1704 – Campaign in the Low Countries
The campaign lasted from May to November 1704
For the coming campaign, in addition to actions on the theatres of operation in the Low Countries, in Lombardy, on the Rhine and on the Danube, the Allies planned to launch an offensive from Portugal with Archduke Charles leading an army to reconquer Spain for the House of Habsburg. In Northern Italy, Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy had openly sided with the Allies and, by the end of 1703, had received Imperialist reinforcements led by Count Guido von Starhemberg. Finally, the uprising of the Camisards in the Cevennes against Louis XIV was still active and gradually spreading to other provinces, forcing Louis XIV to redirect troops in these regions.
On the Franco-Spanish side, the Maréchal de Villeroy received command of the Army of the Low Countries while Tallard assumed command in Germany; the Duc de Vendôme, in Northern Italy; the Duc de la Feuillade, in Dauphiné; [[Villars, Claude Louis Hector de|Villars, in Languedoc; Montrevel, in Guyenne; and the Duc de Berwick would take command of troops destined for Spain.
Louis XIV assigned 93 bns and 91 sqns to the Army of the Low Countries.
However, Marlborough's design was nothing less than to commit the Low Countries to the protection of the Dutch, and, leaving the old seat of war with all its armies and fortresses in rear, to carry the campaign into the heart of Germany. The Prince Eugène de Savoie and him decided that it could and must be done; but it would be no easy task to persuade the timid States-General and a factious House of Commons to a plan which was bold almost to rashness.
By 1 January 1704, Archduke Charles was in the Dutch Republic awaiting that the British and Dutch fleets had recovered from the Great Storm of the previous year (from 7 to 10 December) to embark for Portugal.
On 11 January, Villeroy set off from Bruxelles for the Court to receive the king's orders for the incoming campaign. The Marquis de Bedmar assumed command of the Army of the Low Countries during his absence.
Soon after Villeroy's departure, Bedmar was informed that the Allied garrisons of Maastricht, Aachen, Maaseik, Roermond, Venlo and Stevensweert were marching upstream along the Meuse towards Liège; and that M. de Trognée, the Allied commander at Huy, would take command of this corps to advance on Namur to bombard the city and to burn the magazines of fodder. Bedmar ordered M. de Ximenès, commanding at Namur, to move part of the garrisons of Maubeuge, Avesnes, Charleville and Givet, as well as the cavalry (11 sqns) quartered between the Sambre and the Meuse, closer to Namur.
On 16 January, troops recalled by Ximenès arrived in cantonments around Namur and the Allies abandoned their project.
On 27 January, Ximenès sent the troops which he had called to the rescue back to their quarters.
In the first day of February, Bedmar received intelligence that the Duke of Marlborough had visited the Hague to confer with the States General of the Dutch Republic and that it had been resolved to begin the campaign early by the siege of Namur or Antwerp
On 9 February, Bedmar took dispositions to re-establish the Line of Brabant from the Demer, downstream from Aarschot, to the Scheldt below Antwerp; and to open lines of communication behind that line from Antwerp to the Mehaigne.
|Order of Battle|
|Allied army of the Prince of Hessen on 16 February 1704|
On 20 February, the Franco-Spanish forces started to work at the Line of Brabant.
Louis XIV was then informed that the Allies planned to transfer the corps of the Prince of Hessen and of Sommersfeld (a total of 34 bns and 48 sqns) from the Rhine to the Meuse, leaving only 27 bns from other Imperialist contingents on the Rhine. He then gave orders to Bedmar to advance as many troops as possible to the frontier. Bedmar, judging that his troops were not yet ready to march, put only 14 bns and 26 sqns from the regions of Bruxelles, Namur and Bruges in state of readiness.
The king also instructed the Comte de Coigny, commanding on the Moselle, to closely observe the movements of the Allies on the Rhine and to take disposition to rapidly transfer troops from the Moselle to the Meuse if an Allied corps advanced from the Rhine.
On 29 February, with the Allies reinforcing the garrisons of Maastricht and Liège, Bedmar took dispositions to re-established the part of the line between Wasseiges and Mierlo (unidentified location) which the Allies had razed at the end of the previous year. He moved forward 55 bns and 18 sqns with a train of 25 pieces; while 22 bns remained in garrison from Antwerp to Namur.
On 16 March, Villeroy arrived in Bruxelles. He immediately gave instructions to erect new defensive works along the canals between Nieuwpoort and Ghent.
On 26 March, Villeroy took dispositions to advance with 29 bns and 39 sqns to the defensive lines between Wasseiges and Mierlo at the end of the month, leaving 20 bns and 37 sqns in second line near Namur; and 7 bns and 2 sqns in third line near Louvain (aka Leuven).
On 28 March, Villeroy went from Bruxelles to Antwerp to draw the attention of the Allies to these quarters.
In the night of 29 to 30 March, Villeroy set off from Antwerp.
On 30 March in the morning, Villeroy arrived at Louvain. He then marched with the troops already assembled there.
On 31 March, Villeroy's first line encamped between Wasseiges and Mierlo where he established his headquarters. As planned his second line took position in front of Namur; and its third, in front of Louvain. Despite the bad weather, work immediately started to re-establish the line between Wasseiges and Mierlo.
By 3 April, the line of defence between Wasseiges and Mierlo had been completely re-established and was even stronger than before.
|Order of Battle|
|Franco-Spanish Army on 5 April 1704|
On 5 April, Villeroy went to Tirlemont (aka Tienen) and sent back most of his troops to their quarters. Altogether, he could muster 60 bns and 85 sqns that could be assembled within two days.
Villeroy then went to Namur to take dispositions for the defence of this place.
On 9 April, Villeroy returned to Tirlemont and inspected the Line of Brabant from Aarschot to Antwerp.
At about this time, the Sieur de La Croix marched from Vianden in the Principality of Luxembourg and surprised the Prussian garrison of Worringen near Cologne, capturing 2 coys of Prussian dragoons. He returned to Vianden without suffering any loss.
On 11 April, Villeroy returned to Bruxelles.
On 21 April, the Duke of Marlborough arrived at the Hague with general instructions in his pocket to concert measures with the Dutch Republic for the relief of Emperor Leopold I.
Three weeks were then spent in gaining the consent of the States-General to operations on the Moselle, a consent which Marlborough only extorted by threatening to march thither with the British troops alone, and in consultation with the solid but slow commander of the Imperial forces, Louis Margrave of Baden. To be quit of Dutch obstruction Marlborough asked only for the auxiliary troops in the pay of the Dutch, and obtained for his brother Charles the rank of General with the command of the British infantry.
By 23 April, some Allied troops (approx. 16,500 men) started to concentrate between Houtain, Visé and Maastricht.
On 25 April, Villeroy went from Bruxelles to Louvain.
On 26 April, Villeroy reconnoitred the Kleine Gete River. The same day, the Comte de Coigny set off from the Moselle with his corps and marched by Phalsbourg towards the Rhine.
On 1 May, Villeroy went to Bruxelles to discuss the plan of the incoming campaign with Bedmar. It was resolved that, in addition to the various garrisons, Bedmar would have 32 bns and 12 sqns between Liège and Ostend. Meanwhile, Lamothe would have 8 bns in his entrenched camp between Bruges and Damme, 7 bns in Waasland, 17 bns near Antwerp and 12 sqns. Villeroy for his part would have 60 bns and 91 sqns.
On 3 May, the French Maison du Roi arrived at Malines (aka Mechelen).
On 10 May, Villeroy met once more with Bedmar in Bruxelles to prepare the campaign.
During this time, the Allies were gradually evacuating troops and artillery from Huy and Liège.
Marlborough's departure from the Low Countries
Marlborough calculated that, as he progressed up the Rhine, the French would collect to prevent his crossing, instead of themselves passing over to join the Elector of Bavaria and Marsin. Thus the expedition would reach the Neckar mouth, without its true purpose being suspected, and once there Marlborough would vanish from the ken of the defenders of the Rhine, to reappear on the Danube where he was least expected.
On 11 May, Marlborough reviewed his army (51 bns and 92 sqns, including 14 British bns and 19 British sqns) at Maastricht.
On 12 May, Marlborough's army crossed the Meuse at Roermond. The same day, French and Spanish units started to move out of their winter-quarters.
By 13 May, a large Franco-Spanish corps was already assembled at Montenaken near Gingelom.
On 16 May, Marlborough assembled his army at Bedburg. It counted 90 sqns and 51 bns with 38 guns. Of this army, 19 sqns and 14 bns were British. The same day, Villeroy sent a vanguard (6 bns and 13 sqns) to Namur. Meanwhile, Bedmar posted 16 bns and 10 sqns at Deurne near Antwerp.
On 17 May, Villeroy marched from Montenaken to Neerhespen.
Tallard, Villeroy and the Versailles strategists, well aware that Marlborough was ascending the Rhine, thought that a diversion on the Moselle was intended, and the feeble warnings of Marsin, who half suspected the real purpose, were disregarded. Villeroy remained in Brabant for fear that Nassau-Ouwerkerk would take a few towns in his absence.
On 18 May, uncertain about Marlborough's intentions, Villeroy marched towards Luxembourg with 38 bns and 60 sqns, leaving 55 bns and 43 sqns under the command of Bedmar (including troops of the Electorate of Cologne). He also ordered the Maison du Roi, the Gardes françaises and the Gardes Suisses to pass the Meuse at Namur and to march to Luxembourg. Meanwhile, leaving only 1 bn in Deurne and 1 bn in Merksem, Bedmar marched to Lierre (aka Lier) with 14 bns and 10 sqns to be closer to the camp of Neerhespen where d'Artaignan had been left with 23 bns and 31 sqns.
On 19 May, Bedmar encamped at Booischot. The same day, Marlborough's Army reached Bonn.
On 20 May, Villeroy, still convinced that Marlborough planned an offensive on the Moselle, began to pass the Meuse. Meanwhile, Bedmar encamped at Montaigu (aka Scherpenheuvel).
|From this point, the various manoeuvres of the French and Allied corps on the Rhine and the Danube are covered in our article 1704 – Marlborough's march to the Danube, the present article concentrating uniquely on operations in the Low Countries.|
On 21 May, Bedmar marched to Tirlemont and Léau (aka Zoutleeuw).
On 22 May, Bedmar sojourned at Tirlemont and Léau.
On 23 May, d'Artaignan marched from Neerhespen and effected a junction with Bedmar's Corps at Brustem. Bedmar, now at the head of 37 bns and 42 sqns, then encamped near Saint-Trond (aka Sint-Truiden) with his right at the village of Bevingen and his left between Bernsem (unidentified location) and Zepperen. Thus Bedmar could face the Dutch corps of Nassau-Ouwerkerk (21 bns and some 30 sqns) posted at Houtain. The Dutch corps could be rapidly reinforced by 4 bns garrisoning Maastricht, 2 bns from Liège and 4 bns from Huy. Bedmar also had a detachment of 7 bns under M. de Lamothe-Houdancourt encamped near Damme and along the canals between Ostend and Ghent. The rest of his forces was distributed in various places.
By 27 May, Nassau-Ouwerkerk had received reinforcements and was at the head of 39 bns and 43 sqns (including the 10 bns still posted in Maastricht, Liège and Huy).
On 30 May, Bedmar's Army marched from Saint-Trond to Oleye at the entrance of the plain of Tongres (aka Tongeren), anchoring its right to the Geer between Oleye and Lantremange and extending its left towards Neerheers.
On 1 June, Bermar's Army marched from Oleye towards Tongres. On his way, Bedmar was informed that Nassau-Ouwerkerk's Army was also on the march upstream along the right bank of the Geer. Since Bedmar's orders were to protect the Line of Wasseiges, he halted and then started to follow the Dutch army. Both armies marched till 11:00 p.m. The Dutch army encamped near Waremme with its right behind the village of Thys and its left towards Remicourt. Bedmar halted at Kortijs to rest his army.
On 2 June at daybreak, convinced that the Dutch intended to attack the Line of Wasseiges, Bedmar set off from Kortijs with his army. By 9:00 a.m., he entered into the lines at Orp-le-Grand and Orp-le-Petit. The Dutch army had also marched at daybreak. When it arrived at the lines, it started to create a breach but when Nassau-Ouwerkerk realised that Bedmar's Army was already in the lines, he abandoned his project and retired precipitously. He then encamped with his right near Hannut, his centre at Villers (present-day Villers-le-Peuplier) and his left at Moucheron (probably Moxhe) on the Mehaigne. For his part, Bedmar deployed his army in the lines from the Castle of Jauche up to Wasseiges and repaired the breach.
On 4 June, informed that the Dutch were marching towards Waremme, Bedmar sent a corps (18 bns, 14 sqns, 2 artillery brigades) towards Heylissem (aka Helecine) with instruction to closely follow the retreating enemy. Nassau-Ouwerkerk encamped with his right at Milenhoven Ailst (maybe Axhe) and his left at the Mill of Quarem (unidentified location). The French observation corps established itself at Heylissem and in the village of Marilles near Orp-le-Grand.
On 5 June, Bedmar's main body occupied the terrain from Heylissem Abbey up to the city of Léau (aka Zoutleeuw), leaving a detachment of dragoons and an infantry brigade between Jauche and Orp-le-Petit to cover the Line of Wasseiges. Bedmar was then informed that Nassau-Ouwerkerk's Army now counted 38 bns and 62 sqns.
On 6 June, Nassau-Ouwerkerk's Army marched from Milenhoven to Bommershoven near Borgloon.
On 7 June, informed of Nassau-Ouwerkerk's movements, Bedmar sent a few brigades forward between Léau and Diest to precede the Dutch on their way to Brabant. The same day, Bedmar was informed that a reinforcement of 6,000 Danes had just arrived in the Dutch Republic; that an Allied corps, formed from troops taken from the garrisons of Dutch Flanders and of Cadzand Island, was assembling near Damme between Sluis, Lapscheure and Sint-Donaes; and that 5 bns and some cavalry were marching from Berg-op-Zoom and Roosendaal towards the Lines of Antwerp defended by only 2 bns. Bedmar immediately sent 3 bns, taken from Dendermonde, Malines and Mons, to reinforce the 2 isolated bns.
On 11 June, Nassau-Ouwerkerk's Army marched from Bommershoven, passed the Demer between Hasselt and Herkenrode. Bedmar sent the head of his army to Diest and redirected the detachment posted between Léau and Diest towards Aarschot
On 13, Nassau-Ouwerkerk advanced his right at Beringen and his left at Coursel (unidentified location). Bedmar sent his detachment forward from Aarschot to Itegem and marched with the main body. Half of his army encamped behind the lines from Aarschot to Diest. He established his headquarters at Montaigu near Diest. Finally, Bedmar sent a detachment to Tirlemont.
On 16 June, Bedmar was informed that 2 Allied bns had joined the troops assembled at Lapscheure. He transferred 3 of the 5 bns previously encamped between Lierre and Antwerp to Waasland. He also instructed M. de Wrangel, commanding in Waasland, to send the same number of bns to M. de Lamothe if needed. However, the French Court was convinced that the Danish and Hanoverian contingent would rather march to effect a junction Marlborough's Army and that the Allied army stationed in the Netherlands would remain on the defensive.
On 20 June, Bedmar was informed that the Allies had marched from Beringen to Mol and Balen after receiving a large convoy from Maastricht. Bedmar moved his headquarters from Montaigu to Aarschot. Bedmar then received intelligence that the Allied corps posted at Sluis and at the camp of Lapscheure had been reinforced and now counted 16 bns and 9 sqns with 2 other bns who could join rapidly join them and that M. de Spaar was arrived to take command of this corps. To oppose Spaar, M. de Lamothe had only 7 bns at the camp of Damme, 4 bns in Ghent and 1 bn behind the canal of Ghent. Bedmar sent him 3 of the 10 bns posted in Waasland. Lamothe was now at the head of 15 bns.
On 1 July, Spaar marched from Lapscheure at the head of 18 bns, 9 sqns, 12 heavy guns, 12 field pieces, 6 mortars and 22 pontoons and encamped at Maldegem. Lamothe followed Spaar's movements from the opposite side of the canal leading from Bruges to Ghent. Furthermore, Bedmar sent him 200 dragoons and transferred 1 bns from Merksem to Waasland.
On 2 July, Spaar's Army marched to Maldegem, midway between Damme, Bruges and the canal of Ghent. Lamothe personally went to inspect the defences of Bruges, leaving his troops in a camp between Bruges and Damme.
On 3 July, Spaar's Army moved closer to Bruges and briefly bombarded the city before retiring to Maldegem. Meanwhile, another Allied army under Nassau-Ouwerkerk had marched from Mol and Balen towards Geel and Herentals, as if he intended an action against Antwerp.
On 4 July, Lamothe, who had rejoined his troops, marched to Steenbrugge on the canal of Ghent. Meanwhile, Bedmar sent troops towards Lierre between the Grote Nete and Kleine Nete. He was about to follow them with the main body when he was informed that Nassau-Ouwerkerk was retiring on Zonhoven. Bedmar then recalled the troops sent towards Lierre and sent a new detachment to his right.
On 5 July, Lamothe marched to Sint-Joris. Meanwhile, Bedmar's Army decamped from Aarschot and marched to Rode Abbey (unidentified location). Bedmar established his right there and anchored his left at Zichem. Shortly afterwards, Bedmar was informed that the Allies had detached 4,000 men with 6 guns towards the Line of Wasseiges. He then sent two detachments on his right who effected a junction under M. de Gacé. The latter arrived on the line on time to repulse a party of Allied cavalry. The Allied detachment then retired on Fumal, 10 km from the line.
On 6 July, Nassau-Ouwerkerk decamped from Zonhoven, passed the Demer at Hasselt and encamped at Saint-Trond with his right there and his left at Milenhoven, in a position to rapidly reinforce the detachment posted at Fumal. The same day, Gacé's detachment advanced within reach of Jauche. Bedmar sent a party beyond the defiles to occupy the outposts at Merdorp and Wasseiges. Bedmar's Army marched from Rode to Heylissem.
On 7 July, Spaar marched from Maldegem to Assenede between Bassevelde and Oost-Eeklo, near Sas van Gent. The same day, Lamothe marched from Sint-Joris to Hansbeke on the canal of Ghent.
On 8 July, Lamothe took position below Ghent, leaving 2 bns at Damme and 4 bns in a camp between Damme and Bruges. He also detached M. de Vibraye with 4 bns to Waasland. Vibraye encamped at Melsele from where he could easily reinforce the Lines along the Scheldt.
On 9 July, Nassau-Ouwerkerk decamped from Saint-Trond and moved his right to Montenaken and his left to Cras-Avernas. The cavalry of the detachment posted at Fumal joined the main corps while the infantry of the same detachment took position near Huy. The same day, Bedmar marched from Heylissem to Jandrain with the main body and sent a large corps towards Merdorp and Wasseiges. He also threw bridges across the Mehaigne.
Bedmar received intelligence that the Allies planned to send M. de Trognée to pass the Meuse at the head of approx. 5,500 men and advance Namur to bombard the city while Nassau-Ouwerkerk would make a diversion on the Lines of Wasseiges. To prevent this design, Bedmar informed Ximenès commanding in Namur, and sent bombardiers and gunners and a detachment of 100 horse to reinforce the city. Ximenès recalled 1 bn from Givet and prepared 50 pieces (guns and mortars) to protect the approaches.
On 14 July, Louis XIV instructed Bedmar to send Gacé's with a strong detachment to Namur. The same day, Nassau-Ouwerkerk marched from Montenaken, passed the Mehaigne and encamped with his right at Fallais and his left at Burdinne. Bedmar immediately marched with the main body from Jandrain to Wasseiges, leaving a detachment between Jauche and Jandrain. Finally, Gacé passed the Mehaigne with a corps and established himself behind the Line of Emptinne.
On 15 July, Nassau-Ouwerkerk, who had been reinforced with several British and Dutch bns and was now at the head of 42 bns and 62 sqns, decamped from Burdinne and moved his right to Heron and his left between Andenne and Seilles along the Meuse. He threw two bridges across the Meuse and had 80 heavy guns, 20 mortars and a large quantity of ammunition transported from Maastricht to Huy. Bedmar had only 37 bns and 41 sqns to cover the country from Namur to Antwerp, a distance of some 100 km.
Judging that the detachment that he had sent to Namur was not strong enough to defend the place, Bedmar sent 3 dragoon sqns to Dave, located on the Meuse near Marlagne (now part of Namur), to erect an entrenchment. He also sent an infantry brigade and an artillery brigade to Bouge (now part of Namur) to support these dragoons. Informed that Spaar's Army had embarked to go towards Berg-op-Zoom and thus be in measure to make an attack on Antwerp or Lierre, Bedmar positioned 3 bns between these two cities. He also instructed Lamothe to march through Waasland in this direction as soon as he would hear of the advance of the Allies in these quarters.
On 16 July, Louis XIV finally answered favourably to Bedmar's repeated requests for reinforcements. He sent orders to move 4 bns from Mons, Condé, Tournai and Dunkerque to Namur.
On 17 July, Louis XIV asked to Villeroy, who was then in the area of Offenburg on the right bank of the Rhine, to diligently detach M. d'Alegre with 12 bns and 10 sqns to reinforce Namur. However, this detachment could not arrive on the Meuse before 6 August. Louis XIV also instructed Bedmar to make Namur his priority.
Meanwhile, the Allies were discreetly assembling a third army at Huy.
On 19 July, Bedmar sent 2 bns to Namur and 3 other bns to defend the fords on the Meuse. The same day, M. de Trognée took command of the Allied corps (9 bns, 12 sqns) assembled at Huy. He planned to attack the lines in the area of Heylissem. Bedmar received intelligence of this project and gave instruction to Deynse's detachment (5 bns, 5 sqns) posted at Jandrain to take position at Heylissem.
On 20 July at daybreak, when Deynse arrived in sight of Heylissem, he saw that the Allies were already occupying the post. Bedmar sent a cavalry brigade and 8 guns to reinforce Deynse. He also sent M. d'Artaignan at the head of 2,000 horse on Saint-Trond to cut Trognée's line of retreat. Bedmar then remained in observation with the main body in front of Nassau-Ouwerkerk's Army. Deynse managed to drive the Allies out of Heylissem. Meanwhile, d'Artaignan reached the height of Landen. However, it was too late to intercept Trognée's Corps. Nevertheless, d'Artaignan caught its rearguard (3 bns, 800 detached foot and 1,000 horse). In this action, Deynse captured 200 prisoners and pursued Trognée up to 2 km from Saint-Trond. Nassau-Ouwerkerk sent 7 sqns to Trognée to cover his retreat by Waremme.
A few days later, Trognée's Corps effected a junction with Nassau-Ouwerkerk's Army.
On 23 July, Nassau-Ouwerkerk's Army marched from the camp of Seilles and Andenne, passed the Meuse on its bridges and encamped between Bonneville and Andoy, near Namur. Because of the nature of the terrain, his army was forced to separate itself in several corps. A detachment with some artillery entrenched itself on the heights of Sainte-Barbe; the main body remained at Seilles; 4,500 men were assigned to guard the bridges. When Bedmar was informed of these manoeuvres, he detached M. de Courcelles with 5 bns and 8 dragoon sqns to the height of Bouge near Namur and put him at the disposition of Ximenès who commanded in Namur. Bedmar remained at Wasseiges with his army, ready to march.
In the following days, the Allies established batteries on the height of Sainte-Barbe.
While Nassau-Ouwerkerk was operating on the Meuse, MM. Spaar and Salisch, who commanded the Allied corps along the sea, had received instructions to create diversions to facilitate Nassau-Ouwerkerk's actions against the Lines of Wasseiges and Namur. They embarked at Philippine 8 bns and 5 sqns previously encamped at Assenede.
On 24 July, Spaar's and Salisch's small corps passed by Berg-op-Zoom.
On 25 July, Spaar's and Salisch's small corps encamped between Berg-op-Zoom and Zantvliet. Bedmar detached 3 bns and 3 dragoon sqns with instructions to effect a junction with the 4 bns which he had sent a few days before to encamp between Lierre and Antwerp. Meanwhile, Lamothe marched with 4 bns from Ghent to Antwerp.
On 26 July at 4:00 a.m., the batteries of the Allies opened on the city of Namur. The batteries of the castle and of the city as well as the batteries planted on the height of Bouge and near Terreneuve took the Allied batteries in flank and inflicted them important damages. Bedmar decided to maintain his position at Wasseiges. The same day, along the sea, Spaar and Salisch marched to Ekeren where they were joined by troops from Flanders and by the garrisons of Berg-op-Zoom, Breda and other places. They were now at the head of 18 bns and 12 sqns. They hoped to surprise the Lines of Antwerp and to cannonade this place.
On 27 July, the Allies increased their artillery on the height of Sainte-Barbe to 16 mortars and 12 guns.
On 28 July, the Allies seeing that they were suffering significant losses, decided to retire from the height of Sainte-Barbe. The same day near the sea, Spaar and Salisch marched towards the Lines of Antwerp with their grenadiers forming their vanguard, supported by their infantry. Lamothe rushed to the support of the lines and encamped with 11 bns and 3 sqns near Wijnegem.
On 29 July at daybreak, the Allies burnt their fascines, removed their artillery and retired from the height of Sainte-Barbe to their camp on the road leading to Geronsart Abbey. The Allied army then marched by the village of Andoy to the plain between Naninne and Goyet, encamping with its right at the village of Porin (unidentified location), its left at Assesse and a large detachment at their bridges of Seilles and Andenne. In this action against Namur, the Allies had reputedly lost some 1,500 men without gaining any advantage. The same day near the sea, Spaar and Salisch retired on their camp between Antwerp and Ekeren. They then re-embarked at Lillo and returned to Flanders.
However, during these actions against Namur, the Allies had sent several detachments towards the Upper-Meuse. Some detachments established themselves at Dinant; another detachment (400 horse and 100 foot) reached Florennes, putting the villages between the Sambre and the Meuse to contribution. M. de la Devèze, commanding outposts along the Meuse, assembled 100 foot, 150 dragoons and a free company and advanced against the Allied detachments posted at Florennes, pursuing them on 16 km up to the Meuse. Devèze charged the Allies as they were attempting to pass the Meuse and virtually annihilated them, capturing 3 offices and 40 cavalrymen.
Nevertheless, there were still a large Allied detachment at Dinant which was sending parties between the Sambre and the Meuse. Bedmar finally took measures to secure this region.
M. de Lacroix, who was still occupying the outpost at Vianden in the Duchy of Luxembourg, advanced into Guelderland with a detachment and put the country to contribution.
In the first days of August, Lamothe returned to Ghent and then went to Bruges, closely followed by his corps. However, the Allies, taking advantage of their capability to navigate on the canals, had already reached Sluis and invested Fort Isabelle.
On 3 August, the Allies attacked Fort Isabelle and forced its garrison to surrender as prisoners of war. They then encamped near the fort and started to dismantle it. Continuous Allied incursions between the Sambre and the Meuse, forced Bedmar to detach M. de la Devèze (400 foot, 300 dragoons and free companies) to this region. To support Devèze, M. de Courcelles, encamped on the height of Bouge, was instructed to march to Saint-Gérard Abbey with 8 dragoon sqns and a detachment of infantry taken from the garrison of Namur
On 4 August, M. d'Alegre, who was arriving from Germany with 12 bns and 10 sqns, reached Rocroi. The Allied detachment occupying Dinant, fearing to be encircled, retired the main army.
On 5 August, the main Allied army decamped from Perwez, repassed the Meuse on the bridges of Seilles and Andenne, and returned to its former camp at Burdinne with its right at the Heron Tomb and its left at Seilles. Bedmar immediately recalled his detachments posted between the Sambre and the Meuse and prepared his army to follow the movements of the Allies. Meanwhile, Alegre's Corps arrived at Philippeville where it was instructed to effect a junction with the army as soon as possible.
On 6 August, Nassau-Ouwerkerk's Army decamped from Burdinne, passed the Mehaigne at Fallais and Ville-en-Hesbaye, and encamped with its right at Blehen, behind Villers-le-Peuplier, and its left at Braives, on the Mehaigne; the headquarters were established at Lens-les-Béguines (present-day Lens-Saint-Remy). The same day, Bedmar marched from Wasseiges to Jauche, encamping along the lines between these two posts. Furthermore, he placed 8 bns, 2 cavalry rgts and 2 dragoon sqns on the left from the Height of Orp to Heylissem.
On 7 August, d'Alegre's Corps arrived at Boneffe on the Mehaigne, thus forming the right of Bedmar's Army. Bedmar could now consider offensive actions. However, after a council of war, he decided to remain on the defensive, a decision which was soon approved by Louis XIV.
On 10 August, Nassau-Ouwerkerk's Army marched from Lens-les-Béguines to Wellen where it encamped with its right at the village of Halmal and its left at Gingelom, between the streams of Tongres and Wellen. The same day, Bedmar decamped from Jauche and established his headquarters at Heylissem, deploying his army from the stream of Jauche to Léau to cover Saint-Trond.
Both armies remained in these positions until the end of August. Spaar and Salisch, encamped at Fort Isabelle and fearing for Berg-op-Zoom and other places, sent back 7 bns, keeping only 10 bns and 2 dragoon rgts. Lamothe, believing that Spaar and Salisch were planning another attempt against Antwerp or the Waasland, marched to Wondelghem near Ghent.
When Bedmar received the news of the disastrous Battle of Blenheim fought on the Danube, where a Franco-Bavarian army had been decisively defeated by the combined armies of Marlborough and Prince Eugène de Savoie, he immediately asked for reinforcements.
Soon Louis XIV recalled a large part of Villeroy's army to the Low Countries. Instructing him to send them as soon as the remnants of Marsin's and Tallard's armies would have returned to Alsace.
On 19 August, Lamothe was informed that Spaar's and Salisch's troops had returned to their camp. He then marched to his own camp between Bruges and Damme.
Bedmar's cavalry started to suffer from lack of fodder and it became necessary to reconnoitre the country between the right of the Allied positions to Herk and Halen. Bedmar considered that this country would be easily defended with a few outposts and would supply ample fodder.
On 22 August, Bedmar sent part of his cavalry (30 sqns) to forage between Léau and Rotten Abbey under the cover a 8 bns posted at Geetbets and Budingen. The cavalry foraged for two days, returning with supplies for 12 days.
Bedmar then fell ill and left the army, ceding command to the Comte de Gacé, the most senior lieutenant-general.
At the end of August Gacé was informed that the Allies planned to advance again on the Mehaigne. He took measures to obtain fodder from all villages and moved his cavalry closer to the army.
On 1 September, the Allies marched from Wellen to Hanneffe, encamping along the stream of Remicourt with their right towards Limont and their left at Seraing. The same day, Gacé marched from Heylissem to Jauche with his right at Mierlo, occupying Wasseiges and his left at the height of Heylissem. Large fodder magazines were started at Namur and Louvain.
Lamothe, still encamped between Bruges and Damme, feared an attack from Spaar's Corps posted at Fort Isabelle on Ghent, Bruges or Ostend. Gacé sent him 2 dragoon sqns and 3 bns and transferred 2 other sqns to Malines to support him. Gacé also detached 3 bns to Lierre to support the Line of Antwerp. A new line of defence was completed between the canals of Bruges and Sas van Gent. Entrenchments were also built to protect the bridge of Langer-Brugge on the canal of Sas van Gent. Finally, Gacé had to send 8 sqns back to Louvain and Tirlemont for cause of illness. All these detachments amounted to 6 bns and 13 sqns.
For their part, the Allied armies stationed in the Low Countries had to contribute 6 bns and 10 men from all other bns and 1 man per company of horse or dragoon for the corps assembling for the planned expedition to Portugal.
On 7 September, Allied troops destined to Portugal marched to Maastricht.
A few days later, the Allied contingent embarked for Portugal.
On 16 September, Spaar set off from Fort Isabelle with part of his corps to Assenede near Sas van Gent. The rest of his corps, affected by sickness, returned to the maritime places.
The French Court was then informed that the Allies planned to detach troops to the Moselle for the siege of Trarbach. Gacé received orders to detach 8 bns to the Moselle and Louis XIV asked to the Elector of Bavaria, who had been forced to abandon his estates and who was marching towards Luxembourg with 23 sqns and 3 bns, to leave his cavalry in the Duchy of Luxembourg and to go personally to Bruxelles to replace Gacé as commander-in-chief of the Army of the Low Countries.
Gacé took dispositions to send 8 bns to the Moselle as soon as an Allied corps would march in this direction. Rain made roads very difficult and Gacé's cavalry was running short of fodder. Gacé distributed his cavalry in cantonments within reach of the magazines at Namur, Louvain, Léau and Diest, keeping only 6 sqns with his main body. The Allies being short of supplies too, they moved closer to Maastricht.
On October 3, the Allies quit their positions at Haneffe and encamped in two lines at Borgloon, anchoring their right on Borgloon and their left on Jesseren.
Gacé moved 26 bns and 6 sqns to Tirlemont, leaving 17 bns and 18 sqns behind the lines towards Diest and Léau; and the rest of his cavalry within reach of Namur and Louvain
The Elector of Bavaria arrived at Bruxelles where he was informed of the impending departure for the Moselle of an Allied corps (12 bns, 18 sqns) under the command of M. de Trognée. The Elector decided to attack the Allies in their camp at Borgloon as soon as Trognée's Corps would have left. However, this plan was contrary to the orders received from Versailles.
On 21 October, when Gacé was informed of the departure of Trognée's Corps, he immediately sent 8 bns and 10 field pieces towards the Moselle as previously instructed. Gacé halted this detachment at Namur when it became known that Trognée's Corps had stopped at Maastricht. The Elector of Bavaria, still pursuing his design, recalled this detachment to Boneffe on the Mehaigne.
The Maréchal de Villeroy then arrived at Bruxelles to command the army under the supervision of the Elector of Bavaria. Surprised of the counter-order given by the Elector to the detachment destined to the Moselle, Villeroy went to the camp of Tirlemont with the Elector. He then managed to convince the Elector that he was still facing an Allied army (42 bns and 64 sqns) which was larger than his own. The 8 bns and 10 field pieces assembled at Boneffe were then sent back to Namur.
On 30 October, Villeroy sent the 8 bns and 10 field pieces from Namur to the Moselle. He then returned to Bruxelles to take dispositions for the winter-quarters. He planned to quarter the largest part of his army in Brabant
The fortifications of Tirlemont were improved.
On 7 November at daybreak, Nassau-Ouwerkerk decamped from Borgloon and entered into the entrenched camp of Houtain on the left bank of the Meuse between Maastricht and Visé. When he abandoned Tongres, he gave orders to demolish the place.
Villeroy still waited before sending his army to its winter-quarters.
On 13 November, Villeroy finally sent to their winter-quarters all units destined to winter in Namur, Léau, Zichem, Aarschot, Louvain and Tirlemont. He also instructed Lamothe to send his troops to their winter-quarters.
On 23 November, Nassau-Ouwerkerk distributed his army in its cantonments between Maastricht and Maaseik: 12 bns and 6 sqns entered into Liège; 3 bns and 2 sqns into Huy; and 13 bns into Maastricht.
On 28 November, Villeroy sent the rest of his army to its winter-quarters.
In 1704, the campaign in the Low Countries produced no result at all.
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. 4 pp. 3-74
- Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army, Vol. I, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 416-419