Battle of Landen
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|Battle of Landen|
|Part of the Nine Years' War|
Map of the battle. The Allied armies are in red
|Commanders and leaders|
|Marshal Luxembourg||William III of England and II of Scotland|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Landen (or Neerwinden), in the current Belgian province of Flemish Brabant, was a battle in the Nine Years' War, fought in present-day Belgium on 29 July 1693 between the French army of Marshal Luxembourg and the Allied army of King William III of England. The French assaulted the Allied position three times before the French cavalry finally penetrated the allied defences and drove William's army from the field in a rout. The battle was, however, quite costly for both sides, the French losing 9,000 men to the Allies' 19,000. The French failed to follow up on their victory, allowing William to escape.
Details of the battle
Marshal Luxembourg, having with a series of feints induced William to detach portions of his army, rapidly drew together superior numbers in the face of the Allied camps, which lay in a rough semicircle from Eliksem on the right to Neerlanden, thence along the Landen brook on the left (18–28 July 1693). William had no mind to retire over the Gete River and entrenched a strong line from Laar through Neerwinden to Neerlanden.
On the right of this line (Laar to Neerwinden), the ground was broken and gave plenty of cover to both sides; this section, being regarded as the key to the position, was strongly garrisoned. In the centre the open ground between Neerwinden and Neerlanden was solidly entrenched; in front of it Rumsdorp was held as an advance post. The left at Neerlanden rested upon the Landen brook and was difficult to access.
William's right (his line of retreat lay over the Gete) was his dangerous flank, and Marshal Luxembourg was aware that the Allies' front was somewhat long for the numbers defending it. The intervention of troops drawn from one wing to reinforce the other would almost certainly be too late. Under these conditions Luxembourg's general plan was to throw the weight of his attack on the Laar-Neerwinden section—especially on Neerwinden itself—and to economize his forces, as "economy of force" was understood before Napoleon's time. Elsewhere, delivering holding attacks or demonstrations, as might be necessary, would thus prevent the Allied centre and left from assisting the right.
Marshal Luxembourg had about 80,000 men to William's 50,000. Opposite the entrenchments of the centre he drew up nearly the whole of his cavalry in six lines, with two lines of infantry intercalated. A corps of infantry and dragoons was held off for the attack on Neerlanden and Rumsdorp. The troops destined for the main attack, 28,000 of all arms, formed up in heavy masses opposite Neerwinden. This proportion of about one-third of the whole force to be employed in the decisive attack in the event proved insufficient. The troops opposite the Allied centre and left had to act with the greatest energy to fulfill their containinment mission. At Laar-Neerwinden the eventual success of the attack was bought only at the price of the utter exhaustion of the troops.
After a long cannonade the French columns moved to the attack, converging on Neerwinden; a smaller force assaulted Laer. The edge of the villages was carried, but in the interior a murderous struggle began, every foot of ground being contested. After a time William himself, leading a heavy counterattack, expelled the assailants from both villages. A second attack, pushed with the same energy, was met with the same determination. Meanwhile, the French in other parts of the field had pressed their attacks home. The six lines of cavalry in the centre, after enduring the fire of the Allies for many hours, trotted over the open ground and up to the entrenchments to meet with certain defeat. At Neerlanden and Rumsdorp there was severe hand-to-hand fighting. Meantime, the two intact lines of infantry in the French centre had been moved to their left and formed the nucleus for the last great assault on Neerwinden, which proved too much for the exhausted defenders. They fell back slowly and steadily, defying pursuit—the English Coldstream Guards even captured a colour. However, at this crisis the initiative of a subordinate general, the famous military writer Feuquières, converted the hard-won local success into a brilliant victory. William had begun to move troops from his centre and left to the right in order to meet the great assault on Neerwinden. Feuquières, observing this, led the cavalry of the French centre once again straight at the entrenchments. This time the French squadrons, surprising the Allies in the act of maneuvering, rode over every body of troops they met, nothing remained for the Allies but a hurried retreat over the Gete. Hundreds died crossing the river.
A stubborn rearguard of English and Scottish troops led by William himself saved the Allied army, of which all but the left wing was exhausted and in disorder.
It is during this battle that, seeing the French determination to gain the high ground in spite of the murderous Allied volleys, William exclaimed, "Oh! That insolent nation!"
Marshal Luxembourg had won his greatest victory, thanks in no small measure to Feuquières' exploit; but had the assaults on Neerwinden been made as Napoleon would have done, with one-half or two-thirds of his forces instead of one-third, the victory would have been decisive and Feuquières would have won his laurels not for forcing the decision at the cost of using up his cavalry, but for annihilating the remnants of the Allied army in the pursuit.
The material results of the battle were 19,000 Allied troops killed, wounded or taken prisoner, as opposed to 9,000 French casualties. Eighty guns and a great number of standards and colours were also taken by the French.
Among the casualties on the French side were
- Patrick Sarsfield, the Jacobite Earl of Lucan, who was in command of the remnants of the Jacobite Irish army after the surrender at Limerick. He was struck by a bullet in the chest and taken to the town of Huy, about 20 miles away, where he died three days later. "Oh, that this were for Ireland," he said as he expired.
- The Duke of Berwick was taken prisoner in the first assault.
- Prince Conti and Marshal Joyeuse were lightly wounded.
- Both sons of Marshal Luxembourg present at that battle were also wounded. His oldest son (the Duke of Montmorency) was just lightly wounded, but the other (the Count of Luxembourg) nearly lost his leg and would never fully recover from his wounds.
Among the casualties on the Allied side were
- Count Solms, who was killed.
- The Duke of Ormonde, who was saved by the large diamond on his finger. On seeing this jewel, the French soldier who was about to kill him changed his mind, deciding that this man could be worth more alive than dead.
- The Earl of Galway was wounded and taken prisoner. However, using the fact that he was French, he managed to escape in the confusion.
William followed with a silver medal struck to commemorate his "victory". It was designed by Jan Boskem and featured a Roman bust of William crowned with a laurel and an aerial battle between a falcon and a stork.
The French commander, Marshal Luxembourg, captured so many flags that he could make a "tapestry" with them inside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. For this reason he was nicknamed le Tapissier de Notre-Dame.
English, Scottish and Irish Order of Battle
- Royal Horse Guards
- 1st King's Dragoon Guards
- Prince of Wales's Dragoon Guards
- 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards
- The King's Carabineers
- 4th Queen's Own Hussars
- 1st Battalion, 1st Foot Guards
- 2nd Battalion, 1st Foot Guards
- 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards
- 1st Battalion, Scots Guards
- 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards
- 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment of Foot
- 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment of Foot
- 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment of Foot
- 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment of Foot
- 1st Battalion, 4th Regiment of Foot
- 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment of Foot
- 1st Battalion, 14th Regiment of Foot
- 1st Battalion, 16th Regiment of Foot
- 1st Battalion, 19th Regiment of Foot
- 1st Battalion, 21st Regiment of Foot
- 1st Battalion, 25th Regiment of Foot
- 1st Battalion, 26th Regiment of Foot
Scotch Brigade (Dutch mercenaries)
- Map of the Battlefield
- La bataille de Neerwinden (in French)
- The French Army 1600-1900
- Further information on the British order of battle
- William's medal illustrated[dead link]
- Patrick Sarsfield, called Earl of Lucan
- 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition, New York 1910, Vol.X, p.460: "The oriflamme and the Chape de St Martin were succeeded at the end of the 16th century, when Henry III., the last of the house of Valois, came to the throne, by the white standard powdered with fleurs-de-lis. This in turn gave place to the famous tricolour."George Ripley, Charles Anderson Dana, The American Cyclopaedia, New York, 1874, p. 250, "...the standard of France was white, sprinkled with golden fleur de lis...". * The original Banner of France was strewn with fleurs-de-lis. *:on the reverse of this plate it says: "Le pavillon royal était véritablement le drapeau national au dix-huitième siecle...Vue du chateau d'arrière d'un vaisseau de guerre de haut rang portant le pavillon royal (blanc, avec les armes de France)."
- Patrick Sarsfield Wild Geese Heritage Museum and Library