1705 – Campaign in the Low Countries

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1705 – Campaign in the Low Countries

The campaign lasted from May to August 1705


Marlborough's army had returned to the Low Countries, engaging en route in a small campaign in the Luxembourg and Thionville region, which was defended with skill and success by Villars. Villeroy had also returned to Brabant and retaken Huy. With him was the now exiled Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria, who acted as governor of the Spanish Netherlands (Bedmar, the former governor had been appointed viceroy of Sicily).

In the autumn of 1704, during the siege of Landau, Marlborough had formed the design of carrying on the war along the Moselle to the Counties of Luxembourg and Lorraine. During a council of war, it had been agreed that Margrave Ludwig of Baden with 40,000 Imperial troops would, early in the spring of 1705, join Marlborough on the Moselle.

The Maritime Powers planned to have an army of 60,000 men in the Low Countries under Nassau-Ouwerkerk and another of 60,000 men under Marlborough on the Moselle.

For his part Louis XIV planned to field 80 bns and 100 sqns in Flanders under Villeroy and the Elector of Bavaria; 70 bns and 100 sqns on the Moselle under the Maréchal de Villars; and 50 bns and 60 sqns in Alsace under the Maréchal de Marcin. The king also allowed his Spanish, Bavarian and Cologne allies to recruit in the provinces adjacent to the frontier. From the remnants of the Bavarian regiments defeated at Blenheim, the elector was able to field 4 bns and 25 sqns under Field-Marshal d’Arco.

The French cavalry serving in the Low Countries had lost most of its horses due to a contagious disease. Horses had to be bought in Switzerland to remount the troops.


Map of the Spanish Netherlands in 1700 published in Wikimedia Commons by user Rebel Redcoat and released in the public domain


During the first months of 1705, the Allies established magazines at Trier, Koblenz, Liège and Maastricht and inside the Dutch Republic, preparing a large number of boats for transportation on the Scheldt, the Meuse, the Rhine and the Moselle.

In February, Louis XIV was informed on the situation on each frontier. He decided that the armies of Flanders, Moselle and Alsace would act as a single army and support each other.

In the Low Countries, Villeroy gave a special attention to the cities of Antwerp and Namur and to the lines, erecting a new one between the Demer and the Nete from the village of Werchter to Booischot to have a position of retreat and to protect the communication of Louvain with the Lierre-Antwerp Line. The line in Waasland was repaired. For his part, the Elector of Bavaria, inspected the Spanish Flanders, the Waasland and the outposts on the Scheldt.

On 10 February on the Moselle, Villars went to the “Trois Évêchés.” He then visited the places on the Sarre, the Moselle, the Upper Meuse and Luxembourg. He gave orders to establish an ammunition depot at Metz. He also supplied the places of Luxembourg, Longwy, Thionville, Sarre-Louis and Marsal and prepared boats to establish bridges on the Moselle and the Sarre.

Villars also loaded several boats with artillery at Metz and Thionville, thus worrying the Allies for the security of Trier. The Allies blocked the Moselle with a chain upstream from Trier.

On 12 February, Bedmar left the Spanish Netherlands to assume his new charge of viceroy of Sicily.

In Alsace, Marcin built a defensive line along the Moder and repaired the places and forts on the Rhine.

On 10 March, the Commander-in-Chief of the Palatine Contingent in Dutch/British pay received orders from The Hague to keep his contingent in readiness for departure. This contingent (4,885 foot, 1,223 horse) placed under the command of the Dutch General Dopff consisted of:

  • Infantry (staff of 95 men)
    • Leibregiment zu Fuss aka Aubach (1,001 men) under Maximilian von Renesse
    • Rehbinder (932 men) under Johann Ludwig Greber
    • Bentheim (1,003 men) under Johann Hecht
    • Barbo (939 men) under Jodocus Bernhard Count Barbo
    • Efferen (915 men) under Dominic de la Violette
  • Cavalry(staff of 44 men)
    • Schellart (299 men) under Baron Metternich
    • Frankenberg (298 men) under Count von Leiningen
    • Wiser (295 men)
    • Stolzenberg (287 men)

Another Palatine Contingent of 8 bns and 12 sqns was destined to join the army of the Mrgrave Ludwig of Baden.

On 29 March, the Palatine Contingent passed Kaiserslautern, one battalion of Bettendorf Infantry remained there as garrison. Count Lecheraine (aka Lescheraine) acted as liaison between the Duke of Marlborough, the Margrave of Baden and the Elector of Palatinate.

Order of Battle
Order of battle of the Hanoverian and Celler Contingents in English and Dutch pay in the Spring of 1705

At the beginning of April, Louis XIV held a council of war with Villeroy, Villars and Marcin.

On 9 April, Villeroy arrived in Bruxelles.

On 14 April Marlborough arrived at The Hague from London.

On 19 April, Villeroy gave orders to the troops stationed in the rear to advance to the frontier. He posted the Gardes Françaises and the Gardes Suisses at Bruxelles, Malines and Louvain. He also urged M. de Saint-Hilaire to complete the formation of the train of artillery so that it would be ready to march in the first days of May and instructed him to transfer eight 24-pdrs from Maubeuge to Namur,

On 27 April, Villeroy set off from Bruxelles to visit the frontier from Antwerp to Namur.

On 5 May, Marlborough’s Army was encamped on the left bank of the Meuse between Venlo and Roermond.

Villeroy cantoned all his troops in the region of Louvain, Diest and Namur. The Elector of Bavaria assembled his troops between Louvain and Bruxelles.

On 7 May, Marlborough’s Army marched to Maastricht.. According to his plan the previous year. Marlborough had marched with the same number of troops (26 bns and 36 sqns) as the last campaign.

On 7 and 8 May, the French artillery horses and limbers arrived at Bruxelles and Namur.

On 8 May, Villeroy advanced the “Maison du Roi” to Givet, Rocroi, Charlemont and Mézières.

On 10 May Villeroy went from Bruxelles to Tirlemont to be quickly informed of the movements of the Allies.

On May 11, Villeroy was informed that Dutch troops were assembling at Maastricht while the British Contingent was encamped between Roermond and Oud-Rekem where they had thrown a bridge. He decided to move the troops posted near Louvain to the Getzbach replacing them by troops stationed to the rear. The “Maison du Roi” remained in the area of Givet, Rocroi and Charlemont. Villeroy was now at the head of 54 bns and 108 sqns. Furthermore, 27 bns were guarding the frontier from Lierre to the sea. Villeroy also asked to Villars to advance a corps into Luxembourg to link the positions of the Army of the Moselle with his own. However, Villars considered that it was more important to extend his positions towards the Meuse and the Rhine.

On 13 May, the British Contingent marched from Oud-Rekem to Maastricht where it encamped along the Meuse, opposite Navagne.

By mid-May, Louis XIV was convinced that the Allies would concentrate their efforts against the Low Countries and he supported Villeroy’s request for a corps of the Army of the Moselle in Luxembourg.

On 15 May

  • Allies
    • The British Contingent crossed the Meuse and advanced on Valkenburg. Another British detachment crossed the Meuse at Roermond and took the road to Aachen. These British troops totalled 19 bns and 18 sqns.
  • French
    • Villeroy received intelligence that the Allies would make their offensive on the Moselle.

On 16 May, Villeroy advanced all the infantry posted between Jauche and Zoutleeuw. He also sent the 13 sqns of the “Maison du Roi” to reinforce the Army of the Moselle.

On ?? May, the Allied General Spaar with 7 bns and 2 dragoon rgts established a camp at Zelzate near Sas van Gent

On 17 May, Villeroy received intelligence that, after the departure of Marlborough, the Allies would have only 48 Dutch bns and 52 Dutch sqns under General Nassau-Ouwerkerk on the Meuse and in Flanders. For his part, since the departure of the “Maison du Roi”, Villeroy had 54 bns and 95 sqns, excluding the 27 bns dedicated to the defence of the frontier. Counting on his superiority, Villeroy proposed to Versailles to follow the advice of the Elector of Bavaria, who had earlier suggested to capture Huy and Liège. He expected that Liège and Huy would not resist more than ten days. His artillery (25 guns and 10 mortars) for these sieges was ready at Namur. Villeroy then waited for an answer from Versailles while taking his dispositions: from the 27 bns assigned to the defence of the frontier, he deployed 12 bns and 1 dragoon sqn under the Comte de Gacé behind the Lierre-Antwerp Line; 7 bns in Waasland under the Baron de Wrangel; and 8 bns behind the Ghent-Bruges Canal under the Comte de Lamothe.

On 21 May, Villeroy’s Army assembled on the Mehaigne and encamped out of the lines with its right at Braives, where the headquarters were established, and its left at Ambsin (probably Ambresin).

On 24 May, Villeroy received an answer from Versailles stating that the king would not order additional detachments from the Army of Flanders to reinforce the Army of the Moselle which would rather be reinforced by 15 bns and 20 sqns taken from the Army of Alsace. Villeroy immediately ordered the Comte de Gacé to effect a junction with the main army with most of his troops. He also instructed M. de Saillans d’Estaing, commandant at Namur, to send 22 x 24-pdrs, 10 mortars to Huy along with 55 boats to erect two bridges.

On 25 May, Gacé set off from Deurne with 8 bns, leaving 4 bns under M. de Vibraye behind the Line of Antwerp.

On 26 May

  • Allies
    • Marlborough encamped off the Moselle 10 km above Trier after marching through the Country of Limbourg. The Prince of Hesse joined him there with the troops that Marlborough had left with him (Prussians, Hanoverians and Hessians in British pay) at the end of the previous campaign. Marlborough was now at the head of 40,000 men.

Accordingly, Marlborough crossed the Moselle and the Saar and marched to the defile of Tawern and advanced to Elst where he waited more than a month for the Margrave's arrival.

Maréchal Villars commanded the French army in these parts. He was strongly encamped at Sierck with 70,000 men, 10 km from Marlborough's positions.

On 27 May

  • French
    • Villeroy’s Army encamped between Braives and Vinalmont, its left between Villers-le-Bouillet and Halbossart and its left in front of Val Notre-Dame where the Elector of Bavaria established his headquarters while Villeroy chose Vinalmont for his own headquarters. Villeroy threw troops into Val Notre-Dame and in the suburbs of Huy. Furthermore, 6 bns and 13 sqns took position at Bas-Oha, about 2 km upstream from Huy.
    • The artillery and the boats set off from Namur in the direction of Huy.

On 28 May

  • French
    • Gacé’s detachment reached Wasseiges.
    • The artillery and the boats arrived at Bas-Oha where two bridges were thrown across the Meuse. M. D’Artaignan then crossed the Meuse on these bridges with 6 bns and 13 sqns to invest Huy from the right bank of the Meuse.
    • In the evening, M. de Saint-Hilaire crossed the Meuse with 12 x 24-pdrs which he established on a height overlooking Fort Joseph and the Castle of Huy.

On 29 May

  • French
    • The Elector of Bavaria set off from Bruxelles and joined the Army of Flanders. The Comte de Gacé was charged of the siege of Huy with 14 bns and 13 sqns. He could also count on workers supplied by the army.
  • Allies
    • The garrison of Huy consisted of 4 bns under M. van Croonstrom who had provisions and ammunition transported from the town to the castle.
    • The garrison of Liège consisted of 3 bns. A large numbers of inhabitants were fleeing with their belongings and the gates had to be closed for three days.
    • Nassau-Ouwerkerk sped up the entrenchment of his camp at Maastricht and received a reinforcement of 5 bns and a few sqns.

On 30 May at Huy, the French opened trenches in front of Fort Picard and Fort Rouge. Work started at the construction of three batteries in the area of Saint-Léonard while a fourth battery was erected to fire on the town.

On 31 May, the town Huy capitulated to the French and the garrison retired into the forts. The town was immediately occupied by 2 bns.

At the end of May, Nassau-Ouwerkerk had only 30 bns and 12 sqns stationed around Maastricht to protect the frontier of the Dutch Republic.

On 1 June, the French opened on Fort Picard and Fort Rouge with 9 guns and 5 mortars.

On 2 June, the rest of the French artillery having reached Huy and been placed in batteries, 22 x 24-pdrs and 10 mortars battered the forest and the castle of Huy. Villeroy gave orders to get additional artillery (10 x 24-pdrs and 10 mortars) from Maubeuge.

On 3 June, the French artillery ruined the defences of Fort Picard and Fort Rouge. At 10:00, the Comte de Gacé stormed these two forts with 500 grenadiers detached from the army. The defenders (180 men) were killed or taken prisoners. The French lost 15 grenadiers.

On 4 June, the French established two batteries in the suburb of State on the left bank of the Meuse while only the battery battering Fort Joseph was maintained on the right bank.

On 5 June in the morning, 18 x 24 pdrs started to batter the Castle of Huy.

On 7 June, the French increased their artillery firing on the Castle of Huy to 24 x 24-pdrs and 6 mortars.

From 8 to 9 June, the French batteries kept a continuous fire against the Castle of Huy.

By 10 June, the breach in the Castle of Huy was practicable.

On the night of 10 to 11 June, the Comte de Gacé posted 15 grenadier coys to launch an attack against the Castle of Huy. Seeing this, the defenders capitulated.

On 11 June in the morning. M. van Croonstrom evacuated Fort Joseph. In the afternoon, he evacuated Fort Sart. He then marched out of the Castle of Huy with the remnants of his 4 bns (112 officers and 1,300 men). In this siege, the French lost only 200 men killed or wounded.

After the capture of Huy, the Comte de Gacé personally returned to Deurne, leaving the 8 bns which he had brought with him with the Army of Flanders. Two of these bns assumed garrison duty in Huy under M. de Saint-Pierre. Villeroy was still at the head of 60 bns and 95 sqns.

On 13 June, Villeroy received orders from Versailles to detach 15 bns and 15 sqns to reinforce the Army of the Moselle and authorizing him to lay siege to Liège. The king had also ordered to detach 10 sqns from the Army of Alsace for the same purpose.

Villeroy accepted to send the required reinforcements but also recalled 3 sqns from Flanders and 5 bns from the garrisons of Tournai, Philippeville, Namur, Zoutleeuw and Diest which he replaced by garrisons posted to the rear and by the Militia of Boulogne. With these new troops, despite the troops detached to the Moselle, Villeroy was still at the head of 50 bns and 73 sqns.

On 15 June, the Army of Flanders decamped from Vinalmont and marched to Lexhy on its way to Liège. Villeroy left the artillery and the bridges of boats at Huy as well as the 15 bns and 15 sqns destined to the Moselle under the Marquis d’Alegre.

At about this time, the Dutch Republic sent a messenger to Marlborough asking him to come to the assistance of the Dutch army which was threatened by Villeroy's advance on Liège.

Even though Margrave Ludwig of Baden was supposed to join them with Imperial troops, he was unable to fulfill his engagement. Indeed, Prince Eugène had been sent to Italy with some Imperial troops to assist the Duke of Savoy. Nevertheless, the Margrave mentioned to Marlborough that he would be able to join him shortly at Elst (unidentified location).

On 16 June, the Army of Flanders marched from Lexhy and encamped at Fexhe and Slins, downstream from Liège, with its right at Millemont (unidentified location) and its left anchored on the Jeker.

On the night of 16 to 17 June, Marlborough decamped at night from the region of Rettel to avoid an attack on his rear by Villars's forces. The army of the Margrave of Baden was arrived at Trier a few days before but the margrave was unwilling to attack Villars' positions.

On June 17, d’Alegre’s Corps crossed the Meuse at Huy on its way to the Moselle by way of Marche-en-Famenne and Luxembourg.

On 18 June

  • Allies
    • Marlborough passed the defile of Tawern.
  • French
    • Villeroy sent 12 bns towards Liège, followed by 6 artillery pieces. They summoned the magistrates of the city. In the afternoon, 1 bn of the Gardes Françaises, 1 bn of the Gardes Suisses and the Guards of the Elector of Bavaria entered into Liège.
    • Villeroy made preparations for the siege of the Citadel of Liège which was defended by 4 bns. The artillery was moved downstream from Huy.
    • Villeroy was informed that Marlborough’s Army was marching back to the Meuse and renounced to his project against Liège. He re-embarked his artillery and hastily repaired the breach in the Castle of Huy as well as Fort Picard and Fort Rouge. Fort Joseph and Fort Sart were razed. Villeroy decided to take a new position at Tongres on the Jeker.
    • D’Alegre’s Corps, which had already reached Marche-en-Famenne, was recalled to the Meuse.

Marlborough crossed the Moselle upstream from Trier and retired towards the Meuse, leaving 11 bns and 11 sqns od the Palatine Contingent in Trier under Lieutenant-General von Aubach.

On June 19, Villars detached the 13 sqns of the “Maison du Roi” with 10 bns and 12 sqns from the Army of the Moselle to reinforce the Army of Flanders.

On 23 June, d’Alegre’s Corps reached Huy where he had been instructed to work at the fortification of the place.

On 24 June, Villeroy loaded his artillery and his ammunition on 124 boats and sent them upstream to Huy.

On 25 June, Marlborough reached Düren, to the east of Aachen, where he received another messenger informing him that the French had made themselves master of Liège and were conducting a vigorous siege against its citadel. Leaving General Churchill in command of his infantry, Marlborough marched with the horse, dragoons and all grenadiers.

On 26 June in the morning, when the Elector of Bavaria and Villeroy heard of Marlborough’s arrival, they decide to retire from Liège and to fall back on Tongres.

On 27 June

  • Allies
    • Marlborough’s Army (62 bns, 72 sqns) arrived at Maastricht.
  • French
    • The Army of Flanders crossed the Jeker upstream from Tongres and encamped with its right towards Looz (part of present-day Borgloon) and its left at Tongres which was occupied by 500 men supported by 3 dragoon rgts. The Elector of Bavaria established his headquarters at Bitsingen, Villeroy, at Looz.

On 28 June, d’Alegre’s Corps set off from Huy and reached Bergilers.

On 29 June, the “Maison du Roi” (13 sqns) arrived at Huy along with the first corps (10 bns, 12 sqns) sent from the Moselle.

On 30 June

  • French
    • The Army of Flanders marched to the plain of Landen and encamped with its right at Pellaines anchored on the Hallet Stream near Maret and its left near Laar and the Castle of Wange. Three dragoon rgts encamped “en potence” on the flank. The Gete River and the lines were behind the camp. The Elector of Bavaria established his headquarters at the Eliksem Abbey and Villeroy at Linsmeau.
    • D’Alegre’s Corps (now 15 bns and 15 sqns) entered into the lines while the “Maison du Roi” and the reinforcements sent from the Moselle (10 bns, 12 sqns) marched from Huy to Avernas-le-Bauduin.
Order of Battle
Order of battle of the Allied army in the Low Countries in July 1705

On 1 July

  • French
    • The “Maison du Roi” and the reinforcements sent from the Moselle (10 bns, 12 sqns) marched from Huy to Orp-le-Grand and Orp-le-Petit, 2 km from the right of the Army of Flanders.
  • A second corps (6 bns, 8 sqns) under M. de Manderscheit, sent from the Moselle, arrived at Namur. It was followed by three other corps totalling 20 bns and 15 sqns under the Prince d’Isenghien, the Comte de Roussy and M. de Surville.

On the night of 1 to 2 July, Marlborough, continuing his advance, crossed the Meuse at Visé on three bridges with 85 bns and 72 sqns.

On 2 July

  • Allies
    • Marlborough force marched and established his right at This (probably Thisnes) and his left at at Haneffe on the Upper Jerne where he effected a junction with Nassau-Ouwerkerk’s Army (32 bns, 72 sqns). Marlborough was now at the head of 117 bns and 144 sqns.
  • French
    • The Elector of Bavaria wanted to immediately retire in the Lines of Brabant but Villeroy postponed the movement.

On 3 July

  • French
    • At 6:00 a.m., the Army of Flanders set off to retire within the Lines of Brabant. These lines, had been erected during the past three years. They were now completed, extending from the Meuse, a little to the east of Namur, passed from thence to the Mehaigne River and the Kleine Gete, followed that river along its left bank to Zoutleeuw and thence along the Grote Gete to the Demer; from thence they ran up the Demer as far as Aarschot, from which point a new line of entrenchments carried the barrier through Lierre to Antwerp. The Army of Flanders encamped in separate corps between Wasseiges on the Mehaigne and Eliksem: the infantry in first line behind the entrenchments; the cavalry in second line, slightly distant to allow for forage and watering; and 27 dragoon sqns in the centre to quickly support the infantry at the threatened places. The artillery was separated in 5 brigades. The Elector of Bavaria established his headquarters at the Castle of Jauche and Villeroy at Jandrain.
    • The second detachment (6 bns, 8 sqns) sent from the Army of the Moselle under M. de Manderscheit arrived at Wasseiges, accompanied by 3 bns arriving from the rear. Villeroy was now at the head of 80 bns and 130 sqns. He was expecting the arrival of three additional detachments sent from the Army of the Moselle under the Prince d’Isenghien, M. de Roussy and M. de Surville. With these detachments, his army would count 100 bns and 145 sqns.

On 4 July, as soon as Churchill arrived with his infantry, Marlborough’s Army Marlborough marched after the French and encamped within 5 km of the Lines of Brabant with its right at Crenwick, its centre at Lens-les-Béguines (present-day Lens-Saint-Remy) and its left at Latinne on the Mehaigne, with a Reserve in third line. The Allies had also transported 70 x 24-pdr guns and 30 mortars upstream from Maastricht to Liège.

Villeroy and the Elector of Bavaria now lay before him with 70,000 men, a force superior to Marlborough's, but necessarily spread over a wide front for the protection of the entrenchments.

On 5 July

  • Allies
    • Marlborough’s Army received a reinforcement of 13 bns taken from the places along the Meuse.
    • Marlborough held a council of war where he insisted to attack the Lines of Brabant. However, the council resolved to lay siege to Huy.
  • French
    • Villeroy sent a detachment arriving from the Moselle to Erpent, 2 km downstream from Namur, to throw a bridge across the Meuse as if the French intended to support Huy in case of a siege. In the evening, when he received intelligence that the Allies would certainly march against the lines or against Huy on the following day, Villeroy countermanded his order to move troops to Erpent and recalled them behind the lines.

On 6 July

  • Allies
    • The Allies sent 12 bns and 12 sqns to invest Huy which was defended by 600 men under M. de Saint-Pierre who had insufficient time to properly repair the breach in the walls of the castle and the forts (Fort Rouge and Fort Picard). Their siege artillery was moved upstream to Huy and a bridge was established at Taverne-à-Meuse (probably Andenne).
  • French
    • Part of the detachments arriving from the Moselle took position behind the Lines of Brabant at Hanret and Hemptinne. While the last detachment was ordered to take the road leading from Givet to Namur.

On the night of 6 to 7 July, the Allies made themselves masters of the suburb of Statte on the left bank of the Meuse, opposite Huy.

On 7 July, Nassau-Ouwerkerk’s Army advanced from Latinne to Vinalmont. It was replaced at Latinne by the left wing of Marlborough’s Army.

On the night of 8 to 9 July, the Allies made themselves masters of the town of Huy while the French garrison retired into the castle.

On 9 July at 5:00 a.m., the Allies started to batter Fort Rouge and Fort Picard with 14 guns and 6 mortars. At 5:00 p.m., as the Allies prepared for the attacks of these forts, their defenders (150 men) evacuated them and took refuge in the castle.

On 10 July at daybreak, the Allies started to batter the Castle of Huy with 42 guns and 28 mortars from the Saint-Hilaire suburb. The breach was rapidly reopened.

On 11 July by 9:00 a.m., the breach of the Castle of Huy was practicable. At 6:00 p.m., Allied troops moved closer to the breach with ladders and the garrison surrendered as prisoners of war.

On 14 July

  • Allies
    • Marlborough’s Army was still at Lens-les-Béguines.
    • Nassau-Ouwerkerk’s Army was at the camp of Vinalmont.
    • The siege corps was busy mining the place.
  • French
    • The last detachment (4 bns of Du Roi Infanterie and 1 bn of Royal-Artillerie) sent from the Moselle under M. de Surville arrived at Namur and occupied Marchovelette near Gelbressée. Furthermore, 2 additional sqns arrived from the places to the rear. Thus, Villeroy was now at the head of 100 bns and 147 sqns deployed behind the lines on a front of 20 km.

On 15 July, the Dutch States-General finally authorised Marlborough to attack the Lines of Brabant. Meanwhile, as if daring the French to take advantage of the dispersion of his army, Marlborough quietly had laid his plans for forcing the Lines of Brabant. The point that he selected was on the Kleine Gete between Eliksem and Neerhespen. The abrupt and slippery banks of the river together with the entrenchments beyond it, presented extraordinary difficulties, but the lines were on that account the less likely to be well guarded at that particular point.

On 16 July, Marlborough had the far more difficult task of gaining the consent of the Dutch generals at a Council of War. Slangenburg and others opposed the scheme vehemently, but were overruled; and Marlborough was at length at liberty to fall to work.

The Passage of the Lines of Brabant

Map of the Lines of Brabant in the area of Eliksem – Source: Fortescue, A History of the British Army

On 17 July

  • Allies
    • About noon, Field-Marshal Nassau-Ouwerkerk decamped from Vinalmont with his Dutch troops and crossed the Mehaigne and pushed forward detachments to the very edge of the lines between Meeffe and Namur.
    • Soon after the rest of the Allied army struck their tents and lay on their arms.
    • Marlborough recalled the troops from Huy and made them up to a total of about 8,000 men under Count Noyelles and Lieutenant-General Ingoldsby, deploying them to the right of his army. The utmost secrecy was observed in every particular. The units composing the detachment knew nothing of each other, and nothing of the work before them, the troopers only at the last moment receiving orders to carry each a truss of forage on the saddle before them.
  • French
    • When the French heard of the manoeuvres of the Allies, they concluded that they intended to attack them by daybreak the next morning and took their dispositions. Villeroy fell into the trap and moved his right to observe the Dutch corps, assembling 40,000 men at Merdorp, while the Elector of Bavaria shifted his troops to the right to occupy the positions abandoned by Villeroy near the Castle of Jauche. Then the French lay on their arms all night.

At nightfall, the detachment of Noyelles and Ingoldsby fell in silently before the camp of the right wing, and at 9:00 p.m. moved off without a sound in two columns, having a good many pioneers with them, towards the right of the barriers, the one upon Neerhespen, the other upon the Castle of Wange before Eliksem. At 10:00 p.m., the allied main body followed. Meanwhile, Nassau-Ouwerkerk's Corps faced about and, under cover of the darkness, crossed the Mehaigne at Tourines (unidentified location) and joined its van to the rear of Marlborough's army. The distance to be traversed was from 16 to 24 km; the night though dry was dark ; and the guides, frequently at fault, were fain to direct themselves by the trusses dropped on the way by the advanced detachment. The Allies marched all night.

On 18 July

  • Engagement of Eliksem
    • By 3:00 a.m., the allied main body had reached Landen.
    • At 4:00 a.m., the heads of the allied columns halted within 2 km of the Gete, wrapped in a thick mist and hidden from the eye of the enemy
    • At daybreak, the detachment of Noyelles and Ingoldsby reached the barriers where they found only a lieutenant and 40 men guarding each of them. The detachment quickly cleared the villages by the river, seized the bridge before the Castle of Wange, which had not been broken down, and drove out the garrison of the castle itself. Then the pontoniers came forward to lay their bridges; but the infantry would not wait for them. They scrambled impatiently through hedges and over bogs, down one steep bank of the river and up the other, into the ditch beyond, and finally, breathless and dripping, over the rampart into the lines. So numerous were the hot-heads who thus broke in that they forced 3 dragoon rgts to retire before them without attempting resistance. These regiments retired to Zoutleeuw without giving the alarm.
    • Then the cavalry of the detachment began to file rapidly over the pontoon-bridges; but meanwhile the alarm had been given, and before the main army could cross, the French came down in force from the north, some 20 bns and 36 sqns (30 Bavarian and Cologne sqns, 4 Spanish sqns, 2 French sqns), in all close on 15,000 men, with a battery of 8 guns.
    • The enemy advanced rapidly, their cavalry leading, checked by a hollow way which lay between them and the Allies, where they halted to deploy.
    • Marlborough took in the whole situation at a glance. Forming his 38 sqns into two lines, with the first line composed entirely of British, he led them across the hollow way and charged the French sword in hand. The French cavalry, which was still forming, answered by a feeble fire from the saddle and broke in confusion.
    • The French cavalry then rallied and fell in counter-attack upon the British and broke them in their turn. Marlborough, who was riding on the flank, was cut off and left isolated with his trumpeter and groom. A Frenchman galloped up and aimed at him so furious a blow that, failing to strike him, he fell from his horse and was captured by the trumpeter.
    • The allied squadrons then rallied, and charging the French once more broke them past all reforming and captured the guns.
    • The French infantry now retired very steadily in square, and Marlborough sent urgent messages for his own foot. But by some mistake the bns had been halted after crossing the Gete, so that the French were able to make good their retreat.
    • By this time Villeroy, who had spent the night in anxious expectation of an attack at Merdorp, had hurried up with his cavalry, only to find that Marlborough was master of the lines. Hastily giving orders for his scattered troops to pass the Gete at Jodoigne, Villeroy began his retreat upon Louvain.
    • Marlborough was anxious to follow up his success forthwith, a movement which the French had good reason to dread, but the Dutch generals opposed him, and he was reluctantly constrained to yield.
    • At 10:00 p.m., the French cavalry reached Louvain, followed by the infantry at midnight.
    • The loss of the French was 80 men killed and 200 taken prisoners (including M. d’Alegre and M. de Horn), an entire bn captured in Tirlemont, a score of standards and colours, of which the Cadogan’s Horse claimed four as their own, and 18 guns, 8 of which were triple-barrelled and were sent across the Channel to be copied in Great Britain.

On 19 July

  • French
    • At daybreak, Villeroy’s Army crossed the Dyle at Louvain and upstream. Villeroy distributed his force along a wider front, lined the left bank of the Dyle from the Demer to the Ijse, with his centre at Louvain. The Elector of Bavaria established his headquarters at Herent and Villeroy, at Betlehem (unidentified location). In these new positions, the French blocked the road to Antwerp and covered Namur.
    • 1 bn was evacuated from Diest and 4 dragoon rgts from Zoutleeuw, a small garrison was left in the last place.
  • The garrison of Namur (4 bns) was reinforced with 8bns and 1 dragoon rgt.
  • Allies
    • Marlborough’s vanguard advanced from Tirlemont upon Louvain. At 9:00 a.m., they struck against the rear of the French columns and captured 1,500 prisoners. That night, the Allies encamped within 2 km to the east of Louvain with their left at Vlierbeek and their right at Bierbeek, thus cutting the line of communication with Diest and Zoutleeuw. Marlborough had hoped to push in at once, but he was stopped by heavy rains that rendered the Dyle impassable.

On 21 July

  • French
    • Villeroy sent a detachment of 5 bns and 4 dragoon rgts under M. de Guiscard to the banks of the Voer stream on his right. He also posted 2 infantry brigades and 5 dragoon rgts under M. de Caraman at Werchter on his left close to the new line between the Demer and the Nete.
    • Louis XIV wrote to Villeroy to tell him that he had changed his mind and that the Army of Flanders should no longer act defensively behind fortified lines but should rather stay in the open while not offering battle without necessity.

On 23 July, Villeroy reorganised his order of battle mixing his most reliable troops with the weaker ones to support them. Not counting units sent to reinforce Namur, Villeroy was still at the head of 92 bns and 139 sqns. Fearing for Louvain, which had very weak fortifications, he posted 10 bns under M. d’Artaignan there.

On 27 July, the Elector of Bavaria moved the 4 bns under M. de Gacé, which were near Antwerp, at Booischot, closer to the army. Villeroy decided to move these 4 bns even closer at Werchter. They were replaced by 4 Spanish and Walloon bns which were sent to Nazareth (unidentified location) near Lierre. They were later sent to Waasland under M. de Gacé.

The Passage of the Dyle

On 29 July

  • Passage of the Dyle
    • Marlborough, after infinite trouble with the Dutch, was finally able to pursue his design. The operations for the passage of the Dyle were conducted in much the same way as in the forcing of the lines. An advanced detachment was pushed forward from each wing of the army, that from the right or British flank being appointed to cross the river under the Duke of Württemberg at Korbeek-Dijle, that from the left (18 or 20 bns with cavalry) under General Heukelom to pass it at Neerijse.
    • At 5:00 p.m., the Allied detachments fell in.
    • At 10:00 p.m., the Allied detachments reached their appointed destination and effected their passage with perfect success.
    • At midnight, the Allied main bodies started and went somewhat astray in the darkness.
    • Villeroy gave orders to M. de Guiscard, posted on his right wing, to move upstream along the Dyle up to Neerijse.
    • By 3:00 a.m. on 30 July, the Dutch army was within supporting distance of its detachment and the British rapidly approaching it. The river had been in fact forced, when suddenly the Dutch generals halted their main body. Marlborough rode up to inquire the cause, and was at once taken aside by Slangenburg. "For God's sake, my Lord " Slangenburg vehemently, and continued to protest with violent gesticulations. No sooner was Marlborough's back turned than the Dutch generals recalled Heukelom's detachment. Thus the passage won with so much skill was for no cause whatever abandoned, without loss, but also not without mischievous encouragement to the French, who boasted loudly that they had repulsed their redoubtable adversary.
    • At daybreak, Guiscard’s detachment set off in the direction of Neerijse. As it approached Corbeek, Guiscard hear the sound of the guns. The Allies had 40 artillery pieces planted on the opposite side of the Dyle which were firing on the Castle of Corbeek. The Allies had also thrown pontoons across the Dyle. However, the post of Corbeek was still holding. When Guiscard arrived, the Allies retired.
    • The Elector of Bavaria hastened to Neerijse where approx. 1,200 Allies had crossed the Dyle. Upon his arrival, he saw that the “Maison du Roi” and the Grenadiers à Cheval preparing to launch a counter-attack.
    • At 8:00 a.m., the Allies retired from Neerijse.
    • The Allied army then retired and encamped with its right at Meldert and its left at Bossut.
    • The level of the Meuse was so low that it was impossible to transport any siege artillery from Maastricht for a possible siege of Namur.

On 30 July, Villeroy’s Army took new positions with its right anchored on the stream at Neerijse and its left near Louvain. The headquarters were established at Corbeek.

On 31 July, some Allied cavalry took position close to the Florival Abbey and made an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Dyle.

The French Court was so preoccupied by Marlborough’s attempts to cross the Dyle that it gave orders to Villars to detach 6 bns and 10 sqns under M. de Conflans from the Army of the Rhine to reinforce the Army of Flanders. The Maréchal de Marcin was also personally recalled to second Villeroy and the Elector of Bavaria.

On 3 August

  • Allies
    • M. de Spaar at the head of a corps of 12 bns and 5 sqns set off from Ertvelde and passed the Ghent Canal at Vinderhoute.
  • French
    • M. de Lamothe had only 18 field bns and 1 sqn, not including garrisons, to guard the defend the canals between Antwerp and the sea. Another 10 bns were posted in Waasland.

On 4 August

  • Allies
    • Spaar encamped at Lovendegem.
  • French
    • M. de Gacé sent reinforcement to M. de Lamothe to prevent Spaar from advancing to Mariakerke.
    • Lamothe encamped at Wondelgem near Ghent and M. de Gacé at Meulestede, guarding the line between this village and Eksaarde.

On 5 August

  • Allies
    • Spaar marched to Belem (unidentified location).

On 6 August

  • Allies
    • Spaar marched to Sint-Joris.
  • French
    • Guessing that Spaar intended to raze the new fort built between Bruge and Damme, Lamothe marched in this direction with 6 sqns. He was joined by 5 bns already posted in this area.
    • M. de Gacé remained at Meulestede.

On 7 August

  • Allies
    • Spaar marched to Moerbrugge but Lamothe’s and Gacé’s manoeuvres forced him to renounce to his project.
  • French
    • Lamothe arrived at Bruges and encamped under the walls of the city.

On 8 August, Spaar recrossed the Ghent Canal at Bruges and retired to Maldegem.

On 9 August

  • Allies
    • Spaar retired to Middelburg where he was covered by the canals.
  • French
    • Lamothe and Gacé occupied posts along the canal leading from Ghent to Bruges.

Meanwhile, Marlborough’s Army was busy razing the Lines of Brabant.

On 14 August, Marlborough sent his train ahead. Unable to pass the Dyle and informed that French reinforcements were on their way from Alsace, Marlborough had decided to turn the head-waters of the Dyle at Genappe.

On 15 August

  • Allies
    • At daybreak, Marlborough’s Army decamped from Bossut and took new positions with its right at Corbaix (probably Orbais) and its left at Sombreffe.
  • French
    • Villeroy stayed in his positions waiting to see the direction that Marlborough would choose.
  • In the evening, Villeroy sent 9 bns and 12 dragoon sqns under M. de Grimaldi to defend Bruxelles.

On 16 August

  • Allies
    • In the morning, Marlborough’s Army (100 bns, 162 sqns) passed the Dyle on two bridges at Ottignies and Sart-Saint-Guillaume (unidentified location) and encamped with its right at Genappe and its left neat the Seigneur-Isaac woods (present-day Ophain-Bois-Seigneur-Isaac). Marlborough had left 4 bns in Tirlemont and 1,000 men with some cavalry in Diest.
  • French
    • Villeroy’s Army (now counting 103 bns, 147 sqns but down to 70 bns and 120 sqns after all detachments) took new positions with its right at Overijse and its left at Neerijse. The Elector of Bavaria established his headquarters at Duisburg and Villeroy at Overijse.
    • Villeroy sent 9 additional bns to reinforce Grimaldi at Bruxelles. He also sent 6 dragoon sqns to Waterloo on the road leading to Bruxelles. Furthermore, 3 bns and 3 sqns were posted in Louvain. Finally, Ath, Mons and Charleroi were each reinforced with 1 bn.
    • M. de Gacé was instructed to send 2 bns from his camp at Meulestede to Dendermonde.
    • Louis XIV ordered Villars to sent another detachment of 8 bns and 12 sqns from the Army of the Rhine to reinforce Villeroy in the Low Countries.

On 17 August

  • Allies
    • Marlborough’s Army decamped from Genappe, wheeled north towards the forest of Soignies and encamped between La Hulpe and Braine-l'Alleud.
  • French
    • M. de Grimaldi took position at Niverdoy (unidentified location), some 4 km from Bruxelles, with 18 bns, 12 dragoon sqns and 10 artillery pieces.
    • Villeroy reinforced his post at Waterloo with 1 bn and 350 grenadiers, instructing M. Pasteur, already commanding 6 dragoon sqns there, to retire on Grimaldi’s Corps if threatened.
    • Villeroy sent 3 infantry brigades to the extreme right wing of his army towards the forest of Soignies.

On the night of 17 to 18 August

  • Allies
    • At 10:00 p.m., Marlborough detached his brother Churchill with 10,000 foot and 2,000 horse to advance through the forest of Soignies and turn the French right.
    • A column advanced on Waterloo and attacked Pasteur’s posts. After a brief resistance, Pasteur retired in good order towards Niverdoy. However, the Allies did not follow him and Pasteur finally returned to his post.
    • Another column marched from La Hulpe by way of Groenendael towards Boitsfort, making the French positions at Niverdoy useless to protect Bruxelles.
    • At 2:00 a.m., Marlborough himself marched away with the rest of the allied army by his right and emerged into the plain between the Ijse and the Laan.

On 18 August

  • Allies
    • At daybreak, Marlborough had taken position between the Ijse and the Laan. He quickly found two assailable points, and choosing that of Overijse, halted the army pending the arrival of the artillery. The guns were long in arriving, Slangenburg having insisted, despite Marlborough's express instructions, on forcing his own baggage into the column for the express purpose of causing delay.
    • At last about noon, the artillery appeared and Marlborough asked formal permission of the Dutch deputies to attack. To his surprise, although Nassau-Ouwerkerk had already consented, they claimed to consult their generals. Slangenburg, with every mark of insolence condemned the project as murder and massacre, the rest solemnly debated the matter for another two hours, the auspicious moment passed away exactly as they intended, and another great opportunity was lost.
  • French
    • In the morning, Villeroy sent 2 infantry brigades to Boitsfort and instructed Grimaldi to fortify this post.
    • Fearing for Bruxelles, Villeroy then marched towards this city, but he soon saw that Marlborough’s real intention was to engage battle. Villeroy’s Army marched towards the Ijse River.

On the night of 18 to 19 August, Villeroy recalled the troops which he had sent towards Bruxelles, to the exception of 8 bns and 2 dragoon rgts under M. de Grimaldi. The 13 sqns of the “Maison du Roi” were posted on the left near Neerijse.

On 19 August, the two armies were deployed facing each other. Around 3:00 p.m., the Allies recrossed the Laan, retired towards Wavre and encamped with their right anchored on the height of Florival and their left at Limal and Limelette. Villeroy detached 1,000 horse to pursue them but they were unable to catch up with the Allied rearguard.

On 20 August

  • Allies
    • A corps advanced to Grez on the Dyle.
  • French
    • M. de Conflans arrived at Maubeuge with 8 bns and 10 sqns sent as reinforcement from the Army of Germany.

On 22 August, Marlborough’s Army set off from Wavre, recrossed the Dyle and encamped with its right at Thorembais-Saint-Trond and its left at Nil-Saint-Vincent.

On 25 August, Conflans’ Corps arrived at Bruxelles. Villeroy sent 1,000 horse to harass the line of supply of the Allies coming from Bois-le-Duc and Breda.

On 27 August, Marlborough’s Army moved to a new encampment with its right at the Ramée Abbey and its left at Perwez. Marlborough established his headquarters at Ramée and Nassau-Ouwerkerk, at Mellemont. A corps was sent to Jodoigne to cover the line of communication with Tirlemont.

On 29 August

  • French
    • Villeroy’s Army encamped along the Lower Dyle from Neerijse to 4km from Werchter. A corps of 2 infantry brigade, 2 dragoon rgts and the “Maison du Roi” were left at Neerijse. The infantry was deployed in first line between Neerijse and Louvain and from Wilsele to Wijgmaal. The cavalry was in second line. The Elector of Bavaria established his headquarters at Betlehem near Herent covered by his own Gardes and by the Gardes Françaises and Gardes Suisses. The right of the position extended from Neerijse beyond Deygenoven (unidentified location) and the left from Betlehem to Wakkerzeel and Werchter. Two dragoon rgts took position at Corbeek and a few others on the extreme left wing. The 15 bns (including 7 of the 8 bns recently arrived with Conflans) previously posted at Bruxelles were moved closed to the extremity of the left wing. From Conflans’ Corps, 1 bn and 2 sqns were left in Bruxelles while the remaining 8 sqns, they were sent to Nazareth near Lierre.
  • Allies
    • Marlborough’s Army took position between the Kleine Gete and the Grote Gete with its right at Oplinter near Wever and its left at Noduwez near Helecine, abandoning an eight-days provision of forage in its old camp.

Villeroy had 2,000 workers entrenching his positions between Neerijse and Corbeek.

On 3 September, Marlborough having been ordered by the Dutch State-General to lay siege to Zoutleeuw, an Allied Corps of approx. 11,000 men invested the place which was almost defenceless, protected only by the surrounding marshes. A garrison of 1 Spanish bn and with the remnants of the Du Mont free coy (approx. 28 men) occupied the castle.

On 4 September, siege artillery arrived from Maastricht and was placed in batteries in front of Zoutleeuw.

On 5 September, the garrison of Zoutleeuw surrendered before the Allies had time to fire a single cannonball.

On 6 September, Villeroy was informed of the surrender of Zoutleeuw. He did not yet know that the place was under siege! He also learned that the Dutch corps commanded by Spaar at Middelburg had begun to take up quarters at Hulst and Sas van Gent.

On 8 September, Spaar, who had-re-assembled his corps (14 bns, 5 sqns) at Middelburg, advanced to Franc de Bruges (aka Brugse Vrije).

On 16 September, Villeroy was informed that the Allies were demolishing Tirlemont.

On 17 September, the Allies evacuated Tirlemont.

On 18 September, Marlborough’s Army marched to Diest, Montaigu (aka Scherpenheuvel-Zichem) and Halen, leaving only 650 men at Zoutleeuw.

On 19 September

  • Allies
    • Marlborough’s Army crossed the Demer upstream from Aarschot and encamped with its right at Westmeerbeek on the Nete and its left at Aarschot. The Allies remained several days in the area, destroying the old line of entrenchment.
  • French
    • The outpost (150 men) at Booischot retired in good order as the Allies approached.
    • Villeroy extended his left towards the Nete and threw 9 bns and 1 cavalry rgt under M. d’Artaignan in Louvain. The army encamped along the Dyle and behind the new line of entrenchment between Louvain and the Nete. The whole cavalry of the left wing was posted at Betlehem; the “Maison du Roi” at Wijgmaar and Werchter; 21 bns between Werchter and the bridge on the Ninde; and 56 bns, 2 dragoon rgts, and the cavalry of Bavaria and Cologne in the new line between Kluiscapel (unidentified location) and Booischot. The cavalry of the right wing was placed in reserve between Booischot and Heist-op-den-Berg. Furthermore, 10 bns, 5 dragoon rgts and some artillery were sent under M. de Guiscard to Itegem, 8 km from Lierre. The headquarters of the Elector of Bavaria were established at Heist-op-den-Berg and those of Villeroy at Haller (unidentified location). 6 bns and 1 dragoon rgt were recalled from Namur to Louvain. They were replaced at Namur by 1 rgt transferred from Philippeville. Villeroy’s infantry amounted to 105 bns, 2 artillery bns, 1 bombardier bn. The artillery received 28 additional pieces.

On 22 September, Marlborough met the deputies of the Dutch State-General at Breda to discuss new operations on the Scheldt.

On 28 September

  • Allies
    • Marlborough’s Army set off from Aarschot and took position between the Kleine Nete and the Grote Nete with its right at Grobbendonk, its centre and headquarters at Herentals and its left between Tongerlo and Geel.
  • French
    • Villeroy’s Army (95 bns, 132 sqns excluding d’Artaignan’s Corps left at Louvain) took new positions with its right at Booischot and its left near Lierre. M. de Gacé with 10 bns was at Moldernet (unidentified location). There were 8 sqns at Embleken (unidentified location); 9 bns and 6 sqns in front of Nazareth and Lierre. The rest of the infantry and cavalry occupied several camps on the left bank of the Grote Nete between Lierre and Booischot. The headquarters were established at Berlaar, in the centre.

On 30 September

  • French
    • Villeroy reinforced his left wing near Lierre and extended it towards Antwerp.. The “Maison du Roi”, the Gendarmerie and the Bavarian cavalry were sent to Oelegem. Furthermore, 2 infantry brigades advanced to Wijnegem.
    • Villeroy received a letter from Versailles asking him to send a reinforcement to the Maréchal de Villars in Alsace. He answered that he could not detach any troops without compromising the situation in Brabant.

On 4 October, the French Court approved Villeroy’s opinion and decided to let things as they were in the Low Countries.

Villeroy built entrenchments on the bank of the Nete. Meanwhile the Allies were fortifying Diest.

On 7 October, Villeroy was informed that the Allies intended to lay siege to Zandvliet. He sent a small force (only 500 men) to reinforce the place. Openings were made in the lines near Lierre and bridges were thrown across the river to ease the movements of columns towards the heath extending between Kapellen and Putte on the road leading to Zandvliet.

M. de Gassion was detached with 2,500 horse to attack Dutch foraging parties but he captured only a few prisoners.

On 11 October, Marlborough quitted his army for a sojourn at The Hague.

On 14 October at daybreak, the Elector of Bavaria, accompanied by Villeroy and Marcin, crossed the Grote Nete with 2,500 horse and 20 grenadier coys and advanced within 2 km of Herentals to reconnoitre the positions of the Allies.

On the night of 14 to 15 October, the Allied army spent the night under arms.

Villeroy recalled 3 bns from Louvain, thus bringing his infantry force to 108 bns.

On 18 October, Marlborough returned at Herentals after his sojourn at The Hague.

On 19 October at 2:00 p.m., the artillery and the train of Marlborough’s Army crossed the Kleine Nete.

On 20 October

  • Allies
    • At daybreak, Marlborough’s Army deployed in order of battle at the head of its camp. Troops had started to retire behind the Kleine Nete at 4:00 a.m.
  • French
    • One hour before daybreak, the Elector of Bavaria assembled 40 sqns and 36 grenadier coys on the heath behind Herenthout.
    • When the Allies began to retire some hussars reported that it would be possible to catch up with the rearguard formed by part of Nassau-Ouwerkerk’s Dutch troops.
    • The Elector sent dragoons to pursue the Allied rearguard. However, the hussars, without waiting for the arrival of the dragoons, engaged two cavalry troops and routed them. Otherwise, the Allies crossed the river unhindered.
    • Villeroy transferred his headquarters from Berlaar to Moldernet.

On 21 October

  • Allies
    • Marlborough’s Army encamped at Brecht.
  • French
    • Villeroy transferred his headquarters from Moldernet to Wijnegem where he posted some infantry.

On 23 October

  • Allies
    • Marlborough’s Army marched to Putte near Zandvliet. Marlborough extended his right up to Stabroek
    • The Comte de Noyelles was detached to Berendrecht with a corps destined for the siege of Zandvliet. Noyelles immediately invested the place.
  • French
    • As soon as Villeroy was informed of the movements of the Allies, he moved most of his infantry to his left and threw it into the Lines of Antwerp. Most of his cavalry remained on his right wing to facilitate its subsistance. With these new dispositions, there were 1 bn at Ninde on the right, 9 bns at Booischot, 12 bns and 42 sqns between Berlaar and Lierre, 28 sqns at Nazareth, 9 bns and 14 sqns at Moldernet, 4 bns and 42 sqns at Oelegem, 7 bns at Wijnegem, 20 bns opposite Schooten, 16 bns near the Cense des Jésuites, 11 bns at Merksem, 11 bns and 3 sqns to the left of Merksem, and 4 bns at Deurne, closing the left flank. Together with 2 bns of artillery and bombardiers, Villeroy’s Army totalled 102 bns and 132 sqns, excluding the 6 bns and 1 cavalry rgt posted at Louvain under M. d’Artaignan. The Elector of Bavaria established his headquarters at Deurne, and Villeroy at Wijnegem.
    • The Elector of Bavaria sent orders to M. de Castro, commanding at Zandvliet to hold to the last extremity.
    • The Elector of Bavaria also charged M. d’Artaignan, commanding at Louvain, to lay siege to Diest and to storm the place as soon as possible.

On the night of 24 to 25 October, d’Artaigan marched from Louvain with 3 cavalry sqns and 5 of the 6 bns forming the garrison. M. de Grimaldi marched at the same time from the vicinity of Booischot with 13 bns and 42 sqns to effect a junction with d'Artaignan's Corps. Before daybreak, these two corps reached Diest from both banks of the Demer. They established four pontoons to secure communication. D'Artaignan had 17 artillery pieces (3 x 24-pdrs, 4 x 8-pdrs and 10 x 4-pdrs).

On 25 October

  • French
    • At 7:00 a.m., d’Artaignan’s artillery opened on Diest. Soon a redoubt, defended by 200 men, was taken. The artillery battered the town during six hours and the garrison (4 bns and 1 dragoon rgt for a total of 1,750 men) asked to capitulate, surrendering as prisoners of war. In this action, the French lost 8 officers killed, 20 officers wounded and 40 soldiers killed or wounded.
    • D’Artaignan left 2 bns and 1 dragoon rgt under M. de Greder in Diest.
    • Villeroy instructed d’Artaignan to widen the breaches, to burn the barracks and to empty the magazines before retiring from the place.
    • The Elector of Bavaria informed the commander of Zandvliet that the garrison could now surrender as prisoners of war.

On 26 October

  • Allies
    • The Comte de Noyelles opened the trench in front oz Zandvliet. He then battered the place during two days with 42 guns and 22 mortars.
    • Marlborough personally departed for Vienna, leaving command to Nassau-Ouwerkerk.

On 27 October, the Elector of Bavaria personally quitted for Bruxelles, leaving command to Villeroy.

On 29 October, the commander at Zandvliet, M. de Castro, asked to capitulate and the garrison surrendered as prisoners of war.

The Allies then demolished Zandvliet.

At the beginning of November, Villeroy decided that he would make an attempt against Zoutleeuw. He sent M. de Greder with 1,000 foot and 500 horse to Diest to complete the demolition of the place.

On 4 November, Nassau-Ouwerkerk’s Army began to retire, marching from Putte to Hoogstraten.

On 5 November, part of Villeroy’s Army set off fro Louvain. These troops were destined to garrison Louvain, Namur and other places between the Sambre and the Meuse. Another part was left between Zoutleeuw and Antwerp and was destined to garrison these places as well as Malines, Bruxelles and other places to the rear. The headquarters remained at Wijnegem.

On 6 November

  • Allies
    • Nassau-Ouwerkerk’s Army marched to Turnhout.
    • The British Contingent left to take up their winter-quarters.
  • French
    • Villeroy sent towards Namur the “Maison du Roi”, the Gendarmerie and the troops destined to take up their quarters in this region. He also sent back the Gardes Françaises and the Gardes Suisses.

On 7 November, Villeroy, accompanied by Marcin, visited the vicinity of Putte.

On 8 November, Villeroy went to Louvain.

On 10 November, Nassau-Ouwerkerk’s Army set off from Turnhout and marched to Peer where it began to separate in various corps.

On 11 November, Villeroy sent the rest of his army to its winter-quarters.

On the night of 11 to 12 November, Villeroy sent M. de Greder with the 1,000 men and 500 horse under his command at Diest to make a raid against Zoutleeuw. He was reinforced with 5 grenadier coys and 800 horse under M. de Lévy.

On 12 November at daybreak, Greder and Lévy appeared in front of Zoutleeuw but found the redoubts well defended. They retired to Louvain.

In mid-November, the Allies sent 2 additional bns to reinforce the garrison of Zoutleeuw. The allies then improved the defensive works of Zoutleeuw, Sint-Truiden, Tongres, Hasselt, Munsterbilzen and a few other posts.

On 14 November, Villeroy went from Louvain to Namur.

On 17 November, Villeroy went to Bruxelles.

The Allies had 88 bns and 98 sqns in the region of the Meuse, including 14 bns and 15 sqns at Maastricht. The British were mostly quartered in the region of Bois-le-Duc, Breda and Berg-op-Zoom. Spaar’s little army garrisoned the Dutch Flanders.

On 14 December, Marlborough arrived at The Hague after his travel to Vienna to discuss the next campaign with his Austrian allies.

Marlborough then met the Dutch State-General and, after a few days, returned to London.

On 25 December, Villeroy arrived at Versailles.


In this campaign, Marlborough had forced the Lines of Brabant near Tirlemont, but not even the glory of Blenheim could induce the Dutch deputies to give him a free hand or the Dutch generals to fall in with his schemes. King Louis XIV was thus able to reinforce Villeroy from Villars's Moselle Army, and the campaign closed with no better work than the razing of the captured French entrenchments.

The public indignation both in Great Britain and in the Dutch Republic was too strong for the Dutch generals, and Slangenburg was deprived of all further command.


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

  • Pelet and François Eugène de Vault: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 5 pp. 3-109
  • Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army, Vol. I, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 450-458
  • Bezzel, O.: Geschichte des Kurpfälzischen Heeres, Bayrisches Kriegsarchiv, IV. File, part 1 and 2, Munich 1925
  • Kane, Richard: Campaigns of king William and queen Anne, from 1689 to 1712, London: J. Millan, 1745, pp. 58-61
  • Spanish Succession, War of the, in Encyclopaedia Britannica (c1910-1922), Vol. 25, p. 602

Other sources

Arre Caballo


Johan De Rocker for the identification of several locations