Read CHAPTER XLVII of Wagner‚ the Wehr-Wolf , free online book, by George W. M. Reynolds, on


On the following morning, salvoes of artillery throughout the fleet announced to the inhabitants and garrison of Rhodes, that the sultan was about to effect a landing with his troops.

The debarkment was not resisted; for it was protected by the cannonade which the ships directed against the walls of the city, and the Christians had no vessel capable of demonstrating any hostility against the mighty fleet commanded by the kapitan-pasha.

Villiers of Isle Adam, the generalissimo of the Christian forces, had reduced to ashes all circumjacent villages, and received their inhabitants into the city itself. But the Ottomans cared not for the waste and desolation thus created around the walls of the city; but while their artillery, alike on land and by sea, maintained an incessant fire on the town, they threw up works of defense and established depots of provisions and ammunition. The sultan went in person accompanied by Ibrahim, and attended by a numerous escort, to reconnoiter the fortifications, and inspect the position of his troops.

On the other side, Villiers of Isle Adam distributed his forces in such a manner that the warriors of each nation defended particular gates. Thus the corps of Spaniards, French, Germans, English, Portuguese, Italian, Auvergnese and Provincials, respectively defended eight of the gates of Rhodes; while the lord general himself, with his body-guard, took his post at the ninth. For the knights of Rhodes comprised natives of nearly all Christian countries, and the mode in which Villiers thus allotted a gate to the defense of the warriors of each nation, gave an impulse to that emulative spirit which ever induces the soldiers of one clime to vie with those of another.

The Ottoman troops were disposed in the following manner: Ayaz Pasha, Beglerbeg (or governor) of Roumilia, found himself placed in front of the walls and gates defended by the French and Germans; Ahmed Pasha was opposed to the Spaniards and Auvergnese; Mustapha Pasha had to contend with the English: Kasim, Beglerbeg of Anatolia, was to direct the attack against the bastion and gates occupied by the natives of Provence; the Grand Vizier, Piri Pasha, was opposed to the Portuguese, and the sultan himself undertook the assault against the defenses occupied by the Italians.

For several days there was much skirmishing, but no advantage was gained by the Ottomans. Mines and countermines were employed on both sides, and those executed by the Christians effected terrible havoc amongst the Turks. At length in pursuance of the advice of the renegade Ibrahim, the sultan ordered a general assault to be made upon the city, and heralds went through the entire encampment, proclaiming the imperial command. Tidings of this resolution were conveyed into the city by means of the Christians’ spies; and while the Ottomans were preparing for the attack, Villiers of Isle Adam was actively employed in adopting all possible means for the defense.

At daybreak, the general assault commenced, and the aga (or colonel) of the janizaries succeeded in planting his banner on the gate intrusted to the care of the Spaniards and Auvergnese. But this success was merely temporary in that quarter; for the Ottomans were beaten back with such immense slaughter, that fifteen thousand of their choicest troops were cut to pieces in the breach and the ditch. But still the assault was prosecuted in every quarter and every point, and the Christian warriors acquitted themselves nobly in the defense of the city. The women of Rhodes manifested a courage and zeal which history has loved to record as most honorable to their sex. Some of them carried about bread and wine to recruit the fainting and refresh the wearied, others were ready with bandages and lint to stanch the blood which flowed from the wounded, some conveyed earth in wheelbarrows, to stop up the breaches made in the walls, and others bore along immense stones to hurl down upon the assailants.

Oh! it was a glorious, but a sad and mournful sight that death-struggle of the valiant Christians against the barbarism of the East. And many touching proofs of woman’s courage and daring characterized that memorable siege. Especially does this fact merit our attention: The wife of a Christian captain, seeing her husband slain, and the enemy gaining ground rapidly, embraced her two children tenderly, made the sign of the cross upon their brows, and then, having stabbed them to the heart, threw them into the midst of a burning building near, exclaiming, “The infidels will not now be able, my poor darlings, to wreak their vengeance on you, alive or dead!” In another moment she seized her dead husband’s sword, and plunging into the thickest of the fight, met a death worthy of a heroine.

The rain now began to fall in torrents, washing away the floods of gore which, since daybreak, had dyed the bastions and the wall; and the assault continued as arduously as the defense was maintained with desperation. Solyman commanded in person the division which was opposed to the gate and the fort intrusted by the lord general of the Christians to the care of the Italian auxiliaries. But, though it was now past noon, and the sultan had prosecuted his attack on that point with unabated vigor since the dawn, no impression had yet been made. The Italians fought with a heroism which bade defiance to the numerical superiority of their assailants; for they were led on by a young chieftain who, beneath an effeminate exterior, possessed the soul of a lion. Clad in a complete suit of polished armor, and with crimson plumes waving from his steel helmet, to which no visor was attached, that youthful leader threw himself into the thickest of the medley, sought the very points where danger appeared most terrible and, alike by his example and his words, encouraged those whom he commanded to dispute every inch of ground with the Moslem assailants.

The sultan was enraged when he beheld the success with which that Italian chieftain rallied his men again after every rebuff; and, calling to Ibrahim to keep near him, Solyman the Magnificent advanced toward the breach which his cannon had already effected in the walls defended so gallantly by the Italian auxiliaries. And now, in a few minutes, behold the sultan himself, nerved with wonderful energy, rushing on scimiter in hand and calling on the young Italian warrior to measure weapons with him. The Christian chieftain understood not the words which the sultan uttered, but full well did he comprehend the anxiety of that great monarch to do battle with him; and the curved scimiter and the straight, cross-handled sword clashed together in a moment. The young warrior knew that his opponent was the sultan, whose imperial rank was denoted by the turban which he wore; and the hope of inflicting chastisement on the author of all the bloodshed which had taken place on the walls of Rhodes inspired the youth with a courage perfectly irresistible.

Not many minutes had this combat lasted, before Solyman was thrown down in the breach, and the cross-handled sword of his conqueror was about to drink his heart’s blood, when the renegade Ibrahim dashed forward from amidst the confused masses of those who were fighting around, and by a desperate effort hurled the young Italian warrior backward.

“I owe thee my life, Ibrahim,” said the sultan, springing upon his feet. “But hurt not him who has combated so gallantly: we must respect the brave!”

The Italian chieftain had been completely stunned by his fall; he was, therefore, easily made prisoner and carried off to Ibrahim’s tent.

Almost at the same moment a messenger from Ahmed Pasha presented to the sultan a letter, in which was stated that the grand master, Villiers of Isle Adam, anxious to put a stop to the fearful slaughter that was progressing, had offered to capitulate on honorable terms. This proposition was immediately agreed to by the sultan, and a suspension of hostilities was proclaimed around the walls. The Ottomans retired to their camp, having lost upward of thirty thousand men during the deadly strife of a few hours; and the Christians had now leisure to ascertain the extent of their own disasters, which were proportionately appalling.