Adventures of Baron Munchausen - R. E. Raspe

The Baron's Exploits in Battle against the Turks

He is Finally Taken Prisoner

It was only natural that a man of such ready presence of mind as myself should at once be placed in command of a body of hussars. I met with great success in most of my expeditions, but the only striking incident I can call to mind is that connected with the capture of Oszakow from the Turks.

"Before the actual siege of the fortress was planned, I was sent on with my hussars as an advance guard, and saw the enemy coming against us enveloped in a cloud of dust. Nothing would have been easier than to wrap ourselves in a similar dust-cloud, but that would have been of no real help to us. Instead of that, I ordered my men to spread their flanks right myself led on straight against the enemy, to and left and raise a thick cloud of dust, while I gain a nearer view of their numbers and ascertain their intentions.

"The enemy believed we were far stronger than was really the case, for they could only see the centre of our forces, and imagined we possessed strong reinforcements to right and left. Disorder crept into their ranks, and with a loud 'Hurrah,' which quite drowned the Turkish cries of 'Allah it Allah,' we made a fierce onset against them and killed a large number. The rest of the Turkish forces we drove back not only to the walled town in their rear, but even through it and out at the opposite gates—a result which far exceeded our most sanguine expectations.

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe


"Incited partly by the warlike courage of youth, and partly owing to the swiftness of my noble Lithuanian steed, I had far outstripped my men; at the opposite gates of the town I slew the last Turk as he sought to escape, and barred the gate with my own hands,. Then I rode back into the market-place in order to collect my men, but judge of my astonishment when I discovered that not a single hussar nor even a trumpeter was in sight. 'They must be scouring the other streets, or what is become of them?' I thought. 'At any rate they cannot be far off, and will soon rejoin me.' In the meantime I walked my panting steed to a fountain in the market place to let him drink. His thirst seemed to be unquenchable, and he drank and drank without stopping. I watched him in astonishment for some time, then, as I turned to see if any of my men were coming, what a sight met my eyes: the hind part of the poor creature, croup and legs, were missing, and the water ran out as it came in, without refreshing or doing him any good.

"How it could have happened was quite a mystery to me until my groom, who now appeared from the opposite side, explained why it was that I was quite alone and that half of my horse was missing. When I rushed into the town after the flying enemy, they had, unperceived by me, dropped the portcullis, which my gallant steed bore me at full speed to the entrance gate of the town, where I found the other half actively pursuing some fugitive Turks.

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe


"In my troop was an excellent farrier, who totally cut off my horse's hind part and separated me from my hussars, though, as you know, this had not hindered me from driving the enemy out of the town.

"I turned back immediately, and the half of sewed the two halves together with young laurel shoots, as he had nothing better at hand. This contrivance turned out very satisfactorily, for the wound soon healed, and the sprigs took root in the body, grew up, and formed a bower, so that both in this and the next campaign, I was able to ride in the shade of my own and my horse's laurels.

"I only mention the preceding incident because in consequence of my great exertions in battle the muscles of my right arm retained the movement, and I had to wear the arm in a sling for some time to prevent myself from doing my own soldiers a mischief. The consequence was, that one day when I was out scouting I was taken prisoner, in my helpless condition, by a band of Turks.

"To-morrow night you shall hear of my strange experiences during my captivity."