By his most high & most puissant Prince Albert,
Archduke of Austria & Cardinal of the Holy
Apostolic See, Governor &
Lieutenant general of his
Catholic Majesty of
the low countries.
With the succour & revictualment
of the city of la Fere.
By Rutger Velpius, Printer
At the Golden Eagle, 1596.
The following is a contemporary account of the siege of Calais in 1596, translated from the original French into English by C. T. Iannuzzo. It is just the sort of pamphlet that would have M. du Lac gnashing his teeth, not to mention the humiliation of the defeat itself from which he has still not recovered. It is a mortification to him that he still lives, but a great comfort to his family.
OF WHAT CAME
TO PASS AT
His Serene Highness hearing on attaining the government of these Low countries, that the city of la Fere found itself extremely pressed by the long siege that the Bearnais had held there, immediately put all his thinking to determine the means to aid it: And considering the difficulty that there was to do it by force, as much for the enemy, who had occupied the principle avenues, as for it being a fortified place within France, covered by the cities of Guise, Saint Quentin, Han, & Peronne, by means of which the said Bearnais could marvellously inconvenience the troops that would have marched towards there, & and take their supplies from them. His said Highness resolved to provide for it by distractions: And to give means to those at la Fere to wait for the outcome of his undertakings, he commanded Sieur George Baste to find means to approach the said place, to drop them some supplies, of which they were in necessity: this the said George effected so happily, that leaving the environs of Douay the 15 of March with five or six hundred horse each loaded with a quantity of wheat, & being refreshed at Chatelet, & passing the gates of S. Quintin, he arrived the same night, a little before day in the place designated without being even slightly perceived by the enemy, put the said supplies in the hands of those of the city, & returned immediately by another road towards the chateau in Cambresy (Cateau-Cambresis) without having lost a single man.
And meanwhile, the said Highness to cover his plan ordered from the Provinces a great number of wagons and fodder, arranged by the Sieur de Rossieu in Vallenciennes, Arras & Douay a great preparation of bread and all the other supplies necessary for the said city of la Fere, making every demonstration of the intention to help, at whatever price it was: joining to this effect his army between Douay & Vallenciennes for the XXX of the month of March, where he also sent the regiment of the sieur de la Coquel, the Company of Sieur de Marles Governor of Arras, that of the Comte de Busquoy, Bucquan, & others with the garrisons of Dourlens, & companies of men at arms as well as light horse, that were in the garrisons of Saint Omer, as well as the Bailliage of Hesdin. This being noticed by the said King of Navarre, who was determined to maintain such an advantageous siege, immediately had made great trenches around his positions, joining together by this means the forces that were in the environs of the said la Fere, And commanded all his nobles to, without any delay, come to find him at this place, where he also directed his garrisons of the Boulenois, as well as Picardie, & all the other places of his Kingdom, not suspecting anything (such a watchful and sly Captain that he is) that he must thus be fooled by the said Serene Highness. Who having heard that which happened, feigning still the desire to pursue his path, after having sent the aforesaid George Baste to the Chateau in Cambresy with two thousand horse and as many infantry, to not lose any occasion to assist those of the said la Fere: he commanded all at once the Marshall de Rone, that friday the fifth of the month of April he was to proceed with the avant-guard taking his way toward Lilers, the which he did with such diligence, followed by the said Highness within a day, that he arrived the tuesday following in the environs of the city of Calais with three hundred horse, the regiments of the sieur don Louys de Velasquez, Comte de Busquoy, La-Bourlotte, & Comte de Bye, who could amount to the number of five thousand, five hundred men on foot. And having seized the bridge of Nieule, & some other posts of importance, passing immediately out towards the Risebant, which he battered all at once, and carried the assault with the loss of only one or two soldiers, fortified himself in the said place waiting the arrival of his Highness, who was following him closely with the rest of the army: And had meanwhile sent the Sieur don Ambroise Landriany Lieutenant of the light Cavalry towards Monstroeul, to keep the enemy amused, & had the Sieur don Augustin de Mexia make his way toward St. Pol with part of his regiment, & some artillery from the rearguard, which he had turn back and take the way to S. Omer, after which he passed three leagues outside the city of Arras, heading towards S. Pol. His said Highness arrived at the camp with the rest of his forces, disposed the regiments of the said sieur don Louys, Comte de Bye, & Grugon to guard the aforesaid Risebant, those of the Sieur don Alonso de Mendoza, La-Bourlotte, du Comte de Busquoy, with the garrisons of Arthois, & the Comte de Tensich Aleman on the side of the dunes toward Gravelinghes: La Court on the side of the mainland at Saint Pierre with the regiments of sieur don Augustin, Fresin, & others, to guard the advances from the land side. The thursday following the enemy brought several little barques into the city, & sent out others, & several great ships presented themselves at the entrance to the Harbor, one of which, full of wine, was quickly sent to the bottom by our artillery who were stationed on the Risebant, & the said wine won by our soldiers, for whom it was as much convenient as the multitude of beasts that they found everywhere in the environs of the said Calais, which was not suspecting the enemy of such surprise. The Friday, Saturday, & Sunday went by making the approachs, & meanwhile the Sieur de Campagnol, with the sieur de Moncaurel threw themselves into the said city of Calais. And to cut them the passage & more easily approach the city by the spot that his said Highness was intending to attack it, Monday he had battered and assaulted the suburbs on the side of the Harbor, which the enemy had fired since the Friday previously, & notwithstanding that they were defended by a bulwerk, & by a high platform in the town, that it was necessary to assault it by sea, & that more than one hundred enemy ships were in the sights to defend it, as much with their artillery as muskets & crochets, it was nevertheless assailed so vigorously by us, that they carried the assault, & our people were quickly lodged in the said suburbs as far as the ramparts of the town, & in the very archway of the Harbor side gate. Wednesday in the morning, they began to salute the said city with fine Cannonades from the side of the said Harbor, which greatly astonished them, and as the rampart was very weak on this side, they sent out the Sieur d'Imperet to ask his Highness a truce for eight days, waiting for news from their King, which was refused them, as also the time of only twenty-fours hours that he asked for resolution: And they went back in, the battery continued even more finely, which was the cause, so as not to put themselves in the same risk as those of Dourlens, they chose to surrender the city to His said Highness, who took the bourgeois under the protection of his Majesty, & on promising not to permit anyone to do any displeasure, & giving leave to all those who would want to retire within the Citadel, without nevertheless taking with them any artillery or supplies of war, to wait with those of the said Citadel for the time of six days, if they could be helped by their masters, or not, when the time expired the said place must put itself back in the hands of his Majesty: ceasing meanwhile all hostilities on both sides. And the said help being, as it is, completely impossible, the said King of Navarre was advancing with the greater part of his forces to aid them, but he would come too late, as also the Comte de St. Pol, who was already advancing on the sea with some other troops.
During which term, both sides kept a cease-fire; nevertheless each was preparing itself to advance its intentions, waiting in great devotion that which would be from this. And came the Tuesday the 23 when the terms would expire in the evening, they sent towards those in the Citadel, to ask if the Sieur de Widissan the Governor was of the intention to surrender the castle, who responded no; for some help had arrived because of the bad guard kept by our people who were on that side. And at four o'clock they set to work, namely those within on their castle, and ours on their artillery, without at any time withdrawing one or the other, until the night, when those in the said citadel began the party: our artillery stationed, they began at daybreak to play the canon: & at ten and a quarter o'clock they made the assault, & and are now the masters of it.
Extract of other letters written by personnages in authority, the same day as the taking of the Citadel.
The Citadel was won by assault today, wednesday, 24 of April, & those that defended it, killed. It is the most notable victory that was ever established. Because the place was very strong and very important for its location, & those who defended it passed the number of one thousand five hundred soldiers, without counting another two thousand Bourgeois, who were taking refuge there. It was taken "pique à pique & paulme à paulme" (as they say) in less than three-quarters of an hour. The work of God to whom we must give thanks for it. And His Highness does, as one could justly say that this was the most honorable and important enterprise that he could work in these countries, or (to speak more generally) in all of Europe: & to have finished it by way of arms in eight days, As it will be today 14 days since they began, the six that they gave to those in the citadel to deliberate do not count: & God wished to honor this Prince to advantage, & that the victory of His Majesty was the more famous, to dispose it thus. Those that treated Monday to surrender in exchange for certain conditions, his Highness being well resolved to agree to them, brought in that night 250 soldiers of reinforcements, & with these the Seigneur de Campignette Governor of Bouloigne & another eleven noteworthy Captains with him: which revoked the treaty, & said that they would fight. And thus they began the battery before six o'clock in the morning, & made the assault at eleven or a little less, & at twelve o'clock the Citadel was won. They killed most of the soldiers there, & some Bourgeois, which in the fury of the entry had to suffer with the others. Many others were wounded, because they threw themselves in the moat, & those that saved themselves our cavalry overcame, or took prisoner. The Seigneur de Widessan Governor of the said Calais was killed, with around eight or ten Captains, & principal men. As much as one hears one can believe, that the dead pass a thousand men: there are so many prisoners, & among them four Captains and the said Governor of Bouloigne. The deed was marvelous in grandeur, for the said citadel had become like a storehouse of all kinds of riches, coins, and vessels of gold & silver, many horses: besides this there was found great quantities of powder and supplies, much grain and flour and provisions of food. Of ours the dead are 19 Spanish, 13 Walloons, 25 Allemans, & about a hundred others wounded. The Captain Durando was burned by powder. At the assault died the Captain Sottomayor of the Regiment of Don Louis de Velasco, & the Captain Ysla of the Regiment of Don Antonio Sunega. The Spanish were marvellously combative, as well as the Walloons: The French similarly made a great resistance. His Highness goes giving order to all who agree. The prisoners say that the King of Navarre had written to them, the he would come to aid them next friday, 26 of the said month of April, in person, & that he would do it or perish: that this was done, and was very well done, praise be to God. They had in the harbor of the said Calais many French, Dutch, and English ships which had seen and heard their trouble without the power to help them. The others particularly will find themselves there after the fact. Praise and glory of it be to God the almighty, just judge, & protector of the good.
This is a very noteworthy victory, & of such importance, that we have to give immortal thanks to God for it, for not having lost on this first exploit more than 24 or twenty-five soldiers, & to be in such a position, that it could serve to bridle not only Holland and Zeland, but also England, & to assure this part of the province of Arthois. Let us pray God therefore that His said Highness can happily follow this happy beginning, & complete the reversal of all the pernicious enterprises and designs of the enemies of the holy Faith, of our religion, & grandeur of his Catholic Majesty.
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