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ourselves to the eternal disgrace of having it said in all ages—The Munichers did their duty, but in vain, for the Oberlanders left them in the lurch ? »
Here he was interrupted by universal applause, even if many had previously wavered and hesitated at heart, this argument was convincing; happen what might their pledged word must not be forfeited. “We will not desert the Munichers” was the general cry, and the brandished scythes, halberds, axes and musket barrels glittered in the torchlight. “We will keep our word at all hazards ! No more of retreat! Holy SAVIOUR, succour us. Forwards to Munich !"
Half-an-hour later both detachments had started on their respective routes. Alas! for the brave peasants! Whilst this discussion had been going on, Ettlinger, the Warden of Starnberg, had succeeded in escaping to the city, where he immediately warned the Commandant, Count Löwenstein, of the intended attack.
It was long past eleven o'clock when the vanguard of the first division appeared at Harlaching. When they reached the brow of the hill, from which the plain of the Isar and the city are visible, all lay black and silent at their feet, and only very sharp eyes could descry the faint outlines of the cupolas of the Church of our Lady and the spire of S. Peter's tower. The night had become darker, the stars had disappeared behind the clouds, and the glare of the snow alone served to direct their rapid march. All was still in the belfries, and with surprise each man thought and asked why nothing was heard, for it must be the hour at which the first chimes usually proclaimed the midnight service.
Gautier had given orders to advance with the utmost caution and to avoid all unnecessary noise, but when the foremost marksmen advanced to the meadows and espied a troop of cavalry posted behind Giesing precaution was forgotten in their rash ardour, and the tell-tale shots echoed through the night.
The peasants shouted with triumph as they beheld some of the troopers fall and the others wheeling off and galloping away into the darkness; the riderless horses were easily caught as a welcome trophy of a speedy and complete victory. Gautier warned in vain ; the misfortune had occurred and the only thing to be done was to follow up the news of their approach by attacking the city without loss of time. They descended the Giesing Hill at full speed with closed ranks, for at the monastery below, the foremost division of the citizens was to await their arrival.
“Who goes there?” was the cry when they reached the bottom of the hill. “Bavarian patriots” was the response, and the welcome friends were greeted on both sides with overflowing joy. The band consisted of carpenters from the Au suburb, who were ready with apron and axe in case their assistance should be needed at the storming of the bridge.
They reached the end of the suburb without opposition. The bridge entrance, above which projected the Red Tower, a square strongly built edifice, was unguarded, and nothing broke the stillness save the waves of the Isar rippling over the stones.
The peasants likewise stood silent and motionless awaiting the decisive moment and the signal for attack.
The clocks of the city struck the hour of midnight-once more all was dead silence, no bells summoned the faithful to mass, no rocket arose over the dark gables to announce that the burghers were ready to receive their deliverers. Minutes seemed an eternity to those waiting outside, and at first they were almost disposed to accuse the Munich people of treachery.
Little did they dream of the deserted streets of the capital, for the governor being aware of their project had commanded all the citizens to remain in their houses on pain of death. However the doubt was only momentary and the next minute it was clear to all that the citizens must have been prevented by force from fulfilling their part. The blacksmith Balthes, of Kochel, who stood in front with the carpenters, decided the matter. “It is no good shivering before frost,” he exclaimed flourishing his iron club. Wherefore tarry we ? Our word must be kept. Forwards, comrades ! Holy SAVIOUR, succour us! Help the Munichers! Save the boys !”.
The peasants rushed on with the carpenters at their head, but in spite of the stillness of the Red Tower, the new comers appeared to have been expected, for the foremost ranks had scarcely set foot on the bridge, when flashes proceeded from all the loopholes, and a murderous fire was opened on the assailing throng. Many were killed, others, unable to keep up, fell over the narrow rail into the water, and, in the first moment of confusion, the attack was checked, but those in front had already reached the tower itself; the powerful carpenters' axes thundered at the gate, and the combat was renewed with increased vigour. The oaken gates could no longer withstand the blows, and gave way with a crash; but the Imperialists had collected in the opening, and a furious hand-to-hand fight ensued. Then the clubs and axes did good
service, for resistance was fruitless against them, and ere half an hour had elapsed the garrison was cut down, and the patriots hastened on to the actual Isar Gate, whilst a small detachment turned to the Kost Gate, on the right, which it had been promised should be opened. Far tougher work was expected at the Isar Gate, for the bridge over the moat was drawn up, and would have to be forced down. While a few attempted to swim through the trench in order to climb up the walls, and cut the bridge ropes, the marksmen were obliged to restrict themseves to clearing the walls of their defenders ; others brought up the two cannon, which had been taken in the Red Tower, and commenced bombarding the gate. Some daring spirits had already succeeded in planting ladders against the walls, which could not long have withstood the impetuous bravery of the peasants, when suddenly the report of a cannon was heard. The assailants in the rear grew uneasy, and the disheartening word, “Treachery!" was passed about. It was said that all the details of the plan had been betrayed to the Imperialists. Kirschbaum and Wendt had come up from Anzing, and were about to fall on them from behind. In vain the leaders sought to incite their men, and to keep them together. Wendt's bullets, from the Gasteig Hill, began to tell among the peasants, the shouts behind them grew louder and wilder, for the insufficient garrison left in the Red Tower had been driven thence, and were now thrown back on their comrades, the glittering sabres of the Pandours were already visible in their rear, and the curses were audible with which they descended. At this moment the bridge of the Isar Gate was let down, and destruction threatened the faithful band on both sides. Unaccustomed to regular warfare, far weaker in numbers and inferior in weapons, the peasants were unable to hold their ground; but they did not fly—fighting perpetually they retreated step by step, with Gautier in the midst, while over their heads waved the Mary banner. On this wise they withdrew along the Isar to the Thalkirchen meadows, but only to encounter fresh enemies, for a detachment of Pandours had crossed the river higher up, and now fell on their flank. Thus surrounded on all sides, and leaving traces of blood and corpses at every place, the rapidly diminishing little troop gained the heights of Sendling, where a last stand could be made.
Meanwhile the other division of the peasants had long since arrived at the Sendling Gate, and had there awaited the signal in vain. When this was not given, and the shouts and firing resounded from the Isar Gate, they also made an attack on the gate, guarded like the other with moat and drawbridge. But a detachment of Wendt's corps, which had come from Föhring, assailed them in the flank, and after a stubborn and bloody fight, they were forced to retreat in a somewhat disorderly fashion. The Church at Sendling, situated above the road, appeared exactly qualified to cover the retreat; it was at once taken possession of, and a barricade thrown across the road. Gautier and the remains of his division arrived just at the right moment to join them. Seven o'clock struck from the Church tower, but it was still almost dark.
Now commenced a fresh and final conflict. It was short and hopeless, for the peasants were hemmed in on all sides, and were obliged to retire to the wall of the Churchyard. In a short time the last survivors of the devoted little band were collected round Gautier in one corner, amongst whom were the powerful smith Balthes of Kochel, with his sons; the innkeeper of Bayerbrunn, the hammersmith of Gauting, Reifenstuel of Tegernsee, Hafner of Marbach, thirty-four of the brave Au carpenters, and a last handful of men from Tölz, Länggries, and Jachenau-Hans Jäger had already fallen. Only a few succeeded in escaping, and amongst these was Allram.
The contest now became mere slaughter: even those who had yielded on the promise of their lives being spared, were mercilessly cut down, and soon none were left standing in the Churchyard of Sendling. A lance had transfixed Gautier's breast, and he leant dying against the
the cavalier in the midst of the peasants, who, like true knights, had fought and endured even unto death.
At this moment the Christmas morning sun rose brightly over the snowy plains, strewn with dead bodies and saturated with blood; the bells from the city rang out solemnly, calling Christians to prayer and praise in all Churches ; but no one heard the summons in the Churchyard; there they were resting from their labours, for nobly had they helped to celebrate the bloody Christmas of Sendling.
Six hundred wounded were laid in the streets of Munich, where they remained all day in the bitter cold, without help or assistance, imploring mercy or else death to release them from their sufferings. At nightfall charitable people were allowed to take those who still survived to the hospitals; but few had the courage to show compassion. The friars alone busied themselves in administering comfort to body and soul, faithful in the service of that Eternal Love, which, regardless of parties, unites all in sublime reconciliation.
The Burgomaster Von Vachieri, who was an Austrian at heart, wrote
a revoltingly cold blooded description of the “Execution” to a friend at Landshut. The executioners and headsmen had indeed plenty of work in Munich ; all those who had taken in any way a prominent part in the insurrection were delivered over to them. Jäger, the innkeeper, received the most severe sentence, as he was considered to have been one of the chief ringleaders. He was condemned to be first beheaded and then publicly quartered ; his head was to be exposed on the Isar Gate, and all his property to be confiscated. Captain Mayer escaped with a long imprisonment. Thus ended the bloody Christmas of 1705.
It is a pleasant walk from Munich to Unter-Sendling, once the scene of such terrible slaughter, but which now wears such a peaceful and quiet aspect. The memory of the dead still lives. In the Church is a fine fresco painting of the battle by Lindenschmitt. The centre figure is the famous blacksmith “Balthes Meier," of Kochel, brandishing his iron club, whilst youths are breathing their last at the feet of the hero, cut down by brown hussars and wild Pandours. Twenty minutes more leads us from the pleasant village to Mitter-Sendling, which is a favourite object for excursions and is also a station on the Rosenheim Railway. Ober-Sendling is situated a little further on.
The country becomes wooded and hilly. Beyond the Hesselohe Forest, the railway traverses the right bank of the river, and close by is the Menterschwaige, well known by all natives of Munich. Thousands of excursionists come thither in the bright summer days, or wander on foot in the southern direction, through the valley of the Isar. Far below the river washes his stony bed, and the thickly-wooded banks are clothed with green. On the north the capital proudly extends itself, and the mountains, which form the boundary of a wide sea of dark forests, beckon to us from the south.
Out of their ravines, vales, and homesteads, a hundred and sixtyeight years ago, a devoted band marched forth to Munich at the happy Christmas time, to liberate themselves and the children of their sovereign from the yoke of the conqueror. They found not victory, but truly a glorious death.