Thomas Longueville.

Marshall Turenne online

. (page 22 of 26)
Online LibraryThomas LonguevilleMarshall Turenne → online text (page 22 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and hurried in a south-westerly direction, with the
object of crossing the Rhine at Philippsburg, and in-
tercepting Montecuculi in the north of Alsace and

As soon as Montecuculi had sent enough cavalry
across his temporary bridge over the Rhine in a
southerly direction to make Turenne's spies gallop oft'
to inform Turenne that Montecuculi was marching
to wards Alsace and Lorraine, he shipped his infantry
on boats, at Mayence, sent them down the Rhine in a
northerly direction towards the Prince of Orange at
Bonn, and sent orders to the cavalry, which had
crossed over the bridge, to recross it and follow them.
The Prince of Orange, having heard of the advance
of Montecuculi, went up the Rhine to the south, and
effected a junction of the Dutch and Imperialist armies,


near Coblentz. Then they all went to Bonn, ^ which
fell in a few days. The French troops were now
obliged to retreat from Holland, which then closed its
sluices and gradually emerged from the waters.

Turenne put his army into winter quarters in Alsace,
Lorraine and Hainaut ; then, with "an air of thought-
fulness and melancholy," he went to the Court of France.
The Kinof received him with crreat esteem and affection,
and deplored the bad advice which he had received from
Louvois and had, unfortunately, followed. This gave
Turenne a splendid opportunity of avenging himself
upon his enemy ; but all he said was : " The Marquis
of Louvois is capable of doing your Majesty admirable
service, in the Cabinet ; but he has not yet had sufficient
experience in war to take upon himself the direction of

The King told Turenne that he would never again
employ the Marquis d'Abre, because he had written
to Louvois severely blaming the strategy of Turenne
and saying that, if he had been consulted, he could
have saved Bonn without endangering Alsace. "Why
did he not tell me how he could do so ? " said Turenne.
" I should have listened to him with pleasure and per-
haps I might have profited by his advice." Then he
made excuses for D'Abre, praised him, mentioned good
services which he had rendered, and persuaded the

^ Bonn had undergone a severe siege in 1584 by Archbishop
Ernest of Bavaria, who had been deposed from his see for heresy ;
and it was subsequently besieged and taken by Marlborough in i 703.
Its celebrated university was not established until 1S18.

i673 ^T. 62] HIS GREATEST FAULT 327

King to give him a gratuity and not to deprive himself
of the services of so able a lieutenant-general. We
shall hear of him again.

Napoleon severely blames Turenne's conduct of the
summer and autumn campaign of 1673 : " Montecuculi
completely deceived and imposed upon Turenne. He
got rid of him and sent him marching into Alsace,
whilst he proceeded to Cologne, and joined the Prince
of Orange, who was besieging and taking Bonn.
Turenne's conduct on this occasion has been censured :
1st He manoeuvred at too great a distance from his
enemy : 2ndiy He did not act according to Monte-
cuculi's movements, but ascribed to him an intention
of entering France, without any foundation whatever.
Yet Holland was the centre of the military operations.
No one knew better than Turenne that war is a con-
jectural art : he ought to have regulated his movements
by those of his adversary, and not by his own ideas :
3rdly Montecuculi would have been insulated in Alsace
and would have had to engage the united armies of
Conde and Turenne, whilst under the walls of Bonn
he found himself on the grand rendezvous, where the
momentous question was to be decided, far from Conde's
army, and covering Holland and Belgium. This march
established the reputation of Montecuculi. The error
committed by Turenne on this occasion was a blemish
to his glory ; it was the greatest fault of which this dis-
tinguished Commander ever was guilty."

Once more, and for the last time, we have had to
consider, in the latter part of this chapter, a campaign


in which Turenne had no fighting beyond skirmishing ;
but a campaign wherein, for the first time, instead of
outmanoeuvring his enemy, he was outmanoeuvred him-
self. Yet in Montecuculi Turenne met a foe worthy
of his steel. He was three years older than Turenne
and had displayed great military genius under his uncle
during the Thirty Years' War. He had distinguished
himself in campaigns against the Swedes in Silesia ; he
had commanded a successful expedition against Prince
Rakoczy in 1654; he had assisted Denmark against
Sweden with such effect as to obtain the peace of
Oliva in 1660; and, in 1664, he had defeated the
Turks so decisively that they concluded an armistice
for twenty years. In his leisure time, he had written
several military works of considerable importance, and
he was an ardent lover of science. A few years later
than the date with which we are dealing, he was made
a Prince of the Empire by the Emperor Leopold, and
Duke of Melfi by the King of Naples.


Louis XIV. has been aptly entitled Le Grand Mon-
arque, but at the time which we are at present consider-
ing he had managed to make his country intensely
unpopular throughout the greater part of Europe, and
nearly every European King and Prince his enemy.

The ill-fortune of Turenne in his last campaign
had shaken the adherence of those fair-weather friends,
the Archbishop of Cologne, the Bishop of Miinster,
and Charles II. In the spring of 1674 all the German
Princes, with the exception of the Electors of Hanover
and Bavaria, allied themselves with the Emperor against
France. The Elector of Cologne, the Bishop of Miinster,
and, later, the Elector of Brandenburg, broke their
treaties with France and turned against her. Charles
II. of England was bullied by his Parliament and his
Ministers into withdrawing from his alliance with
France and recalling the English regiments which
had been fighting under her banner ; but those regi-
ments were devoted to Turenne and refused to leave

Louis felt obliged to evacuate all the places he had
taken on the Rhine and the Meuse in the two previous
campaigns, except Maestricht and Grave. He then


resolved to recompense himself for the loss of the
United Provinces, by acquiring Franche-Comt6, the
large province lying to the south of Lorraine, which
was then Spanish. Having taken a large army thither
in April, he eventually conquered it, and made it a
part of France, which it has ever since remained.
About the same time he sent another army, under
Schomberg, to the frontiers of Spain, and he gave
Conde 40,000 men wherewith to advance against the
Prince of Orange. To Turenne was consigned the
guardianship of the Rhine, with a very much smaller
army than that of Conde. Turenne's being entrusted
with so heavy a task with so inadequate a force was the
work of his bitter enemy, Louvois.

It is not impossible, even if it be improbable, that
there may have been some collusion between Louvois
and Conde. In his Siecle de Louis XIV. (vol. i., p.
^2i?)) Voltaire declares Conde to have been jealous of
Turenne, and he describes a certain scheme which
Conde once confided to Louvois, which was to be to the
advantage of Conde and to the disadvantage of Turenne,
adding that, on hearing of it, Louvois eagerly embraced
Conde. Undoubtedly Turenne and Cond6 admired
each other as generals ; and in a certain sense they
were friends, even great friends ; but there are several
sorts of friendships, and it may be that the particular
variety of friendship which Cond6 felt for Turenne did
not altogether exclude sentiments of jealousy. He
loved Turenne, he loved him much ; but he loved him-
self and his own interests still better.

i674^T. 63] FORCED MARCHES 331

Turenne encamped near Saverne, or Zabern, a
town about twenty-two miles to the north-west of Stras-
burg ; and he had to consider the very serious question
of how he was to guard the Rhine from Coblentz to
Basle, a frontier of some two hundred miles. Early
in June he learned that two armies were on the march
to effect a junction with the object of crossing" the
Rhine, one a force of about 9,000 men, under Count
Caprara and the other of about the same numbers,
under the Duke of Bournonville.

Turenne was anxious to defeat one of these armies
before it could be joined by the other. To this end
he started on the 1 2th of June, made forced marches
with little or no transport, crossed the Rhine by the
bridge at Philippsburg on the 14th, and thence hurried
forward with 9,000 men, six guns and three days'
provisions to Hockenheim, where he encamped. On
the way his men came in for some very sharp skir-
mishing. One night, fearing a surprise, he went out
in the dark to see for himself that all the men were
at their posts, and, in passing a tent, he heard some
young soldiers complaining at his having made them
take such a long and useless march. Then he heard
an old soldier, who had been wounded in one of these
skirmishes, say : " You do not know our father : he would
not have exposed us to so much fatigue, if he had not
some great thing in view, of which we as yet know
nothing ".

The next day Turenne proceeded to Wiesloch,
having marched nearly ninety miles in four days. This


BATTLE OF was a tiriiio- march ; but he started aoain between


HEiM, i6th three and four o'clock the next morning. After march-
ing for nearly five hours, he discovered the enemy on a
hill, on the farther side of a small town of the Palatinate,
called Sintzheim, about half-way between Philippsburg
on the Rhine and Heilbronn on the Neckar, and situated
itself on the river Eltzbach. The rival armies were pretty
equal in point of number, as Turenne had only 9,000
men with him, having left strong garrisons to occupy
Hagenau and Saverne in order to protect the north of
Alsace, and having sent a strong detachment to Bel-
fort. While Caprara had far more cavalry than in-
fantry and no artillery, Turenne had six guns and
almost as much infantry as cavalry, a great advantage
in the kind of country where the battle was to take
place. Caprara, on the other hand, had two advantages
over Turenne : his position on a hill with steep sides
was excellent, and his men were fresh, whereas Turenne 's
had just completed a march of about 100 miles in four
days and as many hours.

The enemy sent one detachment into the town and
another into an old abbey, fortified like a castle, which
lay between the town and the hill. On the hill the
army was drawn up in two lines, the first commanded
by the Duke of Lorraine,^ and the second by Count
Caprara. Behind them was a large wood.

The position of Turenne was hazardous, for, in

^Lorraine's army, which used to be 10,000, was now only

i674 ^T. 6t,] SINTZHEIM 333

case of defeat, the retreat would have been very diffi-
cult in an enemy's country deeply wooded ; but it
would have been still more hazardous to allow Caprara
and Bournonville to join their forces.

Two branches of the river Eltzbach had to be
crossed, and Turenne effected this crossing under
cover of the fire of his artillery. Then followed fierce
ficrhtinof, first in the suburbs, and next in the little town
itself and at the abbey beyond it ; but after an hour
and a half the French troops had driven the enemy
both out of the town and out of the abbey. After that
there was some stubborn fighting in the suburbs, the
vineyards and the hedgerows. The troops of Caprara,
which had been defending the town, then retreated
from it to the east, and ascended to the plateau upon
which his main body was drawn up.

From the town there was a narrow defile, which
led up the hill on Turenne's left. Here his great pre-
ponderance of infantry proved invaluable ; for his musket-
eers scrambled up the ascent, and, lining the defile on
both its sides, protected his troops, while they passed
through it up to the sloping plateau above. He also
succeeded in getting three battalions into a vineyard on
this plateau by a passage up a steep bank on his extreme
right. Even allowing for Caprara's weakness in in-
fantry, it is difficult to understand why he could not
prevent troops from ascending a hill of which he held
the command with an equal number of men, especially
as the ascent had to be made by a narrow defile on
the one side, and by a steep climb on the other ; and


Caprara's men were fresh while Turenne's were wearied
by forced marches.

Once on the hill, Turenne drew up his cavalry in
lines and placed platoons of infantry between them.
He had a vineyard on his right and a hedge with a
steep declivity on his left. General d'Abre, of whom
we lately heard, commanded the right wing of the first
line, and he imprudently advanced beyond the line of
cavalry on his left and the farther end of the vineyard on
his right, thus exposing both his flanks. Taking ad-
vantage of this imprudence, the enemy immediately
attacked his front and each of his flanks, thereby throw-
ing his ranks into confusion. D'Abre himself was mor-
tally wounded. Seeing what had happened, Turenne
galloped up and just saved the situation. The ground
being very dry, the charges of cavalry raised clouds
of dust, and, under their cover, he took the oppor-
tunity of extending his front until he had eighteen
squadrons in his first line, with three battalions of in-
fantry on either wing. The enemy was in a reversed
position, having four battalions of infantry in his centre,
with eight squadrons of cavalry on either side.

Very sharp fighting followed. Every squadron
of cavalry charged several times, and every charge
raised more dust, until it was difficult to distinguish
friend from foe. Turenne, who kept in the forefront
of the battle, encouraging his men by voice, gesture
and example, suddenly found himself in the midst of
the Emperor's cuirassiers, and some time passed before
he was able to

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 24 25 26

Online LibraryThomas LonguevilleMarshall Turenne → online text (page 22 of 26)