He had not forgotten his promise, and the company of Captain Jervoise was one of those selected for the work. Its officers were delighted at the prospect of a change, and, when the party started, Captain Jervoise was proud of the show made by his men, whose active and vigorous condition contrasted strongly with the debility and feebleness evident, so generally, among the Swedish soldiers.
As soon as Marienburg was entered, the men were set to work, to raise and strengthen the rampart and to erect bastions; and they were aided, a few days later, by a reinforcement of two hundred infantry, sent by the king, with some cannon, from the garrison of Derpt. As the place was surrounded by a morass, it was, ere long, put into a position to offer a formidable defence against any force that the Russians or Saxons might bring against it.
The Swedes engaged on the work gained strength rapidly, and, by the time the fortifications were finished, they had completely shaken off the effects of the fever.
Chapter 6: A Prisoner.
A fortnight after the fortifications of Marienburg were completed, Colonel Schlippenbach sent off Lieutenant Colonel Brandt, with four hundred horse, to capture a magazine at Seffwegen, to which the Saxons had forced the inhabitants of the country round to bring in their corn, intending later to convey it to the headquarters of their army. The expedition was completely successful. The Saxon guard were overpowered, and a thousand tons of corn were brought, in triumph, into Marienburg. Some of it was sent on to the army, abundance being retained for the use of the town and garrison, in case of siege.
It was now resolved to surprise and burn Pitschur, a town on the frontier from which the enemy constantly made incursions. It was held by a strong body of Russians.
Baron Spens was in command of the expedition. He had with him both the regiments of Horse Guards. Much excitement was caused, in Marienburg, by the issue of an order that the cavalry, and a portion of the infantry, were to be ready to march at daylight; and by the arrival of a large number of peasants, brought in by small parties of the cavalry. Many were the surmises as to the operation to be undertaken, its object being kept a strict secret.
Captain Jervoise’s company was one of those in orders, and paraded at daybreak, and, after a march of some distance, the force joined that of Baron Spens. The troops were halted in a wood, and ordered to light fires to cook food, and to prepare for a halt of some hours. Great fires were soon blazing and, after eating their meal, most of the troops wrapped themselves in the blankets that they carried, in addition to their greatcoats, and lay down by the fires.
They slept until midnight, and were then called to arms again. They marched all night, and at daybreak the next morning, the 13th of February, were near Pitschur, and at once attacked the Russian camp outside the town. Taken completely by surprise, the Russians fought feebly, and more than five hundred were killed before they entered the town, hotly pursued by the Swedes. Shutting themselves up in the houses, and barricading the doors and windows, they defended themselves desperately, refusing all offers of surrender.