Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/625

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604
SPANISH SUCCESSION, WAR OF THE


the Austrians who were still left in Lombardy (Castiglione, Sept. 9) the battle of Turin practically ended the war in Italy.

Both in the north and in the south the tide had now receded to the frontiers of France itself. Louis could now hope to gain Changing the objects of the war only partially and by sheer Conditions endurauce. But it is from this very point that the of the Wat. jr rencn operations cease (though only gradually it is true) to be the ill-defined and badly-joined patchwork of forays and cordons that they had hitherto been. In the place of Tallards, Marsins and Villeroys Louis made up his mind to put his Villars, Vendomes and Berwicks, and above all the approach of the allied armies roused in the French nation itself a spirit of national defence which bears at least a faint resemblance to the great uprisings of 1792 and 1870, and under the prevailing dynastic and professional conditions of warfare was indeed a startling phenomenon. For the gathering of this unexpected moral force 1 707 afforded a year of respite. The emperor, desiring to occupy Naples and Lombardy with the least possible trouble, agreed to permit Medavy-Grancey to bring off all the Italian garrisons, and with these and the militia battalions of the Midi Marshal Tesse formed a strong army for the defence of the Alpine frontier. In Spain the campaign opened with the brilliant success of Berwick at Almanza. In Germany Villars not only pricked the bubble reputation of the lines of Stollhofen,[1] but raided into Bavaria, penetrating as far as Blenheim battlefield before he gave up the attempt to rouse the Bavarians again. The Imperialists and Piedmontese in the south succeeded in turning the Alpine barrier, but they were brought to a complete standstill by Tesse's gallant defence of Toulon (August) and having, like their predecessors in 1692, roused the peasantry against them they retired over the mountains. In Belgium the elector of Bavaria, who was viceroy there for King Philip, and was seconded by Vendome, remained quiescent about Mons and Gsmbloux, while Marlborough, paralysed more completely than ever before by the Dutch, spent the summer inactive in camp on the Gheete.

The respite of 1707 had enabled Louis to 'gather his strength in Flanders. Henceforward operations on the Rhine and in Dauphine are of quite secondary importance, so much so that Eugene and the main Austrian army are always found in the Low Countries fighting side by side with the Anglo-allied army of Marlborough.

In" 1708 Eugene foresaw this shift of the centre of gravity and arranged with Marlborough to transfer the army which was Campaign ostensibly destined for the Rhine campaign to oii708. Brabant, repaying thus the debt of 1704. Indeed the main army of the French was markedly superior in numbers to Marlborough's and hardly inferior to Marlborough's and Eugene's combined. Placing the elector of Bavaria, with Ber- wick to advise him, at the head of the small army of Alsace, he put his young grandson and heir, the duke of Burgundy, at the head of the great army which assembled at Valenciennes, and gave him Vendome as mentor. But the prince was pious, mild- mannered, unambitious of military glory and also obstinate, and to unite him with the fiery, loose-living and daring Venddme, was, as Saint-Simon says, " mixing fire and water." At the end of May operations began. Vendome advanced to engage Marlborough before Eugene, whose purpose had become known, should join him. As the French came on towards Brussels, Marlborough, who had concentrated at Hal,[fell back by a forced march to Louvain. Vendome having thus won the first move, there was a pause and then the French suddenly swung round to the west, and began to overrun Flanders, where their agents had already won over many of the officials who had been installed by the allies since 1706. Ghent and Bruges surrendered at once, and to regain for King Philip all the country west of the Scheldt it only remained to take Oudenarde. On the day of the sur- render of Ghent Marlborough was in pursuit, and one long forced

Oudenarde.

march brought his army almost within striking distance of the receding enemy. But though Eugene himself had joined him, Eugene's army was still far behind, and the duke was stopped by demands for protection from the officials of Brussels. Vend6me soon moved on Oudenarde. But scarcely had he begun this investment when Marlborough was upon him. The duke dis- cussed the situation with Eugene, who had placed himself under his friend's orders. Marlborough was half inclined — another general would have been resolved — to wait for Eugene's troops before giving battle, for he knew that Vend6me was no ordinary opponent, but Eugene counselled immediate action lest the French should escape, and relying on his own skill and on the well-known disunion in the French headquarters, Marlborough went forward. As he approached, the French gave up the siege of Oudenarde and took up a position at Gavre, 7 m. lower down the Scheldt, so as to be able to act towards either Ghent or Oudenarde. Marlborough's advanced guard, boldly handled by Cadogan, slipped in between Gavre and Oudenarde. At once the dissensions in the French headquarters became flagrant. Vendome began to place part of the army in position along the river while the duke of Burgundy was posting the rest much farther back as another line of defence. Cadogan was thus able to destroy the few isolated troops on the river. Thereupon Vendome proposed to the duke to advance and to destroy Cadogan before the main body of the allies came up, but the young prince's hesitations allowed the chance to pass. He then proposed a retreat on Ghent. " It is too late," replied Vendome, and formed up the army for battle as best he could. The allied main body, marching with all speed, crossed the Scheldt at all hazards and joined Cadogan. In the encounter- battle which followed (see Oudenarde) Marlborough separated, cut off and destroyed the French right wing. The French re- treated in disorder on Ghent (July n) with a loss of 15,000 men. Nevertheless Oudenarde was in no way decisive, and for the rest of the campaign the two armies wandered to and fro in the usual way. Berwick, recalled from Alsace, manoeuvred about Douay, while Vendome remained near Ghent, and between siege ol them Marlborough's and Eugene's armies devoted LIIIe - themselves to the siege of Lille. In this town, one of Vauban's masterpieces of fortification, the old Marshal Boufflers had under- taken the defence, and it offered a long and unusually gallant resistance to Eugene's army. Marlborough covered the siege. Vendome manoeuvred gradually round and joined Berwick, but though 90,000 and later 1 20,000 strong, they did not attack him. Berwick was a new element of dissension in the distracted headquarters, and they limited their efforts first to attempting to intercept a hugh convoy of artillery and stores that the allies brought up from Brussels for the siege,[2] and secondly to destroy another convoy that was brought up from Ostend by the General Webb known to readers of Esmond. The futile attack upon the second convoy is known as the action of Wynendael (Sept. 28). The only other incident of the campaign in the open was an unsuccessful raid on Brussels by a small corps under the elector of Bavaria from the Moselle via Namur.

On the 8th of December the brave old marshal surrendered, Eugene complimenting him by allowing him to dictate the terms of capitulation. Ghent and Bruges were retaken by the allies without difficulty, and, to add to the disasters of Oudenarde and Lille, a terrible winter almost completed the ruin of France. In despair Louis negotiated for peace, but the coalition offered such humiliating terms that not only the king, but — what in the 18th century was a rare and memorable thing — his people also, resolved to fight to the end. The ruinous winter gave force to the spirit of defence, for fear of starvation, inducing something akin to the courage of despair, brought tens of thousands of recruits to the colours.

Of the three invasions of France attempted in this memorable year two were insignificant. On the Rhine the elector of

  1. The Margrave Louis of Baden had died during the winter of 1706-1707. He was succeeded by the incompetent margrave of Bayreuth, who was soon displaced. This general's successor was the elector of Hanover, afterwards King George I. of England.
  2. An excellent illustration of 18th century views on war is afforded by the fact that the completely successful defence of this convoy was regarded by his contemporaries as Marlborough's greatest triumph.