1703-07-31 – Combat of Munderkingen

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1703-07-31 – Combat of Munderkingen

French victory

Prelude to the Battle

By the end of July 1703, the Imperialist army of the Margrave of Baden and the Franco-Bavarian army of the Maréchal de Villars were facing each other since seven weeks.

On 23 July, the Margrave of Baden had detached FML de la Tour with 2,300 horse 400 hussars to cut the line of communication of Villars’ Army with Switzerland.

On 30 July, the cavalry corps of FML de la Tour encamped near Emerkingen and sent out detachments in various directions.

In the night of 30 to 31 July, Maréchal de Camp Legall assembled 2 bns (700 foot), 18 sqns and 500 detached horse (a total of some 3,000 men) near Offenhausen and marched against de La Tour's Corps. Legall crossed the Iller near Wiblingen and marched all night, his infantry riding pillion.

Map

Combat of Munderkingen
 
Courtesy: Dinos Antoniadis
 
Legend
 
a. Imperialist camp
b. Danube shallow in this place
c.Critical bridge for the Allied retreat
 
French
1. Vanguard
2. Left Wing
3. Right Wing
4.Reserve
 
Imperialists
1. Dragoons
2. Cuirassiers
3. Cuirassiers
4. Select Horse
5.Hussars

Description of Events

At 5:00 a.m. on 31 July, a few peasants ran into the Imperialist camp at Emerkingen, reporting that French horse were advancing on the camp. Almost at the same time, some hussars arrived from an outpost, confirming the report of the peasants and adding that the French were as numerous as their own corps and consisted mainly of cavalry.

Upon arrival, the French foot dismounted and deployed.

After a brief discussion with Major-General Prince Christian Heinrich von Hannover (a brother of the Elector of Hanover and proprietor of the Jung-Hannover Cuirassiers), FML Count de la Tour decided to accept battle. At that time, only 1,900 horse were at the camp of Emerkingen while 800 men had been detached on various raids. All detachments were immediately recalled but they were too far away to reach the battlefield in time. For more security, the whole train was sent to the left bank the Danube over the bridge of Munderkingen.

Count de la Tour then deployed his corps in two lines in a large meadow covered with oat fields. His right wing leaned on the road leading from Emerkingen to Munderkingen and his left wing on an arm of the Danube which at this place was about 65 paces wide and very shallow. At several places, it was possible to ford this arm. The Imperialist force outflanked Legall's Corps.

The terrain was not well suited for cavalry, being made more difficult by extensive forests, boggy ground and numerous rivulets.

Around 7:00 a.m., Lieutenant-Colonel de Boseau at the head of the French vanguard (1 sqn of Mérinville Cavalerie and 20 dragoons) debouched from the forest south of Rottenacker. In his advance, he came across several streams, the bridges of which had been destroyed by the Imperialists.

As the French vanguard appeared along the Sulzbach stream and started to reestablish the bridge, the Imperialist dragoons of the first line were ordered to charge. Their fire was so effective that, according to Boseau's own statement, all of his officers were wounded and many of his soldiers, killed.

Nevertheless, Boseau’s vanguard managed to establish three field bridges across the Sulzbach and a fourth bridge across a stream near the village of Bettighofen.

Around 8:00 a.m., Legall’s main force crossed the Sulzbach under enemy fire, 1 infantry bn under Major Montgaillard leading the advance. This bn crossed a second stream and took position west of Bettighofen from where it opened a lively fire. Covered by the fire of Montgaillard’s bn, Legall’s cavalry then crossed this second stream and deployed in line. The Fontbeausard Brigade formed the right wing and the Du Héron Brigade, the left wing. The reserve took position along the Sulzbach.

Count de la Tour personally led 6 sqns (3 sqns of Alt-Hannover Cuirassiers and 3 sqns of Prince Darmstadt Cuirassiers) in an attack against Legall’s left wing. These sqns trotted up to 200 paces from the enemy, halted and then charged. The fire of the Imperialists was so effective that Du Héron Brigade, which was also trotting, became disorganised and turned to flee.

The French foot, posted in a sunken road, stopped the pursuing Imperial cavalry.

Legall, seeing the critical situation on his left wing, sent the 5 sqns of his Reserve to support du Héron, allowing his brigade to rally.

Count de la Tour drove back the French Reserve which retired behind Du Héron Brigade which had meanwhile redeployed in line.

Du Héron Brigade then rapidly advanced against the Imperialist right wing and crashed into the ranks of the Darmstadt Cuirassiers. In the ensuing melee, Brigadier du Héron fell from his horse, mortally wounded. However, the French gradually pushed back their opponents.

During this cavalry combat on the Imperialist right wing, opponents exchanged fire on the Imperialist left wing without decisive results.

FML de La Tour was about to call the last sqns of his Reserve to join the cavalry combat on his right wing when he suddenly noticed that a French column (1 bn under Major Comte Montal and 2 sqns of Choiseul Cavalerie under Major Rodemacher) had turned his position west of Emerkingen and was marching against his bridge at Munderkingen.

Hard pressed in front and with his line of retreat threatened, FML de la Tour gave the signal to retire.

Initially the retreat was carried out in good order and part of the cavalry and the Bayreuth Dragoons managed to reach the bridge of Munderkingen before the French. However, the last Imperialist sqns were had pressed by the French cavalry. FML de La Tour ordered these sqns to make front and to charge the pursuing cavalry.

During the ensuing combat, FML de La Tour was thrown down from his saddle by two troopers of Barentin Cavalerie and almost captured.

When the French column sent against the bridge of Munderkingen reached its destination, it found that part of the Imperialist cavalry, along with several detachments which had been recalled when combat broke out, were still on the right bank of the Danube. These units used the existing fords and passed the river in the greatest disorder without significant losses.

The French, exhausted by their night-march and a combat which had lasted 1½ hour, did not try to cross the Danube. FML Count de La Tour assembled his defeated cavalry corps on the road leading to Ehingen.

Outcome

In this action, the Imperialists lost 140 men killed and 142 men wounded (1,500 men killed, wounded or drowned as per French reports). Several of their officers were killed, including Prince Christian von Braunschweig, brother of the Elector of Hanover. However, they captured one standard belonging to Condé Cavalerie.

The French lost 40 officers and some 500 men killed or wounded; and captured 11 standards. Brigadier du Héron would die from his wounds on August 2.

Legall remained a certain time on the battlefield to take care of the wounded, including M. du Héron who died of his wounds shortly afterwards (August 2). For this feat of arm, Legall would later be promoted to lieutenant-general.

Order of Battle

French Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Maréchal de Camp Legall

Summary: 700 foot (2 bns) and 2,300 horse (18 sqns and 500 picked horse)

Vanguard

  • 1 unidentified infantry bn under Major Montgaillard
  • Mérinville Cavalerie (1 sqn)
  • 20 dragoons

Right wing

  • Fontbeausard Brigade
    • Fontbeausard Dragons (3? sqns)
    • Choiseul Cavalerie (2? sqns)
  • 1 unidentified infantry bn under Major Comte Montal

Left wing

  • Du Héron Brigade
    • Héron Dragons (3? sqns)

Reserve

  • La Vrillière Dragons (3 sqns)
  • Mérinville Cavalerie (2 sqns)

N.B.: the Barentin Cavalerie (2? sqns) and Condé Cavalerie (2? sqns) are also mentioned in relations of this combat but we have been unable to associate them with a specific brigade.

Imperialist Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: FML. Count Lamoral de la Tour de Valsassina und Taxis

Cavalry (2,300 horse)

Hussars (400 men taken from various regiments)

References

Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 5, Vienna 1878, pp. 513-520

Vault, François Eugène de, and Pelet: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 3 pp. 644-645