1703 – Campaign on the Rhine
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The campaign lasted from February to December 1703
During the winter of 1702-1703, Louis XIV augmented the size of his armies on the Rhine, in Italy and in Flanders while another army was assembled under the Maréchal de Montrevel to quench the rebellion of the Camisards in the Cévennes. Furthermore, the Army of the Rhine was subdivided in two distinct corps.
In 1703, Bavaria was the centre of gravity of the French operations, and only campaigns of the methodical and non-committal kind were planned for Italy and the Low Countries. Villeroy and Boufflers commanded the French in the Low Countries, Tallard initially in Lorraine and later on the Rhine, Villars initially in Alsace and later in Germany, and Vendôme in Italy.
On the Rhine great projects were entertained by the French, nothing less than the capture of Vienna by a combined Franco-Bavarian-Hungarian army being intended. The first measure towards the fulfillment of this objective was the junction of Villars' Army with the Army of the Elector of Bavaria. Beforehand, it was necessary to secure a place on the right bank of the Rhine and thus get access to the easiest roads through the mountains leading to Bavaria. Villars had the choice between Freiburg, Alt-Breisach and Kehl.
The Army of the Rhine should count 50 bns and 80 sqns and the Army of Germany under Villars, 40 bns and 50 sqns.
Situation of the Imperialist army on the Rhine
|Order of Battle|
|Army of the Margrave of Baden-Baden, January 1703|
At the beginning of January 1703, the Imperialist army of Margrave Louis of Baden had its headquarters at Rastatt with its various corps posted as follows:
- Field Marshal Count Hermann von Limburg-Styrum commanded the posts from the Frick Valley to, but not including, Offenburg on the Kinzig. However, in the first days of January, he was recalled to Nördlingen to take command of all Imperialist troops between the Danube and Main in the County of Oettingen and in the County of Hohenlohe up to Frankfurt.
- Field Marshal Johann Karl Baron von Thüngen in Philippsburg commanded the Imperialist troops from the Lauter to the Speyerbach.
- G.d.C. Johann Ernst Count von Nassau-Weilburg commanded the Palatine troops but was subordinated to Field Marshal Thüngen
- Field Marshal Margrave of Baden-Durlach commanded in and around Offenburg.
- Field Marshal Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth in Heilbronn, Hohenlohe and Franconia.
- G.d.C. Count Castell commanded the cavalry posts from Offenburg downstream along the Rhine.
- G.d.C. Count Gronsfeld commanded the cavalry posts from the Frick Valley to Offenburg.
- FML Count Herberstein commanded the posts from Kappel to Offenburg,
- FML Johann Count Pálffy commanded in Nördlingen.
- FML Baron Zanthe commanded in Mainz.
- G.d.C. Count Herbeville commanded in Bohemia.
- FML Count Schlick commanded on the frontier between Austria and Bavaria but was presently in Vienna (he would come back in the spring).
When Field Marshal Thüngen fell ill, the Count of Nassau-Weilburg assumed interim command of all Imperialist troops on the Upper Rhine.
The French capture Kehl
On 13 January, Villars set off from Versailles to return in Alsace.
On 17 January, Villars took dispositions to secure the Trois-Évêchés and the Sarre during the incoming campaign. He also transferred 2 bns and 4 sqns from the Trois-Évêchés to Alsace.
By that time, the Imperialists had a few troops marching upstream along the Rhine towards Konstanz; 8,000 men (including the garrison of Landau) were posted on the Lauter and the Queich; Palatine troops along with a few Imperial units were stationed in Palatinate and on the Speyerbach and the Hundsrück; troops of various Allies were posted around Koblenz and on the Lahn; and another Imperial corps occupied the right bank of the Rhine from the Neckar up to Alt-Breisach and Freiburg. Furthermore, an Imperial corps under the Count von Styrum was in the Black Forest; a second under General Gronsfeld on the Lower Danube; a third on the Inn near Passau. Finally, a Saxon Contingent (10,000 men) had marched through Bohemia to Upper-Palatinate where it could effect a junction with the Franconian Contingent who had taken its winter-quarters in its own country as the Swabian Contingent had also done. All signs indicated that the Imperialists were planning an invasion of Bavaria. The French also received intelligence about the fact that Imperial, Palatine, Hessian and Dutch troops posted on the Moselle and in the Hundsrück would lay siege to Trarbach.
On 23 January Villars arrived at Strasbourg.
On 24 January, the Allies made themselves master of the town Trarbach and invested the castle.
Based on this information, Villars resolved to lay siege to Kehl after a few diversions.
On 8 February, Villars left Strasbourg for Upper-Alsace to assemble his army.
On 9 February, after his arrival at Colmar, Villars was informed that the Elector of Bavaria had made himself master of Neuburg on the Danube. Meanwhile at Trarbach, the Allies started the bombardment of the castle.
On 11 February, Villars went to Ottmarsheim where the troops destined to pass the Rhine at Neuenburg were assembling.
On 12 February, Rosel's Corps passed the Rhine at Huningue and marched on Schopfheim in preparation for a junction with Villars' main body.
On 14 February, Villars passed the Rhine at Neuenbourg and encamped at Mulheim (unidentified location) where Rosel's Corps effected a junction. Villars was now at the head of 30 bns and 43 sqns. However, infantry colonels and artillery commanders had not yet rejoined their units.
On 15 February
- Villars' Army, to the surprise of the Imperialists, passed between the strongly garrisoned places of Alt-Breisach and Freiburg. On his way, Villars made himself master of forts and redoubts along the Rhine, defended by detachments of militia.
- Baden-Durlach Infantry, Erbprinz Württemberg Cuirassiers and 1 sqns of Hohenzollern Dragoons evacuated their winter-quarters and took refuge into Freiburg, Breisach and Offenburg.
On 16 February
- Villars' Army reached the Elz.
- General Bibra had assembled 12 bns, 1 cavalry rgt and a few hussars at Kappel and Kenzingen and had broken the bridges on the Elz.
On 17 February
- Seeing Villars' Army ready to ford the Elz at several places, Bibra retired, closely pursued by Villars' cavalry and dragoons who took many prisoners and captured 4 guns.
On 18 February
- Villars' Army marched to Altenheim where bridges were thrown on the Rhine to allow troops arriving from Lorraine and the Trois-Évêchés to join the main army.
- 21 bns and 25 sqns arriving from the Low Countries to reinforce Tallard (6 bns, 10 sqns) in the Trois-Évêchés, arrived at Thionville.
On 19 February
- In the morning, Villars's Army reached the Kinzig whose right bank was defended by entrenchments and redoubts. The ford at Willstätt was strongly entrenched and 3 bns occupied the castle. Villars passed the Kinzig at Willstätt and the defenders retired precipitously.
- The Castle of Willstätt remained occupied by Imperialist troops but was invested by 12 sqns under the command of M. de Marivault.
- Tallard marched to Trier, threw a bridge and sent his cavalry in the Hundsrück.
- Margrave Louis of Baden had barely enough time to leave Kehl before its investment.
- The Allies interrupted the siege of Trarbach, sent back their siege artillery and contented themselves to blockade the castle.
- Some 4,000 Allies were concentrated in the positions extending from Willstätt, by Offenburg and Ortenberg to Gengenbach, When Villars turned their positions at Willstätt, they retired behind the Lines between Bühl and Stollhofen. The construction of these entrenched positions had begun at the end of 1701. Its right wing was anchored on Fort Mutin, a bastion fort erected opposite the French Fort-Louis. These entrenchments then extended southwards through Hügelsheim to Kappel, on a distance of some 160 km.
In the night of 19 to 20 February, the 3 bns garrisoning the Castle of Willstätt managed to escape. The French immediately occupied the castle where they found a large depot of artillery and ammunition.
Overall, during his march, Villars had captured more than 50 forts and redoubts. Alarm was so great in the region that the Margrave of Baden, who had 10,000 men in fortified positions at Offenburg, evacuated Offenburg, Gegenbach and the Castle of Ortenberg.
On 20 February
- Villars invested Kehl to conquer an operational base on the right bank of the Rhine. His army then consisted of 49 bns and 77 sqns.
- Reinforcements joined the army of the Margrave of Baden behind the Lines of Stollhofen.
On 22 February, while awaiting the arrival of the siege artillery from Strasbourg, Villars marched on Offenburg at the head of a 6,000 men strong detachment to reconnoitre the Kinzig Valley.
On 23 February, Villars pushed up to Haslach where marauders had preceded him and he returned to Biberach. Villars was informed that the Margrave of Baden was assembling all his troops at Bühl, recalling those detached to Bavaria. Villars sent a letter to the Elector of Bavaria to inform him that a junction would now be possible by the Kinzig Valley if the Elector would advance to Villingen. The same day, Tallard marched towards Trarbach.
On 24 February, Villars returned to Kehl where everything was ready for the siege. The Siege of Kehl lasted till 10 March. With the Imperialists assembling at Bühl, Villars instructed Lannion to retire on Willstätt.
On 25 February, Tallard arrived in front of Trarbach but the Allies had retired to Castelaun during the night.
On 26 February, Tallard marched to Stumpferthurm, vainly trying to catch up with the retiring Allies. He then returned to Trarbach.
After the siege of Trarbach, the Allies took various roads towards the Rhine: the Hessians marched by St. Goar near Rheinfels; the Dutch by Koblenz and Boppart; 3 hussar rgts to Kreuznach; some 4,500 Palatines, who had wintered on the Nahe, towards Lower-Alsace. Finally, the Elector of Trier started the construction of a bridge at Alken on the Moselle to ease the march of an Allied corps arriving from the Lower-Rhine.
At the end of February, with the siege of Kehl progressing at a good pace, Louis XIV instructed Tallard to be ready to effect a junction with Villars' Army with 21 bns and 30 sqns as soon as Trarbach would have been relieved.
On 1 March, Tallard, after reinforcing the garrison of Trarbach (down to only 220 men) with 300 men, marched upstream along the Moselle to Berncastel.
On 4 March, Tallard detached M. de Varennes (2 bns, 4 sqns and 2 guns) from Sarre-Louis against St. Wendel which was stormed and the garrison (15 officers and 452 men of the Palatine II./Leibregiment zu Fuss) taken as prisoners of war. The same day, an Allied corps started to pass the Moselle at Alken.
On 6 March, Tallard reached Trier where he received instructions to march to the Upper-Sarre
On 10 March, Villars captured Kehl under the very eyes of the Margrave of Baden, who dared not risk a battle lest the Bavarians coming up in his rear should destroy his weakened army. The Bavarians had in fact no such intention.
On 12 March, the garrison of Kehl (3,000 men) marched under escort to Philippsburg. The French found 28 guns, and a large quantity of powder and of flour in the fortress.
After the capture of Kehl, Villars moved to Kehl the bridge previously established downstream of the fortress; and the bridge previously established upstream to Kappel. His two other bridges at Neuenburg and Huningue were well defended. Meanwhile, trenches were filled and the circumvallation line razed. The Castle of Ortenberg was demolished.
Tallard, who was on the march to reinforce Villars' Army, halted at Puttelange when he heard of the capture of Kehl.
Villars marches towards Bavaria
The Elector, while carrying on a trifling war with a small Imperial army under Count Styrum, insisted that Villars should cross the Black Forest and join him, which Villars was unwilling to do thus early in the year, as two-thirds of his officers were as usual on leave or detached on recruiting duties. Courtier though he was, the maréchal would not stir even in spite of the king's orders until he was ready.
On 14 March, Villars sent 19 bns and 43 sqns under the Comte du Bourg to repass the Rhine at Kappel and to take their quarters in Upper-Alsace.
On 15 March
- A French corps of 6 bns and 10 sqns, previously left behind on the Sarre by Villars, deployed between Saint-Jean de Saarbrücken and Phalsbourg.
- The rest of Tallard's forces (21 bns, 25 sqns) was deployed at Saarlouis, Thionville, Luxembourg and Echternach while Tallard established his quarters in Thionville.
On 16 March
- Villars, escorted by 900 foot and 1,000 horse, the region near the bridge of Kappel and the Elz River. As he was approaching Kenzingen. He learned that a detachment of some 750 Imperialists occupied the place. Villars summoned the place and the garrison accepted to leave Kenzingen and to retire to Freiburg. Villars then ordered to dismantle the walls of the place.
- The Imperialists also evacuated the castles of Sponeck, Limburg and Burckheim and all posts in the region of Alt-Breisach and Freiburg.
On 18 March, Villars returned to his camp at Kehl and then sent his troops to take quarters in Phalsbourg, Saverne and Upper-Alsace. He then personally went to Strasbourg, leaving a large garrison in Kehl under the command of the Brigadier de Bavary.
Meanwhile, the Margrave of Baden remained at Bühl where his troops worked at the erection of the Lines of Stollhofen. A Dutch Contingent (12 Dutch bns, 4 Hessian bns and 16 Dutch/Hessian sqns) under Lieutenant-General van Goor, coming from the Moselle and the Lower-Rhine, started to arrive at Landau.
Louis XIV was very surprised to learn that Villars had sent most of his army back to the left bank of the Rhine at a time where the situation of the Elector of Bavaria was very critical on the Danube where he had to face three different Imperial corps (Styrum, Gronsfeld and Schlik). Therefore, the king instructed Villars to rapidly assemble as much troops as possible and to march to Villingen by the Kinzig Valley.
On 21 March, Villars received the king's instructions.
At the beginning of April, Villars' Army started to receive a large number of recruits.
On 2 April, Villars received a letter sent to him by the Elector of Bavaria on 24 March, urging him to come to his support.
On 5 April, French troops previously stationed in Franche-Comté and Upper-Alsace arrived at Huningue.
On 7 April, Villars and Tallard met near Saverne to coordinate their operations. Tallard would march on the Rhine with 18 bns and 23 sqns and attack the Lines of Stollhofen while Villars would advance on Bühl.
On 8 April, Tallard assembled his army at Sarrebourg.
By 10 April, Villars had assembled his army on the right bank of the Rhine. His infantry, after the difficulties of the previous campaign, was very badly equipped without tents and with only 50% of its men armed with a muskets, the rest being armed with spontoons, pikes and halberds taken in the arsenals. Furthermore, the new uniforms, the necessary recruits and the officers were not yet arrived.
On 12 April, Villars personally went to Rheinau where troops from Alsace and Upper-Sarre (20 bns, 37 sqns) were assembled.
|Order of Battle|
|Army of the Margrave of Baden-Baden, Spring 1703|
In the morning of 13 April
- Villars passed the Rhine at Neuenburg, Kappel and Strasbourg with 54 bns and 86 sqns totalling some 35,000 men.
- Villars himself passed the river at Kappel with the centre column (20 bns, 37 sqns) and encamped at Herbolzheim near Kenzingen at the entry of the Waldkirch Valley.
- Rosel's column (15 bns, 31 sqns) marched from Huningue and joined the main army at Herbolzheim.
- Another column (19 bns, 16 sqns), the artillery and baggage were still assembling at Strasbourg.
- Villars passed the Rhine at Neuenburg, Kappel and Strasbourg with 54 bns and 86 sqns totalling some 35,000 men.
- Part of the Dutch contingent joined the Imperialist army posted in the Lines of Stollhofen, bringing its total force to 24,000 men. The rest of the Dutch contingent and a few Palatine bns remained at Lauterbourg to observe the French fortress of Fort-Louis.
- A force of Imperialist hussars (Loosy Hussars, Gombos Hussars, Esterházy Hussars and Czungenberg Hussars) totalling 1,142 men patrolled the area between the Lauter and the Queich up to Landau.
On 14 April, Villars was informed that the Imperialist corps of General Thüngen, posted on the Lauter, had marched to Bühl and that Styrum's Corps was marching from Upper-Palatinate to reinforce the Margrave of Baden. Villars then decided to attack the margrave before the arrival of further reinforcements.
On 15 April, Villars marched northwards from Herbolzheim to the Monastery of Schuttern.
On 16 April
- Villars marched to Offenburg.
- Tallard reached Saverne.
On 18 April, the Maréchal de Tallard arrived at Strasbourg with 18 bns and 23 sqns which he had brought from Metz.
In the night of 18 to 19 April, Imperialists troops arrived from the Lauter to reinforce the Margrave of Baden entrenched in the Lines of Stollhofen.
In the morning of 19 April, Villars marched with his army closer to the Lines of Stollhofen which he found well manned on its entire length (more than 4 km). He immediately sent 5 infantry brigades (25 bns) under Lieutenant-General Blainville to turn the left of these lines through the mountains and to seize heights behind them while he would attack the lines with the rest of his army. However, the heights were so well defended that the attack was canceled.
On 20 April, Tallard passed the Rhine with 15 bns and 20 sqns.
On 21 April, Tallard marched downstream along the right bank of the Rhine and reached Freistett, a position opposite to Villars's Army which should attack the Lines of Stollhofen.
On 23 April, Villars held a council of war where it was decided to attack the Lines of Stollhofen. However, Villars then received a letter from the Elector of Bavaria informing him that a Bavarian detachment would wait for Villars' relief army with provisions at Villingen at the beginning of May.
In the night of 23 to 24 April, Villars sent a few brigades to reconnoitre the left of the Lines of Stollhofen. These brigades stormed the village of Finckbach and set it afire. Meanwhile, Tallard detached Rosel with 2,000 men with 2 guns who seized Schwartzach. At midnight, Tallard marched with the rest of his troops (4,000 foot and 2,000 horse) and deployed in order of battle behind the stream of Schwartzach. Rosel passed the stream with 200 grenadiers and reached Stollhofen where they drove back 300 horse. Tallard then inspected the defences of Stollhofen and soon realised that they were unassailable. Villars also received several reports to this effect and finally decided to cancel the operation.
On 24 April, Villars retired to Niederachern while Tallard returned to Freistett.
On 25 April, Tallard repassed the Rhine and encamped at Schiltigheim.
On 26 April, Villars marched to Orlosen.
On 27 April, leaving Tallard alone to defend Alsace and Lorraine against the Margrave, Villars marched to Offenburg.
On 28 April
- Tallard’s vanguard passed the Rhine at Strasbourg.
- The Margrave of Baden sent 3 sqns of the Palatine Wittgenstein Dragoons, 2 sqns of the Limburg-Styrum Dragoons and the weak Badische Kreisregiment to reinforce FZM Count Prosper von Fürstenberg posted in the Kinzig Valley.
On 30 April
- Villars plunged into the defiles of the Black Forest along the Kinzig Valley with 50 bns, 60 sqns and 40 field pieces to effect a junction with the Bavarian Army and walk on Vienna. He had left 4 bns and 24 sqns at Offenburg to reinforce Tallard's Army.
- Tallard advanced with all his troops to Offenburg to cover the rear of Villars' line of advance. Tallard was now at the head of 19 bns and 44 sqns.
From this point, Villars’ operations are covered in our article 1703 – Franco-Bavarian advance on the Danube
The Margrave of Baden vainly threw some 8,000 men (including the Palatine Vehlen Dragoons) in the mountain passes hoping to stop Villars. In fact, these measures did not even delay Villars. Meanwhile, the margrave had remained idle in the Lines of Stollhofen with 11,000 men, detaching a few troops on the Lauter.
On 4 May
- Tallard received confirmation of the success of Villars' enterprises.
- Field Marshal Count Hermann von Limburg-Styrum set off from Baldingen near Nördlingen with his corps (13,000 men) and marched westwards in the direction of Göppingen.
On 5 May, Tallard decamped from Offenburg, moved closer to Kehl and encamped at Sundheim near Willstätt where he assembled 27 bns (including Navarre Infanterie and Du Roi Infanterie) and 44 sqns. He then remained in this camp to resupply his army and to give some rest to his cavalry who had been manoeuvring throughout winter.
On May 7
- Tallard had some 14,000 men in the vicinity of Offenburg and Willstätt
- Limburg-Styrum reached Nürtingen with his corps (13,000 men).
- The Margrave of Baden was in the Lines of Stollhofen with 11,000 men.
- FZM Count Fürstenberg was at Wolfach with 14,000 regulars and 1,000 Swabian peasants.
On May 8, the Duc de Bourgogne left Versailles on his way to Belfort, intending to join Tallard’s forces and take command of them.
Around mid-May, a party of some Imperial hussars presented itself in front of two of Tallard's outposts (1 bn, 1 sqn) at Molsheim and Mutzig but it was driven back.
Tallard then detached 300 dragoons and 400 horse to reinforce his outposts at Molsheim and Mutzig. However, this detachment was still on his way when 700 Imperial hussars made another attempt against these two outposts. The Chevalier de Rosel and M. de Lisle placed themselves at the head of the battalion and the squadron and marched against them, forcing them to retire on Lauterbourg.
Tallard proposed to Louis XIV to postpone the siege of Breisach to the middle of August. He also sent one bn to reinforce the garrison of Thionville and another bn to Fort-Louis.
On 27 May
- Tallard passed to the right bank of the Kinzig with his army (14,000 ill-equipped men) and encamped near Bodersweier, establishing his headquarters at Auenheim.
- The Margrave of Baden remained idle in the Lines of Stollhofen with his superior army (20,000 men).
The French destroy the Lines of the Lauter
On 28 May, Tallard sent the Gendarmerie to Belfort to escort the Duc de Bourgogne from there to Strasbourg.
On 3 June
- Tallard repassed on the left bank of the Rhine and encamped at Hördt near Brumpt on the right bank of the Zorn.
- In the evening, the Margrave of Baden quitted his army to rejoin the Count von Styrum in his camp, in an attempt to turn the Franco-Bavarians advancing on the Danube. He would be followed by the largest part of his army. The Margrave left FM Thüngen with 13,000 men in the Lines of Stollhofen.
On 4 June
- Tallard sent a letter to Villars to inform him of the departure of the Margrave of Baden. He also removed the bridge previously thrown on the Rhine at Rheinau and destroyed the bridgehead on the right bank of the river.
- The Margrave of Baden personally reached Rastatt.
The march of Tallard's Army towards Lower-Alsace convinced the Imperialists to abandon all their posts on the Zorn and at Wissembourg and Lauterbourg.
|Order of Battle|
|French Army of the Rhine, 6 June 1703|
On 6 June
- Informed of the withdrawal of the Imperialists, Tallard sent M. de Joffreville to Haguenau with some 750 horse to confirm their retreat.
- Tallard personally went to Benfeld to welcome the Duc de Bourgogne and to accompany him to Strasbourg.
- The Margrave of Baden took the road to Pforzheim with his army marching in five columns, 5 divisions, each at a day’s march from the other.
The Duc de Bourgogne and Tallard received confirmation of the retreat of the Imperialists and were informed that 4 Imperial rgts (in fact 8 bns) had been thrown into Landau while the rest of their army had retired behind the Queich; that 5 or 6 Dutch bns along with 2 cavalry units had been left to defend the Lines of the Stollhofen under General Thüngen.
On 9 June, the Duc de Bourgogne joined the army at the camp of Hördt.
On 10 June, the Duc de Bourgogne marched to Haguenau where he assembled an army of 39 bns and 55 sqns.
On 11 June, the army of the Duc de Bourgogne crossed the forest of Haguenau and encamped at Seltz on the left bank of the Seltz, leaving behind 1 infantry brigade and 1 cavalry brigade at Haguenau with the equipages. The same day, he received a letter from the king, promising him before 20 July reinforcements which would bring his army to 100 bns.
On 12 June, the equipages and their escort joined the French army at Seltz. The French commanders were informed that Landau was defended by 8 bns; that only 6 Palatine cavalry rgts remained on the left bank of the Rhine near Langenkandel; that the Allied infantry posted in the Lines of Stollhofen consisted of less than 4,000 men (Palatine Sachsen-Meiningen Infantry, Garde Grenadier, the Leibregiment zu Fuss, Lybeck Infantry, 6 Dutch bns) with only 8 sqns (Vehlen Dragoons, Wittgenstein Dragoons, Venningen Carabiniers) and 1 bn in advanced posts.
On the night of June 12 to 13, Thüngen gave orders to evacuate the Lines of Stollhofen between Wissembourg and Lauterbourg. Part of the troops retired to Landau and the rest to the right bank of the Rhine near Daxlanden.
On 13 June, the French army marched to Schleithal on the Lauter, between Wissembourg and Lauterbourg. These two places were occupied and the demolition of the lines immediately started as well as the demolition of the walls of Lauterbourg. The bailiwicks of Speyer, Neustadt and Germersheim in Palatinate were put to contribution.
On 15 June, the Imperialists posted a Palatine contingent (Vehlen Dragoons, Wittgenstein Dragoons, part of Sachsen-Meiningen Infantry and part of the Leibregiment zu Fuss) to secure the Rhine between Daxlanden and the mouth of the Murg River, as well as the bridges on the Murg at Illingen and Elchesheim.
In mid-June, the Margrave of Baden finally reached Göppingen where Field Marshal Limburg-Styrum was posted with his corps. Meanwhile, the largest part of the Imperialist army followed in five columns, marching by way of Pforzheim and Cannstadt (present-day Bad Cannstadt), each column at a day’s march from the other.
The French besiege and capture Alt-Breisach
On 2 July, the French army set off from Schleithal and marched to Salmbach, closer to Lauterbourg. The Duc de Bourgogne ordered to immediately demolish the fortifications of Lauterbourg.
By 5 July, the defences of Lauterbourg and the Lines of the Lauter had been entirely demolished.
On 6 July, the French army moved upstream along the Rhine, the infantry encamping at Seltz, the cavalry at Beinheim.
On 7 July, the French army marched to Roeschwoog and Roppenheim where the headquarters were established. Continuous rain forced the army to sojourned in these camps for a few days. During these days, the Duc de Bourgogne and Tallard received a letter from Louis XIV where he expressed doubt about the feasibility of the siege of Alt-Breisach and asked Tallard to reconnoitre the place before making his final decision.
On 12 July, the level of the Rhine having diminished a full metre, half of the French army marched to Haguenau.
On 13 July, the other half of the French army marched to Haguenau and 7 additional bns remained in the island of Fort Louis.
On 14 July, Tallard's entire army marched to Brumpt.
On 15 July, Tallard's Army passed the Rhine and encamped near Kehl.
On 16 July
- Tallard's Army sojourned.
- The Palatine contingent guarding the bridges of Illingen and Elchesheim was replaced by a detachment of 500 men (including part of the Venningen Carabiniers).
On 17 July, Tallard's Army passed the Kinzig and advanced on the Rench. The headquarters were established at Willstätt. M. de Sailly (4 bns, 7 sqns) was left behind on the Bruche to protect Lower-Alsace. Furthermore, 5 newly raised bns were left in Huningue and Neuf-Brissac. After these detachments, the army still counted 33 bns and 54 sqns.
During these movements, General Thüngen, who had been left in charge of the defence of the Lines of Bühl, had received 4 Palatine cavalry rgts. He had also sent 2 bns to reinforce Freiburg, 4 Imperial cavalry rgts to Villingen and 1 hussar rgt to form part of the garrison of Konstanz and thus cut the line of communication with Villars' Army through Schaffhausen.
Louis XIV sent the Maréchal de Vauban to supervise the planned siege of Alt-Breisach. The Duc de Bourgogne and Tallard were also informed that an Allied corps of some 7,500 men was marching from Cologne to reinforce Thüngen in the Lines of Stollhofen. Indeed, Thüngen's Corps counted only 18 bns and 32 sqns.
On 31 July
- The Duc de Bourgogne and Tallard marched to Erlach (unidentified location) on the Rench with their army. They intended to lay siege to Alt-Breisach with 50 bns and 59 sqns while a detachment (6 bns, 12 sqns) under M. de Sailly would remain on the Bruche. Furthermore, 20 field pieces were left at Strasbourg who could eventually join Sailly's detachment. Another 44 bns were distributed among the garrisons of Alsace, Metz country and Lorraine. The Duc de Bourgogne also instructed M. de Varennes to take 3 bns and a few newly raised sqns among the various garrisons and to send them to Bouzonville to cover Metz and to be in measure to launch an attack against Homburg.
- On the Danube, after an engagement at Munderkingen, the Margrave of Baden marched back towards the Middle Rhine.
By the end of July, Thüngen was convinced that the French intended to lay siege to Landau. In the last two months, he had received 3,310 foot and 1,830 horse as reinforcements:
- Palatine Kreis-Contingent (1 bn of 500 men)
- Palatine foot in Austrian pay (1 bn of 750 men)
- Münster foot (1 bn of 600 men)
- Osnabrück foot (2 bns for a total of 880 men)
- Cologne Contingent (1 bn of 580 men)
- Palatine horse (8 sqns for a total of 1,220 men)
- Münster horse (3 sqns for a total of 430 men)
- Westphalian Kreis-Contingent (2 sqns for a total of 200 men)
At the beginning of August, the 12 Dutch bns attached to Thüngen’s Army were sent away to reinforce the Margrave of Baden on the Danube. Thüngen’s Army now counted only 13,000 men.
|Order of Battle|
|French Army of the Rhine, 10 August 1703|
On 10 August, the Comte de Marsin marched to Willstätt with most of the French artillery, baggage.
On 11 August
- The baggage reached Bouchers near Strasbourg.
- Saint-Second's Brigade set off from Fort-Louis and encamped at Offendorf.
- Marsin with the artillery marched from Willstätt towards Kenzingen.
- The Duc de Bourgogne marched at the head of the main body from Erlach to Zunsweier. Ligondèz Cavalerie was sent to Strasbourg, it was destined to reinforce Sailly's detachment. Similarly, Broissia Infanterie and Savines Infanterie set off from Neuf-Brissac to reinforce Sailly.
On 12 August, Marsin marched to Kenzingen while the Duc de Bourgogne marched to Schuttern.
On 13 August, the Duc de Bourgogne marched to Ettenheim. Furthermore, 10,000 peasants were requisitioned to build a circumvallation to cover the siege.
On 14 August
- Marsin with 1,500 dragoons made a demonstration in front of Freiburg.
- The Duc de Bourgogne marched to Riegel and Endingen.
- Saint-Second's Brigade escorted the artillery from Strasbourg to Neuf-Brissac and baggage followed.
- In the evening, the Maréchal de Vauban joined the army.
On 15 August
- Marsin marched back from Freiburg and invested Alt-Breisach.
- The Duc de Bourgogne marched to Burkheim, just a few km downstream from Alt-Breisach.
- A floating bridge arrived from Huningue and Neuenburg.
- The Fortress of Alt-Breisach was defended by only 3,500 men.
The French Army of the Rhine then concentrated its efforts in the Siege of Alt-Breisach which lasted till the beginning of September. During the siege, General Thüngen not only remained idle in the Lines of Stollhofen but detached 5 new bns to reinforce the Margrave of Baden. Seeing this the Duc de Bourgogne recalled 3 bns posted on the Bruche.
|Order of Battle|
|Imperialist Corps in Freiburg, 4 September 1703|
On 4 September, while the siege of Alt-Breisach was progressing rapidly, Tallard was informed that the Imperialists had thrown a bridge at Lauterbourg and that their cavalry was on the march to pass on the left bank.
On 5 September
- The Duc de Bourgogne detached M. de Vertilly with 1,500 horse to reinforce the corps posted on the Bruche under M. de Streff. He also sent M. de Laubanie at Molsheim to take command in these quarters.
- A detachment (800 commandeered troops, 6 guns, 2 mortars and 8 pontoons) was sent to make itself master of the towns of Bischwiller and Drusenheim, so that a bridge could be established on the Rhine at Drusenheim for the passage of a corps under the command of G.d.C. von Nassau-Weilburg, then posted at Bühl, which would then attack Fort-Louis. This detachment reached Haguenau where it passed the Moder. Furthermore, a large number of peasants were ordered to assembled at Drusenheim with tools.
On 6 September
- The Duc de Bourgogne, fearing the advance of the Imperialists army on Strasbourg, sent 1,500 horse to reinforce the city.
- At 2:00 p.m., the garrison of Alt-Breisach hoisted the white flag.
- The small detachment which had crossed the Moder opened the trench in front of the Castle of Bischwiller defended by only 50 men.
On 7 September
- In the morning, Alt-Breisach capitulated, its garrison obtaining the honours of war.
- The small detachment besieging Bischwiller raised the siege and retired towards the Lauter.
- Immediately after the surrender of Alt-Breisach, Tallard set off for Strasbourg accompanied by three lieutenants-generals, four maréchaux de camp and followed by 2,500 foot embarked on boats on the Rhine. Upon his arrival at Strasbourg, Tallard was informed that the Imperialists lay siege to Bischwiller.
On 8 September
- At daybreak, Laubanie assembled all the forces posted on the Bruche at Weyersheim to relieve Bischwiller. However, upon reaching the Zorn, Laubanie was informed that the Imperialists had already retired. Tallard then instructed Laubanie to advance on Offendorf with part of his force and to send a detachment of 600 horse to Fort-Louis.
- The Chevalier de Croissy with 1,000 foot occupied various posts on the Rhine between Strasbourg and Fort-Louis.
- M. de Streff returned to the Bruche with his corps.
- The garrison of Alt-Breisach (now down to 3,200 men) marched with 4 guns and 2 mortars under escort to Rheinfeld. The French found 40 guns and more ammunition than anticipated in the place.
On 9 September, Tallard set off from Strasbourg with 2,000 horse and rejoined the main army at Alt-Breisach.
The French besiege and capture Landau
On 18 September
- The French army marched to Endingen, leaving 10 bns behind to garrison Alt-Breisach. The main army now consisted of 39 bns and 60 sqns.
- The Duc de Bourgogne left the army to return to Versailles.
- In the evening, Tallard received new instructions from the king about the next objectives of the campaign which would be the recapture of Landau.
Tallard and Vauban then made the necessary preparations for the siege of Landau.
On 21 September, Tallard decamped from Endingen and marched to Ettenheim, south of Lahr at the outskirt of the Black Forest. He then personally went to Strasbourg to speed up preparations, leaving command of the army to the Comte de Marsin.
On 27 September, Tallard was informed of Villars' victory in the Battle of Höchstädt on 20 September.
On 28 September
- The army marched from Ettenheim, passed the Rhine and encamped under the walls of Strasbourg.
- Tallard received new instructions from the king, who judging the situation critical on the Danube, ordered to Tallard to abandon his design against Landau and to immediately march to Villingen to cover the retreat of Villars' Army. However, knowing of Villars' victory, Tallard staid focused on the recapture of Landau.
On 29 September, Tallard's Army (39 bns, 60 sqns) marched to Brumpt and Tallard himself resumed his preparations, some 4,000 wagons were on the move to transport the necessary equipment and 20,000 workers had been requisitioned for the siege. Finally, he took 4 additional bns from the garrison of Strasbourg, 2 bns from Fort-Louis, 6 bns and 11 sqns from the corps posted on the Bruche, 3 bns and 2 sqns from the corps posted on the Nied so that he was now at the head of an army of 54 bns and 73 sqns. Furthermore an artillery park of 110 guns and 60 mortars had been assembled at Strasbourg.
Louis XIV then recalled Vauban because he feared that conflicts could arise if two maréchaux de France were present at the siege of Landau. Colonel Lapara, one of Vauban’s pupils, was charged to assist Tallard during the siege; while Colonel de Frézelière would command the artillery.
At the beginning of October
- M. d'Hautefort encamped with 6 bns and 10 sqns between Lauterbourg and Fort-Louis to guard the Rhine.
- Tallard, who had assembled his army (54 bns, 73 sqns) along the Zorn River, sent boats downstream to build a bridge.
- The king had already instructed the Maréchal de Villeroy, commanding in Flanders, to prepare Pracontal's Corps (21 bns, 19 sqns for a total of some 10,000 men) to march to the Rhine in support of Tallard.
On 5 October
- Tallard set off from Strasbourg and joined his army who marched from Brumpt to Haguenau.
- Pracontal's Corps was on the Ourthe between Marche and La Roche.
On 6 October, Tallard's Army marched to Seltz.
On 7 October, Tallard's Army sojourned at Seltz so that baggage and troops arriving from Upper-Alsace could join it. The same day, 46 heavy guns, 24 mortars, 10 pierriers arrived at Roderen and the rest of the artillery and ammunition reached Haguenau and Suffelnheim.
On 8 October, Tallard's Army passed the Lauter at Schweighoffen downstream from Wissembourg and encamped at Steinfeld.
On 9 October
- In the morning, M. d'Hautefort at the head of 12 bns and 6 sqns marched against the bridgehead of the Imperialists at Hagenbach, which was defended by 4 bns and supported by an Imperial corps posted on the right bank of the Rhine.
- Hautefort fired on the bridge with two guns, damaging one pontoon.
- The Imperialists retired to the right bank without opposing resistance and removed their bridge, bringing material to safety.
- The French left 1 bn at Hagenbach. They were now master of the Rhine up to Germersheim.
On 10 October
- Tallard's Army marched in two divisions: one of 10 bns and 19 sqns under Tallard's personal command who marched to Rohrbach; the other of 20 bns and 30 sqns under the Comte de Marsin who advanced up to Mörlheim near Landau and encamped on the right bank of the Queich.
- As Marsin was approaching from Landau, 1 hussar rgt, 1 Palatine dragoon rgt and a few cavalry detachment previously encamped under the walls of Landau, took the road to Philippsburg, to the exception of 300 horse who entered into Landau. The two coys of Darmstadt Infantry posted near Mörlheim retired into the entrenchments of Landau.
- The Palatine Vehlen Dragoons reinforced Schönburg’s detachment near Speyerdorf. This detachment now counted some 1,600 men.
On 11 October, Tallard's Division marched to Impflingen while Marsin passed the Queich and invested Landau, establishing his quarters at Nussdorf and extending his right and his left up to the Queich up to Godramstein on one side and to Queichheim on the other.
Tallard's Army then undertook the Siege of Landau.
On 13 October
- Tallard detached Lieutenant-General Courtebourne with 1,500 foot, including 500 grenadiers, and 1,500 horse against the Lines of the Speyerbach defended by Schönburg’s detachment.
- The Count of Nassau-Weilburg marched with his army (19 bns, 27 sqns) along Rhine to secure the Electorate of Palatinate. He established his headquarters at Mühlburg. His army included the following Palatine rgts:
- Garde Grenadiers (2 bn)
- Lybeck Infantry (2 bn)
- Sachsen-Meiningen Infantry (2 bn)
- Isselbach Infantry (2 bn)
- Leibregiment zu Fuss (2 bn)
- Greber Infantry (2 bn)
- Upper Rhine Kreisregiment (2 bns)
- Barbo Infantry (1 bn) in Dutch pay
- Rehbinder Infantry (1 bn) in Dutch pay
- Nassau-Weilburg Infantry (1 bn) in Dutch pay
- Bentheim-Tecklenburg Infantry (1 bn) in Dutch pay
- Battalion Paderborn (1 bn)
- Lecheraine Cavalry in Dutch pay
- Frankenberg Cavalry in Dutch pay
- Schellart Cavalry in Dutch pay
- Wiser Cavalry in Dutch pay
- The Count of Nassau-Weilburg marched with his army (19 bns, 27 sqns) along Rhine to secure the Electorate of Palatinate. He established his headquarters at Mühlburg. His army included the following Palatine rgts:
On 15 October
- Courtebourne's detachment advanced against the Lines of the Speyerbach.
- Engagement near Speyerdorf
- Courtebourne found them deployed in order of battle behind their entrenchments and he managed to break into their defence and to drive them back.
- The Imperialists lost some 300 hussars and 100 men from Vehlen Dragoons, killed or wounded. The remaining hussars and dragoons, under Colonel Loosy managed to escape and took refuge in Speyer. Another part of the Imperialist force (Colonel Schönburg , 34 officers and 600 foot) took refuge in Neustadt an der Haardt
- Heavy fighting took place in the streets of Neustadt , where some 300 hussars and 100 Vehlen Dragoons were killed or wounded, the rest managed to escape to Speyer. The Vehlen Regiment was then so weak that it could not participate in the rest of the campaign.
- Courtebourne immediately occupied Neustadt and detached M. de Vaillac to make himself master of the Castle of Marientraut on the Speyerbach, and then of Speyer and Germersheim.
On 16 October, Colonel Lecheraine, sent by the Margrave of Baden, met Marlborough at Düsseldorf to ask for an Allied force to relieve Landau. Marlborough promised that he would try to convince the Dutch to send such a relief corps.
On 24 October, the Hereditary Prince of Hesse-Kassel, who was posted near Limbourg and Verviers, received orders to relieve Landau with his corps (10 bns, 27 sqns for a total of some 12,000 men). He would be accompanied by the Dutch Field-Deputy van Almelo. The Prince of Hesse-Kassel was instructed to effect a junction with the corps of Count von Nassau-Weilburg (18 bns, 27 sqns for a total of some 10,000 men).
Around 24 October, Tallard received a very alarming letter from the Elector of Bavaria, describing a very desperate situation and enjoining him to set off immediately from Landau and to plan a junction with his own army in the Black Forest. Tallard answered that it was impossible for his army to abandon the siege at this stage and that he expected to make himself master of the place within 15 days.
On 8 November
- The Hereditary Prince of Hesse-Kassel reached Kreuznach with his corps.
- The Count of Nassau Weilburg left Mühlburg and marched to Mannheim. All his battalions were understrength (not more than 300 men each).
- The first column, personally led by the Count of Nassau-Weilburg consisted of some Palatine cavalry, the Garde Grenadiers, Lybeck Infantry, Isselbach Infantry, Nassau-Weilburg Infantry, Neu-Rehbinder Infantry and Greber Infantry.
- The second column, led by Prince Ernst Ludwig von Sachsen-Meiningen followed the first column up to Philippsburg.This column consisted of 7 bns: Leibregiment zu Fuss, Lybeck Infantry, Isselbach Infantry, Sachsen-Meiningen Infantry, Efferen-Rehbinder Infantry, Barbo Infantry and the Münsterer Ufflingen Infantry.
- Tallard was informed that a relief army was approaching, he then wrote to Pracontal to urge him to speed up march with his corps (21 bns, 19 sqns).
On 10 November
- The Count of Nassau-Weilburg crossed the Rhine with his troops and 12 guns at Mühlburg near Daxlanden and encamped with his infantry at Leimersheim, east of Rheinzabern while his cavalry advanced in small detachments towards Strasbourg to threaten the line of communication between the besieging army and Alsace.
- Another part of Nassau-Weilburg’s Corps (5,000 men) was still posted between Philippsburg and Mannheim from where it was supposed to be transported by ships to Speyer in the next days.
- There were now only 4 weak bns and approx. 500 horse left in the Lines of Stollhofen.
- The defenders of Landau heard four gunshots, the agreed signal.
- The Prince Hesse-Kassel with his Dutch corps arrived at Frankenthal and Dürkheim.
- Tallard now badly needed support and sent several couriers to Pracontal who was still in Lorraine.
On 11 November, the Count of Nassau-Weilburg met the Prince of Hesse-Kassel at Alzey. During their meeting, they resolved to effect a junction of their corps near Speyer on 13 November, to give some rest to the Allied corps, which had been on the march for three weeks, and to march on Landau on November 16. They both believed that Tallard would abandon the siege of Landau once they had effected a junction.
On 12 November, the Allied relief army assembled at Leimersheim. It included the corps under the command of the Prince of Hesse-Kassel but also units taken from various garrisons.
On 13 November, the small Imperialist corps (4,000 men) under the Count of Nassau-Weilburg effected a junction with the larger Allied corps (16,000 men) under the Prince of Hesse-Kassel near Speyer. Additional troops were supposed to join them in a few days. This Allied army planned to march on Landau on 16 November. The two corps had no unified command and encamped in different locations: near Dudenhofen, Mechtersheim and Heiligenstein (far from Speyer, on the left bank of the Rhine, on the same side as Tallard's and Pracontal's troops!).
On 14 November
- By that date, the Hanoverians, the Franconians, the Swabians along with the troops of Kurmainz and Darmstadt were still on their way to join the combined armies of the Allies, which could then field only 14 Palatine bns and 9 Hessian bns.
- Colonel Frankenberg at the head of 400 horse bumped into a few French squadrons near Esslingen (4 km from Landau). He immediately retired. Frankenberg reported this engagement to the commanders who were comforted in their idea that Tallard's troops were lying around Landau and Pracontal still far away (in fact Pracontal's Corps had already passed Kaiserslautern).
- Tallard was well informed about the movements of the Allies. He ordered Pracontal to take position near Essingen on the road between Landau and Speyer.
On the evening of 14 November, Tallard set off from Landau with his main body (28 bns, 53 sqns), leaving only 6,000 men (26 bns, 20 sqns) under Lieutenant-General Laubanie to continue the siege. Tallard then marched to Essingen where he arrived at 11:00 p.m. He then let his troops rest before the anticipated battle.
On 15 November
- At 4:00 a.m., Pracontal with his cavalry (19 sqns) and some 800 foot transported in wagons finally effected a junction with Tallard's main army, thus bringing Tallard's forces to 28 bns and 72 sqns.
- At daybreak in the foggy early morning, Tallard marched towards Speyer in five column. Tallard then engaged and defeated the relief corps sent from Marlborough's distant army to relieve Landau in the Combat of Speyerbach which was almost as costly to the Allies as Höchstädt. Tallard's Army spent the night on the battlefield.
- In a council of war in Speyer, the Count of Nassau-Weilburg and Prince of Hesse-Kassel maintained their decision to attack Tallard's Army near Landau on 16.November.
On the night of November 15 to 16, the corps of the Count of Nassau-Weilburg returned speedily to Mannheim, and the Allied corps to Mainz by Mutterstadt.
On 16 November
- Tallard's Army marched back to Landau where it was soon joined by the infantry of Pracontal's Corps who had been unable to follow the pace of his cavalry. The defenders of Landau had already asked to capitulate. Tallard granted them the honours of war.
- The defeated Allied relief army repassed the Rhine at Mannheim, another party at Rhein-Turckheim (unidentified location) near Worms and the Prince of Hesse-Kassel marched to Mainz with the rest of the army. They abandoned Speyer and Germersheim which were occupied by the French.
- Part of the corps of the Count of Nassau-Weilburg retired to Lines of Stollhofen and the rest to Mannheim and Heidelberg. Frankenberg Cavalry and Schellart Cavalry retired to Landenburg; Bretten? Cavalry and Wiser Cavalry, to Umstad;t and Lecheraine Cavalry to the vicinity of Heidelberg.
On 17 November
- The capitulation of Landau was signed.
- The corps of the Prince of Hesse-Kassel reached Frankenthal.
On 18 November
- The Imperial garrison of Landau (reduced to 1,800 men from an original force of 4,000 men) set off from Landau.
- Tallard sent part of his army to the Speyerbach and detached Pracontal's former corps (now under the command of M. de Caraman) 8 km beyond Landau.
- The French occupied Landau place, M. de Laubanie being appointed governor of the place.
- Immediately, 2,000 workers were put to work to raze the siege works and to repair the fortifications of the place. The occupation of Landau secured Lower-Alsace and protected the Sarre.
On 19 November, the Prince of Hesse-Kassel, now at Mainz, was reinforced with a Hanoverian contingent (12 bns, 12 sqns) and a Swabian contingent (6 bns).
On 20 November, Tallard was informed that the Imperialists had evacuated Homburg and Kaiserslautern after demolishing part of their walls.
On 21 November, as instructed by Versailles, Tallard sent 12 bns and 19 sqns destined for the provinces of Dauphiné and Roussillon.
On 23 November, Tallard cantoned his army between the Queich and the Lauter from Langenkandel up to Minfeld. Only 12 bns were kept at Landau; 2 bns, in Neustadt; 1 bn in Germersheim. Meanwhile, Speyer was guarded by detachments and the cavalry was sent to Fort-Louis. Caraman's Corps encamped at Münchweiler until the fortifications of Kaiserslautern were entirely razed. Tallard established his headquarters in Neustadt.
On 28 November
- The troops of the Prince of Hesse-Kassel took up their winter quarters in the Principality of Nassau.
- The troops of the Count of Nassau-Weilburg took up their winter-quarters, part between the Main and the Neckar, part near Stollhofen.
- Tallard received confirmation that the Allies had taken their winter-quarters around Frankfurt/Main.
- Tallard started to send his troops to their winter-quarters in Alsace while the Gendarmerie went to Franche-Comté around Belfort and Vesoul.
- Caraman's Corps marched from Münchweiler to Trier where M. de Coigny replaced Caraman as commander.
On 3 December, Tallard personally went to Strasbourg.
On 11 December, Tallard set off from Strasbourg to inspect Fort-Louis and then go to Versailles.
On 20 December, Tallard arrived at Versailles.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Vault, François Eugène de: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 3 pp. 159, 372-490, 491-573
- Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 5, Vienna 1878, pp. 289-379
- Bezzel, O.: Geschichte des Kurpfälzischen Heeres, Bayrisches Kriegsarchiv, IV. File, part 1 and 2, Munich 1925
- Treuenfest, A. v.: Geschichte des k. k. Infanterie-Regiments Nr. 20 Friedrich Wilhelm, Kronprinz von Preussen, Vienna 1878
- Spanish Succession, War of the, in Encyclopaedia Britannica (c1910-1922), Vol. 25, p. 601