, who sent them some supplies, which, however, came too late to save Antwerp. While the people of this city were awaiting the issue of these negotiations, and expecting aid from foreign powers, they neglected, unfortunately, the most natural and immediate means of defence; the whole winter was lost, and while the enemy turned it to greater advantage the more complete was their indecision and inactivity.

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The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Siege Of Antwerp By The Prince Of Parma, In The Years 1584 And 1585 Continued The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Siege Of Antwerp By The Prince Of Parma, In The Years 1584 And 1585 Continued

The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Siege Of Antwerp By The Prince Of Parma, In The Years 1584 And 1585 Continued
The burgomaster of Antwerp, St. Aldegonde, had, indeed, repeatedly urged the fleet of Zealand to attack the enemy's works, which should be supported on the other side from Antwerp. The long and frequently stormy nights would favor this attempt, and if at the same time a sally were made by the garrison at Lillo, it seemed scarcely possible for the enemy to resist this triple assault. But unfortunately misunderstandings had arisen between the commander of the fleet, William von Blois von Treslong, and the admiralty of Zealand, which caused the equipment of the fleet to be most unaccountably delayed. In order

The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Trial And Execution Of Counts Egmont And Horn The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Trial And Execution Of Counts Egmont And Horn

The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Trial And Execution Of Counts Egmont And Horn
The two counts were a few weeks after their arrest conveyed to Ghent under an escort of three thousand Spaniards they were confined in the citadel for more than eight months. Their trial commenced in due form before the council of twelve, and the solicitor-general, John Du Bois, conducted the proceedings. The indictment against Egmont consisted of ninety counts, and that against Horn of sixty. It would occupy too much space to introduce them here. Every action, however innocent, every omission of duty, was interpreted on the principle which had been laid down in the opening of the indictment, "that