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Battle of Fleurus (1690)

Battle of Fleurus (1690)

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The Battle of Fleurus, fought on 1 July 1690, was a major engagement of the Nine Years' War. In a bold envelopment the Duc de Luxembourg, commanding Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

’s army of some 35,000 men, soundly defeated Prince Waldeck
Prince Georg Friedrich of Waldeck
Prince Georg Friedrich of Waldeck was a German and Dutch Field Marshal .In 1641, Waldeck entered the service of the States-General of the Netherlands; later in 1651, in the service of Brandenburg, he reached the highest rank as minister...

’s Allied force of approximately 38,000 men comprising mainly Dutch, German, and Spanish troops. Despite suffering some 6,000 casualties, the battle was a clear victory for the French commander; yet typical of the period it proved far from decisive. Although the French War Minister, Louvois
François-Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois
François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois was the French Secretary of State for War for a significant part of the reign of Louis XIV. Louvois and his father, Michel le Tellier, would increase the French Army to 400,000 soldiers, an army that would fight four wars between 1667 and 1713...

, wished to press ahead and secure further success, King Louis overruled him and ordered Luxembourg to reinforce the Dauphin’s army on the Rhine and forego any major siege. The Allies, meanwhile, withdrew to Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 to recover and rebuild their army.

Background


In 1690 the main theatre of the Nine Years’ War moved to the Spanish Netherlands. Command of French forces now passed to the talented Marshal Luxembourg (a position he would keep until his death in 1695), superseding Marshal Humières
Louis de Crevant, Duke of Humières
Louis de Crévant, Duc d'Humières was a Marshal of France and Governor of Compiègne, Bourbonnais and Lille.He was present at the Battle of the Dunes, and participated in the Franco-Dutch war under Turenne. He was made Marshal of France in 1668...

 who had suffered defeat at the Battle of Walcourt
Battle of Walcourt
The Battle of Walcourt was fought on 25 August 1689 during the Nine Years' War. The action took place near the ancient walled town of Walcourt near Charleroi in the Spanish Netherlands, and brought to a close a summer of uneventful marching, manoeuvring, and foraging...

 the previous year. Luxembourg's army consisted of 34 battalions and 94 squadrons; if necessary he could call upon support from Marshal Boufflers
Louis François, duc de Boufflers
Louis François, Duc de Boufflers, Comte de Cagny was a Marshal of France....

’ forces on the Moselle
Moselle River
The Moselle is a river flowing through France, Luxembourg, and Germany. It is a left tributary of the Rhine, joining the Rhine at Koblenz. A small part of Belgium is also drained by the Mosel through the Our....

.

Once again King William
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 entrusted Allied forces in the region to Prince Waldeck (William was himself busy in Ireland
Williamite war in Ireland
The Williamite War in Ireland—also called the Jacobite War in Ireland, the Williamite-Jacobite War in Ireland and in Irish as Cogadh an Dá Rí —was a conflict between Catholic King James II and Protestant King William of Orange over who would be King of England, Scotland and Ireland...

 forestalling King James'
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 attempt to regain his throne). In other theatres Marshal de Lorge
Guy Aldonce de Durfort de Lorges
Guy Aldonce de Durfort, duc de Lorges, marshal of France, , was a French nobleman and soldier.Guy Aldonce was the fourth son of Guy Aldonce de Durfort , marquis of Duras, count of Rozan and of Lorges, maréchal de camp, and Élisabeth de La Tour d'Auvergne, daughter of Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne and...

 commanded French forces in the Rhineland, (although the Dauphin held honorific command). De Lorge was opposed by the Elector of Bavaria
Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria
Maximilian II , also known as Max Emanuel or Maximilian Emanuel, was a Wittelsbach ruler of Bavaria and an elector of the Holy Roman Empire. He was also the last Governor of the Spanish Netherlands and duke of Luxembourg...

, who had succeeded command of Allied forces in the region after the death of Charles of Lorraine
Charles V, Duke of Lorraine
Charles V , Karl V. Leopold, , son of Nicolas François, Duke of Lorraine, and Claude Françoise de Lorraine. Karl Leopold was born in Vienna and became the brother in law of Emperor Leopold and son in law of emperor Ferdinand III...

. Meanwhile Marshal Catinat
Nicolas Catinat
Nicolas Catinat was a French military commander and Marshal of France under Louis XIV. The son of a magistrate, Catinat was born in Paris on 1 September 1637...

 led the French forces in Dauphiné
Dauphiné
The Dauphiné or Dauphiné Viennois is a former province in southeastern France, whose area roughly corresponded to that of the present departments of :Isère, :Drôme, and :Hautes-Alpes....

 against the Duke of Savoy
Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia
Victor Amadeus II was Duke of Savoy from 1675 to 1730. He also held the titles of marquis of Saluzzo, duke of Montferrat, prince of Piedmont, count of Aosta, Moriana and Nizza. Louis XIV organised his marriage in order to maintain French influence in the Duchy but Victor Amadeus soon broke away...

, whilst Marshal Noailles
Anne-Jules, 2nd duc de Noailles
Anne Jules de Noailles, 2th Duke of Noailles was one of the chief generals of France towards the end of the reign of Louis XIV, and, after raising the regiment of Noailles in 1689, he commanded in Spain during both the War of the Grand Alliance and the War of the Spanish Succession, and was made...

 commanded forces deployed on the border of Catalonia
Catalonia
Catalonia is an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, with the official status of a "nationality" of Spain. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an...

.

Prelude


Prince Waldeck had hoped to delay the campaign to enable the Elector of Brandenburg
Frederick I of Prussia
Frederick I , of the Hohenzollern dynasty, was Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia in personal union . The latter function he upgraded to royalty, becoming the first King in Prussia . From 1707 he was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 to move on the Moselle and tie down Boufflers, but Luxembourg’s early manoeuvres had allowed Boufflers to move between the rivers Sambre
Sambre
The Sambre is a river in northern France and Wallonia, southern Belgium, left tributary of the Meuse River. The ancient Romans called the river Sabis.-Course:...

 and Meuse
Meuse River
The Maas or Meuse is a major European river, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea...

 to support the French commander. Waldeck, meanwhile, left his assembly point at Tienen (Tirlemont) and advanced to Wavre
Wavre
Wavre is a town and municipality located in the Belgian province of Walloon Brabant, of which it is the capital.Wavre is located in the Dyle valley. Most of its inhabitants speak French as mother tongue and are called "Wavriens" and "Wavriennes"...

. After dispersing his troops to live off forage, the Allied army reassembled and advanced to Genappe on 8 June.

In mid-June Luxembourg split his forces. Humières was relegated to supervise the garrison of the Lines of the Lys
Lys River
The Leie or Lys is a river in France and Belgium, and a left tributary of the Scheldt. Its source is in Pas-de-Calais, France, and it flows into the river Scheldt in Ghent, Belgium. Its total length is ....

 and the Scheldt
Scheldt
The Scheldt is a 350 km long river in northern France, western Belgium and the southwestern part of the Netherlands...

, whilst the main French army left Deinze
Deinze
Deinze is a city and a municipality located in the Belgian province of East Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Deinze proper and the towns of Astene, Bachte-Maria-Leerne, Gottem, Grammene, Meigem, Petegem-aan-de-Leie, Sint-Martens-Leerne, Vinkt, Wontergem and Zeveren. On January 1,...

 and marched south, crossing the River Sambre at Jeumont on 23 June. Meanwhile, detachments from Boufflers force under Rubantel had augmented Luxembourg’s army, which continued its march, camping at Boussu
Boussu
Boussu is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut. As of January 1, 2006, Boussu had a total population of 20,058. The total area is 20.01 km², which gives a population density of 1,002 inhabitants per km²....

 on 27 June.

As Luxembourg manoeuvred south of Mons
Mons
Mons is a Walloon city and municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut, of which it is the capital. The Mons municipality includes the old communes of Cuesmes, Flénu, Ghlin, Hyon, Nimy, Obourg, Baudour , Jemappes, Ciply, Harmignies, Harveng, Havré, Maisières, Mesvin, Nouvelles,...

 and Charleroi
Charleroi
Charleroi is a city and a municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. , the total population of Charleroi was 201,593. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and had a total population of 522,522 as of 1 January 2008, ranking it as...

, Waldeck moved his camp between Nivelles and Pieton on 28 June. That same evening, Luxembourg personally led a detachment from Gerpinnes
Gerpinnes
Gerpinnes is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut. On 1 January 2006 the municipality had 12,030 inhabitants. The total area is 47.10 km², giving a population density of 255 inhabitants per km²....

 (together with bridging pontoons), to establish a crossing of the Sambre at Ham. A fortified position at Froidmont (garrisoned by about 100 men) was soon compelled to surrender after artillery was brought across the river; a simultaneous attack by French dragoons seized an enemy redoubt
Redoubt
A redoubt is a fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on earthworks, though others are constructed of stone or brick. It is meant to protect soldiers outside the main defensive line and can be a permanent structure or a...

 that had been abandoned at the approach of Luxembourg’s army. With the bridgehead secure, the rest of the French army (apart from the heavy baggage that had remained on the south bank at Ham) crossed the Sambre on 30 June. (See map).

Waldeck decamped and moved towards the French bridgehead. French and Dutch cavalry sent out to reconnoitre the area crossed swords in an inconclusive action near Fleurus
Fleurus
Fleurus is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut. On January 1, 2006 Fleurus had a total population of 22,221. The total area is which gives a population density of 375 inhabitants per km²...

, but by evening the French cavalry had withdrawn to Velaine where it was joined by the rest of their army, only 3 km (< 2 miles) from the Allies.

Battle


On the morning of 1 July, Luxembourg marched his forces towards Fleurus. Waldeck had set up his 38,000 troops in the two customary lines on the high ground between the village of Heppignies on their right and past the chateau of St Amant on their left; Waldeck’s front was covered by the Orme stream whose elevated banks made a frontal assault all but impossible. Luxembourg divided his forces to attack both flanks of the Allied army – an audacious plan that in order for it to succeed would require secrecy and deception. The columns of the first French line split to take position between Heppignies and Fleurus, with some troops moving up towards St Amant. The two columns of Luxembourg’s right veered off to the north across the Orme, their passage covered by the hedges and wheat fields, and by a screen of French cavalry. Forty cannon were positioned near the chateau of St Amant, and another 30 guns positioned between the chateau and Fleurus.

Unnoticed by Waldeck, Luxembourg had enveloped his flanks. Had the Allied commander realised that Luxembourg had split his army in two, he might have overwhelmed the isolated French left before the right came into position, but he did not. After the French right wing was in position (commanded by Luxembourg himself), their artillery opened fire at about 10:00, striking the Allied infantry with great effect. The French left wing, commanded by Lieutenant-General Jean Christophe, comte de Gournay, opened their attack with a cavalry charge but Gournay was killed in the assault; his death disordered his cavalry who retired to Fleurus to regroup. A cavalry charge on the right wing however, met with more success, driving the enemy cavalry back. On the heels of this attack, the French infantry now advanced against both flanks of Waldeck’s line which, finding itself enveloped by the enemy, finally broke. Some of the Allied troops managed to regroup on high ground near Fleurus, but were eventually overwhelmed.

Despite being pressed by French cavalry, Waldeck was able to create a new line with his remaining forces further back. However, this line also collapsed, broken by French infantry flushed with confidence from their initial success. The remainder of Waldeck’s troops streamed towards Nivelles
Nivelles
Nivelles is a Walloon city and municipality located in the Belgian province of Walloon Brabant. The Nivelles municipality includes the old communes of Baulers, Bornival, Thines, and Monstreux....

 in the best order they could.

Aftermath


The Battle of Fleurus was a complete success, but devoid of result. Louvois
François-Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois
François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois was the French Secretary of State for War for a significant part of the reign of Louis XIV. Louvois and his father, Michel le Tellier, would increase the French Army to 400,000 soldiers, an army that would fight four wars between 1667 and 1713...

, Louis’ war minister, wanted to order Luxembourg to immediately besiege Namur
Namur (city)
Namur is a city and municipality in Wallonia, in southern Belgium. It is both the capital of the province of Namur and of Wallonia....

 or Charleroi
Charleroi
Charleroi is a city and a municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. , the total population of Charleroi was 201,593. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and had a total population of 522,522 as of 1 January 2008, ranking it as...

, but King Louis
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

, concerned about the dauphin’s forces on the Rhine, ordered Luxembourg to detach part of his forces and forgo a major siege. Louvois objected, but King Louis wanted to be sure that nothing ‘disagreeable’ happened to his son’s command. Nevertheless, Luxembourg was able to put much of the land east of Brussels under contribution.

Waldeck eventually retired on Brussels where his injured troops were replaced with men from fortress garrisons. Spanish troops under Gastañaga
Francisco Antonio de Agurto, Marquis of Gastañaga
Francisco Antonio de Agurto y Salcedo, first Marquis of Gastañaga was a Spanish nobleman, viceroy and governor of Basque origin. He became first Marquis de Gastañaga in 1676 and was Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands between 1685 and 1692...

 joined the main Allied army, as did the Count of Tilly with troops from Liège
Liège
Liège is a major city and municipality of Belgium located in the province of Liège, of which it is the economic capital, in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium....

 and Brandenburg
Brandenburg
Brandenburg is one of the sixteen federal-states of Germany. It lies in the east of the country and is one of the new federal states that were re-created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germany and East Germany. The capital is Potsdam...

 on 22 July. On 2 August, the Elector of Brandenburg’s forces combined with Waldeck whose Allied army now numbered 55,000 men. With this force, the Allied army marched to Genappe
Genappe
Genappe is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Walloon Brabant. On 1 January 2006 Genappe had a total population of 14,136...

, proceeding on to Nivelles on 7 August.

The remainder of the campaign season in the Spanish Netherlands was relatively quiet. Boufflers temporarily combined his forces with Luxembourg, but in late August he returned to the area between the Sambre and Meuse rivers. After a series of minor skirmishes both the Allies and the French returned to winter quarters in October; Luxembourg careful to station his men on enemy territory, while the Allies quartered in and around Maastricht
Maastricht
Maastricht is situated on both sides of the Meuse river in the south-eastern part of the Netherlands, on the Belgian border and near the German border...

. The Hanoverians returned home while many from Brandenburg and Lüneburg
Lüneburg
Lüneburg is a town in the German state of Lower Saxony. It is located about southeast of fellow Hanseatic city Hamburg. It is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region, and one of Hamburg's inner suburbs...

found quarters in the fortresses of the Spanish Netherlands.