1704-07-02 – Battle of Schellenberg

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1704-07-02 – Battle of Schellenberg

Allied victory

Prelude to the Battle

In mid may 1704, Marlborough had undertaken his famous march to the Danube from the Dutch Republic. At the beginning of July after a march of 400 km, he finally reached the Danube. On his way he had effected a junction with an Imperialist army under the command of Margrave Louis of Baden. However, their large army could not leave the place of Donauwörth behind and a siege would seriously compromised their plans. Furthermore, Marlborough needed a place on the Danube to establish his magazines which were until then at Nördlingen, some 30 km to the north-west of the river, much too distant to support the advance of the Allies on the right bank of the Danube.

The Franco-Bavarians (some 13,000 men) were entrenching on the Schellenberg and Marlborough, informed that Tallard was marching from the Rhine with 35,000 men to reinforce the Elector of Bavaria, resolved to immediately storm their position at all cost. He and the Margrave of Baden exercised the general command on alternate days, so Marlborough waited for his own day, on July 2, and launched an assault on the Schellenberg.


Map of the Battle of the Schellenberg fought on 2 July 1704 published in Wikipedia Commons by user Rebel Redcoat and released in the public domain

The Schellenberg, as its name implies, is a bell-shaped hill, some 3,2 km in circumference at the base. Its summit, protected by old entrenchments built during the Thirty Years' War 70 years earlier, was flat (about 1 km wide) and open, culminating 99 m above the level of the Danube River. On the south side, where the hill falls down to the Danube, the ascent is steeper than elsewhere; on the north-west, the slope is gradual and about 500 m. in length. To the south-west the hill joins the town of Donauwörth, thus allowing for easy communications with Donauwörth.

The entrenchments built during the Thirty Years' War consisted of a four-sided bastioned redoubt was located on the south-west slope not far from the Schellenberger farmstead, as well as a small square redoubt on the east slope next to the road leading to Zirgesheim. Without paying any special attention to these works, the Bavarians were now creating a large entrenchment, extending from the outworks of the town for nearly 3 km round the summit of the Schellenberg to the river. This defence was strongest and most complete to the north-east, where very thick woods and undergrowth reaching close up to the old entrenchments could give shelter for the formation of an attacking force; and at this point was stationed a battery of cannon. To the north-west the works though incomplete were well advanced, and were strengthened by the old entrenchments.

Field Marshal Arco had had his troops working at the improvement of these old entrenchments but work was still incomplete: the bastions, the curtain, and the ditch along the eastern slope were almost complete but at other places defences consisted only of an earthwork of fascines. The western section of the entrenchments, linking the main entrenchments with the town of Donauwörth was very weak, depending mostly on the artillery mounted on the walls of the town to interdict advance in these quarters.

The Bavarians had also established a bridge of boats linking their entrenchments to the right bank of the Danube near the eastern part of Donauwörth. There was also a permanent bridge over the Danube at Donauwörth, a stone arch bridge over the Wörnitz and trestle bride over the Danube.

Description of Events

In preparation for the attack, Marlborough had 130 men (120 fusiliers and 10 grenadiers with 7 officers) selected from each of the 45 bns of his army to form his columns of attack. With them, he formed 15 converged bns (each of 390 men). At the head of these columns, he placed 80 men picked from the 1st Foot Guards under Lord John Mordaunt and Colonel Richard Munden. With 16 Allied bns, he also formed a second echelon under the command of Lieutenant-General Withers and Count Horn; and a third echelon of 35 sqns (British and Dutch horse and dragoons) under Henry Lumley and Count Reynard van Hompesch.

For his part, the Margrave of Baden would follow, keeping a grenadier brigade ready to intervene. Finally two batteries would be planted: one under Colonel Holcroft Blood and another supplied by the Imperialists.

On July 2 before dawn, Quartermaster-General Cadogan was up and away with a party of cavalry, pioneers, and pontoons.

At 3:00 a.m., Marlborough marched at the head of 30 sqns, 3 rgts of Imperial grenadiers and a detachment of 6,000 foot (15 converged bns of his own army). Some British detachments led the van. The force progressed slowly on muddy roads.

The British cavalry (seven rgts) formed the extreme left of the left wing in the line of battle, with 10 British battalions immediately to their right. Four more British battalions formed the extreme left of the infantry of the second line.

At 5:00 a.m., the rest of the army, excepting the artillery, followed in two columns under the Margrave of Baden along the main road by way of Unter-Magerbein, Rohrbach and Mauern, towards a height that overhangs the river Wörnitz between Ebermorgen and Wörnitzstein.

The heavy artillery and the train marched by way of Deggingen to Harburg, where they would receive further orders. A hospital was established in Nördlingen.

By 8:00 a.m., Cadogan was at Ebermorgen, he had driven back the enemy's picquets, and was engaged in marking out a camp, thus suggesting that the Allies did not intend to attack on that day. Meanwhile, Marlborough's cavalry was within 9 km from the Schellenberg.

At 9:00 a.m., appeared Marlborough himself, who, taking Cadogan's escort, went forward to reconnoitre the positions. As Marlborough inspected these positions, he could see that the enemy before him was so disposed as if expecting an attack on the northern and western sides. But looking to his right beyond Donauwörth, and across the Danube, he could see preparations of a more ominous kind, a camp with tents pitched on both wings and a blank space in the centre, sure sign that cavalry was already present and that infantry was expected. Closer and closer he drew to the hill, the Margrave of Baden and others presently joining him; and then puffs of white smoke began to shoot out from various points in the enemy's works as his batteries opened fire. Finishing his survey undisturbed, Marlborough turned back to meet the advanced detachment of the army; for it was plain to him that the Schellenberg must be carried at once before more of the enemy's troops could reach it.

In the morning, the troops of the Bavarian Lieutenant-General Lützelburg and the requisitioned peasants continued to work at the fortifications of the Schellenberg. Furthermore, convinced that there would be no attack on that day, Field Marshal Count Arco let a large part of Lieutenant-General Maffei's infantry cross the river without their arms to work at the entrenchments. Reconnoitring the entrenchments, Maffei found them too large, and considered that a force of 15,000 men would be necessary to defend them properly.

Arco himself then left the entrenchments of the Schellenberg to have lunch with the French commander at Donauwörth, Colonel du Bordet.

So bad was the state of the roads, that though the distance was but 20 km, Marlborough's leading column did not reach the Wörnitz River, some 5 km from Donauwörth, before noon.

At noon, Marlborough's leading column halted to give the men rest, for there were still 5 km of bad road before them, and to allow the main body to come up.

Around 1:00 p.m., Marlborough's leading column finally reached Ebermergen and the main body marched towards the Wörnitz River.

The Bavarians had broken down the bridge on the Wörnitz and the river being deep, Marlborough sent his cavalry forward to cut fascines in the wood, pontoon bridges were then thrown across the Wörnitz.

At 3:00 p.m., Marlborough's advanced detachment passed the Wörnitz on a stone bridge at Ebermorgen. Without waiting for the rear of the main body to arrive, he drew out 16 bns only (including the 5 British bns of Fergusson's Brigade) and led them and the advanced detachment straight on to the attack. Meanwhile, the Margrave of Baden, at the head of the main body of the army, established a pontoon bridge near Donauwörth.

Bavarian advance troops finally decided to set fire to the hamlet of Berg situated nearby and to retire to their entrenchments.. Meanwhile, Arco interrupted his meal and precipitously returned to the Schellenberg.

It was past 4:00 p.m. when Marlborough arrived in front of Donauwörth where he found Count Arco hard at work in fortifying the Schellenberg. Marlborough took dispositions for the attack.

The infantry of the advanced detachment, under Lieutenant-General Goor, was formed in four lines, the British (1,820 men, 130 from each of the 14 British bns) being on the extreme left by the edge of the wood, and the cavalry was drawn up in two lines behind them. Furthermore, 8 bns under Major-Generals Withers and Beinheim were detailed to support the advanced detachment or to deploy to its right if need should be, and yet 8 more bns under Lieutenant-General Count Horn were held in reserve.

Marlborough then sent Lumley's and Hompech's 35 sqns ahead towards the Burgerholz with orders to partially dismount and prepare fascines with which the ditch of the breastwork was to be filled.

The bns of Lieutenant-General Maffei then hurried across the bridge of boats to retrieve their weapons from their camp.

At about 5:00 p.m., the Allied artillery opened against the entrenchments of the Franco-Bavarians. The 16 artillery pieces of the Franco-Bavarians now directed their fire against the British artillery, instead of continuing to shell the infantry of Marlborough. Arco ordered M. de la Colonie, who commanded his reserve (4 Bavarian bns under Lieutenant-General Lützelburg and 5 French bns), to take position on the summit of the Schellenberg to be ready to intervene wherever the defenders waver. However, the summit being quite flat, this manoeuvre exposed his reserve to the devastating fire of the Allied artillery. Arco also sent 2 bns to reinforce the garrison of Donauwörth. A few guns posted on the walls of Donauwörth fired against the flank of the Allied column of attack.

Field Marshal Arco deployed his 14 Bavarian bns in two lines between the head of the entrenchments and the old redoubt, 2 French bns were deployed on the right wing and 3 French bns on the left wing. The dragoon sqns were deployed behind the right wing.

About 6:00 p.m., Marlborough launched the attack. Every foot-soldier took a fascine from the cavalry, and the columns, headed by two parties of grenadiers from the 1st Foot Guards under Lord Mordaunt and Colonel Munden, marched steadily north of the burning village of Berg, up the west slope of the Buschberg. The Bavarian batteries at once opened a cross-fire of round shot from the entrenchments and from the walls of Donauwörth. The first wave of attackers passed the Kaibach stream and started to climb the hill. In some places, the slope was so steep that the defenders lost sight of the Allied columns as soon as they started to climb the hill. When they finally came in full view, they were only 200 paces from the entrenchments and the Bavarian batteries fired cannister shots at them. When the column of attack came within 80 paces from the parapet, the Franco-Bavarian infantry fired a first salvo. Nevertheless, the British infantry led this attack with the greatest intrepidity, right up to the parapet of the entrenchments. The little parapet which separated the two forces became the scene of a sanguinary struggle. Some 1,300 grenadiers (including 700 belonging to the Bavarian Leibregiment) bore the brunt of the British attack at the forefront of the Bavarian infantry. This first attack, which lasted for an hour and 10 minutes, soon turned into a carnage. The attack of the disordered Allied infantry finally faltered. Individual platoons of Bavarian grenadiers came out of the entrenchments and charged at the point of the bayonet. After losing several thousands men, the Allies were forced to fall back for shelter to the dip in the slope covering them from the fire coming from the entrenchments, leaving General van Goor dead on the battlefield.

Under the cover of the slope, Lieutenant-General Hompesch, who had assumed command when Goor was killed, rallied Allied troops and reformed them to renew the assault. The Franco-Bavarians hurled a large quantity of grenades across the slope, causing them great annoyance. The commanding officers of the British troops dismounted and placed themselves at the head of the columns to set an example.

The Allies then launched a second assault during which General Hompesch and many other generals and officers were killed or mortally wounded. This second attack was also repulsed, some Bavarian grenadiers even pursuing the retiring Allied units for more than 80 paces beyond their entrenchments. They were finally driven back by element of the second echelon (Orkney's 1st Foot and the 1st Foot Guards).

To repulse these repeated assaults, Arco had withdrawn most of the troops of his left wing defending the western face of the hill, facing the Burgerholz, which, until then, had not been threatened.

Marlborough then ordered his cavalry and dragoons to move along the Kaibach, closer to the foot of the Schellenberg. The first line of cavalry advanced, thus halting the further retreat of the infantry.

The Allied infantry then rallied and launched a third attack. It was closely followed by Marlborough's first line of cavalry. This attach met the same stubborn resistance and the Allies suffered great losses: Major-General Wood, Brigadier Bothmer, Brigadier Count Erbach, the Hereditary Prince of Hesse-Kassel, the Prince of Saxe-Hildburgshausen, Colonel Cadogan and Colonel Palmer fell. Nevertheless, the infantry, spurred on by the presence of the cavalry, did not fall back under fire but was unable to make any significant progress.

Twice more did the Allied column advanced and was forced to retreat before the terrible fire of the defenders, who again fell out in peloton and pursued them. However, the fire of the Allied infantry drove the Franco-Bavarians back.

Meanwhile, Marlborough had been informed that the weak defences (a line of gabions) linking Donauwörth to the entrenchments were almost undefended. Indeed, Nettancourt Infanterie, which had been assigned to the defence of this sector, had reinforced the troops defending the Schellenberg. Immediately, Marlborough sent a messenger to the Margrave, asking him to attack this weakened sector.

Around 6:30 p.m., the Imperial infantry advanced with the 3 grenadier bns in the lead, and the cavalry, led by Field Marshal Styrum, followed right behind.

Field Marshal Arco did not seem to have noticed the deployment and the advance of the Imperial troops, in spite of the danger which they posed to his line of retreat towards the Danube, or he believed the garrison of Donauwörth, acting on the flank of this attack, would be sufficient to stop its advance. Only 2 French bns of his left wing moved to the left to occupy the line of defence beyond the old redoubt.

The remainder of the Imperial army at last appeared on Marlborough's right. Baden's Corps then crossed the Kai-Bach and formed up at the foot of the hill facing the left flank of the Franco-Bavarian positions. Baden's Corps then rapidly climbed the slope unopposed. Baden feared that he was arriving too late, as the battle was already proving to be disadvantageous to Marlborough's column.

Field Marshal Thüngen led the Imperial grenadiers, who were equipped with fascines, up the slope. Half stooping, half crawling, they approached the entrenchments and threw the fascines into the ditch.

The 2 French bns received Thüngen's grenadiers with a lively fire, while the garrison of Donauwörth opened fire against their right flank. The grenadiers suffered notable losses already during the ascent.

Around 7:00 p.m., the regiment of Baden's first line reached the entrenchments and stormed them. After a brief resistance, the 2 French bns routed.

At this moment Field Marshal Arco, who had been informed of the attack of the Imperials, arrived on the left wing with the Franco-Bavarian cavalry. He ordered 1 dragoon rgt to dismount and to join the 2 French bns, which had just rallied. Together, they opposed a vigorous resistance to Thüngen's grenadiers.

Lieutenant-General Maffei led 2 Bavarian sqns and 2 French sqns and attacked the exposed left flank of Baden's first line. The leftmost bns wheeled to face this attack and firing volleys, forced the Franco-Bavarian cavalry to turn back. Lieutenant-General Maffei remained lying under his dead horse and his cavalry retreated toward the Franco=Bavarian right wing.

Meanwhile, another dragoon rgt had attacked Baden's right wing with no more success.

Colonel du Bordet then made an unsuccessful sortie from Donauwörth to support the wavering dragoons.

Already the fighting on Arco's left wing had caused individual Bavarian bns to turn and face the advancing Imperial infantry. When the 2 French bns and the dismounted dragoons gave way, the first line of the Imperials, under Field Marshal Thüngen and FZM Friesen, both of whom being already wounded, carried out a front change to the left. Meanwhile, Field Marshal Styrum sent Lieutenant-General Duke of Württemberg with the Hohenzollern Cuirassiers, Mercy Cuirassiers, Hannover Cuirassiers, Castell Dragoons, and the Wurttemberger Garde zu Pferd into the entrenchments. This cavalry was to break through the right wing of the Imperial infantry.

Arco, who had led the dismounted dragoons, was now isolated from the main body of his little army.

The Imperial army then came full on the flank of the Franco-Bavarians; yet even so these gallant enemies would not give way, and Marlborough's infantry still failed to carry the entrenchment.

Around 7:30 p.m., Count Alessandro Maffei, who now commanded on the Schellenberg, was attacked in the rear by the Imperialists and frontally by the Anglo-Dutch infantry. Lumley now ordered the Scots Dragoons (aka Scots Greys) to dismount and attack on foot; but before they could advance the infantry by a final effort at last forced their way in. Outflanked and outnumbered, the defenders broke and ran.

The Scots Dragoons remounted with all haste and galloped forward to the pursuit, while Marlborough, halting the exhausted foot, sent the rest of the cavalry to join the Scots Dragoons. The rout was now complete.

Count Arco, with several officers of note, saved themselves by their horses swimming the river.

The greatest part of the defenders managed to make down the back of the hill to the Danube where was the bridge of boats. However, the crowds pressing on it, it broke, by which great numbers were drowned.

The courageous resistance of the French dragoons under Colonel Listenois delayed the pursuing Allied troops. Part of the Franco-Bavarian army took refuge in Donauwörth while another part retreated downstream towards Zirgesheim.

When the Elector of Bavaria had seen Marlborough passing his camp at Dillingen, he had crossed the Danube to succour Arco but he arrived too late to take part in the engagement.


The Franco-Bavarians evacuated Donauwörth in the night of July 2 to 3. Marlborough could now establish a new magazine to support his future operations.

The Bavarians lost some 7,000 men killed (2,000 drowned) and 4,000 taken prisoners. They also lost 13 colours, all their artillery (16 guns), 12 ammunition carts, tents and baggage. Some dragoon regiments were virtually annihilated and most of the French and Bavarian generals who had taken part in the battle were wounded. Only 3,000 men ever rallied the colours. Furthermore, Colonel Count Arco, the son of the field marshal, drowned in the Danube; Brigadier Nettancourt was mortally wounded; Lieutenant-General Maffei, Major-General Schulenburg, Colonel Volsendorf, Colonel Monasterol, Colonel Listenois and Colonel Beauffremont were wounded.

The Allies lost a total of 1,271 men killed and 3,436 wounded. The Sea Powers lost 951 men killed and 2,527 wounded, among which the British lost 29 officers, 407 men killed; 86 officers, 1,031 men wounded. Only 17 men of Mordaunt's 80 men strong vanguard survived the day. The Hanoverian lost 300 men killed and 864 wounded. The Reichsarmee lost 344 men killed and 1,208 wounded. High command also paid a high price for this victory: Lieutenant-General Goor, Major-General Beinheim and Major-General Prince of Bevern were killed; Field Marshal Styrum and Major-General Waldt were mortally wounded; the Margrave of Baden, Field Marshal Thüngen, FZM Friesen, FZM Count Fürstenberg, Lieutenant-General Hereditary Prince of Hesse-Kassel, Lieutenant-General Horn, Major-General Wood, Major-General Pallandt, Major-General Prince Alexander von Württemberg, Brigadier Duke of Sachsen-Hildburgshausen, Brigadier Count Erbach, Brigadier Count Bothmer, Colonel Meredith were wounded.

Order of Battle

Allied Order of Battle

Warning: the following order of battle does not correspond to the textual description of the battle where the vanguard was formed of 5,850 men (130 picked men from each of the 45 bns of Marlborough's Anglo-Dutch army); nor to the organisation of the second echelon in two divisions of 8 bns each. The present order of battle seems rather to reflect the standard order of march of the Allied army. We will have to cross reference it with other sources before considering it as reliable...

Commander-in-chief: John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, seconded by Margrave Louis of Baden

Summary: a total of some 22,000 men

Right wing under the command of Margrave Louis of Baden

  • Infantry under Field Marshal Thüngen
    • Lieutenant-General Count von Frise's Division
      • Fuch's Brigade
        • Austrian Baden (2 bns)
        • Austrian Salm (2 bns)
        • Würzburger Bibra (1 bn)
        • Würzburger Fuchs (1 bn)
      • Bevern's Brigade
        • Austrian Tollet (2 bns)
        • Brunswicker Bevern (1 bn)
        • Brunswicker Bernstorff (1 bn)
    • Lieutenant-General Count von Fürstenberg's Division
      • Wald's Brigade
        • Franconian Erffa (1 bn)
        • Franconian Schnebelin (1 bn)
        • Franconian Mohr von Waldt (1 bn)
      • Reischach's Brigade
        • Franconian Thost (1 bn)
        • Swabian Reischach (1 bn)
        • Swabian Rodt (1 bn)
  • Cavalry under General Count von Styrum
    • Lieutenant-General Baron von Bibra's Division
    • Prince von Württemberg's Division
      • Mercy's Brigade
      • Erffa's Brigade
        • Württemberger Helmstatt Dragoons (4 sqns) unidentified unit
        • Austrian Castell Dragoons (6 sqns)
    • Lieutenant General Count de la Tour's Division acting as Reserve
      • Fugger's Brigade
      • Bayreuth's Brigade
        • Sachsen-Gothaer Leutsch Cuirassiers (2 sqns)
        • Swabian Oettingen Dragoons (4 sqns)
        • Swabian Württemberg Cavalry (4 sqns)
        • Franconian Brandenburg-Bayreuth Cavalry (5 sqns)
      • Bibra's Brigade
        • Mainzer Bibra Dragoons (6 sqns)
        • Austrian Cusani Cuirassiers (6 sqns)
        • Holsteiner Osten Cavalry (2 sqns)

Left wing under John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough

Franco-Bavarian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Field Marshal Count Johann Baptist von Arco, seconded by Marquis Alessandro de Maffei


  • on the Schellenberg: 16 Bavarian bns, 7 French bns, 3 Bavarian dragoon sqns, 6 French dragoon sqns, 16 guns
  • in Donauwörth: 2 Bavarian militia bns, 1 French regular bn

...for a total of some 13,000 men.


  • Montandre's Brigade
  • Lützelburg 's Brigade
  • Maffei's Brigade
    • Bavarian Mercy (1 bn) unidentified unit
    • Bavarian Haxthausen (2 bns) sent to reinforce the garrison of Donauworth
    • Bavarian Maffei (2 bns)
    • Bavarian Kurprinz (3 bns)
  • Lee's Brigade
  • Du Bordet's Brigade in Donauwörth
    • French Toulouse (1 bn)
    • Bavarian Crondeur Landmiliz (2 bns)


  • 16 x 6-pdrs (in two batteries of 8 guns each)


  • Monasterol's Brigade
    • French Fontbeausard Dragons (3 sqns)
    • Bavarian Monasterol Dragoons (2 sqns)
    • Bavarian Santiny Dragoons (1 sqn)
    • French Listenois Dragons (3 sqns)


This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Colonie, M. de la: The Battle of Schellenberg, 2 July 1704 —A French Officer’s Account
  • Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army, Vol. I, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 423-427
  • Kane, Richard: Campaigns of king William and queen Anne, from 1689 to 1712, London: J. Millan, 1745, p. 45
  • Pelet and François Eugène de Vault: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 4 pp. 515-516
  • Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 6, Vienna 1879, pp. 411-424

Other sources

Falkner, James: Marlborough's Battlefields, Pen and Sword, 1970, pp. 17-26

Treuenfest, A. v.: Geschichte des k. k. Infanterie-Regiments Nr. 20 Friedrich Wilhelm, Kronprinz von Preussen, Vienna 1878

Wikipedia – Battle of Schellenberg

Wikipedia – Schellenberg order of battle


Klaus Roider for additional info on the order of battle of the Allies