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on Ashdown, principally through the intrepidity of young Alfred. Besides a great number of soldiers, the Danes lost live earls and a king.
Another battle was fought, about a fortnight after, in which the English had rather the disadvantage-in the beginning of the day. Alfred advancing with one division of iris army, was surrounded by the enemy on disadvantageous ground; and EthelreJ., who was at that time hearing mass, refused to march to his assistance, till prayers should be finished. But as he afterwards obtained the victory, this success, not the danger of Alfred, was ascribed by the monks to the piety of that monarch. This battU: did not terminate the war; another battle was, a little after, fought at Basing, where the Danes were very successful; and, being re in forced by a new army from their own country, they became' every day more terrible to the English.
Invasions Ik Alfrkd The Great's Reign.—Alfred had scarcely ascended the throne, when he was obliged to take the field, iu order to oppose the Danes, \vho had seized Wilton, and were exercising their usual ravages on the countries around. He marched against them with the few troops which he could assemble on a sudden; and giving them battle, gained at first an advantage; but, by pursuing the victory too far, the superiority of the enemy's numbers prevailed, and recovered them fheday. Their loss, however, in the action, was so considerable, that, fearing Alfred would receive daily reinforcements from his subjects, they stipulated for a safe retreat, and promised to depart the" kingdom.
for that purpose they were conducted to London, and allowed to take up winter quarters there; but, careless of their engagements, they immediately set themselves to the committing of spoil on the neighbouring country. Burrhed, king of Mercia, in whose territories London was situated, made a new stipulation with them; and engaged them, by presents of money, to remove to LTmdsey, in Lincolnshire, a Country which they had already reduced to ruin and desolation.
Finding no object in that place, either for rapine or violence, they suddenly turned back upon Mercia, in a quarter where they expected to find it without defence: and, fixing their station atllepton, in Derbyshire, they laid the whole country desolate with ;ire and sword. Burrhed, despairing of success against an enemy whom no force could resist, and no treaties bind, abandoned his kingdom; and, flying tollome, took >helter in a cloister. He was brother-in-law to Alfred, and the last who bore the title of king, in Mercia, or the Middle Counties.
The West Saxons were now the only remaining power in England; and though supported by the vigour and abilities of Alfred, the)- were unable to sustain the efforts of those ravagers: who, from all quarters, invaded them. A new swarm of Danes came over this ytar, under three princes, Guthrum, Uscital, and Amund; and having first joined their countrymen at Repton, they found the necessity of separating, in order to provide for their subsistence.
Part of them, under the command of Haldene, theirchieftain, marched into Northumberland, where they tixed their quarters; part of them took quarters at Cambridge: whence they dislodged, in the ensuii? summer, and seized \Yareham, in the county of Dorset, the very .tre of Alfred's dominions. That prince so straitened ihem iu
quarters, that they \nerccontent to come to a treaty with him, and stipulated to depart his country. Alfred, well acquainted with their usual perfidy, obliged them to swear, upon the holy reliqucs, to the observance of the treaty; not that he expected they would pay any veneration to the reliques, but he hoped, if they now violated this oath, their impiety would draw down upon them the vengeance of heaven. But the Danes, little apprehensive of the danger, suddenly, without seeking any pretence, fell upon Alfred's army; and having put U to rout; marched westward, and took possession of Exeter.
The king collected new forces; and exerted such vigour, that he fought, in one year, eight battles with the enemy, and reduced them to the utmost extremity. He hearkened, however, to new proposals of peace, and was satisfied to stipulate with them, that they would settle somewhere in England, and would not permit more rava'gers into the kingdom. But while he was expecting the execution of this treatv, which it seemed the interest of the Danes themselves to fulfil, he heard that another body had landed; and, having collected all the scattered troops of their countrymen, had surprized Chippenham, then a considerable town, and were exercising their usual ravages all around them.
This last incident quite broke through the spirit of the Saxons, and reduced them to despair. Finding that, after all the miserable havoc which they had undergone in their persons and in their property; after all the vigorous actions which they had exerted in their own defence; a new band, equally greedy of spoil and slaughter, had disembarked among them; they believed themselves abandoned by heaven to destruction, and delivered over to those swarms of robbers which the fertile north thus incessantly poured forth against them. Some left their country, and retired into Wales, or fled beyond sea; others "submitted to the conquerors, in hopes of" appeasing their fury by a sgrvile obedience: And every man's attention being now engrossed rn concern ibr his own preservation, no one would" hearken to the exhortation of the king, who summoned them to make under his conduct one effort more in defence of their prince, their country, and their liberties. Alfred himself was obliged to relinquish the ensigns of his dignity, to dismiss his servants, and seek shelter in the meanest disguises, from the pursuit and fury of his enemies.
He concealed himself under a peasant's habit, and lived in the house of a neat-herd, who had been entrusted with the care of some of life cows. There passed here an incident, which has been recorded by all the historians, and was long preserved by popular tradition, though it contains nothing memorable in itself, except so far as, every circumstance is interesting which attends so much virtue and dignity reduced to such distress. '1 he wife of the neat-herd was ignorant of the rank of her royal guest; and observing him one day busy by the fire-side, trimming his bow and arrows, she desired him to take care of some cakes which were toasting, while she was employed elsewhere in other domestic alFairs. But Alfred, whose thoughts were otherwise engaged, neglected this injunction; and the good woman, on her return, finding' Ler cakes all burnt, rated the king very severely, and upbraided him, '•ft always seemed well pleased to eat her warm cakes, though he icgligent in toasting them.
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By degrees, Alfred, as he found the search of the enemy become more remiss, collected some of his retainers, and retired into the centre of a bog, formed by the stagnating waters of the Thone and Parret, in Somersetshire. He here found two acres of linn ground, and building a habitation on theiu, rendered himself secure by its fortifications; and still more by the unknown and inaccessible roads which led to it, and by the forests and morasses with which it was every way environed. This place he called :Etheling".y, or the Isle of Nobles, and it now bears the name of Athelney. .lie thence made frequent and unexpected sallies upon the Danes, who often felt the vigour of his arm, but knew not from what quarter the blow came. He subsisted himself and his followers.by the plunder which he acquired; and, from small successes, he opened their minds to hope, that notwithstanding his present low condition, more important victories might, at length, attend his valour.
Alfred lay here concealed, b«t not inactive, during a twelvemonth; when the news of a prosperous event reached his ears, and called him to the field. Ubba, the Dane, having spread devastation, fire and slaughter, over \VaJes, had landed iu Devonshire, from twenty-three vessel*: and laid siege to the castk of kinwith, a place situated near the ;,".,.it!i of the small river Tan. Oddune, earl of Devonshire, with bis followers, had takett shelter there; and being ill supplied with provisions, and even with water, he determined, by some vigorous blow, to prevent the necessity of submitting to a barbarous enemy.
He made a sudden sally ou the Danes; and taking them unprepared, heput them to the rout, pursued them with great slaughter, killed Ubba himself, and got powession of the famous Seafen, or enchanted standard, in wkica the Danes put great confidence. It contained the figure of a raven, which had been woven by three sisters of Hingnar and U bba, with many magical incantations; and. which, by its different movements, prognosticated, as the Daues believed, the good or bad success Ol any enterprise.
When Alfred observed this symptom of successful resistance in his subjects, he left his retreat: but before he would assemble them in arras, or urge them to any attempt which, if unfortunate, might, in their present despondency,prove fatal; he resolved to inspect himself the situation of the enemy, and to judge of the probability of success. It'or this purpose he entered their camp, under the disguise of a harper, and passed unsuspected through every quarter. He so entertained them with his music'and facetious humours, that he met with a welcome reception; and was even introduced to the tent of G.uthrum, their prince, where he remained some days.
He remarked the supine security of the Danes, their contempt of the English, their negligence in foraging and plundering, and their dissolute wastmg of what they gained by rapine and violence. Encouraged by these favourable appearances, he secretly sent emissaries to the most considerable ot his subjects, and summoned them to a rendezvous, attended by their warlike followers, at Brixton, on the borders of Selwood Forest. The English, who had hoped to put an end to their calamities by servile submission, now found the insolence and rpof.the conqueror"more intolerable than all past fatigues aad dac
and at the appointed day Ihev loyfully resorted to their prince. On his appearance, they received .him'with'shouts of applause-, and could not satiate their eyes with the sight of. this beloved monarch, whom they had long regarded as dead, and who now, with voice- and lock, expressing his confidence of success, called them to liberty, and to vengeance, He instantly-conducted them to Eddirteton, where the Danes were encamped; anil taking advantage of his previous knowledge of the place, lie directed his attack against the most unguarded quarter of the enemy,
The Danes, surprized to see an army of English, whom they considered as totally subdued, and still more astonished to hear that Alfred •was at their head, made but a faint resistance, notwithstanding their supenor number; and were sooir put to .ffight, with great slaughter. The remainder of the routed army, with their prince; was besieged by Alfred, in a fortified camp, to which they fled; but being reduced to extremity, by want and hunger, they had recourse to the clemency of the victor- and offered to submit on any conditions. The king, uo'less generous than brave, gave them-their lives; and even formed a scheio* for converting them from mortal enemies into faithful subjccts-nnd confederates. He knew that the kingdoms of East Anglia and Northumberland were totally desolated, by the Frequent inroads of the Danes; and he now proposed to re-people them, by settling there Gutlirum and his followers.
In this interval of tranquillity, the king instituted civi! and military institutions. He ordained, that all his people should be armed and registered; he assigned them a regular rotation of duty; he distributed•part into the castles and fortresses which he built at proper places; he' required another part to take the field on any alarm, and to assemble at stated places of rendezvous; and, he left a sufficient number at home, who were employed in the cultivation of the land, and who afterwards took their turn in military service. The whole kingdom was like onegreat garrison; and the Dalies could no sooner appear in one place, than a sufficient number was assembled to oppose them, without leaving the other defenceless or disarmed.
But Alfred, sensible that the proper method of opposing an enemy, who made incursions by sea, was to meet them on their own element, took care to provide himself with a naval force, which, thouuh the most natural defence of an island, had hitherto been totally neglected bv the English. He increased the shipping in his kingdom, both in number and strength, and trained his subjects in the practice, as well of sailing Ax of naval action. He distributed his armed vessels in proper stations around the island, and was sure to meet the Danish ships, either before or after they had landed their troops, and to pursue them in all incursions. Though the Danes might suddenly disembark on the coast, which was generally become desolate, by their frequent ravages, they were encountered by the English fleet in their retreat, and escaped not as formerly, by abandoning their booty, but paid, by their total destruction, the penalty of the disorders which they had committed.
In this manner, Alfred repelled several inroads of these piratical Danes, and maintained his kingdom during some years, in safety and tranquillity. A fleet of r,'0 ships of war was stationed upon the coast i and being provided with warlike engines, as well as with expert seamen, both Frisians and English, for Alfred supplied the defects of his own subjects by engaging able foreigners in his service, maintained superiority over those smaller bands with which England had so often been infested. But at last, Hastings, the famous Damsh chief, having ravaged all the provinces of France, both along the sea-coast and the Loire and Seine, and being obliged to tluit that country, more by the desolation which he himself had occasioned, than by the resistance of the inhabitants, appeared off Kent with a fleet of 330 sail. The greater part of the enemy disembarked in the Rother, and seized the fort of Apuldore. Hastings himself, commanding a fleet of eighty sail, entered the Thames, and fortifying Milton, in Kent, began to spread his forces over the country, and to commit the most destructive ravages.
But Alfred, on the first alarm of this descent, flew to the, defence of his people, at the head of a select band of soldiers, whom he always kept about his person; and gathering to him the armed militia from all quarters, appeared in the field with a force superior to the enemy. AH straggling parties, whom necessity, or love ol plunder, had drawn to a distance from the chief encampment, were cut off by the English; and these pirates, instead of increasing their spoil, found themselves cooped up in their fortifications, and obliged to live on the plunder they had brought from France. Tired ot this situation, which must in the cud prove ruinous to them, the Danes, at Apuldore, rose suddenly from their encampment, with an intention of marching towards the Thames, and passing over into Essex; but they escaped not the vigilance of Alfred, \vho encountered them at Farnham, and put them to rout; seized all their horses and baggage, and chased the runaways on beard their ships, which carried them up the Colne, to Mersey in Essex, where they entrenched themselves. Hastings, at the same time, and probably by concert, ma'de a like movement; and, deserting Milton, took possession of Banflete, near the isle of Canvey, in the same county, where he hastily threw up fortifications for his defence, against the power of Alfred.
Unfortunately for the English, Guthrum, prince of the East Anglian Danes, was dead; as was also Guthred, whom the king had appointed governor of the Northumbrians; and those restless tribes being no longer restrained by the authority of their princes, and being encouraged by the appearance of a considerable body of their countrymen, brake into rebellion, and shook off the authority of Alfred, and yielding to tlreir inveterate habits of war and depredation, embarked on board 240 vessels, and appeared before Exeter.. Alfred lost not a moment in opposing this new enemy. Having Icrt some iorces at London, to make head against Hastings and the other Danes, he marched suddenly to the west; and, falling on the rebels before they were aware,' pursued them to their ships with great slaughter. These ravugers, sailing next to Sussex, began to plunder the country near Chichc-ster; but the order which Alfred had every where established, sufiiced henwithout his presence, for the defence of the place; and, the rebels meeting with a new repulse, in which many of them were killed, and some of their ships taken, were obliged to put again to sea, and were discouraged from attempting any other enterprise.