1710 – Campaign in the Low Countries
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The campaign lasted from April to November 1710
During the autumn of 1709, the Allies had already decided to open the campaign in 1710 as early as possible. FM Claude-Fréderic Count Tilly, who had the command during the absence of both commanders took all necessary steps to concentrate the army by mid-April. The total strength of the Allied troops standing in the Low Countries was 215 bns and 284 sqns.
|Origin||Field bns||Field sqns||Garrison bns||Garrison sqns||Total bns||Total sqns|
|Imperial (Austrian) and Würzburg||8||40||-||-||8||40|
|Spaniards (Spanish Netherlands)||-||7||7||-||7||7|
|Dutch, Scots and Swiss||50||61||22||2||72||63|
At the beginning of April, the French army was still in its cantons. Maréchal Pierre de Montesquiou d'Artagnan was in command, replacing the Maréchal de Villars, who had been wounded at Malplaquet in September 1709 and was still recovering from his injury in Versailles.
Allied troops should have completed their concentration in camps near Tournai and Soignies between 18 and 20 April.
By 1 April, Louis XIV planned to concentrate 180 bns and 280 sqns in Flanders under the command of Maréchal de Villars. Furthermore, he wanted to post 58 bns, 47 field coys and 38 invalid coys in the fortresses of the line extending from Sedan to Dunkerque.
The French lines between Condé and Béthune were organised in four defensive zones:
- the Chevalier de Luxembourg, commander of Valenciennes, should observe the Scheldt and Scarpe rivers between Condé and Marchiennes
- on his left, Count Broglie should secure the Scarpe from Marchiennes to Douai
- M. De Brendlé (a Swiss called Brandeln) should secure the Canal of the Deule, north-west of Douai
- the Marquis Goesbriant, the interim commander of Aire, camped with his forces on the flat heights of Beuvry
- Montesquiou with 30 bns camped between Lens and Harnes and waited for a reinforcement of 14 bns
These lines, built earlier by Villars and already used several times, had been extended during the last winter and were, with the fortresses, intended to protect the Province of Artois.
On 12 April, Prince Eugène met the Duke of Marlborough in The Hague and went by ship by way of Rotterdam and Moerdyk to Antwerp and from there by road by way of Ghent to Tournai.
In the night of 14 April, General Cadogan led an attack against the Mortagne Castle, located at the mouth of the Scarpe into the Scheldt. A detachment attacked the castle from the side of the river, the surprised garrison capitulated. Cadogan left 1 coy there.
In the night of 15 April, the commander of Valenciennes, the Chevalier de Luxembourg, who had been informed of the loss of Mortagne, marched against the castle with a strong detachment of grenadiers and dragoons. Supported by some galiots on the Scheldt River and several field guns, his detachment recaptured the castle after two hours. The Chevalier de Luxembourg then put a garrison of 200 grenadiers in the Mortagne Castle and also in the nearby Château l'Abbay.
On 17 April, Prince Eugène and Marlborough reached Tournai.
On 18 April
- The whole Allied army reached a camp west of Tournai.
- G.d.C. Albemarle marched with 2,000 men against the Mortagne Castle, covered by 12 Imperial sqns with some guns posted on the right bank of Scheldt. Albemarle's attack was successful, the small French garrison had to surrender after a short fight and was taken prisoners of war. Mortagne remained in the hands of the Allies. This secured shipping on the Scheldt and Scarpe rivers for the Allies.
On 19 April, the Allied army marched to a new camp, its centre was Pont-à-Tressin on the Deule River. Its right wing (14 bns and 51 sqns) extended from Pont-à-Tressin westwards to Hauburdin; its left wing (97 bns and 102 sqns) was in the neighbourhood of Ere and Esplechin. Scouts reported that the French had only 20,000 men in their defensive lines. The Allies therefore decided to accelerate their advance to arrive at Douai as soon as possible.
On 20 April
- Around 5:00 a.m., the Allied army marched in two columns. The left column (43 bns and 61 sqns) under command of Prince Eugène marched by way of Auchy, Mons-en-Pévèle, Bersée, Monchaux and Ostricourt to the Deule Canal. The right column (46 bns and 51 sqns, led by the Duke of Marlborough marched by way of Pont-à-Bouvines, Entières and Seclin to Pont-à-Vendin to secure the crossing points on the upper Deule Canal. G.d.C Duke Württemberg led the vanguard of Marlborough's column, G.d.C Count Fels, the vanguard of Prince Eugène. Both vanguards numbered 1,000 foot and 300 horse. The British artillery was with Marlborough's column, the Dutch with 12 guns, all ammunition wagons and 16 pontoons were with Prince Eugène's column and marched behind the vanguards. 10 sqns of Imperial hussars marched by way of Rongy, Beuvry and Coutiches to Flines, to secure the left flank of the marching army.
- The Duke of Württemberg arrived at Pont-à-Vendin, and the French retreated immediately to Douai and Vitry without opposing any resistance. The duke occupied the bridges on the Deule.
- Marlborough's army passed the bridges of the Deule and marched to Lens.
- The advance of the column of Prince Eugène was delayed due to the poor condition of the roads.
On 21 April, Prince Eugène reached the Deule and his troops started to establish bridges. The headquarter of Prince Eugène and of the Duke of Marlborough were in Lens.
On 22 April
- The Allies marched towards the Scarpe River.
- The Duke of Marlborough crossed the Scarpe River near Vitry and encamped on the flat heights of Bellone, south-west of Douai between Vitry, Gouy and Arleux.
- Marlborough sent generals Cadogan and Keppel with 12 bns to occupy Pont-à-Raches, then Marchiennes and Saint-Amand, which the French had hastily evacuated at the same time as Vitry.
- The Allies were now able to cut off Douai to the west and to operate the traffic on the Scarpe and Scheldt to Tournai unhindered. Marlborough took his headquarters at Goeulzin and entrusted FM Tilly with the command of the detachments south of the Scarpe including the crossings at Pont-à-Raches, Marchiennes and Saint-Armand.
- Prince Eugène established his headquarters in Vitry. His troops blockaded Douai from the north and occupied Esquerchin, Flersand and Pont-d'Auby.
- Despite his superiority on the right bank of the river, Maréchal de Montesquiou abandoned his positions without a fight and retreated by way of Arleux to Cambrai.
On 23 April
- The French defence lines were broken down on several points and the blockade of Douai was completed.
- The Maréchal de Montesquiou retired from Oisy to Cambrai behind the Scheldt River with 51 bns and 59 sqns. His right wing was anchored on the fortress walls. He then waited for the arrival of the main French forces. Since there was not enough food in the vicinity of Cambrai, Montesquiou kept only 30 bns and 15 sqns at Cambrai and moved the rest of the infantry to the fortresses. 35 sqns went to the old camp at Béthune, and 15 sqns to Arras.
- Louis XIV sent 20 fresh bns and 20 sqns to reinforce Montesquiou in Flanders. He also instructed him not to engage the Allies before the arrival of the Maréchal de Villars.
The Siege of Douai would last from 28 April to 27 June.
On 11 May, the Maréchal de Villars, accompanied by the Maréchal de Berwick, left Versailles to join Montesquiou's Army in Flanders.
On 27 June, the garrison of Douai, under the command of Lieutenant-General Albergotti surrendered with the honours of war and the Allies occupied the fortress which received a Dutch garrison. Lieutenant-General Hompesch was appointed commander of Douai and Engineer-General des Roques, commander of Fort Scarpe.
On 10 July, the Allies marched from their camps in six columns to the lines between Neuville-en-Vaast and Fresnes-les-Montauban facing the Scarpe River. Prince Eugène established his headquarters at Neuville, and the Duke of Marlborough at Vitry.
Heavy rain then forced the Allied army to stay in its camp for two days.
On 12 July
- The Allied army marched to Villers-Brulin, where Lieutenant-General Cadogan with 18 sqns and all quartermasters had prepared a new camp. These new positions were equidistant from Arras and Saint-Pol, facing the upper Scarpe River with Béthune and Lens to their rear. The Allies hoped to storm Arras from there.
- Maréchal de Villars sent 7,000 men to Ypres and reinforced Arras with 8,000 men. A detachment (3 bns, some cavalry) was sent to Bouchain. Villars then marched with the main army from Oisy-Mouchy and took position under the guns of Arras, a flank anchored on the Crinchon creek, the other on Sailly-Ostrevent. He erected earthworks along the Scarpe and used the river as a natural ditch.
Facing this new situation, the Allies held a council of war in presence of the Dutch deputies. They decided to change their original plan and to capture the Fortress of Béthune, which would open the way to the fortresses of Aire and Saint-Venant.
On 13 July, the Allies received the order to blockade Béthune while the main army remained in its camp near Villers-Brulin.
On 15 July
- Generals Schulenburg and Fagel invested the fortress of Béthune with 30 bns and 18 sqns.
- The troops of the garrison of Béthune were distributed in the places of arms of the covert way. Lieutenant-General Dupuich-Vauban ordered to set fire to the suburbs and to raze the hedges neighbouring the place and to open the locks to flood the surrounding plain.
The Siege of Béthune would last until 29 August.
On 16 July, after departure of the siege corps for Béthune, the Allies sent 1,600 foot to secure their line of supply which ran from Lille along the Sauchez creek. When news arrived that 4,000 horse under the Marquis Villars were marching into the plain of Vinay to attack a convoy of provisions, 12 bns and 30 sqns under the Prince of Hesse-Kassel were sent to meet the convoy.
On 20 July, the Allied army moved closer to Béthune, its right wing occupied La Comté, its centre extended from Frevilliers to Berles and to the sources of the Scarpe River and its left wing ran along this stream to Mont Saint-Eloy. Prince Eugène's headquarters were in Rebreuve, and Marlborough's in Villers-Brulin.
On 27 July, the Maréchal de Villars reviewed his army of 169 bns (150 of them in the camp, the remaining in Hesdin, Doullenz and Catelet).
On 28 July, Villars reconnoitred the positions of the Allies and found them to be identical to those occupied on 20 July
On 31 July, the French marched in eight columns to new positions, with their right wing extending from the source of the Scarpe to Montenescourt, maintaining communication with Arras by Agnez. Their centre occupied the heights of Manin and Lignereulle, and their left wing extended from Berlencourt to the source of Canche creek. Villars's headquarters were Fosseux near Avesnes-le-Comte.
On 1 August
- Lieutenant-General Bettendorf arrived at Frevilliers with reinforcements (Palatine troops). The Allies had now 164 bns, 276 sqns, 102 guns, 10 howitzers and 60 pontoons in the camp of Rebreuve-Villers-Brulin.
- The Duke of Marlborough reconnoitred the French positions and found – to his surprise – the French erecting new entrenchments.
- The Maréchal de Villars advanced with 60 sqns and 3,000 grenadiers towards the positions of the Allies, but found them too strong and gave up the possibility of any attack and focused on improving his defensive position.
- Villars had a 5 m. wide and 2 m. deep ditch dug along the whole position and the meadows lying in the valley grounds were flooded. Afterwards, Villars sent some of his troops to reinforce Aire and Saint-Venant.
- 13 bns and 24 sqns arrived from France. From these reinforcements, Villars sent 6 bns and 6 sqns to Valenciennes and to the garrisons of Arras and Bapaume.
In the following days, the French harassed the forage parties of the Allies, but mostly without success. The Imperial hussars were far superior to the French. Colonel Johann Ladislaus Baron Splényi with 200 men of the Splényi Hussars and 100 horses nearly annihilated a French detachment of 200 cavalrymen, 1 lieutenant-colonel, 10 officers and 140 men were taken prisoners.
On 5 August, Dumoulin at the head of 300 men unsuccessfully tried to make himself master of the City of Leuven, which was occupied by only few Allied foot.
On 7 August, Colonel Dessewffy at the head of a detachment of Imperial hussars surprised a forage party of French cavalry and annihilated it, capturing a lot of cattle, horses and mules.
On 23 August, the Maréchal de Villars made a reconnaissance, escorted by 1,000 horse led by Brigadier de Tarneau.
On 24 August, Villars was informed that the Allies planned to make a large forage near Saint-Pol. He immediately sent 1,000 horse of his escort, led by the Comte de Broglie and the Marquis de Nangis to Houvin against this Allied detachment. The Allied foraging party (2 Prussian cavalry rgts and the entire Palatine and Würzburger contingents) was escorted by Major-General Duke Lobkowitz with 400 cuirassiers and 1,000 foot. Initially, the French managed to surprise and drive back the Allied foraging party detachment, but an infantry detachment soon came to its support. The French repeated their attack twice. In the meantime, Major-General Duke Lobkowitz collected 250 of his cuirassiers and – supported by some cavalrymen of the foraging party led by their officers – he repelled these attacks. In this critical moment, the French received the support of 18 sqns led by the Bavarian Field-Marshal Arco and the French generals de Contades and de Beaujeu. But Lobkowitz received support too from the cavalry sent by Major-General Schönborn from the main camp of the Allies. After making a junction with these reinforcements, Lobkowitz moved against the enemies who fled. The fight had lasted from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Allies had lost 3 officers and around 40 men; the French, many killed and wounded, 8 officers and 100 men taken prisoners and 200 horses captured.
On 29 August, the capitulation of Béthune was signed by Prince Eugène, the Duke of Marlborough, and Governor Dupuy-Vauban (a nephew of famous French fortress engineer Sébastien Le Prestre Seigneur de Vauban) and almost all of his senior officers. The garrison obtained the honours of war.
On 2 September, since an attack on the French in their strong positions was impossible, the Allies decided to capture the fortresses of Saint-Venant and Aire. Their army marched southwards. Its rearguard consisted of 10 bns and 18 sqns with 12 guns, it took position on the road leading from Arras to Saint-Omer, thus cutting the line of communication between Saint-Venant and Aire and Villars's main army. The two columns of Prince Eugène took position on the line Ames-Rely – Estrée-Blanche, the two columns of Duke Marlborough, from Divion by way of Auchel to Lillers.
On 3 September, the Dutch and British quartermasters Cadogan and Dopff accompanied by a strong detachment established a new camp on the right bank of the Lys River, near Saint-Venant and Aire. General Lagnasco with 6 bns and 2,000 horse crossed the Lys and took position on left bank of the river.
On 5 September, the siege corps of general Schulenburg, Fagel and Wood, who had captured Béthune returned to the camp of the main army of the Allies. The Prince Nassau-Oranien-Dietz marched to Busnes with siege corps destined to the siege of Saint-Venant.
On 6 September, the Prince Anhalt-Dessau with 40 bns and 40 sqns established a blockade around Aire, the Prince Nassau-Oranien-Dietz with 20 bns and 5 sqns did the same at Saint-Venant. The heavy siege guns were shipped from Béthune but also from Lille and Menin to Warenton and, from these, by road by way of Merville to Aire and Saint-Venant. To secure their transport, both commanders sent a strong detachment led by Lieutenant-General Count Athlone (from Marlborough) and Colonel Ginkel (from Prince Eugène). Villars was unable to interfere with the movements of the Allies.
On 12 September, the Allies began the Siege of Aire-sur-Lys. It would last until 9 November.
On 15 September, the lack of forage increasing, Villars was forced to send 18 bns and 62 sqns to a new camp between Cercamp and Saint-Pol. This corps was led by the Maréchal de Montesquiou, who immediately established six on the Canche River.
On 16 September, the Allies opened the trenches and began the Siege of Saint-Venant. The siege would last until 30 September.
On 18 September, the rest of the French army left Fosseux, passed on the left side Montesquiou's camp and took a new position, with its right wing on the Gorge near Flers, the left at Auchy-les-Moines on the Ternoise stream. The headquarters were established Valentin. To secure Arras, Villars sent de Pezeuy with 6 bns and 2 dragoon rgts from Marquion to Arras. In addition, d'Estaing was ordered to concentrate his whole forces in Saint-Omer.
On 19 September
- Only a part of the aforementioned large supply convoy of the Allies arrived at Saint-Éloi-Vive (present-day Sint-Eloois-Vijve) on the right bank of the Lys. Only 1,100 foot and 450 horse escorted this convoy. On the Lys, 40 large ships (balandres) loaded with ammunition, some guns and mortars and other provisions was also approaching.
- When the governor of Ypres, de Chevilly, learned of the insufficiently secured convoy, he sent the Maréchal-de-camp Count Ravignan with 19 grenadier coys, 1,500 fusiliers, the Saint-Chamond Dragons and 30 hussars, a total of approx. 4,000 men to surprise it.
- Ravignan passed Courtrai and, around midday, reached the hills in front of Saint-Éloi-Vive. From there, he could see the convoy.
- Interception of the Allied convoy near Saint-Éloi-Vive
- Ravignan deployed his corps as follows:
- on left wing: opposing the Allied cavalry, 600 fusiliers and the Saint-Chamond Dragons
- in the centre: most of the grenadiers
- on the right wing: 900 fusiliers and some grenadier coys.
- Prior to the attack, Ravignan checked if he could move across the swamp in front of his troops.
- At 4:00 a.m., the fusiliers of the right wing opened fire, the grenadiers attacked the left flank of the Allies, the grenadiers in the centre crossed the swamp and attacked the Allies at the point of the bayonet.
- The Allied troops were nearly annihilated, Count Athlone and Colonel Ginkel, 30 officers and 609 soldiers were taken prisoners. The rest was killed during the fight or drowned in the river. Only 300 horse escaped and took refuge in Deynze. For their part, the French lost only 7 officers and around 70 soldiers.
- Ravignan then destroyed the ships of the convoy. The ammunition were exploded and most of the houses in Saint-Éloi-Vive were destroyed by the explosion and the sunken ships encumbered the Lys River.
- The Allies had sent 600 foot to support the convoy but they arrived too late. They encountered superior French forces near Roullers and were forced to retire.
- Ravignan deployed his corps as follows:
On 20 September
- The Count of Villars (the son of Maréchal de Villars) conducted an unsuccessful raid against Menin.
- In the evening, Ravignan returned to Ypres with a rich booty.
In the night if 22 September, a French detachment (900 horse) under Mortani made an unsuccessful raid against Aire-sur-Lys.
In the following weeks, encouraged by their success at Saint-Éloi-Vive, the French undertook several raids on the Allied positions, but none was successful.
On 24 September, the ailing Maréchal de Villars left the army and went to Doullens, where he met his successor, the Maréchal d'Harcourt.
On 25 September, d'Harcourt arrived at the army and moved the headquarters from Valentin to Vieux-Hesdin.
In order to be protected from further surprises, the Allies detached 3,000 horse and 9 bns to Saint-Éloi-Vive. These troops helped the workers to remove the ship debris from the Lys River. Several thousand bags of food, gunpowder, bombs and cannonballs were saved.
The Maréchal d'Harcourt could not prevent the siege of Aire-sur-Lys and focused on the strengthening of the Fortress of Saint-Omer. The Count d´Estaing received the order to concentrate part of his troops at Pont-Labesse and from there to escort with 6 bns a big convoy of 38 ships from Dunkerque to Saint-Omer. The garrison was reinforced to 12 bns and 7 sqns. The Marquis de Vieuxpont was appointed commander of Saint-Omer. He was seconded by generals de Mouchy and de Silly.
On 26 September at night, the French Lieutenant-General de Luxembourg set off with 3,000 foot from his camp near Bouchain.
On 27 September in the morning, Luxembourg arrived at Pont-à-Raches and tried to surprise Fort Scarpe. Sixteen grenadiers were to enter the fort unnoticed, hidden in a hay wagon, through the gate, another 100 were hidden in the nearby forest. The surprise failed, General Hompesch send 50 fusiliers and 20 horse against the French detachment which fled. The pursuing cavalry captured one captain and one grenadier and the prisoners explained to Hompesch how the raid should have taken place. Luxembourg left immediately Raches and retreated by the road to Lalaing.
On 30 September, the Fortress of Saint-Venant capitulated to the Allies with the honours of war.
On 2 October, Brigadier de Selve set off from Saint-Venant with the remnants of the garrison and marched to Arras.
On 8 October, Prince Anton Ulrich of Saxony wrote from Saint-Éloi-Vive to Prince Eugène, that it was possible to fish some goods out of the Lys and even send a ship with 5 guns to Ghent and several wagons with ammunition to Courtrai.
On 15 October, d'Harcourt's Army set off from its camp near Vieux-Hesdin, crossed the Canche River and encamped between this river and the Authie stream. Meanwhile, Maréchal de Montesquiou set off from his camp at Roubres and crossed the Canche River.
On 16 October, Montesquiou's Corps (16 bns, 30 sqns) encamped behind the Canche River. His headquarters were in Saint-Georges. The Chevalier de Luxembourg, who was posted on the Scheldt River, marched with his troops to Arras. D'Estaing and his detachment secured Ypres. Saint-Omer and Ypres were supplied with enough food, ammunition etc.
On 9 November, the Fortress of Aire-sur-Lys surrendered to the Allies.
On 14 November
- The French left their cantonments, marched along Canche River stopped behind this river, with their right wing near Cercamp and their left on Hesdin. Meanwhile, Montesquiou's Corps set off from Saint-Georges and marched by way of Sus-Saint-Léger to the border. Montesquiou remained in Cambrai.
- Now that they were master of Aire-sur-Lys, the Allies left their positions.
On 15 November, the Allies passed the Canal of La Bassé and marched towards Lille. From there, their troops were sent to their winter-quarters as follows:
- The Imperialist and Palatine troops between the Lys and the Scheldt rivers
- The Prussians between the Rhine and the Meuse rivers
- The Saxons in the neighbourhood of Liège, Bruxelles and Mons
- The British and Dutch in the Duchy of Brabant.
Prince Eugène went by way of the Hague and Colonia to Vienna, and the Duke of Marlborough returned directly to Great Britain.
This was the end of the 1710 campaign in the Netherlands.
Hipssich, Carl Freiherr von: Spanischer Successions-Krieg. Feldzug 1710, Series II, Vol. III, Vienna 1887
Harald Skala for the initial version of this article