By August 3, 1700, King Charles had grown tired of waiting for his reserves and new recruits, and so, with scarce six thousand men, he sailed away from Malmo--clear down at the most southerly point of Sweden--across the Sound, and steered for the Danish coast not twenty-five miles away.
Young Arvid Horn, still the king's fast friend, and now one of his aids, following his leader, leaped into the first of the small barges or row-boats that were to take the troops from the frigates to the Danish shore. His young general and king, impatient at the slowness of the clumsy barges, while yet three hundred yards from shore, stood upright in the stern, drew his sword, and exclaimed: "I am wearied with this pace. All you who are for Denmark follow me!" And then, sword in hand, he sprang over into the sea.
Arvid Horn quickly followed his royal friend. The next moment generals and ministers, ambassadors and belaced officials, with the troops that filled the boats, were wading waist-deep through the shallow water of the Sound, struggling toward the Danish shore, and fully as enthusiastic as their hasty young leader and king.
The Danish musket-balls fell thick around them as the Danish troops sought from their trenches to repel the invaders.
"What strange whizzing noise is this in the air?" asked the young king, now for the first time in action.
"'Tis the noise of the musket-balls they fire upon you," was the reply.
"_Ack_, say you so," said Charles: "good, good; from this time forward that shall he my music."
In the face of this "music" the shore was gained, the trenches were carried by fierce assault and King Charles's first battle was won.
Two days later, Copenhagen submitted to its young conqueror, and King Frederick of Denmark hastened to the defence of his capital, only to find it in the possession of the enemy, and to sign a humiliating treaty of peace.
The boy conqueror's first campaign was over, and, as his biographer says, he had "at the age of eighteen begun and finished a war in less than six weeks." Accepting nothing for himself from this conquest, he spared the land from which his dearly remembered mother had come from the horrors of war and pillage which in those days were not only allowable but expected.
King Augustus of Poland, seeing the short work made of his ally the King of Denmark, by this boy king, whom they had all regarded with so much contempt, deemed discretion to be the better part of valor and, as the lad had prophesied, withdrew from Livonia, "going back by the way he came." Then the young conqueror, flushed with his successes, turned his army against his third and greatest enemy, Czar Peter, of Russia, who, with over eighty thousand men, was besieging the Swedish town of Narva.
A quaint old German-looking town, situated a few miles from the shores of the Gulf of Finland, in what is now the Baltic provinces of Russia, and near to the site of the czar's later capital of St.
Petersburg, the stout-walled town of Narva was the chief defence of Sweden on its eastern borders, and a stronghold which the Russian monarch especially coveted for his own. Young Arvid Horn's uncle, the Count Horn, was in command of the Swedish forces in the town, which, with a thousand men, he held for the young king, his master, against all the host of the Czar Peter.
The boy who had conquered Denmark in less than six weeks, and forced a humiliating peace from Poland, was not the lad to consider for a moment the question of risk or of outnumbering forces. In the middle of November, when all that cold Northern land is locked in ice and snow, he flung out the eagle-flag of Sweden to the Baltic blasts, and crossed to the instant relief of Narva, with an army of barely twenty thousand men. Landing at Pernau with but a portion of his troops, he pushed straight on, and with scarce eight thousand men hurried forward to meet the enemy. With a courage as daring as his valor was headlong, he surprised and routed first one and then another advance detachment of the Russian force, and soon twenty-five thousand demoralized and defeated men were retreating before him into the Russian camp. In less than two days all the Russian outposts were carried, and on the noon of the thirtieth of November, 1700, the boy from Sweden appeared with his eight thousand victory-flushed though wearied troops before the fortified camp of his enemy, and, without a moment's hesitation, ordered instant battle.
"Sire," said one of his chief officers, the General Stenbock, "do you comprehend the greatness of our danger? The Muscovites outnumber us ten to one."
"What, then!" said the intrepid young king, "do you imagine that with my eight thousand brave Swedes I shall not be able to march over the bodies of eighty thousand Muscovites?" And then at the signal of two fusees and the watchword, "With the help of God," he ordered his cannon to open on the Russian trenches, and through a furious snow-storm charged straight upon the enemy.
Again valor and enthusiasm triumphed. The Russian line broke before the impetuosity of the Swedes, and, as one chronicler says, "ran about like a herd of cattle"; the bridge across the river broke under the weight of fugitives, panic followed, and when night fell, the great Russian army of eighty thousand men surrendered as prisoners of war to a boy of eighteen with but eight thousand tired soldiers at his back.
So the boy conqueror entered upon his career of victory. Space does not permit to detail his battles and his conquests. How he placed a new king on the throne of Poland, kept Denmark in submission, held the hosts of Russia at bay, humbled Austria, and made his name, ere yet he was twenty, at once a wonder and a terror in all the courts of Europe. How, at last, his ambition getting the better of his discretion, he thought to be a modern Alexander, to make Europe Protestant, subdue Rome, and carry his conquering eagles into Egypt and Turkey and Persia. How, by unwise measures and foolhardy endeavors, he lost all the fruits of his hundred victories and his nine years of conquest in the terrible defeat by the Russians at Pultowa, which sent him an exile into Turkey, kept him there a prisoner of state for over five years; and how, finally, when once again at the head of Swedish troops, instead of defending his own home-land of Sweden, he invaded Norway in the depth of winter, and was killed, when but thirty-six, by a cannon-shot from the enemy's batteries at Frederickshall on December 11, 1718.
Charles the Twelfth of Sweden was one of the most remarkable of the world's historic boys. Elevated to a throne founded on despotic power and victorious memories, at an age when most lads regard themselves as the especial salt of the earth, he found himself launched at once into a war with three powerful nations, only to become in turn the conqueror of each. A singularly good boy, so far as the customary temptations of power and high station are concerned--temperate, simple, and virtuous in tastes, dress, and habits--he was, as one of his biographers has remarked, "the only one among kings who had lived without a single frailty."
But this valorous boy, who had first bridled his own spirit, and then conquered the Northern world, "reared," as has been said, "under a father cold and stern, defectively educated, taught from childhood to value nothing but military glory," could not withstand the temptation of success. An ambition to be somebody and to do something is always a laudable one in boy or girl, until it supplants and overgrows the sweet, true, and manly boy and girl nature, and makes us regardless of the comfort or the welfare of others. A desire to excel the great conquerors of old, joined to an obstinacy as strong as his courage, caused young Charles of Sweden to miss the golden opportunity, and instead of seeking to rule his own country wisely, sent him abroad a homeless wanderer on a career of conquest, as romantic as it was, first, glorious, and at the last disastrous.
In the northern quarter of the beautiful city of Stockholm, surrounded by palaces and gardens, theatres, statues, and fountains, stands Molin's striking statue of the boy conqueror, Charles the Twelfth of Sweden. Guarded at the base by captured mortars, the outstretched hand and unsheathed sword seem to tell of conquests to be won and victories to be achieved. But to the boy and girl of this age of peace and good-fellowship, when wars are averted rather than sought, and wise statesmanship looks rather to the healing than to the opening of the world's wounds, one cannot but feel how much grander, nobler, and more helpful would have been the life of this young "Lion of the North," as his Turkish captors called him, had it been devoted to deeds of gentleness and charity rather than of blood and sorrow, and how much more enduring might have been his fame and his memory if he had been the lover and helper of his uncultivated and civilization-needing people, rather than the valorous, ambitious, headstrong, and obstinate boy conqueror of two centuries ago.
THE TRUE STORY OF A KIDNAPPED BOY AS TOLD BY HIMSELF
By Peter Williamson
I was born in Hirulay, in the county of Aberdeen, Scotland.
My parents, though not rich, were respectable, and so long as I was under their care all went well with me. Unhappily, I was sent to stay with an aunt at Aberdeen, where, at eight years old, when playing on the quay, I was noticed as a strong, active little fellow by two men belonging to a vessel in the harbor. Now, this vessel was in the employ of certain merchants of Aberdeen, who used her for the villanous purpose of kidnapping--that is, stealing young children from their parents and selling them as slaves in the plantations abroad.
These impious monsters, marking me out for their prey, tempted me on board the ship, which I had no sooner entered than they led me between the decks to some other boys whom they had kidnapped in like manner. Not understanding what a fate was in store for me, I passed the time in childish amusement with the other lads in the steerage, for we were never allowed to go on deck while the vessel stayed in the harbor, which it did till they had imprisoned as many luckless boys as they needed.
Then the ship set sail for America. I cannot remember much of the voyage, being a mere child at the time, but I shall never forget what happened when it was nearly ended. We had reached the American coast, when a hard gale of wind sprang up from the southeast, and about midnight the ship struck on a sandbank off Cape May, near Delaware. To the terror of all on board, it was soon almost full of water. The boat was then hoisted out, and the captain and his fellow-villains, the crew, got into it, leaving me and my deluded companions, as they supposed, to perish. The cries, shrieks, and tears of a throng of children had no effect on these merciless wretches.
But happily for us the wind abated, and the ship being on a sandbank, which did not give way to let her deeper, we lay here till morning, when the captain, unwilling to lose all his cargo, sent some of the crew in a boat to the ship's side to bring us ashore. A sort of camp was made, and here we stayed till we were taken in by a vessel bound to Philadelphia.
At Philadelphia, people soon came to buy us. We were sold for 16 apiece. I never knew what became of my unhappy companions, but I was sold for seven years to one of my countrymen, Hugh Wilson, who in his youth had suffered the same fate as myself in being kidnapped from his home.
Happy was my lot in falling into his power, for he was a humane, worthy man. Having no children of his own, and pitying my sad condition, he took great care of me till I was fit for business, and at twelve years old set me about little things till I could manage harder work. Meanwhile, seeing my fellow-servants often reading and writing, I felt a strong desire to learn, and told my master that I should be glad to serve a year longer than the bond obliged me if he would let me go to school. To this he readily agreed, and I went every winter for five years, also learning as much as I could from my fellow-servants.
With this good master I stayed till I was seventeen years old, when he died, leaving me a sum of money, about 120 sterling, his best horse, and all his wearing apparel.
I now maintained myself by working about the country, for any one who would employ me, for nearly seven years, when I determined to settle down. I applied to the daughter of a prosperous planter, and found my suit was acceptable both to her and her father, so we married. My father-in-law, wishing to establish us comfortably, gave me a tract of land which lay, unhappily for me, as it has since proved, on the frontiers of Pennsylvania. It contained about two hundred acres, with a good house and barn.
I was now happy in my home, with a good wife; but my peace did not last long, for about 1754 the Indians in the French interest, who had formerly been very troublesome in our province, began to renew their old practices. Even many of the Indians whom we supposed to be in the English interest joined the plundering bands; it was no wonder, for the French did their utmost to win them over, promising to pay 15 for every scalp of an Englishman!
Hardly a day passed but some unhappy family fell a victim to French bribery and savage cruelty. As for me, though now in comfortable circumstances, with an affectionate and amiable wife, it was not long before I suddenly became the most pitiable of mankind. I can never bear to think of the last time I saw my dear wife, on the fatal 2d of October, 1754. That day she had left home to visit some of her relations, and, no one being in the house but myself, I stayed up later than usual, expecting her return. How great was my terror when, at eleven o'clock at night, I heard the dismal warwhoop of the savages, and, flying to the window, saw a band of them outside, about twelve in number.
They made several attempts to get in, and I asked them what they wanted. They paid no attention, but went on beating at the door, trying to get it open. Then, having my gun loaded in my hand, I threatened them with death if they would not go away. But one of them, who could speak a little English, called out in return that if I did not come out they would burn me alive in the house. They told me further--what I had already found out--that they were no friends to the English, but that if I would surrender myself prisoner they would not kill me.
My horror was beyond all words. I could not depend on the promises of such creatures, but I must either accept their offer or be burned alive. Accordingly, I went out of my house with my gun in my hand, not knowing what I did or that I still held it. Immediately, like so many tigers, they rushed on me and disarmed me. Having me now completely in their power, the merciless villains bound me to a tree near the door, and then went into the house and plundered what they could. Numbers of things which they were unable to carry away were set fire to with the house and consumed before my eyes. Then they set fire to my barn, stable, and outhouses, where I had about two hundred bushels of wheat, and cows, sheep, and horses. My agony as I watched all this havoc it is impossible to describe.
When the terrible business was over, one of the monsters came to me, a tomahawk in his hand, threatening me with a cruel death if I would not consent to go with them. I was forced to agree, promising to do all that was in my power for them, and trusting to Providence to deliver me out of their hands. On this they untied me, and gave me a great load to carry on my back, under which I travelled all that night with them, full of the most terrible fear lest my unhappy wife should likewise have fallen into their clutches. At daybreak my master ordered me to lay down my load, tying my hands round a tree with a small cord. They then kindled a fire near the tree to which I was bound, which redoubled my agony, for I thought they were going to sacrifice me there.
When the fire was made, they danced round me after their manner, with all kinds of antics, whooping and crying out in the most horrible fashion. Then they took the burning coals and sticks, flaming with fire at the ends, and held them near my face, head, hands and feet, with fiendish delight, at the same time threatening to burn me entirely if I called out or made the least noise. So, tortured as I was, I could make no sign of distress but shedding silent tears, which, when they saw, they took fresh coals, and held them near my eyes, telling me my face was wet, and they would dry it for me. I have often wondered how I endured these tortures; but at last they were satisfied, and sat down round the fire and roasted the meat which they had brought from my dwelling!
When they had prepared it, they offered some to me, and though it may be imagined that I had not much heart to eat, I was forced to seem pleased, lest if I refused it they should again begin to torture me. What I could not eat I contrived to get between the bark and the tree--my foes having unbound my hands till they supposed I had eaten all they gave me. But then they bound me as before, and so I continued all day.
When the sun was set they put out the fire, and covered the ashes with leaves, as is their custom, that the white people may find no signs of their having been there.
Travelling thence, by the river, for about six miles, I being loaded heavily, we reached a spot near the Blue Hills, where the savages hid their plunder under logs of wood. Thence, shocking to relate, they went to a neighboring house, that of Jacob Snider, his wife, five children, and a young man, a servant. They soon forced their way into the unhappy man's dwelling, slew the whole family, and set fire to the house.
The servant's life was spared for a time, since they thought he might be of use to them, and forthwith loaded him with plunder. But he could not bear the cruel treatment that we suffered; and though I tried to console him with a hope of deliverance, he continued to sob and moan. One of the savages, seeing this, instantly came up, struck him to the ground, and slew him.
The family of John Adams next suffered. All were here put to death except Adams himself, a good old man, whom they loaded with plunder, and day after day continued to treat with the most shocking cruelty, painting him all over with various colors, plucking the white hairs from his beard, and telling him he was a fool for living so long, and many other tortures which he bore with wonderful composure, praying to God.
One night after he had been tortured, when he and I were sitting together, pitying each other's misfortunes, another party of Indians arrived, bringing twenty scalps and three prisoners, who gave us terrible accounts of what tragedies had passed in their parts, on which I cannot bear to dwell.
These three prisoners contrived to escape, but unhappily, not knowing the country, they were recaptured and brought back. They were then all put to death, with terrible tortures.
A great snow now falling, the savages began to be afraid that the white people would follow their tracks upon it and find out their skulking retreats, and this caused them to make their way to their winter quarters, about two hundred miles further from any plantations or English inhabitants. There, after a long and tedious journey, in which I was almost starved, I arrived with this villainous crew. The place where we had to stay, in their tongue, was called Alamingo, and there I found a number of wigwams full of Indian women and children. Dancing, singing, and shooting were their general amusements, and they told what successes they had had in their expeditions, in which I found myself part of their theme. The severity of the cold increasing, they stripped me of my own clothes and gave me what they usually wear themselves--a blanket, a piece of coarse cloth, and a pair of shoes made of deerskin.
The better sort of Indians have shirts of the finest linen they can get, and with these some wear ruffles, but they never put them on till they have painted them different colors, and do not take them off to wash, but wear them till they fall into pieces. They are very proud, and delight in trinkets, such as silver plates round their wrists and necks, with several strings of _wampum_, which is made of cotton, interwoven with pebbles, cockle-shells, etc. From their ears and noses they have rings and beads, which hang dangling an inch or two.
The hair of their heads is managed in different ways: some pluck out and destroy all except a lock hanging from the crown of the head, which they interweave with wampum and feathers. But the women wear it very long, twisted down their backs, with beads, feathers, and wampum, and on their heads they carry little coronets of brass or copper.
No people have a greater love of liberty or affection for their relations, yet they are the most revengeful race on earth, and inhumanly cruel. They generally avoid open fighting in war, yet they are brave when taken, enduring death or torture with wonderful courage. Nor would they at any time commit such outrages as they do if they were not tempted by drink and money by those who call themselves civilized.