1707 – Campaign in the Low Countries

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1707 – Campaign in the Low Countries

The campaign lasted from April to October 1707

Introduction

Both in the north and in the south, the tide had now receded to the frontiers of France itself. Louis XIV proposed to hold a peace conference but his proposal was rejected by the Allies. He could now hope to gain the objects of the war only partially and by sheer endurance. But it is from this very point that the French operations ceased (though only gradually it is true) to be the ill-defined and badly-joined patchwork of forays and cordons that they had hitherto been.

In the place of Tallards, Marsins and Villeroys, Louis XIV made up his mind to put his Villars, Vendômes and Berwicks, and above all the approach of the Allied armies roused in the French nation itself a spirit of national defence which, under the prevailing dynastic and professional conditions of warfare, was indeed a startling phenomenon.

During the three first months of 1707, the French raised 21,000 militiamen, and enough recruits and remounts to bring the army back to its former strength. The fortresses were resupplied and magazines were formed.

The Dutch and the British added 10 men to each of their companies of infantry; and 8 men to each of their companies of cavalry.

In the Spanish Netherlands, Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria, who was viceroy there for King Philip V, kept overall command. He was seconded by the Duc de Vendôme. The Army of the Rhine remained under the command of the Maréchal de Villars. The Maréchal de Tessé received the command of the Army of Italy; and the Duc d'Orléans, assisted by the Maréchal de Berwick, the command of the Army of Spain. The Duc de Noailles received command of a corps posted in Roussillon and the Duc de Roquelaure, of a detachment in the Cévennes.

For the campaign of 1707 in the Low Countries, it was decided that the Elector of Bavaria and Vendôme would act offensively as much as possible without committing the army to an open battle. Otherwise, they would oppose a stubborn resistance and try to live off of the land occupied by the Allies. It was also decided to undertake the sieges of Huy and Liège to draw the Allies towards the Meuse River, and thus spare Flanders which had been exhausted by the previous campaigns.

The Duke of Marlborough planned to conquer Hainaut and the French Flanders and made preparations in Bruxelles and Ghent for the sieges of Mons, Tournai, Lille and Ypres.

Map

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

Description

The French made every efforts to prevent Allied incursions in the region of Lille. To do so, they strengthened the line of defence extending from Namur to Nieuport. The Sambre River, from its mouth on the Meuse River up to Jeumont, formed the right part of these lines. All possible crossings were guarded and the Lines of the Trouille were strengthened between Jeumont and Mons. From Mons, the rivers Haine, Scheldt up to Tournai, and the Baisieux stream, the Marcq and the Lower Deule covered the country up to the Lys River. Other lines from Comines to Ypres and the canal leading to Nieuport covered the space between the Lys and the sea.

A second line of defence was established behind the canal of Moulinet, the Censée River, the Upper Deule River and the Lys River from Deulsemont to Aire to protect the regions of Cambrésis and Artois, Redoubts were repaired behind the Neuf-Fossé.

On 13 April, the Duc de Vendôme set off from Versailles to join his army in Flanders.

On 14 April. Vendôme arrived in Lille.

On 15 April, Vendôme inspected the defence on the Lys River.

On 16 April the Allied garrisons of Huy, Liège and Maastricht marched to canton between Louvain (aka Leuven) and Bruxelles.

On 17 April

  • Allies
    • Marlborough arrived at The Hague.
  • French
    • Vendôme went to Mons to inform the Elector of Bavaria about the plan made by the French Court for the coming campaign. The army would be composed of 130 bns and 206 sqns. Since intelligence mentioned that the Allies could field only 100 bns and 150 sqns, Louis XIV wanted to act offensively on the Meuse River. The campaign would start with the sieges of Huy and Liège to draw the Allies away from Flanders. Two corps under M. de Lamothe and M. de Gacé would protect the rear of the main army. Lamothe's Corps (12 bns) would cover Flanders and Artois; Gacé's Corps would protect the country between the Sambre and the Meuse rivers.

On 21 April

  • Allies
    • Marlborough personally set off from The Hague for Saxony, where he wanted to discuss with the King of Sweden.
  • French
    • Vendôme gave orders to move a few bns closer to the frontier.

Vendôme and the Elector did not consider that they were ready to take advantage of Marlborough's absence. They had been instructed to transfer 6 bns to Germany. They also had to reinforce M. de Lamothe in Flanders and Artois with 16 sqns. With these reductions the main army still counted 124 bns and 190 sqns. However, Vendôme had been informed that the Allied army would soon be augmented to 115 bns and 180 sqns and considered that he could not lay siege to Huy in such circumstances. The French Court finally decided to leave only 8 bns and 8 sqns to M. de Lamothe, who would take position in the Lines of Comines and enter Ypres if ever the Allies advanced on this place. The 4 other bns and 8 sqns initially destined to join M. de Lamothe were redirected to Artois and Picardie.

By that time, the Allies had only 1 bn in Huy, 1 bn in Liège and 3 bns and some cavalry in Maastricht.

On 9 May, Marlborough arrived at The Hague after his visit to Saxony.

On 18 May, the largest part of Marlborough's Army encamped near Bruxelles with its right near the Tomberg Mill and its left at Anderlecht.

On 19 May

  • Allies
    • The British Contingent arrived at the camp near Bruxelles.
  • French
    • From this date, the French troops began to assemble in four distinct corps:
      • M. de Gacé, near Condé
      • M. D'Artaignan, near Valenciennes
      • M. de Souternon, near Le Quesnoy
      • M. de Gassion, near Maubeuge

By 20 May, the entire field army of the Allies was assembled at the camp near Bruxelles.

Opening Moves of the Campaign

On 21 May, the Allied field army advanced from Bruxelles and encamped with its right at Bellingen, where Marlborough established his headquarters; and its left at Halle, where Nassau-Ouwerkerk established his own. Their camp was covered by the Elbeeck Stream.

To force the Allies to commit troops towards the sea, Vendôme asked M. de Lamothe to advance from the Lines of Comines into enemy territory and to send parties towards Ostend and Bruges. M. de Saillans also detached parties from Namur towards de Demer and Dumoulin's free corps (50 dragoons, 80 cavalrymen) advanced up to Malines, which it stormed, setting fire to a large magazine and to a vessel loaded with forage. Dumoulin then retired to Namur.

On 24 May, the four French corps concentrated near Mons, on the Estinnes Stream. The entire army encamped in two lines and a reserve. Its right was at Maurage, its left at Grand-Beng (unidentified location). The Elector's headquarters were at Estinnes au Val, and Vendôme's at Estinnes au Mont.

On 25 May

  • French
    • The Elector of Bavaria and Vendôme reviewed their army (124 bns, 193 sqns, excluding the 12 bns and 16 sqns covering Flanders, Artois and Picardie under M. de Lamothe).
    • The French Court instructed Vendôme to avoid a battle.
    • In preparation of the siege of Huy, Vendôme embarked some artillery aboard boats on the Sambre River.
    • Lamothe placed 8 bns and 8 sqns in the Lines of Comines and distributed the rest of his corps in various places. Lamothe then sent parties into enemy territory.
  • Allies
    • The field army then counted 108 bns and 155 sqns.

On 26 May

  • French
    • At daybreak, the French army advanced in six columns from the Estinnes and encamped near Gosselies, with its right towards Charleroi and its left between Heppignies and Gosselies. The baggage was sent to Charleroi.
  • Allies
    • Marlborough's Army marched from Halle to Soignies. Marlborough planned to advance up to Haine-Saint-Pierre and Haine-Saint-Paul, but the march of the French towards Gosselies ruined his project.

On 27 May, Vendôme reconnoitred the vicinity of Marbais and Sombreffe.

On 28 May

  • French
    • Vendôme's Army marched to Sombreffe, where it encamped in three lines with a reserve. Its right wing was at the Villers Wood and its left at Ligny, with the headquarters at Sombreffe.
  • Allies
    • Marlborough's Army retired from Soignies to Halle. Cannon, baggage and pontoons were sent back to Bruxelles.

On 29 May, Marlborough's Army precipitously retired beyond Bruxelles, and encamped at Diegem.

On 31 May

  • Allies
    • Marlborough's Army retired from Diegem to Louvain (Leuven), where it encamped with its right at Neerijse and its left close to Louvain, with the Dyle River in front of the camp.
  • French
    • The Duc de Vendôme and the Elector of Bavaria reconnoitred the vicinity of Gembloux.
    • Vendôme also asked M. de Lamothe to move 8 of his sqns from Lille to Maubeuge to get closer to the main army. Lamothe's infantry remained in the Lines of Comines.
    • Vendôme continued to direct his heavy artillery towards Namur, as if he still intended to lay siege to Huy.
Order of Battle
Order of battle of the Allied army in the Low Countries in June 1707

On 1 June, Marlborough, convinced that the French were making preparations for the siege of Huy, crossed the Dyle River and encamped with his right at Meldert and his left at Hoegaarden.

On 2 June

  • French
    • Vendôme's Army marched from Sombreffe to Gembloux, where it encamped in three lines with a reserve, its right at Sauvenière, at the Cinq-Étoiles defile, and its left anchored on the castle and stream of Noirmont, near Chastre. Vendôme considered that the positions of the camp of the Allies were too strong to risk an attack.
    • M. de Lamothe reached Condé with his 8 sqns. He had confided command of the 8 bns posted in the Lines of Comines to M. de Montroux. He had also left 4 bns and 32 coys of cavalry and dragoons on the frontiers of Artois and Picardie.

On 3 June, M. de Lamothe marched to Givry with his 8 sqns.

On 4 June. M. de Lamothe reached Charleroi with his 8 sqns.

Marlborough detached 6,000 men from his army to occupy Bruxelles, Malines, Louvain, Maastricht, Liège and Huy.

On 11 June, Vendôme received intelligence that the Allies planned to detach 9 bns and 6 sqns from their main army and to send them to Spain where the situation was rapidly deteriorating. He immediately wrote to Louis XIV to propose him to lay siege to Huy with 12 bns and 20 sqns and then to besiege Liège. However, the king replied that he would prefer to postpone this siege.

On 14 June

  • Allies
    • Fagel encamped near Oudenarde with 7 bns and some cavalry.
  • French
    • Informed of Fagel's movement, Vendôme sent back M. de Lamothe and his 8 sqns towards the Lys River.

On 15 June, M. de Lamothe reached Frelinghien with his 8 sqns. With this cavalry and the 8 bns he already had in the Lines of Comines, Lamothe then defended the Deûle River, the Scarpe River, the Canal of Ypres and the Knocke.

On 16 June, Vendôme, as instructed by Louis XIV, detached 4 bns to Philippeville. These bns were destined to reinforce Tessé's Army in Dauphiné and Provence, which was facing an invasion from the Duchy of Savoy. Vendôme then recalled 4 bns from Lamothe's Corps to replace these bns.

On 18 June

  • Allies
    • The Baron de Spaar marched towards Ghent with 9 bns and 7 sqns.
  • French
    • The 4 bns sent by Lamothe to reinforce Vendôme's Army had already reached Condé. They were instructed to halt there.

On 20 June, Vendôme once more wrote to Louis XIV to convince him to lay siege to Huy but the king instructed him to remain in his present positions.

Marlborough then received a reinforcement of cavalry. He was now at the head of only 95 bns and 165 sqns, including Fagel's and Spaar's detachments.

At the end of June, Fagel's and Spaar's detachments marched towards the Lys River (aka Leie River) and effected a junction at Deinze.

M. de Lamothe recalled the 4 bns posted at Condé to the Lines of Comines.

The Elector of Bavaria sent 3 bns and 5 sqns to reinforce Villars in Germany.

The Allies re-seize the Initiative

On 1 August, the situation worsening in Provence, Louis XIV decided to detach 13 bns and 6 sqns for Vendôme's Army to reinforce Tessé. The detachment was placed under the command of M. de Guerchy and M. de Ruffey.

On 5 August, Guerchy's Corps set off from the Netherlands on its way to Provence. To compensate for the departure of this corps, Vendôme recalled 7 bns from Lamothe's Corps, replacing them by 6 garrison bns.

On 10 August

  • Allies
    • The heavy baggage were sent to Louvain.
    • Around 4:00 p.m., Marlborough's Army set off from Meldert and marched towards the Dyle River. A vanguard of 2,000 horse advanced to Tourrines-les-Ordons (probably Tourinnes-Saint-Lambert). The army marched all night towards Vendôme's positions.
  • French
    • Vendôme and the Elector of Bavaria reconnoitred towards Walhain but saw no enemy. Shortly afterwards, Vendôme was informed that the Allies had crossed the Dyle River and were marching towards Nivelle and Genappe, on the left flank of his army.

On 11 August

  • Allies
    • By daybreak, Marlborough was very near the French cavalry right wing who struck its camp and marched off in great hurry. The Allies could not catch up with them.
    • Marlborough ordered another night march.
  • French
    • At daybreak, Vendôme's Army decamped from Gembloux, marched in seven columns and encamped at Vanderbeeck (unidentified location), with its right on the Piéton Stream and its left at the village of Seneffe. The last troops reached the camp at 10:00 p.m.

On 12 August

  • Allies
    • Around noon, Marlborough's Army advanced on Arquennes, after having marched all night under a heavy rain.
  • French
    • Vendôme reconnoitred towards Seneffe and was surprised to see the heads of the Allied columns arriving at Arquennes and Feluy.
    • At 9:00 p.m., Vendôme's Army struck camp and retired in columns towards the plain of Le Roeulx.

On 13 August

  • French
    • One hour before daybreak, Vendôme's Army reached Le Roeulx. The Duc de Vendôme took position at the Quesne d'Ardammont (unidentified location).
    • Around 5:00 a.m., Vendôme was informed that his rearguard (2 cavalry brigades, 2 dragoon rgts, 100 Gardes du Corps and 20 grenadier coys) under M. d'Albergotti was about to be attacked. He precipitously rode with the Elector of Bavaria and found this rearguard retiring in good order. It was closely followed by a superior Allied force (60 sqns and approx. 2,500 grenadiers) but all their attacks were driven back by the French grenadiers.
  • Confrontation near Haine-Saint-Pierre
    • Vendôme promptly deployed his army in order of battle on the heights of Haine-Saint-Pierre and Haine-Saint-Paul, anchoring his right on the Haine River and his left to the Louvrières and to a pond. The army remained in these positions until 2:00 p.m.
    • The Allies encamped between Nivelle and Arquennes.
    • Vendôme then resumed his march and encamped on the heath of Saint-Denis, with his right at Gottignies and his left beyond Saint-Denis.

On 14 August

  • French
    • Vendôme's Army marched from Saint-Denis to Chièvres, where it encamped in three lines in a strong position, with its right at Lens and its left towards Ath.
  • Allies
    • Marlborough's Army marched from Arquennes to Soignies on very bad roads. It encamped there with its right at Louvignies and its left beyond Soignies. Marlborough was paralysed more completely than ever before by the Dutch.

On 15 August, the 6 bns sent by M. de Lamothe rejoined Vendôme's main army, which now numbered 113 bns and 181 sqns. The same day, the artillery train and the baggage, which had been delayed at Saint-Ghislain by bad weather finally joined the army.

On 24 August, Vendôme sent his heavy baggage to Condé.

On 27 August

  • Allies
    • Spaar's Corps marched from Deinze to Oudenarde, to get closer to the main Allied army.
  • French
    • M. de Lamothe marched from Frelinghien to Lille with all his cavalry. He then continued his march towards Tournai.

On 31 August

  • Allies
    • Marlborough's Army marched from Soignies to Ath, where it encamped with its right anchored on Ath and its left at Gages and Cambron-Saint-Vincent.
  • French
    • Vendôme's Army retired westwards from Chièvres to Antoing, where it encamped in three lines, with its right anchored on the Peronnes Stream, its left to the covert way of Tournai and its headquarters in Antoing. Because of the cramped space of the camp, the first and second lines of cavalry of the left wing were deployed en potence on the left flank, all dragoons were posted on the flanks and the reserve was deployed in a fourth line.

Vendôme had roads prepared on both banks of the Scheldt to make it possible to quickly move downstream. He planned to forage in the region of the Ronne (unidentified location), as far as possible to force the Allies to retire on Oudenarde. Informed that the Allies had retired from Provence, he also asked Louis XIV to send him back the troops which he had sent as reinforcements, but the king preferred to send these reinforcements to Germany.

On 2 September

  • Allies
    • Spaar's Corps (5 bns, 800 horse) precipitously decamped from Oudenarde and marched to the left bank of the Lys, between Courtrai (aka Kortrijk) and Menin (aka Menen).
  • French
    • Vendôme placed M. de Lamothe at the head of 12 bns, 2 dragoon rgts and 1 cavalry rgt to take position behind the Lines of Comines with the infantry while the dragoons and cavalrymen went to Warneton. 3,000 pioneers were requisitioned to repair these lines.

On 3 September, Marlborough's Army set off from Ath, crossed the Dender River in this town and encamped between Opbrakel and Grammont (aka Geraardsbergen).

On 4 September, Marlborough's Army marched to the Eenaem Abbey near Oudenarde and threw several bridges on the Scheldt.

On 5 September, Marlborough's Army crossed the Scheldt River and marched to Petegem, where it took position with its right near the Lys River

On 6 September, Vendôme decamped from Antoing, crossed the Scheldt at Tournai and marched to Annappes. His infantry encamped in first line and his cavalry in second, with their right at Ascq and his left between Pont-à-Marcq and Marquette. The dragoons were posted on both flanks and the reserve encamped along the Deule River.

On 7 September

  • Allies
    • Marlborough's Army marched upstream along the left bank of the Scheldt and encamped at Helchin (aka Helkijn), near the bridge of Espierres (aka Spiere-Helkijn), with its right towards Courtrai and its left and the headquarters at Helchin. Marlborough also sent parties towards Menin.
  • French
    • Vendôme sent M. de Gassion with 22 sqns to reinforce the garrison of Tournai (6 bns and 10 sqns). Another reinforcement of 16 bns was sent to M. de Lamothe at his camp of Warneton.

On 13 September, Spaar's Corps decamped from Heule, near Courtrai, recrossed to the right bank of the Lys and reached Halluin near Menin.

On 14 September, Vendôme was informed that the Allies were preparing roads to advance on Tournai and then bombard the place. He ordered to prepare several passages on the Marcq River upstream in the vicinity of Pont-à-Tessin, to offer battle if necessary.

Vendôme then inspected the Lines of Comines and sent a few additional bns and 6 sqns to M. de Lamothe, who was now at the head of 20 bns and 42 sqns, including 12 bns and 37 sqns posted in the Lines of Comines, and 8 bns and 5 sqns to guard the Upper Deule River, the Scarpe and the Lines of Trouille from Mons up to the Sambre River.

Both Armies take their Winter-Quarters

At the end of September, Marlborough barracked his troops and Vendôme made preparations to send his troops to their winter-quarters.

In the first days of October, Vendôme sent 2 dragoon rgts to Mons, the Mousquetaires to La Bassée, some troops to Armentières and some troops with 40 artillery pieces to Douai.

On 4 October, Marlborough sent 9 bns to places in the rear and personally left for The Hague, where he wanted to discuss the disposition of the winter-quarters with the States General.

On 10 October, Marlborough returned to his camp near Helchin.

On 11 October, Marlborough's Army retired from Helchin to Elsegem near Oudenarde.

On 12 October, Marlborough's Army retired to Gavere, crossed the Scheldt and encamped near Alost (aka Aalst).

On 13 October, the Elector of Bavaria personally left Annapes and returned to Mons. Vendôme sent 12 bns and 12 sqns under M. de Souternon to cover Mons. Furthermore, 4 additional bns were sent to M. de Lamothe and the Bavarian cavalry left for its winter-quarters in Luxembourg.

From 14 to 20 October, the French army gradually took up its winter-quarters. The Maison du Roi, the Gendarmerie and several cavalry rgts returned to France, but most troops took up their quarters in Flanders and Artois. The Spanish troops went to Hainaut and the troops of Cologne took up their quarters between the Sambre and the Meuse.

On 15 October, Marlborough personally set off from Alost for Frankfurt, in an attempt to convince several German princes to supply 25,000 men for the next campaign.

On 19 October, Vendôme personally went to Lille

On 28 October, Marlborough returned to Alost after his unsuccessful mission in Frankfurt.

By 2 November, all of Marlborough's Army had taken its winter-quarters: the British and the Danes in Spanish Flanders and Dutch Flanders; the Dutch in Brabant; the Prussians and other German troops, between the Meuse and the Lower-Rhine.On 2 November, Marlborough left for the Hague, leaving command of the army to Nassau-Ouwerkerk.

On 2 November, Vendôme left for Versailles.

References

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. 7, 1848, pp. 3-55
  • Spanish Succession, War of the, in Encyclopaedia Britannica (c1910-1922), Vol. 25, p. 604
  • Kane, Richard: Campaigns of king William and queen Anne, from 1689 to 1712, London: J. Millan, 1745, pp. 70-71