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advance had caused profound anxiety to Marlborough. But
the city was already on the verge of surrender. Attacked
in three places by an overwhelming artillery, it yielded on
the 15th on honourable terms. " I think," wrote the Duke
to Godolphin, "if we had not been so uneasy as we are at
what is doing on the Meuse we might in four or five days more
have made this garrison prisoners of war."^ He did not
stay to see the French march out. On the 17th he was back
at Maestricht.

He was now at liberty to execute what he called " the great
design." But the French had so many troops in the field
that, unless he could destroy their main army in a decisive
action, the investment of Antwerp could only be accom-
plished by the most elaborate strategy. Knowing that his
chances of bringing the Marshals to battle were extremely
slender, he laid his plans to circumvent them without
fighting. The greater part of the army which had formed
the siege of Bonn followed him to Maestricht ; but the residue
he > dispatched to Breda and Bergen-op-Zoom, where they
joined the Dutch forces already established in that region.
This movement appeared to threaten Antwerp or the lines
that ran from Antwerp to Ostend. But on the 25th he
marched from Maestricht with his main army towards the
south-west, as though he intended to undertake the siege
of Huy. Yet no preparations for a siege were reported
from Maestricht. The Marshals were puzzled. But ad-
hering faithfully to their instructions, they took the same
direction. For some days the two armies moved upon
parallel lines with nothing between them but the River
Geer. Once the Duke made a demonstration, as if he would
attack; but on the 30th he encamped at Thys, where he
remained inactive till June 9. In this position he was very
close to Huy. The opinion that he was meditating an
attempt upon that fortress was strengthened by the news

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 118: Marlborough to Godolphin, May 15, 1703.

1703 127

that cannon were now being sent by water from Maestricht
to Liege. On the other hand, advices which arrived con-
tinually from the Spanish general, Bedmar, created the
impression that serious mischief was brewing at the mouth
of the vSchelde.

Bedmar's dispatches showed that, on the arrival of the
contingent from Bonn, the enemy who were commanded by
Coehoorn, Spaar, Opdam, and Tilly had formed two camps,
at Breda and Lillo, that subsequently they had formed
three others at L'Ecluse, Biervliet, and Sas van Gent,
that they were perpetually in motion under cover of dark-
ness by road, river, and sea, and that they were equally
diligent in transporting cannon and in spreading all manner
of rumours of their intentions and designs. Bedmar
admitted that he was quite unable to determine the real
object of an enemy who at one time threatened Antwerp,
at another Ostend, and at another the lines between the two.
The Marshals sent him a small detachment, which raised the
number of his forces to thirty battalions and twenty-three
squadrons. These he distributed at various points from
Lierre to Ostend. He himself, very properly considering
that Antwerp was the most important part of the charge
confided to his care, took station on June 8 at Burgh,
which was separated from that city only by the Schelde,
and which was at the same time within easy distance of the
northern hues. Here he remained in no little perplexity,
certain that the blow would fall, but entirely ignorant of its

Thus far success had attended the execution of Marl-
borough's plans. Both on the Meuse and on the Schelde he
had created so dense a " fog of war " that the enemy was
entirely at a loss. To increase their mystification, and
divert their attention from the threatened point, he moved
on June 9 to Haneffe, a day's march nearer to Huy. The
Marshals responded by the occupation of a strong position
at St. Servais, where they could either impede the siege of
Huy or march by a shorter road than Marlborough to
Antwerp. Their flanks were covered by the Geer and the
Mehaigne, and their front by the village of Tourinne.
They also constructed trenches and redans. They were


so pleased with the ground which they had chosen that
they sent a plan of it to Versailles. Less than i| leagues
of open country separated the hostile armies, which now,
and throughout the campaign, were nearly equal in numbers,
though the alhes had shghtly the advantage. In this situa-
tion they remained for eighteen days. Except in skirmishes
between foragers, not a blow was struck. The Marshals
took pleasure in the reflection that Marlborough was afraid.
They flattered themselves that by their skill and foresight
they had reduced the enemy to impotence. They did not
know then, though they subsequently discovered it, that
Marlborough passed those eighteen days in fruitlessly soHcit-
ing permission from the States-General to attack the French
position. But such was in fact the case. To his reiterated
demands the Dutch government had only one response.
The army, they declared, was Holland's " all in all." If
the army were destroyed, Holland would be lost.

To argue with the panic-stricken is unprofitable. Marl-
borough had two good reasons for desiring to fight. But
neither of them was likely to appeal to the States-General.
The first was a general one, which was ever present in his
mind, and which was simply the impulse of the true soldier
to destroy the armed forces of the enemy. The second arose
out of the particular circumstances of the moment. Marl-
borough had begun to entertain the gravest doubts of the
success of the " great design." His plan for the investment
of Antwerp depended on the combined motions of two armies
besides his own. A detachment under Opdam was to con-
centrate at Bergen-op-Zoom. A second under Coehoorn was
to move to the western extremity of the lines and attack
Ostend. It was assumed that this diversion would draw
Bedmar from the vicinity of Antwerp, Thereupon Opdam,
descending from the north, and Marlborough himself, rushing
up from the south, would together complete the investment
of Antwerp. But Marlborough's hopes of success had
been diminished by the discovery that the enemy was
more numerous at all points than had been anticipated.
They were still further diminished by the action of Coehoorn,
who had now obtained permission from the States-General
to substitute an irruption into the country of Waes for

1703 129

the original idea of an attack upon Ostend. In Marl-
borough's opinion an irruption into the country of Waes
would not effect the desired object of drawing Bedmar
from Antwerp. But it would enable the Dutch to levy large
contributions, of which Coehoorn, as governor of West
Flanders, would receive one-tenth. The capture of Ostend,
on the other hand, appeared to the jealous eyes of the
Dutch government to be only a selfish project of the English
cabinet, conceived in the interest of the maritime supremacy
of England. Such base and irrelevant motives had brought
about a decision which Marlborough viewed with grave
misgiving. "Had I been at the Hague," he wrote to
Godolphin, " I am very confident they would have preferred
the taking of Ostend."^ But he was not at the Hague; and
in his absence, on the suggestion of one of his own sub-
ordinates, a civilian body, intervening at the very crisis of
the operations, overrode the opinion of its own commander-
in-chief upon a strategic question, vital to the issue of the
whole campaign. A more fatuous perversion of the art of
war it is impossible to imagine.

No wonder Marlborough longed for a decisive victory.
If the Marshals' army were destroyed, the problem would
be simplified. The problem indeed would no longer exist.
But the Dutch government was obdurate. Public opinion,
ignorant of the truth, marvelled at such long inaction.
Even in that age men considered it remarkable that two
great armies should continue for nearly three weeks in close
proximity to one another without fighting. But the question
of proximity was not material. When each of two armies
has been expressly forbidden to attack the other, the
actual distance between them is of no account. Whether it
be one mile or a thousand, there will be no battle.^

All this time the perpetual motions of the Dutch detach-
ments which confronted him kept Bedmar in a permanent
state of apprehension and perplexity. Towards the middle
of the month the enemy showed a tendency to concentrate
in force under Opdam at Lillo. Thereupon the Spanish
general, more alarmed than ever for the safety of Antwerp,

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 119: Letter of May 20/31, 1703.

2 The whole of this episode is omitted by Coxe, and consequently also by
the numerous historians who have followed him.

I. 9


called in as many of his troops as could be spared from the
defence of the lines, passed the Schelde, and encamped on
the 17th at Deurne, in the north-eastern environs of the
city. A week later Ghent and Bruges were menaced by
another concentration under Spaar at the opposite extremity
of the lines. But Bedmar did not move. The crisis was
now at hand. On the 26th Spaar turned suddenly east-
ward, while Coehoorn passing in full view of Bedmar's camp,
crossed the Schelde below Antwerp. On the morning of
the 27th they attacked the north-eastern angle of the
French lines upon opposite sides. Both operations were
successful, though Spaar's victory was dearly bought.
The country of Waes lay now at the mercy of the Dutch,
who immediately exacted contributions. Great were the
rejoicings at the Hague, where the distinction between
soldiering and money-grubbing was not understood. But
still Bedmar remained motionless at Deurne. As Marl-
borough had anticipated, this kind of diversion did not
greatly impress the Spanish general, who was only
strengthened in his resolution to stand his ground by the
appearance of Opdam's army at Eeckeren, four miles north
of Antwerp.

On the 27th, the very day on which Coehoorn and Spaar
invaded Waes, Marlborough struck his camp in the small
hours of the morning, and passed the Geer. The French,
alarmed by this sudden movement and fully expecting
to be attacked, stood to their arms. But as Marlborough
was presently found to be proceeding in the direction of
Hasselt, the Marshals took the road by Landen towards
Diest. Here on the 29th they received from Bedmar
a full account of the invasion of Waes. They realised at
once that the exposed position of Opdam's army at Eeckeren
offered them an opportunity for a telling counter-stroke.
It was decided to send to Deurne forthwith a powerful
reinforcement of cavalry and grenadiers under the command
of Boufflers himself. The troops set off at 8 a.m., and
Marlborough, who was at Hasselt, knew nothing of Bouffiers'
expedition; but he knew the danger, and as soon as he
heard of Opdam's advance to Eeckeren he sent him urgent
instructions to withdraw to a post of greater safety, Opdarn

1703 131

however contented himself with ordering back his heavy
baggage to Bergen-op-Zoom, though his spies reported that
Boufflers was on the road to Antwerp, and his colleagues
entreated him to retire. It was nearly midnight when the
foremost of Bouiflers' men arrived at Antwerp. As fast
as they came up they traversed the sleeping city, and
defihng through the northern gates, joined the army of
Bedmar. They had marched continuously for forty miles.
After a brief rest Boufflers and Bedmar advanced in four
columns. They outnumbered the enemy by nearly three to
one. Their object was to envelop Opdam's left, and to
interpose between his right and his line of retreat to Lillo.
Opdam, despite the warnings he had received, was virtually
surprised by the French cavalry and dragoons. The Dutch
had behaved badly, but their foot, sheltered by dykes
and water-courses, stood fast and repulsed the onset of
the mounted men. Opdam ordered a retreat to Lillo; but
at 3 in the afternoon the French infantry arrived. Some of
them had been marching for ten hours, and some for more
than thirty. But they flung themselves into the battle
with all their well-known gaiety and dash. A desperate
conflict ensued, in which the difficult and broken nature of
the ground produced no little confusion. Regiments and
brigades fought independently, and supreme direction was
conspicuously lacking. At an early stage in the struggle
Opdam was cut off from his men, and surrounded by the
enemy. He managed to slip through into the open country,
where accompanied by only thirty horsemen he made his way
to Breda, and wrote to the States-General that all was lost.
After his disappearance the command devolved on General
Schlangenberg, who exercised it boldly and well. Notwith-
standing the advantage of numbers and surprise, the
French made little headway. Their fiery valour died down
before the stubborn courage which is characteristic of the
Teutonic soldier at bay. Slowly the Dutch drew off in the
direction of Lillo. But the French had already established
themselves upon the only road. Many of the Dutch regi-
ments had exhausted their ammunition, but not their re-
sources. With fixed bayonets and in serried ranks they
clove themselves a passage. The Prussian general Hompesch,


with a handful of cavalry of that nation, hurled himself
upon the masses of French horse and drove them back-
ward in confusion and disarray. As darkness descended
the whole army, glorious in defeat, marched sternly from
the field. Every attack was repulsed with fury; and some
of the panic-stricken assailants never halted in their
flight till they were safe within the lines of Antwerp. The
greater part of Bouffiers' army passed the night in the
belief that they had been defeated. Daylight showed them
that they were masters of the field. With drums beating
and trumpets sounding, they hastened to take possession
of such baggage and cannon as the enemy had been unable
to withdraw in their retreat to Lillo. These, with several
colours, and 900 prisoners, including the Comtesse de Tilly,
constituted the proofs of victory. The French had at least
2,000 casualties, and the allies no more.

Eeckeren was a soldiers' battle. It was a French victory,
but a very incomplete one. It reflected Httle credit on the
tactical skill of Boufflers and Bedmar. No amount of
exaggeration could disguise the truth that an army which
ought to have been annihilated had escaped after inflicting
severe losses on its assailants. On the other hand, the
exultation of the Dutch at the conduct of their troops
did not alter the fact that the strategic object for which
Boufflers fought had been achieved. The French had not
destroyed Opdam's army; but they had shattered the " great
design." The troops which were to advance upon Antwerp
from the north, and in conjunction with Marlborough to
complete the investment of the city, had been forced from
their post, and compelled to retire with heavy loss. The
Marshals had acted upon sound principles, and they were
rewarded with the attainment of their real aim, the ruin of
the enemy's combinations.

Villeroi passed the 30th in intense anxiety. He knew that
Boufflers was fighting, and he knew also that he himself
might be attacked. But as Marlborough merely continued
his march, and encamped at Beeringen, the Marshal replied
by moving to Aerschot. It was impossible for the alhes
to get ahead of their antagonists, who were operating on
interior lines. After five days of constant marching.

1 703 133

Villeroi was nearer to Antwerp than Marlborough. On
July I the allies rested at Beeringen, whence they proceeded
on the 2nd to Baelen. Villeroi, still moving towards Antwerp,
was rejoined on the 3rd by Boufflers and his men.

Opdam's dispatch from Breda turned the premature
jubilation of the Dutch to grief and terror. But Schlangen ■
berg's report from Lillo speedily restored confidence. The
successful passage of their army through the overwhelming
masses of the enemy was naturally regarded by the Dutch
people as a gallant feat of arms. They were proud of the
battle of Eeckeren. The triumphant rejoicings of the French
only excited derision at the Hague. The populace did not
understand that a gallant feat of arms may be also a
strategical disaster. But Marlborough understood. When
the first rumours of the destniction of Opdam's forces came
from Breda to Baelen on July 2, he wrote to Godolphin, " I
pray God it be not so, for he is very capable of having it
happen to him."^ Though subsequent intelligence showed
that Schlangenberg and his men had given a good account
of themselves, the Duke was not deceived as to the true
meaning of the battle of Eeckeren. The "great design "
had collapsed. His disappointment was embittered by the
knowledge that he himself was being blamed for a fiasco
which was entirely due to the insubordination and incom
petence of the Dutch. The voice of the military critic, that
pestilent product of ignorance, faction and private malice,
was loudly raised on both sides of the North Sea. These
wiseacres contended that, when Villeroi sent the detachment
under Boufflers to Antwerp, Marlborough should either
have sent a corresponding detachment to Eeckeren, or have
seized the opportunity to attack the French army in its
weakened state. The first suggestion was manifestly absurd.
Boufflers had secured a good start long before Marlborough
received intelligence of his departure. But even if it had
been possible, which it was not, for a reinforcement to
start from Hasselt at the very moment that Boufflers set
out from Diest, the map should have shown the critics that
the French could not fail to reach Eeckeren many hours before
their rivals. As to the assertion that Marlborough ought

* Coxe, vol. i., p. 123: Marlborough to Godolphin, July 2, 1703.


to have attacked Villeroi in Boufflers' absence, Marlborough
would have been only too pleased to attack Villeroi at any
time and under almost any conditions. But the govern-
ment which had just refused his reiterated applications for
leave to give battle in the open country was little likely to
sanction an assault upon the moats and ramparts of the
French Hues. In any case, Boufflers had fought the battle
and rejoined Villeroi in much less time than was required to
take the opinion of the authorities at the Hague. On those
very authorities rested the main responsibility for the failure
of the "great design." The rashness and stupidity of
Opdam were deserving of the severest censure. But the
men who had sanctioned the invasion of Waes by Coehoorn
in substitution for Marlborough's original plan of an attack
upon Ostend, were the principal culprits. Reasoning as
hucksters reason, they concluded that Bedmar would be
disturbed by the extraction of a few thousand crowns from
the country of Waes. They paid dearly for their folly.
The lesson is one that has still to be learned by the English
people, who imagine that great and martial nations can be
brought to their knees by the capture of cargo-boats and
tramp steamers. Successful v/ar is not to be made on these
lines. Those who make it like soldiers will always have the
upper hand of those who make it like tradesmen.

Marlborough could afford to despise the strictures of the
factious and the uninformed. But Schlangenberg belonged
to neither of these categories. And Schlangenberg, who,
like all the Dutch generals except Overkirk, was jealous of the
Duke, had now the meanness to insinuate that Opdam's
army had been deliberately exposed to destruction by the
Englishman. His own dispatch, in which he had explained
the impossibihty of reinforcing Opdam^ in time, convicted
him of lying. But the applause of his countrymen had
turned his head. He thought to damage the reputation of
Marlborough; but he succeeded only in inflicting injury on
the common cause and eventually in ruining his own career.

The unfortunate situation to which the affairs of the
allies had been reduced by the stupidity and selfishness of
the Dutch, admitted of one remedy, and only one, a decisive

^ See General Schlangenberg's account of the battle of Eeckeren (Lediard,
vol. i., p. 241, July 2, 1703).

1703 135

victory over the French army in the field. If the Marshals
could be induced to figlit in the open, so much the better;
but if not, they must be attacked and routed in their lines.
Convinced of the absolute futility of all other attempts to
solve the problem, Marlborough left his army at Vorsslaer,
and went to Breda and Bergen-op-Zoom to explain his
views to the deputies and generals of Holland. Coehoorn,
Opdam, and Schlangenberg were grumbling bitterly among
themselves, but they could of course spare time from mutual
recriminations to criticise the Duke's proposals. Never-
theless he obtained permission to attempt the forcing of the
lines between Antwerp and Lierre, where the enemy, if they
stood their ground, and were defeated, would be driven
into the Schelde. He made his preparations accordingly;
but by this time he knew the methods of the Dutch so well
that he fully expected their decision to be reversed at the
last moment. He wrote strongly on the subject to Heinsius,
and while clearly exposing the merits of the project, summed
up the position in a sentence: " If you have a mind to have
Antwerp, and a speedy end of the war, you must venture
something for it.'''^ But Heinsius, whose own power was
insecure, could do little or nothing for his friend. Mean-
time, Villeroi and Bouffiers, simulating a desire to bring on
that battle which they had been forbidden by their own
government to fight, had marched boldly out of their lines
and occupied an excellent post at St. Job. Marlborough
proposed to summon Schlangenberg from Lillo, and attack
•the French, though he had httle hope that they would
stand their ground. The Dutch government consented.
On the 23rd Marlborough marched from Vorsslaer to Brecht,
and sent his heavy baggage to Breda. Only four miles
separated the armies. The Duke rode forward to recon-
noitre, whereupon some of Villeroi's officers advised him to
retire. But Villeroi, who guessed that Marlborough would
not attack till he had been joined by Schlangenberg, and
who was anxious to play out the farce as long as no danger
attended the performance, continued in order of battle at
St. Job. That night Schlangenberg moved rapidly up to
join hands with Marlborough. At daybreak the allied

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 125: Marlborough to the Pensionary, July 4/15, 1703.


forces began to converge upon St. Job. Villeroi observed
them until 9 a.m., when he hastily retired by ways which he
had specially prepared to the shelter of the lines. Marl-
borough summoned a council of war to discuss the plans of
attack. But so many objections were raised by the Dutch
that he realised the utter hopelessness of achieving his
purpose with such aUies. On the 27th he rode with an
escort of 4,000 horse to view the works between Lierre and
Antwerp. The sight of the fosse, which was 27 feet wide
and had 9 feet of water in it, settled the matter, so far as the
Dutch were concerned. There was no more spirit in them.

Marlborough was drinking the cup of mortification to the
dregs. Conscious of his own ability to sweep the French
from Flanders and Brabant in less than a fortnight, he
was condemned by solemn nonentities to play the most
humiliating of parts in the ridiculous tomfoolery which
they called war. The injury which the Dutch were doing to
themselves was entirely their own affair; but the injury
which they were doing to the common cause was not.
Solely on the ground that he intended to create such a
diversion in the Netherlands as would speedily relieve the
pressure on the Empire, Marlborough had over and over again
refused to dispatch reinforcements to Bavaria, where they
were sorely needed. Yet ten weeks of summer had elapsed
since the fall of Bonn and he had accomphshed nothing.
No wonder that he was anxious lest his own reputation
should suffer in the eyes of Europe. No wonder that he
wrote letters to Sinzendorf which told the brutal truth about
the Dutch. Some of these letters unfortunately fell into
the hands of Villeroi, who gleaned from them how much he
owed to the States-General. Also, he gleaned something of
Marlborough's ideas and plans. But the information could
do him no good, and Marlborough no harm. So long as the
English general was prohibited or prevented by his alUes from
fighting the French army, nothing really mattered.

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