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occupied. The first line of their horse had gone down before
the squadrons of Eugene; but the second, by a timely charge,
had swept the Imperiahsts back across the Nebel in igno-
minious rout. The shame of this third repulse stung the
Prince to fury. Two of the fugitives he shot down with his
own hand. But the panic of the troopers was irremediable.
In disgust he left them to their officers, and galloped away
to the right, where his infantry was moving grandly to the
attack. " I wish to fight among brave men and not among
cowards,"'^ he cried, as he dashed up to the steady battalions
of Brandenburg. His wish was gratified. Magnificently
the Prussians bore themselves against heavy odds. The
ground was rough and broken, the fighting close and
murderous. The assailants were mown down with devas-
tating blasts of grape-shot. But once more the great
battery was taken. The outskirts of Lutzingen were carried.
The Elector's left was forced inward by the Danes. Eugene
exposed himself in the foremost ranks. A Bavarian
dragoon levelled his carbine at the Prince, and took a careful
aim; but just as he was about to discharge the weapon, he

^ English Historical Revieiv, April, 1904: Letter from the Earl of Orkney
to Lord Bristol, August 17, 1704 (copies of four letters written by George
Hamilton, first Earl of Orkney, who served as Lieutenant-General in
Marlborough's army, have been preserved at Craster Tower, Northumber-
land. It is not known if the originals exist).

2 For the account of this incident see Memoirs of the House of Branden-
burg (1757)'



BLENHEIM 225

was killed by a Danish soldier. Tenaciously this superb in-
fantry clung to every inch of ground that it had won, though
it had no more than two squadrons of horse to shield its
left flank. Marsin in the centre felt the pressure of its slow-
but obstinate advance. He began to be afraid for his own
left. Already everything upon his right was crumbling
into space. When Tallard sent to him for aid, he refused it.
Feuquieres and other critics declare that he should have
fallen on the flank of Marlborough's horse. Promptly made,
this daring and difficult manoeuvre might conceivably have
been attended by considerable success. But Marsin and
the Elector thought otherwise. Rejecting all tactics of
heroism or despair, they determined to play for safety and
to extricate their own armies with the smallest possible loss.
Their decision, whether good or bad, is entitled to that
consideration which always belongs of right to the opinions
of the men in touch with actualities. In some essential
respects the knowledge upon which a general acts in battle
is necessarily greater than that of mere critics; in others it
is often less. They ought therefore to be careful how they
try him by a standard which cannot fairly be applied. And
always he must choose, and choose quickly, under conditions
which are in the last degree unfavourable to tranquil thought.
Behind his camp Tallard rallied the remnants of his broken
horsemen as best he could. He conceived the idea of form-
ing a new front from Bhndheim to Sonderheim, parallel to the
Danube. Thrusting out his right to keep touch with
Clerembault's infantry, he was instantly charged on that
exposed flank by Marlborough's triumphant squadrons.
This time the French did not await the shock. They de-
livered one futile volley from the saddle, and fled. Behind
Blindheim the ground falls steeply to a loop of the Danube.
Down into this death-trap went thirt}^ maddened squadrons,
the allied cavalry thundering at their heels. Many were
sabred here, but many more perished most miserably in the
river and its marshes. Another large body took the road
to Hochstadt. At Sonderheim they made a stand; and
Taflard dispatched a messenger to Clerembault with orders
to evacuate Blindheim and join him forthwith. But the
allied horse were advancing rapidly along the Hochstadt
I. 15



226 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

road. The messenger was captured; and when Tallard set
off in person to execute his own commands, he found himself
surrounded. He was taken by an aide-de-camp of the
Prince of Hesse, who conveyed him to the Duke of Marl-
borough. The Duke received him with the most deUcate
consideration. Many French officers of high rank suffered
the same fate as the Marshal. On the approach of Hompesch
with the aUied cavalry the troops at Sonderheim resumed
their flight. Beyond the Brunnen they essayed to rally;
but before Hompesch could charge them, they scattered over
the country in irretrievable ruin.

It was now past 7 o'clock. Away to the northward Marsin
and the Elector were already in full retreat. These purists
in the rules of civilised warfare had fired the villages of
Oberglauheim and Lutzingen, (thereby raising the number
of inoffensive places destroyed by them that day for tactical
reasons to seven,) and under cover of the smoke and flame
had abandoned their positions. In three columns, one of foot
and two of horse, they retired along the base of the hills.
Eugene followed; but the exhaustion of his infantry and the
disappearance of many of his cavalry diminished the ardour
of the pursuit. Two Bavarian battalions, overtaken by
superior numbers, laid down their arms. But Marsin and
the Elector, despising an enemy whom they considered
they had well beaten, turned furiously at bay, and wrenched
the two battalions from the hands of their captors. Then
they resumed their retreat, which was conducted, on the
authority of an English witness, " with great dexterity and
expedition." ■*■ Out on the Hochstadt road, Marlborough
in the failing light perceived the conflagrations of the villages,
and the black columns creeping westward under the shadow
of the hills. Recalling Hompesch from the chase, he assem-
bled as many cavalry as possible, and led them across the
dusky plain towards the flank of the retiring columns. But
in the twilight and the smoke he mistook the foremost
division of Eugene's army for a Bavarian force threatening
his own right. He hesitated, and the enemy made good use
of the delay. Their steady and well-ordered march impressed
the Duke. He wisely decided that it would be dangerous
in the gathering darkness to fling his jaded horsemen on an

1 Kane, p. 55.



BLENHEIM 227

army so ably led and so little demoralised. Thus through
the summer night Marsin and the Elector pursued the road
to Dillingen, collecting as they went the drifting wreckage
of Tallard's host.

Many of the flying cavalry drew rein for a while in the
httle town of Hochstadt. It was after 8 when a bruised
and mud-stained horseman rode wearily up to a group of
officers who were slaking their thirst at the fountain in the
market-place. He was recognised as Merode-Westerloo
(he who has written of the merry supper at Blindheim twenty-
four hours before). "You are very late," said one, with
astonishing ineptitude. The haughty Fleming, conscious
that he had ' played the game ' that day for France when
too many of her own children had failed her, eyed the
speaker coldly. " You are very early, "-^ he answered.
And that, before long, was the verdict of the nation.

Meanwhile, the village of Blindheim had become the
theatre of one of the most poignant tragedies in the history
of war. When Marlborough's decisive charge hurled the
cavalry of Tallard beyond the French camp, Churchill with
the bulk of the alhed foot closed in upon the place, taking
his station between Cutts' men and the Maulweyer brook.
Ingoldsby and Orkney with the infantry from the right of
the Hne passed the Maulweyer and began to extend towards
the Danube. At first they were embarrassed by the right
of Tallard's cavalry; but Marlborough's last charge cleared
the field in that quarter, and left them free to complete the
investment of the village. The powerful garrison did nothing
to prevent its own isolation. Clerembault, having witnessed
the destruction of the entire line from Blindheim to Ober-
glauheim, lost what little nerve he may have still possessed.
Judging that he and his men were doomed, and reahsing
perhaps that his own misconduct was largely responsible
for the loss of the battle, he seems to have become tempor-
arily insane. Accompanied only by a groom, he slunk away
to the Danube bank, where he urged his horse into the
dangerous current, "apparently," says Saint-Simon, "with
the intention of becoming a hermit afterwards."^ The groom

1 Memoires de Merode-Westerloo, p. 316.

2 MSmoires de Saint-Simon (1842), t. vii., p. 250.



228 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

got safely over; but, by the mercy of Providence, Lieu tenant-
General le Marquis de Clerembault perished in the stream.
Blansac, on whom the command devolved, was in ignor-
ance of his general's fate, and at a loss to account for his
disappearance. Not a word came through from Tallard.
An officer of the Gendarmerie rode past the village, and
Blansac requested him to go to the Marshal for instructions.
He went, but only to be captured by Marlborough's cavalry.
A wise and resolute leader would now have taken upon
himself to order the immediate evacuation of the village by
the rear. But Blansac at this juncture showed himself
neither wise nor resolute. The precious moments sped by.
Orkney and Ingoldsby drew tight their net. Before 6
o'clock, from the Danube on the east to the Maulweyer, and
from the Maulweyer to the Danube on the west, Blindlieim
was girdled with a semi-circle of bayonets and cannon.
Crowded and overcrowded there under the lengthening
shadow of the village steeple, were some of the finest regi-
ments in the service of the great King. Four times they had
repulsed their enemies with scanty loss to themselves. The
sloping ground upon their front, all littered with scarlet-
coated bodies that writhed in agony or else lay very still,
bore witness to the disciplined accuracy of their fire.
Throughout the day they had been in the highest spirits.
But now with strange and ominous swiftness depression
fell upon their ranks. In all ages the French soldier had
possessed, in an exceptional degree, the military instinct.
Often he divines the part which his own particular unit is
playing in the total combination. Frequently, before he
receives his orders, he knows what they will be. And when
he has received them, he executes them with that skill and
confidence which only understanding can bestow. But this
popular genius for war has grave and obvious defects. It
can make the soldier mistrustful of his general in circum-
stances of which none save the general can adequately judge.
It can make him critical of his officer almost to the point of
insubordination. And in the moment of adversity it leaves
him weaker than the men of less intelligent and less imagina-
tive races. It was not a French commander who declared
that he could always rely upon his soldiers to extricate him



BLENHEIM 229

from the consequences of his own mistakes. And it was not
the infantry in Blindlieim that could save Tallard now. They
could not save themselves.

They had witnessed, or those of them posted to the left
and rear of the village had witnessed, the rout of the cavalry
and the annihilation of the nine battahons. They had
exchanged a few scared words with passing troopers, whose
demoralisation infected all with whom they spoke. They
could see the alhed troops closing rapidly in upon their left
and rear. They knew instinctively that it was time to be
moving. Yet nothing was done. Their leader was no-
where to be seen. His lieutenant was silent. The orders,
which every soldier expected, remained unspoken. And
soon it would be too late. Already they foresaw the end;
and black horror gripped their souls.

The businessHke methods of Marlborough's officers, who
were aware that they had to do with a numerous and veteran
enemy, left little to chance. No sooner was the place
surrounded than Lord Orkney rode over the Maulweyer
to report to Churchill, who was arranging for simultaneous
attacks on every side. While the gunners cannonaded the
village from the north, Cutts delivered his fifth assault on
the east, and Orkney and Ingoldsby essayed to force a
passage on the west, where no preparations had been made for
a defence. Cutts was again repulsed; and Orkney and
Ingoldsby, after effecting an entry, were presently driven
out with the bayonet. But the pursuers' rush was checked
by the fire of the British dragoons, who easily shot away the
head of every column that sought to debouch by the narrow
avenues. Soon the attack was vigorously resumed on this
side. Orkney's men penetrated as far as the churchyard,
the high stone wall of which served the French as an excellent
breast-work. The shooting from the houses greatly galled
the assailants, who eventually fell back, while guns and
howitzers played upon the obnoxious buildings. Several
were speedily in flames. And now the closely packed French
began to find their situation unendurable. Two brigades
under Denonville pressed forward to charge. The astute
Orkney seized the occasion to beat a parley. He called out
to the French soldiers that, if they would yield, they should



230 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

have " good quarters " ;^ and his aide-de-camp, Abercrombie,
actually rode up to the Royal Regiment, and snatching the
colours from the ensign, who gave him a slight wound over
the arm, demanded to know if they did not hear the general's
offer. Denonville conferred with Orkney. He was willing
to surrender on condition that his men should not be plun-
dered. Orkney agreed ; and the two brigades laid down their
arms. At the same time a third capitulated to Ingoldsby.
Orkney enquired of his prisoners what force remained in the
village. He was told that there were more than twenty
battalions, besides twelve squadrons of dragoons, "which,"
he says, " I owne, struck me, since I had not above seven
battallions and four esquadrons." But the Hamilton's face
betrayed no secrets. " I maid the best countenance I
cou'd,"^ he says. Abercrombie was now sent into Blindheim
under a flag of truce, and Denonville, at Orkney's request,
accompanied him. The aide-de-camp explained the situa-
tion to Blansac. His statements were confirmed by Denon-
ville, who then proceeded to harangue the soldiers, arguing
that it was the King's interest that their lives should be
saved. Blansac, by his own account, indignantly cut short
this scandalous oration, and amid the cheers of Navarre and
the sombre silence of the other regiments exhorted the men
to remain firm in their duty. But he went out of the village
with Abercrombie, and he promised Orkney that he would
consult his officers. The aide-de-camp returned with him,
and quitting the place on the eastern side, informed Cutts
that the enemy were about to capitulate. Cutts, whose
losses had been very severe, was astonished and incredulous.
But Abercrombie was right. After a hasty council of war,
Blansac went a second time to Orkney. Opinion had been
divided, and the unhappy man could come to no resolution.
The older officers had favoured a surrender, but the young
ones had sworn to cut their way out sword in hand. In
these circumstances the Hamilton played his cards perfectly.
He told Blansac that Tallard was taken, that Marlborough
was a league away in pursuit of the flying horse, and that
twenty fresh battalions and all the artillery of the allied army
were close at hand. It was, in his own words, a " little

^ See English Historical Review, April, 1904. ^ md.



BLENHEIM 231

gasconad,"^ but it sufficed. Blansac agreed to surrender
on the same terms as Denonville. When the decision was
communicated to the troops, it was accepted by many with
gloomy resignation. But some wept, and others gave way
to paroxysms of fury and despair. Certain of the officers
refused to set their hands to the capitulation. And the
regiment of Navarre destroyed its colours.

Between 8 and 9 that night the tragedy was played
to a finish. In the summer gloaming they marched out,
those old illustrious bands whose very muster-roll sounded
like the history of France. Navarre, and Artois, and
Provence, and Languedoc, and Rohan, and La Reine — they
all marched out, and piled their weapons in the darkhng
fields. And now, when they saw for themselves the actual
numbers of their conquerors, some said that Blansac had
been fooled by Orkney's judicious ' bluffing.' Yet Orkney
honestly beUeved that the French could never have escaped.
Many years afterwards he explained to Voltaire his pro-
fessional reasons for holding that opinion. In his judgment,
no troops in the world could ever have issued from the narrow
lanes of Blindheim and deployed under the converging fire
from the broad front of the allied fine. But there were others
present, both English and Dutch, who thought otherwise,
and who considered that with resolute leadership at least one-
half of the garrison of Blindheim might have forced a passage.
Before the last of this melancholy procession had defiled
into the plain, a horseman dashed up with a message from
Marlborough. Doubtless the Duke had learned from his
prisoners what forces were in Blindheim. He at any rate
was not anticipating so easy a capture, for his orders were
that the troops blockading the place should lie upon their
arms till dawn, when they would be reinforced by the entire
army.

Tidings of victory were already on the wing. Through the
cool of the summer night Marlborough's aide-de-camp.
Colonel Parke, was galloping hard into the north. He
carried one of the most singular and unconventional dis-
patches in the history of war. The general in supreme
command of the forces of Great Britain and the United

1 Ibid.



232 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

Provinces reported the destruction of the French army and
the ruin of French strategy in the manner of a knight-errant
announcing to his mistress the accompUshment of a true
lover's vow. On a scrap of paper, torn from a notebook,
and bearing on its reverse side a memorandum of an inn-
keeper's account, the Duke had scribbled with a lead-pencil
to the woman whose smile was more to him than the eulogy
of princes this pregnant message :

" August 13, 1704. — I have not time to say more,
but to beg you will give my duty to the Queen, and let
her know her army has had a glorious victory. M. Tal-
lard and two other generals are in my coach, and I am
following the rest. The bearer, my aide-de-camp,
Colonel Parke, will give her an account of what has
passed. I shall do it in a day or two, by another more

^^ ^^^^^' " Marlborough. "^

Parke, a heavy man and a tall, was no respecter of horse-
flesh. Within ten days he was at Windsor. The Duchess
read the letter and took him to the Queen.

" Without vanity," said Orkney, " I think wee did our
pairts."^ They did indeed. Considered without reference
to its strategical results, the actual victory was stupendous.
The casualties of the allies amounted to 12,000 killed and
wounded, of whom more than 2,000 were British. The exact
losses of the enemy could never be ascertained. But out
of a total of 56,000 men, at the very lowest 14,000, and
probably some thousands more, were killed, wounded, or
drowned on the field of battle. The prisoners, including
Marshal Tallard and many generals, besides 1,200 officers
of subordinate ranks, amounted to 15,000, of whom 3,000,
being of German extraction, took service with the allies.
The deserters were computed at from 3,000 to 5,000. But
for many days the wastage of the beaten army continued.
Writing a fortnight later, Marlborough declared that he had
intercepted several letters to the French Court, " by which

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 206.

2 Athol MSS.: Letter from George Hamilton, Earl of Orkney, giving his
account of the battle of Blenheim, August 14, 1704 (Hist. MSS. Comm.,
1 2th Report, Appendix, part viii., p. 62).




ngshofe



BLENHEIM

August 13, 1704

Scale . I ^0.000



Kilometres
3



^ 1/2 W4 I



Miles

2



Allies. 1111 French and Ba^anan^..

a/ized course of Danube .....



ft intervals of ^ metres, every 25 accentuated




c



BLENHEIM 233

the enemy own to have lost 40,000 men, killed, taken
prisoners, and deserted since the battle."^ Apparently,
these enormous figures, five-sevenths of the total arrayed
for France at Blenheim, did not conflict with his own
observations. As for the spoils, they were immense, and
comprised no fewer than " 100 pieces of cannon, great and
small, 24 mortars, 129 colours, 171 standards, 17 pair of
kettle-drums, 3,600 tents, 34 coaches, 300 laden mules,
2 bridges of boats, 15 pontoons, 24 barrels, and 8 casks of
silver."^

"It is," wrote one^ who was present, "a very entire
victory in all parts of it." " It is perhaps," wrote another,"*
" the greatest and completest victory that has been gained
these many ages." Marlborough himself, in writing to his
" dearest soul," observed that it was " as great a victory
as has ever been known, "^ and again that " never victory
was so complete."^ And in words that show him un-
mistakably as the lover of his wife and the generous friend
of Eugene, he said,

" I am so pleased with this action, that I can't end
my letter without being so vain as to tell my dearest
soul, that within the memory of man there has been no
victory so great as this; and as I am sure you love me
entirely well, you will be infinitely pleased with what
has been done, upon my account as well as the great
benefit the public will have. For had the success of
Prince Eugene been equal to his merit, we should in
that day's action have made an end of the war."'^

But something incomparably more valuable than 40,000
men with cannon and equipment was lost to the French
monarchy. More than sixty years had elapsed since Conde
on the field of Rocroi had shattered the ancient prestige of
the Spanish arms. For more than two generations the
French had been regarded as the most formidable soldiers

^ Murray, vol. i., p. 435: Marlborough to M. Bothmar, August 27, 1704.

2 Boyer, vol. iii., p. 87.

^ Hare MSS. : Francis Hare to his cousin (George Naylor), August 14,
1704 (Hist. MSS. Comm., 14th Report, Appendix, part ix., p. 201).

* English Historical Review, A-prJl, 1904.

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 213: The Duke to the Duchess, August 14, 1704.

^ Ibid., p. 214. 7 jhid.



234 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

in Europe. Their conquests had increased their reputation,
and their reputation had facihtated their conquests. Their
enemies, habituated to defeat, met it because they expected
to meet it. But at Blenheim the idol was ruthlessly broken
and trodden in the dust. It was not merely that French
generals had been hopelessly outwitted. It was not merely
that a French army, holding distinct advantages in numbers
and position, had been practically annihilated. These
things were startling, and serious enough. They could
however be explained; they might even be explained away.
Their effects could always be minimised by official reserva-
tions and denials. But no sort of ingenuity could minimise
the incompetence and cowardice of a Clerembault, or the
feebleness of a Blansac, or the misconduct of a Denonville,
or the spiritless behaviour of so many of Tallard's cavalry,
or the failure of those dashing horsemen, the Gendarmerie,
from whom so much was invariably expected, or the complete
demoralisation and the enduring dejection of the mass of
the survivors. These were circumstances witnessed with
their own eyes by the soldiery of the allied nations, and
symptomatic, in their judgment, of an all-pervading rotten-
ness where they had been taught to expect the most minute
efficiency. The reaction was excessive. The men who had
been the bullies of Europe were now despised by their former
victims. The work, so well begun at the Schellenberg, was
consummated at Blenheim. Henceforward the moral ad-
vantage rested always with the armies of the coalition.
More for this reason than for any other, notable as the others
were, this victory was rightly considered at the time to mark
an epoch.

In France the news was received at first with incredulity,
which rapidly turned to indignation. " We were not
accustomed to misfortune,"^ says Saint-Simon. Marsin and
the Elector supplied no details. But the broad facts were
undeniable. They were also, for a long time, incomprehen-
sible. " We no longer," says Clausewitz, " take twenty-
seven battalions in a village, as they did at Blenheim."^
Nor did they then, as a general rule. Little by little, how-
ever, a connected narrative was extracted from the private

1 Mimoires de Saint-Simon, vol. vii., p. 265.

2 Clausewitz, On War, vol. iii., ch. ix.



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