1702 – Siege of Kaiserswerth
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The siege lasted from 15 April to 18 June 1702
At the beginning of 1702, the Dutch Fortress of Maastricht on the Meuse River was dangerously isolated by the occupation by Franco-Spanish troops of the fortresses of Venlo, Roermond and Stevensweert, located on the same river. Furthermore, the French also occupied Kaiserswerth, Rheinberg and Bonn on the Rhine River.
The Allies decided to make themselves master of Kaiserswerth, which was located on the right bank of the Rhine, because it could be used as a bridgehead for French operations in Germany.
In February, the French only had 2 bns of Orléans Infanterie in Kaiserswerth.
On 18 February, the French made an inventory of the artillery pieces (45 guns and 3 mortars) fit for the defence of Kaiserswerth.
Around 9 March, the Maréchal de Boufflers pressed for the completion of the bridge of boats at Kaiserswerth. This bridge required 95 boats and it was necessary to requisition boats in towns along the Rhine and its tributaries.
In mid-March, at the opening of the campaign of 1702 in the Low Countries, the Allies started to leave their winter-quarters and to assemble along the frontiers of Brabant, of Upper Guelderland and the Electorate of Cologne, forming four camps: at Goch near Nijmegen, Maastricht, Roosendaal between Breda and Berg-op-Zoom, and on the Rhine (Dutch, British and Palatine troops under the aged Dutch General Prince Walrad of Nassau-Saarbrücken) near Düsseldorf. Nassau-Saarbrücken then consulted with Elector Johann Wilhelm of Palatinate, Lieutenant-General Von Dopff and General von Heiden to prepare for the siege of Kaiserswerth.
By mid-March, the French had 5 bns and 50 dragoons in Kaiserswerth.
By 5 April, the siege train sent by the Dutch had reached Wesel.
On 6 April, Nassau-Saarbrücken encamped at Mülheim near Cologne with 8,000.
In the night of 6 to 7 April, Nassau-Saarbrücken detached 400 horse to reconnoitre on the left bank of the Rhine.
On 14 April, the Dutch siege train finally reached Duisburg. Nassau-Saarbrücken urged Athlone to make a diversion in Flanders and Brabant.
On 16 April, the Prince of Nassau-Saarbrücken invested Kaiserswerth even though hostilities had not yet been declared between the Dutch Republic and France. The Allies extended their line from Wittlaer, by Kaldenberg and Calcum, to Leuchtenberg. The Prussian contingent, under the command of Prince Leopold von Anhalt-Dessau, occupied the line downstream from Kaiserswerth.
The Fortress of Kaiserswerth was located on the right bank of the Rhine in the Electorate of Cologne. It constituted a bridgehead of a strategic importance for the French. The place had the form of an elongated rectangle defended by 3 bastions landwards and 2½ bastions on the Rhine River.
The Elector of Cologne had previously handed the fortress over to the French, who occupied it with a garrison of 5 bns under the Marquis de Blainville. The French engineer in charge of the defence of the fortress was Vauban's assistant Louis Filley.
Description of events
First phase of the siege (18 April to 15 May)
In the night of 18 to 19 April, the Allies (600 workers supported by 400 grenadiers) opened the trenches in front of Kaiserswerth. There were no Allied troops on the left bank of the Rhine so that the French army could still communicate with the place.
On 20 April, the first Allied pieces opened against Kaiserswerth. However, the blockade of Kaiserwerth could only be carried out on the right bank of the river, so Maréchal Tallard had the opportunity to continue to supply the defenders.
On 21 April, Boufflers’ Army passed the Meuse and encamped between Roermond and Melick. The maréchal sent a reinforcement of 500 men to Kaiserswerth.
On 24 April, the Prussians stormed the island in front of Kaiserswerth and the redoubt defending it, capturing 150 men.
On 28 April, Boufflers’s Army took position between Xanten and Sonsbeck, thus depriving the Allies from their line of communication with Wesel and preventing them from covering the siege from the left bank of the Rhine.
The same day (28 April), the Dutch were ready to launch an attack against the counterscarp but the Rhine suddenly rose and flooded the section of the counterscarp targeted by the attackers.
On 30 April, the French garrison sallied and destroyed part of the siege works.
In the night of 1 May, Grammont navigated upstream and ferried supplies into the fortress. For their part the Allies were beginning to lack ammunition.
On 4 May, the Allies made themselves master of the Redoubt of Kalckum on the Kreuzberg, which had long hindered their attack.
On 5 May, the French threw a reinforcement of 700 men, arms and supply into Kaiserswerth. The Duc de Bourgogne and Boufflers then resolved to reinforce Tallard in the area of Düsseldorf, sending him 12 sqns and 6 bns from Bonn under M. de Montrevel, and 6 sqns from Kempen under M. de Labadie.
On 6 May, Tallard, now at the head of 14 bns and 30 sqns, advanced from Beckrath, passed the Niers at Odenkirchen and encamped at Heerdt opposite Düsseldorf. Tallard then gave orders to prepare five ways to get access to Kaiserswerth.
On 9 May, Tallard's batteries, protected by 2 bns and 1 cavalry rgt, opened against the siege works at Kaiserswerth. Meanwhile, he steadily supplied the French garrison.
On 12 May in the evening, Nassau-Saarbrücken held a council of war, where it was decided to raise the siege of Kaiserswerth.
On 14 May, Tallard continued to cannonade the siege works of the Allies from the left bank of the Rhine. He also threw 3 additional bns into Kaiserswerth, bringing up its garrison to 8 bns. The Allied commanders then decided to continue the siege but to abandon the present trenches and to start a new attack out of reach of Tallard’s batteries. Everything had to be redone.
Second phase of the siege (15 May to 15 June)
By 16 May, the Allies were running short of ammunition. Meanwhile, Tallard continued to supply the fortress each night with three boats, pouring reinforcements and evacuating the wounded.
On 16 May, a supply convoy (artillery and ammunition) destined to the Allies, which had been sent from Grave, reached Emmerich.
On 19 and 20 May, the Prince of Nassau-Saarbrücken abandoned his works around Kaiserswerth along the Rhine.
On 21 May, the Prince of Nassau-Saarbrücken concentrated his attacks on the eastern face of Kaiserswerth.
On 22 May, the defenders made two sorties in an attempt to destroy some siege works and thus delay the advance of the besiegers. A first sortie with 200 men was driven back. Two hours later, a second sortie, this time with 1,000 men, was launched. It was unsuccessful but both side suffered heavy losses, 2 Allied rgts being particularly depleted.
On 25 May, it was decided to transfer 6 bns from Athlone’s Army to Nassau-Saarbrücken's siege corps.
On 26 May, the Allies slightly altered their plan. Now 2 bns posted in the vicinity of Rees would escort the supply convoy waiting at Emmerich while Athlone would send only 4 of his bns as reinforcements. Athlone, who was expecting reinforcements from Coehoon, would then send 6 additional bns as soon as these reinforcements would arrive.
On 28 May, the first elements of the convoy (including artillery pieces) reached Nassau-Saarbrücken’s camp.
On 5 June, the Allies reached the glacis of Kaiserwerth.
On 6 June, 2 cavalry rgts and 4 dragoon rgts of the Hanoverian Contingent reached Recklinghausen.
On 8 June, Tallard managed to send 3 more bns and a detachment of 500 men as well as arms and ammunition into Kaiserswerth. De Blainville now had 11 bns under his command in the fortress.
On 9 June, Tallard’s Corps left the region and the Allies re-established their bridges at Düsseldorf and near Mülheim and transferred some troops to the left bank of the Rhine to occupy Tallard's former camp at Heerdt.
The same day (9 June) at 8:00 p.m., the Allied corps of the Prince of Nassau-Saarbrücken, now reinforced by 4 bns sent by Athlone, stormed the covert way of Kaiserswerth. In this operation, the Dutch lost 24 officers and 464 men killed, 136 officers and 1,311 men wounded; the Prussians 19 officers and 108 men killed and 104 officers and 180 men wounded. The Allies were now able to open breaching fire against the walls of Kaiserswerth with 80 guns and 20 mortars.
On 10 June, the Allies occupied the bridge redoubt on the left bank of the Rhine, over which the defenders had hitherto received supplies from Tallard.
On 11 June, 6 Hessian rgts arrived at the camp of Nassau-Saarbrücken.
On 14 June, the batteries of the Allies opened.
By 15 June in the morning, Kaiserswerth was a heap of ruins (only five houses are said to have survived the siege). Just before midnight, M. de Blainville capitulated with the honours of war after 58 days of open trenches.
On 17 June, the French garrison of Kaiserswerth (11 weak bns) with 2 cannon and 2 mortars marched to Venlo and the Allies immediately started to raze the fortifications.
During this siege, the French had lost 350 men killed or wounded. The Allies had lost 9,700 men killed or wounded (including 2,800 on 9 June alone):
- Dutch: 24 officers and 464 men killed; 136 officers and 1,311 men wounded
- Prussians: 19 officers and 108 men killed; 14 officers and 180 men wounded.
During this siege, the Allies had fired 10,000 bombs and 120,000 cannonballs against the fortress.
Louis XIV later promoted Blainville to lieutenant-general for his conduct.
The Allies needed two months to capture a place that Vauban had called a “hole”.
After the capture of Kaiserswerth the Allies soon made themselves masters of Son and Neuss. Now, with the exception of Rheinberg, the French had no places on the Rhine up to Bonn.
The Elector of Cologne took refuge in France and the town of Kaiserswerth was handed over to the Elector of Palatinate.
Commander-in-Chief: Marquis de Blainville
- since mid-March: 5 bns and 50 dragoons
- from 14 May: 8 bns (including a reinforcement of 3 bns sent by Tallard)
- from 8 June: 11 bns (including a new reinforcement of 3 bns sent by Tallard)
- Orléans Infanterie (2 bns)
- Royal Infanterie (3 bns)
- Saint-Sulpice Infanterie (1 bn)
- I./Artois Infanterie (1 bn)
- Agénois Infanterie (1 bn)
- Choiseul Infanterie (? bns)
Commander-in-Chief: Dutch Field-Marshal Walrad of Nassau-Saarbrücken
Summary: 38,000 men, 80 guns, 59 mortars, 6 howitzers, 70 hand-mortars
- Dutch Contingent (12 foot rgts, 6 cavalry rgts)
- Cavalry (6 rgts)
- Dutch Mattha Dragoons (4 sqns)
- Dutch Graaf van Erbach Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Palatine Wiser Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Dutch Cralingen Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Dutch Graaf van Nysle Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Palatine Nassau-Weilburg Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Infantry (12 bns with 12 battalion guns)
- Hanoverian Ranzow (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Weyhe (1 bn)
- Dutch (Swiss) Capol (1 bn)
- Dutch (Swiss) Muralt (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Mecklenburg-Schwerin Waldau (1 bn)
- Dutch (Scot) Strathnaver (1 bn)
- Dutch (Scot) Portmore (1 bn)
- Dutch (Swiss) Lochman (1 bn)
- Dutch Wilcke (1 bn)
- Hanoverian De Carles (1 bn)
- Palatinate Nassau-Weilburg (1 bn)
- Dutch Dedem (1 bn)
- Cavalry (6 rgts)
- Prussian Contingent (12 bns, 14 sqns) under General von Heiden
- Cavalry (14 sqns)
- Markgraf Philipp Cavalry (3 sqns)
- Barfuss Cavalry (3 sqns) unidentified unit
- Heiden Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Bayreuth Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Schöning Cavalry (2 sqns)
- L'Ostange Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Infantry (12 bns)
- Markgraf Philipp (2 bns)
- Markgraf Albrecht (1 bn)
- Markgraf Christian Ludwig (2 bns)
- Lottum (1 bn)
- Anhalt (1 bn)
- Anhalt-Zerbst (1 bn)
- Varenne (1 bn)
- Schlabrendorff (1 bn)
- Endow (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Kanitz (1 bn)
- Cavalry (14 sqns)
Note: the Franconian Brandenburg-Ansbach Infantry (in Dutch pay) was also present at the siege.
Hessian Contingent (6 bns) arriving on 11 June
- Grenadier-Regiment (1 bn)
- Leibgarde (1 bn)
- Löwenstein (1 bn)
- Erbprinz Friedrich (1 bn)
- Schöpping (1 bn)
- Prinz Wilhelm (1 bn) aka Du Mont / Dumont
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Pelet and François Eugène de Vault: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV
- Vol. 1 pp. 156-188, 539, 543, 552-555, 565, 606
- Vol. 2 pp. 3-130, 455, 487-488, 493, 536, 547-548, 581, 596
- Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 4, Vienna 1877, pp. 523-570
- Bezzel, O.: Geschichte des Kurpfälzischen Heeres, Bayrisches Kriegsarchiv, IV. File, part 1 and 2, Munich 1925
Folkers, Maarten: Kaiserswerth
Oderint Dum Probent - Siege of Kaiserwerth, 15 April - 18 June 1702
Royal Collection Trust – Siege of Kaiserswerth, 1702
- English Edition – Siege of Kaiserswerth
- German Edition – Belagerung von Kaiserswerth (1702)
Dinos Antoniadis for the initial version of this article
Harald Skala for the translation and integration of Bezzel's work