Make your own free website on

List Of Contents | Contents of Captain John Smith by, Charles Dudley Warner
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

lance, Smith favored the Bashaw with a courteous salute, took
position, charged at the signal, and before the Bashaw could say
"Jack Robinson," thrust his lance through the sight of his beaver,
face, head and all, threw him dead to the ground, alighted, unbraced
his helmet, and cut off his head.  The whole affair was over so
suddenly that as a pastime for ladies it must have been
disappointing.  The Turks came out and took the headless trunk, and
Smith, according to the terms of the challenge, appropriated the head
and presented it to General Moyses.

This ceremonious but still hasty procedure excited the rage of one
Grualgo, the friend of the Bashaw, who sent a particular challenge to
Smith to regain his friend's head or lose his own, together with his
horse and armor.  Our hero varied the combat this time.  The two
combatants shivered lances and then took to pistols; Smith received a
mark upon the "placard," but so wounded the Turk in his left arm that
he was unable to rule his horse.  Smith then unhorsed him, cut off
his head, took possession of head, horse, and armor, but returned the
rich apparel and the body to his friends in the most gentlemanly

Captain Smith was perhaps too serious a knight to see the humor of
these encounters, but he does not lack humor in describing them, and
he adopted easily the witty courtesies of the code he was
illustrating.  After he had gathered two heads, and the siege still
dragged, he became in turn the challenger, in phrase as courteously
and grimly facetious as was permissible, thus:

"To delude time, Smith, with so many incontradictible perswading
reasons, obtained leave that the Ladies might know he was not so much
enamored of their servants' heads, but if any Turke of their ranke
would come to the place of combat to redeem them, should have also
his, upon like conditions, if he could winne it."

This considerate invitation was accepted by a person whom Smith, with
his usual contempt for names, calls "Bonny Mulgro."  It seems
difficult to immortalize such an appellation, and it is a pity that
we have not the real one of the third Turk whom Smith honored by
killing.  But Bonny Mulgro, as we must call the worthiest foe that
Smith's prowess encountered, appeared upon the field.  Smith
understands working up a narration, and makes this combat long and
doubtful.  The challenged party, who had the choice of weapons, had
marked the destructiveness of his opponent's lance, and elected,
therefore, to fight with pistols and battle-axes.  The pistols proved
harmless, and then the battle-axes came in play, whose piercing bills
made sometime the one, sometime the other, to have scarce sense to
keep their saddles.  Smith received such a blow that he lost his
battle-axe, whereat the Turks on the ramparts set up a great shout.
"The Turk prosecuted his advantage to the utmost of his power; yet
the other, what by the readiness of his horse, and his judgment and
dexterity in such a business, beyond all men's expectations, by God's
assistance, not only avoided the Turke's violence, but having drawn
his Faulchion, pierced the Turke so under the Culets throrow backe
and body, that although he alighted from his horse, he stood not long
ere he lost his head, as the rest had done."

There is nothing better than this in all the tales of chivalry, and
John Smith's depreciation of his inability to equal Caesar in
describing his own exploits, in his dedicatory letter to the Duchess
of Richmond, must be taken as an excess of modesty.  We are prepared
to hear that these beheadings gave such encouragement to the whole
army that six thousand soldiers, with three led horses, each preceded
by a soldier bearing a Turk's head on a lance, turned out as a guard
to Smith and conducted him to the pavilion of the general, to whom he
presented his trophies.  General Moyses (occasionally Smith calls him
Moses) took him in his arms and embraced him with much respect, and
gave him a fair horse, richly furnished, a scimeter, and a belt worth
three hundred ducats.  And his colonel advanced him to the position
of sergeant-major of his regiment.  If any detail was wanting to
round out and reward this knightly performance in strict accord with
the old romances, it was supplied by the subsequent handsome conduct
of Prince Sigismund.

When the Christians had mounted their guns and made a couple of
breaches in the walls of Regall, General Moyses ordered an attack one
dark night "by the light that proceeded from the murdering muskets
and peace-making cannon."  The enemy were thus awaited, "whilst their
slothful governor lay in a castle on top of a high mountain, and like
a valiant prince asketh what's the matter, when horrour and death
stood amazed at each other, to see who should prevail to make him
victorious."  These descriptions show that Smith could handle the pen
as well as the battleaxe, and distinguish him from the more vulgar
fighters of his time.  The assault succeeded, but at great cost of
life.  The Turks sent a flag of truce and desired a "composition,"
but the earl, remembering the death of his father, continued to
batter the town and when he took it put all the men in arms to the
sword, and then set their heads upon stakes along the walls, the
Turks having ornamented the walls with Christian heads when they
captured the fortress.  Although the town afforded much pillage, the
loss of so many troops so mixed the sour with the sweet that General
Moyses could only allay his grief by sacking three other towns,
Veratis, Solmos, and Kapronka.  Taking from these a couple of
thousand prisoners, mostly women and children, Earl Moyses marched
north to Weisenberg (Alba Julia), and camped near the palace of
Prince Sigismund.

When Sigismund Battori came out to view his army he was made
acquainted with the signal services of Smith at "Olumpagh, Stowell-
Weisenberg, and Regall," and rewarded him by conferring upon him,
according to the law of--arms, a shield of arms with "three Turks'
heads."  This was granted by a letter-patent, in Latin, which is
dated at "Lipswick, in Misenland, December 9, 1603" It recites that
Smith was taken captive by the Turks in Wallachia November 18, 1602;
that he escaped and rejoined his fellow-soldiers.  This patent,
therefore, was not given at Alba Julia, nor until Prince Sigismund
had finally left his country, and when the Emperor was, in fact, the
Prince of Transylvania.  Sigismund styles himself, by the grace of
God, Duke of Transylvania, etc.  Appended to this patent, as
published in Smith's "True Travels," is a certificate by William
Segar, knight of the garter and principal king of arms of England,
that he had seen this patent and had recorded a copy of it in the
office of the Herald of Armes.  This certificate is dated August 19,
1625, the year after the publication of the General Historie."

Smith says that Prince Sigismund also gave him his picture in gold,
and granted him an annual pension of three hundred ducats.  This
promise of a pension was perhaps the most unsubstantial portion of
his reward, for Sigismund himself became a pensioner shortly after
the events last narrated.

The last mention of Sigismund by Smith is after his escape from
captivity in Tartaria, when this mirror of virtues had abdicated.
Smith visited him at "Lipswicke in Misenland," and the Prince "gave
him his Passe, intimating the service he had done, and the honors he
had received, with fifteen hundred ducats of gold to repair his
losses."  The "Passe" was doubtless the "Patent" before introduced,
and we hear no word of the annual pension.

Affairs in Transylvania did not mend even after the capture of
Regall, and of the three Turks' heads, and the destruction of so many
villages.  This fruitful and strong country was the prey of faction,
and became little better than a desert under the ravages of the
contending armies.  The Emperor Rudolph at last determined to conquer
the country for himself, and sent Busca again with a large army.
Sigismund finding himself poorly supported, treated again with the
Emperor and agreed to retire to Silicia on a pension.  But the Earl
Moyses, seeing no prospect of regaining his patrimony, and
determining not to be under subjection to the Germans, led his troops
against Busca, was defeated, and fled to join the Turks.  Upon this
desertion the Prince delivered up all he had to Busca and retired to
Prague.  Smith himself continued with the imperial party, in the
regiment of Earl Meldritch.  About this time the Sultan sent one
Jeremy to be vaivode of Wallachia, whose tyranny caused the people to
rise against him, and he fled into Moldavia.  Busca proclaimed Lord
Rodoll vaivode in his stead.  But Jeremy assembled an army of forty
thousand Turks, Tartars, and Moldavians, and retired into Wallachia.
Smith took active part in Rodoll's campaign to recover Wallachia, and
narrates the savage war that ensued.  When the armies were encamped
near each other at Raza and Argish, Rodoll cut off the heads of
parties he captured going to the Turkish camp, and threw them into
the enemy's trenches.  Jeremy retorted by skinning alive the
Christian parties he captured, hung their skins upon poles, and their
carcasses and heads on stakes by them.  In the first battle Rodoll
was successful and established himself in Wallachia, but Jeremy
rallied and began ravaging the country.  Earl Meldritch was sent
against him, but the Turks' force was much superior, and the
Christians were caught in a trap.  In order to reach Rodoll, who was
at Rottenton, Meldritch with his small army was obliged to cut his
way through the solid body of the enemy.  A device of Smith's
assisted him.  He covered two or three hundred trunks--probably small
branches of trees--with wild-fire.  These fixed upon the heads of
lances and set on fire when the troops charged in the night, so
terrified the horses of the Turks that they fled in dismay.
Meldritch was for a moment victorious, but when within three leagues
of Rottenton he was overpowered by forty thousand Turks, and the last
desperate fight followed, in which nearly all the friends of the

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: