1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dutch Wars
DUTCH WARS, a convenient general title for a series of European wars between 1652 and 1678, which centred chiefly upon the political and commercial relations of the Netherlands with England and France. By Englishmen the term “Dutch Wars” is usually applied to the two purely naval wars of 1652-53 and 1663-67 and to the Anglo-Dutch or naval part of the war that began in 1672. But the last of these was part of a much wider struggle by land, known to Continental historians as the Dutch War of 1672-78, and the second part of this article deals with their struggle on the various frontiers of France, which was illustrated by the genius of Turenne and Condé.
I. Naval Operations
First Dutch War (1652-53).—Though political causes were at work, the main incentive to hostility between the peoples was commercial rivalry. It was therefore natural that their first encounters should have taken place between fleets engaged in convoying trade, or in endeavouring to intercept the trade of their enemy. Blows were exchanged before war was formally declared. On the 12th of May 1652 an English officer, Captain Young, stopped a Dutch convoy near the Start in order to enforce the salute to the English flag, which England then demanded from all who used the seas round her coast. The demand was resisted, and was only yielded to after a sharp conflict. Though the Dutch were still endeavouring to negotiate a peace with the Council of State which governed in the British Isles after the execution Of King Charles I., they made ready for war. In May forty sail of their war-ships appeared off Dover under command of Martin Harpertzoon Tromp—then the best known of their admirals. There were then 8 British ships in Dover under Rear-Admiral Nicholas Bourne, and 15 near Rye under Robert Blake, a member of parliament, and soldier who had gained a great reputation in the Civil War. Blake came into the Straits of Dover with his ships, and on the 19th of May a sharp collision took place between him and Tromp. Bourne joined his countryman after the action began. The encounter, which the Dutch attributed to the English, and the English to the Dutch, made war inevitable, even if the relations of the two powers had allowed of the maintenance of peace. The first operations on both sides took the form of attacks on trade. Sir George Ayscue, who had lately returned from the West Indies, whither he had been sent to subdue the Royalist party in Barbados, had a sharp encounter with a Dutch convoy while on his way up Channel to the Downs, and had captured several prizes. The Council of State, being mainly anxious to destroy the Dutch trade and fisheries, began by reinforcing Blake, and sending him north to scatter the Dutch herring fleet. He had with him 60 vessels. Ayscue remained in the Downs with 16. Soon after Blake had gone, Tromp appeared in the Downs with a stronger force and threatened an attack on Ayscue. Want of wind prevented the operation. Tromp was also most intent on collecting the home-coming Dutch convoys, and seeing them safe into port. He therefore also sailed north to meet the Baltic trade. No meeting, however, took place between him and Blake, while bad weather scattered the Dutch. Their herring fishery was ruined for the year, and the outcry against Tromp was loud. He was notoriously no friend to the Loevenstein party then prevalent in Holland, and was displaced, his place being taken by Cornelius de Witt and Michiel Adriaanzoon de Ruyter. De Ruyter was sent into the Channel to convoy the outward-bound convoys, and meet the home-coming trade. On the 16th of August he had an encounter off Plymouth with Ayscue, whom he worsted, and then cruised at the Land’s End. The failure of Ayscue, who was not employed again in this war, induced the Council of State to send Blake, who had now returned from the north, into the Channel. He was not, however, more successful. His fleet was allowed to become scattered, and the Dutchman brought his convoy back safe after a partial action with Penn, Blake’s subordinate, on the 16th of August.
So far the operations had been confined to commerce destroying, or to the protection of trade by convoy. The next moves were more purely warlike. In the 27th of September the Dutch appeared in force off the mouth of the Thames, and Blake, whose fleet was collected in the Downs, stood to sea. On the 28th of September the first real battle of the war was fought off the Kentish Knock, a shoal opposite the coast of Essex. The English fleet standing to the north passed to west of the Dutch, and then turned. In the close engagement which followed, the Dutch were defeated. They did not fight well, and their failure was attributed in part to the discontent of their seamen with the removal of Tromp, and the unpopularity of de Witt. The states-general found it necessary to replace Tromp, who was at once sent to sea, again with the charge of seeing the outward-bound trade down Channel, and waiting for the homeward-bound. Blake had not remained on the coast of Holland, for the Council of State was still almost as intent as the Dutch on convoying trade or molesting the enemy’s. It brought its fleet back, and then divided the ships, sending some to the north with Penn, and keeping the others, 40 in all, with Blake in the Downs. Thus when Tromp appeared “at the back of the Goodwins” with a fleet of 80 war-ships and a crowd of merchant vessels on the 29th of November, Blake was not in a position to engage him with any assured prospect of success. But he made the attempt, and a hot engagement took place off Dungeness on the 30th. Two English vessels were taken, and the loss would have been greater if some of the English captains had not shown themselves backward. Many of the ships were merchant vessels pressed or hired, and commanded by their own skippers, who displayed little military spirit. Blake, who offered to resign, complained of the conduct of many of them, and some were punished. The Council of State saw the necessity for making a strong effort against Tromp, who ranged the Channel unopposed. Penn was recalled from the north, Richard Deane and George Monk were united with Blake as “admirals and generals at sea,” and a competent force was collected by the middle of February. The legend (for it is nothing more) that Tromp hoisted a broom at his mainmast-head to announce his intention to sweep the English off the sea, refers to this period.
On the 18th of February 1653 the Dutch admiral, who had now collected the homeward-bound convoys, was off Plymouth on his way back to Holland, and was attacked by the English fleet. The encounter, which lasted from the 18th to the 20th of February and ranged from Plymouth to Calais, is commonly named the “Three Days’ Battle” and was described by Clarendon as “stupendous.” The Dutch admiral brought his charge of merchant ships up Channel between him and the French shore. His war-ships were arranged in what was called a half-moon, and was in fact an obtuse angle with his flagship, the “Brederode,” at the apex. During the 18th and 19th, the attacks of the English though fierce were partial, and met with no great success. Tromp had to complain of the conduct of several of his captains. On the 20th his line was broken and some 60 of his merchant ships were captured. He anchored in some confusion in Calais roads. Yet by taking advantage of the dark, and the turn of the tide, he succeeded in carrying the great majority of his merchant ships home. The English fleet had suffered severely, Blake himself was seriously wounded, and his colleague Deane was also hurt. Blake’s wound disabled him greatly through the remainder of the war.
The Three Days’ Battle was followed by a pause in the war. On the English side much damage had to be repaired. The administration of the navy, called upon as it was to deal with a war of unprecedented magnitude, was overtaxed by the obligation to refit ships, raise crews, and provide for the numerous sick or wounded. The close approach of the great political crisis in which Cromwell expelled the Long Parliament and established the Protectorate (17th of April 1653), may have had some influence. The fleet adhered to the new government on the 22nd of April. On the Dutch side much damage had to be repaired, and their complicated administration, by five independent admiralty boards, rendered rapid work impossible. They had also begun to realize that the quality of their ships was inferior. Reflection had further shown them that to hamper their fleets by imposing the direct protection of a great flock of merchant ships on them was not even an effectual way to protect commerce. When, therefore, Tromp was next sent to sea, it was with an unhampered fleet of war-ships, and for the purpose of bringing the English fleet to battle.
In spite of their heavy losses and their awkward administration, the Dutch were at sea before the end of May, and were close to the mouth of the Thames. The English fleet was not all ready. Part was in the river fitting out under Blake, who had not fully recovered from his wound. The bulk of it was, however, ready for service, and Blake’s colleagues, Monk and Deane, attacked Tromp on the 2nd of June. Changes of wind made the battle somewhat confused. At first the English were to windward and they bore down with Rear-Admiral John Lawson in command of the van. Tromp, conscious that his ships were weaker in build, at first drew away, firing at the spars of the English ships in order to cripple them. A shift of the wind having given him the weather-gage, he concentrated a vigorous attack on Lawson. But the wind changed again and transferred the weather-gage to the English. Monk and Deane brought on a general action, in which the Dutch were outmatched, and forced to retreat to their own coast. Deane was slain by a cannon-shot by the side of his colleague Monk, who threw his cloak over the mangled body. Blake, informed by the sound of the cannon, which was audible on the Thames, that an action was in progress, hurried to sea and joined Monk in the pursuit of the Dutch on the 3rd of June. Tromp was driven into port and told the states-general that they must build better ships if they wished to beat the English at sea. Blake was forced by his still unhealed wound to go ashore, and the sole command was left to Monk, who remained cruising on the coast of Holland. The states-general now sought for peace, but Cromwell’s demands were excessive, and could not be accepted without a surrender of the independence of Holland. A last effort was therefore made to regain the command of the sea. A great fleet was fitted out, partly at Flushing, partly in the Texel. Between the 26th and the 30th of July Tromp, by a series of skilful manœuvres, united the divided Dutch squadrons in the face of Monk’s fleet, and on the 30th he stood out to sea with the wind in his favour, and gave battle. More than a hundred vessels were engaged on either side. The Dutch admiral manœuvred to keep, and Monk to gain, the weather-gage. The fleets passed on opposite tacks, and the Dutch tried to destroy their enemy with fire-ships without success. At last the weatherly qualities of the ships enabled Monk to break through the Dutch line, cutting some of their ships off from the others. The vessels thus cut off fled to the Maas, and Tromp with the others retired to the Texel. He was shot dead by a musket bullet in the retreat. The loss of life had been heavy on both sides. Six captains of Monk’s fleet were slain. The Dutch now sought peace, and Cromwell offered better terms. During the fighting in the North Sea the Mediterranean trade of England had suffered severely. A squadron of trading ships and a few war vessels were blocked in Italian ports till some of them were taken and others forced to flee in March 1653 off Leghorn. The battle of the 31st of July was the last serious operation of the war, though peace was not formally made till some months later.
Second Dutch War (1663-67).—Although the formal declaration of war was not made by the government of King Charles II. till March 1665, the operations of the second Dutch War began in October 1663. The king and his brother the duke of York (James II.), who were largely interested in the slave-trading Guinea Company, were eager to remove the Dutch ports from the slave coast. They knew that war with the Republic, which had recovered very rapidly from the disasters of the war of 1652-53, would be popular with the trading classes in England. They relied also on the known reluctance of the Dutch government to go to war. In October 1663, therefore, a squadron was sent out under command of Sir Robert Holmes to attack the Dutch in Gambia and America. Their posts on the African coast were captured and New Amsterdam (now New York) taken. The states-general under the skilful management of the Grand Pensionary, John de Witt, retaliated by sending de Ruyter from the Mediterranean, where he was cruising against the Barbary pirates, to follow Holmes. De Ruyter re-established the Dutch posts in Gambia, and, though he failed to retake New Amsterdam, did much injury to English trade before he returned to Holland. It may be pointed out that all colonial settlements belonged at that time exclusively to England, and the war was made entirely by her, and in her interest, Scotland and Ireland having no share. Numbers of Scotch sailors and of English deserters served in the Dutch fleet in this war—the bad administration of the navy and the constant ill-treatment of the crews having caused bitter discontent. Other attacks were made on Dutch trade during 1664, but the great operations of war did not begin till May 1665. In that month the duke of York was on the east coast of England with a fleet of 80 to 90 sail, composed, according to the custom of the time, of vessels of all sizes. A Dutch fleet of corresponding strength was sent to sea, under command of Baron Opdam van Wassenaer. In this war we do not find that the movements of fleets were subordinated to the work of providing convoy. They were sent to sea for the much more intelligent purpose of seeking out the enemy and driving him off. It was understood that the trade of the victor would be secure.
The first battle took place from 30 to 40 m. S.E. of Lowestoft, on the 3rd of June 1665. By the bad conduct of some of the captains in the centre of the Dutch line, the English, who fought with much spirit, were able to win a considerable victory. Opdam’s flagship was blown up and he perished. But the pursuit of the English fleet was feeble, and the retreat of the Dutch was ably covered by Cornelius van Tromp, son of Martin Tromp. Much scandal was caused by the mysterious circumstances in which an order to shorten sail was given in the English flagship, and doubts were expressed of the courage of the duke of York. He withdrew, or was withdrawn, from the active command at sea, and was replaced by the earl of Sandwich. On the Dutch side vigorous measures were taken to enforce good discipline. Four of the captains who had misbehaved on the 3rd of June were shot for cowardice, and others were dismissed. De Ruyter was named commander-in-chief, and John de Witt, or later his brother Cornelius, accompanied the admiral as delegate of the states-general to support his authority. The earl of Sandwich did nothing becoming a capable commander. Under his command the fleet made no attempt to blockade the Dutch coast, but was turned from its proper work to engage in a prize-hunting plot with the king of Denmark. The object was to plunder a Dutch convoy which had taken refuge at Bergen in Norway, then united to Denmark. The mutual interest of the associates led to the failure of the plot. Sir Thomas Teddeman, who was sent by Sandwich to attack the Dutch at Bergen, was suspected by the Danish governor of intending to play false, was fired on by the batteries, and was beaten off. De Ruyter covered the return of the trade to Holland. Sandwich, who had taken some prizes, unlawfully seized part of their cargoes for the benefit of himself and the other flag officers. A loud outcry was raised in the fleet and the country. Sandwich was displaced, and his command was transferred to Monk, with whom was associated the king’s cousin, Prince Rupert. The war had so far been unsuccessful for England. The victory of the 3rd of June was barren. Great injury was inflicted on English trade by Dutch cruisers, while the wasteful administration of his officers reduced the king’s treasury to much embarrassment. Winter suspended the movements of the fleets.
The year 1666 (called the annus mirabilis, for it included the plague and the fire of London) was marked by fierce fighting and changes of fortune. The French, who had signed a treaty with Holland in 1662, were reluctantly induced to intervene in the war as the enemies of England. By May a Dutch fleet of some eighty sail was at sea, preparing to watch the English, and unite with the French. Monk and Rupert were fitting out a fleet of nearly the same strength in the Thames. Under the influence of their fear of a French naval force King Charles’s ministers committed a great blunder. They detached Prince Rupert into the Channel with 20 ships, leaving Monk with only 57 to face the Dutch. The English commander put to sea, and found the enemy anchored on the coast of Flanders, in three divisions. He boldly attacked the van, hoping to cripple it before it could be helped by the centre and rear. This daring and well-judged move brought on the Four Days’ Battle of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th of June (O.S.). On the 1st the Dutch van, under Cornelius van Tromp, bore the brunt of the English attack. The fighting was very fierce. One English admiral, Sir William Berkeley, was slain, and another, Sir John Harman, was in great danger. Monk drew off at night without doing all the harm he had wished to the Dutch. During the 2nd of June the fleets engaged again, and on this day the self-will of Van Tromp, who commanded the rear in the battle, and the misconduct of some of the ships in the van, prevented De Ruyter from making full use of his numbers. Yet Monk was clearly overtaxed, and on the 3rd he prepared to retreat to the Thames. During this movement the “Prince” (100) carrying the flag of Admiral Sir Robert Ayscue, ran on the Galloper Sand, and was lost. In the evening Prince Rupert returned, and by hugging the coast of Kent to the south of the fleets, was able to rejoin his colleague. Monk and Rupert renewed the battle on the 4th. It was fought with extreme fury, and terminated in the retreat of the English to the Thames with a loss of 20 ships and 6000 men.
The Dutch remained masters of the approach to the Thames till the 21st of July. They menaced the coast of Essex, and could easily have covered an invasion of England by a French army if Louis XIV. had been disposed to send one. Danger stimulated the English government to active exertions, and by the 21st of July Monk and Rupert were enabled by a happy combination of wind and tide to set to sea through the passage called the Swin. A storm which scattered both fleets delayed their meeting till the 25th of July. On that and the two succeeding days the Dutch were again defeated and driven into port. The English fleet then burnt the Dutch East India Company’s dockyard at Terschelting, inflicting great loss. But the fruits of the victory were less than they would have been if it had been properly followed up. The British fleet withdrew to its own coast and within a month De Ruyter was at sea again, hoping to effect a junction with a French squadron. The French failed to keep tryst, and De Ruyter was watched by Rupert, who was now in sole command, Monk having been recalled to London to take command amid the confusion caused by the fire and the plague. Nor did the failure of King Charles’s government to press the war with vigour end here. Embarrassed by want of money, on bad terms with his parliament, and secretly intent on schemes incompatible with a policy which could earn the approval of his subjects, the king preferred to spend what money he could command on raising troops, and neglected his fleet. Peace negotiations were begun with the Dutch, and the line-of-battle ships were put out of commission. A light squadron was, however, kept at sea to injure the Dutch trade, and as no armistice was arranged the Republic was free to continue warlike operations. The Dutch, being well aware of the disarmed condition of the English coast, sent out a powerful fleet again under the command of De Ruyter in June. It entered the Thames, forced the entrance of the Medway, and burnt both the dockyard at Chatham and a number of the finest ships in the navy which were lying in the river. A terrible panic prevailed in London, where an attack was expected. The Dutch were content with the injury they had done at Chatham, and dropped down the river. De Ruyter remained cruising in the Channel till the peace of Breda was signed in July. During the last months of the war Sir John Harman had fought a successful campaign in the West Indies against the French on whom he inflicted a severe defeat at Martinique on the 24th of June. By the terms of the peace England retained possession of New York, but the war, though it contained some passages glorious to her arms, was very disastrous to her commerce.
Third Dutch War (1672-74).—This war differed very materially in its inception and conduct from the first and second. They had been popular in England, and even the second gave Englishmen not a little to be proud of. The third was undertaken by the king in pursuit of a policy arranged between him and his cousin Louis XIV. Their avowed object was a partition of Holland, but there was a secret understanding that King Charles II. was to establish Roman Catholicism, and to make himself despotic in England, with the help of the French king. This hidden purpose was suspected, and the war became intensely unpopular with the English parliament and nation. Parliament would grant the king no supplies, and he could find the means of fitting out a fleet only by defrauding his creditors. The English fleets were, therefore, comparatively small, were ill-provided and had to co-operate with French squadrons which in the then raw state of King Louis’ young navy, proved inefficient allies.
In this as in former wars, attacks on Dutch commerce preceded a formal declaration of hostilities. On the 13th of March 1672 Sir Robert Holmes fell upon a Dutch convoy under the command of Van Ness in the Channel. In the penury of the dockyards Holmes could not be provided with the force he was promised, and the enterprise was but partially successful. It was characteristic of the morality of his time and the spirit of the English navy as it had been shaped by the corrupt government of Charles II., that the officers concerned quarrelled violently and accused one another of fraud. A fleet of 60 sail was with difficulty got together under the duke of York, who now went to sea for the second time. The duke was joined in May, and at Portsmouth, by 40 French ships under the comte d’Estrées, a soldier and noble who had been made an admiral late in life. The allies entered the North Sea but did not take the offensive against the Dutch. The English were ill supplied, and were compelled to anchor at Southwold Bay on the coast of Suffolk in order to obtain water and provisions. The Dutch, who had to contend with an overwhelming French invasion on shore, nevertheless fitted out a fleet of 70 to 80 sail of the line and the command was given to De Ruyter. On the 28th of May 1672 he fell upon the allies in a N.W. wind. D’Estrées, who was stationed with his squadron at the south end of the line, went to sea on the port tack, heading to the S.E. The English, who constituted the centre and rear, stood out on the starboard tack. Thus the allies were at once divided into two widely separated bodies, and the Dutch admiral was able to concentrate nearly his whole force on the centre division, which suffered severely. The flagship of the duke of York, the “Prince” (100), was so shattered that he was compelled to leave her, and go to the “St Michael.” The “Royal James” (100), the flagship of his second in command, the earl of Sandwich, after being much shattered by the Dutch artillery, was set alight by a fire-ship, and destroyed with enormous loss of life. The earl himself perished. His body was picked up three days afterwards, so disfigured that it was only recognized by the star on his coat. The ships at the head of the English line at last tacked to the support of the centre, and at evening De Ruyter drew off. A foolish attempt was made to claim his retreat as a victory, but the allies were too severely damaged to attempt an attack on the Dutch during the rest of the year. The Republic was so hard pressed by the French invasion that it had to land the gunpowder from its ships for the service of its army.
In 1673 the allies made an effort to invade Holland from the sea coast. Prince Rupert replaced the duke of York, who as a Roman Catholic was driven from office by the newly passed Test Act. He was supplied with 54 ships and was joined early in the year by d’Estrées with 27. Soldiers were embarked, and in May the allied fleet stood over to the Dutch coast. The distress of the Republic prevented it from equipping more than 55 ships, but the patriotism of the race was roused to white heat, and in De Ruyter they possessed an admiral of consummate skill and heroic character. He took up an anchorage at Schooneveld and stood on his guard. On the 28th of May Rupert and d’Estrées, believing that De Ruyter was too much afraid of their superior numbers to venture to sea, sent in a squadron of light vessels and fire-ships to attack him, but he took the offensive at once, scattering the light squadron, and falling with energy on the rest of the fleet, which, not being in expectation of a vigorous assault, was taken at a disadvantage. On this occasion the English placed the French in the centre, in order to avoid such a separation as had taken place in the battle at Southwold Bay. But the disposition made no difference in the result. De Ruyter concentrated on the van and centre of the allies, and in spite of his great inferiority of numbers was able to be superior at the point of attack. The allies were compelled to retreat, and De Ruyter, satisfied with having averted the invasion of his country, anchored at West-Kappel.
Seven days later, on the 4th of June, a second encounter took place. The French were now placed in the rear of the line as it engaged. The Dutch admiral, who had the advantage of the wind, fell on the English in the van and centre. His inferiority in numbers did not allow him to push his attack quite home, but he inflicted so much injury that the allies were forced to return to the Thames to refit. At the end of July the allies again appeared off the coast of Holland, bringing four thousand soldiers in the war-ships and two thousand in transports. De Ruyter’s fleet had been raised to 70 vessels, but the allies had also been reinforced and were 90 strong. On the 11th of August the Dutch admiral kept in the shallow waters of the coast looking for a favourable opportunity to attack. On the 11th of August the wind, which had been westerly, turned to the S.E., giving him the weather gage. The French division was leading, and De Ruyter fell furiously upon the English in the centre and rear. The French were kept in play by a small squadron under Bankert, while De Ruyter drove Prince Rupert in the centre out of the line, and in the rear Cornelius van Tromp fought a desperate duel with the English rear division commanded by Sir E. Spragge. The two admirals engaged in a species of personal conflict, and each was compelled to shift his flag to another vessel. While Sir E. Spragge, whose second flagship was shattered by the Dutch fire, was on his way to a third, his boat was sunk by a cannon shot and he was drowned.
The defeat of the allies was undeniable, and a violent quarrel broke out between them. Want of money, and the increasing violence of popular opposition to the French alliance, compelled the king to withdraw from the war. Peace was made in the following spring.
In this war, which presented no features of a creditable kind, the loss to English commerce from Dutch cruisers was so great that it was found necessary to suspend the clause of the navigation act which forbade the purchase of foreign-built vessels.
As England withdrew from her alliance with Louis XIV., the other powers of Europe, frightened by the growth of the aggressive French power, began to come forward to the support of Holland. The coalition then formed continued the struggle till 1678. But the war was conducted mainly on the land. The French king, who knew that his fleet was not as yet capable of meeting the Dutch single-handed, was content to withdraw his ships from the North Sea and the ocean. The Dutch, who had to pay subventions to their German allies, and to support a large army, could spare little for their fleet. For some time they willingly confined themselves to efforts to protect their commerce from French privateers. In 1674 a revolt of the people of Sicily against their Spanish rulers gave the French king an opportunity of seizing the island. Spain, unable to defend its possessions single-handed, appealed to the Dutch for naval help. In September 1675 De Ruyter was sent into the Mediterranean with 18 sail of the line and four fire-ships. The force was inadequate, but it was all that Holland could spare. The Dutch admiral, who was hampered rather than helped by his Spanish allies, did his best to make good his weakness by skilful management. He cruised off Messina to intercept the supplies which were being brought to the French garrison by a fleet of 20 sail under the command of Abraham Duquesne. Conscious that he must spare his small force as much as possible, he abstained from such vigorous attacks as he had made in 1672 and 1673. When Duquesne appeared on the 7th of January 1676 near the Lipari Islands, De Ruyter allowed them to get the weather-gage, and on the 8th of January waited passively for their attack. The French, with more recklessness than was usual with them in later times, bore down on their enemy courageously but in some disorder. Their leading ships were severely mauled, and their whole force so crippled that they could make no pursuit of the Dutch when they drew off, their injured ships being towed by the Spanish galleys, in the late afternoon. Duquesne was able to reach Messina and join the French ships at anchor there. De Ruyter made his way to Palermo, which was in the hands of the Spaniards. One of his vessels sank on the way and he was reduced to 17. It is true that his allies provided him with 10 ships of their own, but the Spanish navy had sunk to abject inefficiency. Their commander, the marquis of Bayona, arrogantly insisted on occupying the centre of the line with his worthless squadron instead of allowing his ships to be scattered among the Dutch for support. When on the 22nd of April the allies, 27 strong, met the fleet of Duquesne, 29 ships, off Agosta, they attacked from windward. De Ruyter, who led the van, was mortally wounded. The Spaniards in the centre behaved very ill, and no victory was gained. The serious fighting was, in fact, confined to the vans of the two fleets. After the battle the allies retired to Syracuse, where De Ruyter died, and where their ships were mostly destroyed by the French a month later. Reinforcements sent out from Holland were stopped in the Straits of Gibraltar and blockaded in Cadiz. The French remained masters of the Mediterranean. In the meantime, however, angry disputes had arisen between France and England. King Louis XIV. enforced his belligerent rights at sea with as much disregard of neutral interests as was shown by England in later times. His naval officers insisted on making prize of all Dutch-built vessels found under the English flag. In 1678 war seemed imminent between France and England. King Louis then withdrew his soldiers from Sicily, and made the peace of Nijmwegen.
II. Operations on Land
The contemporary military history of Europe included, first, the war between France and Spain, 1654-59, usually called the Spanish Fronde, of which the most notable incident was the great battle of the Dunes fought on the 14th of June 1658 between the French and English under Turenne and the Spaniards under Condé, in which a contingent of Cromwell’s soldiers bore a conspicuous part. About the same time a war was fought in northern Europe (1655-60), celebrated chiefly for the three days’ battle of Warsaw (28th, 29th, 30th July 1656), and the successful invasion of Denmark by the Swedes, carried out from island to island over the frozen sea (February 1658), and culminating in a long siege of Copenhagen (1658-59). Between the second and third wars of England and the United Provinces came the short War of Devolution (1667-68)—a war of sieges in the Low Countries in which the French were commanded chiefly by Turenne. In 1668 the French under Condé made a rapid conquest of Franche-Comté. This was, however, given up at the peace. The war of 1672-78, the first of the three great wars of Louis XIV., was fought on a grander scale.
Invasion of Holland, 1672.—The diplomacy of Louis had, before the outbreak of war, deprived Holland of her allies—England (treaty of Dover, 1670), Sweden (treaty of Stockholm, 1672) and the emperor, and when he declared war on the United Provinces in March 1672, it seemed that the Dutch could offer little resistance. The French army under Louis in person started from Charleroi and marched down the Meuse unopposed. The powerful Dutch fortress of Maastricht was masked, and the French then moved towards Düsseldorf. In the electorate of Cologne they were in friendly country, and the main army soon moved down the Rhine from Düsseldorf, the corps of Turenne on the left bank, that of Condé on the right. At the same time a corps under Marshal Luxemburg, composed of Louis’ German allies (Cologne and Münster) moved from Westphalia towards Over-Yssel and Groningen. The Rhine fortresses offered but little resistance to the advance of Turenne and Condé. William of Orange with a weak field army tried to defend the Yssel-Rhine line, but the French rapidly forced the passage of the Rhine at Tollhuis (June 12th) and passed into the Betuwe (between the Leck and the Waal). Condé now advised a cavalry raid on Amsterdam, but Louis, acting on the suggestion of the war minister Louvois, preferred to reduce Nijmwegen, Gorinchem and other places, before entering Utrecht province. Condé’s plan was, however, partially carried out by Count Rochefort, who with 1800 troopers captured successively Amersfoort and Naarden. His further progress was checked at Muyden, which the Dutch garrisoned in the nick of time, and he returned to the main army, taking Utrecht en route. Louis now moved on Amsterdam, brushing aside the feeble opposition which was offered, and it seemed that the French must achieve their object in one short campaign. But the Dutch people were roused. The month before, the citizens of Utrecht had refused to raze their suburban villas, and defence of the fortifications had consequently been impossible. Now, the dykes were cut and the sluices opened, and Amsterdam was covered by a wide inundation, against which the invader was powerless. At the same time the men of Zealand repulsed a French raid from Ath on Ardenburg, and this infraction of the neutrality of the Spanish Netherlands served but to raise up another enemy for Louis. Luxemburg too, at first successful, was repulsed before Groningen. A revolution placed William of Orange at the head of the government. The alliance of Brandenburg and the Mainz electorate had already been secured, and Spain, justly fearing for the safety of her Flemish possessions, soon joined them. The emperor followed, and Louis was now opposed, not by one state, but by a formidable coalition.
War against the Coalition.—In the autumn the war spread to the Rhine. No attempt could be made on Amsterdam until the ice should cover the floods. Turenne was therefore despatched to Westphalia and Condé to Alsace, while a corps of observation was formed on the Meuse to watch the Spanish Netherlands. But the coalition had not yet developed its full strength, and Turenne’s skill checked the advance of the Imperialists under Montecucculi and of the Brandenburgers under the Great Elector. A war of manœuvre on the middle Rhine ended in favour of the French, and the allies then turned against the territories of Cologne and Münster, while William, disappointed in his hopes of joining forces with his friends, made a bold, but in the end unsuccessful, raid on Charleroi (September-December 1672). The allies in Germany were now not merely checked but driven from point to point by Turenne, who on this occasion displayed a degree of energy rare in the military history of the period. The troops of Cologne and Münster formed part of his army, other friends of Louis were preparing to take the field, and after a severe winter campaign, the elector, defeated in combat and manœuvre, was forced back to the Weser, and being but weakly supported by the Imperialists, found himself compelled to make a separate peace (June 6th, 1673). Turenne then turned his attention to the Imperialists who were assembling in Bohemia, and made ready to meet them at Wetzlar. Meanwhile the other French armies were fully employed. Corps of observation were formed in Roussillon and Lorraine. Condé in Holland was to renew his efforts against the Amsterdam defences; during the winter the demands of the war on the Rhine had reduced the French forces in the provinces to the size of a mere army of occupation. Louis’ own army, originally collected for the relief of Charleroi in December, advanced on Maastricht, and after a brief siege, in which Vauban directed the besiegers, captured this most important fortress (June 29th, 1673). But this was the last success of the French armies in the campaign. Condé made no headway against Amsterdam, and William retook Naarden (September 14th). Louis, after the capture of Maastricht led his army southwards into Lorraine and overran the electorate of Trier. But nothing of importance was gained, and Turenne’s summer campaign was wholly unsuccessful.
Capture of Bonn.—From Wetzlar he moved to Aschaffenburg, Louis at the same time keeping back, for the intended conquest of Franche-Comté, many soldiers who would have been more usefully employed in Germany. Soon the Imperialists advanced in earnest, greatly superior in numbers. Marching via Eger and Nuremberg (September 3rd) on the Main, Montecucculi drew Turenne to the valley of the Tauber; then, having persuaded the bishop of Würzburg to surrender the bridge of that place, he passed to the right bank of the Main before Turenne could intervene. The Imperialists soon arrived at Frankfort, and the French position was turned. Montecucculi thus achieved one of the greatest objects of the 17th century strategist, the wearing down of the enemy in repeated and useless marches. The French retreat to the Rhine was painful and costly, and Montecucculi then passed that river at Mainz and made for Trier. Turenne followed, unable to do more than conform to his opponent’s movements, and took post to defend Trier and Alsace. Thereupon Montecucculi turned northward to meet William of Orange, who evaded Condé’s weak army and marched rapidly via Venló (22nd October) on Coblenz. The elector of Trier, who had not forgotten the depredations of Louis’ army in the spring, followed the example of the bishop of Würzburg and gave a free passage at Coblenz. William and Montecucculi joined forces in the electorate and promptly besieged Bonn. This fortress fell on the 12th of November, and the troops of the coalition gained possession of an unbroken line from Amsterdam to the Breisgau, while Louis’ German allies (Cologne and Münster), now isolated, had to make peace at once. William wintered in Holland, Montecucculi in Cologne and Jülich, and the Spaniards, who had served with William, in their own provinces of the Meuse. A century after the outbreak of the War of Independence the Dutch and the Spaniards are thus found making war as allies, a striking proof of the fact that all questions but those of dynastic interests had been effectually settled by the peace of Westphalia. Louis’ allies were leaving him one by one. The German princes and the empire itself rallied to the emperor, Denmark joined the coalition (January 1674), the Great Elector re-entered the war, and soon afterwards England made peace.
1674.—In 1674 therefore Louis reluctantly evacuated those of the United Provinces occupied by his army. He had derived a considerable revenue from the enemy’s country, and he had moreover quartered his troops without expense. The resources of the French government were almost intact for the coming campaign; the corps of observation in Roussillon was continued, and its commander, Marshal Schomberg, made a successful campaign against the Spaniards, and the war was carried even into Sicily. Condé, in the Spanish Low Countries, opposed with inferior forces the united army of Spaniards, Dutch and Austrians under William, and held the Meuse from Grave to Charleroi on the Sambre. The war in this quarter was memorable for Condé’s last, and William’s first, battle, the desperate and indecisive engagement of Seneffe (August 11th), in which the two armies lost one-seventh of their strength in killed alone. The French, however, in the course of the year lost a few fortresses on the Meuse, including Grave and Huy. The king’s part in the campaign was, as usual, a war of sieges; an army under his personal command overran Franche-Comté in six weeks, and Louis, aided by the genius of Vauban, reduced Besançon in nine days. Turenne’s Rhine campaign began with an invasion of Germany, undertaken to prevent interference with Louis in Franche-Comté. Bournonville, the imperial commander who now replaced Montecucculi, lay in the Cologne and Trier electorates. An army of South Germans in the Breisgau, after an unsuccessful attempt to invade Alsace, moved northward to the Neckar valley with the intention of uniting with Bournonville, who was moving up the Rhine to meet them. Turenne determined to attack the southern army under the duke of Lorraine and Count Caprara before the junction could be effected. He crossed the Rhine at Philipsburg early in June, and on the 16th fell upon the inferior forces of Caprara in their entrenched position of Sinsheim. The result of the battle was a complete victory for the French, who followed up their success by driving a portion of Bournonville’s army (on which the duke of Lorraine had rallied his forces) from the Neckar (action of Ladenburg near Heidelberg, July 7th). Turenne then laid waste the Palatinate, in order that it should no longer support an army, and fell back over the Rhine, ignoring the reproaches of the elector palatine, who vainly challenged him to a duel. This devastation has usually been considered as a grave stain on the character of the commander who ordered it, but Turenne’s conception of duty did not differ in this respect from that of Cromwell, Marlborough, Wellington and the generals of the American Civil War. It was held to be necessary and expedient, and it was accordingly carried out. Bournonville’s army near Frankfort was still to be dealt with, and the Great Elector and his Brandenburgers were rapidly approaching the Main valley. After a slight attempt to invade Lorraine, which Turenne easily stopped, the Imperialists suddenly recrossed the Rhine and marched rapidly into the neighbourhood of the Strassburg bridge.
Turenne’s Winter Campaign in Alsace.—The magistrates of this city were not less amenable than had been the bishop of Würzburg in 1673. Bournonville obtained a free passage, and Turenne was too late to oppose him. The French general, however, determined to fight, as he had done at Sinsheim, to prevent the junction of the two hostile armies. The Great Elector was still in the Neckar valley when the battle of Enzheim (8 m. from Strassburg) was fought on the 4th of October. This time it was indecisive, and Bournonville’s superior forces, soon augmented by the arrival of the elector, spread into Alsace. Turenne steadily retired to his camp of Dettweiler, unable for the moment to do more, and the Germans took up winter quarters in all the towns from Belfort to Strassburg (October-November 1674). But Turenne was preparing for another winter campaign, the most brilliant in the great commander’s career.
First he placed the fortresses of middle Alsace in a state of defence, to deceive the enemy. Then he withdrew the whole of the field army quietly into Lorraine. Picking up on his way such reinforcements as were available, he marched southward with all speed behind the Vosges, and in the last stages of the movement he even split up his forces into many small bodies, that the enemy’s spies might be misled. After a severe march through hilly country and in the midst of snowstorms, the French reunited near Belfort, and without a moment’s delay poured into Alsace from the south. The scattered Imperialists were driven towards Strassburg, every corps which tried to resist being cut off. Bournonville stood to fight at Mülhausen with such forces as he could collect (29th December 1674) but Turenne’s men carried all before them. The advance continued to Colmar, where the elector, who was now in command of the Germans, stood on the defensive with forces equal to Turenne’s own. The battle of Türkheim (5th of January 1675) nevertheless resulted in another and this time a decisive victory for the French; a few days after the battle Turenne could report that there was not a soldier of the enemy left in Alsace. His army now went into winter quarters about Strassburg, and drew supplies from the German bank of the Rhine and even from the Neckar valley (January 1675).
1675.—This opening of the campaign promised well, and Louis as usual took the field as early as possible. In the course of the spring (May-June) the king’s army recaptured some of the lost fortresses of the Meuse and took in addition Liège and Limburg. The expeditionary corps in Sicily also gained some successes in this campaign, and Schomberg invaded Catalonia. On the Rhine was fought the last campaign of Turenne and Montecucculi. The elector having withdrawn his forces to Brandenburg (see Sweden: History), Montecucculi resumed command, and between Philipsburg and Strassburg the two great commanders manœuvred for an advantage, each seeking to cover his own country and to live upon that of the enemy. At last Turenne prevailed and had the Imperialists at a disadvantage on the Sasbach, where, in opening the action, he was killed by a cannon-shot (July 27th). The sequel showed how dependent was even the best organized army of the time upon the personality of its commander.
All the advantages won were hastily surrendered, and Montecucculi, sharply following up the retreat of the French, drove them over the Rhine and almost to the Vosges. At the same time the duke of Lorraine defeated Marshal Créqui (August 11th) at Conzer Brücke on the Moselle, and recaptured Trier (September 6th), which, as a set-off against Bonn, Turenne had taken in the autumn of 1673. The situation was more than alarming for the French, but Condé was destined to achieve a last success—for once a success of careful strategy and prudent manœuvre. Luxemburg was left in charge in Flanders, and the prince took command of the remnant of Turenne’s old army and of the fugitives of Créqui’s. Montecucculi’s skill failed completely to shake his position, and in the end the prince compelled him to retire over the Rhine. Condé and Montecucculi retired from their commands at the close of the year, Turenne was dead, and a younger generation of commanders henceforward carried on the war.
1676.—In 1676 the naval successes of France in the Mediterranean enabled the corps under Marshal Vivonne in Sicily to make considerable progress, and he won an important victory at Messina on the 25th of March. Vivonne was made viceroy of Sicily. Louis himself, with his marshals and Vauban, conducted the campaign in the north. The town of Condé fell on the 26th of April, and the king then manœuvred against the prince of Orange in the neighbourhood of Valenciennes. An attempt made by the latter in the summer to besiege Maastricht was frustrated by Marshal Schomberg with a detachment of the king’s army (August). Rochefort meanwhile covered the Meuse country and Luxemburg. Créqui, who had now returned from captivity (he had been taken after the battle of Conzer Brücke) opposed the Imperialists in Lorraine, but he was unable to prevent the fall of Philipsburg, which occurred on the 17th of September. The French now laid waste the land between the Meuse and Moselle for the same reason which brought about the devastation of the Palatinate in 1674, and the year closed with a war of manœuvre on the upper Rhine between the Imperialists under the duke of Lorraine and the French under Luxemburg.
1677.—The chief event of the campaign of 1677 in the Netherlands was the siege of Valenciennes, which fortress was invested by Louis in the first weeks of the campaigning season. Five marshals of France served under the king in this enterprise, but their advice was of less value than that of Vauban, whose plans the king followed implicitly, even so far as to order an assault de vive force against the unanimous opinion of the marshals. This succeeded beyond Vauban’s own expectation; the picked troops entrusted with the attack of an outwork forced their way into the town itself (March 17th). The success was followed by the siege of St Omer and the defeat of William’s relieving army by the duke of Orleans (battle of Mont Cassel, April 11th, 1677). The summer campaign was a contest of skill between Luxemburg and William, which resulted in favour of the French. The prince of Orange failed in an attempt to take Charleroi, and Marshal D’Humières captured St Ghislain.
In Germany the credit of the French successes was due to Créqui, who was no longer the defeated general of Conzer Brücke, but the most successful of Turenne’s pupils. He began by driving back the duke of Lorraine to the Rhine. Another attempt by the Lorraine family to reconquer their duchy was thus foiled, and at the same time a second imperial army under the duke of Saxe-Eisenach, which had crossed the Rhine by Philipsburg, was shut up in an island of the Rhine and forced to make terms with the French. A large reinforcement sent by the duke of Lorraine to the assistance of Saxe-Eisenach was completely defeated by Créqui in the battle of Kochersberg near Strassburg (October 7th) and the marshal followed up his successes by the capture of Freiburg on the 14th of November. During the year there was a brisk war in the West Indies, and also in Catalonia, where the French maintained the ground won by Schomberg in the previous campaign.
1678.—In 1678 Louis took the field in February. The skilful manœuvres of the French, whether due to Louis’ own generalship or that of his advisers, resulted in the speedy capture of Ghent and Ypres (March), and the retention of the prizes in the usual war of posts which followed. The last battle of the war was fought at St Denis (outside Mons) between William and Luxemburg on the 14th of August, three days after the peace of Nijmwegen had been concluded. William sustained another defeat, but the battle was one of the most fiercely contested of the whole war. On the Rhine, Créqui began by winning the battle of Rheinfelden (July 6th), after which he inflicted upon the Imperialists another defeat at Gengenbach (July 23rd) and took Kehl. In the short campaign of 1679, before France and the empire had concluded peace, he was equally successful.
In Spain the French army under Marshal de Navailles had also made steady progress, and thus the last campaign was wholly in favour of the French. The peace of Nijmwegen gave Louis many of the Netherlands frontier fortresses, and little else. He was threatened by the intervention of England on the side of the coalition, and would have made peace earlier but for his reluctance to abandon his ally Sweden. The French army had, however, well established its reputation. Vauban was unique amongst the officers of his time, and Créqui and Luxemburg were not unworthy successors of Turenne and Condé. The two marshals added to their reputation in the “Reunion War” of 1680-84. Créqui died in 1684 at the age of sixty-one, Luxemburg’s greatest triumph was won ten years later (see Grand Alliance, War of the). Vauban retired from active service as a marshal twenty-five years after the peace of Nijmwegen. But the interest of the war does not reside wholly in the personalities of the leaders. There were great commanders before Turenne and Condé. It is as the début of a new method of military organization and training—the first real test of the standing army as created by Louvois—that the Dutch War of 1672-79 is above all instructive. (C. F. A.)
- Marshal Luxemburg, who was left in command of the army in Holland during the winter of 1672-73, had indeed made a bold attempt to capture Leiden and the Hague by marching a corps from Utrecht across the frozen inundations. But a sudden thaw imperilled his force and he had to make a painful retreat along the dykes to Utrecht. Holland was again inundated in 1673.