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letters of officers, who one and all were loud in their criticisms
of particular persons other than themselves, and particular
regiments and divisions other than their own. These
recriminations made a very bad impression. The relatives
of certain of the prisoners and the slain did not venture to
appear in public. To the anguish of bereavement was added
the intolerable bitterness of disgrace. Every ignorant
layman was demanding to know why this or that elementary
maxim of the art of war had been disregarded by those who
were paid to observe it. And others besides ignorant
laymen were unable to keep silence. On no one did the
blow descend with more crushing severity than on Villars,
who in this catastrophe beheld the destruction of his grand
design. " I am ashamed," he wrote, when he learned that
there were Frenchmen who sought to justify the capitulation
of Blansac, " I am ashamed for our nation upon account
of so base a surrender, and I see with a grief that I cannot
express, how short we come of the ancient Romans, and of
French that I have known. "•'■ The government put the best
face they could upon the matter. Recognising that it is
easier to replace old generals by new ones than to restore
self-respect to an army publicly convicted of misconduct,
they prudently decided that the whole responsibility for
the disaster should be ofilcially ascribed to the unhappy
Tallard .

And in England ? Small wonder that in England the
hearts of men should have burned within them. Not for
three hundred years, not since the miracle of Agincourt,
had the islanders struck such a resounding stroke upon the
continent of Europe. And this thing was not done in a
corner. It was done in the very centre of the civilised world,
and at a moment when the eyes of all the peoples were riveted
upon the combatants. The nation was intoxicated with
pride and joy. On every peak the bonfires blazed; from
every steeple the joy-bells clashed. From borough and shire
addresses of congratulation poured in upon the Queen.
The Jacobites were stricken dumb. The Tories of the
Rochester school, and the military critics of the armchair
and pothouse schools, found it convenient, for a season,

^ Vogiie, Mimoires de Villars, t. ii., p. 330, Appendice: Villars a I'abbe de
Saint-Pierre, September 2, 1704.


to simulate a pleasure which they did not feel. Anne
appointed a solemn thanksgiving to be observed throughout
her dominions. On a fair September day, with her coun-
cillors and peers, with her great officers of state and her
resplendent household cavalry, with Norroy and Garter and
all the superb pageantry of Britain's kings, she passed amid
the acclamations of her people and the thunder of her cannon
from her palace of St. James's to the glorious new cathedral
of St. Paul's. Through Temple Bar she passed with stately
ceremonial, through Fleet Street, gorgeously draped, and
lined with glittering train-bands and the banners of the
ancient guilds. All eyes were fixed upon the royal carriage
with its eight goodly steeds; but for once it was not the
amiable countenance of their beloved Sovereign, but the
beautiful and proudly smiling face of Marlborough's wife
that the spectators sought. The Queen of England was
ablaze with jewels; but with that affectation of humility,
which is the uttermost expression of pride, she, who knew
herself to be the queen of the hour, wore but "a very plain

Well indeed might Marlborough hope that his " dearest
soul " would be " infinitely pleased." Glory such as now
was his no private Englishman had ever before enjoyed.
The dispatches from the seat of war, the letters from officers
to their friends, and the gazettes of the European capitals
were unanimously agreed that England had produced a
military genius of the first magnitude. But there are spots
upon the sun. The Duke, it appeared, had been guilty
of one mistake; he had been careless of his own safety. " He
exposed himself," wrote one who was in the thickest of the
fighting, " as much as any officer or soldier in the army, and
much more than most of the generals."^ He was " every-
where, from one attack to another," wrote Orkney, "and
ventured his person too-too much that day."^ " My Lord
Marlborough," wrote Hare, " was everywhere in the action,
to encourage our men, and exposed to infinite dangers."^

^ Evelyn's Diary, September 7, 1705.

2 Pope (Coke MSS.): Captain Richard Pope to Thomas Coke, August 16,
1704 (Hist. MSS. Comm., 12th Report, Appendix, partiii., p. 40).

•' English Historical Review, April, 1904.

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


The valiant Hompesch reported to the States that the Duke
" exposed himself in the most dangerous places, during the
whole action, giving directions with a presence of mind
amidst the hottest fire."-"- But this splendid weakness,
if it was a weakness, did but endear him all the more to the
countrymen of Cceur de Lion and the Black Prince. War,
as the masses of the English people pictured it, was not the
scientific thing that Vauban and Turenne had made of it,
but the Homeric hurly-burly of the ballads and the chronicles.
They loved to imagine their hero, like Achilles impervious
to death and wounds, and like Samson butchering his
thousands with his own right arm. But fantastic notions
of the victor of Blenheim were not confined to his own com-
patriots. To the wives and mothers of France he appeared
as the destroying angel. In the olden time they had im-
posed a fearful calm upon refractory babes with one whisper
of the name of Talbot. But long was Talbot dead; and now
were the Bluebeards, giants, dragons, ogres, and hobgoblins
of the night incontinently deposed, and a legendary " Mal-
brook ' ' came to his own in the kingdom of all childish terrors.

^ Lediard, vol. i., ch. vii., p. 404: Letter from General Hompesch to the


All through the night of the 13th Marsin and the Elector
marched unmolested on the road to Ulm, collecting the
wreckage of Tallard's host as they went. Before daybreak
they had safely passed their baggage across the Danube at
Lauingen. As soon as it was light, the infantry followed,
while the cavalry continued its retreat upon the northern
bank. A detachment of 1,000 men was left at Lauingen
with instructions to burn the bridge on the first appearance
of the enemy.

It is an axiom of war that the victorious army, resisting
every temptation to relax its energies, must pursue the foe
with unrelenting vigour. The night-ride of Gneisenau's
Prussians through Genappe to Frasnes is a classic example of
what such an operation ought to be. In this respect the
battle of Blenheim offers no analogy to the battle of Waterloo.
But the circumstances were not analogous. At Waterloo
the combined armies of WelHngton and Bliicher considerably
outnumbered the French. It was therefore possible to
entrust the chase to troops which had been only partially,
or not at all, engaged in the actual combat. It was not upon
the weary and decimated cavalry of Lord Uxbridge that the
work devolved. But at Blenheim the allied army, numeri-
cally inferior to the French, and already fatigued by long
marching, had been under fire for twelve hours, had been
closely engaged with the enemy for seven, and had sus-
tained casualties amounting to 23 per cent, of its total
strength. Under such conditions every man had been
needed in the fighting-line, and no reserve could be retained
for the purposes of pursuit. The combatants themselves,
and particularly the cavalry, the pursuing arm, were too
exhausted to undertake the task. " I have not a squadron
or a battalion which did not charge four times at least, "■^

^ A. von Arneth, Prinz Eugen, voL i., p. 272.


Said Eugene. Moreover it must be remembered that,
whereas Napoleon's entire army was nothing but a panic-
stricken mob when it fled from Waterloo, the troops of
Marsin and the Elector withdrew in excellent order from the
positions which they had held throughout the day. They
could never have been broken without a determined struggle,
the issue of which, in the obscurity of the night, was by no
means assured. Whatever forces could have been brought
against them must have been considerably diminished by
the necessity of providing a strong detachment to guard
the prisoners, who numbered already nearly one-fourth of
the unwounded survivors. It must not, therefore, be
assumed that Marlborough and Eugene knew less of their
business than Wellington and Bliicher. They very properly
declined to compromise a splendid victory by pushing it
too far with inadequate resources. If only the 15,000 men,
who were with the Margrave at Ingolstadt, had been
present at the battle, not a Frenchman or a Bavarian could
have escaped. But if the Margrave had been there as well,
the battle would never have been fought .-"^^

The soldiers slept upon the ground which they had won.
An abundance of vegetables and a hundred fat oxen ready
skinned having been discovered in the French camp, they
did not lack for immediate refreshment. In a water-mill
outside Hochstadt Marlborough, who had been seventeen
hours on horseback, allowed himself three for slumber. Day-
break found him once again in the saddle. Accompanied by
Eugene, he rode into the town to inspect the magazines
which the enemy had abandoned, and which were likely
to prove useful to the aUied army. Thence they proceeded
to the quarters of Marshal Tallard, whom they found in
deep dejection and with a wound in one of his hands. Marl-
borough showed himself extremely anxious to render his
unfortunate captive such services as might be in his power.
Tallard having expressed a desire for his own carriage in
preference to Marlborough's, which the Duke had offered
him, a trumpet was instantly dispatched to the enemy with
a passport for the Marshal's coach. Though Marlborough
endeavoured to avoid the topic of the battle, Tallard, with

1 See M6moires de Merode-Westerloo, p. 324, ch. xii., and Burnet,
vol iv., p. 53.


a pathetic eagerness to justify himself, insisted on discussing
it. "At this interview," says Hare, " many of the French
generals crowded about his Grace, admiring his person as
well as his tender and generous behaviour. Each had
something to say for himself, which his Grace and Prince
Eugene heard with the greatest modesty and compassion. "■■•
From the day when he first took the field against Burgundy
and Boufflers in 1702, Marlborough's reputation for courtesy
and humanity had stood high among the armies of France.^
The delicacy which he displayed on the morrow of Blenheim,
and the thoughtful consideration which he subsequently
showed for the numerous prisoners without distinction of
rank, enthroned him for ever in the hearts of a nation, very
quick to appreciate chivalry in its most redoubtable foemen.
Whatever else they may have thought of Marlborough, the
people of France regarded him always as " a very perfect
gentle knight."^

The army now advanced beyond Hochstadt, and encamped
at Steinheim over against Lauingen and Dillingen. Marl-
borough, having traversed the field of battle and viewed
the bodies of the slain, came to Steinheim at noon. He
immediately occupied Lauingen and Dillingen with detach-
ments, and ordered the bridges over the Danube to be
repaired. In this situation he remained for four days and a
half, while the army rested and arrangements were made for
the proper disposition of the prisoners and the wounded.
The wounded were carried back to Donauworth and thence to
Nordlingen, while the prisoners, having been equally divided
between the two commanders, were dispatched by road and
river to various fortresses. Those who were assigned to
Marlborough's share were envied by their less fortunate
comrades, who received from Eugene a treatment that was
harsh in comparison. The Duke suggested that Tallard
and the general officers, whom he had reserved for himself,
should be taken to England; but pending the receipt of
instructions from home, he sent them northward on the road
to Frankfurt. The number of captives was increasing hourly,
for isolated Frenchmen went in peril of their lives among the
peasantry, and freely surrendered to the allied troops to

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 211, extract from Hare's Journal.

2 See Chapter IV., " 1702," p. 99. ^ See Saint- Simon, vol. ii., p. 255.


escape assassination. They were a great embarrassment to
Marlborough and Eugene, who were hkewise hampered by
a deficiency of provisions, and of vehicles for the transport
of the army's bread. Two hundred waggons however were
obtained from Wiirttemberg. The 17th was observed as a
day of solemn thanksgiving; and on the 19th the advance
was resumed in the direction of Ulm.

The halt at vSteinheim has been criticised as a reprehen-
sible waste of time.^ If two commanders, so enterprising
as Marlborough and Eugene, both deemed it inadvisable to
attempt a rapid advance, there is a strong presumption
that they were right. For they were in contact with the
actual circumstances, our knowledge of which is neces-
sarily imperfect. Had the enemy been utilising the respite
allowed him in preparing a strong, defensive position on the
Iller, the delay would certainly have proved injurious.
But the Austrian hussars, who hung upon the rear of the
retreating French, cutting off stragglers and keeping
touch with the movements of the main body, reported
that to aU appearances Max Emanuel and Marsin were
abandoning Bavaria. It was known that they had ordered
the evacuation of Augsburg on the 17th. That same night
they set their columns in motion towards the Black Forest.
Though they carried with them no fewer than 7,000 wounded,
many of whom died on the way, they marched with such
celerity that on the 20th they reached Tuttlingen, where
they were joined by the garrisons of Augsburg, Memmingen,
and Biberach. Steadily as the troops of the left and
centre had quitted the field of battle, contact with the fugi-
tives of the right soon told upon their nerves. At Ulm,
" the whole army," according to an eyewitness, was in
" terrible consternation."^ On leaving the town, the
waggons and heavy baggage, including the greater part
of the officers' possessions, were deliberately burned that
progress might not be delayed. On the road to Tuttlingen
a great part of the soldiery got completely out of hand and
committed many excesses. The line of march was black
with the smouldering ashes of villages and castles. The

1 See Lediard, vol. i., p. 447, and Malleson's Engdne, p. 113.

2 See a letter printed in Alison, from an officer in the French Army,
vol. i., p. 183.

I. 16


cruelty of the French was the measure of their terror. At
every stage they expected to find that Marlborough and
Eugene had outmarched them and cut them off from
France. Their horses were djdng of disease; the peasantry
murdered all laggards; and the Austrian sabre was seldom
far behind. Such a runaway rabble would never have
allowed itself to be overtaken in a straight race with a
hostile force comprising all three arms. But Merode-
Westerloo, who saw with amazement the depths of demoral-
isation to which a beaten French army could descend,
expressed the view that, if Marlborough and Eugene had
pushed forward a strong detachment of dragoons to occupy
Moesskirch and to fight a delaying action, a passage would
never have been forced. If the main body of the allies had
subsequently appeared, capitulation must in his judgment
have ensued.

This opinion is not to be lightly set aside, though its
author's unconcealed disgust at the misconduct of the
French in the battle and at their indiscipline in the retreat
may have somewhat obscured his vision. Others besides
Merode-Westerloo have considered that the allied generals
let slip a great opportunity. In so far as this idea was mah-
ciously put forward by the enemies of Marlborough, it may
be disregarded. When a general has done so much that
the world is astonished, that is a silly sort of detraction which
insinuates that, if he had done still more, the world would
have been still more astonished. In so far, however, as
this criticism was genuinely advanced by those who under-
stood war, it certainly deserves attention. The verdict
must be left to experts. But in judging the inaction of
Marlborough and Eugene, the words of Clausewitz in his
chapter on those insidious and innumerable forms of
" friction," which obhge generals to achieve less than they
propose, should not be forgotten. " Everything," he wrote,
" is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult."^
It should not be forgotten also that, besides the questions
of supply, of transport, of the multitude of prisoners, and
of the physical capacity of their own men to undertake the
forced marches which would be essential to the success of any

1 Clausewitz, On War, vol. i., book i., ch. vii.


grand strategy against the fl5ang enemy, Marlborough and
Eugene had no knowledge of the whereabouts of Villeroi.
They knew that he had been in the vicinity of Strasbourg.
They naturally assumed that he would march to the rescue
of the army of Bavaria. And they may well have hesitated
to expose exhausted troops to the hazards of an encounter
in difficult country with a fresh and unbeaten foe. It was
Clausewitz also, who, in dealing with pursuit by parallel
march, observed: "Such marches tell upon the pursuer as
well as the pursued, and they are not advisable if the enemy's
army rallies itself upon another considerable one."^

In point of fact, when the news of Blenheim reached
Alsace, Villeroi, who had been demonstrating against the lines
of Stollhof en, had wasted no time in sending for orders from
Versailles. He had promptly moved towards the sources
of the Danube, and on the 23rd he was in the neighbourhood
of Villingen. Marsin and the Elector, not daring to enter
the mountains until they were assured of Villeroi's co-opera-
tion, left Tuttlingen on the 24th. Communication was
established on the 25th. Villeroi's men took over the duty
of rear-guard; and on the last day of the month the whole
body came down to the banks of the Rhine and to the
bridge of Strasbourg, where they found safety at last under
the cannon of the fortress of Kehl.

Meantime the allied army had reached Sofiingen on the
outskirts of Ulm on the 21st. In every village that they
traversed they saw the new-made graves of French officers.
A garrison of four French and five Bavarian battalions had
been left in Ulm with the object of delaying pursuit. But
pursuit was not contemplated. Louis of Baden in his
camp at Ingolstadt had received the news of Blenheim with
incredulity, which quickly turned to jealous rage, when
he recognised the trick that had been played upon him.
Against Marlborough in particular he cherished from this
time onward a petty resentment, which became the common
talk of Europe, and which had evil consequences for the
allied cause. But with the help of Wratislaw he was per-
suaded to abandon a siege, which had ceased to have any
importance, and to rejoin the army at Soflingen, where the

^ Ibid., vol. i., book iv., ch. xiii.


arrival of his detachment made good the deficiency resulting
from the battles. Concealing his indignation as best he
could, he discussed with his colleagues the measures to be
taken for improving the victory.

There were officers in Marlborough's army who considered
that enough had already been accomplished for one campaign.
And there were people at home, including apparently
Godolphin, who shared this view. But it was never for a
moment entertained by the three commanders. They
were all agreed that the allied forces must follow up their
success by marching to the Rhine and be3^ond it. But as
to the course of action to be subsequently pursued, there
arose a difference of opinion which illustrates well the
essential antagonism between the orthodox strategy of
that age and such a mind as Marlborough's. Louis of
Baden proposed the siege of Landau. The advantages of
the operation were obvious. This fortress, which had been
wrested from the French in 1702, and recovered by them in
1703, was a nuisance in winter and a menace in summer to
Southern Germany. Its capture, by enabling a large part
of the allied forces to take their quarters beyond the Rhine,
would relieve the governments of the neighbouring states
of considerable expense. But in Marlborough's opinion the
opportunity created by the known demoralisation of the
enemy could be utilised far better on the Moselle. Now was
the time to secure that river from Coblenz to Treves, and
even beyond Treves. If by the end of the campaign the
allies were firmly established in the valley of the Moselle, in
the ensuing spring they could begin that great offensive
movement upon Paris, which, as Marlborough believed,
would assuredly end the war. In comparison with this
design the siege of Landau was mere pettifogging. But the
Germans were set upon the capture of the place; and
Marlborough suspected that, as long as it remained in the
enemy's hands, they would never follow him across the
French frontier. Nobody ever understood better than he
that the art of war consists, as Moltke said, in "adapting the
means at hand to the attainment of the object in view."
He yielded therefore to the representations of the Margrave;
but he did so in the reasonable expectation that a fortress,


which had just endured two sieges in as many years, would
quickly fall, and that he would still have time to establish
a footing on the Moselle before the termination of the

The future of Bavaria was now engaging the attention of
the allied generals and their governments. Marlborough and
Eugene had already proposed to the Elector that, if he would
furnish 8,000 men to the common cause, he should be restored
to his dominions and should receive an annual allowance of
400,000 crowns from England and Holland. But Max
Emanuel's notions of honour forbade him to desert the
fortune of France in the hour of calamity. The lamentable
situation of the Electress and her children appealed strongly
to the chivalry of Marlborough. " It has made my heart
ache," he wrote to the Duchess, "being very sensible how
cruel it is to be separated from what one loves."-' He showed
his sympathy by facilitating correspondence between
the husband and wife, and by exerting his influence to pro-
mote such a treaty with the Electress as would secure to her
an adequate revenue and the liberty to reside at Munich.
But her own pride and the resentment of the Emperor were
formidable obstacles to an accommodation.

On August 26 the army began to move in four columns
and by separate routes. The rendezvous was Philippsburg.
Under the command of Churchill the Enghsh infantry and
artillery returned by the way they had come, over the
Rems and through Gross Heppach to Mundelsheim. What
manner of reception they got from the friends they had
made in those fair villages of Wiirttemberg two months
before, it is easy to imagine. The horse remained at
Soflingen with Marlborough, who was expecting a definite
communication from the Electress. But after a delay of
three days, the Duke entrusted the conduct of the negotia-
tions to Wratislaw, and taking a circuitous road to the right,
rejoined Churchill at Mundelsheim. General Thungen,
with twenty-three battalions and fifteen squadrons, was
left behind to form the siege of Ulm.

On September i, on the invitation of the Duke of
Wiirttemberg, Marlborough and several of his officers pro-

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 217: The Duke to the Duchess, August 21, 1704.


ceeded to Stuttgart, where they were magnificently enter-
tained. On the 2nd he passed the Neckar at Lauffen. On
the 5th he encamped within easy distance of Philippsburg,
where Eugene had already arrived. That afternoon the
two commanders crossed the Rhine to reconnoitre. Villeroi
lay behind the River Queich; but he showed his cavalry
beyond it. Fearful lest the French should forestall them,
Marlborough and Eugene threw a detachment over the
Rhine on the morning of the 6th, and occupied the strong
position of Speyerbach. The rest of the army followed on
the same, and the ensuing, day. By the 8th, when the
Margrave arrived with the Imperialist horse, the concentra-

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 44)