1694-1778 Voltaire.

The works of Voltaire; a contemporary version; (Volume 33) online

. (page 10 of 19)
Online Library1694-1778 VoltaireThe works of Voltaire; a contemporary version; (Volume 33) → online text (page 10 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of Kent ; the second was to station itself between
Calais and Boulogne ; while the third bent its course
toward Dunkirk. Count Saxc was at the head of
this expedition. He embarked at Dunkirk on March
I, with nine battalions ; as did Count de Chaila, with
six more, the day following.

Prince Edward was on board the same vessel with
Count Saxe, and for the first time had a sight of
the desired land. But a violent storm arose, driv-
ing the transports back upon the French coast, and
many soldiers perished while endeavoring to gain
the shore. The young prince would have again
attempted the passage with a single vessel. He
imagined that his courage and resolution would
gain him subjects the moment he should arrive in
Great Britain. But the sea, as well as the disposi-
tions made along the English coast to prevent his
landing, hindered him from making the attempt.

The court of London was informed of this enter-
prise as early as the fifteenth of Februray. The Dutch,



The War of 1741. 153

as allies of King George, had already sent over two
thousand men to his assistance, and were to furnish
six thousand, according to their treaty of 1716.
Admiral Norris, with a formidable squadron, was in
the Downs, which present a continued chain of ports
along the Kentish coast, where ships ride secure
from bad weather. The militia was also raised ; and
thus miscarried an enterprise which had been con-
ducted with more art than any conspiracy that had
ever been set on foot in England ; for King George
knew there had been a plot, but could never discover
the authors of it. No insight was gained in this
matter from the persons who were taken into cus-
tody at London, and the government remained as
before, involved in trouble and perplexity.

Everything contributed at this time to favor the
undertaking. The English troops were abroad, dis-
tributed in different parts of the Austrian Nether-
lands. There was likewise another advantage
attending it. It employed the English fleet, which
was to reinforce Admiral Matthews, and it was also
concerted that his fleet should be engaged by the
men of war which France was to leave in the Medi-
terranean; which for that purpose were to join the
Spanish fleet which was to sail from Toulon at the
time that Prince Edward was landing in Great
Britain.

There were now at Toulon sixteen Spanish
ships of war, which were at first intended to escort
Don Philip to Italy; but they had been blocked



154 The War of 1741.

up for two years by Admiral Matthews' fleet,
which lorded it in the Mediterranean, and insulted
all the coast of Italy and Provence. The Span-
ish gunners, being but indifferently skilled in the
science they professed, had been for four months
exercised in shooting at a mark, and their industry
and emulation excited by prizes.

When these were supposed sufficiently expert, the
Spanish squadron commanded by Don Joseph
Navarro sailed from the port of Toulon. It con-
sisted of but twelve sail, there not being sailors and
gunners enough to man the rest. They were soon
joined by fourteen French ships of the line, four
frigates, and three fire-ships, commanded by M. de
Court, who had all the vigor both of mind and body
necessary to such a command, though fourscore
years of age. Forty years before he had commanded
as captain on board the admiral's ship in a sea-fight
off Malaga, and there had been no naval engagement
since in any part of the world, that of Messina
excepted, which was fought in 1718. Admiral Mat-
thews set sail to meet the combined squadrons of
France and Spain. It may not be amiss to remark
here that the rank of admiral in England does not
answer to the dignity of admiral in France. There
are three admirals in the English service, each of
whom has his separate division, subservient to the
orders of the lord high admiral, or the board of
admiralty.

Matthews' fleet consisted of forty-five sail, five






The War of 174 1. 155

frigates, and four fire-ships : and to the advantage
of number they also joined that of having the wind;
a circumstance on which the success in a sea-fight
often depends, as much as a victory by land does
upon the advantage of the ground. The English
were the first who drew up a fleet for engaging
in the manner at present practised ; other nations
have learned from them to divide their squadrons
into van, rear, and centre. You are not to imagine
that these divisions are three lines ; on the con-
trary, they form only one. The van is to the right,
the rear to the left, and the centre in the middle, so
that the vessels never present more than one side.
This was the order of battle off Toulon. The
shifting of the wind threw the Spaniards into the
rear. Admiral Matthews, still taking advantage of
the wind, fell upon them with his division. There
should never be more space between the vessels than
sixty fathoms ; at this distance they are as close as
they should be, and then one vessel can be in no
danger of being attacked by many. But it is very
difficult for a whole fleet to govern itself so as to
observe this order exactly. The Spanish ships were
too far from each other. Two of them were dis-
abled by the very first broadsides; and Matthews
had an opportunity of falling upon the Spanish
admiral with several of his ships. This vessel, on
board of which was Don Joseph de Navarro, was
called the Real (Royal) ; she carried a thousand men,
and mounted one hundred and ten pieces of cannon ;



156 The War of 1 741.

her upper works were amazingly strong, the planks,
together with the ribs, being at least three feet in
thickness, so that they were impenetrable to a can-
non-ball. It is also proper to take notice that the
English fire more at the rigging than the hull, pre-
ferring disabling and seizing a ship to sinking her.

The Spanish admiral was at one and the same time
attacked by the admiral and four ships of the line,
who poured upon him jointly a most dreadful fire.
Matthews depended upon making her an easy cap-
ture, relying on his own great experience in naval
affairs, and the Spaniards not being used to them,
as well as Navarro's being a land officer, redoubled
his hopes. Every Spanish ship also being attacked
at once by more than one of the enemy, there was
a probability of their being overpowered. Every
man on the deck of the Royal Philip was either
killed or wounded. The captain of the admiral's
ship was mortally wounded, and Don Navarro, being
wounded in two places, was obliged to leave the
deck.

Chevalier de Lage, a French officer in the Spanish
service, and second captain of the admiral's ship,
maintained the fight against five English vessels.
Admiral Matthews was astonished at the quickness
with which the Spaniards fired their lower tiers of
guns, which violently annoyed everything that came
within reach, so that he despatched a fire-ship to
destroy her. These vessels are filled with gun-
powder and other combustibles; and they fasten



The War of 1 741. 157

on an enemy's ship with grappling irons. The
moment they are fast together they se^ a match to
the train of the fire-ship, while the crew hastens to
the boat, and the captain is the last who enters it.
In the meantime, the fire taking place, the ship is
blown up by the force of the powder, together with
the vessel to which it is grappled.

This engine of destruction was within fifteen paces
of the Royal Philip, when some of the officers pro-
posed to strike and surrender : " You have for-
gotten, then," said M. de Lage, " that I am on
board ! " and pointing with his own hand three pieces
of cannon at the fire-ship, he discharged them,
and the vessel was near going to the bottom.
The unhappy captain, seeing his destruction inevi-
table, determined at least to avenge himself at the
moment of his death. He ordered fire to be set to
the train, hoping that he might yet work down upon
the Royal Philip, and blow her up along with him-
self. But it was too late: the ship was soon in
flames, and blew up within seven or eight feet of the
Spanish admiral, the deck of which was covered
with the wreck. M. de Lage says he saw the body
of the English captain and some sailors reduced in
a moment to a coal, not above two feet long, and as
light as a cork. The Royal Philip did not receive
the slightest damage from this violent explosion.

M. de Court, who hoisted his flag on board the
Terrible, and fought in the centre, was at one time
engaged with three ships within pistol-shot. He did



158 The War of 1741.

the enemy a great deal of mischief, and getting clear
of them, bore down to the assistance of the Spanish
admiral and fleet. The English could make
themselves masters of only one Spanish ship, called
the Poder, which was entirely dismantled. They had
already sent some of their hands on board to navi-
gate the vessel, and the remainder of her crew, con-
sisting of four hundred Spaniards, were obliged
to surrender. Matthews was at this time retreating ;
and the English on board the Poder, being busied
in securing their prize, were themselves made pris-
oners. Superiority of numbers was of no service
to the English fleet ; for their rear, commanded by
Vice-Admiral Lestock, was four miles distant.
Whether Lestock, at variance with Matthews, would
have willingly deprived him of the glory of the
day, or whether Matthews did not choose to share
with him that glory, is a question we cannot here
decide. Be that as it may, a brisk wind springing
up from the west in the night obliged the fleets
to separate, and each drew off to repair its dam-
age. The English retired into Port Mahon, the
French into Cartagena, and the Spaniards into Bar-
celona.

This action of Toulon, like almost all sea-fights,
that of La Hogue excepted, was quite indecisive. In
these engagements it commonly happens that the
only fruit of great preparations and indefatigable
contention is the slaughter of many men, and dis-
abling vessels. There were complaints from all par-



The War of 1741. 159

ties ; the Spaniards supposed they had not been suffi-
ciently supported, and the French accused them of
want of gratitude. Though there was an alliance
between the two nations, there had not always been
Unanimity. Their ancient antipathy was sometimes
kindled in the breasts of the Spaniards, notwith-
standing the agreement of their kings. On the other
hand, Matthews preferred complaints against his
vice-admiral to the government, and sent him home
to be tried. He retorted the accusation upon the
admiral, to whose bravery and conduct M. de Court
publicly subscribed, and he repaid the compliment.
If his fate was hard in being accused of misbe-
havior by his own officers, it was, however, glorious
for him to be acquitted by the enemy. However, to
gratify the Spaniards, the French commandant was
banished to his country-house, two leagues from
Paris : and the English admiral being, after a long
trial, brought in guilty, was, by a council of war,
which is in England called a court-martial, declared
forever incapable of serving the crown.

The custom of judging severely, and of stigmatiz-
ing unsuccessful generals, had been lately brought
into Christendom from Turkey. The emperor
Charles VI. had given two examples of it in his last
war against the Turks, which war was looked upon
by all Europe to have been as injudiciously planned
as it was unfortunately fought. The Swedes, since
that, condemned to death two of their generals,
whose fate all Europe lamented, nor did this



160 The War of 1741.

severity make their domestic government happier or
more respectable. A subject so important deserves
to be dwelt upon a little.

The government of France, directed by principles
of greater lenity, are satisfied with inflicting only a
slight disgrace upon their general officers, for that
very conduct which would induce other states to lay
them in irons, or cut off their heads. To me it is
very plain, that neither justice nor well-founded
policy requires that the life of a general should
depend upon bad success ; surely unless he be a
rebel or a traitor he will do his utmost, and there
is no sort of equity in cruelly punishing a man who
has acquitted himself to the best of his ability ; nor
is it, perhaps, sound policy to introduce the custom of
persecuting a general who is unfortunate ; because
in that case, those who begin a campaign indiffer-
ently in the service of their natural prince, may be
tempted to conclude it in that of the enemy.

The consequences, however, proved that the
advantage in the Toulon engagement was on the side
of France and Spain. The Mediterranean was left
open, at least for some time, and Don Philip was
easily supplied with provisions, which he much
wanted, from the coast of Provence : but neither the
French nor Spanish squadrons were able to make
head against Matthews, when he returned to his
station, having refitted his ships. France and Spain,
being under the necessity of always supporting a
very numerous army, have not that inexhaustible



The War of 174 1. 161

supply of sailors which are the source of Great
Britain's power. It was now more than ever evi-
dent that it was of vast importance to that crown to
keep Minorca, and the loss of it was very prejudicial
to Spain. It was a melancholy consideration that
those islanders should have been able to deprive the
Spanish monarchy of a port still more useful than
Gibraltar ; and which, from its situation, gave them
always the power to harass, at one and the same
time, Spain, Italy, and France. Spain, which pos-
sessed harbors in Africa, in spite of the Moors, yet
could not hinder the English from keeping ports in
her own dominions, and that against her will.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE PRINCE OF CONTI FORCES THE PASSAGE OF THE
ALPS SITUATION OF AFFAIRS IN ITALY.

IN THE midst of all these struggles, Louis XV.
declared war against the king of Great Britain, and
soon after against the queen of Hungary, who in
return declared it also against him in form ; but
these declarations were little more than additional
ceremonies. Spain and Naples made war without
declaring it.

Don Philip was at the head of twenty thousand
Spaniards, under the command of the marquis de
la Mina, and the prince of Conti had with him twenty
thousand French ; both these leaders inspired their
troops with that confidence and resolution so neces-
Vol. 33 ii



1 62 The War of 1741.

sary for penetrating into a country where a single
battalion may stop a whole army, where you are
every instant obliged to fight among rocks and tor-
rents, and where all these obstacles are heightened
by the difficulty of convoys. The prince of Conti,
who had served as a lieutenant-general in the unsuc-
cessful war of Bavaria, young as he was, had
acquired experience, and understood the consequence
of those disappointments to which an army is
exposed in almost every campaign. He had not as
yet seen a campaign in Italy, where war is carried
on in a very different manner from what it is in
open countries ; but he had prepared himself for this
expedition by a constant application of ten hours a
day, during the winter which he passed at Paris.
He knew even the smallest rock, and was perfectly
master of all that had been performed under Marshal
Catinat and the duke of Vendome, as if he had been
present himself.

The first of April the Infante Don Philip and the
prince of Conti passed the Var, a river which falls
from the Alps and empties itself into the sea of
Genoa below Nice. The whole country of that name
surrendered ; but, before they could advance any
farther, they were under the necessity of attacking
the entrenchments near Villafranca, and those of
the fortress of Montalban, in the midst of rocks
which form a lo*ig chain of almost inaccessible ram-
parts. There was no possibility of marching but
through narrow defiles, and over frightful preci-



The War of 1741. 163

pices, exposed to the enemy's artillery. Fu/i in the
front of this fire they were obliged to climb up from
rock to rock, and even on the Alps they had the
English to encounter. Admiral Matthews, having
careened his ships, returned to assume the empire
of the seas : he landed with some of his men at Villa-
franca, who joined the Piedmontese ; and his gun-
ners served the artillery. But the prince of Conti
concerted his measures so well, and his troops were
so full of spirits, that they surmounted all these
obstacles. The marquis de Bissy at the head of the
French, and the marquis of Campo Santo at the head
of the Spaniards, soon made themselves masters of
the enemy's batteries, which flanked the passage of
Villafranca. M. de Mirepoix and M. d'Argougcs
opened another way for themselves : they made four
false attacks where they had no intention to pene-
trate ; but M. de Bissy made two such brisk assaults
against those places which he intended to carry ;
everything was so well concerted, so quick, and so
vigorously pushed ; M. d'Argouges, at the head of
the regiments of Languedoc and of the Isle of
France ; and M. du Barrail with his regiment, made
such prodigious efforts, that this rampart of Pied-
mont, above two hundred fathoms high, which the
king of Sardinia imagined to be quite out of their
reach, was carried by the French and Spaniards.

On the one side, M. du Chatel and M. de Castelar
ascended through very narrow byways to an emi-
nence called Mount Eleus, whence they drove the



164 The War of 1741.

Piedmontcse ; on the other side, the marquis de
Bissy fought for two hours on the top of a rock
called Monte Grosso. When the French and Span-
iards had clambered up to the top of the rock, and
saw that they must cither conquer or die, they
treated one another as brothers ; they assisted each
other with ardor ; and, joining their efforts, they
battered down the entrenchments of the enemy.
This rock was defended by fourteen battalions, who
had a secure retreat. One hundred and thirty offi-
cers of the Piedmontese, with seventeen hundred
men, were taken prisoners, and two thousand were
killed. The marquis de Suza, natural brother of the
king of Sardinia, was obliged to surrender himself
prisoner to M. de Bissy. The top of the mountain,
on which the marquis du Chatel had taken post, com-
manded the enemy's entrenchments, so that at length
they were obliged to fly to Onegalia, to the number
of three thousand men, and embark on board
Admiral Matthews' fleet, who was witness of the
defeat. The count de Choiseul brought the king the
news of this victory, in which this officer had dis-
tinguished himself. They advanced from post to
post, from rock to rock : they took the citadel of
Villafranca, and the fort of Montalban, where they
found above one hundred and forty pieces of can-
non, with provisions in proportion. But all this was
no more than dividing the dominion of the Alps, and
fighting on the top of high mountains.

While these passes were thus being forced in



The War of 1741. 165

favor of Don Philip, he was not yet much nearer
the dominions to which he pretended in Italy. The
duke of Modena was also as far from retaking the
country of that name, as the Infante from penetrat-
ing to Parma and Milan. The Austrians and the
Piedmontese were masters everywhere, from the top
of the Alps to the frontiers of the kingdom of Naples.
The court of Spain had recalled the duke of Monte-
mar; and Count de Gages, under the duke of Mo-
dena, was gathering together the remains of the
Spanish army, which was still retiring before the
Austrians, who had already laid the province of
Abruzzo under contribution. The king of Naples
could no longer observe an unfortunate neutrality,
which had been greatly abused, and would have only
contributed to deprive him of his crown. He there-
fore set out for Naples, to put himself at the head
of his army. The queen, who was then pregnant,
withdrew to Gaeta, in the latter end of April, 1744;
and it was even then proposed to remove her to
Rome, in case of an unlucky blow, or of an insurrec-
tion in Naples, with which the Austrians affected to
frighten him. Such was the vicissitude of affairs
that the queen of Hungary, who three years before
had been obliged to leave Vienna, thought herself
very nearly making a conquest of the kingdom of
Naples. Prince Lobkowitz had a manifesto ready,
copies of which he afterward spread through the
kingdom toward the month of June, wherein the
queen of Hungary addressed herself to the inhab-



i66 The War of 1741.

itants of the two Sicilies, as to subjects to whom
she was granting her protection.

England at this time exerted herself more than
ever in this queen's cause ; she augmented her sub-
sidies, and spent upon the war of this year 1744
two hundred and seventy-four million nine hun-
dred and sixty-four thousand livres, French money ;
and this expense was augmented every year. She
maintained a fleet in the Mediterranean which
entirely ruined the trade of Provence : she recalled
the troops that fought at Dettingen to Flanders ; and
these, joined to the Flemish and Dutch regiments,
formed, in the beginning of the campaign, an army
of above sixty thousand men. Prince Charles, with
the same number of forces, was coming to make
another attempt to pass the Rhine. The emperor,
whose neutrality was imaginary, while his misfor-
tunes were but too real, preserved the shattered
remains of his army under the cannon of the imperial
city of Philipsburg, and waited for his fate at Frank-
fort, uncertain whether he should be maintained in
possession of the imperial crown by France, or
stripped of it by the queen of Hungary.



The War of 1741. 167



CHAPTER IX.

FIRST CAMPAIGN OF LOUIS XV. IN FLANDERS HIS

SUCCESSES HE LEAVES FLANDERS TO FLY TO THE

DEFENCE OF ALSACE, INVADED BY THE AUSTRIANS,
WHILE THE PRINCEOFCONTI CONTINUES TO FORCE A
PASSAGE THROUGH THE ALPS NEW ALLIANCES
THE KING OF PRUSSIA ONCE MORE TAKES UP ARMS.

SUCH was the critical and dangerous situation of
affairs when Louis XV. began his first campaign.
He had appointed Marshal Coigny to defend the
passage of the Rhine with sixty-one battalions and
one hundred squadrons. The Bavarian troops, con-
sisting of nearly twelve thousand men, and paid by
France, were commanded by Count Seckendorff, an
officer in whom they at that time had the greatest
dependence. Marshal de Noailles was general of the
army in Flanders, which consisted of sixty-eight bat-
talions and ninety-seven squadrons complete. Count
Saxe was made marshal of France, and commanded
a separate corps, composed of thirty-two battalions
and fifty-eight squadrons, also complete: thus the
whole French army in Flanders amounted to about
eighty thousand fighting men.

There still remained on the banks of the Rhine and
Moselle seventy-five battalions and one hundred
and forty-six squadrons, exclusive of the army in
Italy, thirty thousand militia, the garrisons, the
light troops, the Bavarians, the Palatines, and the



i68 The War of 1741.

Hessians. This situation, especially in Flanders, was
very different from what it had been the preceding
year at the death of Cardinal Fleury. The English
might then have attacked the French frontiers with
advantage ; but now they came too late ; and the
Dutch, who refused to engage with them when this
enterprise was easy, now took a share in it when it
was become impracticable.

The king chose to make the campaign in Flanders
rather than in Alsace, supposing that on the Rhine
the war would be only defensive ; whereas every-
thing was disposed for making it offensive in the
Austrian Netherlands.

As it was not known that he had been ready the
preceding year to head his army in person, so it was
a long time before the public knew that he was to
set out for Flanders ; with such secrecy did he con-
duct even those things which are generally preceded
by a pompous parade. It is natural for a people who
have been governed eight hundred years by the same
family to love their king; besides, he had only one.
son, the dauphin, who was not yet married ; all these
circumstances gave rise to uncommon movements of
zeal and affection, mixed with joy and fear, in the
breasts of the inhabitants of Paris.

The king reviewed his army in the neighborhood
of Lille, and made some new regulations for the
establishing of military discipline, a thing difficult
to maintain, and at that time greatly wanted. His
aides-de-camp were Messrs, de Meuze, de Richelieu,



The War of 1741. 169

de Luxembourg, de Bouflers, d'Aumont, d'Ayen, de
Soubise and de Peguigny. The enemy were com-
manded by General Wade, an old officer, who, like


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online Library1694-1778 VoltaireThe works of Voltaire; a contemporary version; (Volume 33) → online text (page 10 of 19)