« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
drum rumbles from afar, the brazen trumpet brays its thrilling note, and the rude clash of hostile arms speaks fearful prophecies of coming troubles. The gallant warrior starts from soft repose, from golden visions, and voluptuous ease; where, in the dulcet “piping time of peace," he sought sweet solace after all his toils. No more in beauty's siren lap reclined, he weaves fair garlands for his lady's brows;
no more entwines with flowers his shining sword ; nor through the live long lazy summer's day, chants forth his lovesick soul in madrigals. To manhood roused, he spurns the amorous lute; doffs from his brawny back the robe of peace, and clothes his pampered limbs in panoply of steel. O'er his dark brow, where late the myrtle waved—where wanton roses breathed enervate loye-he rears the beaming casque and nodding plume; grasps the bright shield, and shakes the ponderous lance; or mounts with eager pride the fiery steed, and burns for deeds of glorious chivalry.
But soft, worthy reader! I would not have you imagine, that any preux chevalier, thus hideously begirt with iron, existed in the city of New-Amsterdam. This is but a lofty and gigantic mode in which heroic writers always talk of war, thereby to give it a noble and imposing aspect; equipping our warriors with bucklers, helmets, and Iances, and such like outlandish and obsolete weapons, the like which perchance they had never seen or heard of; in the same manner that a cunning statuary arrays a modern general or an admiral in the accoutrements of a Cæsar or an Alexander. The simple truth then of all this oratorical flourish is this—that the valiant Peter Stuyvesant, all of a sudden, found it necessary to scour his trusty blade, which too long had rusted in its scabbard, and prepare himself to undergo the hardy toils of war, in which his mighty soul so much delighted.
Methinks I at this moment behold him in my imagition-or rather, I behold his goodly portrait, which still hangs up in the family mansion of the Stuyvesants, arrayed in all the terrors of a true Dutch General. His regimental coat of German blue, gorgeously decorated with a goodly show of large brass buttons, reaching from his waistband to his chin. The voluminous skirts turned up at the corners and separating gallantly behind, so as to display the seat of a sumptuous pair of brimstone coloured trunk breeches--a graceful style still prevalent among the warriors of our day, and which is in confor
mity to the custom of ancient heroes, who scorned to defend themselves in rear. His face rendered exceeding terrible and warlike by a pair of black mustachios; his hair strutting out on each side in stitily pomatumed earlocks, and descending in a rat-tail queue below his waist; a shining stock of black leather supporting his chin, and a little, but fierce cocked hat, stuck with a gallant and fiery air over his left eye. Such was the chivalric port of Peter the Headstrong; and when he made a sudden halt, planted himself firmly on his solid supporter, with his wooden leg inlaid with silver, a little in advance, in order to strengthen his position, his right hand grasping a goldheaded cane, his left resting upon the pummel of his sword ; his head dressing spiritedly to the right with a most appalling and hard favoured frown upon his browhe presented altogether one of the most commanding, bitter looking and soldierlike figures that ever strutted upon canvass. Proceed we now to inquire the cause of this warlike preparation.
The encroaching disposition of the Swedes, on the south or Delaware river, has been duly recorded in the chronicles of the reign of William the Testy. These encroachments, having been endured with that heroic magnanimity which is the corner stone, or, according to Aristotle, the 'left hand neighbour of true courage, had been repeated and wickedly aggravated. The Swedes who were of that class
of cunning pretenders to Christianity, who read the Bible upside down, whenever it interferes with their interests, inverted the golden maxim; and when their neighbour suffered them to smite him on the one cheek, they generally smote
him on the other also, whether turned to them or not. Their repeated aggressions had been among the numerous sources of vexation that conspired to keep the irritable sensibilities of Wilhelmus Kieft in a constant fever; and it was only owing to the unfortunate circumstance that he had always a hundred things to do at once, that he did not take such unrelenting vengeance as their offences merited. But they had now a chieftain of a different character to deal with; and they were soon guilty of a piece of treachery, that threw his honest blood in a ferment and precluded all fur. ther sufferance.
Printz, the governor of the province of New-Sweden, being either deceased or removed, for of this fact some uncertainty exists, was succeeded by Jan Risingh, a gigan
tic Swede; and who, had he not been rather knockneed and splay-footed, might have served for the model of a Samson or a Hercules. He was no less rapacious than mighty, and withal as crafty as he was rapacious; so that, in fact, there is very little doubt, had he lived some four or five centuries before, he would have been one of those wicked giants, who took such a cruel pleasure in pocketting distressed damsels
, when gadding about in the world ; and locking them up in enchanted castles, without a toilet, a change of linen, or any other convenience. In consequence of which enormities, they fell under the high displeasure of chivalry, and all true, loyal, and gallant knights, were instructed to attack and slay outright any miscreant they might happen to find, above six feet high; which is doubtless one reason that the race of large men is nearly extinct, and the generations of latter ages so exceeding small.
No sooner did Governor Risingh enter upon his office than he immediately cast his eyes upon the important post of Fort Casimer, and formed the righteous resolution of taking it into his possession. The only thing that remained to consider was the mode of carrying his resolulution into effect; and here I must do him the justice to say, that he exhibited a humanity rarely to be met with among leaders, and which I have never seen equalled in modern times, excepting among the English, in their glorious affair at Copenhagen. Willing to spare the effusion of blood, and the miseries of open warfare, he benevolently shunned everything like avowed hostility or regular siege, and resorted to the less glorious but more merciful expedient of treachery,
Under pretence, therefore of paying a neighbourly visit to General Von Poffenburgh, at his new post of Fort Casimir, he made requisite preparation, sailed in great state up the Delaware, displayed his flag with the most ceremoneous punctilio, and honoured the fortress with a royal salute previous to dropping anchor. The unusual noise awakened a veteran Dutch sentinel, who was napping faithfully at his post, and who having suffered his match to go out, contrived to return the compliment, by discharging his rusty musket with the spark of a pipe, which he borrowed from one of his comrades. The salute indeed would have been answered by the guns of the fort, had they not been unfortunately out of order, and the magazine deficient in ammunition-accidents to which forta have in all ages been liable, and which were the more ex
cusable in the present instance, as Fort Casimir had only been erected about two years, and General Von Poffenburgh, its mighty commander had been fully occupied with matters of much greater importance.
Risingh, highly satisfied with this courteous reply to his salute, treated the fort to a second, for he well knew its commander was marvellously delighted with these little ceremonials, which he considered as so many acts of homage paid unto his greatness. He then landed in great state, attended by a suite of thirty men—a prodigious and vainglorious retinue, for a petty governor of a petty settlement, in those days of primitive simplicity; and to the full as great an army as generally swells the pomp and marches in the rear of our frontier commanders at the present day.
The number in fact might have awakened suspicion, had not the mind of the great Von Poffenburgh been so completely engrossed with an all-pervading idea of himself, that he had not room to admit
a thought besides. In fact, he considered the concourse of Risingh's followers as a compliment to himself-so apt are great men to stand between themselves and the sun, and completely eclipse the truth by their own shadow.
It may readily be imagined how much General Von Poffenburgh was flattered by a visit from so august a personage; his only embarrassment was, how he should receive him in such a manner as to appear to the greatest advantage, and make the most advantageous impression. The main guard was ordered immediately to turn out, and the arms and regimentals (of which the garrison posbessed full half a dozen suits) were equally distributed among the soldiers. One tall lank fellow appeared in a coat intended for a small man, the skirts of which reached a little below his waist, the buttons were between his shoulders, and the sleeves half way to his wrists, so that his hands looked like a couple of huge spades ; and the coat not being large enough to meet in front, was linked together by loops, made of a pair of red worsted garters. Another had an old cocked hat, stuck on the back of his head, and decorated with a bunch of cock's tails—a third had a pair of rusty gaiters, hanging about his heels-while a fourth, who was a short duck-legged little Trojan, was equipped in a huge pair of the general's cast off breeches, which he held up with one hand, while he grasped his firelock with the other. The rest were accoutred in simi
lar style, excepting three graceless ragamuffins, who had no shirts, and but a pair and a half of breeches between them, wherefore they were sent to the black-hole to keep them out of view. There is nothing in which the talents of a prudent commander are more completely testified than in thus setting matters off to the greatest advantage ; and it is for this reason that our frontier posts at the present day (that of Niagara for example,) display their best suit of regimentals on the back of the sentinel who stands in sight of ravellers.
His men being thus gallantly arrayed—those who lacked muskets shouldering spades and pickaxes, and every man being ordered to tuck in his shirt tail and pull up his brogues, General Von Poffenburgh first took a sturdy draught of foaming ale, which, like the magnanimous More of Morehall, was his invariable practice on all great occasions; which done, he put himself at their head, ordered the pine planks which served as a draw bridge, to be laid down, and issued forth from his castle, like a mighty giant, just refreshed with wine. But when the two he. roes met, then began a scene of warlike parade, and chivalric courtesy that beggars all description. Risingh, who, as I before hinted, was a shrewd, cunning politician, and had grown gray much before his time, in consequence of his craftiness, saw at one glance the ruling passion of the great Von Poffenburgh, and humoured him in all his valorous fantasies.
Their detachments were accordingly drawn up in front of each other ; they carried arms, and they presented arms; they gave the standing salute and the passing salute:-they rolled their drums, they flourished their fifes, and they waved their colours—they faced to the left, and they faced to the right, and they faced to the right about:--they wheeled forward, and they wheeled backward, and they wheeled into echelon :~they marched and they counter-marched by grand divisions, by single divisions, and by subdivisions, by platoons, by sections, and by files,-to quick time, in slow time, and in no time at all: for, having gone through all the evolutions of two great armies, including the eighteen maneuvres of Dundas; having exhausted all that they could recollect or imagine of military tactics, including sundry strange and irregular evolutions, the like of which were never seen before or since, excepting among certain of our newly raised militia—the two great commanders and their respective troops came at length to a dead halt, completely exhaust,