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List Of Contents | Contents of Captain John Smith by, Charles Dudley Warner
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of Saint Malo," that the much-tossed wanderer was accepted as a
friend.  They sailed to the Gulf of Turin, to Alessandria, where they
discharged freight, then up to Scanderoon, and coasting for some time
among the Grecian islands, evidently in search of more freight, they
at length came round to Cephalonia, and lay to for some days betwixt
the isle of Corfu and the Cape of Otranto.  Here it presently
appeared what sort of freight the noble Britaine, Captain la Roche,
was looking for.

An argosy of Venice hove in sight, and Captaine la Roche desired to
speak to her.  The reply was so "untoward" that a man was slain,
whereupon the Britaine gave the argosy a broadside, and then his
stem, and then other broadsides.  A lively fight ensued, in which the
Britaine lost fifteen men, and the argosy twenty, and then
surrendered to save herself from sinking.  The noble Britaine and
John Smith then proceeded to rifle her.  He says that "the Silkes,
Velvets, Cloth of Gold, and Tissue, Pyasters, Chiqueenes, and
Suitanies, which is gold and silver, they unloaded in four-and-twenty
hours was wonderful, whereof having sufficient, and tired with toils,
they cast her off with her company, with as much good merchandise as
would have freighted another Britaine, that was but two hundred
Tunnes, she four or five hundred."  Smith's share of this booty was
modest.  When the ship returned he was set ashore at "the Road of
Antibo in Piamon," "with five hundred chiqueenes [sequins] and a
little box God sent him worth neere as much more."  He always
devoutly acknowledged his dependence upon divine Providence, and took
willingly what God sent him.



Smith being thus "refurnished," made the tour of Italy, satisfied
himself with the rarities of Rome, where he saw Pope Clement the
Eighth and many cardinals creep up the holy stairs, and with the fair
city of Naples and the kingdom's nobility; and passing through the
north he came into Styria, to the Court of Archduke Ferdinand; and,
introduced by an Englishman and an Irish Jesuit to the notice of
Baron Kisell, general of artillery, he obtained employment, and went
to Vienna with Colonel Voldo, Earl of Meldritch, with whose regiment
he was to serve.

He was now on the threshold of his long-desired campaign against the
Turks.  The arrival on the scene of this young man, who was scarcely
out of his teens, was a shadow of disaster to the Turks.  They had
been carrying all before them.  Rudolph II., Emperor of Germany, was
a weak and irresolute character, and no match for the enterprising
Sultan, Mahomet III., who was then conducting the invasion of Europe.
The Emperor's brother, the Archduke Mathias, who was to succeed him,
and Ferdinand, Duke of Styria, also to become Emperor of Germany,
were much abler men, and maintained a good front against the Moslems
in Lower Hungary, but the Turks all the time steadily advanced.  They
had long occupied Buda (Pesth), and had been in possession of the
stronghold of Alba Regalis for some sixty years.  Before Smith's
advent they had captured the important city of Caniza, and just as he
reached the ground they had besieged the town of Olumpagh, with two
thousand men.  But the addition to the armies of Germany, France,
Styria, and Hungary of John Smith, "this English gentleman," as he
styles himself, put a new face on the war, and proved the ruin of the
Turkish cause.  The Bashaw of Buda was soon to feel the effect of
this re-enforcement.

Caniza is a town in Lower Hungary, north of the River Drave, and just
west of the Platen Sea, or Lake Balatin, as it is also called.  Due
north of Caniza a few miles, on a bend of the little River Raab
(which empties into the Danube), and south of the town of Kerment,
lay Smith's town of Olumpagh, which we are able to identify on a map
of the period as Olimacum or Oberlymback.  In this strong town the
Turks had shut up the garrison under command of Governor Ebersbraught
so closely that it was without intelligence or hope of succor.

In this strait, the ingenious John Smith, who was present in the
reconnoitering army in the regiment of the Earl of Meldritch, came to
the aid of Baron Kisell, the general of artillery, with a plan of
communication with the besieged garrison.  Fortunately Smith had made
the acquaintance of Lord Ebersbraught at Gratza, in Styria, and had
(he says) communicated to him a system of signaling a message by the
use of torches.  Smith seems to have elaborated this method of
signals, and providentially explained it to Lord Ebersbraught, as if
he had a presentiment of the latter's use of it.  He divided the
alphabet into two parts, from A to L and from M to Z.  Letters were
indicated and words spelled by the means of torches: "The first part,
from A to L, is signified by showing and holding one linke so oft as
there is letters from A to that letter you name; the other part, from
M to Z, is mentioned by two lights in like manner.  The end of a word
is signifien by showing of three lights."

General Kisell, inflamed by this strange invention, which Smith made
plain to him, furnished him guides, who conducted him to a high
mountain, seven miles distant from the town, where he flashed his
torches and got a reply from the governor.  Smith signaled that they
would charge on the east of the town in the night, and at the alarum
Ebersbraught was to sally forth.  General Kisell doubted that he
should be able to relieve the town by this means, as he had only ten
thousand men; but Smith, whose fertile brain was now in full action,
and who seems to have assumed charge of the campaign, hit upon a
stratagem for the diversion and confusion of the Turks.

On the side of the town opposite the proposed point of attack lay the
plain of Hysnaburg (Eisnaburg on Ortelius's map).  Smith fastened two
or three charred pieces of match to divers small lines of an hundred
fathoms in length, armed with powder.  Each line was tied to a stake
at each end.  After dusk these lines were set up on the plain, and
being fired at the instant the alarm was given, they seemed to the
Turks like so many rows of musketeers.  While the Turks therefore
prepared to repel a great army from that side, Kisell attacked with
his ten thousand men, Ebersbraught sallied out and fell upon the
Turks in the trenches, all the enemy on that side were slain or
drowned, or put to flight.  And while the Turks were busy routing
Smith's sham musketeers, the Christians threw a couple of thousand
troops into the town.  Whereupon the Turks broke up the siege and
retired to Caniza.  For this exploit General Kisell received great
honor at Kerment, and Smith was rewarded with the rank of captain,
and the command of two hundred and fifty horsemen.  From this time
our hero must figure as Captain John Smith.  The rank is not high,
but he has made the title great, just as he has made the name of John
Smith unique.

After this there were rumors of peace for these tormented countries;
but the Turks, who did not yet appreciate the nature of this force,
called John Smith, that had come into the world against them, did not
intend peace, but went on levying soldiers and launching them into
Hungary.  To oppose these fresh invasions, Rudolph II., aided by the
Christian princes, organized three armies: one led by the Archduke
Mathias and his lieutenant, Duke Mercury, to defend Low Hungary; the
second led by Ferdinand, the Archduke of Styria, and the Duke of
Mantua, his lieutenant, to regain Caniza; the third by Gonzago,
Governor of High Hungary, to join with Georgio Busca, to make an
absolute conquest of Transylvania.

In pursuance of this plan, Duke Mercury, with an army of thirty
thousand, whereof nearly ten thousand were French, besieged Stowell-
Weisenberg, otherwise called Alba Regalis, a place so strong by art
and nature that it was thought impregnable.

This stronghold, situated on the northeast of the Platen Sea, was,
like Caniza and Oberlympack, one of the Turkish advanced posts, by
means of which they pushed forward their operations from Buda on the

This noble friend of Smith, the Duke of Mercury, whom Haylyn styles
Duke Mercurio, seems to have puzzled the biographers of Smith.  In
fact, the name of "Mercury" has given a mythological air to Smith's
narration and aided to transfer it to the region of romance.  He was,
however, as we have seen, identical with a historical character of
some importance, for the services he rendered to the Church of Rome,
and a commander of some considerable skill.  He is no other than
Philip de Lorraine, Duc de Mercceur.'

[So far as I know, Dr. Edward Eggleston was the first to identify
him.  There is a sketch of him in the "Biographie Universelle," and a
life with an account of his exploits in Hungary, entitled:
Histoire de Duc Mercoeur, par Bruseles de Montplain Champs, Cologne,

At the siege of Alba Regalis, the Turks gained several successes by
night sallies, and, as usual, it was not till Smith came to the front
with one of his ingenious devices that the fortune of war changed.
The Earl Meldritch, in whose regiment Smith served, having heard from
some Christians who escaped from the town at what place there were
the greatest assemblies and throngs of people in the city, caused
Captain Smith to put in practice his "fiery dragons."  These
instruments of destruction are carefully described: "Having prepared
fortie or fiftie round-bellied earthen pots, and filled them with
hand Gunpowder, then covered them with Pitch, mingled with Brimstone
and Turpentine, and quartering as many Musket-bullets, that hung
together but only at the center of the division, stucke them round in
the mixture about the pots, and covered them againe with the same
mixture, over that a strong sear-cloth, then over all a goode
thicknesse of Towze-match, well tempered with oyle of Linseed,
Campheer, and powder of Brimstone, these he fitly placed in slings,
graduated so neere as they could to the places of these assemblies."

These missiles of Smith's invention were flung at midnight, when the
alarum was given, and "it was a perfect sight to see the short

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