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had held him back from the Vienna road. That was
Wratislaw's meaning when, in the Emperor's name, he
declared to Marlborough that " what already had been done,
had laid obhgations on his master above what he could
express." And now the Elector's forebodings were realised.
His enemy was at the gate. So profound was his disquiet
that he had already begun to negotiate for terms with
Marlborough, who in anticipation of such a contingency
had been furnished by his government with full powers to
treat. But the demands which the Elector advanced were
ridiculously high. Only by defeat would he be persuaded
to lessen them.

From the very outset of his march Marlborough had fixed
his eye upon the town of Donauworth. It was here that
no less a soldier than Gustavus had passed the Danube.
Almost the last words of Villars when he quitted the Elector
at the end of the campaign of 1703, had been these: " You
are still master of the Danube; take Passau. Fortify your
towns, above all the Schellenberg, that fort above Donau-
worth, the importance of which the great Gustavus taught
us."^ Passau had been taken, but down to the end of the
third week in June, nothing had been done to strengthen the
defences of Donauworth. The town itself was surrounded
by mediaeval walls, which in the age of Vauban were already
obsolete. But it was covered on the south by the Danube,

^ Vie de Villars, t. i., p. 289,


and on the north by the Schellenberg, a steep and lofty
hill, terminating in a broad plateau which was capable of
receiving an army of 20,000 men. Such an army, properly
entrenched, could not be easily dislodged. For as the ascent
began from the very fosse of Donauworth, the flanks of the
position which were the most accessible to attack could be
enfiladed from the ramparts of the town, while the defenders
could be both supplied and reinforced from the garrison itself
and from Bavarian armies beyond the river. But it was
not until June 20 that the business of fortifying the
plateau had been begun by a small body of infantry and
dragoons, assisted by a multitude of peasants from the
surrounding country.

On the 30th, which was Marlborough's day of command,
the allied army, in full view of the Elector's camp, made a
march of two leagues in the direction of Donauworth. To
this move the Elector replied by ordering a detachment
of Bavarian infantry and gims under Count Maffei, to proceed
along the right bank of the Danube towards the threatened
point. On July i, the allies continued their advance as far
as Amerdingen, which is fifteen miles from Donauworth;
and the Elector dispatched a force of Bavarian cavalry
under Marshal D'Arco in support of Maffei. This cavalry
encamped on the southern side of the Danube, opposite
Donauworth. But early in the evening of the 2nd, D'Arco
and Maffei, with all the infantry and artillery, passed over
the river and joined the troops and labourers already at
work upon the Schellenberg.

The allied commanders were well informed by spies and
deserters of all that was passing at Donauworth. The
Elector's plan was not difficult to understand. His own
position was at present unassailable. But if once the allies
secured the bridge of Donauworth, he would be forced to
retire immediately. If, on the other hand, they could be
either intimidated or repulsed at Donauworth, they might
be compelled to fritter away their time upon the northern
bank of the Danube until the French army, which Villeroi
and Tallard had pledged themselves to send, arrived in
Bavaria. This design could only be frustrated by prompt
action. Donauworth must be taken before the operations


of the engineers and the arrival of reinforcements rendered
the position on the Schellenberg impregnable. Both Marl-
borough and the Margrave reaHsed this truth. On the
evening of the ist the Duke visited his colleague's quarters.
What passed between them is unknown. But apparently
they agreed that the Schellenberg should be attacked on the
ensuing day. For at 10 that night Marlborough sent an
express to Nordlingen, with a letter from the Margrave to
the authorities of that town and full instructions for the
collection of surgeons and the preparation of a hospital on a
considerable scale.

Between Marlborough and the Margrave there existed
at this time, in the words of Cardonnel, " a pretty good
harmony."^ The Margrave, moreover, was no fool. He
understood the situation perfectly. It was not in intelli-
gence, but in moral courage that generals of his stamp
could be trusted to fall short. Marlborough knew well that,
as soon as ever the allied troops came in sight of the Schellen-
berg, his colleague would begin to perceive objections to an
attack. Fortunately the Duke would be in supreme com-
mand. He made up his mind that, before the Margrave's
day came round again, the Schellenberg should be his.

Before daylight on the 2nd, Cadogan set off with a body of
cavalry, pioneers, and pontoons, to prepare the way. The
distance to be traversed was fifteen miles; the roads, such
as they were, had been ruined by perpetual rains; and, a
league from Donau worth, it would be necessary to cross the
River Wornitz, At 3 a.m. Marlborough marched with 35
squadrons of horse and 5,850 selected foot of his own army,
and 3 regiments of Imperial Grenadiers. At 5 the main body
followed. It was almost 8 when watchers on the Schellen-
berg descried the scarlet coats of Cadogan's troopers on the
heights beyond the Wornitz.. At first they imagined that
it was nothing but a reconnaissance. But as the scarlet
patches continually increased in number, and the Bavarian
outposts were seen to be rapidly falling back upon the village
of Berg, D'Arco concluded that the allies were on the march
towards Donau worth. At 9 he dispatched an express to the
Elector with an urgent request for reinforcements; and at the

1 Letter from Mr. Cardonnel to Mens. at Zell (Lediard, vol. i., p. 315).


same time he ordered the whole of his infantry to fall to
work with pick and shovel on the western side of the vSchellen-
berg, where the trenches were still in an unfinished condition.
Then he and Maffei rode down towards the Wornitz to take
a nearer view of the enemy. Having formed the opinion
that Cadogan was merely marking out a camp, and that the
attack would not be delivered until the following day, the
Bavarian generals returned to Donauworth, and went forth-
with to dinner. Had they known that Marlborough in
person had already joined Cadogan, they would not have sat
down with so excellent an appetite.

The Duke had quitted his columns on the march, and had
overtaken the quartermaster at 9 . Pressing forward towards
the Wornitz, he obtained a good view of the Bavarian
position. He also noted that the camp beyond the Danube,
where D'Arco had left his cuirassiers, was constructed to
receive a large contingent of infantry. And he drew the
correct conclusion that additional reinforcements were
expected from the Elector's army. Presently he was joined
by the Margrave; and the two commanders, accompanied
by a crowd of officers, rode closer to the enemy, who opened a
sharp fire upon these daring intruders. By noon the recon-
naissance was completed. And now the selected detachment
appeared upon the banks of the Wornitz. So foul were the
roads that nine hours had been spent in marching twelve

Marlborough's decision was taken. He knew that fortified
camps, supported by the artillery of towns, were reported
to be unassailable. But he was resolved to storm the
Schellenberg before nightfall. No general in Europe, except
Eugene, would have ventured such a throw. Without
exception they would have argued that the troops were too
fatigued to attempt so arduous a task, and that a disastrous
repulse in a difficult country and with the Elector close at
hand, would probably involve the whole army in a cata-
strophe. Marlborough was not a desperate gambler. He
reasoned correctly, and upon sound premises. A day's
delay would mean the completion of the enemy's works
and the arrival of reinforcements. It would then be
represented that what was dangerous before had become
quite impossible. The Margrave would assuredly refuse


to venture an attack in such circumstances. If Marl-
borough, when his day came round, insisted upon making the
attempt, the price of success would be enormous. Unless
he were prepared to pay that price, or to abandon the whole
line of the Danube to the Elector, he must fight at once.
The fact that the men were tired did not greatly weigh with
him. They were his own men. He knew them; and he
judged them by no ordinary standard.^

Accordingly, after a brief halt the troops began to pass
the Wornitz. The enemy had broken down the bridge;
but Cadogan repaired it, and also threw pontoons across the
river. While Marlborough was regarding the passage of the
mud-splashed columns, an officer galloped up with a letter
from Eugene. It contained intelhgence which only confirmed
him in his present resolution. Tallard and Villeroi were at
Strasbourg, preparing to dispatch an army through the
Black Forest.

Marlborough's decision had one advantage, to which he
attributed great value, the advantage of surprise. He knew
that the Bavarian generals, reasoning upon orthodox Hues,
would not anticipate attack that day, and that if attack
came, it would find them startled, embarrassed, and perhaps
unnerved. The event justified his anticipations. D'Arco
and Maffei were still sitting at table in the town, when news
arrived from the outposts that the alhes had begun to pass
the Wornitz. They hurriedly mounted their horses, and rode
out to see for themselves what was doing. Arrived at the
summit of the Schellenberg, they perceived the enemy in
great force upon the heights beyond the Wornitz, and the
heads of his columns advancing from that river towards the
foot of the mountain. Even now they refused to beheve
that an immediate attack was in contemplation. But
D'Arco had serious misgivings. He ordered the work upon
the trenches to proceed with unremitting vigour, and he
dispatched another express to the Elector. To his sub-
ordinates he spoke but Httle. Sunk in a gloomy and for-
bidding silence, he contemplated the motions of the enemy.
As battalion after battalion came rapidly across, he reahsed
at last that, contrary to what he regarded as the rules of the
game, lie would be compelled to fight before nightfall. The
1 The Accomplished Officer (1708), pp. 136, 231, 232.


one alternative was retirement. To abandon to the enemy
a bridge over the Danube and a base for the invasion of
Bavaria, was out of the question. He must stand his ground
till help came. The chances seemed greatly in his favour.
The size of his army has been variously reported. The
lowest estimate is 7,000, which is certainly too small; the
highest is 32,000, which is absurd. It seems most probable
that he had over 10,000 men upon the Schellenberg, and that
in Donauworth town he had 2,000 more. Of those upon the
Schellenberg, about 8,000 were Bavarian infantry, soldiers
of the very finest quahty.^ vSuch troops would not be easily
driven from a strong position. And that the position was
exceedingly strong is not to be denied. The works upon the
western side of the Schellenberg were still unfinished; but
considering the time and labour that had been expended
on them, and judging from the remains which still exist,
they must have been respectable. They were certainly
not so contemptible as they are represented to have been
by French and Bavarian writers, anxious to excuse defeat.
For a considerable distance, moreover, they could be swept
by a flanking fire from the walls of Donauworth. That
fact alone had been assumed to confer comparative immunity
upon the western side of the mountain.

On the north-western slope of the Schellenberg a dense
wood runs up to a point within a few yards of the angle where
the line of D'Arco's trenches turned towards the east. An
attack from the wood itself, which was practically impene-
trable, seemed very unHkely. But if, as appeared probable,
the allies intended to assault the western side of the position,
they could only escape the enfilading fire of the town by
advancing on a narrow front, with their left flank hugging
the wood as closely as possible. Accordingly, D'Arco
planted eight of his fifteen cannon at this threatened angle,
and concentrated the bulk of his foot in the same quarter.
At the same time, he ordered Du Bordet, the French
governor of Donauworth, to man the palisades, which did
duty for a counterscarp, with French infantry. And for the
sake of appearances the French regiment of Nectancourt
was stretched out in a feeble fine along that part of the

^ " A la veritebonset forts," Memoires dc La Colonie (1748), t. i., p. 305.


trenches which approached the town, and which was sup-
posed on that account to run no risk of serious assault.

By 4 o'clock Marlborough had drawn up the attacking
force at the extremity of the lower slopes of the Schellenberg.
It consisted of the detachment of 5,850 foot, supported
by 30 battahons, the whole being arranged in four
lines. A fifth line was composed of 18 squadrons under
Lumley, and a sixth of 17 under Hompesch. The
command of the attack was entrusted to the Dutch general,
Goor, a brave and skilful officer in whom Marlborough had
the utmost confidence. At this time the Bavarian artillery
began to play. But under cover of the smoke from the village
of Berg, which had been fired by D'Arco's outposts, an
English battery came swiftly into action, and drew all the
attention of the Bavarian gunners to itself. The regiment
of the Bavarian infantry were shielded by their earthworks
from the English balls. But fifty paces to the rear, D'Arco
had stationed in reserve a regiment of French grenadiers
in the service of the Elector. The officer who commanded
them, La Colonic, a cool and hardy veteran, had been
instructed by the Marshal to watch the development of the
attack, and in particular to keep a vigilant eye upon the
wood. This regiment, which by its situation on higher
ground got little protection from the earthworks, soon
attracted the notice of the English gunners. Their first
shot killed an officer and twelve men. As the assault was
momentarily expected, La Colonic dared not quit his exposed
position. His grenadiers endured the punishment with
wonderful firmness. Every time that he saw the flash of
the English cannon, he saw some of his people on the ground.
This regiment alone lost five officers and eighty men before
it had an opportunity of firing a shot.

A httle before 6, Marlborough gave the word; and the
infantry, carrying fascines which the cavalry had cut for
them in the woods, stepped briskly forward, the squadrons
of Lumley and of Hompesch keeping pace with their advance.
Lord Mordaunt, Peterborough's son, and Colonel Munden,
of the English Foot Guards, led the way at the head of a
chosen band of Grenadiers. At once, every gun on the
Schellenberg was trained upon their front, while the artillery


of Donauworth directed a converging fire against their right
flank. The EngUsh, who were nearest to the wood, were out
of range of the town; but they suffered severely from the
battery of eight pieces in the angle of the works. But
nowhere was there any check, or any confusion. The whole
line went forward without wavering and without firing. Soon
the steepness of the ascent concealed them from D'Arco's
men; but the fire of the Bavarian artillery never slackened.
At 200 paces from the works they emerged, and still strode
on, steady and silent, through the rushing balls. And now
La Colonic and his men moved down into the angle, and the
gunners loaded with case. Then the English, says Maffei,
cried " God save the Queen, "^ and with a thundering shout,
charged forward at the double. Few, if any, of the defenders
of the Schellenberg had ever heard the islanders cheer.
The astute La Colonie did not like the sound (" truly
terrifying "" he calls it) ; and he dreaded its effect upon the
troops. So, to drown it, he ordered his drums to beat.
Straight for the trenches went the English and the Dutch,
Mordaunt and his Grenadiers dashing on before. The cool
and disciplined veterans of D'Arco waited till the range had
dropped to eighty paces. Then the word was given; and
over the western face of the Schellenberg broke a crashing
tempest of musketry and grape. The effect was terrible.
Officers and privates went down in heaps. The gallant Goor
was one of the first to fall. The whole line reeled and
staggered. But as the smoke lifted, Mordaunt and Munden
were seen conspicuous in the forefront, unwounded, and
cheering on the men. Closing the gaps, the survivors pressed
forward, while the Bavarians plied them with every gun and
musket in the trenches, as fast as they could load and fire.
The allies, blinded by the smoke, mistook a hollow way for
the ditch, and flung down their fascines. This error re-
sulted in confusion. Those who actually reached the works
and exchanged thrusts with the defenders across the parapet,
were too few and scattered to force a passage. The charge
had spent itself. Then at several points, whole companies
of Bavarians leapt out, and dashed furiously forward with the

^ Mimoires de Maffei (1741), t. ii., p. 37.
2 M6moires de La Colonie, t. i., p. 319.


bayonet, sweeping the mountain clear for eighty paces.
But the EngHsh Guards, unshaken by a cruel loss of officers,
stood firm as the Boeotian hoplites on the slope at Syracuse.
At length the Bavarians drew off, and panting but trium-
phant, returned into their works.

The allies dropped back into the dip of the hillside, where
they were no longer visible to the enemy's marksmen. But
the tops of their standards showed that they were stationary
and close at hand. They were in fact re-forming. Fresh
men, and above all, fresh officers, were taking the places of
the fallen. Meantime the Bavarian artillery poured a
perpetual rain of roundshot on their unseen ranks. And
D'Arco, still further weakening his left and centre, con-
centrated every available man on the angle by the w^ood.
Waggon-loads of hand-grenades were distributed in the
trenches; and every preparation was made to maintain the
most obstinate resistance until nightfall, when the situation
of the allies would begin to be precarious.

The breathing-space was short. Soon the Bavarians
beheld once more the serried-"- ranks of blue and scarlet,
proudly and steadily advancing. General officers, who had
dismounted from their horses, were leading, sword in hand.
But the veterans in the trenches remained undismayed.
Once more, at the proper distance, they delivered their
murderous volleys with the utmost coohiess; and once more
the oncoming Une was torn and riddled by the hurricane
of lead and iron. But still it surged onward to the trenches,
and sword and bayonet clashed across the breastwork in a
savage grapple. The defence was too strong to be broken.
Back went the baffled remnants of the second charge; and
after them came the exultant Bavarians with lowered steel.
This time the repulse was more serious. The ground was
already heaped with the slain. The Austrian general,
Styrum, had been mortally wounded. Here and there
appeared indubitable signs of panic. The retreat rolled
down into the dip, and on towards the lower slopes, when
Lumley riding calmly forward with his eighteen Enghsh
squadrons, checked the movement at his horses' heads. At
once the broken infantry began to rally. Maffei, who rightly

^ "bien serrez," Memoir cs de Maffei, t. ii., p. 38.



dreaded the risks attaching to these counter-strokes, recalled
his men to the trenches, and forbade them to sally out again.
Then the Bavarian cannon reopened once more. Some of
Lumley's saddles were emptied, and some of his chargers
sank shuddering to earth. But his troopers, contemplating
these things with a stolid and impassive air, infected the
dispirited foot with something of their own unshaken con-

Though D'Arco had been astonished and perturbed by
Marlborough's decision to attack that evening, the brilliant
success of the defence had revived his hopes. But there was
one officer, who at the first shot had lost his head, and who
never recovered it. That officer was Du Bordet, the French
governor of Donauworth. He must have been aware that,
if the Schellenberg were captured, the town would immedi-
ately become untenable, and that therefore it was his primary
duty to support the defenders of the mountain to the utmost
of his power. Yet in dehberate defiance of D'Arco's orders,
he left his paHsades unmanned, and kept his infantry in
idleness behind the ancient ramparts. Presumably he
imagined that the allies would attempt to carry the place
by storm, a not impossible feat . Whatever were his motives,
his disobedience had fatal consequences. Recoiling from
the unendurable fire of the trenches, the right wing of the
assailants spread out towards the town.-"- Though they
suffered badly from the cannon on the walls, they were
astonished to find that no musketry galled their flank. Nor
did they fail to notice that the trenches in this quarter were
but thinly lined. The news was carried to the rear. Half
an hour after the beginning of the first assault, the main
body of the Imperialist army had arrived. Louis of Baden
immediately placed himself at their head, and led them to the
point which ought to have been so strong, but which was
credibly reported to be so open to attack. The gunners on
the ramparts smote them with an enfilading fire as they
passed; but the infantry of the garrison, shooting at an
ineffective range, did them but little damage. Splendidly
led by the Margrave, they still held on towards the meagre
defences where the solitary regiment of Nectancourt beheld

* M&moires de Feuquidres, t. iv., p. no.


with consternation the advent of a whole army. Too soon
the Frenchmen fired one ragged volley, and hastily filed off
into the town. The Imperiahsts swarmed over the trenches,
and formed in perfect order on the inner side. D'Arco saw
them, and swept down like a whirlwind with his nine
squadrons of Bavarians and French. It was a bold and
timely charge ; but it shivered into fragments before the close
and well-aimed fire of the ImperiaUst infantry. The beaten
horsemen broke madly off towards the town, the Imperialist
cavalry riding hard upon their heels. D'Arco himself was
borne onward wdth the rush. The frightened governor was
with difficulty induced to open his gates to the Marshal.

It was now a little after 7. Marlborough's men w'ere
again preparing to advance. Lord John Hay's regiment of
dragoons (the " Scots Greys ") had dismounted, and joined
their comrades of the infantry. Maffei, La Colonie, and the
valiant defenders of the height knew nothing of the Mar-
grave's passage through the lines. His movements were
concealed from them by the steepness of the ground. The
tenacity of the enemy had shaken their confidence. The
explosion of some powder-magazines had caused a momentary
panic. But they stiU had faith in their ability to hold their
own tiU nightfall. Unconscious of their danger, the thin
flank watched intently for the coming of the third assault
upon their front. Presently it came. But simultaneously
the troops upon their left were startled by the apparition
of a line of infantry slowly advancing from the direction of
the town. At first La Colonie imagined that reinforcements
were arriving. He was swiftly undeceived by a bullet in
the jaw. The mass of the Bavarian army still stood fast;
but this new peril on their left disturbed and weakened their
defence. The English and Dutch pressed on against the
front. It was evident that these converging attacks must
ultimately annihilate the defenders of the angle. Suddenly
the whole Bavarian army broke, and raced for their lives
across the broad plateau, the Imperiahsts pouring deadly
volleys into the demented throng as it passed across the
front. Marlborough's men rolled over the trenches like a
flood. The Greys had quickly remounted; and horse and
foot swept forward side by side. Marlborough himself


rode in among the foremost. The infuriated infantry,
thirsty for revenge, would have scattered in pursuit of the

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 44)