Battle of Entzheim

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Battle of Entzheim
Part of Franco-Dutch War
Date4 October 1674
Location
Result Inconclusive, French strategic victory
Belligerents
 France  Holy Roman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of France Vicomte de Turenne Holy Roman Empire Alexander von Bournonville
Strength
22,000
30 guns
38,000
50 guns
Casualties and losses
3,500, killed, wounded and missing 3,000 - 4,000 killed, wounded and missing [1]

The Battle of Entzheim took place on 4 October 1674 during the 1672-1678 Franco-Dutch War, near Entzheim in modern Alsace, between a French army under Turenne and an Imperial force led by Alexander von Bournonville. The battle was inconclusive but Turenne achieved a strategic victory by preventing a far superior force from invading Eastern France.

Background[edit]

Marshall Turenne, considered the best French general of his time; a Protestant who served with the Dutch from 1625-1635

During the 1667-1668 War of Devolution, France captured most of the Spanish Netherlands but under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, it was forced to relinquish most of these gains by the Triple Alliance between the Dutch Republic, England and Sweden.[2]

Louis XIV now moved to break up the Alliance before making another attempt on the Spanish Netherlands. In return for large subsidies, Sweden would remain neutral but also attack its regional rival, Brandenburg-Prussia if it attempted to intervene. In 1670, Charles II of England signed the Treaty of Dover, agreeing to an alliance with France against the Dutch, and the provision of 6,000 English and Scottish troops for the French army.[3] It contained a number of secret provisions, not revealed until 1771, one being the payment by Louis to Charles of £230,000 per year for the services of this Brigade.[4]

When France invaded the Dutch Republic in May 1672, it seemed at first that they had achieved an overwhelming victory. However, by July the Dutch position had stabilised, while concern at French gains brought them support from Frederick William of Brandenburg-Prussia, Emperor Leopold and Charles II of Spain.[5] In August 1672, an Imperial army entered the Rhineland and Louis was forced into another war of attrition around the French frontiers.[6]

The French army in Germany was led by Turenne, (1611-1675), considered the greatest general of the period.[7] Over the next two years, he won a series of victories over superior Imperial forces led by Alexander von Bournonville and Raimondo Montecuccoli, the one commander contemporaries considered his equal.[8] After 1673, it became a defensive campaign, whose objectives were to retain French gains in the Rhineland and prevent Imperial forces linking up with the Dutch. France was over-extended, a problem increased when Denmark joined the Alliance in January, 1674, while in February, England made peace with the Dutch Republic by the Treaty of Westminster.[9]

Bridge over the Rhine, Strasbourg; the Imperial army was allowed to cross in September, 1674

While the main campaign of 1674 was fought in Flanders, an Imperial army opened a second front in Alsace.[10] In September, Alexander von Bournonville was allowed to cross the Rhine at Strasbourg, with over 40,000 men, a diplomatic coup for Emperor Leopold; despite being a Free Imperial city and technically part of the Holy Roman Empire, the city had previously been neutral and its bridge was a major crossing point. Bournonville expected to be joined by another 20,000 men led by Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg; once the two combined, they would overwhelm the smaller French army and invade eastern France.[11]

Although England had left the war, Turenne's army of 22,000 contained a significant number of English regiments, encouraged to remain in French service to ensure Charles continued to be paid for them.[12] These were prominently involved in this campaign and its members included the Duke of Monmouth and John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough.[13]

The campaign that started in June 1674 and ended with his death in July 1675 has been described as 'Turenne's most brilliant campaign.'[14] Despite being heavily out-numbered, he decided to engage Bournonville before he could be reinforced; to achieve surprise, he marched south to Molsheim during the night of October 2–3. From this position, the French threatened lines of communication between Strasbourg and Bournonville's army of 38,000 men outside Entzheim; on the morning of 4 October, the French advanced on Entzheim, covered by a thick mist that gave way to rain.[15]

The battle[edit]

As the French arrived, each army formed into two lines, with infantry in the centre and cavalry on the wings; Turenne also placed a cavalry reserve behind each line, and posted small units of musketeers to cover the gaps between his cavalry squadrons. Entzheim lay between the armies, in front of Bournonville's centre, with a vineyard, backed by woods, to the east; a forested area known as the Little Wood, and a ravine just to its south protected the Imperial left.[16]

French dragoons; Louis Francois de Boufflers led these into the assault on the Little Wood

Both sides recognised the importance of the Little Wood; Turenne sent eight battalions of infantry to assault it, in the face of a sustained Imperial artillery barrage. The future Marshall of France, Louis Francois de Boufflers, led his dragoons into the attack but rain and mud impeded the French artillery as it tried to move forward. Bournonville responded to the French assault by transferring most of the infantry from his second line and reserve, while Turenne reinforced the attack with three battalions from his first line and the cavalry of his right wing. The French managed to take Little Wood, but were then ejected by an Imperial counterattack.[17]

Seeing the French centre weakened by the transfer of so many units towards the wood, Bournonville launched his cavalry against what he hoped were two weak points in the French line. Part of the Imperial horse attacked the seven battalions in the centre of the French first line, while the rest under Count Aeneas de Caprara engaged the French cavalry on the left wing. The French infantry formed "in order to face all sides, with an unequalled silence," and held off the Imperial cavalry; Caprara's attack drove in the first line of the French cavalry but the second and reserve lines countercharged, forcing him back to the starting line.[18]

The battle threatened to descend into stalemate, until the French captured the Little Wood, Churchill being one of those involved; although field works blocked a further French advance, the Imperial left flank was now in peril. After a series of cavalry attacks on the French centre and left failed, Bournonville ordered a retreat, having sustained around 3,000 - 4,000 casualties.[19] The Imperials entered winter quarters near Colmar but Turenne did not pursue him; he had lost over 3,500 men, while his troops were exhausted and in need of refitting and instead he moved north to Haguenau.[20]

Aftermath[edit]

As both armies retreated after the battle, Entzheim was a tactical draw but a strategic French victory. Despite vastly superior numbers, Bournonville was prevented from entering French-held territory and by taking up winter quarters, he demonstrated the 1674 campaign was over.[20]

The campaign that started in June 1674 and ended with his death in 1675, has been described as ' possibly Turenne's most brilliant campaign.'[21] Significantly outnumbered, he used stealth and boldness to fight the Imperial army to a standstill at Entzheim; with his enemy now inactive, he was able to plan the winter movement that would culminate in decisive victory at the Battle of Turckheim.[22]

Entzheim remains a small village, but most of the battlefield now lies beneath Strasbourg International Airport.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Clodfelter, Micheal (2008). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1494-2007. McFarland & Co;. p. 46. ISBN 978-0786433193.
  2. ^ Lynn, John (1996). The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667-1714 (Modern Wars In Perspective). Longman. p. 109. ISBN 978-0582056299.
  3. ^ Lynn 1999, p. 109-110.
  4. ^ J. P. Kenyon, The History Men. The Historical Profession in England since the Renaissance. Second Edition (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1993), pp. 67-68.
  5. ^ Smith, Rhea (1965). Spain; A Modern History. University of Michigan Press. p. 200. ISBN 978-0472071500.
  6. ^ Lynn 1999, p. 117.
  7. ^ "Turenne 1611-1675". Musée virtuel du Protestantisme. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  8. ^ Guthrie, William (2003). The Later Thirty Years War: From the Battle of Wittstock to the Treaty of Westphalia (Contributions in Military Studies). Praeger. p. 239. ISBN 978-0313324086.
  9. ^ Davenport, Frances (1917). "European Treaties bearing on the History of the United States and its Dependencies". p. 238. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  10. ^ Chandler, 1980, 40.
  11. ^ Chandler, 1984, 7; Lynn, 1999, 110-111, 131.
  12. ^ Kenyon 1993, p. 68.
  13. ^ Lynn 1999, p. 121-122.
  14. ^ Clodfelter, Micheal (2008). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1494-2007. McFarland & Co;. p. 46. ISBN 978-0786433193.
  15. ^ Chandler, 1984, 7; John Lynn, 1997, 508; Lynn, 1999, 131.
  16. ^ Chandler, 1980, 40; Lynn, 1997, 533; Lynn, 1999, 131.
  17. ^ Chandler, 1984, 7; Chandler, 1980, 40; Black, 1996, 90; Lynn, 1999, 132.
  18. ^ Lynn, 1999, 132.
  19. ^ Clodfelter, Micheal (2008). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1494-2007. McFarland & Co;. p. 46. ISBN 978-0786433193.
  20. ^ a b Chandler, 1980, 40; Lynn, 1999 132.
  21. ^ Clodfelter, Micheal (2008). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1494-2007. McFarland & Co;. p. 46. ISBN 978-0786433193.
  22. ^ Lynn, 1999, 127.

References[edit]

Black, Jeremy. The Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: Renaissance to Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Chandler, David. Atlas of Military Strategy. New York: the Free Press, 1980.

Chandler, David. Marlborough as Military Commander. Staplehurst, Kent: Spellmount, 1984.

Lynn, John. Giant of the Grand Siecle: The French Army 1610-1715. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Lynn, John. The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667-1714. London, New York: Longman, 1999.

Coordinates: 48°32′07″N 7°38′17″E / 48.5353°N 7.6381°E / 48.5353; 7.6381