1707 – Campaign on the Rhine

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1707 – Campaign on the Rhine

The campaign lasted from May to November 1707


For the campaign of 1707, Elector Maximilian II of Bavaria kept overall command in the Low Countries. 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.

According to the French strategic plan for this campaign, in Provence and Dauphiné, Tessé would remain on the defensive. All places of these two provinces were made ready to oppose a long resistance. In Spain, the Duc d'Orléans and the Maréchal de Berwick had to drive the Allies out of the kingdoms of Valencia and Aragon. Afterwards, they should lay siege to Lérida in Catalonia. In Roussillon the Maréchal de Noailles would prepare all means to support the offensive in Spain and would then advance into Catalonia. In the Cévennes, the Duc de Roquelaure had to prevent a new uprising. On the Rhine, Villars would attack the Lines of Stollhofen and then penetrate into the centre of Germany to support the Hungarian Rebellion.

For their part, the Allies major initiative was confided to Duke Victor Amadeus II Savoy and Prince Eugène who would invade the provinces of Dauphiné and Provence. Their first objective was the capture of Toulon, for which large fleets were being prepared in Great Britain and in the Dutch Republic.

For the coming campaign, the Dutch and the British subsidised 12,000 men (mostly Saxon troops) in Germany, Count Daun should march from Lombardy towards the Kingdom of Naples to create an uprising in favour of the Habsburg. In Spain, Archduke Charles was confident that he could conquer the rest of the peninsula with the help of Portuguese, British and Dutch troops. On the Rhine, the new commander-in-chief, the Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, who had just succeeded the deceased Margrave of Baden, should try to cross the river and to engage Villars's Army or attack some places in Alsace.

At the end of the previous campaign, the Imperialists had 48 bns and 53 sqns on the Rhine under command of Field Marshal Thüngen. They were quartered on the right bank of the Rhine from the Lines of Stollhofen to the Main River. A few infantry units had been sent to the Black Forest and 10 sqns, to Bavaria. Generally speaking, the troops of the Reichsarmee were in pretty bad condition.

Louis XIV determined that, for the coming campaign, the Army of the Rhine would comprise 66 bns and 108 sqns. Some of the troops which had to evacuate Lombardy should form part of this army. The Maréchal de Villars planned to attack the Lines of Stollhofen early in the campaign. The French received intelligence from the Baron von Elein, a general in the Imperial army, who supplied details on the entrenchments, their force, their defects and their weak parts, and on the conditions of the banks of the Rhine between Stollhofen to Daxlanden. In preparation for his project, Villars asked the Court for its authorisation to make a portable bridge with 50 boats at Strasbourg, and to make a 50 km long canal between Strasbourg and Seltz to ease access to the Rhine River. Louis XIV approved of Villars's plan and work started with 3,000 requisitioned pioneers on the first segment of the canal between Drusenheim and Seltz. M. de Regemorte, who supervised the project, guaranteed that this segment of the canal would be ready by 15 April.


Map of the Upper Rhine in 1700 - Copyright Dinos Antoniadis


On 30 January, the remains of the Saxon corps, which had been taken prisoners at the surrender of Haguenau (May 1706) and exchanged at the end of the year, set off to return to Saxony.

On 3 February, the Imperialists sent a reinforcement of 1,500 Saxons to the garrison of Landau. The Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth had previously inspected the fortress.

On 17 February, M. de Cheyladet went to Drusenheim and work began on the new canal. He then went to Seltz and work began at the entrenchments which would protect the mouth of this canal.

On 22 February, M. de Cheyladet made himself master of the Seltz Island and occupied it with 1 bn.

On 24 February

  • French
    • A redoubt was erected on the Seltz Island and 2 grenadier coys were posted on the banks of the Rhine to cover the pioneers. M. de Cheyladet also received six boats, each capable of transporting 40 men, from Fort-Louis.
  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialists erected a redoubt on the "Île Rouge."

M. de Cheyladet also had two redoubts erected at Mothern. He also sent 1 bn (400 men), arriving from Nancy, to the Seltz Island.

In the first days of April, the segment of the canal between Drusenheim and Seltz was completed. Immediately, work began with 3,000 pioneers and 3 infantry rgts to extend the canal from Drusenheim to Wantzenau.

On 24 April, the Elector of Saxony signed a treaty with the Maritime Powers (Great Britain and the Dutch Republic) by which he agreed to supply an auxiliary corps of approx. 5,000 men for the war against France.

The French Army of the Rhine assembles

At the end of April, the French started to assemble the Army of the Rhine (66 bns, 108 sqns, 64 artillery pieces).

On 1 May, the Imperialist army (32 bns, 40 sqns) was not yet concentrated and was deployed on a front of approx. 70 km. The Imperialists encamped behind their entrenchments along the Rhine, from Stollhofen down to Söllingen (unidentified location). The Duke of Württemberg was at Söllingen, FM Thüngen at Philippsburg and the Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, the commander-in-chief on the Rhine, at Heilbronn. Landau was garrisoned by 10 Imperialist bns.

On 7 May, Villars arrived at Metz, where he learned of Berwick's victory at Almansa (25 April) against the Allies.

On 10 May, Villars went to Strasbourg, where everything was ready: the artillery train, the boats for the bridge, the provisions… Troops were gradually arriving from Lorraine and Franche-Comté. Upon arrival, these troops were directed to posts along the Rhine between Strasbourg and Hagenbach. Work on the segment of the canal between Drusenheim and Wantzenau was progressing at a good pace and everything indicated that it would be ready by the end of May.

On 16 May, Villars decided to send the horses of the army to the Rhine from Offendorf to Lauterbourg and to the Lines of the Lauter. He also sent most of his cavalry to the Kinzig River. M. de Cheyladet crossed the Rhine at Kehl with 47 sqns and 6 bns and encamped along the river near Fort-Louis. The 50 boats destined for the bridge were transported on drays from Strasbourg to Fort-Louis.

On 19 May, Villars returned to Strasbourg, where he instructed the Marquis de Vivans and the Comte de Broglie to assemble 20 bns, 45 sqns and 34 artillery pieces at Lauterbourg to cross the Rhine at the Neuburg Island. M. de Pery and the Comte de Chamillart were ordered to form a camp of 9 bns, 14 cannon, 4 mortars and 12 copper pontoons at Rœschwoog in preparation for a demonstration by way of the Marquisat Island. M. de Lee and M. de Vieuxpont were charged to hold 4 bns and 10 cannon in readiness at Drusenheim for a diversion against the Dalhunden Island. Villars determined that these three corps would launch their operation on 22 May in the evening and that he would himself march with 10 bns, 47 sqns and 10 cannon to appear opposite the Lines of Bühl on 23 May.

On 21 May, Villars marched wit 4 bns to the camp near Kehl, where 6 bns and 47 sqns under M. de Cheyladet were already posted. From Kehl, the entire corps marched and encamped on the right bank of the Kinzig, its right at Bühl and its left at Griesheim (unidentified location).

The French make themselves masters the Lines of Stollhofen

On 22 May

  • French
    • Villars's Corps marched in two columns beyond Ottersweier and encamped within cannonshot of the Lines of Bühl. He then reconnoitred the entrenchments of the Imperialists and found that they were guarded by only 6 bns, 1 cavalry rgt and 1 dragoon rgt between Bühl and the mountain. Villars took measures to launch an attack on the following day.
    • Vivans and Broglie embarked 1,800 grenadiers aboard 60 boats and landed them on the Neuburg Island, which was defended by only 100 men who took flight. The grenadiers entrenched themselves and covered the construction of a bridge to allow the infantry and the artillery to cross the Rhine. A battery of 10 pieces was established along the Rhine to keep the enemy away.
    • Pery's and Chamillart's troops assembled at Rœschwoog and attacked from the Marquisat Island. Pery had erected an entrenchment along the Rhine that could hold 1,500 men. He had also established two batteries of 7 artillery pieces, one at each end of his entrenchment, and a battery of 4 mortars in the centre. In the evening, these batteries opened against the entrenchments of the Imperialists, forcing the 8 bns and 1 dragoon rgt under the Duke of Württemberg to retire.
    • In the evening, M. de Lee and M. de Vieuxpont erected entrenchments and batteries along the Rhine, facing the Dalhunden Island. The batteries then opened against the entrenchments of the Imperialists on this island. The Imperialists soon abandoned them and M. de Lee used the boats that he had collected at Drusenheim to transport part of his troops to the island. The Imperialists retired precipitously from the Dalhunden Island, abandoning a bridge of 40 boats, which linked the island to Stollhofen. Thus, Lee was able to easily cross the Rhine and join Pery's corps at Stollhofen.

In the night of 22 to 23 May, Pery sent his grenadiers forward. They crossed the Rhine aboard boats and advanced against a redoubt located to the right of the entrenchments of the Imperialists, which was only defended by a few soldiers who took flight at the first shots.

On 23 May

  • French
    • At daybreak, Broglie at the head of 3,000 men crossed unhindered to the right bank of the Rhine and entrenched his positions. The Imperialists advanced with 2,000 men but soon retired towards Durlach and Philippsburg. The rest of Broglie's and Vivans's corps and all their artillery then crossed the Rhine.
    • At daybreak, Pery sent the rest of his grenadiers across the Rhine under the Marquis de Nangis. They made themselves masters of all entrenchments and redoubts. The troops of the Duke of Württemberg retired precipitously, leaving part of their tents in their abandoned camp. Pery then threw a pontoon bridge on the arm of the Rhine. The bridge was ready after two hours, and M. de Chamillart crossed the Rhine with all his troops and marched towards Stollhofen, which he found abandoned. The Allies had left 10 artillery pieces in the entrenchments. Meanwhile, M. de Pery detached 50 grenadiers to reconnoitre the road taken by the Allies during their retreat. They reported that the Allies were retiring towards Württemberg.
    • At daybreak, Villars, who had spent the night in front of the left part of the Lines of Bühl, prepared to attack. He could hear the din of battle in the distance, confirming that Lee and Pery had launched their attacks. Villars's infantry marched directly against the entrenchments, and the Margrave of Durlach, who was in charge of the defence of this section of the lines, abandoned his post, his artillery, his tents and his magazines and retired with all his troops, part in the mountains, part towards Ettlingen. M. de Verseilles pursued them with his hussars and 400 horse, and caught up with 2 infantry rgts, taking many prisoners.
    • Villars's Corps immediately advanced in two columns to join Pery's and Lee's corps. The army encamped at Hügelsheim, while passing at Söllingen, Villars gave orders to erect a hornwork to protect a bridge on the Rhine.
  • Imperialists
    • The Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth gave the order to retreat to Ettlingen.

On 24 May

  • French
    • Villars's Army marched in two columns to Rastatt, where it camped with its right opposite Kuppenheim, its centre at Niederbuhl and its left below Rastatt, facing the Murg River.
    • The Spanish cavalry remained near Stollhofen and 2 cavalry brigades remained in the Lines of Bühl to cover the workers who were razing these entrenchments.
    • The 22 bns and 30 sqns which had crossed the Rhine at Neuburg under the command of M. de Vivans joined the army, with the exception of 2,000 horse with which M. de Vivans was instructed to take position one march in front of the army.

On 25 May, Villars took measures to supply his army with bread, initiated work to raze the entrenchments of the Lines of Bühl and had the captured artillery pieces and equipment transported to Fort-Louis. In these operations, Villars had captured several flour and oat magazines.

Villars proposed to raise contributions in the circles of the empire, hoping to force them to neutrality and, if they refused his offer, to lay siege to Philippsburg.

During his sojourn at Rastatt, Villars sent detachments to Ettlingen, where the Allies had abandoned large magazines.

On 28 May, Villars's Army decamped from Rastatt and marched in four columns to Ettlingen, encamping with its left at the Castle of Reiburg (unidentified location) and its right at Ettlingen.

  • M. de Quadt was left behind on the Lauter River with 4 bns, 6 sqns, and all the free companies of Alsace.
  • The Spanish cavalry was left at Stollhofen and 2 cavalry rgts along the Lines of Bühl to protect the workers.
  • M. de Vivans marched towards Durlach with his 1,500 horse. He engaged a party of 500 Imperialist horse near Durlach, capturing 100 men and 150 horses.

On 29 May, Villars' army marched in three columns and encamped near Durlach, with its right anchored on this town and its left extending towards Weingarten. Villars established his headquarters at Grötzingen. Villars was then informed that the Imperialists were encamped a Mühlacker on the Enz River, not far from Pforzheim. He decided to advance on their positions and to offer battle.

On 30 May, Villars's Army force marched in three columns to reach Pforzheim. Villars reached the place at 10:00 a.m. with his vanguard. From there he could see the abandoned camp of the Imperialists who were precipitously retiring. Villars' infantry reached Pforzheim at nightfall and his artillery even later. The train had been left at Durlach where provisions were assembled.

On 31 May, Villars was forced to sojourn near Pforzheim, waiting for a bread convoy. He also sent M. de Vivans to Söllingen, near Fort-Louis, with 6 bns and 20 sqns, to cover the march of a great convoy destined to his army, and to support M. de Quadt against the Allied garrisons of Philippsburg and Landau.

Villars advances into the Empire

During his sojourn at Pforzheim, Villars sent several detachments to raise contributions.

On 3 June

  • French
    • After distributing bread to his cavalry, Villars set off from Pforzheim with the right wing of his army, the dragoons, the hussars and 500 grenadiers without heavy baggage. He reached Illingen near Vaihingen/Enz.
    • The left wing, the infantry and the heavy baggage remained near Pforzheim under M. de Saint-Fremont.
  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialists retired to Schorndorf, behind the Neckar River.

On 4 June, Villars marched with the same forces in two columns up to Schwieberdingen, near Stuttgart.

On 5 June, Saint-Fremont marched from Pforzheim in four columns and reached Illingen.

On 6 June, Saint-Fremont marched from Illingen in four columns and made a junction with Villars's Corps at Schwieberdingen. The entire army then encamped along the Glems River with its right above Nippenburg, its centre opposite Schwieberdingen and its left towards Gröningen. In this position, Villars was master of Württemberg and could easily raised contributions in Palatinate, Hesse-Darmstadt, Baden and Durlach. In Württemberg alone, he raised 2.2 million livres.

Considering that the Allies would certainly sent a large corps from Flanders to reinforce the Imperialists on the Rhine, Louis XIV instructed the Duc de Vendôme, who commanded in the Low Countries, to send an similar sized corps to reinforce Villars if ever the Allies proceeded as he expected.

On 8 June

  • French
    • Villars' Army marched in six columns from Schwieberdingen and encamped with its right anchored on the vineyards of Stuttgart, its centre opposite Cannstatt (present-day Bad Cannstatt) and its left on the Neckar upstream from Münster. Villars established his headquarters in Stuttgart. The ovens were installed in Cannstatt.
  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialist army (including the Palatine Hahn Dragoons and Kreiseskadron) took position on the heights on the left bank of the Remse River to cover the road leading to Ulm and Donauwörth.

On 9 June

  • French
    • Villars detached 100 horse and 100 hussars towards Schorndorf. This patrol reported that the Allies had retired to Gmünd (Schwäbisch Gmünd) in the area of Bargau near Heubach, leaving only a detachment of 500 horse on the right bank of the Remse River near Schorndorf.
    • Villars sent request for contributions in Swabia and Franconia but he still had to wait for provisions before being able to advance further.
    • Villars, who after all his detachments could count on only 50 bns and 100 sqns, wrote to the king, asking for an immediate reinforcement of 20 bns and 30 sqns from Flanders. Villars planned to use these troops in the area of Mannheim.

On 10 June

  • French
    • Villars sent M. d'Imecourt forward with 1,500 horse to cross the Danube upstream from Ulm and raise contributions on both banks of the river. M. de Broglie was sent with a similar corps to raise contributions in Franconia.
  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialists retired from Gmünd to Bergen (unidentified location), on the road to Nördlingen.

In the night of 12 to 13 June, Villars sent M. de Saint-Fremont with 5 cavalry sqns, 6 dragoon sqns, 10 grenadier coys and 50 hussars forward from Stuttgart to Schorndorf, which was still occupied by an Imperialist force of 600 men.

On 13 June in the morning, Villars's Army marched from Stuttgart in four columns and encamped at Beutelsbach behind the Remse River, with its right above this village and its left beyond Winterbach.

On 14 June

  • French
    • At 2:00 a.m., Villars's right wing advanced to join Saint-Fremont's detachment in front of Schorndorf.
    • At 5:00 a.m., the rest of Villars' Army marched in four columns towards Schorndorf.
    • Upon its arrival at Schorndorf, Saint-Fremont's detachment drove back a small cavalry detachment. Even though the place was strong and the French had only 4 battery pieces, Villars decided to immediately open the trench. The place resisted during two days.

On 17 June in the evening, Schorndorf surrendered to Villars. In this place, the French captured 51 cannon.

On 19 June, Villars was informed that an Imperialist detachment of 1,500 foot and 500 horse had occupied the defile of Lorch, where they were entrenching themselves. He decided to attack them immediately with 4 infantry brigades, 2 cavalry brigades and 1 dragoon rgt before they had time to strengthen their positions.

On 20 June

  • Combat of Lorch
    • Villars sent M. de Verseilles forward with the Verseilles Hussards, 200 horse and 4 grenadier coys to mask the advance of the main corps. They set off from the camp of Winterbach and acted as if they intended to cover a forage on the plain.
    • As he approached Waldhausen, Verseilles engaged 6 cavalry troops and a large number of hussars and drove them back. The Imperialist cavalry retired to the village where 200 foot covered them.
    • Villars's Corps, which was following Verseilles's detachment, marched in three columns: one column on each side along the slopes of the mountain and a central artillery column in the defile.
    • Villars joined Verseilles's detachment with 6 dragoon sqns. With these reinforcements, Verseilles stormed the village of Waldhausen, capturing 130 foot. The rest of the Imperialist detachment managed to retire to the entrenchments near Lorch.
    • The first French attack on these entrenchments was repulsed. The French rallied nearby and the Imperialists came out of their entrenchments to attack them. The French dragoons dismounted and, led by the Chevalier de Pezeux, counterattacked and forced the Imperialists to take refuge in their entrenchments.
    • At this moment, M. de Saint-Fremont arrived with the cavalry but the entrenchments were too strong to be assaulted by cavalry and Villars had to wait for the arrival of his infantry led by the Marquis de la Châtre, which arrived 90 minutes later.
    • Three infantry brigades were deployed with the cavalry to attack the left side of the entrenchments. Villars placed himself at the head of the fourth brigade, 2 dragoon sqns and 1 infantry brigade to attack the right side after outflanking it beyond the Abbey of Lorch. Villars instructed Saint-Fremont to attack immediately with his dragoons and cavalry if ever he saw that the Imperialists were trying to retire.
    • 10 artillery pieces planted by M. de la Frezelière opened against the entrenchments. Soon afterwards, the Imperialists retired.
    • Saint-Fremont advanced with the cavalry but he had difficulties to catch up with the retiring Imperialists because of the nature of the terrain (hedges, ravines, small hillocks). However, 4 grenadier coys, which joined Saint-Fremont, and the dragoons managed to pursue them. Near Schwäbisch Gmünd, the pursuers debouched in a more open country and their cavalry attacked the Imperialist detachment, capturing 19 officers (including a lieutenant-general) and more than 600 soldiers. Villars's troops encamped near Lorch.
    • Contrarily to what had been reported to Villars, the Imperialist army was still encamped near Schwäbisch Gmünd, with its right at Leine (probably Leinzell), near the village of Herlikofen. The Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth had his headquarters at Iggingen.

On 22 June, Villars advanced with his corps and instructed M. d'Hautefort to march from Schorndorf with the rest of the army and to join him as soon as possible. Villars reconnoitred the strong Imperialist camp and considered that he could turn these positions by crossing the Upper Remse River. Hautefort joined Villars's Corps in the evening with the army but the rearguard arrived only during the following night.

In the night of 22 to 23 June, Brandenburg-Bayreuth's Army retired eastwards in the direction of Aalen.

On 23 June

  • French
    • Villars marched forward with part of the two lines of cavalry of his right wing. At 7:00 a.m., he caught up with the Imperialist rearguard near Leinzell, some 10 km from Schwäbisch Gmünd, and pushed it back on Schechingen, taking 150 prisoners and 300 horses.
    • Villars's Army encamped near Schwäbisch Gmünd. Villars was now master of part of the districts of Swabia and Franconia.
    • Imécourt and Broglie, who had raised contributions in Swabia and Franconia, returned to Schwäbisch Gmünd with hostages, who served as guarantees for the required contributions.
    • Villars received intelligence that part of the Imperialist army would march towards Heilbronn.
  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialists continued their retreat on Aalen and Ellwangen, on the road to Nördlingen.

Villars wanted to continue his advance and create upheavals in Bavaria. He asked for reinforcements to pursue this plan. He was soon informed that the King had other plans. In fact, the reinforcements which had previously been sent to him had been redirected and Louis XIV instructed him to detach 4 bns and 7 sqns of his army to come to the relief of Dauphiné and asked him to make himself master of Heilbronn on the Neckar River to maintain a line of communication with Alsace. Villars insisted that 6 bns and 10 sqns detached from the Army of Flanders to the Lines of the Lauter would be sufficient to force Marlborough to detach troops towards the Rhine. Villars also mentioned that with all the detachments that he would have to leave behind him at Schwäbisch Gmünd, Schorndorf, Cannstatt, Pforzheim and Vaihingen and that his army would not be strong enough to confront the Imperialists once they would have received reinforcements from Saxony and other districts.

The Imperialists counterattack

On 25 June, part of the Imperialist army set off from the vicinity of Aalen and marched in the direction of Heilbronn.

On 26 June, the army of the Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth marched by way of Heilbronn, Sinsheim and Langenbrücken to Philippsburg in a scorching heat.

On 27 June in the evening, Villars received confirmation that part of the Imperialist army was marching towards Heilbronn. He immediately detached the Comte de Broglie to make himself master of Lauffen and thus secure a passage on the Neckar River. He also decided to retreat towards the Rhine to protect Fort-Louis and the Lines of the Lauter.

On 28 June in the morning, the cavalry of Villars's left wing under M. de Saint-Fremont marched to Schorndorf while the infantry of the left wing with the artillery and heavy baggage reached Lorch.

On 29 June, the cavalry and the infantry of Villars's right wing under M. d'Hautefort marched in three columns to Schorndorf. Villars personally rode up to Winnenden where he encamped with his left wing. There Villars was informed that an Imperialist corps was force marching to join Thüngen's Corps near Philippsburg. Villars immediately detached M. de Sézanne with 4 bns and 12 sqns towards Beiertheim on the Alb River, downstream of Ettlingen and within reach of Fort-Louis.

On 30 June

  • French
    • Villars detached the Comte du Bourg with 4 bns and 12 sqns to join Sézanne at Beiertheim.
    • Broglie made himself master of Lauffen despite the fact that an Imperialist detachment had preceded him there.
    • Villars's right wing marched in three columns from Schorndorf to Erdmannhausen.

On 1 July, Villars assembled his left and right wing at Cannstatt.

On 2 July

  • French
    • Villars marched with all his cavalry and his grenadiers in three columns to Illingen.
    • M. de Hautefort marched to Enzweihingen with the rest of the infantry.
  • Imperialists
    • The army of the Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (13,399 foot and 8,659 horse) encamped between Waghäusel and Oberhausen. This army included a Palatine Contingent of 1,564 foot and 1,522 horse) consisting of the Garde Grenadiers, Volkershoven Infantry, the Leibregiment zu Pferd, Nassau Cavalry, Hahn Dragoons and Wittgenstein Dragoons.

On 3 July

  • French
    • Villars's cavalry and grenadiers marched in three columns from Illingen to Singen (unidentified location), where they encamped with their left at Singen and their right at Wilferdingen.
    • The infantry reached Pforzheim, on the left bank of the Enz River.

On 4 July

  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialist cops reached Philippsburg. Only a small garrison of 600 men had been left in Heilbronn.
  • French
    • Villars reached Grötzingen with his cavalry and grenadiers. The infantry joined them there. The entire army then sojourned there, waiting for a convoy of bread.
    • Villars planned to establish a bridge on the Rhine to links his positions with Lauterbourg.

On 5 July, Louis XIV wrote to Villars, reproaching him to have failed to make himself master of Heilbronn before marching towards the Danube.

On 7 July, Villars detached 4 bns to reinforce the French in Dauphiné, as ordered by the King. The 7 sqns were taken from the troops which had remained in Alsace.

On 8 July, Villars received his bread convoy.

On ? July, Villars made himself master of Heidelberg.

On 9 July

  • French
    • Villars's Army decamped from Grötzingen and marched in three columns to Bruchsal, where it encamped in two lines with its left at Bruchsal and its right at Ubstadt.
    • The Comte du Bourg joined the army with the detachment previously posted at Beiertheim.

On 10 July

  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialists were encamped downstream from Philippsburg.
  • French
    • The Comte du Bourg took position at Müngolsheim (unidentified location) near Kirrlach with the cavalry of the right wing and 6 grenadier coys.
    • Villars reconnoitred the vicinity of Philippsburg.

On 14 July, Villars's Army marched in four columns to Walldorf, where it encamped in two lines with its right opposite Reilingen, its centre forming an angle and its left in the direction of Rot, opposite St. Leon.

Confined to the vicinity of Philippsburg, the Imperialist army was forced to get its provisions and forage from the opposite bank of the Rhine towards Speyer.

On 16 July

  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialist army crossed to the left bank of the Rhine.
  • French
    • In the morning, Villars led a detachment towards Mannheim, which had been evacuated by the Imperialists. He made himself master of the town but was unable to capture the hornwork, which was still occupied by Imperialist troops.
    • Informed of the movements of the Imperialists, Villars instructed M. de Saint-Fremont to march with 5 bns and 20 sqns to Stettfeld to be able to rapidly reinforce the Lines of the Lauter if the Imperialists advanced in this direction.
    • Villars left a detachment to occupy Mannheim and posted M. d'Imecourt at Neckerau with 2 cavalry brigades and a few grenadier coys to guard the Neckar between Mannheim and Heidelberg.

Villars's parties raised contribution in the country located between the Main, the Neckar and the Rhine.

On 17 July, Villars sent M. de Sezanne with a strong detachment to Mergentheim to raise contributions in Franconia.

On 19 July, the Imperialist army encamped with its right opposite Mannheim and its left extending towards Frankenthal.

On 20 July, the Saxon Contingent (5,000 men), arriving from Frankfurt, made a junction with the Imperialist army near Frankenthal. This corps, under the command of Lieutenant-General Count Wackerbarth consisted of the Winckel Cuirassiers, the Leibregiment Dragoons, the Milkau Dragoons and 4 infantry rgts.

On 21 July, the Imperialist army returned to its former positions between the two branches of the Speyerbach and established its headquarters at Speyer.

On 22 July, an Imperialist detachment (4 bns and 1 dragoon rgt) under Count Fugger, arriving from Bavaria to reinforce the army posted on the left bank of the Rhine, reached the vicinity of Mergentheim.

At Versailles, Louis XIV received intelligence that a Hanoverian corps should join the Imperialist army on the left bank of the Rhine in August and that the Allies planned to send a corps of 13,000 men from Flanders for the same purpose. For his part, Villars was expecting a Bavarian reinforcement of only 3 bns and 5 sqns from the Army of Flanders.

On 25 July

  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialist army decamped from the vicinity of Speyer and marched towards Germersheim.
  • French
    • Villars was informed that the Imperialists were recalling most of the garrison of Landau and that, in addition to the Saxons, they had been joined by a Palatine Contingent (4 bns, 3 cavalry or dragoon rgts).

Wackerbach's Saxon corps was posted near Durlach and saw no action until the end of the year.

On 27 July

  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialists recrossed the Rhine and encamped in the plain of Philippsburg, their right at the redoubt of the mill, their left at the Capuchins, near Hockenheim.
  • French
    • Villars's Army decamped from Walldorf, marched in four columns and returned to its former camp at Bruchsal.
    • Saint-Fremont's Corps (8 bns, 33 sqns, including 3 bns and 10 sqns recalled from the Lines of the Lauter) remained at Stettfeld, about 8 km from Bruchsal.
    • The troops occupying Mannheim evacuated the town and made a junction with Imecourt's Corps at Neckerau. Imecourt then retired to Leimen.

On 28 July, Imecourt retired to Müngolsheim.

On 29 July

  • French
    • Imecourt's Corps made a junction with Villars's Army and encamped with its right between Stettfeld and Ubstadt.
    • M. de Sezanne arrived at Villars's camp with hostages and the considerable contributions raised in Franconia.

In the first days of August, M. de Regemorte completed the destruction of the entrenchments of the Lines of Bühl and Stollhofen.

On 6 August, Villars received a letter sent from Versailles on 1 August ordering him to immediately send 6 bns (Navarre (3 bns) and Surbeck (3 bns) and 3 dragoon sqns (Lautrec Dragons) to the assistance of Provence, where the Allies had reached Toulon.

On 8 August

  • French
    • M. d'Imecourt left Bruchsal with the reinforcements destined for Provence. The 6 bns embarked aboard boats on the Saône River.
    • Villars's Army marched to Graben, where it encamped with its left towards Hochstetten and its right above Graben.
    • Villars detached M. de Vivans with 1,500 horse and 500 foot to raise contributions in the Black Forest, along the Danube and the Lake of Konstanz, Tyrol and the Iller River.

Operations come to a standstill

On 13 August, the Imperialists marched to Bruchsal and occupied Villars's former camp.

On 14 August

  • French
    • Villars's Army marched in six columns to the plain of Mühlburg, to be in position to support the garrison of Durlach. As he was approaching Mühlburg, Villars sent a cavalry brigade (7 cavalry sqns, 1 dragoon rgt) forward. This brigade managed to enter Mühlburg before the Imperialists.
    • Villars's Army encamped with its right near Gottsau (unidentified location) and its left at Mühlburg.
    • At 9:00 p.m., Villars was informed that the Imperialist army had resumed its advance towards Durlach. He immediately sent the Comte de Broglie to Durlach with a few grenadier coys to reinforce the garrison.
  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialist army, which was also advancing on Mühlburg, stopped at Grötzingen.

On 15 August

  • French
    • At daybreak, Villars personally rode to Durlach. As the Imperialists had started the encirclement of the town. Villars threw additional grenadier coys under M. de Nangis into the place.
    • Villars then sent forward his dragoons and 1 infantry brigade from his camp to support Nangis at Durlach.
    • Villars's Army encamped with its right at Durlach and its left at Gottsau, where Villars established his headquarters.
    • Villars received intelligence that the Imperialist army consisted of 42 bns (including 8 grenadier bns) and 8,000 horse and that they should soon be joined by 4 bns and 4 sqns arriving from Ulm, and the corps of the Duke of Hanover (approx. 8,000 men).
  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialists stopped their movements. Throughout the day, both armies cannonaded each other.
    • In the evening, the Imperialists encamped with their right at Weingarten and their left in front of the tower of Durlach.

In the night of 16 to 17 August, the French erected a battery (4 x 24-pdrs, 10 x 8-pdrs).

On 17 August around noon, Villars suddenly unmasked the new battery and opened on the Imperialist camp near Durlach, throwing confusion among their troops.

In the night of 17 to 18 August, the Imperialists retired their right wing out of reach of the French battery.

At about this time, Villars received a letter from the King letting him know that it would be desirable to keep post on the right bank of the Rhine. Nevertheless, to ease a possible retreat towards Lauterbourg, Villars had roads prepared for a march in ten columns and destroyed the bridges of Durlach. Bread convoys were transported on the Rhine down to Daxlanden.

The Imperialists detached a strong cavalry corps to prevent Vivans's Corps, posted at Donaueschingen, from putting Swabia to contribution.

As soon as Louis XIV had been informed that the Allies had raised the siege of Toulon and were retiring towards Piedmont, he ordered that 15 bns (including Navarre (3 bns) and Surbeck (3 bns)) and 9 dragoon sqns, which had previously been detached from his armies on the Rhine and in Flanders, should be redirected to reinforce Villars on the Rhine.

On 25 August, Vivans's Corps, which had retired from Donaueschingen, reached Rastatt. Vivans was bringing back large money contributions and 35 hostages. During his retreat, he had been attacked near Hornberg by detachments of the garrisons of Freiburg and Villingen, which initially captured part of his baggage. However, Vivans counterattacked and recaptured his baggage and took 1 officer and 14 soldiers prisoners. He had also left 150 men in the Castle of Hornberg.

In the night of 28 to 29 August, the French broke the bridge of Lauterbourg. Villars's Army then decamped from Gottsau and marched in eight columns and retired behind the Murg River, where it encamped with its right opposite Kuppenheim, its centre near Niederbühl and its left opposite Rastatt. Villars had retired to these new positions to provide forage to his cavalry.

On 29 August at 7:00 a.m., Villars's rearguard under M. du Bourg and M. de Saint-Fremont retired unopposed from the plain of Mühlburg.

On 30 August

  • Imperialists
    • The Imperialists encamped along the Alb River with their right at Ettlingen and their left at Reichenbach.
  • French
    • Villars sent a detachment (3 bns, 8 sqns) under M. de Quadt to Hagenbach on the left bank of the Rhine to prevent the construction of a bridge by the Imperialists there.

Villars ordered the construction of a redoubt in the Stollhofen Island.

On 4 September

  • Imperialists
    • An Imperialist corps under the Duke of Württemberg appeared in front of the Castle of Hornberg, which surrendered after a few cannonshots. The garrison (150 men) became prisoners of war and was escorted to Ulm.
  • French
    • Villars sent M. de Vivans behind Offenburg with 13 sqns as if he intended to support Hornberg.
    • Work began to strengthen the defensive works of Rastatt because Villars planned to take his winter-quarters on the right bank of the Rhine.

On 15 September, the Elector Georg Ludwig of Hanover made a junction with the main Imperialist army, bringing a reinforcement of 6 bns and 6 sqns. He then assumed command of the Reichsarmee on the Upper-Rhine, replacing the Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, who was recalled due to his conduct while defending the Lines of Stollhofen.

On 17 September, the Imperialist Major-General Count Mercy marched from Ettlingen by way of Freudenstadt and Kniebis to Oppenau with 1,500 horse and 500 foot.

On 24 September in the morning, Mercy's Corps attacked Vivans's Corps (15 sqns), which was encamped on the right bank of the Kinzig River opposite Offenburg. Vivans repulsed two assaults but was finally forced to recross the river and to retire to Kehl. In this action, Vivans lost his baggage and a large number of horses. The Palatine Hahn Dragoons and Wittgenstein Dragoons took part in this affair.

Villars asked Louis XIV to assign him a force of 45 bns and 55 sqns for his winter-quarters in Alsace and on the right bank of the Rhine.

On 1 October, Mercy's Corps returned to Ettlingen without any serious losses.

On 11 October, Villars sent Vivans's Corps (15 sqns), which was posted at Kehl, to the left bank of the Rhine.

On 12 October, Vivans's Corps reached Schleithal in the Lines of the Lauter. M. de Pery was already posted at Hagenbach with 19 sqns and Imecourt was posted at Bühl with 19 sqns since a few days.

On 27 October, Villars received intelligence that the Imperialist army consisted of 50 bns and 59 sqns, excluding the garrisons of Landau, Philippsburg, Breisach and Freiburg.

On 29 October at 7:00 a.m., Villars's Army decamped from Rastatt and marched in four columns to a new camp, where it established its right at Lichtenau and its left at Stollhofen, with the headquarters in Schwarzach (unidentified location).

On 30 October, most of the Imperialist cavalry left the camp of Ettlingen to get closer to the regions where they could obtain provisions and forage. Meanwhile the rest of the army gradually took up its winter-quarters.

On 31 October, Villars received the instructions of the Court for his winter-quarters.

Villars takes his winter-quarters on the left bank of the Rhine

On 1 November, Villars's Army continued its retreat, marching in three columns, and reached Kehl, where it encamped in two lines with its right anchored on the woods along the road leading from Sundheim to Eckartsweier and its left on the Kinzig River near Kehl, facing the Schutter River.

In the following days, Villars's troops successively crossed to the left bank of the Rhine to reach their winter-quarters in Alsace, Franche-Comté, Lorraine and the Trois Évêchés. Pery's Corps and the troops in the Lines of the Lauter also took up their winter-quarters.

By 6 November, the entire Imperialist army was still deployed in the Lines of Ettlingen which were under construction.

On 7 November, the various contingents of the Imperialist army started to march to their winter-quarters with the exception of 30 bns and some cavalry, which were left behind to guard the Lines of Ettlingen.

By 8 November, Villars's Army had taken up its winter-quarters on the left bank of the Rhine.

On 9 November, the Duke of Hanover left the army to return home, leaving command to Field Marshal Thüngen.

On 10 November, Villars set off for Versailles leaving command of the army to M. du Bourg.

M. de Saint-Germain tried to bribe Swiss officers (Lieutenant-Colonel Tillier and Captain Hurter of Erlach Infantry) of the garrison of the Castle of Freiburg so that they would open the gates of the place.

In the first days of January 1708, Villars left Versailles and returned to Alsace to supervise the preparations for the surprise attack on Freiburg.

On 9 January, Villars arrived at Colmar where the Comte du Bourg and M. de la Houssaye joined him.

On 12 January, Villars went to Huningue.

In the night of 12 to 13 January, Villars secretly met two of the Swiss officers involved in the conspiracy to deliver Freiburg to the French. It was agreed that the expedition would take place in the night of 21 to 22 January, when 700 men would leave Brissac around 2:30 a.m. and hide in a wood near Freiburg. Around 3:00 a.m., the conspirators would open the gates. Villars would soon follow with 11 bns and 16 sqns with another corps of 5 bns and 16 sqns close behind.

However, the conspiracy was finally discovered and the plan abandoned.


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. 5-8, 186-277
  • Bezzel, O.: Geschichte des Kurpfälzischen Heeres, Bayrisches Kriegsarchiv, IV. File, part 1 and 2, Munich 1925
  • Schuster/Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee part I, Leipzig 1885