1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fleurus

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FLEURUS, a village of Belgium, in the province of Hennegau, 5 m. N.E. of Charleroi, famous as the scene of several battles. The first of these was fought on August 19/29, 1622, between the forces of Count Mansfeld and Christian of Brunswick and the Spaniards under Cordovas, the latter being defeated. The second is described below, and the third and fourth, incidents of Jourdan’s campaign of 1794, under French Revolutionary Wars. The ground immediately north-east of Fleurus forms the battlefield of Ligny (June 16, 1815), for which see Waterloo Campaign.

The second battle was fought on the 1st of July 1690 between 45,000 French under François-Henri de Montgomery-Bouteville, duke of Luxemburg, and 37,000 allied Dutch, Spaniards and Imperialists under George Frederick, prince of Waldeck. The latter had formed up his army between Heppignies and St Amand in what was then considered an ideal position; a double barrier of marshy brooks was in front, each flank rested on a village, and the space between, open upland, fitted his army exactly. But Luxemburg, riding up with his advanced guard from Velaine, decided, after a cursory survey of the ground, to attack the front and both flanks of the Allies’ position at once—a decision which few, if any, generals then living would have dared to make, and which of itself places Luxemburg in the same rank as a tactician as his old friend and commander Condé. The left wing of cavalry was to move under cover of woods, houses and hollows to gain Wangenies, where it was to connect with the frontal attack of the French centre from Fleurus and to envelop Waldeck’s right. Luxemburg himself with the right wing of cavalry and some infantry and artillery made a wide sweep round the enemy’s left by way of Ligny and Les Trois Burettes, concealed by the high-standing corn. At 8 o’clock the frontal attack began by a vigorous artillery engagement, in which the French, though greatly outnumbered in guns, held their own, and three hours later Waldeck, whose attention had been absorbed by events on the front, found a long line of the enemy already formed up in his rear. He at once brought his second line back to oppose them, but while he was doing so the French leader filled up the gap between himself and the frontal assailants by posting infantry around Wagnelée, and also guns on the neighbouring hill whence their fire enfiladed both halves of the enemy’s army up to the limit of their ranging power. At 1 p.m. Luxemburg ordered a general attack of his whole line. He himself scattered the cavalry opposed to him and hustled the Dutch infantry into St Amand, where they were promptly surrounded. The left and centre of the French army were less fortunate, and in their first charge lost their leader, Lieutenant-General Jean Christophe, comte de Gournay, one of the best cavalry officers in the service. But Waldeck, hoping to profit by this momentary success, sent a portion of his right wing towards St Amand, where it merely shared the fate of his left, and the day was decided. Only a quarter of the cavalry and 14 battalions of infantry (English and Dutch) remained intact, and Waldeck could do no more, but with these he emulated the last stand of the Spaniards at Rocroi fifty years before. A great square was formed of the infantry, and a handful of cavalry joined them—the French cavalry, eager to avenge Gournay, had swept away the rest. Then slowly and in perfect order, they retired into the broken ground above Mellet, where they were in safety. The French slept on the battlefield, and then returned to camp with their trophies and 8000 prisoners. They had lost some 2500 killed, amongst them Gournay and Berbier du Metz, the chief of artillery, the Allies twice as many, as well as 48 guns, and Luxemburg was able to send 150 colours and standards to decorate Notre-Dame. But the victory was not followed up, for Louis XIV. ordered Luxemburg to keep in line with other French armies which were carrying on more or less desultory wars of manœuvre on the Meuse and Moselle.

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