Siege of Maastricht (1673)

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This article is about a siege in 1673 during the Franco-Dutch War. For a siege during the Eighty Years' War, see Siege of Maastricht (1579). For a siege during the War of the Austrian Succession, see Siege of Maastricht (1748).
Siege of Maastricht
Part of the Franco-Dutch War
Adam Frans van der Meulen - Louis XIV Arriving in the Camp in front of Maastricht - WGA15110.jpg
Louis XIV of France (on a white horse) in the camp in front of the besieged city of Maastricht.
Date 13 –26 June 1673
Location Maastricht, Netherlands
Result French victory
Belligerents
 France  Dutch Republic
 Spain
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of France Louis XIV
Kingdom of France Sebastien Vauban
Dutch Republic Jacques de Fariaux
Strength
24,000 infantry
16,000 cavalry
58 guns
5,000 infantry
1,200 cavalry
Casualties and losses
Unknown 6,000 dead, wounded, or captured

The Siege of Maastricht (11 – 30 June 1673) ended when Jacques de Fariaux, the governor of the Dutch garrison, surrendered to an army under the command of Louis XIV during the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678).

Prelude[edit]

The siege was one of the key elements in King Louis XIV's plans to attack the Netherlands, in order to revenge the humiliating conditions enforced on him by the Triple Alliance when he tried to fully conquer the Spanish Netherlands.

After making a feint for Ghent and Brussels, Louis marched his army past Maastricht, a condominium of the United Provinces and the Bishopric of Liège, in May 1672, not bothering to take the fortress. In 1673, when his supply lines became threatened he decided to capture Maastricht; the siege began on 11 June. The city would be the first major city to be attacked by Sebastien Vauban, the master of siegecraft in his time.

Siege[edit]

D'Artagnan's statue in Maastricht.[a]

In addition to firing upon the city walls with cannon, Vauban ordered the building of trenches, in a zigzag pattern, parallel to the walls before the Tongre Gate on the night of 17-18 June 1673. These trenches made it more difficult for the defenders from having a clear shot at the attackers and, in addition, allowed for the protection of military miners to allow them to reach the base of the fortifications and plant mines to make a breach. By 25 June the allies were ready to assault a hornwork and ravelin in front ot the gate.

24 June was the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, and so Louis attempted to finish conquering the city in time to celebrate Mass in Maastricht's cathedral. The trenches were completed, the King's Regiment, and the Company of the Grey Musketeers led the march into the city, under the command of Captain-Lieutenant Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, also known as le compte (count) d'Artagnan. The French, after some difficult fighting, crossed the moat and seized a crescent-shaped fortification which would become the scene of the toughest fighting of the siege.

Most of the French were driven out by Spanish auxiliaries soon afterwards, but about 30 men held out the entire night. The Duke of Monmouth (commander of the English forces fighting on the French side), was colonel of The Blues, and trench general. The serving battalion officer, Sir Henry Jones, formerly a catholic exile, was like the Anglicans enraged at having to fight fellow protestants. Moreover half their contingent were Dutchmen, pledged to go into battle against their countrymen.[1] Unsurprisingly, they refused to fight, and resorted to rounding up deserters; Jones recruited his own regiment (the English Regiment of Light Horse in France), yet was killed in the siege.[2] Until that time, Monmouth was accompanied by a young Captain John Churchill (the future Duke of Marlborough),[3] tried to take a covered road protecting the moat, and withdrew after suffering the loss of 300 men. It was Captain Churchill who planted a flag on the outwork.

The next morning the allies awoke to the sound of a Frenchman in Dutch service, Jacques de Fariaaux recapturing the ravelin. This was a half-moon shaped demi-lune, used to keep attackers out of the bastion. The hornwork or crownwork was a spiky plan covered every angle of approach.

When the Duke of Monmouth rallied his troops to a second assault, they were driven back once more, and Comte d'Artagnan was killed, but the duke "did the part of a much older and more experienced general".[b] But Fariaux realized that Vauban siege artillery techniques were too overwhelming, and capitulated on terms on 30 June 1673. On 1 July the survivors of the garrison march out of the city with full military honours and safe conduct to the nearest Dutch garrison.[4] The unpopular war led to the disbandment of most regimental battalions raised, and the Treaty of Westminster in February 1674.[5]

Aftermath[edit]

When the Treaty of Nijmegen ended the war between France and the Dutch, Maastricht was returned to the Dutch, though Louis kept a number of Habsburg cities. What is generally regarded as more significant about this battle were the revolutionary advances in siegecraft engineered by Vauban.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ D'Artagnan, captain of the Musketeers of the Guard, died at the siege of Maastricht. An embellished account of the event concludes the third and final of the d'Artagnan Romances by Alexandre Dumas: The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later.
  2. ^ Winston Churchill quotes letter from Colonel Lord Alington to Lord Arlington (SP 78/137 f. 142) and notes that "Confusion between Alington and Arlington has led to errors in many books" (Churchill 2002, p. 91).
  1. ^ Thompson 1878, p. 71; Childs 2013, p. 178; White-Spunner 2006, p. 57
  2. ^ White-Spunner 2006, p. 56-57.
  3. ^ Konstam 2011, p. 7.
  4. ^ Duffy 1985, p. 10.
  5. ^ White-Spunner 2006, p. 57.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Davis, Paul K. (2001), Besieged: 100 Great Sieges from Jericho to Sarajevo, Oxford University Press 
  • Holmes, Richard (2008), Marlborough: England's Fragile Genius, Harper Press, p. 65-77, ISBN 978-0-00-722571-2 
  • Siege of Maastricht, fortified-places.com 

Coordinates: 50°51′N 5°41′E / 50.850°N 5.683°E / 50.850; 5.683