Ten Days' Campaign
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|Ten Days' Campaign|
|Part of the aftermath of the Belgian Revolution|
The Prince of Orange leading the Dutch army in the Battle of Ravels on 3 August 1831.
|Commanders and leaders|
| King William I
Prince William (II)
|Casualties and losses|
The Ten Days' Campaign (Dutch: Tiendaagse Veldtocht, French: Campagne des Dix-Jours) was a failed attempt to suppress the Belgian revolution by the Dutch king William I between 2 and 12 August 1831. The Dutch army invaded Belgium on 2 August, and over the course of the next few days defeated Belgian forces several times in battle and advanced deep into Belgian territory. However, on 8 August, the Belgian government appealed to France for support. Faced with an advancing French army, under Étienne Gérard, the Dutch withdrew.
When the Belgian Revolution began in August 1830, the Dutch army suffered from extensive desertion by South-Netherlanders (Belgians), who were reluctant to serve any longer as they would have to fight their fellow countrymen. Before the war, the northern provinces (which were mainly Protestant) feared for the Catholic majority that was now present in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch government purposely held the Catholic Belgians back. In the army, most officers were Dutch and the bulk of the conscripted recruits came from the south. About two-thirds of the troops stationed in the Southern Netherlands deserted, and the morale of the remaining troops was severely damaged. This, together with the fact that the bulk (and often the best-trained part) of the Dutch military was stationed in its colonies, allowed the Belgian revolutionaries to quickly gain control over what is now Belgium. However, the leaders of the Belgian revolution had grown overconfident because of their early success and had not taken steps to build up a military force of their own.
King William I viewed the failure to suppress the Belgian revolt as a humiliation, and sought an opportunity to retaliate against the rebels. Even if reunification should prove impossible, he wanted to negotiate peace from a position of strength. Therefore, when William learned that the rebels had asked Leopold of Saxe-Coburg to be their king, he began to prepare his invasion.
In 1831, a 50,000-strong Dutch force was built up in Brabant along the Belgian border, allegedly to protect the frontier, under the command of the Prince of Orange (the future King William II). The Belgian army across the border numbered just 24,000, including both regular soldiers and the poorly trained and equipped units of the Garde Civique. The Belgian force was split into two armies, known as the Army of the Meuse and the Army of the Scheldt, under the nominal command of King Leopold I and his Minister of War Amédée de Failly. The Army of the Meuse was based in Limburg while the Army of the Scheldt surrounded the still Dutch-held citadel of Antwerp, however the distance between the two forces was too great and each was effectively cut off.
The military campaign
On the morning of 2 August, 1831, the Dutch crossed the border near Poppel. Belgian scouts noticed the advance, and a number of roads were blocked with felled trees. The first skirmishes took place around Nieuwenkerk. The Dutch supreme commander, the Prince of Orange, arrived in the afternoon to support his troops and, at the same time, Zondereigen was taken by the Dutch, with some 400 Belgians repulsed. Near Ravels, the Belgian army was rapidly driven into the surrounding forests by the Dutch and subsequently into a swamp. The Belgians later retreated to Turnhout, allowing the Dutch to set up camp. The sound of the Dutch artillery alarmed the population of Turnhout, who fled en masse towards Antwerp. The next day a Dutch force of about 11,000 prepared to take Turnhout, while another Dutch corps made a diversion towards Antwerp (in reality they would attack Turnhout from another direction). In the following battle, the Dutch smashed the Belgian forces, whose morale broke down early in the battle when the Belgian banner was torn apart by Dutch artillery and a soldier lost a leg to a cannonball. The Belgians were unable to hold their ground and fled.
On 4 August, the Dutch took Antwerp. The flag of Brabant was taken down and the Dutch flag was hoisted. The Prince of Orange demanded that the flag be taken down again, because it symbolised occupation rather than a restoration of Dutch power. At the same time the Dutch armies split up and moved further into Belgium, defeating numerous militias and two regular Belgian armies with ease. The division led by Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar moved upon Geel and Diest, and the Third division moved into Limburg. On 8 August, the Dutch defeated the Belgian Army of the Meuse near Hasselt. On 11 August the advance guard of the Belgian Army of the Scheldt was defeated near Boutersem. The next day the Dutch army attacked and defeated the Belgians near Leuven.
For the Belgians all seemed lost. However, on 8 August, they asked for French support, despite the request not being formally authorised by the government. A French army under Marshal Étienne Gérard crossed the border the next day. The Dutch had taken a risk by invading Belgium without the support of its allies; Russia had wanted to assist but was having trouble suppressing the Polish revolution, and Prussia would not risk sending troops without Russia being able to secure its western borders; now they faced a possible war with the French. After an intervention by the British, the Dutch halted their advance and a ceasefire was signed on 12 August. The last Dutch troops returned to the Netherlands around 20 August, whilst only Antwerp remained occupied.
Although the Dutch population, especially the Protestants, rejoiced over the victorious campaign against the "Belgian rebels", King William reluctantly accepted that his dream of a United Netherlands was lost. The European powers came to see how fragile Belgium was, and at the final peace negotiations, the final division was favourable to the Dutch.
The King of the Netherlands, refusing to abandon the citadel at Antwerp, ordered the Dutch General David Hendrik Chassé to hold it at all costs. From the citadel, Chassé bombarded the city of Antwerp, setting fire to hundreds of homes and causing many casualties among the civilian population. The result was a second intervention by the Northern Army of Marshal Gérard, who returned to Belgium on 15 November 1832, to besiege the citadel of Antwerp. This resulted in the participation of Belgian volunteers, who until then had been kept out of combat. The French commander had wanted to conduct the siege alone, fearing the volunteers would spread the idea of revolution beyond the borders of Belgium.
In the years after the Ten Days' Campaign, the Belgian army improved its organised, training, and equipment. They fought mainly along the Scheldt. By preventing the Dutch from blowing up the levees and attacking the Dutch fleet, which was providing assistance to Antwerp, Belgium thwarted attempts to rescue the city. It fell after 24 days under the direction of the French general of Engineers, General François Haxo. General Chassé surrendered on 23 December saying he and his army had done enough.
In Histoire de Belgique, the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne argued that, despite acts of individual bravery, "the weakness of the resistance was such that the advance of the victors almost resembled a military parade." Nevertheless, Pirenne considered that campaign illustrated the strengths of the new country, pointing out that, despite visible weakness of the Belgian state, the campaign was not followed by a resurgence of Orangism or demands to unify with France.
- Pirenne, Henri (1948). Histoire de Belgique. VII: De la Révolution de 1830 à la Guerre de 1914 (2nd ed.). Brussels: Maurice Lamertin.
- "1830, De Geboorte van België – Van Willem I tot Leopold I". Knack special (in Dutch) (Roeselare: Roularta Media Group). 6 September 2005.
- E.H. Kossmann (1984). De Lage Landen 1780–1940. Anderhalve eeuw Nederland en België (in Dutch). Amsterdam/Brussel: Elsevier. ISBN 90-10-01513-0.
- Els Witte (2006). De Constructie van België, 1828–1847 (in Dutch). Lannoo. ISBN 90-209-6678-2.
- Helmut Gaus (2007). Alexandre Gendebien en de organisatie van de Belgische revolutie van 1830 (in Dutch). Gent: Academia Press. ISBN 90-382-1173-2.
- Media related to Ten days campaign at Wikimedia Commons