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breathlessly upon the heath, the French discovered the
allies drawn up in a semicircle, upon rising ground, with the
village of Spikel before their left, and a swampy rivulet in
advance of their right. Their centre was covered by ponds
and marshes. Extricating his army as rapidly as he could
from the narrow defiles in which they were entangled,
Boufflers prepared for battle. At 3 in the afternoon the
artillery on both sides opened fire, and some hundreds were
killed by the cannonade. Berwick inferred that the French
had the better of this duel because their guns were better
served, and the allied right was much exposed. At 5 o'clock,
observing that the enemy's left, which was entangled in wet
and difficult ground, showed inevitable symptoms of con-
fusion, Marlborough ordered Opdam's detachment, supported
by the whole of the right wing, to advance to the attack.
To the great astonishment of all who had heard the order
given, it was not obeyed with alacrity. Opdam pretended
that he was hindered from executing it by the marshy nature
of the soil. When at length he did move, he moved so
slowly that it was already too late in the day to begin a
battle. The French in alarm drew off their battalions on
this side, but twilight was approaching, and in any event
the original opportunity had passed. " I have but too much
reason to complain," Marlborough wrote to Godolphin, "that
the 10,000 men upon our right did not march as soon as I
sent the orders, which if they had, I beHeve we should have
had a very easy victory, for their whole left was in disorder. "■■•
As though he had not suffered sufficiently from the imbecility
of Dutch deputies, he was now confronted with the insub-
ordination, or worse, of Dutch generals.

1 Coxc, vol. i., ch. xii., p. 94.

1702 93

The ensuing day fonnd both armies in the same position.
Despite the misconduct of Opdam, which was calculated
to deter the most sanguine of commanders from the hazard
of a battle in which he must rely upon such officers, Marl-
borough was still eager to go forward. His left wing, nine
battalions of which had occupied the village of Spikel, seems
to have caused the enemy some uneasiness, and Boufflers,
anticipating danger in that quarter, strengthened the right
of his line by moving troops from its other extremity. But
it was now the deputies' turn to come to the rescue of the
French Marshal. They urged the advisabihty of waiting.
If Boufflers attacked, he would have all the disadvantage
of the ground. But if, on the other hand, he remained
quiescent, the whole question could be reconsidered on the
morrow. Remarking merely that on the morrow Boufflers
would be gone, Marlborough yielded. Nevertheless he made
his dispositions for an advance on the 25th. His prophecy
proved only too correct. Having carefully reconnoitred
the allied position, Burgundy, Boufflers, Berwick, and all
the French generals, unanimously agreed that it was un-
assailable. They agreed also that, as it was impossible for
them to feed their army in its present situation, they must
retire. Under cover of darkness therefore they struck their
tents and stole silently away. Marlborough was speedily
apprised of their departure ; and as soon as daylight appeared
he followed them with forty squadrons. General Wood
came up with the rear-guard, and engaged in a running
skirmish with the Household Cavalry, which after some
trifling losses fell rapidly back upon the main body. Boufflers
took the road to Baelen, and on the 27th returned to his old
camp at Beeringen. In obedience to Louis' wishes he was
continuing in close proximity to the enemy.

A French historian^ has remarked that Marlborough might
have attacked the camp at Beeringen, had he not been
demoralised by the Duke of Burgundy's " audacious
marches." Marlborough's private opinion of those marches
has not been preserved. But all the recorded facts suggest
that he had formed a very low estimate of the capacity of
his antagonists. His troubles came not from the French but
^ Pelet, MSmoires militaires, t. ii., p. 97.


from the Dutch. Opdam's disobedience was unpardonable.
In his official report to the Hague, Marlborough purposely
concealed the truth, because, as he explained to Godolphin,
" I have thought it much for Her Majesty's service to take
no notice of it."^ But the incident had been observed by too
many competent witnesses to escape publicity. " My Lord
Rivers," wrote Marlborough in the same letter to Godolphin,
" and almost all the general officers of the right were with
me when I sent the orders, so that notwithstanding the care
I take to hinder it they do talk." And talk they did. Every
soldier knew that Marlborough's plan had been ruined by
the Dutch general, just as every soldier suspected that
previous plans had been frustrated by the Dutch deputies.
Deserters from Boufflers' army (and they were very numerous)
declared that the French were "so harried and famished "
that they would have offered but a poor resistance to Marl-
borough's men, whose eagerness to come to close quarters
was specially mentioned in the Earl's dispatches to the
Hague. " We ought not to have let them escape as we did,"
wrote Albemarle to a friend.^ Cardonel, in forwarding to
Blathwayt a copy of Marlborough's official report to the
States-General, observed that if the Earl's " positive orders "
had been obeyed " we could not in all probability have
failed of a glorious victory." He added that the reference
in the report to the marshes and the difficulty of the ground
was " rather to cover the omission in not advancing as soon
as they were ordered than anything else."^ Through
private letters the facts became generally notorious in
England, where the greatest dissatisfaction was loudly
expressed. Marlborough, for his part, was resolved to waste
no more time in seeking for a battle under these exasperating
conditions. He determined to devote the remainder of the
campaign to the reduction of the places on the Meuse.

The French at Beeringen amused themselves, and every-
body else, by the reflection that they had tried their best
to bring an unwilling enemy to battle. But no one was
deceived. Boufflers certainly was not. He knew that he

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 94: Marlborough to Godolphin, August 16/27, 1702.

2 Lediard, Lije of the Duke of Marlborough, vol. i., book iv. (Albemarle's
letter, September 5. 1702).

3 Murray, The Marlborough Despatches, vol. i., p. 26 (to Blathwayt,
August 27, 1702).

1702 95

had done what Httle he had done only under pressure from
Versailles. He knew from deserters that on the afternoon
of the 23rd Marlborough had ordered an attack upon the
French left. And he had good reason to suspect why the
order had not been positively obeyed. For Marlborough
had already written privately both to Boufflers and to
Berwick to explain that it was no fault of his that he had
not attacked them on the heath between Peer and Bree,
or in their camp at Zonhoven. Dangeau in his diary mani-
fests surprise that one general should make his apologies
to another for failing to give battle. But Dangeau, the
complete courtier, did not appreciate a soldier's instincts.
Marlborough was hurt in his professional pride. Moreover,
though he possessed the entire confidence of the men of his
own country, he was well aware that continental opinion
chose to regard him as a novice, whose military capacity
was now upon its trial.

That Marlborough, in spite of Burgundy's " audacious
marches," remained master of the situation, speedily
appeared. The preparations of the Dutch for the siege of
Venlo had been conducted in a dilatory fashion, but they
were at last complete. On the 26th Marlborough sent off
the Prince of Saarbriick with twenty battalions and sixteen
squadrons to invest the town. Cutts, who was invaluable
when fighting was to be done, and Opdam, who could well
be spared, accompanied this detachment. Simultaneously
a Prussian force of twelve battalions and twenty squadrons
under the Margrave of Brandenburg, approached the place
upon the eastern side of the Meuse. On the 29th Venlo
was invested; and on the same day Marlborough broke up
his camp at Spikel and marched to Asch, where he assumed
a strong position covering the siege. The effect of these
movements upon Burgundy and Bouffiers can well be
imagined. The King had told them that the loss of Venlo
would be shameful and detrimental to the French arms.
But they knew no remedy. A council of war was summoned
to consider the possibility of saving the place. Burgundy
suggested that they should march forthwith upon the town.
But opinion was unanimous that the country adjacent to
Venlo could not support them. Opinion was also unani-


mous that Marlborough's position could neither be taken
nor turned. It was decided that nothing could be done.
Boufflers explained to Louis that the army was unequal to
the task of defending both Brabant and Spanish Guelderland
at the same time. He reverted to his former purpose of a
diversion in Flanders, and suggested the siege of Hulst.
Louis reluctantly consented. And Burgundy in disgust
returned to Versailles, where he was received with transports
of enthusiasm by his wife.-"- In the words of an exultant
EngUsh journahst, he " who was generally reported to have
come to the army to be taught how to fight, learnt nothing
from Marshal Boufflers but how to avoid an engagement."^
Boufflers indeed was unlucky in all he touched. His project
of besieging Hulst was entrusted to the Spanish general,
Bedmar. But the Dutch having opened the sluices, the
operation terminated in a miserable fiasco. Louis was
gravely dissatisfied. He realised that Boufflers, who among
fighting captains was the bravest of the brave, had little
talent for the higher branches of the art of war. It must
however be admitted that he had been given a task which
would have taxed the genius of Turenne. Against Athlone,
or some other commander who proceeded by rule of thumb,
he might have done sufficiently well. But even with the
Dutch deputies and the Dutch generals to help him, he never
had the slightest chance against Marlborough.

On September 13 Boufflers moved to Tongres, where he
was in closer touch with Liege, and on the same day Marl-
borough drew nearer to Maestricht and encamped at Suten-
dael. Meantime the siege of Venlo progressed as rapidly
as the quarrels of the Dutch generals with the Dutch engineer
Coehoorn would permit. On the i8th a double assault was
delivered. The Prussians on the right bank of the Meuse
succeeded only in carrying an outwork of the town. But
the English on the left stormed the fort of St. Michael, and
turned its guns against the enemy, whom they cannonaded
across the river. This exploit, audaciously conceived by
Cutts and as audaciously executed by the English regulars
and volunteers, depressed the spirits of the French. Five
days later the allied army, having received intelligence of

1 Mimoires de Dangeau (181 7), t. ii., p. 191.

2 Boyer, vol. i., p. 69.

1702 97

the capture of Landau, were firing a salute in honour of the
event, when the garrison, supposing this loud discharge to
be the signal for another assault, instantly hoisted the white
flag. In four weeks that place, upon which the French King
set such enormous store, had been wrested from his grasp,
while Boufflers at Tongres remained an im.potent spectator
of its fall.

But Boufflers had not been altogether idle. He had
dispatched Tallard to the Rhine with instructions to streng-
then the garrison of Bonn and to bring ofi the Elector of
Cologne from the perilous position in which Marlborough's
advance had placed that unfortunate prince. He had
inspected the fortifications of Liege, and had decided that
while the town itself was incapable of defence, the citadel
might offer serious resistance to an enemy. He therefore
reinforced the garrison, and proposed to retire with his
diminished army to the shelter of the lines of Brabant.
Louis and Chamillart were furious. The King wrote to the
Marshal that whatever else was lost, Liege must be saved,
and ordered him to encamp under the walls of the city.
But Boufflers remonstrated strongly, and Louis reluctantly
gave way.

Immediately upon the fall of Venlo, Marlborough ordered
the besieging army to march up the river and invest both
Roermond and Stevensweert. The one was taken in nine
days, and the other in four. And now the entire Meuse
as far as Maestricht was in the possession of the allies.

" And every toun from Mastrick doun
Our armie now hath won.
We took in al both great and small,
And we made the French to riin."^

Roermond surrendered on October 6. The French,
aware that there was time to deliver yet another blow before
the close of the campaigning season, anxiously wondered
in which direction it would fall. The Rhine, Brabant, and
Liege, lay open to the victorious allies. Marlborough, with
unerring instinct, had set his heart on Liege. Much against
its will, this populous and wealthy city had been forced by
the Elector of Cologne into the arms of the French. The loss
of it would be a severe blow to Louis' prestige. To the allies

^ The Remembrance (Scots Brigade in Holland), vol. iii., p. 331.
I- 7


it would give increased resources and an extended control
of the navigation of the Meuse in the direction of Namur.
But the Dutch government hesitated. Piincipally because
Liege was so valuable a prize, they feared lest any attempt
to capture it should bring on what they dreaded most in
the whole world, a battle. Marlborough represented to them
that however much importance the French might attach
to Liege, Boufflers, who throughout the campaign had been
afraid to fight upon approximately even terms, was not going
to hazard an engagement now when the numerical odds were
markedly against him . At length the Dutch were convinced .
Marlborough executed his project with characteristic celerity.
Having summoned the Prince of Saarbriick to follow him
with a part of the army from beyond the Meuse, he struck
his camp at Sutendael at i on the morning of the 12th.
By 4 in the afternoon his infantry were within cannon-shot
of the citadel of Liege. Fifty squadrons of horse, pushing
on in advance, had already invested the city. This operation,
by its suddenness and rapidity, completely disconcerted
Boufflers. The allied army, marching between the Meuse
and Tongres, passed close to the French camp. Marl-
borough, perceiving that he might attack with all the advan-
tage of a surprise, was eager to give battle. But the Dutch
deputies refused their consent. And therefore Boufflers
retreated precipitately to the shelter of the lines of

The chapter and magistrates of Liege yielded the city
forthwith. But the garrison retired into the citadel, and
the fortress of the Chartreuse on the opposite bank of the
river. On the evening of the i8th, under the direction of
Coehoorn, trenches were opened against the citadel. The
batteries played for four days, and blew up no fewer than
four magazines. On the 23rd the fortress was carried by
assault in the most gallant fashion. Discouraged by this
blow, the defenders of the Chartreuse surrendered after a
bombardment of only a few hours.

And here terminated the campaign of 1702. Marl-
borough set out immediately for the Hague. Late on
November 3 he went aboard a boat at Maestricht with
General Opdam and Gueldermalsen, one of the deputies,

1702 99

and a guard of twenty-five men, and proceeded down the
Meiise. At Roermond on the following morning he was
joined by a second boat which carried Coehoorn and an escort
sixty strong. A troop of fifty horse kept pace with the boats
upon the bank. That evening they came to Venlo, where
the cavalry having been relieved by a detachment from
the garrison, they continued their course in the direction
of Grave. In the darkness of the night the boats failed to
keep company, and the troopers on the shore lost their way.
It happened that a party of thirty-five men from the garrison
of Guelder, the only place which the French still held in those
parts, was prowhng on the river bank. They seized the
tow-rope of Marlborough's boat, surprised the sleeping guard
with a volley, and throwing in grenades, boarded the vessel
and made all prisoners. By the chivalrous custom of that
age a general in time of war frequently received a passport
from the enemy. Opdam and Gueldermalsen had each
procured one, but Marlborough had none. He was saved
by the presence of mind of an English servant, who sUpped
into his hand a passport which had been given to his brother,
General Churchill. The French, who knew both Opdam
and Gueldermalsen by sight, failed to recognise Marlborough,
and in the hurry and darkness they did not observe that the
passport which he presented was out of date. Having rifled
the boat and accepted presents from Marlborough and his
companions, they carried off the escort to Guelder and left
the travellers at liberty to proceed upon their way. Mean-
while the news spread far and wide that Marlborough was
taken. It came at once to Venlo, where the governor
promptly ordered the entire garrison to march on Guelder
and invest the town. It came to the Hague, where the
people heard it with consternation and the States made ready
to send every available soldier to Guelder and to threaten
the garrison with extermination unless the prisoners were
instantly delivered up. It came even to Versailles, where
instructions were given to extend the most generous treat-
ment to the Enghsh general, who was already esteemed by
all Frenchmen for the exceptional courtesy and humanity
which he invariably extended to prisoners of war.^ In these

^ Mimoires de Dangeau (1817), t, ii., p. 194, November 11, 1702.


circumstances the astonishment and delight with which Marl-
borough's arrival at the Hague was greeted by the Dutch
can well be imagined. As he passed through the streets
to his hotel, he received such an ovation from that phlegmatic
people as must have moved him deeply. Holland indeed
regarded him as her deUverer. But Marlborough accepted
official congratulations with discreet modesty. " M^hat had
been appUed to him," he declared, "in justice belonged to the
Queen his mistress ... it was glory sufficient for him, to
be Her Majesty's agent. "^ And he might well have added
that the gratitude of a nation which permitted him to suffer
such ignorant interference and such flagrant disobedience
as he had already endured in the field possessed no practical

Judged by the standard which Marlborough had erected
for himself, his campaign of 1702 fell far short of perfection.
But judged by the standard of his contemporaries, it was
singularly brilHant. It could hardly indeed have been
otherwise. Those generals who conducted their operations
in accordance with some written or unwritten book of maxims
or rules had never any chance against Marlborough, for the
simple reason that he had read just as much of that book as
they had, and with infinitely more discernment. When
therefore, as in 1702, the pressure of extraneous causes which
he could not control, compelled him to wage war upon a
system other than his own, he invariably triumphed. The
style was none of his choosing; but its most accomplished
professors could never get the better of him at their own and
only game. His superiority was clearly demonstrated by
results. It was also admitted by Athlone, a typical officer
of the orthodox school, who had the honesty and the gener-
osity to declare publicly that at every important moment
in the campaign his own opinion had been at variance with

The Englishman's success appeared more conspicuous
beside the failures of the coalition in the other theatres of
the war. In September a German and Austrian army under
Louis of Baden was besieging Landau, as a preliminary step
to the invasion of Alsace, when the Elector of Bavaria,

1 Lediard, vol. i., p. 199.

1702 loi

throwing off the mask of neutraUty under cover of which
he had been negotiating alternately with both sides, seized
the city of Ulm and threatened to sever the communications
of the ImperiaUsts with Vienna. But Landau fell a few
da3^s later, and Louis of Baden at once recrossed the Rhine.
Left to themselves, the Bavarians might have been over-
powered. Such allies however were far too valuable to be
deserted. With 40,000 men Villars passed the Rhine at
Hiiningen in the face of Baden's army. He engaged the
enemy at Friedlingen, a singular battle in which the Im-
perialist cavalry was routed and the French infantry ran
away in the moment of victory. But Villars had the better
of the exchange, and was rewarded with a Marshal's baton.
The Elector, who after the fall of Landau had renewed his
intrigues with Austria, ought to have advanced to meet
Villars. But he refused to quit Bavaria; and the lateness
of the season and the strength of Baden's army compelled
the French to retire without effecting a junction. Meantime
Tallard had taken Treves and Trarbach. These forward
movements of the French on both flanks, coupled with the
rising of Bavaria in the rear, rendered the ImperiaHst position
on the Upper Rhine extremely critical.

In Italy Eugene had been confronted by superior numbers
and by a general of real capacity, Vendome. The Mediter-
ranean being entirely at the service of the House of Bourbon,
the new King of Spain crossed to his Itahan dominions, and
joined Vendome with Spanish reinforcements. Eugene was
compelled to raise the siege of Mantua. At Luzzara he
fought a desperate and indecisive battle, of which, as of
Villars' action at Friedlingen, it has been wittily remarked
that " both sides claimed the victory because both were
defeated." By genius alone he maintained a precarious
footing in the country until both armies went into winter-

By sea Rooke and Ormond with the combined fleets of
England and Holland had failed disgracefully in their attempt
on Cadiz. Having done what they could by firing churches
and ravishing nuns to recommend the cause of the Austrian
claimant to the Spanish people, the alHed forces retired
ignominiously to their ships, and sailed for home. But


better luck than they deserved awaited them. The Plate
fleet, with its French escort, had anchored in Vigo Bay.
Roused by the prospect of enormous booty, Rooke and
Ormond dashed upon the place. Soldiers and sailors vied
with one another in skill and daring. The enemy's ships
were all burnt or taken. Part of the treasure was captured,
but the bulk of it went to the bottom. The expedition re-
turned to England in triumph. It had struck the kind of
stroke which was popular in England. It had also inflicted
a damaging blow upon the resources of the enemy. But it
would have better served the cause of Europe had it fulfilled
its original mission of securing Cadiz as a naval base for the
maritime powers. Its principal achievement, however, was
as yet unrevealed. It had frightened Portugal into a dis-
taste for the French alliance, which was powerless to protect
her seaboard.

Thus at the termination of the first campaign Louis had
good reason to congratulate himself upon the net result.
In the Spanish Peninsula and in the Mediterranean the
strategical position remained unchanged. The allies had
no footing there. In Italy and on the Upper Rhine they had
been forced to relinquish the attack and to assume the defen-
sive. Only in Flanders had the House of Bourbon sustained
any real loss. Marlborough had saved Holland from the
peril of invasion. But that was all. The peril of invasion
must be brought to the gates of France, perhaps even to the
gates of Paris, ere Louis would yield. Such a contingency
appeared ridiculously remote. Louis was confident that
long before it could be realised, the coahtion would fall to
pieces. His calculations were just, but his data were defec-
tive. He reckoned still without the genius of Eugene and


The last Parliament of William was not dissolved by the
mere fact of the Sovereign's death . In pursuance of a statute
of 1696 it assembled immediately, and continued in being
till July. The general election which ensued was accom-
panied by displays of bitterness and violence similar to
those which had attended the contest in the preceding year.
The Whigs pubhshed a black Hst of 167 Tories, whom they
described as the friends of France. The Tories denounced

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 44)