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The wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) online

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THE WARS OF
MARLBOROUGH

I 702-1 709

BY

FRANK TAYLOR

SOMETIME SCHOLAR OF LINCOLN COLLEGE, OXFORD
EDITED BY

G. WINIFRED TAYLOR

M.A. OXON.

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

THE HON. J. W. FORTESCUE, C.V.O.

MAPS COMPILED AND DRAWN BY

H. W. CRIBB, F.R.G.S.



VOL. I.



OXFORD
BASIL BLACKWELL

I 9 2 I



,- CI » v..

o

O
\1

;, NOTE

a

^ My brother, Frank Taylor, set to work in 1905 to write the

Life of Marlborough, which he had all but finished in 1913,

when he died at the age of forty.

I have prepared the manuscript for publication and

supplied the references, bibliography, and general index.

The chapters dealing with Marlborough's earlier career,

and the sketch of the last campaign, are printed as

appendices, and I have added a short account of my

brother's Hfe.

I am much indebted to the Hon. J. W. Fortescue, who has

kindly written the Introduction and marked the positions

of the troops on Mr. Cribb's plans of the several battles;

to Professor Spenser Wilkinson for his advice and un-

^ wearying help; to Mr. Ernest Barker, Principal of King's

Vy College, London, for his assistance in the arrangement

, of the chapters; as well as to Professor Firth, Dr. Warde

^- Fowler, Mr. G. N. Clark, and Mr. A. L Ellis of the British

So Museum.

^1- My admiration for Mr. Cribb's maps is equalled only by

my appreciation of the skilful and patient help he has been

$ ready to give me with the text in every geographical

- difficulty. To him I am indebted also for the index of

S places.

And, finally, I should like to express my gratitude to those

friends, and especially those members of my family, who have

^ in any way aided me towards the publication of my brother's

d^ book.

G. WINIFRED TAYLOR.



4SC923



INTRODUCTION

As a general principle it may be affirmed that a book which
needs an introduction from any hand other than the author's
had best remain unpublished. There are, however, ex-
ceptions to this rule ; and this book furnishes one of them.
In the first place, it deals with an historical subject; in the
second, the author lived not long enough to give it his finish-
ing touches and to launch it, whether to float or to founder,
upon the sea of English letters.

Now the public has shown by unmistakeable signs during
the last fifty years that it has no taste for serious historical
work. In 1856 Macaulay sold over twenty-six thousand
copies of the third volume of his history within three months,
and received from his publishers a cheque for £20,000 ; and
the educated society which delighted thus to honour him
gave proportionate support to historians far inferior to
Macaulay, according to their merit. But that educated
society has passed utterly away. In these days an historian
may make some reputation by his labour, but he cannot
make a living. With such a public as the present, the work
of an author who is not merely unknown, but is, physically
speaking, dead, is not likely to find acceptance. Those
who can appreciate it probably cannot afford to buy it.
Of such as can afford to buy it the majority would declare
in their own elegant phrase that "they have no use for
history " at the best of times, and cannot trouble them-
selves about living historians, much less about the dead.
To others, who would have themselves esteemed patrons
and patronesses of literature, the fact that the author
cannot be displayed among their acquaintances is, it is to be
feared, a real discouragement ; for they are thereby denied
that which they chiefly covet, the reflected glory which



viii INTRODUCTION

might shine upon them from his fame. The remnant, that
will not only read but buy a history, is almost ridiculously
small. In such circumstances it becomes almost a duty
for an historian to take by the hand, so to speak, the orphan
child of his dead brother ; and let me add that I had never
seen him, nor even heard of him until long after he was
laid in his grave.

Let us now consider what our author has given us. He has
given us the best account that has yet appeared of John, Duke
of Marlborough, as a director of war and as a commander
in the field. To most of us Marlborough is little more than
a name. Those who would wish him to be more can find
no means of satisfying themselves other than the obsolete
biographies of Lediard and Coxe. Not a few of us would
fain think of him as great, but are deterred by the carping of
Whig historians. Now at last we have the opportunity
of forming a judgment upon Marlborough for ourselves.
Speaking, if it may be forgiven me, for one moment of my-
self, I cannot sufficiently lament that I had no such book as
this before me when, more than twenty years ago, I attempted
CO write a short narrative, which I have always known to be
inadequate, of Marlborough's campaigns. It is, however,
all the greater satisfaction to me to see my own shortcomings
thus made good. Moreover, the present is no unfavourable
time for measuring the stature of the man who, two centuries
ago, delivered us from just such perils as those which, after
terrible and exhausting effort, we have recently shaken
from us.

The author evidently designed his book to anticipate the
struggle which he, in common with many others, foresaw to
be impending with Germany, and to prepare his countrymen
for the trial. He wished them to realise betimes the meaning
of a great European war ; and he is at pains to set forth the
reasons which, in his judgment, conduced, during the seven-
teenth century and great part of the eighteenth, to indecisive
campaigns and to the prolongation of hostilities until they
became unendurable to both parties. These may not be
accepted by all readers without cavil; but at least this



INTRODUCTION ix

difl&cult question has never been so well thought out, and
the chapter is worthy of close attention. The curious thing
is that, in spite of these careful reflections upon the past,
the author still believed that the contest with Germany
would be short and sharp. He also shared in the prevailing
opinion that the application of scientific invention to modem
war would work towards a humaner system of warfare
and towards a smaller death-roll. We, who are wise after
the event, must be careful not to make too much of such
miscalculations. A civilian may be pardoned for sharing
an error with the greatest soldiers in Europe, all of whom
had studied Napoleon's campaigns too much, and Marl-
borough's too little. Moreover, I imagine that, to all think-
ing men, the greatest surprise of the late war was the patience
and docility with which the nations of Europe suffered
themselves to be led to the slaughter. The reader must not
be extreme to mark such trivial blemishes. He must remem-
ber that he is perusing a treatise not on war, but on the Wars
of Marlborough.

We have produced in modem times three men of great
military genius, Cromwell, Marlborough, Wellington. All
three were endowed with strong character, striking moral
and physical courage, indefatigable industry, and that
combination of penetrating insight with transcendent com-
mon sense which is called originality. All three commanded
the utmost confidence of their subordinates ; but Marlborough
alone of them possessed the mysterious gift of personal
charm. It is this which makes his career of such surpassing
interest. Who can say how many obstacles, insuperable
by other men, in the business of the Allies during the War of
the Spanish Succession were imperceptibly brushed away
by Marlborough's delicate tact and invincible serenity of
temper ? Who can say how often his gentle influence,
unconsciously felt, may have eased the friction which impedes
the machinery of every coalition ? Conceive of him visiting
Cadiz in Wellington's place in the winter of 1812 ; would he
not in a few days have had the Cortes and the whole city at
his feet ? Yet Wellington also was patient and could humour



X INTRODUCTION

Spanish pride on occasion, as when he kneeled to Cuesta
before Talavera; though he vowed, after his experience
in 1809, ^hat he would fish in Spanish troubled waters no
more. Marlborough had to fish in Dutch troubled waters
to the end. Again and again he saw his finest combinations
wrecked by jealousy, stupidity, and disloyalty. He knew
that, with a free hand, he could have brought the war to a
triumphant close in a few campaigns, but he was not allowed
to do so. Yet he worked patiently and faithfully on until
the prolongation of hostilities gave, as he had dreaded, the
pretext for faction to throw away the fruit of his victories.
Had his army but contained a Napier instead of a mere Kane,
the History of the War of the Spanish Succession would have
been a textbook for British officers to this day; and Marl-
borough, not Napoleon, would have been held up as the
pattern of their emulation. Now at last the greatest of
British Generals, as I personally hold him to be, seems
likely to come by his own.

And let us not be told that we have had enough of war
and wish to hear no more about it. Above all, let us not be
deluded by the saying that the late — or rather the present —
war is " a war to end war." A war that could end war is
a war that could change human nature; and the prime
cause of war is that human nature obstinately refuses to be
changed. We cannot even maintain domestic peace with-
out the help of a standing army, called the police. The
abolition of private property would not end domestic broils ;
the dissolution of nations could not end external quarrels.
As long as one man excels another in body or mind, as long
as one woman is even comelier than another, so long will
there be envy, jealousy, strife, and violence, or, in one word,
War.

J. W. FORTESCUE.



PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR

Although the Life of Marlborough has been written many
times, and in a variety of styles, there is more than sufficient
justification for writing it again.

Two biographers, and only two, have treated the subject
in an adequate manner. Archdeacon Coxe's book, so far
as the period subsequent to 17P2 is concerned, is admirably
thorough. Lord Wolseley's, which proceeds no further than
that date, has quite superseded the Archdeacon's earlier
chapters. Taken together these two works cover the entire
field. To combine in a single volume the main results of
the laborious researches of their authors would seem to be
a desirable, if not a very ambitious enterprise.

In undertaking it, I have endeavoured to produce a
narrative which can be read without undue fatigue by the
many who are not scientific students of history. Arch-
deacon Coxe's book, which by reason of its burden of
invaluable extracts from Marlborough's correspondence, is
necessarily long, suffers, moreover, from a certain diffuseness
and disorder, exasperating to all who read for pleasure.
And even Lord Wolseley, in his anxiety to depict the back-
ground of his portrait in appropriate colours, exhibits a
tendency towards digression and repetition, which does not
make for either brevity or unity. Excepting, therefore, in
a few instances, in which expansion has seemed to me to
be required, I have aimed consistently at condensation.

I do not pretend to have broken fresh ground or to have
discovered new facts. But a large number of contemporary
documents, which were not available to Archdeacon Coxe,



xii PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR

and some which were not available to Lord Wolseley, have
now been published; and many modem historians, both
EngUsh and foreign, have in recent years produced illumin-
ating studies of the persons and events of Marlborough's
time. All these I have freely consulted.

Marlborough was a soldier, or he was nothing. Even his
diplomatic successes were largely attributable to his success
in the field. I have therefore treated his miUtan' career
more minutely than his poUtical or private Hfe. I have
written without any claim to expert knowledge, but always
ill the hope that my work may not be devoid of utility to
the members of the Duke's profession.

Much of what I have written, too much as it may seem to
some, is polemical in tone. But Marlborough, both in his
life and after it, was pursued by enemies so numerous and
so implacable, that a controversial atmosphere of necessity
envelops him.

Neither Wolseley nor Coxe could escape from it, and no
conscientious biographer of Marlborough would desire to
escape from it. Much of the fighting has consequently been
done already, and well done. But I have felt it my duty
to devote considerable attention to the memoirs of the very
valiant, very patriotic, but very conceited and inventive
Dutchman, the field-deputy, Goslinga, whose extraordinary
and repulsive allegations against the Duke, both as a soldier
and a man, have not been sufficiently examined by English
historians.

The functions of the ' whitewasher ' I altogether dis-
claim. That epithet is easily applied, and not seldom mis-
applied. Whenever the known facts of any man's life are
closely examined in their entirety, there is always a chance
that the popular verdict on his conduct may be modified
or even reversed. This is so, whether that verdict has been
favourable or unfavourable; notwithstanding the chorus of
distress which is invariably evoked, it will continue to be so
till the day of judgment; and of that day's proceedings it



PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR xiii

will constitute by far the most remarkable and attractive
feature.

In the case of three-fourths of the evil that is told of
Marlborough (apart, of course, from deliberate lying), the
facts themselves are of less consequence than the stand-
point adopted by the teller. Standpoints are free to all to
choose, and also to criticise. On this principle I have
proceeded.

In seeking to present my countrymen with a complete
yet concise account of the life and work of him, who saved
both this island and the continent from a menace comparable
only to the Napoleonic one, I have striven also to remind
them of two things which some of them forget. One is
England's place in Europe; the other is the real nature
and the true significance of war. For I hold with Dalrymple
that " to write history, without drawing moral or political
rules of conduct from it, is little better than writing a
romance."

I desire to acknowledge my special indebtedness to my
friend, the late Mr. Roderick Geikie, who shortly before his
death lent me the manuscript of his treatise on the Dutch
Barrier. The only other copy in existence is in the Library
of King's College, Cambridge. No student of the period
can afford to ignore Mr. Geikie 's researches into this intricate
f)age of diplomatic history.

FRANK TAYLOR.



CONTENTS OF VOL. I.

CHAPTKR PAGE

I. WAR -. - ..- 1

II. THE EXORBITANT POWER OF FRANCE - - - 20

III. THE MINISTRY OF GODOLPHIN - - - - 62

IV. 1702 - .-.-.83
V. THE STRIFE OF PARTIES ... - 103

VI. 1703 . - -..- u8

VII. THE MARCH TO THE SCHELLENBERG (1704) - - I47

VIII. THE DEVASTATION OF BAVARIA - - - 186

IX. BLENHEIM ... - - 203

X. AFTER BLENHEIM .... - 238

XI. THE LINES OF BRABANT - . - . 269

XII. SCHLANGENBERG . - . , . 3O4

XIII. 1 705-1 706 .. - -. 340

XIV. RAMILLIES . - -.- 367
XV. THE DUTCH BARRIER - - - 392

XVI. 1 706-1707 . - -.. 433



XV



LIST OF MAPS TO VOL. I.

EUROPE circa 1700 . . _ . . Fnntispiece

FACING PAGE

THE SCHELLENBERG - - - - - - l8o

BLENHEIM - - .-. 232

RAMILLIES -.-.... 286

CAMPAIGNS OF I702-I709 (WESTERN SPHERE) - - 466

CAMPAIGNS OF 1702-1709 (EASTERN SPHERE) - 466



XVI



THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

(1702-1709)

I.— WAR

Geographical and climatic conditions may vary, national
characteristics may differ, weapons and tactics may be
incredibly changed, but the real object of all war and the
true principles by which that object may be achieved remain
immutable. For war, as Clausewitz insisted, is merely a
strong expression, a violent manifestation of the foreign
policy of a state. Whatever that policy may be, to impose
it by force upon another state or states is always the end of
war. And the only method by which war can certainly
attain its end is the destruction of the enemy's armaments.
This result may be assisted and even secured in more ways
than one ; but it can only be surely and swiftly wrought by
battle. These conceptions of the end and means of war are
universally true. They are a recognition of permanent
realities, which, though at times obscured or overlooked,
have given to the art of war throughout the ages an absolute
identity.

Nevertheless, in militaiy as in other affairs, history records
innumerable changes and developments. Particular periods
are distinguished by particular features. Thus, for example,
in mediaeval warfare, when feudalism brought into the field
huge levies of ill-trained footmen, nothing was more re-
markable than the crushing superiority which the possession
of horses and defensive armour conferred upon the aris-
tocratic few who could afford them. But in the period
which ensued, the period of the Renaissance, when the
evolution of firearms was diminishing the value of the coat
of mail and was profoundly complicating all tactical prob-
lems, the cosmopolitan mercenary, whether on horseback



2 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

or on foot, was generally accepted as the highest type of
efficiency in war.

In military history the century and a half which preceded
the French Revolution can be treated as an epoch by itself.
Let nobody infer that throughout that time the art of war
remained stationary. For it was then that the bayonet
and the bomb were invented, that fortification became
an exact science, and that cavalry tactics attained
to their utmost perfection. And it was then that such
soldiers flourished as Gustavus, Cromwell, Turenne, Conde,
Luxembourg, Marlborough, Eugene, Villars, Saxe, and
Frederick. Nevertheless, during those hundred and fifty
years, war, while continuing, as always, unchanged in its
essential attributes, presented some peculiar and out-
standing features which justify the military historian in
separating that age from the ages which precede and
follow it.

In studying the campaigns even of commanders so re-
nowned as those whose names have just been cited, the
modern soldier must often be astonished and puzzled by
the comparative smallness of the results obtained and the
comparative slowness of obtaining them. He would, of
course, make large allowances for the inefficiency of the
transport, the commissariat, and the intelligence depart-
ments of armies which knew not the railway, the telegraph,
the motor-car, and the aeroplane. But these inventions
were equally unknown in the Napoleonic era, which was
nevertheless distinguished by the celerity and the magnitude
of its military achievements. The material conditions
under which armies moved and subsisted, and even the
weapons with which they fought, underwent no extraor-
dinary change between the age of Turenne and Marlborough
and the age of Wellington and Napoleon. Yet the armies
of 1800 produced far greater effects in far less time than
the armies of 1650 or 1700. Indeed, from the French
Revolution down to the present day, war has been remark-
able for the tremendous nature of its consequences no
less than for the terrifying rapidity with which those conse-
quences have arrived.

The tedious and ineffective character of war in the earlier



WAR 3

period is too often ascribed to nothing but tiie pedantry
and ignorance of military men. But no armies and no
centuries have ever possessed an absolute monopoly of those
infirmities. In reality the causes were numerous and
deep-seated. And the more important of them were not
military at all, but political.

When the normal type of European government was
autocratic, when even the so-called republics were but
narrow oligarchies, policy was the business of the rulers
rather than of the ruled. That phase of policy, which is
called war, formed no exception to this law. In the past,
war had been waged by savage hordes, by immense feudal
levies, by huge national militias, in short by whole peoples
and races in arms. In the fourteenth, fifteenth, and
sixteenth centuries these unwieldy hosts, ill-disciplined
and badly organised, had proved very inferior to small
contingents of highly trained mercenaries such as the free
companies of English archers, the pikemen of the Swiss
cantons, and the ' reiters ' and ' lanzknechts ' of Germany.
The mercenaries first taught the lesson that war was neither
a gallant sport for gentlemen nor a brutal pastime for the
mob, but a serious profession which could not be success-
fully pursued without a high degree of technical knowledge
and proficiency. The strong and centralised governments
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries understood
this truth. But they also understood that an alien soldiery
was expensive, unpopular, and unreliable. Accordingly
they introduced the system of maintaining in their per-
manent service armies which were recruited in the main
from such of their own subjects as were willing to adopt war
as a regular trade. In England alone among the great
powers of Europe this system still survives. As every
Englishman knows, armies of this kind are by no means
cheap. Their numbers were consequently limited by the
financial resources of the governments which paid them.
A small but wealthy nation might have a larger army than
a populous but poor one. The German states were rich
in men, but without the gold of England or of Holland
they were by no means rich in soldiers. Because such
troops were few and costly, they were regarded by their



4 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

employers as very precious. Moreover, they derived a
special and purely political value from the fact that, in the
last resort, they, and they alone, stood between those
employers and revolt or revolution.

Now it is a true saying that nobody can make omelettes
without breaking eggs. In war at any rate, unless you are
prepared to take big risks, you cannot hope to obtain big
results. But the governments of that day were not, as a
general rule, prepared to take big risks. Soldiers, who
in peace upheld the existing order, and at the same time
absorbed so much of the fruit of the unpopular labours
of the tax-gatherer, were not to be freely hazarded in war.
Every government was more concerned to preserve its
own army than to destroy the enemy's. The instrument
came to be regarded as more important than the purpose



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