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never condescended to employ them. But Feuquieres'
view was not accepted by the majority of contemporary
soldiers, French, German, or Dutch. Marlborough's achieve-
ment was regarded by the mass of opinion, both civil and
military, with astonishment and admiration .■"■ That fact
alone gave it a moral value that counted for much. In
any event, it was not a little absurd for Villeroi and his
government to pretend that nothing had been done. If
the lines were really worthless, only the insane would have
spent so much money on their construction, and taken sucli
elaborate precautions for their defence.

The truth of this matter is very simple. Those who
designed the Hues of Brabant intended them to prevent

1 Alison, vol. i., p. 216.


an invading army from subsisting on the soil of Brabant
and Flanders. They intended them also to be used as a
screen, behind which an army could mobilise within striking
distance of Maestricht and the Meuse. And finally they
intended them to serve as a species of outwork to that
barrier of fortresses which guarded the road to Picardy and
Artois. These three objects they had successfully fulfilled
for more than three years. Against a government so
timorous as that of Holland, and against generals so hide-
bound as those whom it ordinarily employed, the lines had
played a long and useful part in Louis' system of defensive
strategy. Had Marlborough been permitted a free hand,
he would have forced or turned them in his first campaign.
But Marlborough was probably the only officer in either
army who thoroughly despised them.

The fortresses behind them, however, he did not despise.
Sieges meant delay; and to the Grand Alhance delay meant
danger. For this reason alone, the French government
had always desired nothing better than to fix the war in
the Spanish Netherlands. "Our army is in great heart,"
wrote Marlborough, shortly after the capture of the lines,
" but you know this country is such that it is very hard
to force an enemy to fight when he has no mind to it."-^
And Louis certainly had no mind to it. He was playing
still for time. By the mere efflux of time he beheved that
the coalition was certain to dissolve. To evacuate the
country inch by inch, to surrender after a protracted defence
one fortress, or two at the most, in each campaign, to
watch the growth of popular discontents and mutual
jealousies among the members of the coalition, and then,
at the proper moment, by the judicious offer of attractive
terms to one of them, to cast among his enemies the apple
of discord — such was the sagacious pohcy of Louis. Marl-
borough saw through it from the very beginning. His
answer to it was the invasion of France herself by the valley
of the Moselle.

But this project had collapsed. The Germans and the
Austrians had ruined it. The Dutch themselves had

1 Portland MSS.: Letter from the Duke of Marlborough to Lord [Port-
land], July 27, 1705 (Hist. MSS. Comm., 15th Report, Appendix, part
v., p. 212).


adopted it with considerable reluctance, for all that the
Dutch desired out of the war was the acquisition of a
barrier of French and Spanish fortresses. Marlborough
knew well that the piecemeal conquest of this barrier
could be effected only by the expenditure of a wholly dis-
proportionate quantity of blood and money. He knew too
that every acre of earth wrested from the French in the
Spanish Netherlands, would become a fertile source of
dissension between the people of Holland and the House
of Hapsburg. On mihtary and political grounds alike, the
cheapest, the swiftest, and the safest policy for the Grand
AlUance was to march their armies through Champagne
to Paris, and to dictate terms at Versailles. When the
booty had been won, there would be time enough to quarrel
over the division of it.

The campaign of 1705, in which the coalition definitely
showed itself unable or unwiUing to adopt the strategy of
]\Iarlborough, and deliberately, and with open eyes, played
into the hands of Louis, is the most critical epoch in the
whole struggle. Wars such as that of the Spanish Succession
can be waged in two ways. Each of the allies may proceed
upon his own account to attack that portion of the common
enemy's territory, which lies nearest to his own frontier,
and to hold all that he can conquer, for his own benefit.
This method is congenial to selfish and narrow-minded
governments and to military systems of the more slow
than sure variety. Strategically, it is so vicious and un-
sound that, as against an opponent who is guided by the
true principles of defensive warfare, it is bound to fail.
As against all others, it possesses some advantages. Each
member of the confederacy has his whole heart in the work ;
and each is likely to secure something which he will be
able to barter or to retain, when the ultimate settlement
arrives. On the other hand, the allies may agree to treat
their forces as a homogeneous whole, to be arranged and
applied according to the judgment of the best commanders
and with the sole object of procuring as quickly as possible
a decisive result. This is the most efficient, the most
humane, and the most economical method of procedure.
It is thus that all great soldiers in the service of coalitions


have desired to act. It was on this principle that Marl-
borough, and the English government, inspired by Marl-
borough, endeavoured from the outset to conduct the war.
England had rejected Rochester's policy of grabbing what
she could for herself by land and sea, and had concentrated
all her resources, both military and naval, on the single
object of breaking the French power in Europe. She chose
the better part; but the rest of the coalition refused to
follow her example. The English people have a right to
congratulate themselves on the action of those English
statesmen, who, disregarding the easy and the popular
course, insisted that England at any rate should ' play
the game ' for the common good and not for her own hand.
It is also a matter for legitimate pride that a nation, not
usually accepted on the continent as a leading authority
upon military science, should, alone among the members
of the Grand Alliance, have striven to conduct the war in
accordance with the principles of an enhghtened strategy.


Greeted upon every hand by the plaudits of the army,
Marlborough rode straight from the field of battle to Tirle-
mont. The regiment of Monluc, 500 strong, which formed
the garrison, immediately laid down its arms. Its com-
missioned officers, who numbered twenty-one, raised the
total of the prisoners of that category to 100. In Tirlemont,
to-day a ' dead ' town, but at that time an important
centre, the allies discovered a Bavarian magazine. The
great church of Notre Dame was crowded with captives;
and the resources of the hospital of St. John were soon

The heart of the Duke was very full. He had been
profoundly touched by the unpolished, but sincere con-
gratulations of the soldiery. " It is impossible," he declared,
when he wrote a few hours later to the Duchess, " to say
too much good of the troops that were with me, for never
men fought better. "•'• But it was to him, and not to them-
selves, that these men ascribed the glory. The British
private has a long memory. In 1705 he had not forgotten
the wasted opportunities of 1702, or the humiliating farce
of 1703. Still less had he forgotten how, in 1704, freedom
from Dutch interference had automatically resulted in
splendid achievements. He noted that the lines had now
been entered and the French well beaten without any
assistance from Overkirk's army. And he contrived to
season his eulogies with something of the resentment which
he had long nourished against those whom he regarded as
envious and incompetent meddlers. The absence of the
Dutch army, said Marlborough, " was not their fault, for
they could not come sooner; but this gave occasion to the
troops with me to make me very kind expressions, even in
the heat of the action, which I own to you gives me great

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 294: The Duke to the Duchess, July 7/18, 1705.



pleasure, and makes me resolve to endure an3^thing for
their sake."-^

But the common soldiers did not restrict themselves to
compliments. The men who had fought at Landen and
knew the whole country by heart, cried out to the Duke,
as he rode towards the town, that there must be no delay
at Tirlemont. The famous city of Louvain, with its immense
magazines and its obsolete fortifications, was the natural
perquisite of victory. An immediate march to Louvain
v/ould probably compel the enemy to retreat upon Namur.
jNIechlin, Brussels, even Antwerp itself would probably be
lost to Louis. But if Villeroi and the Elector were permitted
to pass the Dyle, they would assume some defensive position
which would cover all those places, and which the Dutch
v/ould, of course, be frightened to assail. That the strate-
gists in the ranks were right for once, none knew better
than Marlborough himself. Exhausted and feverish though
he was, he was eager to press on.

It was 10 o'clock. Overkirk had crossed the Little
Geete, and the heads of his columns were approaching
Tirlemont. In answer to a message from the Duke he
reported that his infantry was extremely fatigued. The
Dutch army had decamped from Vinaimont at 3 a.m. on
the preceding day, and had marched ten miles to make
their feint against the French right. At 11 p.m. they had
again taken to the road, and had covered another seventeen
miles before they reached Tirlemont. The normal march
at that period was from nine to twelve miles for a day
of twenty-four hours. Overkirk's men had already done
twenty-seven in thirty-one hours. From Tirlemont to
Louvain was over eleven miles more. Could they do it ?
Overkirk was willing to ask them for the effort. But the
rest of their generals, and more particularly Dopf, objected.^

In Tirlemont the British officers were congratulating the
Duke, and Orkney and others were openly advocating an
immediate advance, when Schlangenberg arrived. Having
complimented Marlborough on his victory, he expressed
the view that, unless they proceeded at once to Louvain,

^ Ibid., p. 2q6: The Duke to the Duchess, July 9/20, 1705.
2 See Schh.ngenberg's letter in Lamberty, August 27, 1705 (t. iii.,
p. 488).

I. 20


the}^ would have accomplished nothing. Marlborough, who
had already learned that the Dutch generals had pronounced
against the march, was astonished .•'^ " I am very glad,
vSir," he replied, " to find you are of my opinion, for that
is my judgment of it too; I think we should march on,
and I entreat you go back and dispose your generals to it."
Schlangenberg went, but he did not return. Out on the
plain the Dutch soldiers were already pitching their

Far in the south Max Emanuel was observing the motions
of the allies through his glass. He was consumed with
anxiety lest they should beat him in a race for Louvain,
or should intercept him at Judoigne.^ He too had fought
by William's side at Landen, and he knew as well as
Marlborough and his men the strategic importance of
Louvain and the Dyle. H the allies marched, they would
march by the chord of the semi-circle; and the French upon
the arc could never outstrip them. But when from Tirle-
mont to the Little Geete he saw the long white lines of
tents spring up, he " cried out three or four times in a
rapture, ' Grace au Dieu, grace au ciel,' " and dashed on
towards Louvain.^

A British officer, who took part in these events, has left
on record the opinion that the Dutch infantry could certainly
have marched. " Those," he observes in a very notable
passage, " who know an army, and what soldiers are, know
very well that upon occasions like this where even the
common soldier is sensible of the reason of what he is to
do, and especially in the joy of success and victory, soldiers
with little entreaty will even outdo themselves, and march
and fatigue double with cheerfulness what their officers
would at another time compel them to do.""* He also
maintains that, even if six hours had been granted for
repose, the PTench would have been beaten in the race.
But in that event a collision might have resulted. It is
certain that the Dutch would never have consented to resume
the advance at 4 o'clock in the afternoon with a prospect

1 Portland MSS.: Major J. Cranstoun to Robert Cunningham, October i,
1705 (Hist. MSS. Comm., 15th Report, Appendix, part iv., p. 252).

2 Mhnoires de Maffei, t. li., pp. 136, 137.

3 Cranstoun 's letter, p. 253. ^ Ibid.


of ultimately committing the tired army to a disorderly
action in the twilight.

No official explanation of the halt at Tirlemont has ever
been published. Marlborough was always extremely loath
to suggest on paper that his relations with the Dutch were
other than harmonious. " One sees no forwardness in any
of these men," wrote Orkney, " but we must not speak
of what can't be helped, and, I do assure you, not of my
Lord's fault. "^ In his politic anxiety to facilitate the
smooth working of the coalition, and to conceal from the
knowledge of the French those S3^mptoms of dissension for
which they were continually looking, the Duke preferred
to hazard his own reputation by a patriotic silence. But
sooner or later his soldiers and his friends always divined
the truth. In the present instance the cause of the trouble
was not far to seek. Just as in the preceding year Marl-
borough had tricked the States, when he carried his army
from the Neckar to the Danube, so now he had tricked the
deputies and generals of the States into the passage of the
lines. " I was forced," he wrote to Godolphin, " to cheat
them into this action."^ In the words of his chaplain,
he "perfectly bubbled them into it."^ The Dutch ofhcers,
with the exception of Overkirk, resented the somewhat
ridiculous part which they had been obliged to play. Their
tempers were not improved by the freedom of comment in
which the English openly indulged. His melancholy ex-
periences in the campaigns of 1703 and 1703 more than
justified the artifice of Marlborough. But that was an
argument which the Dutchmen naturally could not allow.
They felt themselves humiliated in the sight of both armies
and of all Europe. And they determined to gratify their
spite by spoiling the victory. When Schlangenberg declared
that it was imperative to march forthwith to Louvain, he
had no intention of translating his words into action. He
said what he did, and said it publicly, in the hope that he
might afterwards be enabled to manipulate the incident,

^ English Historical Review, April, 1904 : Letters of Lord Orkney during
Marlborough's Campaigns, letter ii., July 20, 1705.

2 Coxe, vol. i., p. 295: Marlborough to Godolphin, July 7/18, 1705.

3 Hare MSS.: Francis Hare to his cousin (George Naylor), July 18, 1705
(Hist. MSS. Comm., 14th Report, Appendix, part ix., p. 202).


to the detriment of the Duke. Schlangenberg was a brave
man, who at Walcourt and at Eeckeren had exhibited under
fire both resoh^tion and resource. But he was deficient in
that higher courage, which, in cold blood, accepts without
shrinking the heaviest responsibilities. Moreover, he was
a chronic sufferer from constitutional disinclination to
obey superiors, a serious impediment to a military career.
Already, in the campaign of 1703, he had made no secret
of his jealousy of Marlborough. His formal complaint on
the subject of Overkirk's movement across the Mehaigne
was even now upon its way to the Hague. At Tirlemont,
therefore, he must have felt not a little foolish. But
his clumsy attempt to carry it off must have deceived

That Marlborough was disappointed, goes without saying.
He particularly wanted Louvain, because Louvain would
relieve him of the necessity of victualling his army from
so remote a base as Liege. But it does not appear that
he made any protest ; or if he did, he abstained from pressing
it. The wasted opportunity was not necessarily an irre-
parable loss. Marlborough believed, and rightly, that the
enemy had little stomach for a fight ; and he may well have
anticipated that Villeroi would abandon the line of the Dyle
exactly as in the last campaign he had abandoned the
positions on the Lauter and the Queich. But if, on the
contrary, the French stood firm, they could be given what
the Duke was uniformly anxious and able to bestow upon
them, a crushing overthrow. To manoeuvre the enemy out
of any number of square miles of valuable territory, was
always, in Marlborough's judgment, a less desirable object
than to pulverise their armed forces in the field. But in
any event, he would require the cordial co-operation of the
Dutch in the work which lay before him. He knew that
the government at the Hague would be delighted at his
latest exploit. As for the deputies, they came to him that
afternoon at Tirlemont, and frankly told him that, if he
had not rejoined the army, the lines would never have
been forced. It only remained to conciliate the generals.
The Duke was a little apprehensive of the generals. He
trusted, however, that in the universal jubilation over the


success of his design, they would pardon him for the secrecy
in which he had enveloped it. Friction, at such a moment,
must be avoided at all costs. When therefore he ascertained
that Overkirk's army had pitched its tents, he prudently
determined to acquiesce in a decision, which, though it
was opposed to his own judgment, did not, upon the face
of it, compromise the prospects of a fine campaign. His
patience surprised the English officers. " To tell truth,"
wrote Orkney, " the Dutch are so untoward in everything,
and my Lord so pestered with them that it is a wonder he
doth not leave the army."^

On the morning of Sunday, the 19th, the allies resumed
their advance. The main body of the enemy had passed
the Djde in the darkness; but Marlborough's cavalry just
struck their rear, and captured over 1,400 stragglers. The
net loss to the French army, in killed, wounded, and
prisoners, amounted therefore to at least 3,000 men, and
possibly exceeded 4,000. Counting deserters, the total
was fixed by some as high as 7,000 or 8,000.^ The garrisons
of Diest and Aerschot fell hastily back on Louvain. At
Bierbeek, over against that city, Marlborough estabUshed
his headquarters, and the aUied army extended itself to
right and left along the banks of the Dyle. The troops
were in the highest spirits. The enemy, on the other hand,
had fallen into a state of consternation not far removed
from panic. There were English officers in Marlborough's
army who considered that, if, instead of encamping, he had
instantly bridged the river, and hurled his men against
the French position, he would have met with no serious
resistance.^ This opinion may well have been justified. It
may well have been shared by Marlborough himself. But
the Dutch generals and field-deputies would assuredly have
denounced a frontal attack under such conditions as mere
massacre. To propose it to them would have been a futile
waste of time and temper.

The French in Louvain saluted Marlborough's quarters
with round-shot. He immediately sent to warn them that,
unless they desisted, he would lay the city in ashes. He

^ English Historical Review, April, 1904.

2 Lamberty, t. iii., p. 473. 3 Cranstoun's letter, p. 253.


was expecting a convoy of bread from Liege on the 21st,
and he intended to attempt the passage of the river on the
22nd. Incredible as it appears, he had actually obtained
the unanimous consent of the Dutch generals. But the
luck was now against him. Heavy rains set in on the 2Gth,
and continued with slight intermission for more than a week.
The little streams, so numerous in that low country, over-
flowed their banks. The highways, which were poor at
the best of times, became practically impassable. The
Dyle, a " deep, still river, "-^ grew deeper and less still.
The marshlands, bordering it on either side, expanded to
lagoons. Writing to Godolphin on the 23rd, Marlborough
reported that he was unable to move. "The great rains,"
he said, " have drowned all the meadows by which we
were to have marched."^ This delay robbed him of much
of the moral advantage on which he had relied. The ardour
of his victorious troops began to cool, while the French
had time to recover confidence and to complete their dis-
positions for defence. Such influence as the Duke, by his
recent success, had acquired over the field-deputies, waned
from day to day. For the vindictive generals, profiting
by the disappointment and depression which prevailed on
every hand, insinuated to their civiHan colleagues that the
Englishman was a muddler, who, by an excess of good
fortune which he little merited, obtained opportunities
which he was not competent to utilise. vSchlangenberg, in
particular, though he knew that Marlborough was not to
blame,^ dilated on the text that, but for the neglect shown
to the advice which he had disingenuously offered to the
Duke at Tirlemont, Louvain and the Dyle would already
have been theirs.

In these circumstances, it would not have been surprising,
if Marlborough had decided to level the captured lines and
return forthwith to Lorraine. Had he taken this course,
he would have gratified the government at Vienna, and he
would probably have received efficient support from the
princes on the Rhine. But apart from his invincible mis-
trust of the Margrave, and his natural repugnance to risking

^ Kane, p. G3.

2 Coxe, vol. i., p. 300: Marlborough to Godolphin, July 12/23, 1705-

^ See his letter in Lamberty, August 27, 1705 (t. iii., p.


his reputation a second time in that country, his true instinct
for war prompted him to strike again where he had aheady
struck. The Spanish Netherlands may not have been an
ideal theatre of operations; but it was better to follow up
a good blow in the Spanish Netherlands than to fritter
away the all too brief campaigning season in marching back-
wards and forwards between the Meuse and the Moselle.
He never doubted his own ability to make short work of
Villeroi and the Elector, if only the Dutch government
would strengthen his hands against their own field-deputies
and generals. Hompesch, whom he had dispatched to the
Hague with the news of the capture of the lines, had been
instructed to obtain, if possible, such enlarged powers as
would facilitate the adoption of a vigorous offensive. Fresh
from the perusal of Overkirk's report, in which " all
the honour "•■■ of the victory was frankly attributed to
Marlborough, the States might have been expected, in their
own most obvious interest, to augment the Duke's authority.
Yet they conceded nothing. They did indeed express
approval of his proposals, but always with the deadly and
stultifying proviso that the consent of the field-deputies and
generals must first be given on the spot. Marlborough
might well have despaired. Now, when his military reputa-
tion in Europe stood at least as high as Eugene's, he was
no more trusted by this committee of merchants and money-
lenders than when, as a comparatively unknown soldier,
he had assumed the command of their armies more than
three years before. Nevertheless, he still persevered. He
submitted his plans to a council of war, and patiently
endured whatever of criticism the malevolence and inepti-
tude of the Dutch generals could devise. Thanks to their
loquacity, or as Marlborough himself suspected, their actual
treachery, the enemy got wind of his designs. Certain
movements, which he intended as feints against the left
of the French position, were pointedly ignored by the
enemy, who concentrated persistently on their centre and
right. But the Duke declined to be discouraged. In the
last resort, he relied, as in the passage of the lines, upon

1 Pelet, t. v., p. 586: Lettre de M. D'Overkirke aux fitats-Generaux,
18 juillet, 1705.


his own troops. " I think it is for the service to continue
in two aniiics," he had written to Godolphin, " for mine,
that is much the biggest, does whatever I will have them;
and the others have got the ill custom of doing nothing
but by council of war.''-"^

When the weather improved, and the floods began to
subside, he prepared for the attempt. It was fixed for the
morning of the 29th. But at the last moment the field-

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 44)