Quebec 1775 Part I

British and Canadian forces attacking Arnold’s column in the Sault-au-Matelot painting by C. W. Jefferys

Invasion routes of Montgomery and Arnold.

In 1775, five years before Karl von Clausewitz was born, the Second Continental Congress was already applying the Prussian’s dictum that war is only a continuation of national policy by other means. Early in that session the Congress made two commitments that were to change the colonies’ form of resistance from rebellion to all-out war. The first was to appoint a committee to draw up the organization of a Continental army. Then, on 15 June, George Washington was named “to command all the Continental forces, raised or to be raised, for the defense of American liberty.” At the same time it appointed Washington general in chief of the army, Congress appointed other officers. Four were named major generals: Artemas Ward, Israel Putnam, Charles Lee, and Philip Schuyler.

Washington assumed command of the army when he arrived at Boston on 3 July. By then the action at Bunker Hill had established in everyone’s mind the idea that pitched battles were to be the realities of the future, so Washington set about preparing the army for that type of warfare. That meant instilling discipline, an uphill fight in the face of the conviction so endemic to New Englanders that any man was as good as another. This concept, inspiring as it may have been in a town meeting, had an opposite effect on Washington’s efforts to build a force that would stand up in battle. Organizing a disciplined army occupied Washington’s attention for a long time after his arrival.

Long before the French and Indian War (1754-63), one word had always spelled trouble for the more northern settlements of New England—Canada. From there, for generations, had come the war parties, led or encouraged by the French, that had savaged the frontier and the interior with tomahawk and torch. The treaty of 1763 brought peace, but relief for the colonies was short-lived. The Quebec Act of 1774 that recognized the rights of the Canadian French had an alarming effect on Virginia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, because a provision of the act extended Canada’s boundaries to the Ohio River, thus giving back to Canadians lands already being settled by Americans in regions like the Ohio Valley.

In 1775 the Continental Congress sought a peaceful solution to the threat of British-occupied Canada. On 29 May it appealed in a letter “to the oppressed Inhabitants of Canada” to join “with us in the defense of our common liberty.” Like many such ideal solutions, this one didn’t work. The Canadians turned a deaf ear. There were those in Congress, however, who felt that if the Canadians were of a mind to stay loyal to Britain, they might be more responsive to things like invasion and occupation. For the moment cooler heads prevailed, and on 1 June Congress went so far as to resolve that “no expedition or incursion ought to be undertaken . . . against or into Canada.” The impasse was not to last.

Earlier, on 10 May 1775, Ethan Allen and eighty-three of his Green Mountain Boys, accompanied by a Massachusetts-commissioned colonel named Benedict Arnold, “stormed” half-ruined Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain, forcing its commander to surrender its half-invalid garrison to Allen “in the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!” Congress did nothing at first to follow up the success. Though Arnold and Allen had their personal differences, both were convinced that Canada was vulnerable to invasion. Arnold made a written report to that effect on 13 June, and ten days later Allen, on the floor of Congress in Philadelphia, presumably agreed. In any case, Congress revised its policy toward Canada on 27 June. General Philip Schuyler was directed “to take possession of St. Johns, Montreal, and . . . other parts of the country.”

Schuyler’s orders sounded more like permission—”if General Schuyler finds it practicable, and that it will not be too disagreeable to the Canadians”—and were in keeping with the lack of a strategy for invasion. Though Congress did not produce a grand strategic plan, it did develop, in piecemeal fashion, two expeditions, each with a logical objective: in the west it was Montreal, in the east Quebec. By taking these two objectives and defeating the weak and scattered British forces, the “fourteenth colony” could be brought to terms. It was not an unsound strategy, and it could have succeeded. That it did not may be attributed mainly to three factors: unexpectedly rough terrain, the forces of nature, and the abilities of General Guy Carleton, governor of Canada and commander of the British forces.

After much delay in preparations, the expedition in the west began on 25 August 1775 when Brigadier General Richard Montgomery, in place of the ailing Schuyler, advanced northward up Lake Champlain. At age thirty-seven Montgomery was a leader possessed of the essential qualities that Schuyler lacked: aggressiveness, decisiveness, personal magnetism, physical and moral courage, and the strength to endure the hardships of a wilderness campaign. He had been born the son of a baronet in Ireland, had been educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and at seventeen had taken up a military career. He had fought with the British army at Louisbourg in 1753, and under Geoffrey Amherst at Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Montreal. In 1772 he resigned his commission, moved his home to America, settled down as a gentleman farmer near Kings Bridge, New York, and married Janet Livingston, daughter of a prominent New York family. In June 1775 he accepted a commission as a brigadier general in the Continental army, left his young wife on her estate, and went to join Schuyler.

From the outset Montgomery might well have concluded that the luck of the Irish had abandoned him. The expedition consisted of about 1,700 Connecticut and New York militia, untrained, undisciplined, and likely to flee upon hearing the word “ambush”—as they had done on one occasion already. By 16 September, however, Montgomery had reasserted control and headed for Fort Saint Johns, his first objective. This small outpost, together with Chambly, ten miles to the north, commanded the Richelieu River and thus the approaches between Lake Champlain and Sorel on the Saint Lawrence. In spite of its strategic importance, Saint Johns (Saint Jean in French) had been only a frontier outpost with a couple of brick buildings and a storehouse until British General Carleton had reinforced the garrison to a total of 725 regulars and militia and ordered the commander, Major Charles Preston, to construct two redoubts, which made it a formidable fort.

Montgomery moved his makeshift flotilla of a schooner, a sloop, and a collection of “gondolas, bateaux, row-galleys, pirauguas, and canoes” northward past Ile Aux Noix, and disembarked his force to take Saint Johns. He sent out detachments to cut the road to Montreal, twenty-five miles to the north, and to forage.

When Montgomery had assessed the situation, it was clear that his motley force, now reduced by sickness to 1,100 effectives, could not take Saint Johns by assault. He therefore began to entrench, emplacing his two guns and some small mortars. The conditions for the besiegers were difficult. The ground everywhere was swampy and entrenchments quickly filled with knee-deep water. It was early October, and the cold rains were becoming intolerable. In a letter Montgomery wrote that “we have been like half-drowned rats crawling through a swamp.” Supplies, both food and ammunition, were running out. To make things worse, the British in their fort were holding out steadfastly in spite of incoming artillery rounds.

For General Guy Carleton, the reinforcement and fortification of Saint Johns had been his first priority. Earlier, however, he had discovered to his dismay that his French subjects were more neutral than loyal. He had counted on the Quebec Act (which he had sponsored) to win over the French Canadians, but in 1775 he had found them generally unwilling to enlist in the British forces. Moreover, Carleton had sent all but 800 of his regulars to Boston. In June 1775, realizing his precarious position, he declared martial law and began to mobilize all the British and Scots he could muster. He was a competent general as well as an excellent administrator. After strengthening Saint Johns, he personally took over in Montreal and began to rally what forces he could in the west.

By 18 October, when things were looking bleak for the Americans, a near-miracle occurred. The night before, two American bateaux mounting nine-pounder guns had sneaked past the defenses of Chambly and had reported to Montgomery. Montgomery therefore decided to take Chambly, the weaker garrison, first. With their guns in position, Montgomery’s detachment of 50 Americans and 300 Canadian allies was able to surround the fort at Chambly. After a few artillery rounds had penetrated the walls, the British commander surrendered. Among the stores captured were six tons of powder, 6,500 musket cartridges, and 125 muskets. Of no less importance were eighty barrels of flour and 272 barrels of foodstuffs.

The captured stores enabled Montgomery to lift the spirits of his men enough to make the maneuver he needed to push the siege of Saint Johns itself. On 25 October he got a battery of twelve-pounders and lighter artillery into position on a hill that dominated the fort. The British commander, Major Preston, continued to hold out for a while, but Canadian prisoners, released by Montgomery, convinced him that his situation was hopeless. Preston surrendered Saint Johns on 2 November, having held out for fifty-five days. The garrison laid down its arms, and officers and men were paroled; the Canadians went home, and the British regulars were sent to a port where they could sail for England.

Three days later, Montgomery took up his slow march to Montreal, where Carleton awaited him with a tiny force of 150 regulars and militia. On 11 November Montgomery began to surround Montreal by landing a detachment north of it. On the same day Carleton, recognizing the town to be indefensible, set sail down the Saint Lawrence, carrying with him all that he could of the military stores. He almost failed to make it. Near Sorel, adverse winds and American shore batteries brought his little flotilla to bay, and Carleton’s ship, the brigantine Gaspe’e, had to surrender. Carleton escaped in civilian clothes with two of his officers. Montreal was surrendered to Montgomery by its citizens on 13 November.

In late summer of 1775 newly appointed General Washington had come to realize that the western expedition to take Montreal was only half a strategy: Quebec would still command the Saint Lawrence River, gateway to Montreal and inner Canada. Moreover, so he reasoned, an invasion in the east against Quebec, if timed in coordination with that of Montgomery against Montreal, would force Carleton to fight on two fronts, with all the embarrassment that went with it.

Washington soon became convinced that the most promising invasion route was a waterway, specifically up the Kennebec River, thence to the Chaudière River, which emptied into the Saint Lawrence not far from Quebec. Much of the route had been mapped and described in his journal by Captain John Montresor, a British army engineer, in 1761. Montesor’s map turned out to be incomplete, however, and the consequences of relying on it would later prove nearly disastrous. Nevertheless Washington had no alternative, for in 1775 huge areas of the Maine and Canadian wilderness were not mapped at all. Washington was aware of the hazards of the expedition, but he had confidence in the commander he had selected, Benedict Arnold, to whom he offered a commission as a colonel in the Continental army and the command of the eastern expedition to take Quebec. Arnold jumped at the opportunity.

Who was this Benedict Arnold who caught Washington’s eye at the right time? In the first place he was a born leader. One of his soldiers voiced what all believed: “He was our fighting general [at Saratoga]. . . . It was ‘Come on boys!’ twarn’t ‘Go boys.’ He was as brave a man as ever lived.” He had an eye for sizing up a tactical situation, and he was as skillful in planning as he was bold in executing his plans. He was strong-willed, a quality which made him resolute in adversity. In sum, he showed most of the soldierly virtues, and it was mainly the fatal flaws of excessive ambition, hypersensitivity, and love of glory that would eventually bring him to ruin.

In 1775 Arnold, from a well-to-do Connecticut family, was thirty-four years old. He had gone adventuring in the French and Indian War. Later, he settled down in business after selling the family property. As a merchant he had sailed his own ships to the West Indies and Canada, and he later sold horses in Montreal and Quebec. At the outbreak of rebellion he was prosperous, “the possessor of an elegant house, storehouses, wharves, and vessels. . . . Rather a short man, he seemed, but stocky and athletic, and very quick in his movements. Raven-black hair, a high, hot complexion, a long, keen nose, a domineering chin, persuasive, smiling lips, haughty brows, and the boldest eyes man ever saw, completed him” (Justin Smith, Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony). Completed him indeed! Benedict Arnold was not a man easily overlooked. Small wonder that the man and his reputation had come to Washington’s attention.

In August Arnold had already been dealing with Reuben Colburn, a Kennebec boat-builder, to have two hundred bateaux built. On 3 September Washington approved an order for the boats and stores of provisions, and two days later the organization of the expedition was announced in army orders. The detachment was to consist of two battalions of five companies each, the men to be volunteers who should be “active woodsmen well acquainted with batteaus.” That specification was never filled; with the exception of riflemen, the volunteers assigned were from New England regiments which they had joined from their farms. The detachment also included three companies of riflemen: Captain Daniel Morgan’s company of Virginians and two companies from Pennsylvania under Captains Matthew Smith and William Hendricks, 250 riflemen in all. The total strength of Arnold’s force came to about 1,100, counting miscellaneous troops, which included 6 “unattached volunteers,” one of whom was nineteen-year-old Aaron Burr.

One leader among the riflemen had already achieved a reputation for bravery and ability: Captain Dan Morgan, a dyed-in-the-wool product of the frontier wars. Over six feet tall, broad-shouldered, with a solidly muscled body, he was renowned for his strength (exerted in his youth in scores of tavern brawls) and woodcraft, learned the hard way from the Indians. He had been a wagoner in Braddock’s expedition, and the story of his laying out a British officer with his fist for striking him with his sword was a well-known frontier tale. Flogged by the British for that military offense, he bore a bitter hatred for them. The “Old Wagoner,” as Morgan was called, was a natural leader, and his grasp of tactics was phenomenal. He was admired by his men—he could lick any one of them—and they would follow him anywhere. He was further noted for his blunt speech and quick temper, both of which covered a kindly nature and a rough-hewn sense of humor.

When Arnold reached Gardinerston on 22 September, he found to his dismay that the two hundred bateaux—flat-bottomed boats with flared sides and tapered ends, propelled by oars or paddles in deep water and pushed by poles in rough or shallow water—had been hastily made of green lumber. They would be heavy and clumsy craft for portaging, and difficult to handle in white water. But Arnold was stuck with them, and even had to order twenty more. On 25 September the expedition left Fort Western—today’s Augusta, Maine. Arnold divided his force into four divisions. The first division was composed of the three companies of riflemen commanded by Captain Morgan. Morgan’s riflemen were preceded by two scouting parties, led by Lieutenants Steele and Church. The other three divisions followed Morgan’s between 26 and 28 September, departing in numerical order. Arnold went ahead of the main body, and he seems to have been ubiquitous, showing up anywhere his command presence was needed. Thereafter matters developed as follows:

30 September 1775: After passing Fort Halifax the divisions had to make their first portage around Ticonic Falls, shoulder carrying a hundred tons of boats and supplies.

3 October: Main body had to pass through a “chute” of vertical rock banks to get past Showhegan Falls. Bateaux had to be pushed and carried through.

4-8 October: After the passage of the Bombazee Rips (rapids) the divisions faced the dreaded Norridgewock Falls with its three “pitches” each separated by a half mile. The bateaux began to give out. Seams were wrenched open and water poured through the cracks. Colburn and his artificers came up, and “the seams had a fresh calking, and the bottoms were repaired as well as possible.” The provisions casks had also been split open and washed through with water. “The salt had been washed out of the dried fish . . . and all of it had spoiled. The casks of dried peas and biscuit had burst and been lost. . . while the salt beef, cured in hot weather, proved unfit for use.”

9-10 October: Curritunk Falls—cold rains set in.

11-17 October: The Great Carry Place, with its three ponds and four portages. The Kennebec River was left behind. Fierce winds and snow squalls. Ponds choked with roots, forests filled with bogs, men up to their knees. Lieutenants Steele and Church reported in. Steele’s last five men staggered in, starving wretches at life’s end. The divisions reached Bog Brook, which flows into Dead River.

19-24 October: Thirty miles on the Dead River. Unaccountably Greene’s division (commanded by Lt. Col. Christopher Greene, a distant kinsman of Nathanael Green) passed Morgan’s riflemen, who stole their food. On 21-22 October a hurricane-spawned rainstorm turned the river into a raging flood. Whole country under water. Many bateaux lost. A conference was held to determine if march should continue; Arnold’s eloquence and show of determined courage made them decide to go on.

25 October: Enos’s fourth division elected to turn back, and would not yield its flour to Greene’s starving men, who were subsisting on candles mixed in flour gruel. Expedition was reduced to seven hundred men out of original eleven hundred. [Enos was later court-martialed for desertion.]

25-28 October: Height of Land, “prodigious high mountains,” the divide where streams flow north to the Saint Lawrence, south to the Kennebec. South of Lake Megantic, Arnold’s men were betrayed by Montresor’s map, which didn’t show Rush Lake, Spider Lake, or False Mouths of Seven-Mile Stream (Arnold River). They tried to skirt the two lakes and wandered among swamps until they almost perished.

1-3 November: Starving men ate soap, hair grease, boiled moccasins, shot pouches, a company commander’s dog. Men staggered on, supported by their muskets. On 3 November a miracle: a herd of cattle arrived, driven by men dispatched by Arnold, who had gone ahead to scour the country. The cattle were manhandled to slaughter, roasted, torn to bits, and eaten “as a hungry dog would tear a haunch of meat.”

4 November: Reached Sartigan, the wilderness left behind them. Arnold’s provisions, left there for them, gobbled up so fast that men became ill, and three died.

5 November: Left the Chaudière below Saint Mary, headed for Point Levis, across the Saint Lawrence from Quebec.

On 9 November 1775 Canadians at the Saint Lawrence were astounded to see a ragtag column of six hundred survivors hobbling toward the river, “ghosts with firelocks on their shoulders.” As they streamed from the woods they at first spread alarm, though that soon turned into admiration when Canadians learned of the conditions of the heroic march.

Arnold’s march has been compared to Xenophon’s march to the sea and Hannibal’s crossing the Alps. Yet what did this band of heroes find to greet them after enduring such incredible hardships? An indefatigable Arnold was busily rounding up boats, canoes, and scaling ladders so that they could cross the Saint Lawrence—under the very guns of the frigate Lizard, the sloop-of-war Hunter, and four other armed craft—and storm the walls of Quebec!

Hector Cramahé, Carleton’s lieutenant governor and governor of Quebec City, had seen to it that the Point Levis shores of the Saint Lawrence across from Quebec had been swept clean of any boats the Americans might use to cross the river. But Arnold, as usual, was equal to the emergency. His scrounging parties, with the help of friendly Indians, soon assembled a mixed flotilla of about forty canoes and dugouts. By 10 November he was ready to make a night crossing, his only chance to get by the British warships in the river. A heavy gale came up, however, which made the river impassable for Arnold’s light craft, and he had to wait until 9:00 P.M. on the thirteenth for the storm to subside. Then Arnold ferried his men over in shifts, slipping silently past the anchored British ships to land in Wolfe’s Cove, where in 1759 the British General James Wolfe had landed in his successful operation against Quebec. Arnold got all his force across except for 150 men who remained on the Point Levis side until the next night.

Having led his men way up to the Plains of Abraham on the road Wolfe had used sixteen years before, Arnold halted them a mile and a half from the city’s walls. There they took shelter until daylight. Unknown to Arnold, however, the firebrand Allan MacLean had brought eighty of his Royal Highland Emigrants to Quebec and had taken over military command. The garrison was an improvised force of about 1,200 men, including militia and sailors and marines from the ships. The city MacLean had to defend has been described as rising grandly from a majestic river, the vast rock towers high and broad. On the north were plains between the promontory and the Saint Charles River, which flowed into the Saint Lawrence east of town. Along the Saint Lawrence, slopes tapered off from the rocky sides to the river, affording passage to the Lower Town, which was guarded by double palisades and, behind them, a blockhouse. On the south side Cape Diamond rose 300 feet above the river. In the Lower Town itself there were wooden barriers blocking the Sault au Matelot, a narrow street which led to steep passages to the Upper Town. The latter dominated the greater part of the city. It was protected by a 30-foot wall along its whole western and northern sides. There were six bastions with artillery and three main gates: on the north the Palace, in the center Saint John’s, in the south Saint Louis.


Quebec 1775 Part II

Defending Quebec from an American attack.

A 1777 French map depicting the points of action in and around Quebec.

To Arnold and his ragged men the fortress city must have seemed a Gibraltar indeed, but with only about 600 men to do the job, Arnold did not hesitate to summon the city to surrender. Allan MacLean, however, was unimpressed, and both Arnold’s first and second messengers were greeted with an eighteen-pound round shot, the first “splattering the American envoy with dirt,” the second passing just over his head in “a very straight direction.”

Other grim facts faced Arnold. He had no artillery, only five cartridges per man remained, and over 100 muskets were unserviceable. In the light of the situation, he settled for a blockade of the city on its west side. On 18 November the Americans got word that MacLean was planning a sortie with 800 men. A council of war then concluded that even the blockade was no longer practicable. The next day Arnold began withdrawing his whole force to Pointe aux Trembles (Aspen Point) twenty miles upriver, where the men could find shelter. On the same day that the Americans disappeared from the Plains of Abraham (19 November), Guy Carleton entered Quebec to salvoes of saluting cannon.

Two weeks passed before Brigadier General Richard Montgomery, the overall force commander, arrived at Pointe aux Trembles. At nine o’clock on the night of 2 December a boat put out in the dark from the schooner that had just arrived from Montreal. Arnold waited to turn over command to the respected Montgomery. In formal manner he stood in front of a double-ranked honor guard lined up in the foot-deep snow. The flickering light from torches reflected from the snow and lit up the rocky beach. When the bow of the boat rasped across the rocks, commands rang out and Arnold’s detachment snapped to attention and presented arms. Arnold saluted and Montgomery, stepping ashore, returned the salute.

What Arnold’s men saw of their new commander—most of them on the following day—they liked. “Noticeably pock-marked, but well-limbed, tall and handsome, with an air and manner that designated the real soldier,” recorded John Joseph Henry in his journal. Montgomery has been further described as having “a bright, magnetic face, and winning manner.” There is no doubt, too, that his air of command, while not inviting familiarity, was pleasant yet forceful. What is more, Montgomery returned the men’s approbation. In a letter to Schuyler (still in overall command of American forces in Canada) he wrote, “I find Colonel Arnold’s corps an exceeding fine one, inured to fatigue . . . there is a style among them much superior to what I have used to see in this campaign.”

Montgomery had brought with him more than a pleasant manner. In several other craft following his schooner were over 300 men and a supply of ammunition, clothing, and provisions, as well as much-needed artillery. No doubt the greatest morale builder for Arnold’s ragged, half-shod men was the clothing. Montgomery had captured all the winter uniforms of the 7th and 26th British regiments—long white overcoats, heavy leggings, moccasins, and cloth caps with fur tails. With the initial distribution of the clothing Montgomery made a short but effective speech, which was answered with huzzahs.

Montgomery and Arnold wasted no time in returning to Quebec with their reorganized forces. They took up the siege, with Arnold’s positions on the north in the Saint Roche suburbs that had been burned by Mac-Lean as part of his defensive preparations, while Montgomery held the plains between Saint Roche and Cape Diamond. Montgomery then sent a personal letter to Carleton with the standard demand for surrender, this time using a woman as a messenger, with instructions to hand it to no other than the governor himself. But even she failed. He called for a drummer and commanded, “Take that pair of tongs and throw it into the fire.” This done, he sent the woman back to Montgomery.

Ten days later Montgomery tried again, with the same result. Montgomery, however, was not relying on surrender demands; he was busy getting his artillery batteries into position. On the night of 10 December his biggest battery was set up 700 yards from the walls. The frozen ground prohibited entrenching, so gabions were filled with snow, then soaked with water, which froze them into solid walls. But Montgomery’s six- and twelve-pounder guns and howitzers were too light to have an effect on the walls; no more, a Quebecois commented, “than peas would have against a plank.”

Montgomery sat down to evaluate his situation. His conclusions were anything but pleasing. Since he lacked siege artillery, there was no way to breach Quebec’s walls for an assault. He couldn’t dig siege trenches and parallels in the frozen ground. Arnold’s men’s enlistments were up at the end of December, and with the departure of the New England troops would go the bulk of his force. No resupply of ammunition was forthcoming from the colonies, and his Continental paper money was worthless in Canada. Moreover, he couldn’t wait for spring, because it would bring the thaws that would break up the ice in the Saint Lawrence, a sure herald of the coming of British reinforcements.

The realistic Montgomery had long been aware that he could never take Quebec by siege. As early as 4 November he had written Schuyler of his intention to attack the Lower Town. So Montgomery the professional had no trouble in deciding to take Quebec by storm. The other Montgomery, the leader of a motley militia army, was having trouble securing popular approval (that old New England convention) to attack. Many New Englanders held back because of differences between their leaders, mainly between Arnold and Major John Brown. Montgomery took the situation in hand by addressing the men at parade to such obvious effect that their patriotism overcame their reluctance to join in the proposed attack.

Montgomery and Arnold now had to wait for a dark night and snow if his small force, now less than a thousand men, were to succeed in storming the city. The night of 27 December was overcast and snow began to fall. But while the Americans were moving to assembly areas the sky cleared and the moon came out. Montgomery had to call off the attack, and after the weather reports he got more bad news. A Rhode Island sergeant, Stephen Singleton, had deserted and doubtless had carried the plan of attack to the British.

Montgomery revised the methods of attack but retained as the main objective the Lower Town. He added two feints against Quebec’s western walls. His new plan called for two converging attacks on the Lower Town. Arnold would mount a northern attack from the suburbs of Saint Roche, smash through the barriers at the north end of the Lower Town, and link up with Montgomery in or near the street called Sault au Matelot. Montgomery’s attack would move along the shoreline of the Saint Lawrence from Wolfe’s Cove, pass Cape Diamond, break into the Lower Town, and head toward the Sault au Matelot. When the converging forces had linked up, they would make a combined attack to take the Upper Town. The two feints were to be made against Saint John’s gate (Porte Saint Jean) and the Cape Diamond bastion. After the new plan had been confided to senior officers, Montgomery had to continue waiting for his black night with a snowstorm. That night was not long in coming.

Inside the fortress city, Carleton was well aware that the Lower Town was Quebec’s most vulnerable section. He blocked the Sault au Matelot with two formidable log barricades covered by cannon. To protect the Lower Town in the south he erected palisades along the Saint Lawrence shoreline. The inner one was covered by a battery of four three-pounder cannons positioned in a blockhouse made from an old brewery. That little battery was fated to have an effect on the coming battle out of all proportion to its size. Carleton had assigned his forces defensive positions along the walls and inner defenses, using to best advantage his 1,800 men.

Saturday morning, 30 December, was clear and cold, but in the afternoon the sky darkened and a rising wind brought the first snowflakes. By nightfall it was blowing a thick snow that increased with the darkness, drifting to two and three feet. The snowfall was the common signal the American units had been waiting for. At 2:00 A.M. on the last day of the year they began moving to their assembly areas.

In the suburbs of Saint Roche, Benedict Arnold stood in a shed under lantern light, peering over Captain Oswald’s shoulder while he checked off the units as their captains reported in. In the south Richard Montgomery had finished a letter to his wife Janet: “I wish it were well over with all my heart, and I sigh for home like a New Englander.” For a moment this man who loved farm life was back on his land at Kings Bridge. Then the soldier took over; General Montgomery shrugged on his greatcoat and went out in the storm to take command of his 300 men assembling on the Plains of Abraham.

Montgomery caught sight of the brief flare of the rockets fired by Captain Jacob Brown to signal the launching of his feint attack against the Cape Diamond bastion. He led the way down the steep, snow-heaped path that descended from the plains down to Wolfe’s Cove, followed by his three aides: Macpherson, Cheeseman, and Burr. Behind them came Colonel Donald Campbell, the second in command. The storm had become a blizzard whose wind carried the clanging of alarm bells in the city; the rockets had signaled the alarm to the defenders.

The descent of the mile-long path had been harrowing enough in the howling darkness, but the next two miles along the shoreline were even worse. The frozen river had piled up massive heaps of ice slabs that forced the single file of men to detour up against the rocky cliff sides at every turn. The men carrying the clumsy scaling ladders had the hardest time of all because they had to push or pull their ladders over the sharp slabs of ice or around the snow-covered rocks on the steep slopes. And all the way the wind drove the snow into eyes that were straining to find a way in the black night. Under great difficulties, Montgomery passed Cape Diamond; farther on, near a limit called the Prés de Ville, he could see through the driving snow the palisade of the outer barrier.

The carpenters with the advance party quickly hacked and sawed down four posts of the undefended palisade. The general was the first through the opening, followed by his aides. Keeping left against the cliff slope, Montgomery came around a curve to the second palisade. He took a saw from a carpenter and cut through the first two posts himself. Followed by only fifty men, he slipped through the opening and slowly made his way up the narrow street. He reached a point where, peering through the falling snow, he could make out the dim outline of a two-story building about a hundred paces ahead. No guards or sentries were visible. Had they fled along with the defenders of the palisades? He waved his storming party forward, drew his sword, and strode ahead for about fifty paces. Then he broke into a run, the others at his heels. A blinding yellow flash burst from the front of the blockhouse, and a burst of grapeshot killed Montgomery instantly, shot through the head. He lay on his back in the snow, one arm still extended, a dozen men dead behind his body. The storming party had been wiped out; only Aaron Burr and a couple of others had escaped unhurt.

That ended the attack. Colonel Campbell called a council of officers who, it was said, “justified his receding from the attack.” The column turned around, leaving the bodies of Montgomery and the others. It retraced its grim path through the storm back to the Plains of Abraham. No word of Montgomery’s death and the retreat reached Arnold or any of his men until after the battle.

At Saint Roche, Arnold checked off his units, finding only Captain Dearborn’s company unaccounted for. Unwilling to wait any longer, Arnold left orders for Dearborn to catch up, and, clutching a musket, he led his column off in single file at 4:00 A.M. His advance guard consisted of twenty-five men; following them came Captain John Lamb with forty artillerymen dragging a six-pounder gun on a sled. Next came the three rifle companies led, respectively, by Captain Morgan, Lieutenant Steele, and Captain Hendricks. The main body consisted of the New England musketmen, followed by a mixed bag of some forty Canadians and Indians. Arnold’s plan was to attack the first barricade with Lamb’s cannon, then to send the riflemen to flank the barricade on both sides.

Unknown to Arnold, the feint against Saint John’s gate conducted by Colonel Livingston’s poorly motivated Canadians was a fiasco: the men had fled as soon as their fire had been returned by the gate’s defenders. Farther south, Captain Brown’s men did better. They stood their ground, maintaining a rolling fire against the Cape Diamond bastion. As it turned out, however, the feints fooled no one, least of all Carleton.

Arnold’s 600 men trotted along, keeping parallel to the north wall, and were able to pass the Palace gate and a two-gun battery undetected. However, where the advance party came abreast of a row of buildings beyond the battery, a fierce fire of musketry broke out from the walls above them, causing some casualties. There was no way to return the fire, so Arnold pushed on, taking no time to attend to casualties. “Let the dead bury the dead” had been the watchword from the start. So the column simply ran the gauntlet for 600 yards under the galling fire.

When the column reached the quay along the river, it had to thread its way through a network of hawser cables stretching from houses and bollards out to moored ships. After passing those obstacles, Arnold and the advance party entered a narrow street where they were met with “a smart discharge of musketry.” The riflemen took cover against the housefronts and returned the fire. This was the first barricade, which, unknown to them, was only lightly defended.

Arnold, with his usual dash, was everywhere, stopping the useless fusillade against the barrier and organizing the assault to take the barricade. Since Captain Lamb’s cannon had been abandoned back in a snowdrift Arnold decided to lead a frontal assault himself. As he was shouting his commands for men to follow him, he felt a rasp of pain that stopped him in his tracks. A ricocheting bullet had struck his left leg below the knee, torn along the leg bone, and lodged in his Achilles tendon. Though he tried to prop himself up on his musket and shout the men forward, his men, seeing him wounded, held back. As Arnold was being carried to the rear, Morgan came up. Though he was a captain, the field officers turned over the command to him. Later he was to acknowledge modestly that their acclaim “reflected credit on their judgement.”

Morgan shouted for a ladder to assault the barrier just as a two-gun battery opened up on him. The first two volleys were ineffective. Morgan led his men up the first ladder. He was almost over the barricade when a blast from the defenders’ muskets hit the ladder and blew him backward. A bullet went through his cap, another grazed his cheek, and his beard was singed by powder grains. Morgan was back on his feet in a flash; he clambered up the ladder again and flung himself over the top of the barricade. He tumbled to the ground, rolled under the muzzle of a British cannon to dodge the bayonets, and was saved only by Lieutenant Heth and Cadet Porterfield, who had swarmed over the wall behind him. The defenders ran into a house and Morgan followed, dashing around to the rear door. He declared them surrounded and took the surrender of their Captain McCloud.

Morgan and his riflemen pressed on and entered the Sault au Matelot. About two hundred yards down the narrow street they could see the second barricade and the cannon platform behind it. Incredibly, the sally port was open. While the Americans were still staring, they heard shouts of “Vive la liberté!” from windows and doorways; the Québécois in the street were demonstrably friendly. With the citizens sympathetic and the barricade undefended, the way to the Lower Town was open.

Morgan then made his first mistake. In front of the undefended barricade, in the first faint light of day, with the wind whipping snow in their faces, he called a council of war. He was for going on, but his officers counseled against a further advance. Later he would recall, “Here I was overruled by sound judgment and good reasoning.” For one thing, his orders specified that he was to wait for Montgomery. Further, he couldn’t take his 150 prisoners along. They outnumbered his riflemen, and if he released them they could fall back to the first barricade and cut off his retreat. Both Montgomery and the main body must be close behind, and when they all joined forces they could take the Upper Town. So Morgan hesitated and gave in. “I gave up my own opinion, and lost the town”—how simply put, and what a simple truth! He had afforded Carleton, now aware of Montgomery’s disaster, time to dispatch Colonel Caldwell to stop the Americans at the second barricade.

Morgan went back to find the main body. He found Lieutenant Colonel Greene and Major Meigs with 200 men; all of them had been lost in side streets and byways when their guides had failed them. Morgan led them forward to the second barricade, and now, belatedly, decided to advance through the obstacle to the Lower Town. Meanwhile, one of Colonel Caldwell’s officers was massing a detachment behind the second barricade and preparing to sally out and pin down the Americans. That officer, Lieutenant Anderson, debouched from the gate and called on the Americans to surrender. Morgan snatched up a rifle and shot him through the head. After a pause, the fiercest firefight of the battle broke out. As Morgan’s men exchanged fusillades with the Canadians, others packed down mounds of snow on which they could set their ladders. Morgan and his best leaders—Hendricks, Steele, Humphreys, Heth, Greene, and Lamb among them—tried to scale the barrier but were blasted back by a hail of grapeshot and bullets.

Riflemen broke into the lower story of a stone house from which their fire could reach the defenders. The Canadian Colonel Caldwell saw the tactical importance of the house and ordered a detachment to use a captured ladder to get into the upper story before the Americans. The Canadians got inside the second floor and drove the Americans from the house with their bayonets. Other riflemen, firing from windows down the street, drove the gunners from their firing platform. The Canadian musket fire now increased in such intensity that the American toll of casualties rose. The American officers, even Morgan, could no longer exhort their men to come out of the houses and renew the attack.

Morgan ordered the men around him to take cover in the houses while he conferred again with his senior officers. Morgan argued for continuing the fight, but there was an unhesitating consensus for an immediate retreat. Yet even then their fate was being sealed. Carleton, informed that Colonel Caldwell’s Canadians were holding back the Americans, had ordered Captain Laws with 200 men and two fieldpieces to move down from the Palace gate and cut off the American rear from the direction of Sault au Matelot. Although the overzealous Laws charged ahead of his men and became an American prisoner, the rest of his men soon arrived. At a final hasty conference, Morgan urged the commanders to try to cut their way out through Laws’s men, but a majority insisted on holding out in the hope of being relieved by Montgomery.

By this time—sometime after 9:00 A.M.—Laws’s gunners had gotten a nine-pounder in position where it could sweep the street or batter down house walls. While the American officers continued to argue, men began to give up, holding their musket butts out of doors and windows in sign of surrender. Finally Lieutenant Colonel Greene, stepping in, made a formal offer of surrender, and it was accepted. Americans were routed out of houses to be lined up and marched away as prisoners.

But not Dan Morgan. He set his back against a housefront, and with tears of rage and frustration streaming down his face, defied his enemies. Canadians were calling on him to hand over his sword or be shot, while his men were shouting at him, begging him to give up before he was killed. The scene ended when Morgan spotted a man in black among the crowd of onlookers. When Morgan was assured that the man was a priest, he bellowed, “Then I give my sword to you. But not a scoundrel of these cowards shall take it out of my hands.”

The three-hour battle for the Sault au Matelot was over. With its end went all hope of taking Quebec by storm. The American losses were 60 killed or wounded and 426 captured. Among the prisoners were Captain Dearborn’s entire company, which had been cut off while trying to catch up to Arnold’s column and forced to surrender. Carleton’s losses were insignificant: 5 killed and 13 wounded out of his garrison of 1,800.

When one reflects on the failure to take Quebec by storm, it is tempting to play the game of “what if.” What if the gallant Montgomery had not been struck down? What if Arnold had not suffered the wound that removed him from command? What if Morgan had shown the moral courage to match his physical courage in the moment that called for bold decision? It may seem reasonable to hypothesize that a reversal of any of those three misfortunes might have made Canada a fourteenth colony. But after all, the hard reality is that the attack on Quebec turned out to be what Wellington was to say of Waterloo: “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” And that is how Quebec must remain in history—a near thing.

What followed in the months after the failure at Quebec is a dismal tale. An indomitable Arnold held out, trying to keep up the semblance of a siege until he could get the reinforcements he pleaded for. When the reinforcements eventually came, it was the old story of too little too late, never enough at any time to enable Arnold and the commanders who succeeded him to mount an effective offensive. The three generals who followed Arnold in command—Wooster, Thomas, and Sullivan—ranged in performance from mediocre to unfortunate. Then the arrival of General Burgoyne at Quebec in early May 1776 brought Carleton’s forces up to 13,000 men. The American effectives in Canada never numbered over 5,000 at any time, although a total of 8,000 men had been committed at various stages throughout the invasion.

Finally, after further severe reverses, the demoralized remnants of the American army straggled into Crown Point in mid-July 1776. Just ten months after the first expedition had left there to conquer Canada, the invasion of Canada was over.

Messina 1848

The siege of Messina in 1848

Europe’s first revolution in 1848 occurred in Sicily, a part of the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which was notorious for its arbitrary and repressive government and endemic unrest. Many of Sicily’s problems were largely self-inflicted. Efforts on the part of the government of Ferdinand II (1830-59) to enact economic and agrarian reform had been thwarted by evasion of the law and corruption, and much of the drive for Sicilian autonomy was prompted to avoid outside meddling with the usurpation of the land by a minority. Sicily, however, did suffer from the economic exactions of Naples and an inefficient, corrupt, and brutal administration, and many Sicilians longed for the autonomy provided by the island’s short-lived 1812 constitution. In 1842, Michele Amari’s history of the medieval Sicilian vespers escaped the royal censors and was read by many on the island as an evocation of its lost independence. Luigi Settembrini’s 1847 Protest of the People of the Two Sicilies, although suppressed, was passed from hand to hand and inspired an elite of potential rebels. A frightening and socially disruptive cholera epidemic ascribed to poisoning by the perfidious monarchy, the reforms of Pope Pius IX in Rome in 1846-47, and a September 1847 rising in Reggio Calabria which spread across the strait to Messina further stimulated unrest in Sicily.

In Palermo, on January 9, 1848, a circular, written by Francesco Bagnasco, a participant in the revolution of 1820, was distributed, calling on the people to rise on January 12. The radicals, who initiated the rising, were seeking autonomy and constitutional government. The peasants and urban poor, who were to bring about the initial victory, had at best only a confused idea of constitutionalism. Their interests were economic. They wanted land and work. The police arrested eleven suspects on January 10, but the streets of Palermo were packed on the twelfth, the birthday of King Ferdinand. There was no organization, but clashes erupted with soldiers and the police. People were killed and barricades were thrown up in Fieravecchia, the poorest part of town, where Giuseppe La Masa formed a committee to take charge of the rising. On January 13, peasants, “mountaineers,” and bands of brigands or squadre with their underworld leaders began joining the insurrection. But the rebels, with the exception of the squadre, were poorly armed and vastly outnumbered by the 6,000 man royal garrison. Rather than confront the rebels in the tortuous streets of the hostile city, the army decided to bombard Palermo from the fortress of Castellamare. Though 5,000 royal reinforcements arrived at the port on January 15, the rebels established control of the city. Rosalino Pilo, an aristocrat, joined La Masa and the committee to demand the reestablishment of the Sicilian Constitution of 1812, and many of the upper class threw their support to the revolution. Ferdinand’s January 18 offer of autonomy to Sicily was rejected, and on January 27, his troops had to be withdrawn from Palermo. By the middle of February, the revolutionaries controlled all of the island except for Syracuse, which fell to the rebels in April, and the fortress of Messina, which remained under royal troops throughout the revolution.

Despite the Sicilians’ victory over the Neapolitans, deep divisions and jealousies divided the towns, regions, and classes of the island. The Sicilian revolution unleashed a general social upheaval. Peasants invaded towns to destroy records of their financial obligations. Thousands of prisoners were set free. To exercise some control over the masses and the squadre, the revolutionary committee in Palermo established a national guard on January 28. The National Guard, which excluded workers, was commanded by Baron Pietro Riso, and became a force not only for order but for preservation of the social and economic status quo against the demands of workers and peasants. The chairman of the revolutionary committee was Ruggero Settimo, the prince of Fitala. Settimo, a retired naval officer, had been minister of war in the constitutional government established in 1812 by the English representative, Lord William Bentinck, and vice-president of the revolutionary government established in Sicily in 1820. On February 2, 1848, Settimo announced that the committee was asserting its authority over the whole island until a parliament could be elected to adapt Bentinck’s English style constitution of 1812 to the new circumstances. When word of the Sicilian revolution reached the Neapolitan mainland, it ignited a rising, not in Naples itself, where the poor masses (the lazzaroni) regarded themselves as dependent clients of the king, but in the restive province of Salerno which was racked with famine. In the January 17 rising, launched by secret societies, public records were burned and a few notorious Bourbon officials were killed. Concessions by the king were met with demands for the constitution of 1820. In the face of a massive demonstration on January 27 in Naples, Ferdinand yielded. He appointed a more liberal ministry led by Nicola Maresca, the Duke of Serracapriola. Though the promised constitution was very conservative and left the king with considerable power, it was greeted with enthusiasm on the mainland. This was not the case in Sicily. Faced with a continuing Sicilian revolution, Serracapriola sought the mediation of the British.

The Sicilians accepted the efforts of Lord Gilbert Minto, the British representative, who had been sent by Palmerston to encourage reform in Italy, to negotiate a solution, but his efforts ultimately failed. In March, the Neapolitan government offered through Lord Minto to legalize the Sicilian parliament if changes were made in the constitution and Ferdinand were recognized as king. Settimo was to be recognized as viceroy, and Sicily would have a separate foreign ministry. Those details that could not be settled by the parliaments of Naples and Sicily would be mediated. The Sicilians, euphoric over their success and distrustful of Bourbon promises, refused. They demanded the immediate withdrawal of Neapolitan troops from the island, and Naples responded by declaring the acts of the Sicilians null. The Sicilian parliament, elected by literate males, met on March 25. It wasted much time on superficialities and was unwilling to tamper with the economic status quo. Settimo, elected president of the kingdom, appointed a provisional government, and, despite Sicily’s preoccupation with its own concerns, sent a small band of volunteers to fight in the north alongside the Piedmontese. That only 100 men were sent is seen by some as a vivid indication of the predominance of Sicilian autonomism. Ferdinand II and the Bourbons were repudiated on April 13, but, partly to court British support, the monarchy was retained.

The crown was offered to the Duke of Genoa, the second son of King Charles Albert of Sardinia-Piedmont, but, after weeks of hesitation, he declined. On April 3, a moderate ministry under Carlo Troya was established in Naples. It persuaded Ferdinand to broaden the franchise, to break diplomatic relations with Austria, and to send against the Austrians a Neapolitan force of 17,000 men under the command of General Guglielmo Pepe, a leader of the revolution of 1820 who had just returned to Naples. At this point, internal discord began to favor Ferdinand. Increasing radicalism among the peasants and discontent among the lazzaroni of the city of Naples frightened the moderates in the government, who were unwilling to engage in social reform. When Ferdinand insisted that the parliament elected in April not be transformed into a constituent assembly, Troya and his ministry resigned. Rumors of an impending monarchical coup led to the erection of barricades by rebels from the countryside, supported by a disaffected national guard.

On May 15, the king’s troops, led by his Swiss regiments, went on the offensive. In the fighting, which lasted only a few hours, the royal troops, supported by the lazzaroni, overwhelmed the outnumbered insurgents. Parliament, which had continued to meet during the fighting, was dissolved that evening by the king. On May 16, he set up a more conservative government; on the seventeenth, dissolved the lower house of parliament and the national guard; and, finally, on the eighteenth, recalled Pepe’s troops and the Neapolitan fleet which had been protecting Venice. Ferdinand maintained the facade of constitutional government through a new, but ineffective, parliament, which was elected in June 1848 and sat until March 1849. Many moderates fled to Piedmont, and the only resistance was waged by the peasants of Calabria, assisted by a few middle-class radicals and a thousand volunteers from Sicily. Their resistance was crushed by mid-July. In September, Ferdinand dispatched a force of twenty thousand to seize Messina.

Conscription had been repudiated by the Sicilian parliament, and the number of effective forces raised, armed, and trained for defense of the entire island was less than the Neapolitan army sent against Messina. The Neapolitans bombarded the city for three days and took it, despite the stiff resistance of the six thousand Sicilian troops supported by civilians. The continuation of the Neapolitan bombardment for eight hours after the silencing of Sicilian guns won for Ferdinand the label “King Bomba.” The British and the French, appalled by the “savage barbarity” of the Neapolitans, imposed a six months armistice on October 8. The British were unable, however, to effect a compromise settlement. Despite the opportunity provided by the armistice, the Sicilian government proved incapable of establishing a unified military command or bolstering its forces. Nevertheless, it rejected an offer from Ferdinand in February 1849 to establish a separate Sicilian parliament and a viceroy to administer the island.

In March 1849, Ferdinand, who was supported diplomatically by Tsar Nicholas of Russia and was convinced that the British and the French would not interfere, abolished the parliament in Naples and ordered his forces in Sicily to take the offensive. The devastation which followed the effort of Catania to resist the Neapolitans led other towns to surrender without a fight. As the Neapolitan forces advanced on Palermo, its people dug trenches, but the Sicilian government and its armed forces disintegrated. Francesco Crispi said that “the moderates feared the victory of the people more than that of the Bourbon troops.” As leaderless people prepared to defend barricades beneath red flags, Riso announced that his national guard would protect property against the lawless but would not resist the Neapolitan troops.

The leaders of the squadre abandoned a losing cause and sold their services to the higher bidder. The parliament was abolished, but a degree of local autonomy was allowed in the administration of justice, police, and financial affairs. A Sicilian, Salvatore Maniscalco, was placed in charge of the police, and, in his effort to restore government authority, cooperated with the squadre, who were employed to enforce the laws and collect taxes. Ferdinand, who had abolished the Neapolitan parliament on March 13, replaced the government of the Prince of Cariati on August 6 with that of the anti-constitutional opportunist, Giustino Fortunato. Actual power, however, was in the hands of the king, who lost any interest he might have had in reform. The hope for constitutional government and reform in the Two Sicilies was crushed beneath the weight of an arbitrary and repressive police state.


In the early days of spring 1849, Republican resistance was centered in Venice, Rome, Brescia, and Sicily. Austrian troops seized Brescia after a ten-day fight and forty-eight hours of shelling. Austrian general Julius Freiherr von Haynau was so ruthless that he was called by Italians “the hyena of Brescia,” while they erected a monument to his colleague Nugent, who had been killed during the siege.

Sicily had revolted against Naples, proclaiming its independence. It looked for a king from the House of Savoy, but its princes were forbidden to accept the invitation. In September 1848, Sicily was invaded by Neapolitan troops. King Ferdinand sent his best commander, the sixty-six-year-old general Carlo Filangieri, prince of Satriano. He was a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and had fought at Austerlitz, Ulm, and in Spain. He was perhaps the best Italian general of his day after Garibaldi. He reached Sicily by sea with a fleet of eleven men-of-war and six transports, carrying 14,000 men. Their landing near Messina was a model operation. It required heavy bombardment and savage fighting from September 3 to 7 to dominate the city. Filangieri quickly invested the neighboring areas but was forced to conclude an armistice under English and French pressure. When hostilities resumed on March 29, 1849 Filangieri subdued the island’s eastern coast, then advanced toward Palermo, which his forces occupied on May 15 after a series of skirmishes. His victory led Ferdinand to confer upon him the title of Duke of Taormina. Filangieri granted an amnesty to all except the leaders of the rebellion and ruled the island tactfully as lieutenant general until he resigned in October 1854. Despite the threat of a French-English diplomatic intervention, which delayed the operations several times, Filangieri defeated the Sicilian troops and entered Palermo on May 15, 1849. General Carlo Filangieri, the Neapolitan commander who had been given complete authority in Sicily by Ferdinand, occupied Palermo on May 15, 1849. To avoid additional bloodshed, he decreed an amnesty for all but forty-three leaders, who had fled the island.

Filangieri was considered too sympathetic to the revolution and was soon recalled.

Carlo Filangieri, prince di Satriano

Carlo Filangieri, prince di Satriano, (born May 10, 1784, Cava de’ Tirreni, Kingdom of Naples [Italy]—died Nov. 16, 1867, Naples), general in command of the forces of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Naples) during the bloody suppression of the Sicilian revolution of 1848. He also served a brief term as premier of the Two Sicilies (1859).

Fleeing the royalist reaction of 1799, when Napoleon’s republican forces were routed from Italy, the 15-year-old Filangieri sought refuge in France, where he entered the military academy in Paris. He joined the French Army in 1803 and was made captain at the Battle of Austerlitz (1805). Recalled into the Neapolitan Army, he fought in Spain, where he distinguished himself as much by his personal duels as by his military success. He played a brilliant role in the Bonapartist Gen. Joachim Murat’s unsuccessful campaign against Austria in 1815; he was seriously wounded at Panaro. During the Neapolitan insurrection of 1820 he supported the constitutionalist party and fought the Austrians, who overthrew the revolutionary government and restored the monarchy (March 1821). Filangieri was dismissed, and he retired to Calabria, where in 1819 he had inherited the princely title and estates of Satriano.

In 1831 Ferdinand II, king of the Two Sicilies, recalled him to command the army. In his suppression of the 1848 Sicilian revolution, he bombarded and captured Messina (September) and besieged and took Catania, where his troops committed many atrocities; by May 1849 he had subdued the entire island. Named duke of Taormina, he governed Sicily until 1855.

Filangieri became Neapolitan minister of war and president of the council under Francis II (1859). He soon resigned, however, after Francis’ rejection of his proposal to grant a popular constitution and to ally Naples with France and Piedmont against Austria. In 1860 he refused to fight the revolutionary leader Giuseppe Garibaldi in Sicily and retired to private life.


The fall of Constantinople in 1453 (only 3 years before the Ottoman siege at Belgrade) sent panic and fear throughout Europe and the Christian world. The loss of Constantinople was regarded as a calamitous setback for Christian Europe and the crusades. The victorious Sultan Mehmet II, encouraged by his momentous victory at Constantinople, began an advance into the Balkans and northward in the hopes of defeating Hungary and reaching Western Europe. Mehmed II would take Serbia in 1454-55; and the following year with an army estimated to be 70,000 strong (other historians have estimated that Mehmed’s army may have been between 100,000-300,000 men), he launched what would be a long and arduous march to Belgrade.

Belgrade (Nándorfehérvár) was a key stronghold of the southern defense system of medieval Hungary. The epic battle between the Ottoman Empire and Hungary would come to significantly influence the subsequent history of Europe and the spread of Ottoman domination in the Balkans. János (John) Hunyadi, an influential and famous Hungarian military commander, politician and noble, took the responsibility for coordinating and controlling the defensive operations along the southern borders of Hungary (a position he was appointed to in 1441). Hunyadi, knowing of the Ottoman advance in the Balkans, left 7,000 of his soldiers in Belgrade to build and strengthen its defensive capabilities in May of 1456. In the buildup to the Ottoman siege, John of Capistrano, a Franciscan monk appointed by the pope to recruit as many troops as it was possible, crisscrossed the Kingdom of Hungary and Western European powers to raise a volunteer force. By June, 1456 Capistrano’s army and the Hungarian forces (numbering approximately 45,000-50,000 in total) arrived in Belgrade and began to take up their defensive positions north of the city.

Hunyadi was able to maintain his pre-eminent position for several years to a considerable degree due to the ever-present Ottoman menace. The defeat of Kosovo Polje was followed by a pause in hostilities. Sultan Murad, who had business to look after elsewhere, signed a treaty with the Hungarians in 1450 and this was confirmed by his successor, Mehmed II (1451-1481). However, it was soon apparent that the accession of Mehmed meant the beginning of a new phase of Ottoman expansion, which was to be much more successful than the previous ones. The first waves of this resurgent military threat soon reached Hungary. Constantinople fell in 1453, and Mehmed immediately transferred his residence from Adrianople to the newly conquered city. In 1454, when the peace of Oradea expired, he attacked Serbia and laid siege to Smederevo, Brankovi.’s capital. In the following year he renewed his attack, this time occupying the whole of Serbia with the exception of Smederevo. As the expedition of 1456 was to be directed against Belgrade, it was not surprising that Hunyadi would once again be pushed to the forefront of events as the potential saviour of the kingdom. His reputation may have been shaken by his defeats since 1444, but he was indisputably the only man capable of successfully opposing the Ottomans.

The preparations for a counter-attack began as early as 1453. Immediately after the fall of Constantinople, Pope Nicholas V proclaimed a crusade. The war against the Ottomans frequently emerged as a subject for discussion at the imperial diets in Germany in 1454-1455, although no definitive decision was made. Not surprisingly, Hungary was swept by a wave of panic, and the diet that assembled in January 1454 at Buda consented to large-scale measures in order to mobilise a national army. It proclaimed the general levy of the nobility, and renewed the institution of the militia portalis. Four cavalrymen and two archers were to be equipped by every 100 peasant holdings, a demand that surpassed all previous recruiting measures. But the projected offensive never took place; all that happened was that in the autumn of 1454 Hunyadi marched into Serbia at the head of a small army and defeated the forces left behind by the sultan at Krusevac. Planning continued in 1455 and the diet levied an extraordinary tax, but that was all that took place. The cause of the anti-Ottoman war was given renewed impetus by the new Pope, Calixtus III (1455-1458), who tried to mobilize the whole power of the Church in order to launch a new crusade. Although the princes of Europe turned a deaf ear to the Pope’s request, he nevertheless aroused enthusiasm among the common people in several places. He received much help from the Franciscans, who deployed the skills of their popular preachers in the service of the `holy war’. As a result of their unremitting zeal, by the summer of 1456 a huge crusading army, consisting mainly of Germans and Bohemians, had assembled in the area around Vienna, ready to march against the `infidels’.

However, this host never confronted the sultan, who began the siege of Belgrade on 4 July with an army which modern scholars have put at 60,000 to 70,000 men. Hunyadi, assisted by the Franciscan Giovanni da Capestrano, had successfully organised the castle’s defence and had assembled a significant army in the vicinity. In the region of 25-30,000 crusaders, `peasants, craftsmen and poor people’, rallied to Hunyadi’s camp under the influence of Capestrano’s impressive sermons.

One of Belgrade’s greatest advantages was its geographic location at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. Mehmet would similarly take advantage of Belgrade’s position by sailing over 200 ships up the Danube river with canons, supplies, siege weapons and equipment. The Ottomans would even establish founderies in Serbia to build and manufacture canons to support the siege. Legend has it that the bells of Constantinople were melted and used to manufacture the canons used against Belgrade in 1456. With the Ottoman forces firmly in control of the river at this stage, the Ottomans blocked Belgrade off from the Danube with a chain of ships, moored upstream of the castle, and began placing their heavy guns outside the western walls of the fortress. The bombardment of the fortress would began in July. Hunyadi however anticipated this tactical move by Mehmed’s forces, and devised a cunning attack to retake control of the river.

On July 13, 1456, a Hungarian fleet of vastly inferior vessels broke the line of the Turkish fleet with the assistance of the fortress commander, Mihaly Szilágyi. Both Hunyadi and Szilágyi (who was Hunyadi’s brother-in-law), had river units that were anchored on the Sava River west of Belgrade and further north on the Danube – and therefore out of reach by the Ottoman forces. Both commander’s led a two-fronted attack against Mehmed II and defeated the Ottoman river armada. With the defeat of the Ottoman fleet, the Hungarians had control of the Danube again meaning the supply of needed reinforcements to Belgrade could be provided uninhibited. Hunyadi could then join his forces, camped about 30 kilometres north of Belgrade, with Szilágyi to increase the defensive capability of the fortress.

The continued Ottoman siege against Belgrade proved insufficient to deal a deciding blow to Hunyadi’s forces. Hunyadi was compelled to lead a defensive fight due to the lack of enough calvary forces to attack the Ottomans full-out. After almost ten days of unsuccessful sieges, on July 21, 1456 Mehmed ordered a full attack on the fortress. By the night of July 21 so many Ottoman attackers had been killed that chaos broke out among Mehmed’s ranks. The next morning (July 22, 1456) Hunyadi rode out of the stronghold with a small contingent and entered into hand to hand fighting with Medmed’s tired and beleaguered army. The Sultan sent 6,000 fresh troops into combat, but these troops could not defeat Hunyadi. Mehmed’s army experienced casualties in excess of 50,000 men and, after the Sultan himself became wounded in battle, ordered a general retreat to Sofia in Bulgaria.

The sultan withdrew with the remnants of his army and with memories that prevented him and his successors from launching an attack of the same dimensions for 65 years. News of this resounding victory soon reached the West. The day on which the Pope received the news, 6 August, the day of the Lord’s Transfiguration, was declared a general feast throughout the Christian world. He had previously ordered that all the bells should be rung at noon to encourage the soldiers, but his bull was not published until after the battle, and thus the tradition, which continues in Hungary to this day, is generally thought to be commemorative of the victory itself.

The victory presented an excellent opportunity for a counter-attack, especially in view of the fact that considerable forces were gathering in the heart of Hungary. But no offensive took place, because the crusaders were already on the edge of open revolt. Anger against the `powerful’, who had kept themselves far from the battle, had already been growing during the fighting. Agitation became so intense after the victory that Hunyadi and Capestrano decided to disband the army. Both of them soon died, however. On 11 August, Hunyadi fell victim to the plague that had broken out in the crusaders’ camp, and Capestrano followed him to the grave on 23 October.

Hunyadi was succeeded by his elder son, the 23 year-old Ladislaus. He seems to have inherited his father’s ambition and slyness, but apparently not his talent. Within a couple of days he found himself in conflict with the king and Cilli, who demanded that the castles and revenues that had been held by Hunyadi should be handed over. Cilli had himself appointed captain general of the realm. Together with the king, and at the head of the foreign crusaders who had recently arrived, he marched southwards with the aim of taking possession of Belgrade and the other stipulated fortresses. To preserve his position, the young Hunyadi decided upon an extremely hazardous course of action. At the assembly of Futog he feigned submission and then enticed his opponents into the castle of Belgrade. There, on 9 November 1456, he had Ulrich murdered by his henchmen, and made himself master of the king’s person. Hunyadi had himself appointed captain general, then took the king to Timisoara. Before being set free, the king was made to swear that the death of Count Cilli would never be avenged.

Ladislaus Hunyadi seems to have seriously miscalculated the possible consequences of his actions. The unprecedented murder turned everyone but his most determined followers against him: not only John Hunyadi’s enemies, like Garai, but also his friends and supporters, like Ujlaki and Orszag, agreed that Ladislaus should be bridled. Paying for perfidy with perfidy, they soon made their opponent believe that he had nothing to fear; and the king too showed himself a master of deception. On 14 March 1457, when Ladislaus was staying at Buda with his brother Matthias, both were arrested, together with their supporters. The royal council, functioning now in its capacity as supreme court, convicted the Hunyadi brothers of high treason, and on 16 March Ladislaus was beheaded in St George’s square in Buda. His supporters were pardoned, but Matthias was held by the king, who immediately left Hungary for Bohemia. The retaliation failed to bring about the desired consolidation, however. Hunyadi’s partisans, in possession of his family’s immense and still intact resources, reacted with open revolt. It was led by Matthias’s mother, Elisabeth Szilagyi, together with her brother, Michael, while the royal troops were commanded by Ujlaki and Jiskra. Fierce but indecisive fighting continued for months, and was ended only by the news of Ladislaus V’s premature death in Prague on 23 November 1457. Since the king had no lawful heir, the kingdom was once again left without a ruler.

Fortress Warfare in Renaissance Italy

French troops arriving in Naples, 1494.

The first fully mobile and effective field artillery appeared in 1494 in the train of Charles VIII of France when he invaded Italy, and Fornovo (1495) was probably the first battle where artillery played a really effective part. The eight-foot bronze guns were drawn by horse teams and could keep up with marching infantry. They made a great impression on the Italians whose few heavy pieces, being ox-drawn, usually arrived too late for battles and, according to Machiavelli, could never fire more than one or two shots before battle was joined.

The offensive on the rampage 1494-1503

Charles VIII and the advent of mobile siege artillery

In military affairs, the events of 1494 did much to bring the Middle Ages to an end. In that year King Charles VIII of France led his army across the Mont-Genevre Pass into Italy, and marched across the Lombard plain and the Apennines to the port of La Spezia, where he picked up the forty or so siege guns with which he intended to make good his claim to the Kingdom of Naples.

These guns were the lineal descendants of the state-owned artillery which had enabled the French to burst open the English strongholds in Normandy and Guyenne in the middle of the century. Craftsmen and bell-founders worked tirelessly to improve the weapon, and by the 1490S they had evolved a cannon that was recognisably the same creature that was going to decide battles and sieges for nearly four hundred years to come.

The medieval bombard was a massive pipe of wrought-iron rods or bronze, designed specifically to throw a large but relatively light ball of stone. The weapon was by no means without its virtues. In relation to muzzle velocity, the stone ball required only one-half the weight of powder as an iron shot of the same calibre, and it exercised a considerable smashing effect on targets like walls, siege towers, ships and trenches full of men. At the same time the bombard and its ammunition were undeniably bulky. The gun was usually fired from a solid block of wood, which rested directly on the earth; it put up a valiant fight against any gunners who threatened to disturb its repose. For transport, the bombard had to be lifted bodily onto an ox waggon running on disc-like wheels which, whenever the cart was canted over to one side, threatened to collapse and deposit the whole load gently back to earth again.

Another disadvantage concerned the manufacture of the missiles. Whereas the casting or forging of an iron cannon ball was a hot but satisfying business, skilled stonemasons had to be paid highly if they were to address themselves to the laborious and frustrating work of carving a stone ball that was just going to be fired from a gun.

In the train of Charles VIII, however, the bombard had been largely supplanted by cannon with homogeneous bronze barrels no more than eight feet long. These pieces could be transported and loaded with ease, and they discharged wrought-iron balls which could compete in range and accuracy with stone-firing bombards of at least three times their calibre. The barrel of the French cannon was readily elevated or depressed around the fulcrum formed by two trunnions (prongs). These were cast into the barrel just forward of the centre of gravity, and rested almost over the axle of the two-wheeled gun carriage beneath. For traversing, the trail of the carriage was lifted from the ground and swung to right or left.

The numerous and well-trained French gunners knew how to take advantage of their new weapon, and an Italian contemporary (Guicciardini, 1562, Bk I) wrote that the cannon were planted against the walls of a town with such speed, the space between the shots was so brief, and the balls flew so speedily, and were driven with such force, that as much execution was inflicted in a few hours as used to be done in Italy over the same number of days.

The enhanced mobility of the French guns was, if possible, still more important than their firepower. Over long distances the heavier of the barrels still had to be loaded onto separate waggons, as before, but gun carriages and waggons alike were now drawn by strong and trained horses, and travelled on ‘dished’ wheels which stood up stoutly to the strains imposed upon them by fifteenth-century roads.

By all reasonable calculations Charles should have been stopped short by one of the Florentine or papal fortresses long before he could reach his goal of Naples. Unfortunately for Italy, the French and their artillery were not reasonable opponents. Charles directed his march down the western side of the Apennines against the northern frontier of the state of Florence, the first obstacle in his path. Florence was on the verge of one of its bouts of puritanical, patriotic republicanism, and the poor Duke Piero de’ Medici, already insecure at home, threw himself on the mercy of Charles as soon as he learnt that the little fortress of Fivizzano had fallen to the French. Sarzana, Sarzanello, Pietra Santa and the citadels of Pisa and Leghorn, all were delivered up without resistance, and on 17 November the pale little French king made his triumphal entry into Florence, lance balanced on thigh. The terrified Pope Alexander VI followed Piero’s example, and hastened to place his strongholds at the disposal of the French.

There was nothing to stand between Charles and the kingdom of Naples. The small Neapolitan citadel of Monte Fortino capitulated as soon as the cannon were planted against it; and the French took a mere eight hours for the business of breaching the important frontier stronghold of Monte San Giovanni and massacring its garrison. The place had once withstood a siege of seven years. With horrifying consistency the French later used the same cruelty at Capua in 1501, Pavia in 1527, and Melfi in 1528.

In the short term the impact of the new French methods was devastating, and on 22 February 1495 Charles was able to ride into the city of Naples in the same style as he had entered Florence.

The French successes had conjured up a hostile league of Venice, the Pope, Milan and Spain. Charles accordingly retraced his steps and smashed open his communications back to France. The king thereafter lost interest in his new conquests, and over the course of 1496 his negligence and cowardice permitted the Spanish to starve into submission all the strongholds in Naples – an episode which indicated that it was nowadays far easier to conquer a kingdom than to hold it.

The Spanish counter-attack and the gunpowder mine

Objections may be made to the choice of the year 1494 to mark the beginning of early modern fortress warfare. Italian military technology had not been entirely static and, as we shall see, the all-important device of the angle bastion was invented seven years before Charles VIII burst into Italy. Then again, the occasions on which the French needed to plant their cannon were surprisingly few, because fortresses tended to surrender at the very wind of their coming. However, Macchiavelli, Guicciardini and almost all the people who have written since about Renaissance warfare are surely right to stress the revolutionary impact of the French and their new artillery. What the authorities are talking about was essentially a Blitzkrieg, which depended as much for its effect upon speed, energy and the potential for destruction, as the actual scale of physical damage. Warfare was prosecuted with a new urgency and tempo, and, no less importantly, big-power politics intruded on Italian affairs.

The newly-revealed power of the offensive fired the ambition of all the hungry southern princes, and upset the equilibrium which had reigned among the major Italian states since the middle of the fifteenth century. In 15°2 the French and Spaniards came to blows over the possession of Naples. Acting with admirable energy, the Spanish defeated the French field army twice over, then proceeded to mop up the isolated enemy garrisons all over Naples.

Out of all the doomed strongholds, the Castle of Uovo (by the city of Naples) was certainly the one that was taken in the most spectacular fashion. Cannon alone were powerless to reduce the place, situated as it was on a narrow peninsula separated from the mainland by a deep ditch. The Spaniards, however, had in their ranks one Pedro Navarro, ‘a thin little man’, who had perfected the gunpowder mine, the one weapon capable of blasting the French from their rocky retreat.

Gunpowder mines had figured in the treatises of Taccola, Mariano of Siena, and Francesco di Giorgio Martini, but it seems that they were first used in actual warfare in 1439, when the Italian educated John Vrano used a countermine in his defence of Belgrade against Sultan Amurath. Under the direction of Martini, the Genoese used gunpowder below ground in their attack on the Florentine held fortress of Sarzanello in 1487. The effect on this occasion was small, for the gallery had not been driven far enough under the foundations. Pedro Navarro, who is said to have witnessed the experiment as a private soldier, went on to remedy this effect at the siege of the Turkish fortress of San Giorgio on the island of Cephalonia in 1500. On that occasion Navarro tunnelled out long galleries beneath the citadel rock, stuffed them with gunpowder ‘to excite the flames’, and produced a devastating flare-up.

The wording of the descriptions of these early mines leaves open the possibility that the powder charges were not primarily explosive in character, but rather intended to hasten the burning of the props which supported the undermined masonry. No such doubt attaches to Navarro’s device at the Castle of Uovo in 1503. He piled his men and tools into covered boats, brought them unknown to the French to the side of the cliff facing Pizzafalcone, and laboured for three weeks to drive a gallery through the rock. On 26 June the Spanish touched off the charge, and part of the rock sprang into the air. The governor and his council were at debate in the chapel above, and despite their misuse of these sacred precincts they were propelled heavenwards with greater force than all the saints of Christianity. Thus Navarro ‘gained great credit at this siege, and struck a terror into everybody’ (Guicciardini, 1562, Bk I).

For a time the older and newer methods of mining co-existed. As late as 1537 the Spaniards attacked Saint-PQI by cutting a gash in the salient of a tower, supporting the masonry by timber, and then burning away the props. In the main, however, besiegers avidly seized on the possibility of wrecking a wall by an explosion, rather than effecting its tame subsidence by the ‘burnt-prop’ method. The explosive mine furthered the work of the cannon in wiping from the strategic map the hosts of small medieval castles which had disrupted and bedevilled so many offensive campaigns in the past. Only a good wet ditch, or a deep and well-flanked dry one was capable of deterring the enemy from ‘attaching the miner’ to the scarp.

Memel Bridgehead 1944-45

During the remaining months of the war, Stalin referred disparagingly to the German presence in Courland as ‘the largest prison camp in the world’. But the Red Army wasn’t content to leave the Germans in peace, and launched six major assaults on the bridgehead. If the Soviet leadership was genuinely happy to tie down German divisions in this increasingly irrelevant area, why was so much effort and blood spent in attempts to destroy Army Group North? The answer probably lies in the fact that the Courland bridgehead formed the last remaining piece of territory, occupied by the Germans, that Stalin regarded as Soviet terrain. When he reassured Churchill and Roosevelt with comments about wanting to restore pre-war borders, he meant the borders of 1941, not 1939 – and by that date, the Baltic states were part of the Soviet Union.

By the end of 1944, the Red Army had launched three major assaults on the southern flank of the Courland bridgehead. All of these attacks – and three similar assaults in 1945 – were repulsed, with major losses on both sides. Slowly, the Germans were driven back into their bridgehead, and as the perimeter of the bridgehead shrank, German divisions were extracted and sent back to Germany. But this trickle of soldiers could achieve little; most of them disappeared into the inferno of the frontline. If the entire pocket had been evacuated en masse, sufficient troops might have been made available to intervene decisively, but Hitler would never have agreed to such a move.

Meanwhile, as the Red Army completed its encirclement of Memel, three German divisions – 58th Infantry Division, 7th Panzer Division and Grossdeutschland- scrambled to take up positions around the besieged city. Rittmeister Kühn was commander of a Panzergrenadier battalion, and was ordered on 10 October to secure Grossdeutschland`s left wing. When he reached his assigned sector, he found none of the prepared positions he was expecting, and ordered his men to improvise as best they could:

Scouting further north of the church I met a brave old rural police sergeant who was standing in front of his pretty white cottage in full war paint. He asked me rather timidly where our fighting troops were. When I told him that was us, he asked if he might now be allowed to withdraw to Memel, as he had received orders to fall back when the combat troops arrived. I felt sorry for the old man, and I couldn’t help thinking about the fairy tale about the steadfast tin soldier.

Kühn gave the old man permission to head for Memel. He then came across some border guards, whom he promptly incorporated into his battalion, much to their alarm. He needed every man he could get – even with this small additional force, he could barely manage a two-man rifle pit or machine-gun nest every 100m. He made contact with a coastal naval battery, armed with eight 128mm guns, and arrangements were made for fire support. A group of 60 Luftwaffe personnel appeared from the north, and were also incorporated into the battalion.

The Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army and 43rd Army, which had pursued the Germans to the city, launched their first assault, starting with a heavy artillery bombardment on the southern and eastern defences at dawn on 10 October. Many local civilians – invalids, the elderly and the Hitler Youth – had been mobilized in the ranks of the Volkssturm, and these inexperienced soldiers, occupying reserve positions behind those held by the regular army, endured the bombardment with varying degrees of stoicism. As daylight grew stronger, bombers also joined the assault. In the meantime, the last refugee columns from the Krottingen area struggled into Memel, picking their way through the rubble-strewn streets. The city was engulfed in a dense cloud of smoke, lit by the flashes of fresh explosions. For the refugees, it must have seemed like a vision of hell.

When the assault began, the Wehrmacht units were ready for it. As a result of the various formations that retreated into the city, there were plentiful weapons and ammunition, and despite the limited time, good preparations had been made for a coordinated defence. On Grossdeutschland`s left flank, Kühn and his battalion came under attack during the day.

Late in the morning the half-tracks in Dargussen reported enemy tanks approaching from the northeast. The observers in the church spire also saw about 15 tanks moving west from the direction of Grabben. At first everything remained quiet opposite the battalions front. In the afternoon … enemy tanks attacked 1 Company’s position at the church from the north. The spire was holed by shells and the artillery observers and the timberwork in which they had positioned themselves began to give way. The valiant commander of the 18-man-strong 1 Company, Feldwebel Zwillus, was almost killed by a falling rafter. He sprinted into the rectory and, standing at the window, described to me by telephone the course of the battle. He was interrupted when the tanks began firing into the house and he had to lie down on the floor. An anti-tank gun, which went into position at the last moment, knocked out the leading tank right in front of the church. The rest remained beyond the stream that ran north of the church. The only way across the stream for the tanks was a small bridge at the policeman’s house, and consequently they had little opportunity to deploy.

Three German assault guns arrived shortly afterwards, and the position stabilized. Elsewhere in the Panzergrenadier regiment’s sector, the first wave of ‘Soviet’ attackers turned out to be Lithuanian civilians, collected together by the advancing Soviet forces and now ordered to charge into the German lines. Behind them were tanks, which were swiftly knocked out by naval gunners and Grossdeutschland’s remaining Tigers.

The Soviet infantry, with tanks in close support, repeatedly achieved penetrations into the German lines, only to be thrown back by determined counter-attacks. Off the coast, the Kriegsmarine intervened in the shape of the pocket battleship Lützow and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen: ‘[They] delivered astonishingly rapid salvoes from their enormous turrets with clearly visible effect. The physical destruction and damage to morale had as much effect on the Russian soldiers as the strength of the frontline soldiers’ defensive fire.’ Almost without exception, German first-hand accounts of the fighting in the closing phases of the war in the east give high praise to the fire support provided by the Kriegsmarine. The accuracy and range of the warships’ guns were phenomenal, as was their striking power. The effect on morale of these ships lying off the coast was enormous. They had sufficient anti-aircraft guns to make attacks on them by Soviet planes a tough prospect, particularly as, unlike their British, German, American and Japanese counterparts, the Soviet Air Force had few formations that specialized in anti-warship operations. The failure of the Soviet Red Banner Fleet, based near Leningrad, to intervene in any way other than limited submarine operations is curious. At this stage of the war it possessed a battleship, two cruisers and 17 destroyers and torpedo boats; had the Soviet fleet made a serious attempt to disrupt German shipping, the entire course of the campaign would have been different. Although there is little hard evidence to support the hypothesis, one can speculate that this restraint was a deliberate policy – Stalin wished to drive the Germans, soldiers and civilians alike, out of East Prussia, and therefore saw no point in closing their one escape route. Furthermore, many Soviet naval personnel had been re-assigned to land-based units during the long fighting around Leningrad, and it is unlikely that all of these warships would have been operational.

The assault raged for three days. Positions changed hands several times – the estate at Paugen, just outside Memel, was lost and retaken by the Germans three times before they finally had to concede it to the Red Army. Eventually, on 12 October, the fighting died down, and the exhausted soldiers on both sides could take stock. The frontline had hardly moved. Bagramian must have hoped that a swift, powerful attack coming hard on the heels of the often chaotic German retreat to the coast would secure the city quickly; instead, the defenders made his assault formations pay a heavy price for minimal gains.

Both armies strove to resupply their frontline formations. Freighters continued to arrive at the bombed-out Memel docks, unloading precious ammunition and other supplies. The next great assault began on 14 October. The preparatory bombardment was even heavier than before, and lasted for two hours, before the infantry, supported by tanks and assault guns, moved forward. They were greeted by a tremendous tornado of fire from the defenders – artillery, tanks, coastal guns, anti-aircraft guns and the Kriegsmarine’s warships all contributed. Again and again, the attackers penetrated deep into the German defences, only to face furious counter-attacks. To the north of Memel, at Karkelbeck, 58th Infantry Division faced the Soviet 179th and 235th Rifle Divisions, and was forced to concede some ground, but everywhere else, the German front held firm.

The 7th Panzer Division was involved in hard fighting to restore the frontline where Soviet forces had made deep penetrations. Willi Hegen was in one of the division’s few remaining Panthers:

We set off – our tank group was led by Leutnant Müller – to the designated preparation area and waited for our deployment. At daybreak, the damned Il-2s were also constantly aloft again. Meanwhile, there were ever more attacks by enemy bombers, which dropped their loads on us. Our tank shook on its springs from the heavy artillery fire. Smoke and dirt was hurled into the air. Suddenly, the fire moved to our rear, and we knew that our foremost lines had been overrun. There soon came an order to counter-attack and, knowing the frontline positions in the Löllen-Paugen-Klausmühlen sector well from the fighting of the last few days, we ran into Russian assault guns and tanks after a few hundred metres. We were the lead vehicle and were able to deal with two assault guns in the moment of surprise. The vehicles of our battlegroup that were following were also successful, shooting up several Russian tanks. …

Slowly, guarding to either side, we rolled forward over an open meadow, of the sort that you often find in this terrain of dunes. This meadow was about a kilometre wide, bordered by a small wood. We advanced slowly over the open ground and drove the enemy from our former positions. Just before the wood, they mounted greater resistance and we drove into a firebreak. Our battlegroup still had four or five tanks, which came under increasing tank fire from the left flank. Unteroffizier Behren’s tank, which was on our left flank during the attack, reported a hit, as a result of which the viewport (which was made of armoured glass in the Pz. IV) shattered into the driver’s face. We were at the firebreak, under fire from the Russians, and we could not see into the firebreak clearly.

We therefore withdrew a little to one side and tried with our collective fire to pin down the enemy who was firing on us. After a while, our second tank was set ablaze. Suddenly, at about 2 o’clock to our right, next to the wood, we saw a Stalin organ that had been brought forward, firing its projectiles. The turret was swiftly turned – which was easily done with the hydraulic traverse of the Panther, and we fired a couple of high-explosive rounds at about 1,600 metres. This resulted in the rockets flying off like at a firework display.

When we turned our turret back towards the enemy who was firing at us, we saw a Pz. IV of the Waffen-SS ablaze; it had accompanied our battlegroup in our counter-attack. But we still couldn’t make out the enemy tank that was firing on us from a well-camouflaged position, let alone engage it. At that moment, Leutnant Müller cried: ‘Quick, there – a T-34 in the firebreak.’ It was moving very carefully and slowly out of the firebreak, in order to bring its gun to bear on us. The turret was turned – and the Russian tank was barely 50 metres from us. We fired, and missed – in my haste, I had forgotten to take my foot off the turret traverse pedal. But quick as a flash, the loader inserted another round, I fired, and the T-34 exploded.

We had never before seen so clearly the law of war: ‘you or me’.

There was no time for celebration. There was smoke everywhere. In front and around us were the impacts of tank rounds. We were the last tank from the counter-attack in an advanced position in this sector and our driver, Jackl Schneeberger, turned and drove away in zigzags. The turret was swiftly turned to 6 o’clock, and then there was a dreadful impact and the fighting compartment filled with flames. Our driver, radio operator and loader bailed out immediately. Leutnant Müller didn’t stir, and the gunner, for whom there was no hatch in a Panther, could only get out through the commander’s cupola. So I had to shove the commander, Leutnant Müller, out until I could exit myself. As I came out of the cupola, I saw Leutnant Müller, who had partly recovered from his daze and confusion, running away from the tank. I leapt from the tank in one bound and ran away from it; I had gone barely 30 metres before it exploded behind me. The cloud of debris hurled us to the ground. We found ourselves in no-man’s land and sought out a little cover. Here, we found that apart from singed hair and a few small burns, none of us was wounded.

Everywhere, Soviet infantry with heavy tank support pressed home its attacks. The few remaining German tanks were sent back and forth to stiffen the defensive line. Willi Friele was the driver of another of 7th Panzer Division’s Panthers, and by the afternoon his tank, commanded by a Leutnant Hopfe, had already accounted for nine enemy tanks, including a Josef Stalin, which sustained no fewer than eight hits before its crew bailed out. The Panther was now assigned a new task: At the end of this defensive action, we received an order from Hauptmann Brandes: ‘324 (our turret number), drive left and take up a position. There’s an infantry platoon amongst the ruined houses, expecting a new armoured attack.’

We set off and came across a Feldwebel and the remnant of his platoon there. They were delighted that we were taking up position with them, as they could hear constant Russian tank engines and track noises from enemy tanks driving around. The infantry’s fear of a new Russian tank attack didn’t please us, though, as we had fired off almost all our armour-piercing rounds.

Late in the afternoon came the desperately awaited supplies of ammunition and fuel. When Leutnant Hopfe told the infantrymen that we had to drive off in order to refuel and take on ammunition, there was near-chaos. They were fearful that we were withdrawing and going to leave them alone. All our explanations achieved nothing, and some even threatened to lie down in front of our tracks if we tried to drive away. We stayed with the poor Landsers rather than leave them. Overjoyed, they fetched us fuel and ammunition from the supply vehicles. We remained overnight with our new friends, on guard, and the next morning, when everything remained quiet, we pulled back to our start-line at the Klemmenhof estate and then back to the Bachmann estate.

The defenders reported they had destroyed a total of 66 Soviet tanks and assault guns during this latest assault, bringing the total of claimed ‘kills’ since the siege began to 150. As darkness fell over the ruins, the Red Army called off its attack. The toll on both armies was heavy. Swiftly, the opposing sides repaired the damage to their lines, and prepared for more fighting. The next – and last – attempt to storm Memel came on 23 October. It was the least powerful attack, and once more it was beaten off.

The fighting had exhausted the defending formations. The 7th Panzer Division was reduced to barely more than a regiment in strength, while the other two divisions, Grossdeutschland and 58th Infantry Division, could only field 40 per cent of their paper strength. Both sides went over to positional warfare. The Germans constructed extensive bunker positions, and improvised additional artillery from 7th Panzer Division’s Panther tanks; there was a shortage of armour-piercing ammunition, but plentiful supplies of high-explosive rounds. Four tanks were positioned on a reverse slope, and fired into the Soviet-held hinterland. Sceptical artillery observers were asked to look out for the fall of shot, and were astonished by the range and accuracy of the 75mm guns. The Soviet forces came to dread them, as their muzzle velocity, far higher than that of conventional artillery, meant that there was no warning whistle of an incoming shell. This gave opportunities to use them against special targets:

From intercepted radio signals, it was possible a week later to learn that an award ceremony for decorated [Soviet] frontline soldiers had been ordered, to be held in a warehouse in front of our sector. Even the time of the ceremony was included in the message.

During the next day, the batteries fired without particularly targeting this location. The warehouse was plastered with a concentrated bombardment at the last moment. The award ceremony was ended before it even began. This example showed the results of the enemy’s carelessness with radio communications.

The Courland armies were entirely dependent on their maritime connection with the Reich for supplies. The loss of the Baltic islands close to Riga had effectively broken the German anti-submarine barriers that held back the Red Banner Fleet’s submarines, but most attacks on German shipping were by Soviet aircraft. The pressure on German shipping, which had been minimal for much of the year, grew steadily. In the first eight months of 1944, total German shipping losses in the eastern Baltic amounted to 17 ships, totalling about 31,000 tonnes. In the remaining four months 53 ships with a total displacement of over 122,000 tonnes were sunk, mainly by air attacks.

The Füsilier was a transport ship that relayed elements of 58th Infantry Division to Memel from Riga, and subsequently shuttled up and down the coast, bringing supplies into Memel and taking away wounded. On 19 November, the ship set off from Pillau with about 250 soldiers aboard, mainly personnel returning to the front from leave. With a single escort, the Füsilier made the run to Memel at night, but in poor visibility the following morning was unable to make out the entrance to the port. A soldier from Memel who happened to be aboard went to the bridge to say that, based on his knowledge and what he could see of the coast, they had already passed Memel. The captain ordered the ship to turn towards the open sea, to avoid Soviet artillery batteries that were known to be on the coast north of Memel. At almost the same moment the coast was lit up by muzzle flashes as Soviet gunners opened fire on the Füsilier. The steamer was rapidly left powerless, and drifted slowly north along the coast, under constant bombardment. The ship’s three lifeboats took off as many men as they could, and as the remainder attempted to find lifebelts and other means of escape, Soviet aircraft attacked and inflicted further damage.

The ship swiftly sank, at which point the Soviet fighters turned their attentions to the lifeboats. One had already disappeared, and a second was now shot up and destroyed. The third survived repeated attacks, and led by the soldier from Memel its occupants sailed it through the day and following night to Libau. The ordeal of the exhausted men and two women in the lifeboat wasn’t over; high waves smashed it against the pier, capsizing it. Ten perished in the freezing water, and only 13 made it to safety.

Both sides began to run down their forces in and around the Memel bridgehead. The 7th Panzer Division was ordered to leave at the end of October, followed by Grossdeutschland, which was to be reorganized as a Panzer corps. They were replaced by 95th Infantry Division, which had fought at the southern edge of the Soviet assault in early October and had been driven back through Ragnit. After the briefest of pauses for recuperation, the weary soldiers of the division were dispatched to the devastated city on the coast, taking over the northern section of the city defences, with 58th Infantry Division holding the southern perimeter. Despite fears that the Red Army would take advantage of the winter to cross the frozen waterways around the city, there was little major fighting around Memel until it was finally evacuated in January 1945.

From the Soviet point of view, the offensive on Memel gained its main objective, of isolating Army Group North. Inadequate reserves, however, prevented opportunities on both flanks from being effectively exploited; in the north, the ‘aggressive defence’ of Betzel’s 4th Panzer Division also contributed to the rapid German stabilization. The assault on Memel itself, too, was a failure, resulting in considerable Soviet casualties. From the Soviet point of view, though, given the German setbacks during 1944, there must have been a belief that German defences would be unable to withstand a series of strong blows. The determined defence of Memel rapidly dispelled any such opinions.


Northern Horse Renowned for their relief of Pontefract Castle, deep in enemy territory, the Northern horse had a fearsome reputation well before that. Under Lord Goring and especially Sir Marmaduke Langdale, these loyal troopers had a long experience of success in battle, and though beaten at Marston Moor, they proved more successful than Prince Rupert’s southern regiments.

Sir Marmaduke Langdale (1598-1661) was a Catholic Yorkshireman recognized by both sides in the Civil War as an outstanding cavalry commander. He served under George Goring until 1644. After the battle of Marston Moor he commanded the Northern Horse. After his capture by the Parliamentarians in 1648 he escaped from captivity in Nottingham Castle disguised as one of his captors, and then, dressed as a milkmaid, reached the Humber, which he swam; he then assumed the guise of a clergyman to make his way to London before going abroad.

The siege of Pontefract brought about one of the most remarkable exploits of the whole war, Langdale’s Relief March. The Northern Horse, with permission to return to their home ground being granted by the king, left the Oxford area in late February 1645. Across England, parliamentarian commanders were puzzled and perplexed by the brigades purpose and its speed. Leaving Banbury on 23rd February, Langdale routed enemy cavalry at Daventry, and on the 25th broke a superior enemy force at Melton Mowbray. On the 26th, reinforced from Newark, the Northern Horse pushed on, and on the 1st March came in sight of Pontefract. Langdale charged, scattered the enemy, and took hundreds of prisoners.

The Royalist campaign started with a vigorous effort to restore control of the Marches, with Lord Astley, Charles Gerard from South Wales, Sir Marmaduke Langdale with his Northern Horse and princes Rupert and Maurice in the field with some 8,000 men. The position of Chester was secured for the time being, and the Royalists turned south to deal with the Clubmen. Other forays were undertaken. Lord Goring swept through Hampshire to little purpose and then withdrew to Salisbury at the end of January. In late February and early March Langdale led an expedition of horse to the relief of Pontefract, which he achieved for a brief space, in which it was resupplied. He was back in Newark on 4 March. It had been a remarkable exercise, but was a part of a series of disconnected actions without strategic coherence.

Early in 1645 Langdale’s northern horse were anxious to return north to be nearer their threatened homes and relieve their friends under siege at Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire. Langdale wrote to Rupert on the 12th January on this subject.

“ I beseech your highness let not our countrymen upbraid us with ungratefullness in deserting them, but rather give us leave to try what we can do; it will be some satisfaction to use that we die amongst them in revenge for their quarrels.”

Langdale was given permission to try and headed north with around 2000 horse defeating Colonel Rossiter at Melton Mowbray on the 25th February.  Langdale was joined by 800 infantry from Newark and continued north. On the 1st March Parliamentarian forces tried to halt Langdale at Wentworth but were defeated and fled back to Pontefract. Langdale advanced to Pontefract and engaged the besieging forces under General Lambert. Supported by the forces from Pontefract Castle Langdale defeated Lambert at Chequerfield and relieved the Castle. The whole daring raid had been a considerable feat of arms by Langdale and clear testimony as to his leadership, skill and the fighting qualities of his men. It was arguably the most brilliant piece of soldiering of the entire war. The stores and munitions captured enabled the Pontefract garrison to resupply and continue to hold out when the siege resumed a month later. The Royalist reputation amongst the civilian population of the area was however tarnished by the conduct of Langdale’s troopers who left a trail of rape and pillage in their wake.

Langdale discovered on arriving at the castle that is brother in law Abraham Sunderland died during the siege. Amongst others who died in the siege was Col James Washington, son and heir of Darcye Washington of Adwick in Yorkshire. James was an ancestor of the first US President George Washington. Darcye Washington, brother of James, died at the siege of Newark and Sir Henry Washington was another prominent Royalist who distinguished himself at Bristol and Worcester

Langdale then proceeded south west to Bridgnorth and joined forces with Prince Maurice and Sir Jacob Astley.



The storming of Basing House Several fortified places, such as Basing House in Hampshire, were captured by storm. After besieging the place, the attackers began to dig trenches towards the walls. As they moved closer, batteries of cannon began to bombard the walls to create a breach. Once this was achieved, an assault was made with troops charging towards the breach. The Parliamentarians under the command of Oliver Cromwell stormed Basing House on 14 October 1645.

The siege of Basing House was one of the most celebrated events of the Civil War. There were in fact three sieges the first the siege of 11 July 1644 when the Parliamentarian Colonel Richard Norton laid siege to the Marquis of Winchester. The first siege had proved difficult so the second was intended to be carried by artillery at a distance. Two large mortars were sent to the siege on 20 July with ‘divers grenadoes’ to cause the besieged trouble. It is thought that these mortars were able to fire stone as well as mortar shell. They arrived on 28 July and lobbed 361b stones into the house as well as grenadoes or shell. The shell were more likely to have been the terror weapon because their explosive capability could not be defended against. Loading the mortars was a time-consuming and dangerous business as the shell had to be loaded and then slung on a bar with two chains to be placed in the muzzle. It is not clear when the idea was hit upon that the burning of the propellant would light the fuse at the same time but some manuscripts mention it whereas others do not. The greatest fear was that the shells would explode in the mouth of the mortar before being fired and so they were often coated with a form of paint to prevent this.


At the time of the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, Basing House belonged to John Paulet, the fifth Marquis of Winchester, who was a supporter of King Charles I. As a consequence, parliamentary forces invested Basing House on three different occasions, with the Royalists successfully breaking the first two sieges.

The final siege started in August 1645 when Colonel John Dalbier, with 800 troops, took up position around the walls. The garrison held out, despite further reinforcements to the attacking force, until Oliver Cromwell arrived with a heavy siege-train. By 13 October 1645, the New House had been taken and the defences of the Old House breached. The final storming took place across the link from the New House. Many valuable goods were carried off and a fire destroyed the building. As with other houses and castles destroyed at the time, its dressed stone was sold off at auction. Local villagers were encouraged to replace wattle and daub panels in their houses with bricks from the house, or to build new houses in brick.


King Charles I faced many political and economic problems throughout the early years of his reign. By 1640, England had become involved in the Bishops’ War in Scotland and the King needed money to support his troops there. Parliament refused to grant such help without improved laws and taxes. King Charles would not comply with their terms and two years of conflict and criticism followed as the British were overburdened with what were seen as the monarch’s unjust and oppressive actions. When the King tried to arrest several members of the House of Commons, Parliament was outraged. Then he demanded control of local arsenals. He was refused. Charles left London for Nottingham where, in August 1642, he raised his personal Royal Standard and declared war upon the Parliament of England.

At this time, many families in England and Wales were now called upon to consider their loyalties. For one man, this was an easier decision than for most. John Paulet, 5th Marquis of Winchester, resident of Basing House in Hampshire, lived up to the family motto, “Aymez Loyaulté” – Love Loyalty – and supported the King.

Paulet had set about fortifying his palatial mansion and collecting arms for fifteen hundred men, some time in advance of these events; but these he was obliged to sell by order of the House of Commons. Left with only six men and six muskets at the outbreak of Civil War, he was quickly attacked by Parliamentarian forces. The small party managed to beat off these initial attacks however and the Marquis was able to strengthen his position. He began to offer shelter to friends in need: among them, the ageing Thomas Fuller and Inigo Jones.

At the end of July 1643, the Marquis was heavily attacked by Colonel Norton of Southwick Park and Colonel Harvey, ‘a decayed silk man,’ who had recently dispersed a crowd of women demanding peace in London. The attack was held off for a while but help came only just in time with the arrival of Lieutenant-Colonel Peake and one hundred musketeers from Oxford. Among the new faces at Basing were two further artists seeking sanctuary: the engraver, William Faithorne, and the artist, Wenceslas Hollar. Another was the man of letters, Thomas Johnston, the first man to write a book on English flora. He was a man of great courage but was shot and killed during the long siege at Basing.

Harvey and the Roundhead troops withdrew but, a few days later, the attack began again in earnest. The London Trained Bands, predecessors of the Royal Marines, were brought in to deal with the five hundred strong ‘Papist’ garrison at Basing. However, the house’s fortifications had been improved and the attack was held off with only eleven guns and muskets. Fourteen and a half acres were now being defended. Hollar’s etching, made during a lull, shows the extent of the grounds.


The trained bands withdrew saying that Basing House was larger than the Tower of London. So Sir William Waller advanced from Farnham Castle with seven thousand men to finish off the Marquis and his followers. Free passage out of the citadel was offered to women and children, but refused, and nine days of hard fighting began. Waller tried to storm the place but, after three days of savage fighting, was forced to retire to Farnham once more, ‘having dishonoured and bruised his army’. Besides, the Royalist General, Lord Hopton, was on the march to relieve Basing.

On 18th August 1643, Parliament declared the Marquis of Winchester guilty of high treason and his vast estates around the country were all confiscated. This had little affect on John Paulet though, after all he had been through. Basing House, with Donnington Castle near Newbury, now guarded the road to the west and Winchester was determined to hold it for as long as possible. Lord Hopton held the city of Winchester for the King and helped Basing much. As he was a Cornishman, he realised how important their position was. Many raiding parties went our from Basing for provisions and there were spies on both sides. There is record of only one. Tobias Beasley who made bullets at Basing, we are told, ‘showed great reluctance to go off the ladder.’

In December 1643, certain Royal cooks came to Basing with some of Prince Rupert’s horse. This led to the rumour that the King had removed much silver and other treasure from the fortress himself. Tradition tells us that the Marquis himself exclaimed, “If the King had no more ground in England but Basing House he would adventure it as he did and so maintain it to the uttermost, comforting himself that Basing House was called Loyalty.”

In March 1644, Waller was victorious at the Battle of Cheriton not far away, which disrupted the King’s schemes. Hopton made good his retreat to Basing and fell back to Oxford, via Reading. Winchester and Basing were now the only places left to the King in the whole of Hampshire.

Some of the garrison at Basing began to lose heart. The Marquis’ own brother, Edward, turned traitor and opened negotiations with Waller. The plot was only uncovered after the unexpected desertion of the Roundhead, Sir Richard Granville, who revealed all. Lord Edward was spared his life but was forced to act as executioner to his fellow conspirators.

All through 1644, the garrison held out against heavy assaults. They would not have lasted the winter though, if it had not been for the brave Colonel Sir Henry Gage who marched from Oxford with relief troops, having to fight overwhelming numbers on Chineham Down. They got through though, reuniting families and chasing the Roundheads out of Basingstoke, collecting their stores and taking them to Basing. But, when Gage left for Oxford again, the Roundheads soon returned. Despite famine and disease, the little garrison held out, making bullets from the lead on the roofs and refusing all forms of surrender.

On May Day 1645, five hundred Royalist Protestants marched out of Basing, after a religious dispute and travelled to Donnington Castle, still unbesieged and held by the King; but they were very properly refused admission by the gallant Sir John Boys, himself a Protestant. Only a small body of Catholics, their wives, children and a few elderly women were now left at Basing, but they lasted through the summer and all demands to surrender were again refused. Then, on 8th October, Oliver Cromwell himself arrived with a brigade of the New Model Army, fresh from the capture of one of the most ancient cities in England, Winchester. Basing House was the remaining place in Hampshire still holding out for the King. The end was in sight, but the garrison was going to go down fighting.

On the 13th, a last patrol was sent out and captured prisoners included Captain Robert Hammond, later the King’s gaoler at Carisbrooke Castle. Then, on the morning of the 14th October 1645, at dawn, the Ironsides launched a final attack and intaking of Basing House. The small garrison could never have stopped these fresh soldiers, but it is said they were surprised while playing cards. This story is unlikely, but a phrase has caught on and ‘Clubs are trumps, as when Basing House was taken’ is a, now little-known unfortunately, Hampshire saying. The final assault did not take long. Three thousand men were employed in the attack and a further four thousand ringed the house out. There was no escape. Yet men fought to the death at sword point. At the end, there were only two hundred prisoners, including women and children.

Then came the looting. All the women and most of the men were stripped of their clothes. Most of the men were hanged, certainly the four catholic priests. The Roundhead soldiers took all they could. Cromwell collected a quarter of a million pounds worth of loot at Basing that day, which he called “good encouragement”. Then the house was set on fire, some say by accident, but many of the garrison, some seventy-four still alive, perished in the flames.

Lastly, Cromwell let the villagers in and it did not take them long to cart away the bricks in order to rebuild their houses. Of the Marquis, he was held prisoner in the Bell Inn in Basingstoke before being taken to the Tower. Cromwell spared his life though and allowed him to escape to France. After the restoration, he returned to England and retired to his wife’s property, Englefield House in Berkshire. His memorial can be seen in the church there with an epitaph by Dryden. Over his actual grave lies a plain blue marble slab, but with powerful words. It reads, ‘Here lieth interred the body of the most noble and mighty prince, John Powlet, Marquis of Winchester, Earl of Wiltshire, Baron St. John of Basing, Most Marquis of England. A man of exemplar piety towards God and the inviolable fidelity to his Sovereign in whose cause fortified his house of Basing and defended it against the rebels to the last extremity.’