« PreviousContinue »
ings which the Turks have erected within it, and finally left this most hallowed of all Jewish ground, after a three hours' survey of every square yard of its surface, by the same private gate through which we had entered. Such is the briefest descriptive outline of what is to be seen within the Sakara, whereon once stood the gorgeous structure of Solomon, of which and its successive restorations the only existing traces are what I have now mentioned, and a piece of its western enclosure wall, before which the down-trodden Israelites now congregate every Friday to read of and mourn over the departed glories of their race.
THE SIEGE OF MALTA, 1565
The siege grew more and more bloody every day, and worse to be dreaded for its consequences : the Infidels did did not allow the besieged a moment's rest: one while they attacked a single place, and anon they assaulted several together at the same time. The Christians, indeed, repulsed them with vigour, and killed abundance of men, but yet, considering the disproportion of their forces, they might be said to lose more than the Turks, and their garrisons were daily weakened. The Basha, after having harassed them for four days together, with continual skirmishes and offers of attempting a scalade in several places, made, August 2d, 1565, a fresh assault on Fort St Michael. The Infidels, in hopes of plunder, advanced to the breach with great resolution. The besieged sustained the attack courageously, and repulsed the enemy; their officers, during the six hours that the attack lasted, brought them on five several times to the assault; but they were always received with the same intrepidity. As their troops, and particularly the janizaries, exposed themselves boldly, the knights made a horrible slaughter of them, and the Basha, fearing lest all the rest should be cut to pieces, ordered a retreat to be sounded.
Five days afterwards, which was the 7th of the same month, Mustapha made another assault: and in order to oblige the besieged to divide their forces, sent three thousand men to attack the bastion of Castile, whilst he himself marched at the head of eight thousand to storm the Fort of St Michael. The only weapons that were chiefly used at the post of Castile were arrows and small
arms; their design was to draw the principal forces of the Order* on that side, for which purpose the Turkish musketeers and archers advanced, but slowly, to the storm. But their greatest efforts, and the real attack, was against Fort St Michael. The janizaries, who were in the front, advanced boldly with great shouts, according to their usual custom : they were answered by a terrible fire from the place, which killed abundance of men, before they could come near the walls. But they, without being daunted at seeing nothing but death all around them, marched with intrepidity over the bodies of their comrades, and forced their way to the top of the breach, where both parties, as if they had been in the field, fought with equal fury for four hours together; the Turks were for keeping the posts they had seized upon, and the Christians exerted themselves to the utmost in order to prevent their making a lodgment there. Among the latter, all, even to the very women, signalised themselves against the Infidels; and whilst the peasant and the citizen were defending their country, their wives and children fought with an intrepidity which equalled in some measure the resolute bravery of the knights: and if paternal or conjugal love inspired those men with a courage and force to which they had been hitherto insensible, there were not wanting heroic women who ran to the assistance of their fathers, their brothers, and their husbands, and who generously exposed themselves to the greatest dangers.
* Kuights of St John of Jerusalem.
Some of these brought stones, arrows, victuals, and refreshments to the combatants, whilst others ,of a more dauntless spirit mixed in the fray, and threw fire-works, scalding water, and melted pitch upon the Turks : the fear they had of losing their honour and their liberty, in case they should fall into the hands of the Infidels, inspired these brave women with a contempt of all the horrors of impending death. The Turks, still furious and eager for fighting, and enraged to see their courage opposed by such feeble enemies, fell upon them without mercy, so that several of them died by their weapons and the fire-works which they threw at them. The breach and the castle seemed all on fire, and the tumult of the combatants, the clashing of their arms, the cries of the soldiers, the groans of the wounded, and of the persons of both sexes who were just expiring, and lay confounded together upon the ground, formed a spectacle that was as moving as it was dreadful.
The Basha, who had posted himself at the foot of the
breach, ran, with his sabre in hand, on all sides, exhorting, entreating, and threatening his soldiers, and crying out, that if they would but exert themselves a little more, they would certainly carry the place. He, with his own hand, killed two janizaries who had thrown themselves down from the breach, in order to prevent their falling by the sword of the knights. The rest of the soldiers, terrified by this action, and seeing that the swords of their officers were as fatal as those of their enemies, laid aside all thoughts of putting an end to the engagement, any otherwise than by cutting all the besieged to pieces. Each single janizary fought with as much eagerness as if the victory had depended on himself only. In fine, after the assault had lasted upwards of four hours, and at a time when the grand-master was in some pain about the the success of it, the Basha, to the great astonishment of the Christians, as well as of the Turks, ordered a retreat to be sounded. They were afterwards informed that the commander Mesquita, governor of the Notable city, had been the occasion of it.
The Turks again, on the 18th of the month, at noon, in the greatest heat of the day, advanced at the head of their several bodies, imagining they should find the knights asleep, and retired under the shade and shelter of their intrenchments. The Basha commanded his soldiers to storm the breach of St Michael, and the Turkish admiral that of the bastion of Castile. Both the attacks were made with great resolution, but with various success at first.
Some hours before the attack began at Fort St Michael, the Infidels had made such a terrible fire upon it, that they did not leave so much as the least piece of a wall, fortification, or even intrenchment standing. The Basha then ordered his men to attempt a storm ; and as they were the very flower of his troops, were brave, and fought under the eye of their general, they performed wonders. The knights received them with an intrepid courage, and though worn out with fatigue, and the greatest part wounded, they never had before discovered so utter a contempt of danger. No sooner did one drop but another stepped up in his place, and after an obstinate engagement, which lasted for upwards of six hours together, they repulsed the enemy, more, indeed, by the greatness of their courage, than by the vigour of their strength.
The Turkish admiral's attack on the bastion of Castile was equally dangerous and bloody. He had deferred attempting the storm for some time, in hopes that the grandmaster, when he should see that he made no motion, would detach some of the troops that were to oppose him, in order to succour the Fort St Michael, by which means he might make an advantage of their absence; but not finding that any body stirred, he sprung a mine in a place where it was least expected, which threw down a pannel of the wall. As soon as it had done execution, the besiegers, who were ready for the storm, set up a great shout, mounted the breach in a trice; and the place had been certainly lost, if the knights upon guard there, who were not prepared for their reception, had been susceptible of fear. A chaplain of the order, brother William by name, seeing the Turkish standards set up at the foot of the parapet, ran in a terrible fright to the grand-master, and made him signs at a distance, to retire immediately