McLaughlin Bros.

Autobiography; a collection of the most instructive and amusing lives ever published online

. (page 21 of 27)
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him to peace, of which they were ardently desirous. I
durst not be alone a moment with the marshal, iest
idle stories should be circulated respecting us; and
one or the other might appear suspicious to our courts,
where one is always sure to have good friends, who
are never asleep. After manifesting my consideration
for the illustrious vanquished, whenever we were toge-
ther, at the play, and when we went abroad in the
streets, where I observed that he was universally adored,
I caused him and his brave garrison to be conducted
to Douay, with a large escort and all possible honours.

In one of our conversations I said to him ; " If you
could have been both within the place and without at
the same time, M. le Mareohal, and if no other princes
of France had been there but M. de Venddme, to whom
I give that title out of love to Henry the Fourth, I
should never have taken Lisle."

" Do you believe in gocd luck in war V* said he ;
** I see nothing in you but good management.'*^*^ If
I have occasionally shown some," repliecl I, ** it is be-
cause I have been fortunate enough to be opposed by
bad generals ; and that is good luck.'* — « In my opi-
nion,^ said the marshal, <* bad luck consists only in
the want of opportunity to distinguish one*s self : but a
beaten general U always in the wrong, without some
extraordinary accident, such as an order misunderstood,
or the death of the messeneer : he may then have some
excuse, but there is none for the general who is sur-
prised and defeated. The ignorant alone make war a
game of chance, and they are caught at last. Charles
the Twelfth is not one of these ; Ixit I see bv the news
ythich I have this morning received, that while we are
speaking, he is playing very <kep." (14.)

After retaking Ghent and Bruges, Marlborough and
I put our troops in winter-quarters, and went for a
month to Brussels; but my mother was no longer

1 709.— Janvary the 9th, we set out for the Hague.

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l4 was nothing but a series of honours and festivities ;

f resents for Marlborough, and fire- works for me. But
prevented a magnificent exhibition, by requesting
the states-general to give the money it was to have
cost, to their brave soldiers, whom I had caused to be
crippled ; and the 20th of January I set off for Vienna,
to report and ask for farther orders.

I was directed to make peace, if the enemy would
comply with all my demands. I returned on the 8th
of April to the Hague, where I found the plenipoten-
tiaries of, the king of France. Famine, a winter more
severe than had ever been known, want of men and
money, made him wish for peace ; but the vanquished
forget that they are such, as soon as they enter into
negotiation. They mistake obstinacy for firmi^ss, and
at last get more soundly beaten than before.

One hundred thousand men were again under Marl-
borough's command and mine in the Low Countries ;
and the same number under Villars. " I am going,''
said he to the king on taking leave, " to drive your
enemies so far, that they shall not again see the banks
of the Scheldt ; and by a battle on my arrival, to re-
gain all that has been taken from your majesty."

Without wishing to avoid one, for he was morally
and physically brave, he took an extremely advan-
tageous' position : this was one of his great talents ; he
wanted very little to be a perfect general. With rein-
forcements, which poured into us on all sides, we
were stronger than he, but there was no possibility of
attacking him where he was. To oblige him to quit
his position, we resolved to besiege Toumay. The
trenches were opened on the 7th of July, the white
flag was hoisted on the 28th, and on the 21st of
August, after the most terrible subterraneous war that
I ever witnessed, (for in twenty-six days the besieged
sprung thirty-eight mines,) the citadel surrendered,
villars never stirred. ** Let us go and take Mons,"
said I to Marlborough ; ** perhaps this devil of a fellow
will tire of being so prudent." - Madame de Mainteuon
did not^give him credit for so much prudencie .as h^


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possessed, though she was very fond of him $ for she
permitted Louis the Fourteenth to send marshal Bouf-
flers to assist him. Certain enemies of ViUars, at
Versailles, hoped to disgust him ; hut I have alreadjr
proved, that orave men agree, and love and esteem
each other. The two marshals would gladly have
saved Mons without risking a hattle ; we stood upon
ceremony to know which party should oblige the other
to give it. As soon as our troops from Tournay had
arrived : " Let us lose no time," said^I ; •• and in
spite of one hundred and twenty thousand men, woods,
hedges, villages, holes, triple entrenchments, a hun-
dred pieces of cannon and abattis, let us put an end
to the war in one day."

The deputies of Holland, and some faint-hearted
generals, objected, remonstrated, and annoyed me.
It was of no use to tell them that the excellent veteran
French soldiers were killed in the six or seven battles
which Marlborough and I had gained ; and though I
well knew that young ones are formed but too expedi*
tiously, an advantage in which they are superior to all
other nations, we determined upon the battle of Mai-
plaquet. The 11th of September a thick fog concealed
our dispositions from the marshals ; we dispelled it at
eight in the morning, by a general discharge of all our
artillery. This military music was succeeded by that
of hautboys, drums, fifes, and trumpets, with which I
treated both armies. We then saw Villars proceeding
through all the ranks. As the French can never hear
enough of their king ; ** My friends," said he to them,
as I have been told, '' the king commands me to fight :
are you not very glad of it ?*' He was answered with
shouts of — Long live the king and M. de Villars ? I
attacked the wood of Sars without shouting. I rallied
the English guards, who, at the beginning, were scat-
tered ; some from too much courage, and others from
a contrary reason : my German battalions supported
them. We had nevertheless been overwhelmed, but
for the duke of Argyle, who boldly climbing the para-
D«t of the eDtr«u^men^ ro94e me master of the wood.

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All this procured me a ball behind the ear ; and on
account of the quantity of blood which I lost, all those
about me advised me to have the wound dressed. ** If
I am beaten," I replied, ** it will not be worth while ;
and if the French are, I shall have plenty of time for
that.*' What could I have done better than to seek
death, after all the responsibility which I had again
taken upon myself on this occasion ? I beg pardon for
this digression and personality ; but one cannot help
being a man. To endeavour to repair faults committed,
is, T acknowledge, more noble ; but to survive one's
glory is dreadful. My business on the right going on
well, I wished to decide that of the duke on the left,
which proceeded but slowly. In vain the prince of
Orange had planted a standard on the third entrench-
ment ; almost the whole Dutch corps was extended on
the ground, killed or wounded. For six hours Marl-
bo'x>ugh was engaged with the centre and the \e% with-
out any decisive advantage. My cavalry, which I
sent to his succour, was overthrown on the way by the
king's household troops; as they were in their turn by
a battery which took them in flank. At length Marl-
borough had gained ground without me; so that it
was easy for me to turn the centre of the enemy's
army, which had been left unsupported in consequence
of the defeat of the wings. — Boumers rendered the same
service to Villars as I did to Marlborough, and when
he beheld him fall from his horse, dangerously wmmded
below the knee, and the victory snatched from them,
he thought of nothing but how to make the finest re-
treat in the best possible order. I think it is not too
much to estimate the loss of both armies at forty thou-
sand men : those who were not killed died of fatigue.
I gave some rest to the remains of my troops, buried
all I could, and then marched to Mons.

Tliere were but five thousand men in that place. I
opened the trenches on the 25th of September, and ou
the 22d of October, being on the point of assaulting
the horn-work of Bertamont, Gnmaldi capitulated.
Our troops went into winte^ quarters ; and I, being
3 A 2

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84 ' MEMOIRS or

obliged to post about without intermission, proceeded
with Marlborough to the Hague, to coax tne states-
general, who were ready to abandon our cause. I ad-
vised them to say at the conference of Gertruidenberg,
that they would not hear of peace unless it were gene-
ral. Tis a good way to protract a war ; for out of
four or five powers, you may wager that there is one
whose interest it is not to make peace. I was sure of
queen Anne, because I was sure of Marlborough ; he
seconded me admirably. I went to report to the em-
peror. £ submitted to him a sketch of the state of
Europe, of which I could see that his cabinet had not
the least idea. I stated the inclination which I ob-
served in several powers to forsake us. At a distance
from danger, people are courageous. I was told that
I should make a glorious campaign. I replied, that I
had lost more men than could be given me ; but yet I
would try what I could do.

I collected three hundred thousand florins for my
army, which had for a long time been unpaid, and as
many recruits as I could, to reinforce Heister against
the Hungarian rebels, whom they had neither the
abilities to beat, nor the good sense to pacify. I soon
returned to the Low Countries, by way of Berlin,
where I alighted the 1st of April:

1710.— At the house of my good friend, the prince of
Anhalt Dessau. It was necessary to prevent the king
of Prussia, who imagined that tne Swedish monarch
would cut out work for him, from withdrawing his troops
from Italy, where the duke of Savoy, meditating an in-
vasion of Dauphin^, stood in need of them.

Frederic William promised me that they should re-
main. I demonstrated to him that since the battle of
Pultawa there was no Charles the Twelfth, and that
he was the prisoner of his friends the Turks.

I was sorry for it ; for he never could have been a
Gustavus Adolphus, who made the empire tremble ; but
I wished the aggrandizement of Russia to be prevented,
iind looked upon Sweden as a counterpoise for main-
^ning the equilibrium of £urope. The king of Prussi h

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gave me a fine svrord, and a snuff-box W<orth twenty-
four thousand florins, which was a great deal for a prince
both poor and avaricious. I proceed on the 15th of
April to join Marlborough at the Hague; and on ar-
riving in Flanders, we found the French lines, from Mau-
beuge to Ypres, carried by Cumberland. We went to
lay siege to Douai.

My equipages, coming from Holland by water, were
taken by a French partisan near Antwerp : plate, boxes,
and the presents which I had just received. Louis the
Fourteenth, probably from the impression made upon
him by the respectful message which I had sent by the
Marshal de Boufflers, order^ the whole to be restored
to me. I gave five hundred ducats and a gold-hilted
sword to the partisan. I caused the trenches to be
opened in the night between the 5th and 6th of May.
Albergotti made a vigorous sally on the 8th, which gave
me a good deal of trouble. No governor ever made so
many sorties : he sometimes maoe four in a day.

Villars, having recovered from his wound, arrived from
Paris to oblige us to raise the siege. We took a good
position, and though it was not so strong as that which
ne had occupied at Malplaquet, the preceding year, yet
he respected it. The many battles and towns lost by
the French since the commencement of the century, had
rendered them cautious, and Villars too ; which is say-
ing a grreat deal. On the 24th of June, Douai sur*

It came to my turn to be cautious likewise. I de-
signed to take Arras, and then there would have been
nothing to prevent my marching to Paris ; but Villars
frustrated my plan, by taking an excellent position,
where I durst not attack him. I consoled myself by
the reduction of Bethune, which was the business of
eight days. On the 14th of August we gained a tole-
rable advantage. Villars, always courageous in his own
person, when he could not be so with his army, gave
broglio five hundred horse to cut ojpf a large foraging
party, and marched himself at the head of fifty squa-
drons to support him. Broglio, eager for the aitnck, fell
2 An



into an ambuscade, and Villars returned extremely

Marlborough had a strong desire to attack him.
said to him, ^' I \viU wager that it is not to be done :
but let us reconnoitre him."—" Well then," said he,
finding this to be the case, " let us go on taking towns.'*
On the 1 6th we opened the trenches before St Venant,
and on the 28th it capitulated.

. The siege of Aix did not proceed so rapidly ; it was
not till the beginning of November, that, after great
efforts of valour on b^th sides, the besiegers carried the
covered way. The brave Goebriant nevertheless de-
fended himself till the 8th. We went into winter-quar-
ters. The Hague being the head of the coalition, which
I saw every moment ready to tumble to pieces^ I went
thither again with Marlborough, and returned to Vienna
on the 26th of January.

171t. — I there found the emperor and his ministers
still undecided between their private haughtiness and
the public interest. " A halter or a ribbon, in one word,'*
said I, ** for Ragotzi and Caroli. Put an end to this
tedious rebellion ; (15) you may do it cheaply, for the
Turks are going to march in behalf of Charles the
Twelfth ; and unless Peter the First commit some egre-
gious folly, he will find them employment for a long time.

They sent to me— I may say to me, because they
have a notion that the president of war is the grand vizir
— a minister named Zephala Aga, to assure the emperor
that they had no quarrel with him ; but that it was the
Russians on whom his highness, as he said, was going
to take vengeknoe, for reasons known to the whole
world. These were his own words.

Joseph the First was attacked with the small-pox.
There were no good physicians at Vienna. They sent
to Lintz for one. It came out in such abundance, that
I thought him out of dangler. Before my departure for
the Low Countries, I would have taken leave of him ,
he sent me word that I had but too much exposed my
life for him already, and that he wanted it elsewhere
than for the small-pox. I insisted no farther, and set

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off on the 16th of April. Three days afterwards I was
informed of his death, occasioned by the ignorance of
the faculty of Upper and Lower Austria, who disputed
all night about the means of relieving an inflammation
of the bowels, with which the emperor was ajfiicted. I
sincerely regretted this prince, aged thirty-three : the
first, since Charles the Fifth, who possessed genius, and
was not superstitious ; and I determined to serve him
even after his death. I hurried to almost all the electors
to dispose them to ensure the imperial crown to his
brother, and then went to solicit the Dutch to continue
their credit in money and friendship to Charles the
Third, King 6f Spain, who became by the title of £mperor,
Charles the Sixth.

The protestants did not fail to give out that the Court
of Rome, which had suffered some humiliations from
Joseph the First, had bribed his physicians ; but no credit
should be attached to deiamatory libels, to private anec-
dotes, as they are called, and to malicious doubts. It
has long been the fashion to assert that great personages
die of poison. (J 6.)

Tallard, more dangerous in peace than in war, whom
I would not have left prisoner in England could I have
suspected that he would there acquire any influence,
enabled the tories to triumph, and crush the whigs.
His assiduous attention to Mrs Masham, the queen's
new favourite, instead of the duchess of Marlborough,
his insinuating manners, and his presents of Burgundy
and Champagne to right honourable members of par-
liament, who were amateurs of those wines, changed
the aspect of European affairs, not to mention a M.
Menager, who was sent to that country by Louis the
Fourteenth. The consequences will be seen presently.

Marlborough was playing his last game in the Low
Countries. He found means to finish his military career
there with glory ; he forced the French lines behind the
Senz^e, and took the city of Bouchain.

On the disgrace of the duchess, a thousand faults
were discovered in him. His pride was denominated
insolence, and his rather too great ec6nomy was called

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peculation and extortion. His friends, as mxy be sup.
posed, behaved like friends ; and that is saying suffi-
cient. He was recalled : to me this was a thunderbolt.
The French assembled on the Rhine : I sent Vehleii
with a strong detachment from the Low Countries, and,
leaving the Hague on the 19th of July, I collected, as
expeditiously as possible, all the troops I could at Frank-
furt, and took so good a position in a camp near
Miihlberg, as to cause to be held and to cover the
election to the imperial crown, which would have been
lost had I received a check. The French durst not
disturb it; this was for me a campaign of prudence
rather than of glory.

Queen Anne threw off all restraint. She had givea
an unfavourable reception to the Dutch ambassador,
and had forbidden Qallas, the imperial minister, her
court ; assigning as a reason certain expressions which
he was said to have used respecting her. Charles the
Sixth ordered me to repair the blunders of Gallas, if he
had committed any, and to regain the court of St.

Had I acted as my good cousin Victor Amadaeus
would have done in my place, I should have cried out
against Marlborough still more loudly than his ene-
mies, and have revised to see him. But from policy
itself, persons of narrow minds ought to counterfeit
feeling. Their designs are too easily seen through.
They are despised, and miss their object. Gratitude,
esteem, the partnership in so many military operations,
and pity fiwr a person in disgrace, caused me to throw
myself with emotion into Marlborough's arms. Be-
sides, on such occasions, the heart proves . victorious.
The people, who followed me every where from the
moment I set foot in London, perceived it, and liked
me the better for this : while the opposition, and the
honest part of the court, esteemed roe the more. In
one way or other, all was over for Austria. I coaxed
the people in power a good deal. I m^de presents ;
there is scarcely any thing but what may be bought in
England. I offered to procure the recall of Gallas.

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I delivered a memorial on this suliject, and requested
the queen to take other bases at the congress of Utrecht,
where her plenipotentiaries already were, that the em-
peror might be enabled to send his thither. I received
so vague a reply, that had the court of Vienna believed
me, they would not have reckoned at all upon the
feeble succour of the duke of Ormond, who set out to
command the English, as successor to the duke of
Marlborough, and I should not have lost the battle of
Denain. This happened in the following manner: —
Notwithstanding my distinguished reception from the
queen, who, at my departure, presented me with her
portrait, I went and told the states-general that we had
now nobody on whom we could rely but themselves ;
and passing through Utrecht to make my observations,
I found the tone of the French so altered, so elevated,
that I was more certain than ever of the truth of what
I had announced. On my arrival at the abbey of An-
chin, where I assembled my army, amounting to up-
wards of one hundred thousand men, Ormond came
and made me the fairest promises, and had the goodness
to consent to my passing the Scheldt below Bouchain.
But after feigning to agree to the siege of Quesnoi, he
first strove to dissuade me from that step, and then,
without reserve, refused to concur in it. I said to him,
" Well, sir, I will do without your eighteen thousand
men.*' " I shall .lead them," said he, " to take posses-
sion of Dunkirk, which the French are to deliver to me."
" I congratulate the two nations,*' replied I, " on this
operation, which will do equal honour to both. Adieu,
sir." He ordered all the troops in the pay of England
to follow him. Very few obeyed. I had foreseen the
blow, and had made sure of the prince of Anhalt, and
the prince of Hesse Cassel.

July the 30th, I took Quesnoi. I gave the direction
of the fiege of Landrecy to the prince of Anhalt, and
entered the lines which I had directed to be formed
between Marchiennes and Denain. The Dutch had
collected large stores of ammunition and provisions at
Marchiennes. In vain 1 represented to them that they

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would be better at Quesnoi, only three leagues from
Landrecy, and but ten from us ; the economy of these
gentlemen opposed the change. This made me say
peevishly, and as I have been told, with an oath, one
day when Alexander's conquests were the subject of
conversation : ** lie had no Dutch deputies with his
army." I ordered twenty of their battalions, and ten
squadrons under the command of the earl of Albemarle,
to enter the lines, and approached Quesnoi, with the
main body of my army, to watch the motions of Villars.
During all these shuffling* tricks, of which I foresaw
that 1 should be the dupe, and which Louis the Four-
teenth knew nothing of, I made him tremble upon his
throne. At a very small distance from Versailles, one
of my partisans carried off Berenghen, under the idea
that it was the dauphin : others pillaged Champagne
and Lorraine. Growenstein, with two thousand horse,
levied contributions all over the country, spreading
dismay, and declaring that I was at his heels with my
army. It was then that he is reported to have said,
" If I^andrecy be taken, I will put myself at the head of
my nobility, and perish rather than see my kingdom
lost." Would he have done so? I cannot tell. He
wanted once to leave the trenches, but was dissuaded.
Henry the Fourth, when formerly the contrary advice
was given him, made the sign of the cross, and remained
where he was.

Villars, thinking bimself not strong enough to attack
me, as I had hop^ he would, attempted the deliverance
of Denain in another way. 1 have mentioned my vexa-
tion respecting the magazines at Marchiennes, upon
which depended the continuation of the siege. Two
leagues of ground were too much for the Dutch corps.
But for the defection of the English, they might have
been defended. The following circumstance demon-
strated the talents of Villars, and a kind of fault with
which I had to reproach myself: to conceal a move-
ment made on his left towards tlie Scheldt, with the
Sreatest possible secrecy and celerity, he with his right
r«w my attention to Laodrecy, as if he designed to

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attack the lines of couutervallation. All at once he
drew back his right towards his left, which, during the
night, had easily thrown bridges across the Scheldt,
which is not wide at this place. These two wings
united, advanced unknown to the earl of Albemarle,
who attempted with his cavalry, but in vain, to fight
what had passed. He relied upon me, but I reckoned
upon him. On the first firing of his artillery, I marched
to his succour, with a strong detachment of dragoons,
at full trot, intending to make them dismount, if neces-
saiy, and followed by my infantry, which came up at a
quick pace. The cowardice of the Dutch rendered my
efforts unavailing. Had they but maintained themselves
half an hour in the post of Denain, I had been in time.
So I had calculated, in case of the worst, though I was
deceived by the manoeuvre of Villars.

I found only eight hundred men, and three or four
generals drowned in the Scheldt ; and all those who had
been surprised in their entrenchments, killed without
making any defence. Albemarle, and all the princes
and generals in the Dutch service, were taken prisoners,
while endeavouring to rally their troops. The conduct
of the former was represented in very black colours to
the states-ffeneral. I wrote to Heinsius, the pensionary :

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Online LibraryMcLaughlin BrosAutobiography; a collection of the most instructive and amusing lives ever published → online text (page 21 of 27)