1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wattignies

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WATTIGNIES, a village of France 5½ m. S.S.E. of Maubeuge, the scene of a battle in the French Revolutionary Wars (q.v.), fought on the 15th–16th October 1793. The Allied army, chiefly Austrians, under Coburg, was besieging Maubeuge, and the Revolutionary army, preparing to relieve it, gathered behind Avesnes. Coburg disposed a covering force of 21,000 astride the Avesnes-Maubeuge road, 5000 on the right with their flank on the Sambre, 9000 in the centre, on a ridge in an amphitheatre of woods, and 6000 on the left, chiefly on the plateau of Wattignies. A long line of woods enabled the Republican commander, Jourdan, to deploy unseen; 14,000 men were to attack the right, 16,000 were sent towards Wattignies, and 13,000 were to demonstrate in the centre till the others had succeeded and then to attack. Meantime (though this part of the programme miscarried) the Maubeuge garrison, which was almost as strong as its besiegers, was to sally out. Even without the Maubeuge garrison Jourdan had a two-to-one superiority. But the French were still the undisciplined enthusiasts of Hondschoote. Their left attack progressed so long as it could use '" dead ground " in the valleys, but when the Republicans reached the gentler slopes above, the volleys of the Austrian regulars crushed their swarms, and the Austrian cavalry, striking them in flank, rode over them. The centre attack, ordered by Camot on the assumption that all was well on the flanks, was premature; like the left, it progressed while the slopes were sharp, but when the Republicans arrived on the crest they found a gentle reverse slope before them, at the foot of which were Coburg's best troops. Again the disciplined volleys and a well-timed cavalry charge swept back the assailants. The French right reached, but could not hold, Wattignies. But these reverses were, in the eyes of Camot and Jourdan, mere mishaps. Jourdan wished to renew the left attack, but Camot, the engineer, considered the Wattignies plateau the key of the position and his opinion prevailed. In the night the nearly equal partition of force, which was largely responsible for the failure, was modified, and the strength of the attack massed opposite Wattignies. Coburg meanwhile strengthened his wings. He heard that Jourdan had been reinforced up to 100,000. But he called up few fresh battalions, and put into line only 23,000 men. In reality Jourdan had not received reinforcements, and the effects of the first failure almost neutralized the superiority of numbers and enthusiasm over discipline and confidence. But at last, after a long fight had eliminated the faint-hearted, enough brave men remained in the excited crowds held together by Camot and Jourdan to win the plateau. Coburg then drew off. His losses were 2500 out of 23,000, Jourdan's 3000 out of 43,000.