Thomas Longueville.

Marshall Turenne online

. (page 16 of 26)
Online LibraryThomas LonguevilleMarshall Turenne → online text (page 16 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

carried to the rivers. Altogether, it was a very strong
position ! On the opposite side of Arras, to the north-
west, Hocquincourt was encamped on a steep hill called
Caesar's Camp, his left resting on the river Scarpe, while
a tributiiry of the Scarpe flowed round his right and
under his front, joining the Scarpe below the corner of
his left front.

Within the enemy's entrenchments, Conde lay in
the south, the Archduke in the east, Fuensaldagne in
the north, and Fernando de Solis in the west.

When Turenne, with his troops, having helped
Hocquincourt in taking St. Pol and St. Eloy, was re-
turning to his own camp at Mouchi le Preux, he took
the opportunity of riding along the enemy's western,
northern and eastern lines — carefully avoiding the
southern lines for a reason which will presently appear.
This reconnoitre, he says, "gave us great lights, both
how to make the attack, and as to the road we were to
take to the making it. . . . None but a few skirmishers
came out of the lines, which M. de Castelnau went and
took a close view of, and the cavalry marched all the
time within the reach of a three-pounder cannon-shot."
Turenne noticed that the lines in front of Dom Fer-
nando Solis's were "very naked," and then he rode
past the quarters of Fuensaldagne and the Archduke,
the whole ride occupying about a couple of hours, in
the course of which he made very careful observa-
tions. "The cannon of the Spaniards," says Ramsay,
"killed several of his soldiers." According to the
Duke of York, "there was never a squadron but lost

'ail' 4 Ji' 1 41'-*' -"'-. ' , i(> IJt

i654 ^T. 43] ARRAS 229

two or three men, without reckoning horses ". Some
old and experienced officers murmured at Turenne's
thus exposing his men without apparent necessity;
but, continues the Duke of York, some time after-
wards "these gentlemen were sensible of their error,
after that we had forced [the enemy's] lines, since it
was at that very time that he chose, as he was expos-
ing himself, as well as others, the place where to attack
them : and, if he had not approached with all the
troops he had with him, the enemies' advanced guards
would not have retired as they did, and he could not
have taken notice of everything with so much exact-

As he was riding near the enemy's lines, some of
his staff took the liberty of expostulating with him
about his own personal danger, and of saying that the
enemy could come out of his lines, at any point, attack
Turenne and defeat him. Turenne replied that no
doubt this was true, and that it would be exceedingly
dangerous to ride so close to the lines in front of the
camp of Conde, which, as has been remarked, he care-
fully avoided; but, from his own experience of the
Spanish army, he felt certain that, before stirring a
foot, Fernando de Solis would send to consult
Fuensaldagne, the generalissimo, that Fuensaldagne
would then send to consult the Archduke, that the
Archduke would then send to Conde, and would
summon a Council of War to decide whether, on the
whole, it would be better to send out a force to attack
Turenne, as he rode past the lines, or whether it would


be wiser to refrain from doing so. Long afterwards,
Conde told the Duke of York that exactly what
Turenne anticipated had happened, and that by the
time it had been decided to send out troops to attack
Turenne, he was safe back again behind his own en-

Having discovered the weakest places in the
enemy's lines, Turenne was anxious to attack, and
his anxiety on this point was increased by a message
which he received from the governor within the city of
Arras, to the effect that he had very little ammunition
remaining and that, unless the siege were raised very
shortly, he would be obliged to capitulate.

It is difficult to ascertain fully the position of
Turenne towards the other French generals and to
make out whether he was at that time commander-in-
chief, in the modern sense of the word. When he
proposed the attack, at a Council of War, all the
generals opposed it, with the exception of the Count
of Broglie and the Duke of York ; but La Ferte and
Hocquincourt raised stronger objections than any of
the others. Turenne at last seems to have got his
way, not by command, but by sheer force of argument,
backed up by an order from the Court urging a speedy

Great preparations were made for the attempt ;
fascines for filling in ditches, hurdles, and other im-
plements for enabling soldiers to make a passage over
entrenchments were procured in abundance. Turenne
spent much time in explaining to his officers the mea-


i6s4 ^T. 43] ARRAS 231

sures which they were to employ. The Duke of York
says that "public prayers" were said "tit the head of
each battalion and squadron, for several days before,
and as many as could confessed and received the
Blessed Sacrament," and he expressed his confidence
that "no army ever showed more marks of true devo-
tion than ours at that time ".

A couple of days before the attack was to be at-
tempted, Turenne and a good many of his officers
were riding about examining the lines of the enemy
opposite to, but at a respectful distance from, the
quarters of Cond6, when they were attacked by some
of Conde's cavalry, and a squadron of their own cavalry
which was with them was panic-stricken and fled. Con-
sequently Turenne and his officers were obliged to
pocket their pride and run away as fast as their horses
could carry them, with their foes in full pursuit, greatly
to the vexation of Turenne.

In the midst of all this grave anxiety there was
a somewhat disconcerting arrival at the camp of
Turenne in the person of that lively courtier, the
Comte de Grammont, who had ridden thither for
the fun of seeing a battle. This gifted amateur
amused himself by going alternately from one rival
camp to another, having friends in both, to whom
he related the latest gossip and scandals of the Court
which he had just left. He had the impudence to
tell Turenne that unless he were victorious Mazarin
would hold him personally responsible for undertaking
an enterprise of which the cardinal strongly disap-


proved, and to tell Conde that, if he were taken
prisoner, Mazarin intended to have him beheaded.
Having been informed by Turenne that he proposed
to attack the lines of the enemy on the following-
morning, Grammont rode across to Conde and made
him a present of this important secret. From what
followed it may be assumed that such was Conde's
opinion of Grammont that he did not believe it. In
an epitaph on Grammont, written long before his
death, by St. Evremond, are the rather lumbering
lines : —

We may once more see a Turenne ;

Condd himself may have a double ;
But to make Grammont o'er again,

Would cost dame nature too much trouble.

It was by night that Turenne determined to make
his grand attack. The reason he gave for this, says
the Duke of York, was that "in the night time, no
one of the enemy's quarters durst come to assist
another; that each fearing for itself because of false
attacks" — for the making of false attacks in three
separate places was part of his plan — "no one would
venture to quit its ground, or at most would only aid
its next neighbour till break of day, before which we
should have made a passage through their lines". Of
the making of this attack by night, Napoleon says :
" Nocturnal marches and operations are so uncertain,
that although they sometimes succeed, they more
frequently fail ".

The attack was to be made on the point farthest

i654 ^T. 43] ARRAS 233

from the camps of Turenne and La Ferte, at the
north-west corner of the enemy's lines, behind which
lay the quarters of Fernando de Solis ; but three small
bodies of troops were despatched to make feigned
attacks, the first on the south of the lines, opposite the
quarters of Conde, the second on the north-east,
opposite the quarters of Fuensaldagne, and the third
on the west, opposite the more southern portion of
the quarters of De Solis.

Soon after dark Turenne and La Ferte started relief of
with their troops. They crossed the river Scarpe by August, '1654.
four bridges, which had been previously constructed
over it, and marched first to the north, straight away
from Arras, and afterwards to the west. As every
soldier was wanted for the fighting lines, the baggage
and transport in the camps were left unprotected, and
orders were given that they were not to be removed
till it was broad daylight, when they were to be brought
on as might best be managed.

A night had been chosen on which the moon would
be shining during the first half of the march, when the
French troops would not be visible from the positions
of the allies ; but on which it would be dark during the
second part of the march, when they would be advanc-
ing towards, and in full view of, the enemy's lines.
The first part of the march was made in great silence
and in excellent order. The night was fine and still,
and there was bright moonlight until the troops came
to the appointed and only halting-place. Soon after
that had been reached the moon went down, intense


darkness set in, and a fresh breeze sprang up. Just
before the moonlight failed the troops had been drawn
up in order of battle. Turenne was in the centre, La
Ferte was on his left, and Hocquincourt, whose troops,
although they had no distance to come, had not yet
arrived, was to be on his right. The infantry were
drawn up in two lines, and each battalion had four or
five squadrons of horse behind it carrying fascines and
hurdles, wherewith to cover the holes made by the
enemy for the purpose of stopping cavalry and imped-
ing infantry.

The time arrived for the attack ; but not so the
forces of Hocquincourt, who was, however, on the ground
himself. He begged Turenne to wait for his troops ;
but Turenne said that was impossible, and, riding in
front of the whole army, he led it to the attack in person.
It advanced in the dark to within half-cannon-shot of
the enemy's lines without being discovered.

Suddenly the darkness was illuminated by a blaze
of light along the whole line of the advancing army.
"Our foot," says the Duke of York, "at once lighted
their matches. They made a glorious show, which
appeared the more by reason of the wind, which kindled
them and made them blaze through the darkness of the

Almost immediately three of the enemy's guns fired
at Turenne's army, and lights gradually appeared all
along the Spanish lines. Turenne's officers then
advanced boldly ; but not so the men. The Duke of
York declares that he " never knew them to go on so

i654 ^T. 43] ARRAS 235

unwillingly as then ". Yet, owing to the " vigour of the
officers who led them " and to the pressure of "the horse
by keeping so close to their rear," they "stopped not
till they came to the Line itself, where the resistance
they found was not so great as they expected ; for in a
very little time all our five battalions made themselves
masters of that part of it which they attacked. Then
the horses brought up the fascines and covered hurdles,
and after doing so retired a little to the rear. The
engineers then set to work to make a safe road-way
through the entrenchments, by which the cavalry might
enter the lines." To encourage his men, the Duke of
York was injudicious enough to order his kettledrum
to be sounded, which drew upon his men the fire of the
enemy. "The kettledrum was soon silenced, he (su)
being the first man killed " in his squadron.

La Ferte was less successful than Turenne, "having
not put his men so soon in order, as Mr. de Turenne
had," for although they advanced right into the ditch,
they were beaten off and came running away to
shelter themselves amongst the horse which the Duke
commanded. They were in terrible disorder. The
officers were loudly complaining that their men had
refused to follow them into the enemy's trenches, and
the men were crying out that they had only fied in
following their own fiying officers. Worse still, the
disordered mob not only made confusion among the
cavalry, but, through carrying their lighted matches,
drew the fire of the enemy upon it.

We learn frpm Turenne that it took his sappers,


or such of his soldiers as he employed in engineering
work, "a good half-hour in filling up the ditches".
When this had been done over a space sufficiently
wide for horses to pass over the entrenchments,
Turenne's cavalry dismounted and led their horses
over the roadway into the enemy's lines.

A scene of great confusion followed. The Spaniards
were in confusion from fright ; the French were in con-
fusion from the eagerness of each man to be before his
neighbour — not in defeating the enemy, but in looting
the enemy's camp ; and the confusion of both was worse
confounded by the darkness, by the uncertain flickering
of matches and torches, and by the dazzling glare of
some burning huts, which had been set on fire by the
French soon after they entered the Spanish lines.
Squadrons of cavalry belonging to the rival armies
passed through each other, in the darkness, without
recognising that they were foes. In the weird lights
and shadows caused by the burning huts and the
torches, others imagined foes where none existed.
Here and there, on either side, a detachment would
gain a temporary success or be driven away into the
darkness. Frequently troops found themselves close
to unexpected entrenchments ; for those made by the
Spaniards as a defence against the relieving army, and
those made for the siege of Arras, were at distances
from each other varying from less than a quarter of a
mile to three-quarters of a mile ; and the river Scarpe,
which crossed both, formed another embarrassing

i654 ^T. 43] ARRAS 237

When, with the early morning, it became light
enough to distinguish objects clearly, and the Spaniards
could see that the space between their defensive and
offensive entrenchments was filled with French troops,
they were more terror-stricken than ever. Conde, who
had ridden up with some cavalry, was asked by the
Archduke what he would advise to be done, and when
he observed the panic of the Spaniards he recom-
mended the Archduke to retire ; but he himself at-
tacked and put to flight some of La Ferte's squad-
rons. Turenne witnessed this attack, and, when he
saw that the flying Frenchmen were not being chased
imprudently by their pursuers, he felt pretty certain
that the attack must be under the command of Conde.
Conde, on his part, when leading his cavalry in pursuit
of La Ferte's runaways, perceived some guns admir-
ably posted on an eminence in front of him, and,
thinking that the commander of so well chosen a posi-
tion could be none other than Turenne himself, he
gave orders to halt. Yet, so great was the confu-
sion among the French troops, in consequence of their
leaving the ranks for purposes of pillage, that Turenne
says he would have been forced to withdraw his army
for protection into the town of Arras, if Conde had
been able to bring up infantry with him as well as
cavalry. As it was, with such forces as Turenne could
persuade to deny themselves the pleasures of plunder,
and with the help of the cavalry, which now made a
sortie from Arras, he was able to put to rout the totally
demoralised Spaniards.


Conde rallied his scattered troops, quitted his en-
trenchments and retired in good order to Cambrai ;
the Archduke and the Count Fuensaldagne fled in a
terrible hurry with only a squadron or two, to Douay,
and the other generals of the Spanish army galloped
away as best they could, with fragments of their forces.
They lost 3,000 men in killed, wounded and prisoners,
and they had to leave behind them 63 guns, 2,000
waggons, 9,000 horses, " all the equipage of the officers,
and the baggage of the whole army ". Turenne, who
received a contusion from a musket-bullet, did not lose
more than about 400 men.

The French Court came to Arras after its relief,
and then went to Paris, followed by La Fert6 and
Hocquincourt. Turenne marched eastwards, some fifty
miles, to Quesnoy, a fortress near the Flemish frontier,
which he took in two days. In September he marched
southwards, to Cambr^sis, and demolished some castles
on the frontier. Then he sent his troops into winter
quarters, and went to Paris, where, Ramsay tells us,
"his presence was like to be necessary".


The purpose for which the presence of Turenne ap-
peared likely to be necessary was to quell a riot in
the streets of Paris, for there seemed to be some danger
of a revival of the Paris Fronde. One symptom of
this was a friction between the King and the Parlia-
ment about a new coinage.

De Retz, who had been arrested and imprisoned
at Nantes, having heard of this, had managed to escape
from prison, and was riding off towards Paris, to "show
himself to the people in the public market, and make
new barricades," when he observed a soldier galloping
in pursuit. In getting his pistol ready he frightened
his horse, who swerved and threw him. Although
his collar-bone was broken by the fall, the dignified
cardinal managed to crawl away on foot and to hide
in a haystack. Going thence under cover of the dark
to the house of a friend, he got a change of clothes,
and then he embarked in a fishing-boat which landed
him on the coast of Spain. There he had great diffi-
culty in accounting for himself and experienced some
disagreeable adventures ; but eventually he reached
Rome. Thanks to his absence from France, the

threatened rising of the Fronde fell through. There


was still, however, much discontent. Louis XIV. went
to the Parliament, seated himself on his throne, and
"without any preamble forbad the Parliament to con-
cern itself in public affairs and then, rising hastily, went
out, being determined not to hear any remonstrance.
Notwithstanding this prohibition, the Parliament con-
tinued to assemble, and the minds of the members
grew every day more and more soured."^

The popular hatred of Mazarin became fiercer than
ever, while the cardinal, on his part, became more
despotic than ever. Cardinal de Retz, although in
Rome, was intriguing through his agents in Paris ; and
another intriguer, through the medium of his Parisian
friends and admirers, was the Prince of Conde. At
this critical juncture Turenne, by the request of Maza-
rin, acted as a peacemaker between the King and the
Parliament, and, thanks to his good offices, all dis-
puted matters were sufficiently smoothed over in the
early summer for the campaign to begin in June.

We have now to consider a campaign in which,
says Napoleon, "Turenne constantly observed the two
maxims : i st. Never attack a position in front, when
you can obtain it by ttirning it. 2nd. Avoid doing
what the enemy wishes ; and that simply because he
does zvish it. Shun the field of battle which he has
reconnoitred and studied ; and more particulaidy that
in which he has fortified and ent7xnched himself .''

Turenne began by besieging and taking Land-
recies, without which, as it was some miles nearer the
^ Ramsay.

i655 ^T. 44] AMUSED 241

interior of France, it would have been impossible to hold
Quesnoy. The operations which followed were con-
ducted for some time within the triangle made by
Landrecies, Bouchain and Valenciennes, each side of
the triangle being only a litde over or under twenty
miles in length.

Not far from Valenciennes Conde was nearly, and
ought to have been, taken prisoner. The Spanish
army was retiring from a position it had occupied,
and the Spanish generals had undertaken to protect
Conde's rear ; but the Spanish troops entrusted with that
duty, on seeing a strong body of French approach-
ing, scampered off, to take care of themselves, without
troubling their heads about, or warning, Conde, who was
then left with a very small force. The French troops
in question were twelve squadrons and two or three
battalions, under General Castelnau, to whom Turenne
had given orders to press on and deliver a sudden and
very energetic flank attack. But when Castelnau was
approaching Conde's little force, says the Duke of
York, he "suffered himself to be amused by some of
the Prince of Conde's officers, who being in the rear of
their troops and seeing him advance at the head of his,
desired to speak with him upon honour : to which having
consented, because they were his old acquaintance, he
ordered his troops to halt a little, and, while they were
complimenting one another, the Prince of Conde
hastened his troops forwards, and Castelnau was duped ;
a fellow who was left behind, on the top of a small hill,

having given the officers the signal, they took leave of


the Lieutenant General and galloped after their troops.
This unseasonable piece of civility gave the enemy time
to cross the Schelt before we could come up with them. "

One fault is apt to lead to another, and so it was
with Castelnau. In order to screen his stupid error
from Turenne he told him a lie. He represented that
he had put the enemy to a headlong flight and that
Conde's last squadron had been so sorely pressed that
it had been obliged to swim the river to effect its
escape. Believing this story, Turenne repeated it in a
despatch to Mazarin, a despatch which unfortunately
was intercepted by the enemy, and fell into the hands
of Conde, who was furious. He sent a most insulting
letter to Turenne, accusing him of lying, and bitter ill-
feeling continued between these two great generals
from that date till the Peace of the Pyrenees, four years
later. Before this quarrel, even when antagonistic in
warfare, their personal relations had been most friendly.
During their campaigns against each other, it is said,
they kept up a correspondence ; if Turenne beat Cond6
in a battle, he very fully and very courteously ex-
plained the means by which he had succeeded ; and,
when Cond6 gained a success, he wrote to Turenne
asking him whether he approved of his tactics.^

The sieges of the fortresses of Conde and St. Guis-

lain were successfully accomplished by Turenne, and

in November he received orders to go to the Court

at Compiegne, on a matter of great importance. The

matter in question was as follows : —

^ Louis XIV. m Court and Camp, p. 84. By Col. A. C. P.

i655 ^T. 44] HOCOUINCOURT 243

Hocquincourt had fully expected to be made
commander-in-chief, and he was very angry with
Mazarin for having given that office to Turenne. To
keep Hocquincourt quiet and, as he thought, out of
harm's way, Mazarin had made him Governor of Ham
and Peronne. At the time when Hocquincourt was
nursing his wrath against Mazarin for putting him on the
shelf, one of the great ladies of the Provincial Fronde
happened to come in his way, and promptly made him
fall in love with her. Perceiving the temper he was in,
she communicated with Conde, who made him an offer
of the post of Lieutenant-General of Flanders with
100,000 crowns down in cash, if he would deliver up
Ham and Peronne into the hands of the Spanish army.

Mazarin heard of this offer, sent for Turenne, and
suggested to this general that the King's army should
march at once to Peronne for its protection. Turenne
objected that as the Spanish army was at Cambrai,
and Condi's army only half a dozen miles from
Peronne, a movement of the King's army in the
direction of the latter town would be anticipated
by the enemy ; and that if Peronne and Ham should
be lost, there would probably be a general insurrection
throughout France. He suggested, instead, that nego-
tiations should be opened with Hocquincourt. The
cardinal said that for the King to stoop to bargaining
with one of his own rebellious subjects would be in-
tolerable, with which Turenne quite agreed; but, at
the same time, this practical and cool-headed general

gave it as his opinion that, of the two, it would be a


lesser evil than to lose Ham and Peronne and to risk
a dangerous insurrection.

Finally, Mazarin took the advice of Turenne.
The negotiations lasted a fortnight, during which
Hocquincourt gave alternate audiences to the envoys
of the King and the envoys of Spain, "not concealing
from either party what the other offered him, as if he had
been free to make what choice he pleased". After
much haggling, the impudent Hocquincourt struck a

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryThomas LonguevilleMarshall Turenne → online text (page 16 of 26)