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tion was complete.

Villeroi and Marsin, who were supposed to be preventing
the siege of Landau, made no attempt to oppose the passage
of the Rhine. For some days they had been entrenching
themselves upon the southern bank of the Queich, and
constructing palisades across the fords. But they could
not impose upon the victors of the Schellenberg and Blen-
heim. The situation now was governed, not by maxims,
but by realities. The moral factor was now omnipotent.
One army was convinced that it could not lose, and the other
that it could not win. When, therefore, on the 9th, the
allies advanced against the French position, Villeroi
commanded an immediate retreat. The movement was
executed with such alacrity that it could hardly be dis-
tinguished from a rout. The allies passed the river, and
occupied the French lines, while Villeroi halted at Langen-
candel, which, according to Marlborough, had been " in all
times famous for being a strong post, it being covered with
thick woods and marshy grounds. "■"• All night the French
lay on their arms; but no sooner were they apprised, on the
morning of the loth, of the continued advance of the allies,
than they resumed their disorderly retreat. That day they
passed the Lauter, and subsequently they retired as far
southward as Hagenau and the hne of the Motter. This
precipitate flight from approved positions of defence was the
highest compliment that could be paid to Marlborough
and Eugene and the troops under their command. As

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 220: Marlborongli to Godolphin, September 12, 1704.


Marlborough himself said, " if they had not been the most
frightened people in the world, they would never have
quitted these two posts. "^

The siege of Landau was entrusted to the Margrave. It
was covered by the forces of Marlborough and Eugene,
which encamped at Cron-Weissenburg. Unfortunately
the defences of the place proved to be far stronger than
had been anticipated, while the Imperialist troops were
found very deficient in all the necessaries of a besieging
army. Marlborough exerted himself to supply what was
needed; in particular, he ordered up the Hessian cannon
from Mannheim, and he improved communications across
the Rhine by the occupation of Lauterburg. The fall of
Ulm, which occurred on the nth, not only released
Thungen's detachment, but also provided the allies with a
valuable store of munitions and artillery, discovered in that
fortress. The trenches were opened on the i6th, but the
operation was attended with considerable loss. From the
very outset the garrison showed itself to be exceptionally
vigilant and active. The commander, Laubanie, understood
the greatness of his opportunity. Winter was approaching;
and every day that the victors of Blenheim could be de-
tained before Landau was a day gained for France.

On the 2ist, the Emperor's heir, the King of the Romans,
who was an enthusiastic admirer of the Duke of Marlborough,
arrived in the Margrave's camp, and assumed the nominal
command of the siege. Here he was visited by Marlborough
and Eugene. On October 2 he honoured them with
his company at Cron-Weissenburg, where he reviewed the
covering army and dined with the Duke. The Emperor was
at this time writing to Marlborough under the title of "Prince
of the Holy Roman Empire." In the eyes of the grateful
monarch this dignity, which had been proffered even before
the Schellenberg, seemed after Blenheim to be greatly over-
due. Anne's consent had now been obtained. But the
Duke represented to Wratislaw that, until the Emperor
assigned him an imperial fief and formally gave notice of
the new creation to the other princes, he would prefer that
the matter should continue in abeyance.

1 Ibid.


Ever since the battle of Blenheim the state of the Duke's
health had caused some anxiety to his friends. Fever,
induced by bodily fatigue and mental strain, had rendered
him so weak that amid the autumnal damps of the Rhine
valley he fell an easy victim to a severe attack of ague.
"Your care," he wrote to the Duchess, "must nurse me
this winter, or I shall certainly be in a consumption."-"-
And to Godolphin he declared, " You will find me ten years
older than when I left England."^ But no solicitations could
induce him to quit the army. The situation at Landau was
far from satisfactory. Though Villeroi made no attempt
to intervene, operations were obstructed by continual rain
and by the ingenuity of the garrison. To Marlborough,
impatient as he was to seize the line of the Moselle before the
French could recover from their present panic, the delay was
exasperating, especially as it was in part attributable to the
mistakes of the besiegers. "Our people," he wrote to
Harley on October 6, " are advancing by the sap, in
order to make a lodgment on the counterscarp. This
method may save a few men, but will cost the more time,
and it may be a great many more men in the end by sick-
ness."^ Unlike so many inferior commanders in all ages,
Marlborough never forgot that in war the swiftest way is
usually the most humane.

But neither vexation of spirit, nor bodily infirmity, nor
the remonstrances of those he loved, could turn him from
his project. Whether Landau fell or not, he was resolved
that, before the campaign closed, the Moselle from Coblenz to
Treves should be in the possession of the allies. In a sense
the project was greatly favoured by the siege of Landau.
For the French assumed that, until one important operation
had been terminated, another would not be commenced,
and that in any event the numbers at the disposal of the
allies were insufficient for the conduct of two such under-
takings at the same time. But this very campaign had
already demonstrated in striking fashion that the generals
who make the most assumptions are those who suffer the
most surprises. Marlborough, whose intelligence depart-

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 226: The Duke to the Duchess, October lo, 1704.

2 Jhid., p. 225: Marlborough to Godolphin, August 23, 1704.

3 Murray, vol. i., p. 497: Marlborough to Harley, October 6, 1704.


merit was usually very efficient, was aware that the enemy
regarded the siege of Landau as the concluding act of the
campaign. He decided therefore to leave Eugene at Weis-
senburg, and with a small detachment to make a rapid dash
on Treves, which was a place incapable of serious defence.
If Treves were taken, the fortress of Trarbach, which
dominated the Moselle between that city and Coblenz, would
then be isolated; and with the co-operation of the Dutch
government and the German princes, it could be besieged
in form. Having arranged that twelve battalions of
Overkirk's infantry should march towards Trarbach,
while the Elector Palatine, the Elector of Treves, and the
Landgrave of Hesse were to push forward artillery and sup-
plies in the same direction, Marlborough occupied Homburg
on the 13th with a small force. On the 19th, he dispatched
fourteen guns, four howitzers, and three battalions to the
same place. Twenty-two battalions followed on the 20th,
and forty-eight squadrons on the 21st. He himself arrived
on the 24th. On the ensuing day he set off for Treves. The
country was rough and barren ; but he marched with speed,
for his little army numbered no more than 12,000, and
rumours were reaching him that the French had divined his
object and had dispatched considerable detachments from
Hagenau and Flanders to anticipate him on the Moselle. In
reality, his movements had perplexed Marsin, who was at
first inclined to think that the allied troops were setting off
for their winter-quarters. Not until the 26th, when the
truth was known, did the Marshal order a detachment to
take the road to Metz. Marlborough had nobody to fear
save the Marquis d'Alegre, who had quitted Flanders to
organise a force (at Consaarbriick) for the protection of the
frontier. But d'Alegre was no better informed than Marsin.
After traversing what he described as " the terriblest country
that can be imagined for the march of an army with cannon,"-^
the Duke arrived at St. Wendel on the 26th. Fortunately
the weather was fine; otherwise the ways would have been
impassable for guns and baggage. Disquieting stories of
the enemy's movements continued to come through. Al-
though he was hopeful of capturing Treves before the French

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 228: Marlborough to Godolphin, October 26, 1704.


could effectually intervene, he was fearful lest they might
destroy the city and leave him only the ashes. His letters
from St. Wendel reveal his anxiety. " I should be very
unwilling to be beaten at the end of this campaign,"^ he
confessed to Godolphin. And to the Duchess he wrote:

" This march and my own spleen have given me
occasion to think how very unaccountable a creature
man is, to be seeking for honour in so barren a country
as this, when he is very sure that the greater part of
mankind, and may justly fear, that even his best friends,
would be apt to think ill of him should he have ill

But he still went manfully forward. On the 28th he came
to Hemerskeil within six leagues of Treves. That was a night
of terror in the ancient and famous city. Three hundred
of King Louis' soldiers garrisoned the fort of St. Martin;
and notwithstanding the politic tears which the French had
so recently shed over the sufferings of Bavaria, it was very
well known that " the barbarous method which they had
long practised " was " to burn the places they forsook."^
The citizens dispatched three deputies to Marlborough's
camp to represent to the English general the horror of their
situation. Before daylight the Duke was in the saddle.
Accompanied by all his cavalry and dragoons and followed
by four battalions of infantry, he took the road to Treves.
By II the anxious watchers in the town espied his
vanguard. Thereupon the French abandoned the fort,
flung their ammunition and stores into the Moselle, and
retreated precipitately across that river, burning the bridges
behind them. Quick as they were, the Duke's dragoons
were quicker, and captured some prisoners and baggage.
Marlborough had won, but by a very narrow margin. That
same day d'Alegre appeared at the head of a body of 500
horse within two leagues of Treves. He was supported by
a Httle army of 5,000 men; but on learning that the Duke
had already arrived, he promptly retired.

Having billeted his infantry in Treves and the neighbour-

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 228: Marlborough to Godolphin, October 26, 1704.

2 Ibid., p. 229: The Duke to the Duchess, October 26, 1704.

3 Burnet, vol. iv., p. 54.


ing villages, Marlborough collected 6,000 peasants and set
them to work on the defences of the city. His cavalry
encamped in a strong situation on the Saar, where they
protected the whole country against possible raids from
Thionville, Metz, and Saarlouis. Saarlouis was a post which
the Duke had designed to secure before the conclusion of
the campaign; but the forces at his disposal were inade-
quate to the task, and the prolongation of the siege of
Landau destroyed all hope of adding to their numbers.

The rocky fortress of Trarbach had still to be reduced.
On November i, having arranged the distribution of the
troops in their winter-quarters, Marlborough set off with
300 horse over the mountains to Berncastel, which he reached
on the 3rd. All was going well. Overkirk's detachment
had already arrived, and the siege-train was coming up
the river from Coblenz. He therefore entrusted the conduct
of the siege to the Prince of Hesse-Cassel, and departed on
the 4th for Landau, where he was disappointed to find that
the resources of the defence were not by any means ex-

But some consolation awaited him. His intervention
in the business of Bavaria had borne good fruit. On
November 10 a treaty was concluded by the King of the
Romans and the Bavarian representatives, whereby the
Electress undertook to disband her husband's army, to
surrender his fortresses, and to restore his conquests. In
return she was permitted to reside at Munich, to receive
a sufficient revenue, and to maintain a personal guard of
400 men. The country was placed under an Austrian

Neither at this time, nor at any other, could Marlborough
devote his undivided attention to his own command. Know-
ing that whatever was done in one theatre reacted sooner or
later on the operations in every other, he always regarded
the immense contest as an organic whole. His own marches,
battles, and sieges never absorbed so much of his energy
that he had none to bestow on the problems arising out of
the higher strategy of the war. Indeed, the more his out-
standing genius came to be acknowledged, the more he grew
to be regarded as strategist-in-chief to the Grand Alliance.


At the present moment the infirmity of the Empire was his
main concern. Though Blenheim had saved the power of
Austria from the destruction which threatened it from the
first day that Villars crossed the Rhine, the Hungarian
rebelHon, hke a chronic ulcer, continued still to drain those
resources which ought to have been concentrated against the
might of France. Blenheim indeed had done more harm
than good to the cause of domestic peace. For while the
rebels appeared to be very little depressed by the collapse
of their French and Bavarian allies, the Emperor and his
ministers, relieved from pressing danger, exhibited no genu-
ine inclination to come to terms. Both sides had accepted
the mediation of the Dutch and English governments, which
had instructed their envoys to promote a settlement. Marl-
borough had long been exerting himself to the same end.
The task was both difficult and delicate. Questions of
civil and religious liberty being involved, the English Whigs
and Nonconformists loudly proclaimed their sympathy with
a movement which menaced the very existence of England's
ally, and which notoriously flourished on the pay of England's
foe. This characteristic indiscretion by no means streng-
thened the Duke's hands. But the Austrian government
gave him a respectful ear, thanks entirely to his personal
prestige at the Court of Vienna and to the obvious sincerity
of his efforts, inspired as they were by a single-minded
anxiety for the interests of the coalition and not by any
pretension to impose the principles of the " Glorious Revolu-
tion " on a foreign state. Before the battle of the Schellen-
berg he had spoken his mind very freely to Wratislaw on
this subject. He was in constant communication with the
English ambassador. Stepney, in regard to it. At Weissen-
burg he took advantage of the presence of the King of the
Romans and Eugene to urge his views in quarters where
they were always assured of a friendly reception. And he
even summoned Stepney from Vienna to assist at the
deliberations. But his labour was in vain. The demands
of the malcontents were pitched too high, and the interests
arrayed against the policy of compromise proved to be too
powerful. Late in October, to the delight of the French
and to the great detriment of Europe, the negotiations ended


in hopeless failure. Marlborough was constrained to resign
himself to the indefinite continuance of this wasteful con-
flict. Already it was responsible for that lack of money
and material which had hampered the siege of Landau, while
in Italy it had paralysed the forces of the coalition through-
out the summer. In Italy, indeed, the French had easily
recovered the whole of Eugene's conquests except Miran-
dola; and though the Duke of Savoy stood firm, he was
greatly overmatched by Vendome, who captured VerceUi
and Ivrea, laid siege to Verrua, and threatened Turin itself.
Early in October an envoy from Victor Amadeus arrived
at Weissenburg to solicit the assistance of Marlborough and
Eugene. " We expect salvation from no side but from your
Grace," wrote Hill, the British agent at Turin, "but from
thence we do expect it."-*^ The English commander was
profoundly conscious of the strategical importance of the
territories of vSavoy, which constituted the very gates of
Italy. But he was at his wits' end to provide a remedy.
The only power which appeared capable of making the
necessary effort was Prussia. Marlborough accordingly
suggested to his government that he should go in person to
Berlin to solicit succour for Savoy. Anne and Godolphin,
who desired his presence in England, disliked the proposal;
Sarah, who knew how uncertain was the state of his health,
discouraged it; and the Duke himself, who sorely needed
repose, hated the idea of a long and tedious journey in
November. Moreover, the prospects of success seemed none
too bright. But the public interest prevailed; and on
October 16 he wrote to the King of Prussia to announce his
intention of visiting Berlin.

In Portugal the expectations founded on the advent of the
Austrian claimant had not been realised. The King of
Portugal was an invalid. His generals were incompetent,
his fortresses decayed, his magazines empty. His army was
a destitute, hcentious, and cowardly rabble. Schomberg,
who commanded the English contingent, had not inherited
his father's virtues. Deficient in energy as well as in tact,
he preferred the amusements of Lisbon to the care of his
soldiers, while he quarrelled with Fagel, the general of the

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 242.


Dutch, at the outset of the campaign. In these circumstances
Berwick, who commanded on the Spanish frontier, had an
easy task. The ahies, who, Hke the French in 1870, had
intended to invade, were themselves confronted with
invasion. Their forces, which were dispersed when they
ought to have been concentrated, suffered defeat in detail;
and several of their places were taken. Fortunately for
them the intense heat and the mortality among his horses
compelled Berwick to withdraw from Portugal on July i.
Schomberg, at his own request, was recalled. The campaign
in itself had been discreditable. But considered as a diver-
sion, it was not unpromising. England and Holland had
detached a force of 10,000 men to this new scene of opera-
tions; but 12,000 French, 23,000 Spaniards, and one of the
best generals in Louis' service had been withheld from Italy,
Germany, and Flanders. Before nominating a successor
to Schomberg, the government consulted Marlborough,
who recommended his old friend and companion-in-arms
Rouvigny, Earl of Galway, the hero of Aghrim.

The briUiant success of his Mediterranean strategy con-
soled Marlborough for all other disappointments. On
May 8 Rooke sailed from Lisbon with the combined
fleets of England and Holland. Hesse-Darmstadt and
2,300 marines accompanied him. Their orders were to pass
the Straits, and proceed to the assistance of the Duke of
Savoy, whose coast towns of Nizza and Villafranca were
supposed to be besieged by the French. Off Barcelona,
where Charles had many partisans, they made a demon-
stration; and Darmstadt went ashore with 1,600 marines.
But the governor arrested the principal malcontents, and
prepared for a vigorous defence. Having thrown a few
bombs into the place, the fleet continued its voyage. Its
appearance in the Gulf of Lyons excited the hopes of the
Camisards, and alarmed Villars, who was engaged in pacify-
ing the disturbed area. On June 4 the news arrived from
Lisbon that Nizza and Villafranca were not besieged, but
that the Brest fleet under Toulouse and d'Estrees was
making for Toulon, and had already passed the Tagus.
Thereupon Rooke started for Lisbon, where he hoped to find
Shovel with a squadron from England. On the 7th he


sighted the Frenchmen and gave chase, but without avail.
Knowing that the combined fleets of Brest and Toulon
would be too strong for him, he returned to Lisbon, where
he found Shovel. Methuen now sent him reiterated instruc-
tions to surprise Cadiz; but Rooke, whose caution was as
great as his courage, refused to make the attempt without the
aid of an army, and remained cruising near the Straits.
Darmstadt suggested an attack on Gibraltar. Rooke
concurred. On July 31 he sailed into the Bay. Darm-
stadt landed with the marines ; Byng cannonaded the fortress
from the sea; and the sailors gallantly stormed the New
Mole Fort. On August 6 the garrison marched out, and
Darmstadt took possession of the Rock in the name of
Charles IIL

The enormous importance of this acquisition was by no
means realised in England, where public opinion had not
sensibly advanced since the evil day when it forced Charles II
to abandon Tangier. But Marlborough's mature judg-
ment, confirming the impressions of his early youth, told
him plainly that without a secure base on the Mediterranean
England's naval strength could never be properly applied
in those waters. And of all possible bases none had a
strategical value so high as Gibraltar. For whoever holds
the Rock severs both the French and Spanish sea-power
into halves. In Paris and Madrid this truth was understood ;
and the extreme anxiety of both the Bourbon governments
to recover the lost position first drove into the minds of
Englishmen some comprehension of its worth in war. No
sooner had Darmstadt occupied the fortress than the enemy
began to move both by land and sea. The bulk of the Spanish
troops in Berwick's army prepared to march towards the
Straits, while Toulouse and d'Estrees descended upon Rooke.

Off Malaga, on August 24, the navies met in an obstinate
and bloody grapple. The French had more ships, cleaner
bottoms, and a better stock of ammunition. All day the
fight continued; but on the morrow, when Rooke offered to
renew it, the enemy made for Toulon. Though their casu-
alties were heavier than those of the allies, Malaga was
little better than a drawn battle. And yet, in a sense, it
was decisive. " From that day until the end of the war,"


says Clowes, " the French never again allowed their grand
fleet to risk a general engagement."^ Henceforward they
conceded to England and Holland the command of the sea,
and devoted their energies to the fitting out of single ships
and small squadrons which preyed upon the commerce of
the maritime powers.

Moreover, the immediate strategical advantage rested
with Rooke. Had he been beaten, Gibraltar would have
been shut up by sea as well as by land. The Spaniards were
already blockading it by land; but on the 30th Rooke
anchored once more in the Bay and began to furnish the
garrison with all things needful for the defence. Provisions
for three months, sixty heavy cannon, gunners, marines,
carpenters, and bomb vessels having all been supplied
by the allied squadrons, Rooke set sail for England on
September 21. Sir John Leake with sixteen ships of the
line remained at Lisbon for the winter.

The siege of Gibraltar began almost immediately. The
Spanish troops were arriving daily, and on October 4 a
French squadron under Pointis sailed in from Toulon, and
landed 4,000 men with guns and stores. On October 21
the trenches were opened. Darmstadt had improved the
fortifications of the place, and his garrison numbered 2,500,
mostly English. But it was evident now that Gibraltar
could not be held without a great expenditure of men and
money. The task ought properly to have been undertaken
by Charles III and the King of Portugal. But the Queen's
government foresaw that the burden would in fact devolve
upon England, and before deciding to add to their respon-
sibilities the maintenance of what the majority of English-
men regarded as a barren and unprofitable cliff, they con-
sulted Marlborough. His reply, written from Berncastel on
November 3, was unequivocal. The place must be relieved by
sea, and " no cost ought to be spared to maintain it."^ The
soundness of this opinion was endorsed by the obvious em-
barrassment of the enemy in the Peninsula, where the depar-
ture of 8,000 Spaniards for Gibraltar left Berwick so weak
that the alhes in Portugal ventured to pass the frontier and

1 Clowes, Royal Navy, vol. ii., p. 404.

2 Murray, vol. i., p. 526: Marlborough to Sir Charles Hedges, Novem-
ber 3, 1704.


advance against Ciudad Rodrigo. Berwick took up a
strong position on the Agueda, and obliged them to go back,
But he himself was recalled, because he wisely had refused
at this critical moment to detach French troops from the
army on the frontier to the siege of Gibraltar.

Marlborough, on his return from the Moselle, did not stay

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 24 of 44)