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It was necessary now to decide upon the future course
of the campaign. Coehoorn was anxious to pursue his lucra-
tive operations in Waes. But Marlborough, who from the
time of the battle of Eeckeren, had never ceased to declare
that they must either fight the Marshals' army or return to

1703 137

the Meuse, absolutely refused to remain in the vicinity of
Antwerp. He intended to besiege Huy, a small place with a
strong castle, the possession of which by the allies would
cover Liege while it uncovered Namur. He knew that the
Marshals would follow, and "if they give occasion," he
wrote to Godolphin, " I hope we shall venture, by which
God may give us more success in three or four hours than
we dare promise ourselves."^ Taking Schlangenberg with
him and leaving Coehoorn to sulk in Flanders, he started on
August 2 . The road was that which he had already traversed .
Villeroi, after pausing to satisfy himself that this move-
ment was not a feint intended to cover a sudden return
upon Antwerp, moved down within the lines in the direction
of Huy. The importance of that fortress was fully recog-
nised by Louis, who wrote to Villeroi to impress upon him
the necessity of preserving it. Villeroi was greatly troubled
by the King's letter, which virtually required him to solve
the very problem that had baffled Boufflers in the preceding
campaign. To protect with one and the same army
both the lines of Brabant and the places on the Meuse, and
to accomplish these two objects without fighting except in
defence of a chosen position of immense strength, was a
task which he saw no prospect of achieving. In company
with Boufflers he studied the country with the minutest
care, but without result. x\nd Louis was constrained to
prepare himself to learn with resignation of the loss of Huy.
Marlborough arrived on the 14th at St. Servais, whence
he sent a detachment over the Meuse below Huy to invest
the place upon the right bank. On the 15th he moved to
Vinaimont, where he posted himself strongly to cover
the siege. The trenches were opened on the 17th. On the
20th the great guns arrived by water from Maestricht, and
on the 2ist the batteries opened on the castle and the three
forts. On the 22nd the defenders of the forts were driven to
take refuge in the town, where they were all made prisoners._
The whole of the artillery of the allies was now turned
upon the castle. On the 25th the governor, alarmed by the
preparations for an assault, beat a parley. He was wilUng
to surrender on condition that the garrison should march out

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 128: Marlborough to Godolphin, July 26, 1703.


to Namur. The Duke refused these terms, and ordered the
assault to be delivered. But the French soldiers, after some
resistance, declined to continue a stmggle which could only
terminate in a massacre. Thereupon the governor yielded,
with 900 men, whom Marlborough proposed to exchange
against the two battalions that were lost at Tongres.

All this time Villeroi had remained within the lines, which
he had been strengthening and extending in the direction of
Namur. In the north Bedmar was repairing the damage
which Spaar and Coehoorn had inflicted on the works that
coveredWaes. Coehoorn himself was now too weak to attempt
anything. But Marlborough was once more at hberty.
What use would he make of the remainder of the season ?
His intentions were variously reported to Villeroi, who
saw with surprise that for ten days he remained idle at
Vinaimont. This waste of valuable time was due, of course,
to the attitude of the Dutch. Marlborough had once more
insisted that the lines should be attacked . He was supported
by the English generals, and by the generals commanding
the contingents of Denmark, Hesse, and Liineburg. He
was convinced, from personal inspection and from the
information of his spies, that the operation was perfectly
practicable, and nowhere so practicable as on the side of
Vinaimont. His troops were in splendid condition, and
more numerous than the French. Above all, he was moved
by the strategical consideration " that the enemy being
superior in Italy, and in the Empire, and being outnumbered
nowhere but here, the eyes of aU the allies are fixed upon
us, and they will have cause justly to blame our conduct,
if we do not do all that is possible to relieve them, by
obliging the enemy to call back such succours into these
parts, which is not to be done but by pushing boldly."^
The Dutch generals and deputies, faithful to the narrow
policy of that government and nation, ignored entirely the
question of high strateg}^ But they expressed their doubts
as to the alleged weakness of the lines, and they argued that,
even if the enemy were beaten from his works, he could find
other and stronger positions in his rear. As an example they
indicated the field of Ramillies, the very ground on which,

^ Lediard, vol. i., p. 262.

1703 139

three years later, Marlborough routed a French army in
two hours .^ As an alternative to the forcing of the lines,
they urged the siege of Limbourg, the possession of which
would increase the security of the United Provinces. They
were supported by the Prussian and Hanoverian officers.
All the arguments on both sides were reduced to writing
and forwarded to the Hague, under cover of a letter^ in
which the Duke repeated and emphasised his own opinions.
He told the States that, in his judgment, the French would
retire rather than endure an assault, but that if they
resisted, his soldiers were so numerous and good, and so
extraordinarily keen to come to grips with the enem}/, who
were for the most part raw and untried troops, that the
result could not be doubted. He dwelt in particular on the
necessity of relieving the pressure on the Empire by a
powerful diversion at the only point where the coalition
enjoyed a superiority of numbers. The allies, he said,
expected it. England, he knew, expected it, and he
presumed that the Dutch people, who would reap the greatest
advantages from it, expected it also. He assured the
States that, if this campaign were to terminate without any
considerable result, the winter would be marked by bitter
grumbling across the Channel. As for the Dutch generals,
their reasoning, he said, appeared to presuppose that the
army was acting on the defensive. But if that were indeed
the case, what, he asked, would be the situation in the
ensuing year ?

The Duke had spoken and wrttien like a true soldier,
who looked with a single eye to the attainment of the true
end of war, the destruction of the enemy. Surveying every
theatre of the immense conflict, he perceived what was
necessary to the success of the common cause, and he asked
for nothing better than to be permitted to do it. The States
on the other hand saw naught but the one area in which
their own forces were engaged, they considered no interest
save that which to their dim and defective vision appeared
to be their own, and they gave their decision accordingly.
They declined to risk their army against Villeroi's earth-

^ Burnet, vol. iv., p. 129.

- Murray, vol. i., p. 166: Marlborough to the States-General, August 26.


works. Despite his long experience of their folly and
selfishness, Marlborough seems to have been astonished.
For once, his indignation found a voice. Hitherto he had
suffered them and their unspeakable officers in silence.
But this time the provocation was intolerable. His reply,
eloquent in its obvious restraint, contained this passage:
" Since I had the honour of writing to you, I have been
more and more convinced by the information which I have
daily received as to the enemy's situation, not only that
this enterprise was practicable, but that it could even be
expected to yield all the success which I anticipated from
it ; and now in the end {enfln) the opportunity is lost, and
I pray with all my heart that no mischief come of it, and
that we may not have cause to be sorry for it, when too
late."-^ In all the circumstances such language seems
sufficiently mild; yet nothing so severe had ever before
escaped him.

It only remained to besiege Limbourg. To conceal his
purpose from Villeroi, Marlborough marched on September 5
to Avennes and set his men to cut fascines as though he would
attack the French lines. At the head of 200 horse he rode
to view the enemy, who saluted him with musketry and
round-shot. On the 6th he visited them again, and after a
last, wistful glance at the long barrier of earth and water
and iron that shut him out from Brabant and Flanders,
filed off in deep dejection for St. Trond. Here he left the
main army to Overkirk, and went in person to the siege
of Limbourg. The investment was effected on the 9th.
Bad weather was the cause of some delay; but the town
surrendered on the 23rd, and the citadel two days later.
Villeroi, affecting to be reconciled to the loss of the place,
made no attempt to relieve it.

With the fall of Limbourg active operations terminated.
In the beginning of November both armies went into
winter-quarters. Before the end of the year Guelder,
which had been blockaded for many months by a Prussian
force, surrendered. Thus in the course of two campaigns
the whole of the territories of Spanish Guelderland, Cologne,
and Liege, had been wrested from the French ; and the peril

^ Murray, vol.i., p. 173: Marlborough to the States-General, Septembers,

1 705 141

of invasion by the Meuse and by the Rhine no longer
threatened Holland. These results were well pleasing to the
Dutch, who with little risk and trifling loss had obtained what
they regarded as virtual security.

Their jubilation and their flattery left Marlborough cold.
He was well aware that the safety of Holland was an essential
preHminary to a successful attack on France, and in England
he had maintained this very truth in the face of the bitterest
criticism. But with the strategist's instinctive knowledge
of the value of time, he realised that an expenditure of two
years was too heavy a price to pay for what had been
achieved. Against an enemy who conducted his operations
on the same principles as the Coehoorns and the Opdams,
Dutch methods might be attended with no special disad-
vantages. But when a soldier so intrepid and enterprising
as Villars was running loose in the very heart of Germany,
it was no longer safe to fritter away the energies of splendid
armies in futile promenades. The Dutch standpoint was
the very antithesis of the Duke's. From Holland to South
Germany was a far cry. What Villars did upon the Danube
concerned Vienna and not the Hague. Such selfish bhnd-
ness, which is the vice of all coalitions, was the hope of
Louis and the despair of Marlborough.

And Marlborough realised that the evil consequences of
Dutch stupidity would not be restricted to the miHtary
situation alone. His knowledge of his countrymen told him
that this abortive campaign would weaken Godolphtn's
government and diminish the popularity of the war. Al-
ready the refusal of the States to prohibit correspondence
with France and Spain, and the backwardness of their naval
preparations, had revived the old Tory mistrust and jealousy
of Holland. Already the treatment which he had received
in the previous summer had excited the disgust of the
English people without distinction of party. It would
now be open to Rochester to say that, whether his principles
of strategy or Marlborough's were the more correct, the
spectacle of 50,000 men fiddHng in Flanders while the
Empire burned, could be justified on no principles of
strategy whatsoever. Ever since he quitted England in
March, the Duke had been harassed by Godolphin's com-


plaints of the obstruction and the intrigues of Nottingham
and Seymour. Writing from Haneffe to the Duchess he had
said of Nottingham, " I wish with all my heart the Queen
were rid of him, so that she had a good man in his place,
which I am afraid is pretty difficult," and of Seymour,
" We are bound not to wish for anybody's death, but if
14 (Sir Edward Seymour) should die, I am convinced it
would be no great loss to the Queen nor the nation. "•'• On
the other hand, the Whigs out of spite at his refusal to
employ them, borrowed the " military criticisms " of
Rochester, accused him of deUberately prolonging the war
in his own interest, declared that he was hostile to the
succession of the House of Hanover, and joined him in their
lampoons with Harley and Godolphin under the nickname
of " the Triumvirate." The Duchess aggravated the
situation by pestering both her husband and the Queen in
favour of that party. In utter weariness the Duke expressed
a wish in one of his letters to resign. Sarah showed this
passage to the Queen, and hinted that she and Godolphin
entertained a similar inclination. Anne was greatly dis-
tressed. "You should," she wrote, "a little consider
your faithful friends and poor country, which must be ruined
if ever you put your melancholy thoughts in execution.
As for your poor unfortunate faithful Morley, she could
not bear it ; for if ever you should forsake me, I would have
nothing more to do with the world, but make another
abdication; for what is a crown when the support of it is
gone ? I never will forsake your dear self, Mr. Freeman,
nor Mr. Montgomery, but always be your constant and
faithful friend ; and we four must never part till death m^ows
us down with his impartial hand."^ Such language only
encouraged Sarah to maintain the pressure on behalf of the
Whigs. But Anne was obdurate. Marlborough, though
fearful that most of the Tories would do more harm out of
office than in it, admitted that Nottingham and Jersey
might with advantage be removed. " But who," he wrote,
" is there fit for their places ? I do protest before God I
know of none."^ He was resolute in his adherence to that

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 133: The Duke to the Duchess, June-3/14, 1703.

2 Ibid., p. 132: The Queen to the Duchess.

^ Ibid., p. 134: The Duke to the Duchess, June 10, 1703.

1 703 143

system on which Godolphin's ministry had first been formed.
But he clearly perceived that neither (iodolphin's ministry
nor any other could reconcile the English people to the
policy of William, if the Dutch conception of the art of
war were any longer permitted to prevail.

Fortunately for Europe the alHance between France and
Bavaria was not exempt from the defects of other alliances.
Villars, who had planned to be before Vienna on Julj^ i,
found in the Elector himself an antagonist more formidable
tlian the generals of the enemy. The views of Max Emanuel
differed as widely from the Frenchman's as the views of
the Dutch government from those of Marlborough. Max
Emanuel, who had set his heart upon the title of king and a
dominion enlarged by the acquisition of the Palatinate, the
Tyrol, and the Milanese, thought only of consolidating his
position and extending his borders, while Villars, like
Marlborough, had no other aim than the destruction of the
enemy. Conflicting purposes produced divided counsels.
The march upon Vienna was postponed, and ultimately,
so far as the campaign of 1703 was concerned, abandoned.
The Elector invaded the T3/rol, entered Innsbriick in triumph,
and was advancing to the passes with the object of joining
hands with Vendome and the French army of Italy, when
the peasantry rose in his rear, and after a savage struggle
forced him to retire to Munich. Villars continued to hold
the line of the Danube against Louis of Baden and Count
Styrum, and at Hvochstadt on September 20 he struck a fierce
blow against Styrum, whom he routed utterly with severe
loss. But his grand aspiration was as far as ever from
fulfilment. At the conclusion of the campaign he resigned
his command in disgust. He was succeeded by Marsin,
whom he himself had recommended for the post. Meantime
the concentration of forces on Bavaria had left Tallard at
liberty to act upon the Rhine, where he had taken Old
Breisach, beaten a German army by accident at Spires, and
recovered Landau. Thus, the winter found the French
still established in Bavaria, and their communications with
the Rhine still undestroyed. And the menace of the strategy
of Villars, though suspended, still remained.

When Marlborough turned his gaze from Germany to the


Mediterranean, he beheld a prospect distinctly more en-
couraging. The combined fleets under Sir Cloudesley
Shovel had sailed in July, with a large convoy of merchant-
men under their wing. Having called at Lisbon and
Tangier, Shovel passed the Straits, and watered on the
coast of Valencia, where he published a proclamation in
favour of the House of Austria. He sent two ships into the
Gulf of Narbonne to communicate with the Camisards, and
to supply them if possible with arms and money. But this
attempt, though it greatly alarmed the French, was un-
successful. The main fleet sailed for Leghorn, where its
appearance made an excellent impression on the Itahans.
All this time the French never dared to venture out of
Toulon. Consequently, when Shovel returned to England
in November, the people grumbled because he had no showy
exploits to his credit. They did not understand the moral
value of the process which is familiarly known nowadays as
' showing the flag.' Yet this process, which had already
been largely responsible for the Portuguese alliance, was
not the least among the causes which in October, 1703, pro-
duced the defection of Savoy from France. Victor Amadeus
had long been negotiating with the allies. Louis, who had
discovered his duphcity, ordered Vendome to disarm the
Piedmontese contingent in the French army and to invade
the territories of the Duke. The Duke retaliated by arrest-
ing all the French in his dominions, and joining the Austrian
army under Starhemberg, The rupture was complete.
To France this loss was at least as serious as the loss of
Portugal. It meant that the war in Italy, which at the
best had been difficult and expensive enough to maintain,
must now be conducted with weakened forces and insecure

The favourable aspect of affairs in the Mediterranean
suggested to the coalition the possibiHty of action on the soil
of Spain. It was understood that there were Spaniards
ready to revolt against their Bourbon sovereign as soon as the
Hapsburg claimant should appear; and it was thought that,
with the assistance of Portugal and the support of the naval
forces of England and Holland, a strong diversion might be
made upon the Spanish mainland. In deference to the

1703 145

doctrine of the balance of power, the Emperor and his heir
resigned their claims to the succession in favour of the
Emperor's second son, the Archduke Charles. Charles was
proclaimed King of Spain, and was formally acknowledged
by the allied powers . It was arranged that he should proceed
to England, whence an Enghsh fleet would convey him
to the Peninsula. Nottingham and the Tories who followed
Rochester approved the project, because they wanted to
transfer the British army from Flanders to Spain. Marl-
borough approved it also, but upon different grounds.
The forces of the coahtion, operating as they were on the
Meuse, the Rhine, the Danube, and the Po, were already
too dispersed. At this juncture concentration rather than
dissipation was the crying need of the allies' strategy.
A fifth attack at a point so remote from the centre of
the Bourbon power, which was Paris, could not be justified
except as a diversion. The essence of a diversion is that
the forces which are employed to create it should be mucli
inferior to those which it obliges the enemy to withhold
or to detach from the decisive point. During the Seven
Years' War this system was successfully applied by Pitt,
at the urgent request of no less a strategist than the great
Frederick himself. In 1703 it recommended itself also to
Marlborough. Had the Portuguese troops and the Spanish
adherents of Charles been strong enough, with the help of
the navies of the maritime powers, to maintain the struggle,
the situation would have been an ideal one. But they were
not; and by the treaty with Portugal 10,000 Dutch and
English soldiers were promised for service in the Peninsula.
Marlborough assumed that new levies would be raised for
this purpose ; and it was therefore with no little vexation that
he learned, after the fall of Limbourg, that Nottingham was
detaching some of his best regiments from Flanders without
his knowledge or consent. Whatever degree of success
attended the movements of King Charles, they could fairly
be expected to operate as a valuable diversion. But Spain
was a mysterious country, and Spanish opinion an unknown
quantity. The expedition must, at the best, be something
of an adventure. In Marlborough's judgment, so long as it
was mainly self-supporting, it might act as a dangerous


drain upon the enemy's resources without materially weaken-
ing those of the alUes. But he was strongly opposed to the
drafting of veteran troops from the principal theatres of the
war to this new and problematical enterprise. Such a pro-
cedure was foreign to the nature of a true diversion. The
Duke's vexation was shared by the Dutch, though for less
enlightened reasons.

The new King of Spain arrived at Diisseldorf on October 16.
Marlborough quitted the army and hastened to congratulate
the young monarch. Charles received him very graciously,
and remarking that he was only a poor prince, unbuckled a
sword, set with diamonds, and presented it to the Duke,
who kissed the hilt. They travelled together to the Hague,
whence Marlborough sailed for England, which he reached
on November 10. Before his departure Charles handed him
his portrait, also set with diamonds. They met again at
Christmas, when the King arrived at Portsmouth, and the
Dukes of Marlborough and Somerset were deputed to meet
him and accompany him to Windsor. During his visit at
the castle, Charles exhibited marked deference towards the
Duchess, and gave her a ring valued at a thousand pounds.

But the favours of the House of Hapsburg were as im-
potent as the plaudits of the Dutch populace to allay the
anxieties of Marlborough, The safety of Holland and the
adhesion of Portugal and Savoy to the common cause were
indeed solid achievements, calculated to provide a firm
foundation for an offensive system of war against the
exorbitant power of France. But time was now the essence
of the question. The Bavarian peril was instant, threaten-
ing, and big with doom. Long before France could be
stricken in a vital part, Austria might go down in hopeless
ruin. Such was the strategical problem which at the close
of 1703 the genius of Villars and the fatuous policy of the
Hague presented for solution to Marlborough and Eugene.



The gravity of the situation in which the Emperor found
himself at the outset of the year 1704 was patent to all
Europe. With forces, the essential inadequacy of which
was enhanced by their dispersion, he was confronted by
enemies converging along three separate lines upon the
capital itself. In the east the Hungarian rebels, whose
elusive tactics defied the efforts of discipUned armies, were
overrunning Silesia and Moravia, and carrying desolation
and terror to the very walls of Pressburg and Vienna. In
the south it was doubtful how long the skilful Starhemberg
and the valour of Savoy could hold their own upon ItaUan
soil against the superior numbers of so able a commander as
Vendome. But the darkest cloud of all was in the west.
Here the Elector of Bavaria and Marsin, with an army
of 45,000 men, against which the Emperor could oppose
no more than 20,000, were masters of the Danube from
Ulm to Linz. They were in communication with the
Hungarian rebels, and they were supported by Tallard with a
second army of 45,000 in Alsace. Holding the fortresses
of Landau and Breisach, Tallard could dispatch a rein-
forcement over the Rhine, and masking the lines of Stoll-
hofen, which were weakly guarded by the Margrave of
Baden, could send it across the Black Forest, which was
very insecurely defended by militia and a mere handful of
regular troops.

Eugene, who, as President of the Council of War, had
spent the year 1703 in endeavouring to reorganise the
military administration of the Empire, realised the necessity
of opposing to the design which Villars had inaugurated
a new and vigorous strategy. His views were shared by
Marlborough. Before the close of the campaign of 1703,

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 44)