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private correspondence on the subject began to pass between



the two commanders. Both were agreed that the mischief
could only be cured by a twofold remedy, a concentration
of the allied forces, and an offensive movement against
some vital part of the enemy's system. It was obvious that
Bavaria was such a part; and it was natural enough that the
Emperor's general should wish to divert the forces of
England and Holland to the point where his master's
dominions lay exposed to a decisive blow. Marlborough
understood that the coalition could not hope to survive the
downfall of the Austrian power. But knowing by bitter
experience, the selfish and stupid timidity of the government
of the Hague, he must have doubted the feasibility of an
operation which would involve the departure of Dutch
soldiers from the Meuse to the Danube. Yet what was the
alternative ? The only conceivable alternative was such
an invasion of French soil as would place Paris in jeopardy
at least as great as that of Vienna, li the blow at the heart
of the Empire could be anticipated by a blow at the heart
of France, the Bavarian design would collapse. Indeed, the
war itself would be finished. It was thus that Marlborough
had always planned to finish it. He knew the road. It ran
from Coblenz up the valley of the Moselle to Metz and
Thionville. He had always intended that, as soon as ever
the Dutch frontier was cleared, he would follow that road
into the plains of Champagne. Moreover the States could be
more easily persuaded to dispatch their forces to the Moselle
than to the Danube. But the Germans, on the other
hand, were unlikely to consent to a concentration in Lorraine
while the enemy was in occupation of Bavaria. And even
assuming that a large and well-found army could be as-
sembled in the valley of the Moselle in the early spring, time,
which would then become the deciding factor, would still
be greatly in favour of the French. The probability was
that Vienna would be taken before Paris was even afraid.
If therefore Marlborough considered his cherished project of
invasion as a possible alternative to a concentration in
Bavaria, he must have considered it only to dismiss it.
But the position was provoking in the extreme. He had
spent two campaigns, which was one at least too many, in
securing the Dutch frontier. And now, when at last he had


hoped to assume the offensive against the true centre of the
enemy's power, he was compelled to devote a third to the
safety of the Empire.

Some historians appear to regard the conception of a
march from the Meuse to the Danube as a flight of genius,
to be proudly ascribed by the biographers^ of Marlborough
to their hero, and by those of Eugene^ to theirs. Doubtless
the daring and the magnitude of the operation must have
astonished many contemporary soldiers of the orthodox
school. A flank march^ of that description was also a breacli of
the rules. But these two generals, who never quarrelled over
anything, would certainly not have disputed for the honour
of originating a plan which seemed to both of them to be
the obvious, necessary, and only possible solution of the
strategical problem confronting the allies in the winter of
1703-4. " Everything is very simple in war," says Clause-
witz, " but the simplest thing is difficult."'* And so it now

From the nature of the case the execution of the project
devolved almost entirely upon Marlborough. He applied
himself to the task with consummate cunning and address.
By the irony of circumstances the notorious stupidity of the
Dutch government was now become his principal asset.
The necessity of a concentration in Bavaria might be patent
enough to the strategical mind; but that the Dutch govern-
ment would ever consent to it no -sane observer of European
politics would easily believe. Certainly the French, who
had had thirty years' experience of the military methods of the
Hague, would never believe it. Secrecy therefore was to a
great extent assured, unless the preliminary arrangements
should be so mismanaged as to excite suspicion even in the
minds of an enemy predisposed to suspect anything rather
than the truth. But Marlborough was determined to take
no risks. He had hit upon an excellent device for deceiving
everybody, whether friend or foe. A march on Paris
by the Moselle was not, as has already been seen, the correct
reply to the French movement on Vienna; but the idea of

^ Lodiard, Coxe, Fortescue, Cr?asy, Alison.
2 Malleson and German writers, and also Burnet.

■'■ Lieut. -Colonel F. N. Maude, Ths EvoluHon of Modern Strategy.
ch. iii., p. 25. * Clausewitz, On War, book i., ch. vii.


such a march was sufficiently specious to impose upon all
parties. The French would readily believe in it, and the
Dutch might be induced to consent to it. Operations on
the Moselle would naturally be based upon Coblenz. But
if Marlborough could only effect a great concentration of
men and stores so far up the Rhine as Coblenz, he would
have accomplished an important stage upon the road to
Bavaria, while the French were expecting him at Metz and
Thionville. He decided therefore that he would openly
advocate a campaign upon the Moselle and would publicly
urge the Dutch government to prepare for the invasion of
France upon an adequate scale.

So far as it went, this plan promised well. But success
depended in the long run on Marlborough's own wiUingness
to accept responsibility. For assuming that on the pretext
of threatening Paris, he got permission from the Hague to
carry his army up the Rhine valley to Coblenz, and even
beyond Coblenz, the cross-roads must ultimately be reached,
the moment must ultimately arrive when, on his own
authority and at his own peril, he must call upon the
soldiers of the States to follow him not to Paris but to

Marlborough, who possessed in full that rare courage of
the mind which even the most famous soldiers have some-
times lacked, contemplated that eventuality with quiet
confidence. In the same spirit he resisted the very human
temptation to share the burden of his secret with a crowd
of sympathetic advisers, whose enthusiasm might easily
outrun their discretion. It was known of course to Eugene
and to the Emperor. There is no absolute proof that it
was ever revealed in its entirety to any other persons. But
Marlborough's contemporaries believed that he commu-
nicated it also to Heinsius and Godolphin, as well as
to Queen Anne and to the Prince of Denmark. He could
hardly have ventured to proceed without the wilhng con-
nivance of Heinsius, whose support would be essential to
him at the most critical junctures in the game he was
about to play. Godolphin too, though in a lesser degree,
could do for him in England what Heinsius could do in
Holland. But in the case of Godolphin, and still more in


the case of the Queen and the Prince of Denmark (with
whom in this connection the Duchess ought surely to
be coupled) there was no necessity to be very explicit. He
probably told them that it was imperative to march to
the reUef of the Empire, and that, once he had quitted the
United Provinces, he should not consider himself bound
to adhere to the advertised scheme of a campaign upon the
Moselle, since circumstances might arise which would
render Alsace or even Bavaria a better theatre of operations
than Lorraine. He may, of course, have said more; but
this much would have been ample for his purpose. " Mr.
and Mrs. Morley " had too Uttle knowledge of the art of war,
and too much confidence in the talents of " Mr. Freeman,"
to say nothing of " Mrs. Freeman " and " Mr. Mont-
gomery," to create difficulties. The Queen is called by the
historians stupid; but that is a useful form of stupidity
which never interferes with the man who, being in authority,
understands his business. Moreover she was both brave
and loyal; if her general failed, she would never repudiate
or disavow him.^

The fate of Godolphin's ministry hung upon the issue
of this secret project. When Marlborough returned to
England at the conclusion of his last campaign, he was
determined to resign a position which had become well-nigh
unendurable. Although in contact with Godolphin and the
Queen he had abandoned this unworthy resolution, he saw
clearly that domestic politics were going from bad to worse.
The clergy were still sulking over the rejection of the bill
for the prevention of Occasional Conformity, while the
Tory squires were beginning to grumble at taxation for
which no solid results could be shown. When Parliament
met in November, the Queen in her speech expressed a
strong desire that all her subjects should live " in perfect
peace and union among themselves," and that the two
Houses " would carefully avoid any heats or divisions."^
But the conflict of parties was immediately renewed in its
most violent form. A measure for the prevention of
Occasional Conformity was again introduced into the

1- Coxe takes this view (see vol. i., pp. 149, 153). For others, see Burnet,
vol. iv., p. 48, and Lediard, vol. i., ch. v., pp. 283, 284, 285.
2 Boyer, vol. ii., p. 163.


Commons, and was again carried by a large majority. The
more violent Tories proposed to " tack " it to a money bill,
till Marlborough intimated that the Queen would view this
step with grave disfavour. Despite her detestation of the
hypocritical practice which the bill was intended to suppress,
Anne was sincerely anxious for peace, and on this occasion
she authorised Prince George to absent himself from the
House of Lords. Godolphin and Marlborough were in a
dilemma. In their hearts they approved of the bill; but
they feared to oppose it lest they should lose more ground
with the Tories than they had already lost, and they
feared to support it lest they should alienate the Whigs.
They adopted the line of condemning its introduction as
unreasonable, which obviously meant inconvenient to
themselves. In these circumstances Burnet and his men
did not hesitate to strike. The bill was rejected by a dozen
votes. Marlborough and Godolphin neither spoke nor
worked on its behalf; but they voted with the minority,
and signed a protest of the Tory peers. This ' trimming '
pleased neither side. It was now the avowed aim of the
clergy and their friends to oust Godolphin in favour of
Nottingham. In February, 1704, the Queen announced her
intention of restoring to the Church the firstfruits and the
tenths, which Henry VIII had appropriated. She proposed
to devote the money to the augmentation of the poorer
benefices. This generous act of restitution increased her
own popularity, but it did nothing for the government.
The ministry of Godolphin came into existence " to reduce
the exorbitant power of France." By the outcome of its
foreign policy it must stand or fall. Judged by the results
of two years of warfare and taxation, it appeared to be

Nevertheless, the necessary preparations for a third
campaign were not obstructed by the House of Commons.
An additional force of 10,000 men was voted, and in fulfil-
ment of the treaties with Portugal and Savoy, supplies of
money were granted to these impecunious allies. On the
suggestion of Heinsius, the States invited Marlborough to
visit Holland in January and to confer with them upon
the critical position of the coalised powers. Traversing the


North Sea in weather of exceptional severity, the Duke
landed at Rotterdam on January 18, 1704. Without delay
he unfolded to the States his proposal for the invasion of
France upon the side of Lorraine. He suggested that he
himself with the British troops should undertake this enter-
prise, that Overkirk with the Dutch should remain be-
hind to guard the frontiers, and that the foreign auxiliaries
should be shared between the two armies. His arguments
were strongly supported by Heinsius. But although Marl-
borough continued in the country over a month, the timid
Dutchmen would neither promise nor refuse their consent.
They were persuaded however to vote supplies of money to
the Prince of Baden, the Circle of Suabia, the Elector
Palatine, and the Duke of Savoy, and to hire 4,000 Wiirttem-
berg troops in place of the detachment under orders for
Portugal. At the same time Marlborough was skilfully
flattering the vanity of the King of Prussia. Having sent
to BerUn, in confidence, a detailed plan of the imaginary
campaign upon the Moselle, he succeeded in obtaining an
augmentation of the Prussian forces in the field. The
management of the States was now left in the hands of
Heinsius and his friends ; and in the last week of Febmary
the Duke returned to England, where he made his report
to the Queen, and induced her to forward pecuniary assis-
tance to the Circle of Suabia and the Margrave of Baden

To facilitate the business of recruiting, which was now
become extremely difficult, a bill empowering the justices of
the peace to press the idle and destitute was carried through
Parhament. Rochester's Tories protested against the
measure as a violation of the liberties of the subject. Not-
tingham also adopted an obstructive attitude, which finally
exhausted the patience of Marlborough and Godolphin.
Marlborough in particular perceived that, before committing
himself irrevocably to his momentous enterprise, it would
be expedient to purge the ministry of elements antagonistic
to the proper conduct of the war. The Queen was un-
willing to lose the services of a man whose high character
and attachment to the Church she much admired. But
Nottingham himself left her no option. By insisting that she


should choose between Whigs and Tories, and declining to
sit in council with the Dukes of Somerset and Devonshire,
he forced her to accept his resignation. With him went
Jersey, Seymour, and Blathwayt. Nottingham's place
was bestowed upon Harley, whose young and brilliant
disciple, St. John, received at the same time the secretaryship
for war. Mansell, a strong Tory, was made Comptroller of
the Household, and the Earl of Kent, a moderate Whig,
became Lord Chamberlain. These changes were in accord-
ance with the system of government upon which Godolphin
and Marlborough had hitherto proceeded. But they gave
great offence to Rochester's party on the one hand and to
such bigoted Whigs as Sunderland on the other, while the
Duchess, who, in addition to her pronounced Whiggery,
entertained an instinctive mistrust of both Harley and
St. John, protested strongly to her husband against the new

To fortify his position both at home and at the Hague,
Marlborough would appear to have entered into an arrange-
ment with Eugene that the Emperor should transmit a
written request to the Queen of England for her assistance
in his great extremity. On April 2, the envoy, Wratislaw,
presented this document. After reciting the imminent perils
to which the Empire was exposed, it prayed Her Majesty
" to order the Duke of Marlborough, Her Captain General,
seriously to consult with the States General of the speediest
Method for assisting the Empire; Or, at least, to conduct
Part of the Troops in Her Majesty's Pay beyond Sea, to pre-
serve Germany from a total Subversion; it not being just in
itself, nor any Ways advantageous to the Common Cause,
that Her Majesty's Troops should tarry on the Frontiers of
Holland; which were not in the least threatened by the
Enemy, and were defended by great Rivers and strong
Places, whilst the Empire was destroyed by the French
Troops, by Fire and Sword." To this very cogent reasoning
the Queen repHed that, " the Duke of Marlborough, Captain
General of Her Armies, had received Orders from Her
Majesty, to take the most effectual methods with the States
General of the United Provinces, Her good Alhes and Con-
federates, to send a speedy Succour to His Imperial Majesty,


and the Empire, and to press the States to take the necessary
measures to rescue Germany, from the imminent Danger
it was now expos'd to."^ An instruction to this effect
was issued to Marlborough by the Cabinet. Orders at
once so forcible and so vague were exactly what he wanted.
They gave him immense authority over others while they
left him an entire latitude for himself.

Accompanied by Churchill, Orkney, and other officers,
the Duke sailed from Harwich on April 19, and reached
the Hague on the 21st. Fearful lest the enemy should
deliver a decisive blow in Bavaria before his own prepara-
tions were completed, he wrote at once to the Margrave of
Baden to impress upon that somewhat lethargic commander
the need for activity and vigilance. The Margrave had pre-
pared a plan for a campaign upon the Moselle ; and to gratify
one who might at no distant date become his colleague,
Marlborough affected to adopt it. But for the moment it
appeared that neither to the Moselle nor anjrwhere else
outside the Netherlands would the States-General consent
to send their troops. The efforts of Heinsius and his friends
had not prevailed against the narrow views and nervous
apprehensions of a people who knew how to make money
but not how to make war. Marlborough now took a hand
in the game. The discussions were lengthy, and not devoid
of heat. At last the Duke was constrained to play his
trump-card. He let it be known that, if their High Mighti-
nesses were content to remain idle spectators of the " total
subversion " of Germany, the Queen of England was not,
and that, with or without the co-operation of their High
Mightinesses, every man and horse in the service of Her
Majesty should march with him to the rescue of the Empire.
The threat was sufficient. Their High Mightinesses pre-
ferred safety to honour; but if the Duke kept his word, (and
they knew that he would,) neither safety, as they under-
stood it, nor honour would be theirs. On May 4 the
requisite powers were granted. And Marlborough was free
to turn his attention to the movement of his columns towards
the Rhine and the accumulation of material and stores at

* Lediard, vol. i., pp. 286, 287.


The troops which he had obtained from the States were
foreign auxiliaries. The native Dutch were to remain
behind with Overkirk. By this arrangement he escaped
from the insufferable incubus of the field-deputies, who had
ruined his first two campaigns. His plans were developing
rapidly, and the prospect of success seemed fair. But he
was far from happy. He had left the Duchess in a sullen
mood, if not in a fury; and the oppressive shadow of her
wrath was always at his side. To many it will seem a
monstrous and intolerable thing that a man whose single
brain controlled the strategy of mighty empires, whose time
was occupied by a thousand details and a thousand duties,
whose mind was burdened with the secrets and gigantic
enterprises upon which the fate of his country and of the
whole civilised world depended, should, at this the most
anxious and exacting moment of his whole career, have been
harassed by the evil temper of the woman whom he loved
best on earth. It may be that Sarah never realised in full
how profoundly her displeasure could make him suffer. It
may be also that, on this occasion at any rate, her anger
was not wholly without excuse. For if, as seems probable,
it originated in the recent appointments of Harley and St.
John, she honestly believed those appointments to be frauglit
with peril to her husband's interest. Whatever may have
been the occasion of her wrath, Marlborough felt it, as he
always felt it, intensely. On May 5, however, he received
from her a letter in a different strain. At once his depres-
sion was transformed to an almost childlike joy. He was
about to start for Utrecht ; but before his departure he sent
her a reply which, when considering in what hour and in
what circumstances it was written, is one of the most
pathetically human documents in history: " For I am going
up into Germany, where it would be impossible for you to
follow me; but love me as you now do, and no hurt can come
to me."^ So, in the midst of his labours, wrote the soldier of
fifty-four to the middle-aged woman of society who had been
his wife for twenty-six years. And so might a young knight
errant in the days of chivalry have written to his queen of
love on the eve of some high adventure. That same night

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 155: The Duke to the Duchess, April 24/May 5, 1704.


the Duke embarked upon a yacht for Utrecht, and upon
one of the greatest enterprises in the annals of war.

Having spent one night with the Earl of Albemarle at
his seat of Vorst, the Duke arrived at Roermond on the 8th,
and Maestricht on the loth. In both places he occupied
himself with the inspection of troops and the instruction
of his subordinates. The Dutch and EngUsh forces were
marching from the various garrisons and cantonments in
the direction of Cologne. Though the actual business of
concentration was entrusted to his brother, Churchill, there
were not many details that escaped the vigilant eye of Marl-
borough. After a week of incessant labour, his arrangements
were complete. On the i6th he quitted Maestricht to assume

At Bedburg, between Roermond and Cologne, Churchill
had assembled the army. On May 18 Marlborough
reviewed them, and found them to consist of 51 battalions
and 92 squadrons. The Enghsh contingent numbered
16,000 men. The Dutch and Prussians, quartered on the
Rhine, were to join at a later date. On the 19th the march
began. The route lay through Kerpen, Kiihlseggen, and
Meckenheim to Sinzig, which was reached on the 23rd. From
the very beginning, Marlborough was harassed by the nervous
terrors of the allies. At Kerpen he received a dispatch from
Overkirk, who was alarmed by the movements of Villeroi.
The French Marshal, who had 40,000 men in the Netherlands,
had left his Hues, passed the Meuse with a large force at
Namur, and was demonstrating against Huy. At Kuhlseggen
came news from Louis of Baden, who was in momentary
expectation that Tallard would cross the Rhine and attack
the Hues of StoUhofen. Overkirk pressed the Duke to halt
and Baden urged him to quicken his pace. Unshaken in
his own purpose, but reaUsing the necessity of calming their
anxieties, Marlborough ordered the Dutch and Prussians
on the Upper Rhine to make a motion in support of Baden,
while he wrote at once to the States-General to assure them
that they had nothing to fear from Villeroi, who would
certainly follow him in his march towards the Moselle. He
even begged them to send him reinforcements, which, on
his view of the situation, they could easily spare.


On the day that the army encamped at Sinzig, the Duke
rode over to Bonn, and inspected the garrison and the
fortifications. This he did on purpose to strengthen the
general impression that he was preparing for a campaign
upon the Moselle. On his arrival at Sinzig, he learned that
Tallard had succeeded in passing a detachment of 10,000
recruits for Marsin's army through the Black Forest, in
spite of the efforts of the Imperialist forces under Baden to
frustrate the operation. The Duke was not perturbed by
this intelligence. For the fact that Tallard had subsequently
returned with his army to Strasbourg, conclusively showed
that the French had not yet divined the great secret. He
was also informed that, in accordance with his anticipation,
ViUeroi was pressing forward towards the Moselle. These
circumstances enabled him to renew his petition to the States-
General for reinforcements. They also furnished him wi^
an excuse for accelerating his own movements.

On the 25th he quitted Sinzig and took the road to Co-
blenz. He was accompanied by all the cavalry and dragoons
in the army. Churchill was instructed to follow as rapidly
as possible with the infantry, artillery, and baggage. On the
26th, while his horsemen were passing the Moselle and the
Rhine at Coblenz, the Duke visited the Elector of Treves
at the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, which welcomed him with
a triple discharge of all its cannon. Pushing on that night
to Braubach, he was visited in his camp by the Landgrave
of Hesse-Darmstadt. And here he wrote a letter to the
King of Prussia, complimenting the Prussian troops and
urgently soliciting reinforcements. On the 27th he marched
to Nastatten, and on the 28th to Schwalbach, where he

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 44)