The French offensive of 1672
Bishopric of Münster
Archbishopric of Cologne
| Dutch Republic
Holy Roman Empire
Electorate of Brandenburg
|Commanders and leaders|
| Louis XIV
Vicomte de Turenne †
Prince de Condé
| Prince of Orange
Elector of Brandenburg
Emperor Leopold I
Michiel de Ruyter †
Duke of Villahermosa
The Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), often called simply the Dutch War (French: La Guerre de Hollande; Dutch: Hollandse Oorlog) was a war fought by France, Sweden, the Prince-Bishopric of Münster, the Archbishopric of Cologne and England against the Dutch Republic, which was later joined by the Austrian Habsburg lands, Brandenburg and Spain to form a quadruple alliance. The war ended with the Treaty of Nijmegen of 1678, which granted France control of the Franche-Comté and some cities in Flanders and Hainaut, all formerly controlled by Spain. The year 1672 in Dutch is often referred to as Het Rampjaar, meaning the year of disaster.
Until the War of Devolution (1667–68), Louis XIV of France considered the Dutch United Provinces to be trading rivals, seditious republicans and Protestant heretics – but military allies nevertheless. France and the United Provinces had been friends and allies for a century (since the 1560s) but this was ended by the Triple Alliance of 1668, which the Dutch signed with England (against whom they had just fought a war) and Sweden in support of Spain, another recent foe. Louis now felt deeply betrayed by the Dutch, and came to regard them as an obstacle to French expansion into the Spanish Netherlands.
During the four years of peace following the War of Devolution, Louis prepared for war against the United Provinces. Louis' first and primary objective was to gain the support of England. England felt threatened by the growing naval power of the United Provinces. Indeed, the English had already fought two "navigation wars" against the Dutch—the first navigation (or Anglo-Dutch War) was fought in 1652–1654, during Cromwell's Commonwealth government in England. The second navigation war (Second Anglo-Dutch War) had just recently occurred from 1665 to 1667. Thus, the English did not need much encouragement to leave the Triple Alliance they had signed with the Dutch United Provinces, but to help things along, Louis XIV agreed to send financial support to the English in the amount of three million pounds annually. Sweden agreed to indirectly support the invasion of the United Provinces, by threatening Brandenburg if that state should intervene in the war against the Dutch Republic.
Measures taken by the Marquis de Louvois (1641–91), Secretary of War under Louis XIV, allowed France to mobilise about 180,000 men. Of these about 120,000 would be used directly against the United Provinces. The bulk of the French army was divided into two bodies, one body was stationed in Charleroi under the command of Henri Turenne. This force would make its way down the Sambre River to the Meuse River and then march northward along the left bank of the Meuse to attack the Dutch Another column of the French army under the command of Prince Louis II of Condé (the Great Condé) waited in Sedan. He would attack the Dutch up the right Bank of the Meuse. Meanwhile a third body of the French army, created from the allied armies of the prince-bishops of Münster and Cologne and under the command of Lieutenant General Luxembourg was stationed in Westphalia. England declared war on the Dutch United Provinces on 7 April 1672, starting the third navigation war (or what was to be called the "Third Anglo-Dutch War)." It was expected that England would launch amphibious landings against the United Netherlands, however, this never happened.
Louis XIV arrived in Charleroi on 5 May 1672. Louis intended to advance into the Spanish Netherlands with the main part of his army—the 50,000-man force stationed at Charleroi, France, under the command of Marshal Turenne. On 11 May, the French army set off marching into the Spanish Netherlands. Louis' army marched out of Charleroi on 11 May 1672. Unexpectedly bypassing the large fortress of Maastricht, the French had little trouble taking the small fort of Maaseik near Maastricht. The capture of this small fort provided a base from which the French could make sure the garrison at Maastricht stayed bottled up in the fort while they crossed the Rhine and marched into the heart of the Dutch Republic. The French took four small fortresses on the Rhine--Rheinberg, Wesel, Burick and Orsoy.—and then moved on to capture the city of Utrecht on 30 June 1672. Back on the border with Cleves, Marshal Turenne invested the fortress of Nijmegen on 3 July 1672 with 4,000 infantry and 400 cavalry. The garrison of the fortress surrendered on 9 July 1672. From Nijmegen, Marshal Turenne moved against Fort Créve-Coeur near 's-Hertogenbosch, which fell after only two days. In view of these defeats, the Dutch public panicked and rioted in early July 1672. The leading Dutch politician Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis were lynched by an angry Orangist mob, following rumours (never substantiated) that they were planning the assassination of William of Nassau (the later William III). On 4 July 1672, William was acclaimed stadtholder. As the French had promised the major cities of Holland to the English, they were in no hurry to capture them. The French tried to gain sixteen million guilders from the Dutch in exchange for a separate peace. This demand and other conditions posed by the French stiffened Dutch resistance. Negotiations gave the Republic time to flood the countryside by deliberate inundations along the Dutch Water Line on 22 June 1672, blocking further French advances. The army of the Bishop of Münster under General Luxembourg, laid siege to Groningen but failed to take it. An attempt was made to invade the Dutch Republic by sea; this was thwarted by Admiral Michiel de Ruyter in four strategic victories against the combined Anglo-French fleet. (Together these four naval victories by the Dutch are usually called the Third Anglo-Dutch War or the Third Navigation War.) The first of these naval victories was on 7 June 1672 at Solebay. Present at the battle of Solebay was a young twenty-two year old British officer—John Churchill, the future Duke of Marlborough.
Already, allies had joined the Dutch cause; the Elector of Brandenburg, the Emperor, and Charles II of Spain. Louis, despite the successful Siege of Maastricht in 1673, was forced to abandon his plans of conquering the Dutch and revert to a slow, cautious war of attrition around the French frontiers. Louis ordered Marshal Turenne to break off his offensive against the Dutch in the mid-summer of 1672 and proceed to Germany with 25,000 infantry and 18,000 cavalry, to defend against the attacks of Frederick William, the Elector of Brandenburg and of Leopold I, the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor. This task occupied Marshal Turenne from August 1672 until May 1673. Learning in late January 1673, that the Brandenberg-Prussian army had joined with the Imperial army to form a combined force of 25,000 men under the command of Raimondo Montecuccoli and upon learning that this combined force was crossing the Rhine river at Koblenz, Marshal Turenne marched against them. He succeeded in pushing this army all the way back across northern Germany. Eventually, Frederick William pulled Brandenburg-Prussia out of the war on 6 June 1673.
In the summer campaign of 1673, Louis turned back to the Dutch front to again attempt to deal with the fortress at Maastricht. The existence of the huge fort on the Meuse was an impediment to his operations in the Netherlands. Louis had a fondness for planning and executing sieges, especially the detail of sieges. On 10 June 1673, Louis joined his army of 45,000 men and 58 cannon surrounding Maastricht. Louis proceeded to oversee the digging of trenches and the establishment of siege lines, which was complete by 14 June 1673. One of those commanders who died in the heavy fighting at the siege of Maastricht was Charles d'Artagnan who commanded the king's musketeers. The fortress surrendered on 30 June 1673. Present at the siege of Maastricht was an English delegation of military officers led by the Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of King Charles II of England by Lucy Walter. Present among that delegation of English officers was Captain John Churchill, who together with Monmouth and the other English soldiers present, led the first attack on Maastricht on the night of 27 June 1673. Indeed, Churchill was wounded while at Monmouth's side during the fighting. So impressed was King Louis with the bravery of English troops and Marlborough that the troops were publicly thanked by Louis during the great parade celebrating the capture of Maastricht. Furthermore, the King singled out Marlborough for praise and promised Marlborough that his brave conduct during the battle would be reported back to King Charles II in England.
During the summer campaign of 1673, Marshal Turenne had the thankless task of trying to contain the Imperial troops of the Holy Roman Empire under the command of Raimondo Montecuccoli. Montecuccoli finally joined with the Dutch troops of William III to besiege and take the city of Bonn from the French. In August 1673, The Habsburg monarchies of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire signed a formal alliance with the Dutch United Provinces that required that France be returned to her boundaries of 1659. This alliance was strengthened in October 1673 when Charles of Lorraine joined this alliance. Imperial troops from Holy Roman Empire combined with Dutch troops conquered the town of Naarden from the French on 13 September 1673. The Spanish who had yet to formally enter the war, declared war on the French on 16 October 1673. At about the same time Frederick William, the Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia re-entered the war against France. The position of Louis at this stage was bad enough, but it became worse when his ally—Britain, made a separate peace, the Treaty of Westminster, with all of the nations arrayed against France on 19 February 1674. King Charles II of England had been forced into making peace with the Dutch United Provinces by the Parliament which returned to session in October 1673.
English Parliament had been enthusiastic about the war at the beginning in 1672. However, a number of events had occurred which, already by February 1673 was beginning to turn Parliament against the war. First, the naval war had not been going well for the English and Parliament was all too aware of how dangerous a war at sea was to the trading interests of England, especially against a strong naval power like the Dutch. Secondly, the opening of the dykes in the Netherlands at the start of the French campaign had a stunning effect on Parliament. With the Netherlands flooded the French campaign on the ground would grind to a halt and the Dutch could devote all their attention to the naval campaign against England. Thirdly, the prospects of the French winning the war became even worse when in August 1673, both the Holy Roman Empire and Spain entered the alliance against the French. Fourthly, the religious issue, once again, raised its head in England when King Charles allowed his resolutely papist brother, James, the Duke of York and direct heir to the throne of England, to marry the Catholic princess Mary of Modena. Parliament found this wedding to be obnoxious to its Protestant sensibilities and demanded an immediate withdrawal of the King Charles's Declaration of Indulgence. By this Indulgence issued by King Charles on 15 March 1672, Catholics in England had been allowed to worship freely and openly. Now Parliament required the withdrawal of this Indulgence, as a condition of any further funds being voted for the war. Indeed feelings were running so high against any attempt to return England to Catholicism, that Parliament also demanded a Test Act be instituted in England which would prevent any Catholic from holding public office in England. Accordingly, King Charles was required to yield to the will of Parliament on both of these measures to obtain funds to support the English troops still involved in the war. In the end, through the mediation of Spain, England eventually signed a peace treaty with the Dutch on 19 February 1674. This peace treaty ended England's official involvement in the war. However, about 6,000 English soldiers remained on the continent and joined the French army and continued to fight in the war under the pay of French. Among these English troops was John Churchill (as noted above—the future Duke of Marlborough).
Meanwhile in the North American colony of New France, Jurriaen Aernoutsz, a Dutch navy captain from Curaçao, conquered the capital of Acadia in 1674, renaming the colony New Holland. Although the Dutch never fully gained control of the territory, they continued to claim sovereignty over Acadia on paper, for the duration of the war, even appointing Cornelius Van Steenwyk as its nominal governor. In actual practice, however, the territory remained under French control. By the time of the Treaty of Nijmegen, however, the Dutch claim to Acadia was simply abandoned. In 1673, during their war against England, the Dutch also occupied New York City, which had formerly been the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, and renamed in New Orange, but returned it to the English when the English left the war.
Marshal Turenne spent the winter of 1673–1674 in Alsace and the Palatinate. Quartering these French soldiers over the entire winter was so unpopular with the local populace that the Elector of the Palatinate joined the Imperial forces which were allied against France. Marshal Turenne began the summer campaign on 12 June 1674 with 6,000 cavalry, 2,000 infantry and 6 cannon. Among these troops were the 6,000 English troops, noted above, who had stayed on the continent and who, including John Churchill, were now in the pay of the French as part of the French army. Churchill was now attached to the French forces under the command of Marshall Turenne. Indeed, the twenty-four year old Churchill was now in charge of an entire regiment of English troops. To make his new command official, however, Churchill needed to be raised to the rank of colonel. The suggestion for this promotion within the ranks came from his fellow English officers, largely the Duke of Monmouth. Because Churchill and all other English soldiers on the continent were now officially part of the French army, he needed to be presented at Versailles and receive the personal approval of King Louis XIV before he could receive his colonelcy. The appointment of Churchill as colonel in the French army was granted on 3 April 1674.
Marshall Turenne marched his army toward Philippsburg where the crossed the Rhine on 14 June 1674. Marshal Turenne hoped to strike General Enea Caprara and the Duke Charles IV of Lorraine before they could be reinforced by the Imperial (Holy Roman Empire) army under the command of Field Marshal Alexander von Bournonville. Turenne's forces met Imperial (Holy Roman Empire) troops on 16 June 1674 on a piece of high ground just across the Elsenz stream near the town of Sinsheim. The Battle of Sinsheim was a complete victory for Marshal Turenne, but the Imperial troops had delayed Turenne long enough to allow Bournonville's army to reinforce the forces of General Caprara and the Duke of Lorraine at Heidelberg.
Thus, Turenne marched right up to the gates of Heidelberg but was eventually forced to retreat back across the Rhine river. There on the west bank of the Rhine, near Neustadt, Turenne was reinforced with fresh troops. Memories of the Battle of Sinzheim, however, served Turenne well. As he approached the Neckar river and made ready to cross the river, Imperial troops on the other side fled in a precipitous retreat that exposed the whole of the Palatinate to Turenne's French army. Bournonville's Imperial army marched south and captured the neutral city of Strasbourg. He was now able to use this city as a base to march into the heart of Alsace. First, however, Bournonville waited to link up with the 20,000 man army of the elector of Brandenburg which was marching toward him. Turenne was determined to strike at Bournonville prior to the arrival of the 20,000 Brandenburg-Prussian troops. Accordingly, Marshal Turenne marched his army all night on 2–3 October 1674 to reach the town of Molsheim. On 4 October 1674, Turenne left his army's baggage at Molsheim to advance against the Bournonville's Imperial army. Turenne surprised the Imperial troops as they were lining up behind the town of Entzheim. Even as he observed the Imperial troops, Turenne noticed that the left wing of the Imperial troop formation was moving forward into a small wooded area. Marshal Turenne recognised this as a key position. Turenne, immediately, ordered troops of his right wing under the command of brigadier Louis-Francois, marquis of Boufflers into the woods to capture the position before the Imperial troops had an opportunity to establish themselves in the woods. Among the troops that made up Marshal Turenne's right wing was battalion of troops (now made up of three regiments) led by John Churchill. In the attack, Churchill would very nearly succeed in clearing the entire woods of Imperial troops before Bournonville brought up artillery on the flank of the woods and forced Churchill out of the woods.
Also in 1674, there was fighting along the Pyrenees, as Frederick Hermann von Schomberg led a small French army against the Spanish in Roussillon. Even with the 10,000 more, local militia troops, that King Louis added to Schomberg's army, Schomberg felt himself disadvantaged against the Spanish. The Spanish forces under the command of Spanish General San Germán took Fort Bellegarde on the spine of the Pyrenees. On 19 June 1674, the French suffered another defeat at Maureillas. Things went somewhat better for the French after a revolt by the citizens of Messina, Sicily, against their Spanish overlords about an increase in taxes, required San Germán to hold back a number of his troops to be ready for shipment to Sicily. In 1675, Schomberg was able to retake Fort Bellegarde.
By the end of 1675, even those English troops that had been serving in the French armies as mercenaries were being called home. By December 1675, Marlborough and all his troops were in Paris on their way home. Also in 1675, the Great Condé was becoming so incapacitated with gout and other infirmities, that he was unable to carry out all his duties without help. Consequently, Louis was required to raise a new army with a new general. Accordingly, between 5,000–6,000 men were raised and placed under the command of Marshal François-Joseph, marquis of Créqui. In early December 1674, Turenne prepared to go out on this winter campaign. On 29 December 1674, he surprised and smashed the Imperial (Holy Roman Empire) cavalry at Mulhouse. Then, Turenne marched for Colmar where he expected to meet the army of the Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia. Frederick William, the Elector of Bradenburg-Prussia, managed to gather 30,000 to 40,000 of his men out of winter quarters and take up a defence line between Colmar and Turkheim. However, the Brandenburg-Prussian army still had not gelled in place on 5 January 1674, when Turenne attacked with 30,000 French troops. Turenne feigned an attack to the right and then to the center, while hidden by the terrain, some of his infantry moved around to the left and took the town of Turkheim on the flank of the Brandenburg-Prussian army. The Brandenburg army attempted to retake the town of Turkheim, but the attempt was defeated under heavy fire from the French and an infantry charge. The Brandenberg-Prussian army retreated back to Strasbourg and crossed over to the east bank of the Rhine.
The Spanish army had been attempting to retake the fortress at Maastricht ever since it had fallen to the French in June 1673. Recognizing that the neutral city of Liège was a key point along the supply line to the fortress at Maastricht, the Spanish had been attempting to convince the government in the city to join the anti-French coalition in the war. The Spanish had even tried to support an anti-French uprising in January 1674 against the government of Liège. To increase the pressure on Liège in 1674, the Spanish took military control of the neighbouring cities of Huy and Dinant. Finally on 31 March 1675, just when an anti-French uprising seemed most imminent, the French sent a garrison of 1,500 soldiers to Liège. To secure the entire supply route to the fortress at Maastricht, King Louis started out on 11 May 1675, to join his army marching down the Sambre river to its mouth on the Meuse River and then down the Meuse to Maastricht. Along the way, the large French army retook the small towns of Dinant, after a siege from 21–29 May 1675. and Huy, after a siege from 31 May until 6 June 1675. Likewise the town of Limbourg was taken by the French after a siege lasting from 13 June until 21 June 1675. Meanwhile Marshal Turenne was trying to protect the Alsace from invasion by an Imperial army under General Montecuccoli. On 27 July 1675, Marshal Turenne caught Montecuccoli's army at Sasbach. However, during an Imperial artillery barrage, a cannonball landed among a buch of French officers and Marshal Turenne was killed. There were two other significant changes in the cast of military leaders during the year. On 17 August 1675, Charles IV, the duke of Lorraine died. He was succeeded by his son, Charles V, Duke of Lorraine. At the end of the campaign season the Great Condé was forced to retire from all military duties because of his infirmities and he died on 11 December 1676.
In the last three years of the war, from 1676 through 1678 there was more siege activity than field battles. Furthermore, all the activity of the last three years achieved little change from what had already been achieved by the end of 1675. Louis XIV had largely gone over to the defense in his aims for the war. However, there also were some noteworthy naval actions in 1676. On 2 June 1676, the French navy under Louis-Victor Vivonne, duke de Rochechouart attacked and destroyed a Dutch fleet near Palermo. By this naval victory France, temporarily, achieved naval supremacy in the Mediterranean. In the previous naval action, Dutch admiral De Ruyter had already been killed during the inconclusive battle of Augusta against a French fleet on 22 April 1676.
By 1678, Louis, once again, managed to break apart his opponents' coalition (as he had done to the Triple Alliance in 1670 in preparation for this current war). However, Louis continued to be worried that the nations of Europe might still consolidate against him. In October 1677, Mary Stuart, daughter of James Stuart, the future King James II of England had married William III of Orange, current the Stadtholder of the Dutch United Provinces. This was an ominous sign of a rapprochement between the Dutch and the English. So, Louis was in a hurry to shore up his military position before England re-entered the war, this time against France, rather than as France's ally. Accordingly, the summer campaign of 1678 began very early in the spring. King Louis moved the French army into the Spanish Netherlands and besieged Ghent on 1 March 1678. Louis was afraid that the anti-French parliament in England would act any day to force King Charles II of England back into the war. Ghent fell to the French on 10 March 1678. The French army, then, moved on toward Ypres and besieged that town on 15 March 1678. Ypres, surrendered to the French on 26 March 1678.
The victories at Ghent and Ypres had gained Louis a strong bargaining position for France at the peace talks. France gained considerable territories under the terms of the Treaty of Nijmegen which was signed By the Dutch and France on 10 August 1678. Most notably, the French acquired the Franche-Comté and various territories in the Southern Netherlands from the Spanish. Nevertheless, the Dutch had thwarted the ambitions of two of the major royal dynasties of the time: the Stuarts and the Bourbons.
The war marked the beginning of a rivalry between two powerful men in Europe: William III (who would later invade England in support of the claim of his wife, Queen Mary II, to the English throne as part of the "Glorious Revolution") and Louis XIV. They, along with their respective allies, would be pitted against each other in a series of wars in the years that followed.
1678, peace and consequences
In 1678 Louis continued his conquests at the expense of the Spanish Netherlands, capturing Ghent and Ypres (25 March). The talks progressed in Nijmegen, but were thwarted by the French decision to protect Swedish interests. But with a new French victory in July, the United Provinces signed the Peace of Nijmegen in August 1678. Other peace treaties are signed with the other contenders in the coming months, where the decadent Spain would come out defeated, losing to France the Franche-Comté and most of the various captured cities of the Spanish Netherlands. The United Provinces, which ran the risk of being wiped out in 1672, could celebrate the reduction of some tariffs in its trade with France. Sweden, whose military tradition was not sufficient to stop the rise of Berlin, managed to leave the conflict with territorial losses negligible. Although the outcome was at first glance inconclusive, it would have great importance for the events of the next 40 years. France, which in the final years of the war fought almost alone against a powerful coalition, left the episode as a great military power of continental Europe. Following the war, Louis XIV began to be referred to as the "Sun King." Following the war, the United Provinces started to show signs of decay. Its pre-eminence as a naval power would eventually be ceded to England. Ruled by William of Orange after the Glorious Revolution, England was to become the sworn enemy of France. Spain and Sweden, shy participants in this conflict, lost importance and would suffer great territorial losses in the following decades.
The song "Auprès de ma blonde" or "Le Prisonnier de Hollande" ("The Prisoner of Holland"), in which a French woman grieves for her beloved who is held prisoner by the Dutch, appeared during or soon after the Franco-Dutch War – reflecting the contemporary situation of French sailors and soldiers being imprisoned in the Netherlands.
Chronological list of key events
- 1672 – Battle of Sole Bay (7 June – Third Anglo-Dutch War)
- 1673 – Battle of Schooneveld ( 7 and 14 June – Third Anglo-Dutch War)
- 1673 – Siege of Maastricht (13 – 26 June)
- 1673 – Battle of Texel (21 August – Third Anglo-Dutch War)
- 1673 – Siege of Bonn (end of October – 15 November)
- 1673 – Siege of Werl
- 1673 – Battle of Heringen
- 1674 – Occupation of Acadia
- 1674 – Siege of Besançon (April – May)
- 1674 – Battle of Sinsheim (or Sinzheim) (16 June)
- 1674 – Battle of Ladenburg (7 July)
- 1674 – Battle of Seneffe (11 August)
- 1674 – Battle of Enzheim (4 October)
- 1674 – Battle of Mulhouse (under Muehlhausen) (29 December)
- 1675 – Battle of Turckheim (5 January)
- 1675 – Battle of Fehrbellin (28 June – Brandenburg-Swedish War)
- 1675 – Battle of Nieder Sasbach (27 July)
- 1675 – Battle of Konzer Brücke (11 August)
- 1676 – Battle Alicudi (8 January)
- 1676 – Battle of Messina (25 March)
- 1676 – Battle of Golfo di Augusta (22 April)
- 1676 – Battle of Jasmund (25 May – Danish-Swedish (Scanian) War of 1675–1679)
- 1676 – Battle of Öland (11 June – Scanian War of 1675–1679)
- 1676 – Battle of Palermo (2 June)
- 1676 – Battle of Halmstad (17 August – Scanian War of 1675–1679)
- 1676 – Battle of Lund (4 December – Scanian War of 1675–1679)
- 1677 – Siege of Valenciennes (28 February – 17 March)
- 1677 – Siege of Cambrai (28 March – 17 April)
- 1677 – Battle of Cassel (11 April)
- 1677 – Battle of Køge Bay (1 July – Scanian War of 1675–1679)
- 1677 – Battle of Landskrona (24 July – Scanian War of 1675–1679)
- 1677 – Battle of Kochersberg (7 October)
- 1678 – Siege of Offenburg
- 1678 – Siege of Ypres (18 – 25 March)
- 1678 – Battle of Rheinfelden (6 July)
- 1678 – Battle of Gengenbach (23 July)
- 1678 – Battle of Saint-Denis (14 August)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Franco-Dutch War.|
- War of Devolution (1667–68)
- War of the League of Augsburg or the War of the Grand Alliance (1688–97)
- War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14)
- For the "Dutch wars" of England, see Anglo–Dutch Wars
- For the quadruple alliance of 1718–1720, see War of the Quadruple Alliance
- Second Genoese-Savoyard War (1672–1673)
- Scanian War (1675–79)
- Auprès de ma blonde (French song derived from this war)
- Wars and battles involving Prussia
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