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Indeed, a little reflection should have shown the critics that,
if any distinction can be made between them, it must be
made in favour of the Englishman. For military executions,
systematically inflicted on a territory of the Empire, an
account would naturally be rendered by the Emperor's
own general and the Emperor's own ministers, rather than
by a foreigner commanding the forces of two foreign powers.
The facts, so far as they are known, support this view.
The work of destruction was actually begun by the Margrave ;^
and it was largely carried on by the Imperialist troops.
Moreover, in writing to the Duchess on the subject, Marl-
borough used language which suggests that, while he fully
concurred in what was done, he was not the instigator of it.
*' Nothing," he said, " but absolute necessity could have

1- Alison, p. 74. 2 Millner's Journal, July i, 1704.


obliged me to consent to it.'"^ He was never the man to shirk
responsibility. But there is no reason why he should be
saddled with more than his share, and least of all by his own

Historians^ have also misrepresented the motive and pur-
pose of the devastation of Bavaria. According to some,
these vigorous measures were coercive; according to others
they were retributive. In one version they appear as aids
to diplomacy, in another as the penalties of obstinacy'. A
little more attention to facts, and especially to dates, would
have corrected both these errors. The executions began
on the I2th, immediately after the passage of the Lech.
They continued steadily for three weeks and three days.
They were most extensive and severe between July 28
and August 3. Now on July 12, the negotiations were
already in a delicate and very promising condition. Two
days later they collapsed. Except for one short-lived at-
tempt to reopen them, this collapse was final. It is evident
therefore that the executions of the first four days were
not retributive, for at that time the Elector was momentarily
expected to break with France. It is evident also that those
of the last ten days were not coercive, for at that time it
was certain that he would not be coerced. These theories
are not satisfactory. They are also superfluous, seeing that
the truth is known. On July 29, Marlborough writing to
Stepney, stated in a few words what the real object was.
It was a twofold one — " to deprive the enemy as well of
present subsistence as future support on this side."^ In the
first place the allied generals were endeavouring to starve
their antagonist out of his fortified camp at Augsburg; and
secondly (and this was the more important part of their
strategy) they were seeking to render Bavaria incapable of
sustaining the combined forces of Max Emanuel, Marsin, and
Tallard. These were purely military aims. No doubt it
was hoped that the Elector's heart might be softened by the
sufferings of his people. And no doubt the Germans at any
rate experienced a vindictive pleasure in punishing a German

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 183: Marlborough to the Duchess, July 30, 1704.

2 Not excluding Coxe (see vol. i., p. 183).

"' Murray, vol. i., p. 379: Marlborough to Stepney, July 29, 1704.


who did not scruple to introduce the armies of France into
their common country.-^ But such considerations were
subsidiary and incidental. The severities which the allied
generals exercised upon Bavaria, they exercised in their
military capacity, and primarily for the attainment of
miUtary ends.

This kind of warfare was neither a diabolical invention
of [Marlborough's nor a reversion to obsolete " methods of
barbarism." Nor was it a proof of incapacity. In the
Palatinate, in 1674, it was employed by a general so capable
and so humane as Turenne himself. Of that classic example
Marlborough had been a witness. Modern sentiment may
affect to be shocked at it; but even modern sentiment can
give no security that it will never be employed again. In
1704 it was, to a certain extent, the logical outcome of the
military system of the time. But in 1810 Wellington
wasted Portugal to the lines of Torres Vedras, and as late as
1812 the Russians devastated their own country for strategic
reasons. The Napoleonic system largely depended for its
success upon authorised brigandage.^ The indignation of
the Elector was peculiarly inept. That Donauworth might
not be used as a base for the invasion of Bavaria, he himself
had given instructions to lay the town in ashes. That
Bavaria might not be used as a base for the invasion of
Austria, the allies applied to it the very treatment which
its ruler had thought appropriate to Donauworth. In the
circumstances his indignation was somewhat inconsistent.
That of his French allies was merely ludicrous. Tallard
wrote to Louis that the alhes had been guilty of " cruelties
which the Turks would not be wilUng to commit."^ Tallard,
like all his colleagues in the French service, was certainly
a good judge of atrocities. And Louis himself was not an
amateur. In 1689, in the depth of winter. Marshal Duras,
acting on the orders of the King and Louvois, had sacked
Heidelberg, Mannheim, Speyer, and Worms, had burned
Ladenburg and Oppenheim, and had mercilessly ravaged
all the country of the Palatinate, with portions of. the Elec-

^ " The rage of the Germans " (see letter to the Duchess, after Blen-
heim, August 21, 1704: Coxe, vol. i., p. 217).

2 Maude, Evolution of Modern Strategy, cli. viii., p. 76.

3 Pelet, t. iv., p. 547: Tallard au Roi, 4-5 aout, 1704.

I. t^


torate of Trier and the Margravate of Baden. Castles,
cathedrals, and even hospitals had been given over to
the flames. "Many," says Macaulay, "died of cold and
hunger: but enough survived to fill the streets of all the
cities of Europe with lean and squalid beggars, who had once
been thriving farmers and shopkeepers."^ What Duras
did was not only horrible beyond imagination; it was also,
in the judgment of no less a soldier than a Frenchman,
Villars himself, strategically unsound. The memory of it
was not dead in 1870; it was painfully fresh in 1704. In
1704 also, the barbarities, inflicted by French soldiers on
French Calvinists after the Revocation of the Edict of
Nantes, were matters of common knowledge. Similar
barbarities had been employed against the Camisards in the
Cevennes, and had only been terminated that very summer
by the authority of Villars. It is little wonder that the
criticisms of an enemy who possessed so black a record, left
Marlborough and the Margrave totally unmoved.^

Marlborough, like his master Turenne, was a man of gentle
and humane temper. The work of destruction, which he
himself ordered, he loathed with an intense loathing. " You
wiU, I hope, believe me," he wrote to the Duchess, " that
my nature suffers when I see so many fine places burnt,
and that must be burnt, if the Elector will not hinder it. I
shall never be easy and happy till I am quiet with you."
And again, " This is so contrary to my nature, that nothing
but absolute necessity could have obliged me to consent to
it, for these poor people suffer for their master's ambition.
There having been no war in this country for above sixty
years, these towns and villages are so clean, that you would
be pleased with them."^ The Duke's distress was natural
and proper. But from the public standpoint it was not en-
tirely justified. A German state, which had made common
cause with the comrades of Marshal Duras, had small claims
on German sympathy. And a petty power, which, regardless
of the common danger, was using its strategical position to
promote its own aggrandisement, could not be permitted

1 Macaulay, History of England, vol. i., ch. xi.

2 On the day of Blenheim the French and Bavarians, for tactical
reasons, burned seven villages (see chapter following).

3 Coxe, vol. i., p. 183: Marlborough to the Puchess, July 30, 1704.


indefinitely and with impunity to gamble with the liberties
of Europe.

There is one test, and only one, by which to try the action
of the allied generals.^ Did it achieve the ends to which it
was directed ? It certainly failed to force the Elector to a
battle. But it brought him so low^ that, had Tallard delayed
another week, he must either have fought or starved. It
certainly succeeded in rendering Bavaria untenable by
great armies for at least a twelvemonth. Thanks to the
victory of Blenheim, the magnitude of that advantage has
been overlooked. But the allied generals could not foresee
the victory of Blenheim. One historian says that their
action was " wholly unnecessary." They did what prud-
ence dictated at the time. Had there been no Blenheim, or
had Blenheim been a French triumph, the injustice and
absurdity of this criticism would have been signally re-

"It is expediency," says a modern writer, " that alone
conditions the degree of violence which can be usefully
employed in war. "^ And the sentiment which affects to be
shocked at the devastation of Bavaria must explain how it
is that the contingency of war between modern England
and a continental power is invariably and universally dis-
cussed upon the unchallenged assumption that the enemy
will make it a principal aim to destroy the food-supplies and
the raw materials of industry of a civilian population of forty
millions. If beggary and starvation are legitimate weapons,
when the victims are Lancashire operatives and London
clerks, it has yet to be shown why the exercise of similar
methods upon Bavarian hinds must be regarded as atroci-
ous barbarism.

The advance of Tallard compelled the allied generals to
resolve upon a new course of action. To remain at Fried-
berg was impossible. The ruin of Bavaria had left them
totally dependent on their communications for suppHes.
And these communications might easily be cut, as soon as
Tallard arrived. They therefore decided to fall back upon

^ This was Marlborough's test, " I take pleasure in being easy when the
service does not suffer by it " (Coxe, vol. i., p. 217, August 25, 1704).
2 Pelet, t. iv., p. 527: Tallard au Roi, 18 juillet, 1704.
■^ Maude, The Evolution of Modern Strategy, ch.ii., p. 18.


the Danube and lay siege to Ingolstadt. Ihis movement
offered two advantages. On the one hand by shortening
their communications with Nordhngen and Niirnberg,
it would render their situation less vulnerable to annoyance
or attack. On the other, by securing them the possession
of the principal magazine and strongest fortress in Bavaria,
it would confirm their hold upon the highway to Vienna.
The most daring soldier would not dream of marching
through that desolated land, with his flank exposed to
numerous and enterprising foes, who gripped the Danube
at Donauworth, Neuburg, and Ingolstadt, while they drew
unlimited supplies from the rich countries in their rear.

The Margrave volunteered to undertake the siege with
15,000 men. Marlborough was to cover it, in conjunction
with Eugene. This arrangement was well pleasing to the
Duke. Though he could ill spare 15,000 men from the fight-
ing-line, the departure of the Margrave was cheap at the
price. He was eager to fight, and he wished, v/hen he
fought, to have Eugene at his side. He knew that all things
were tending towards a decisive conflict. But there was
always the possibility that the enemy would endeavour
to avoid one. In that event, he was confident that, with
Eugene for a colleague, he would speedily find a way of
forcing them to the arbitrament of battle.

On August 4 the allies struck their camp and marched
off towards Ingolstadt, still burning as they went. The
pillars of smoke wliich marked their path were seen on the
horizon by Tallard's men, who came that day to the banks
of the Lech at Biberbach, midway between Donauworth
and Augsburg. " Monseigneur," wrote Tallard to the Elec-
tor, " I here present to you this invincible army, which has
taken Landau, which has beaten the enemy at Speyerbach,
which has passed the lines in spite of every effort to protect
them, and which will place you in a position to achieve your
aims by enabling you to surmount all difficulties with the
valour of our troops."

On the 5th the allies encamped at Schrobenhausen ; and the
Margrave went to Neuburg to inspect the preparations for
the siege. On the 6th Eugene, who had followed the march
of Tallard hke a shadow, quitted his army at Hochstadt and

The devastation of bavaria 197

rode over the Danube to take counsel with his colleagues.
On the 7th Ingolstadt was invested. The same day the
Margrave returned to Schrobenhausen, where he found
Eugene very ready to concur in the proposed division of
forces. Marsin and the Elector were now known to have
joined Tallard on the Lech. To view the camp and to
examine such defensive positions as the intervening country
might afford, ]\Iarlborough and Eugene rode out upon a
reconnaissance. But they had nothing to fear in this quarter.
The enemy had no intention of passing the Lech. Their
actual decision was soon to be disclosed. The allies resumed
their march upon the 8th, and halted on the 9th in the vicinity
of Rain. Here the Margrave departed for Ingolstadt with
15,000 men, while Eugene set off to rejoin his army in the
neighbourhood of Hochstadt. A few hours later came
intelligence that the enemy was moving towards Lauingen
and DilHngen. Eugene, who had received the same tidings
on the road, returned at once to consult with Marlborough.
It was evident that the enemy intended to cross the Danube,
and strike a blow against the allies' communications.
Eugene's small army lay across their path. If it remained,
it might be destroyed by forces outnumbering it by three to
one. If it withdrew, the enemy might dash upon the
magazines of Donau worth or Nordlingen, carry the mediaeval
ramparts by assault, and send their raiding horsemen far
and wide into Franconia. After a consultation lasting two
hours, the allied generals decided that a concentration of
their forces should be effected at the viUage of Miinster on
the Kessel, a small tributary of the Danube, four miles
westward of Donauworth. Eugene's army had already
fallen back from Hochstadt to this point. Thither Eugene
at once repaired, while Marlborough made ready to support
him with the utmost speed. At 2 a.m. the Duke of Wiirttem-
berg took the road with twenty-eight squadrons of cavalry
and dragoons. He was followed by Churchill with twenty
battalions of foot. At 3 the main army was in motion.

At daybreak on the loth Eugene reached Miinster. There
he found that Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau, an excellent ofhcer
who commanded in his absence, had ordered the troops to
strike their tents, and fall back upon the Schellenberg.


These orders were at once countermanded. The baggage
only was dispatched to the Schellenberg. But five squadrons
rode off towards Hochstadt to ascertain the movements of
the enemy. They returned with the intelUgence that the
French and Bavarians had passed the Danube, and encamped
at Lauingen. Eugene naturally assumed that he would be
attacked at the latest on the ensuing day. Having sent an
express to Marlborough to acquaint him with the news, and to
urge him to expedite his march, the Prince now commanded
his infantry and a portion of his horse to retire to the
Schellenberg. He himself, with twenty-two squadrons of
dragoons, remained at Miinster.

Late that evening he was joined by the twenty-eight
squadrons of the Duke of Wiirttemberg. All through the
night of the loth, 6,000 horsemen kept watch and ward upon
the banks of the Kessel. But the enemy made no move.
On the morning of the nth the express returned from Marl-
borough, with tidings that Churchill was close at hand, and
that the Duke himself was continually upon the march with
the main army. Thereupon Eugene recalled his men from
the Schellenberg. He was presently joined by Churchill.
By 4 p.m. Marlborough was at Donauworth, by 6 he was in
council with Eugene, and by 10 that night the two armies
were concentrated on the Hne of the Kessel. The baggage
and artillery came in at daybreak , after an unbroken march
of twenty-four miles.

This performance was in all respects an admirable one.
Though the distances traversed by Marlborough's men were
not extraordinary, the roads had been spoiled by rain, and
no fewer than three rivers, the Lech, the Danube, and the
Wornitz, had been traversed on the way. The energy and
skill exhibited by the Duke were worthy of the vigilance
and audacity displayed by the Prince. In these qualities
they showed themselves very superior to their opponents,
who seem to have been as ill informed of Marlborough's
movements as they were certainly negligent of the oppor-
tunity afforded them by the isolation of Eugene, whom they
might have attacked on the night of the loth, or at any time
on the nth, with odds immensely in their favour. Even
on the morning of the i2tli it was not too late, for Marl-


borough's men were so exhausted with their efforts that they
would have fought at a considerable disadvantage. But
beyond capturing the unimportant town of Hochstadt on
the nth, the Elector and the Marshals did nothing. They
appear to have assumed that at the mere rumour of their
approach the allies would abandon Bavaria without a blow.

It was a fatal assumption. What was applicable to the
average general of that epoch was not necessarily applicable
to Eugene and Marlborough. The orthodox officer preferred
anything to fighting; Eugene and Marlborough preferred
fighting to anything. The destruction of the enemy in
battle was ever the grand passion of these great commanders.
Moreover, in the immediate circumstances of the moment,
a decisive engagement was to them essential. It was true
that by occupying a strong position, they might have covered
the siege of Ingolstadt without a combat. But the enemy
could have retaliated by overrunning Franconia and cutting
off supplies. Villeroi too might make an irruption into
Wiirttemberg. And in the end they might be driven by
hunger to raise the siege and to abandon Bavaria and the
Danube altogether. Eugene and Marlborough had no in-
tention of making war on these lines. Whether the enemy
came to them, or they went to the enemy, they intended to
fight a decisive battle.

They would have fought on the 12th, had Marlborough's
men been less fatigued with their exertions on the road.
But as it was, the troops remained that day in camp, while
the two generals with an escort of twenty-eight squadrons
rode out to reconnoitre. They soon discovered the enemy's
cavalry, and with the help of glasses they descried his whole
army moving forward from Dillingen through Hochstadt.
Ascending the church-tower of Tapfheim village, at i
o'clock that afternoon, they clearly saw the French and
Bavarian quartermasters marking out a camp between
Blindheim and Lutzingen. Thereupon Marlborough and
Eugene returned to Miinster, and ordered out the pioneers
and pontoon-train to bridge the Reichin at Tapfheim and
prepare the roads for a general advance on the ensuing day.
No sooner had the work begun than it was internipted by
the enemy's cavalry. The alarm was given, the allied army


stood to arms, and Marlborough and Eugene, leaving their
meal unfinished, rode back to Tapfheim with their twenty-
eight squadrons, supported by dragoons and infantry. But
the enemy's horsemen, who were only seeking information,
galloped swiftly away as soon as they had made a few
prisoners. Having strengthened their dispositions for the
maintenance of Tapfheim and the line of the Reichin, the
allied generals once more ascended the steeple. It was now
4 o'clock, and the French and Bavarian armies were plainly
discernible in their new camp.

The valley of the Danube between Donauworth and
Dillingen is bounded on its northern side by a range of
wooded hills, which is " a continuation of the lower level
of the Schellenberg." This range, not running parallel to
the river, but pursuing an irregular course, gives to the
intervening plain an uneven breadth, varying from less than
a mile at Tapfheim, which is the narrowest point, to three
miles at Blindheim, which is the widest. The plain is
intersected by three little streams, the Kessel at Miinster,
the Reichin at Tapfheim, and the Nebel at Blindheim, which
running from the base of the mountains empty themselves
into the Danube. Insignificant as that may now appear,
streams were at that time a formidable obstacle to the march
of an army, because, in an age when drainage was neglected
or little understood, they generally indicated the existence
of difficult and treacherous ground. And this part of the
Danube valley formed no exception to the rule. When
therefore Marlborough and Eugene examined the enemy's
position through their glasses, they came to the conclusion
that it was not one to be despised. The right flank was
protected by the Danube, which in this region flows cir-
cuitously but fast, between steep and bushy banks, through
a bed one hundred yards in width, abounding in shoals and
islands, and bordered by a fringe of reedy marsh. The left
was secured by the mountains and the woods. Along the
entire front ran the swampy line of the Nebel. Behind the
Nebel and seated on a gentle slope were three villages,
Blindheim on the right, Oberglauheim in the centre, and
Lutzingen on the left. Immediately behind these villages
the French and Bavarians were encamped on the plateau.


It was obvious that the ground which the enemy had selected
was very defensible. The approaches to the Nebel on the
Tapfheim side were covered by the village of Unterglauheim,
through which the highroad ran from Donauworth to Hoch-
stadt, and over against Blindheim by two water-mills. To
attack it at all, the alhes must defile over the Kessel and the
Reichin, and must deploy in full view of a foe who, with
forces numerically superior and flanks that could not be
turned, awaited them at his leisure behind a triple screen
of marshes and villages. Critics, wise after the event,
discovered a variety of defects in the French position. To
Marlborough and Eugene these defects were not particularly

Nevertheless, their determination to give battle was in no
wise shaken. They meant to fight, and to fight without
delay, lest the enemy should entrench himself. As against
these advantages of ground and numbers, which the enemy
undoubtedly possessed, they rehed upon their own tactical
skill and upon the excellent qualit}'- and spirit of their troops.
Moreover, the moral superiority which belongs to the assail-
ant would be theirs; and it was augmented in the case of
Marlborough's men by the confidence inspired by the recent
victory at the Schellenberg. And once more, as at the
Schellenberg, the allied generals by doing what their methodi-
cal antagonists would never expect them to do, would secure
the advantage of a virtual surprise. These considerations
made them hopeful of success. Their optimism was by
no means shared by their subordinates .-"^ Certain officers
remonstrated openly with Marlborough on the rashness of
his project. He heard them with attentive courtesy. When
they had finished, he told them that he was fully sensible
of the difiiculties and dangers of the attempt, but that a
battle was " absolutely necessary."^ Thereupon, the re-
quisite orders were issued to the arm}'^, which received them
in a fashion that boded ill to the prospects of Bavaria and

1 " Almost all the generals were against my Lord's attacking the
enemy" (Francis Hare to George Naylor, August 14, 1704: Hist. MSS.
Comm., 14th Report, Appendix, part ix., Hare MSS., p. 201).

2 " There was an absolute necessity for the good of the common cause
to make this venture" (Letter to the Duchess, August 18, 1704: Coxc,
vol. i., p. 314. Barnet, vol. iv., p. 51).


The march was to begm at two hours after midnight.
The time was short. The Duke devoted a portion of it to
prayer. He then received the Sacrament at the hands of
his chaplain. After a brief interval of slumber, he rejoined
Eugene. The Prince had been writing letters; but his active
brain had rejected all repose. Together they applied them-
selves to the work of final preparation.


When the Elector and the two Marshals encamped between
Blindheim and Lutzingen, they flattered themselves that the
game was in their own hands. They assumed that the allies

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 19 of 44)