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24 July 1712 : Unexpected victory of Villars at Denain

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Vergennes, Oct 28, 2017.

  1. Vergennes

    Vergennes Strategist Staff Member MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    On July 24, 1712, Marshal-Duke Claude de Villars wins at Denain an unexpected victory over the Austro-Dutch commanded by Prince Eugene.

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    The battle of the last chance

    Located on the Scheldt, in the French Hainaut, between Douai and Valenciennes, Denain is a strong place from which the coalition forces against France threatened Landrecies, France's last stronghold before ... Paris. They are strong of 130,000 men.

    To put an end to the never-ending war of the Succession of Spain, Louis XIV entrusted his last army to the Duke of Villars. A total of 70,000 men. The 72-year-old sovereign, overwhelmed by mourning and military setbacks, made at Marly, on April 16, 1712, a moving farewell to his old Marshal, who was already 59 years old.

    Villars learned from a diplomatic source that Prince Eugene, who commanded the enemy forces, planned an attack on 31 July. He warned the Grand Pensionary of Holland,Heinsius. At the same time, the English Parliament and Queen Anne were eager to put an end to the expenses and would be prepared to make peace with France. ..... These dissensions were going to serve the French.

    Meanwhile, the allies were besieging Le Quesnoy, between the Scheldt to the west and the Sambre to the east. The stronghold surrendered on July 3 without excessive resistance ("shamefully" to the Marshal's words). On 18 July, desirous of hastening the battle, Villars deployed his army on the left bank (west) of the Scheldt. But Prince Eugene prefers to consolidate his positions by making the siege of the last stronghold to resist him, Landrecies, on the Sambre.

    By a bold plan, which he only gradually unfolded to his staff, the Marshal sent his army through the Sambre at night, pretending making his way towards Landrecies. On the 21st and 22nd of July Prince Eugene rejoined without waiting for the stronghold with his infantry. But Marshal de Villars left Landrecies on his right, crossed the Scheldt very quickly, and attacked on the north side the intrenched camp of Denain, defended by only 17 battalions, ie 14,000 men. Marshal Pierre de Montesquiou (72) led the operation with 40 battalions (more than 30,000 men).

    The French army, arranged on four lines, advanced on the entrenchments, whilst the army of Prince Eugene arrived in all haste. Under the enemy's salvos, the marshal accompanied by his dragoons descends into the ditches and leads a bayonet charge. Surprised and disconcerted, the Austro-Dutch retreat in disorder and left no less than 10,000 men on the ground.

    Villars organized the pursuit of the enemy, captured a last pocket of resistance on 30 July at Marchiennes, and deployed his army along the Scheldt. The coalition must evacuate the Hainault and also the Flanders. They left 2000 dead on the ground and 7,500 prisoners (including 4,500 at Marchiennes). The French deplore 500 killed and 1000 wounded.

    By his victory, the Marshal saved in extremis France from the invasion. It also allowed King Louis XIV to conclude honorably the negotiations opened in Utrecht six months earlier.

    Late Recognition

    Almost sixty years old, Marshal Claude de Villars enjoyed a late recognition. Delayed in his advancement by the hostility of Minister Louvois and by the soldiers of the court, who reproached him for his propensity to plundering, the Marshal had to wait for the war of the Spanish Succession to prove his talents. First he gained a reputation alongside Catinat by winning brilliant victories beyond the Rhine at Friedlingen in 1702 and then at Hochstaedt (or Höchstädt) the following year.

    His first successes earned him the title of Marshal ... by his soldiers, on the battlefield of Friedlingen before Louis XIV ratified their choice! Lacking of luck, he was stopped from his triumphal march by the King himself, who recalled him and sent him to the Cévennes to repress an insurrection of the Protestant Camisards. He fulfilled his mission by showing a moderation in repression.

    In 1704, when the French were beaten at Hochstaedt, Villars rushed into catastrophe and had just managed to save Alsace from the invasion. Entrenched in Malplaquet, in Flanders, he had to give way to the Anglo-Austrian troops of Marlborough and Prince Eugene. But before ordering the retreat on September 11, 1709, he inflicted such losses on the enemy that the latter must renounce to pursue the invasion of France.

    Seriously wounded in the knee during the battle, he was offered a pleasant convalescence to the castle of Versailles and the King made him on this occasion Peer of France.

    Finally peace

    Recovering from his wound, the Marshal re-took the arms. Thus he won the decisive victory of Denain, not far from Malplaquet, at the canonical age of 59 years. This victory puts an end to a European conflict lasting for more than a decade.

    Without waiting for the end of military operations, European diplomats met in Congress in Utrecht on January 29, 1712, and they awaited the fate of arms to complete the peace negotiations.

    Strengthened by the success of Villars, the Sun King, exhausted and aged, can finally sign the peace treaty. As for the hero of the day, he will end his career with honors, with the title of Marshal-General whom Louis XIV,had awarded before him only to Turenne. He died octogenarian in 1734 on the return of a campaign in Italy.

    https://www.herodote.net/24_juillet_1712-evenement-17120724.php
     
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  2. Vergennes

    Vergennes Strategist Staff Member MILITARY STRATEGIST

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