1703 – Siege of Bonn
The siege lasted from 24 April to 15 May 1703
Towards the end of March 1703, the Allies, fearing for the Army of the Margrave of Baden posted on the Rhine, sent troops (13 infantry rgts and a few cavalry rgts) to Koblenz under Lieutenant-General Baron Goor. They also started to assemble their main army in the Dutch Republic.
Very reluctantly Marlborough was compelled to undertake the siege of Bonn, a fortified city of the Electorate of Cologne on the Lower Rhine, to open the campaign in the Low Countries. The City of Bonn had been handed over to the French by the elector.
For the planned siege, Marlborough himself would command the besiegers, while Field Marshal Nassau-Ouwerkerk would handle the covering army. The Dutch General Menno van Coehoorn would supervise the siege, he expected to capture Bonn rapidly and was given 90 24-pdr guns , 50 other heavy siege guns and 50 large mortars to do so.
At the beginning of April, Marlborough went to Cologne to assemble the Army of the Rhine (78 bns, 59 sqns, 140 heavy guns and 50 heavy mortars) destined for the siege of Bonn, after visiting all places on the Meuse up to Liège.
The defensive works of the city consisted of simple bastions. The place was linked to the opposite bank of the Rhine by a bridge of boats which was protected by bridgehead, called Fort Bourgogne,.
The garrison of Bonn consisted of 10 bns (6 French, 2 Spanish, 2 from the Electorate of Cologne) under the command of the Marquis Yves d'Alègre, who was resolved to resist as long as possible to give Villeroy the opportunity to make a diversion elsewhere.
Description of events
On 24 April, Prussian and Hanoverian cavalry, under the command of Lieutenant-General Bulau, reconnoitred in the direction of Bonn.
On 25 April in the morning, Baron Fagel arrived before Bonn with the first infantry divisions. Together with the Prussian and Hanoverian cavalry, these divisions of the Army of the Rhine invested Bonn. Some 200 men were immediately thrown in the village of Poppelsdorf. Meanwhile, the Army of the Meuse, under Nassau- Ouwerkerk continued to concentrate around Maastricht.
On 26 April, Marlborough and Coehoorn arrived before Bonn with the rest of the Allied infantry of the Army of the Rhine. He extended his camp from Graurheindorf to the mountain of Kreuzberg where he established his headquarters. Marlborough ordered to conduct three attacks:
- the first on the so-called “Fort de Bourgogne” on the right bank of the Rhine under the supervision of Engineer-General Coehoorn, seconded by Major-General Freisheim (aka Fiesheim), Erbesfeld (aka Elberfeld) and the engineer de La Rocque
- the second from the north on left bank of the Rhine by the Hereditary Prince Frederick of Hesse-Kassel, seconded by the Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, Major-General Karl Wilhelm von Anhalt-Zerbst, Major-General Tettau and the engineer Hazard
- the third from the south on the left bank of the Rhine by Lieutenant-General Franz Nikolaus Fagel, seconded by Major-General de Dedem, Major-General Saint-Paul and the engineer Colonel Reinhard.
Coehoorn took dispositions for the opening of the trenches.
The Marquis d'Alègre sent a letter to the Duke of Marlborough, reminding him that an agreement had been reached the year before between the Electors of Cologne and Palatinate, by which bombing of the cities of Bonn and Düsseldorf was forbidden, to protect public buildings, churches and palaces from damage. He then warned Marlborough that, in the event of an attack on Bonn, the city of Neuburg would suffer reprisals. The duke replied, that he could only abandon his designs if the defenders evacuated Bonn.
On 27 April, the artillery (140 guns, 150 mortars) was disembarked. Meanwhile the cavalry and infantry of Hesse-Kassel reached Bonn.
By 2 May, Marlborough had already assembled 40 bns and 60 sqns in front of Bonn.
In the night of 3 to 4 May, the Allies opened the trenches in three locations in front of Bonn. However, the troops of the Prince of Hesse-Kassel and General Dedem were repelled by the fire of the defenders.
On 4 April in the evening, Coehoorn posted three batteries on the banks of the Rhine, one consisting of six cannon destroyed the bridge of boat linking the two banks of the Rhine, a second battery consisting of 30 cannons fired at the walls of Fort Bourgogne, and the third battery, consisting of 12 cannons, was directed against the right flank of the fort. Furthermore, 18 mortars and another 12 guns had been placed near the third battery.
On 9 May in the evening, Coehoorn launched an attack on a breach in the wall of Fort Bourgogne with 400 grenadier, supported by four bns. Rabutin, the French commander of the fort almost immediately ordered the garrison to evacuate the fort. They were then transported by boats across the Rhine to Bonn. The Allies were now master of the bridgehead on the right bank of the river.
On May 10, the Allies redeployed 80 cannons, 40 mortars and 500 small mortars in front of Bonn and began to breach the walls. The southern approach significantly progressed.
On 11 and 12 May, the Allied artillery seriously damaged large portions of the walls of Bonn.
On 13 May, after three days of bombardment, a large breach had been created in the ramparts. D’Alègre ordered a sortie of 1,200 foot of Royal Infanterie and La Couronne Infanterie supported by 400 horse. They attacked General Dedem's troops, destroyed some guns and killed between 200 and 250 men before retreating behind the ramparts.
The same day (13 May), the Prince of Hesse-Kassel attacked the northern front of the fortress with 10 bns, supported by artillery. Despite a stubborn resistance, they managed to occupy the first and second counterscarp.
On 14 May, the bombardment continued and the besiegers created a large breach in the fortifications.
On 15 May, M. d'Alègre asked to capitulate.
On 16 May, the conditions of capitulation were fixed, allowing the defenders free withdrawal with the honours of war. The garrison (3,600 men) was escorted to Luxembourg. It later would join Tallard's Army on the Upper Rhine.
On 17 May, Marlborough marched with the Army of the Rhine from Bonn towards the Low Countries.
After the capture of Bonn, Marlborough turned his attention to the Spanish Netherlands where he planned to launch offensives against Ostend and Antwerp, hoping to capture these two cities or at least force the French to offer battle.
Commander-in-Chief: Marquis Yves d'Alègre
Summary: 10 bns (6 French bns, 2 Spanish bns, 2 bns of the Electoral of Cologne) for a total of 3,600 men.
Commander-in-Chief: John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, seconded by Engineer-General Menno van Coehoorn, Hereditary Prince Frederick of Hesse-Kassel and Lieutenant-General Franz Nikolaus Baron Fagel
Summary: 78 bns, 59 sqns, 140 heavy guns and 50 heavy mortars
- Dutch and Palatine Cavalry (9 sqns)
- Hanoverian Schulenburg Dragoons (3 sqns)
- Dutch Hertog van Sachsen-Heilburg (3 sqns)
- ??? Wassen (3 sqns) unidentified unit
- Westphalian Infantry (3 bns)
- Westphalia Kreisinfanterie (3 bns) unidentified unit
- Münster Infantry (6 bns)
- unidentified units (6 bns)
- Welderen Infantry Brigade (8 bns)
- ??? Frusbum (2 bns) unidentified unit
- Dutch Nassau-Waale (4 bns)
- Dutch Welderen (2 bns)
- Dutch Brigade (8 bns)
- Dutch Pallandt (4 bns)
- Dutch Waes (2 bns)
- Dutch Fagel (2 bns)
- Dutch and Palatine Cavalry (8 sqns)
- Dutch Baldwin (1 sqn)
- Hanoverian Schulenburg Dragoons (1 sqn)
- Palatine Leiningen-Westerburg (3 sqns)
- Palatine Nassau-Weilburg (3 sqns)
- Dohna Infantry Brigade (8 bns)
- Cottirs Infantry Brigade (10 bns)
- Dutch Dedem (2 bns)
- Dutch Ranck (2 bns)
- ??? Roo (2 bns) unidentified unit
- Dutch Hertog van Saksen-Eisenach (2 bns)
- Dutch Heukelom (2 bns)
- Weyhe Infantry Brigade (8 bns)
- Hanoverian Weyhe (4 bns)
- Dutch (Swiss) Lochman (2 bns)
- Dutch Prins van Birkenfeld (2 bns)
- Dutch Cavalry (6 sqns)
- Dutch Graaf van Tilly (3 sqns)
- Dutch Obdam (3 sqns)
- Hessian Cavalry (12 sqns)
- unidentified units (12 sqns)
- Hanoverian Cavalry (18 sqns)
- unidentified units (18 sqns)
- Prussian Cavalry (6 sqns)
- unidentified units (6 sqns)
- Hessian Infantry (9 bns)
- unidentified units (9 bns)
- Prussian Infantry (12 bns)
- unidentified units (12 bns)
- Other Infantry (2 bns)
- unidentified units (2 bns)
- Danish Infantry (4 bns)
- unidentified units (4 bns)
This article incorporates texts from the following books, which are now in the public domain:
- Vault, François Eugène de, and Pelet: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 3 pp. 3-146
Folkers, Maarten: The Spanish Succession – 1703
Frankensaurus – Siege of Bonn (1703)
Dinos Antoniadis for the initial version of this article