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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

246 245 Though Gipsies everywhere


Several

authors have brought a general charge of cowardice against the Gipsies, in some of the countries of Europe; but I never saw or heard of any grounds for bringing such a charge against the Scottish Gipsies. On the contrary, I always considered our Tinklers the very reverse of cowards. Heron, in his journey through part of Scotland, before the year 1793, when speaking of the Gipsies in general, says: "They make excellent soldiers, whenever the habit of military discipline can be sufficiently impressed upon them." Several of our Scottish Gipsies have even enjoyed commissions, as has already been noticed.[245] But the military is not a life to their taste, as we have already seen; for, rather than enter it, they will submit to even personal mutilation. There is even danger in employing them in our regiments at the seat of war; as I am convinced that, if there are any Gipsies in the ranks of the enemy, an improper intercourse will exist between them in both armies. During the last rebellion in Ireland, the Gipsy soldiers in our regiments kept up an intimate and friendly correspondence with their brethren among the Irish rebels.[246]

[245] Though Gipsies everywhere, they differ, in some respects, in the various countries which they inhabit. For example, an English Gipsy, of pugilistic tendencies, will, in a vapouring way, engage to _thrash_ a dozen of his Hungarian brethren. The following is the substance of what Grellmann says on this feature

of their character:

Sulzer says a Gipsy requires to have been a long time in the army before he can meet an enemy's balls with decent soldiers' resolution. They have often been employed in military expeditions, but never as regular soldiers. In the thirty years' war, the Swedes had a body of them in the army; and the Danes had three companies of them at the siege of Hamburg, in 1686. They were chiefly employed in flying parties, to burn, plunder, or lay waste the enemy's country.

In two Hungarian regiments, nearly every eighth man is a Gipsy. In order to prevent either them(!) or any others from remembering their descent, it is ordered, by the Government, that as soon as a Gipsy joins the regiment, he is no longer to be called by that appellation. Here he is placed promiscuously with other men. But whether he would be adequate to a soldier's station--unmixed with strangers, in the company of his equals only--is very doubtful. He has every outward essential for a soldier, yet his innate properties, his levity, and want of foresight, render him incompatible for the services of one, as an instance may illustrate. Francis von Perenyi, who commanded at the siege of Nagy Ida, being short of men, was obliged to have recourse to the Gipsies, of whom he collected a thousand. These he stationed behind the entrenchments, while he reserved his own men to garrison the citadel. The Gipsies supported the attack with so much resolution, and returned the fire of the enemy with such alacrity, that the assailants--little suspecting who were the defendants--were compelled to retreat. But the Gipsies, elated with victory, immediately crept out of their holes, and cried after them, "Go, and be hanged, you rascals! and thank God that we had no more powder and shot, or we would have played the devil with you!" "What!" they exclaimed, bearing in mind the proverb, "You can drive fifty Gipsies before you with a wet rag," "What! are _you_ the heroes?" and, so saying, the besiegers immediately wheeled about, and, sword in hand, drove the black crew back to their works, entered them along with them, and in a few minutes totally routed them.--ED.


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