Battle of Saint-Denis (1678)

Last updated
Battle of Saint-Denis
Part of the Franco-Dutch War
1678 Slag bij St. Denis - Romeyn de Hooghe.jpg
Battle of Saint-Denis by Romeyn de Hooghe
Date14 August 1678
Location 50°29′00″N4°01′00″E / 50.4833°N 4.0167°E / 50.4833; 4.0167
Result Disputed
Belligerents
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg  France Statenvlag.svg  Dutch Republic
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg  Spain
Commanders and leaders
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg Luxembourg
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg de Villeroy
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg Comte de Montal
Statenvlag.svg William of Orange
Statenvlag.svg Count Waldeck
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Duke of Villahermosa
Flag of England.svg Earl of Ossory
Strength
40,000 45,000
Casualties and losses
4,000 4,500–5,000

The Battle of Saint-Denis was the last major action of the Franco-Dutch War, which took place on 14 August 1678, four days after France and the Dutch Republic signed the Treaty of Nijmegen. The battle was fought to prevent the French capturing the town of Mons, then on the border between France and the Spanish Netherlands, now modern Belgium. Its result is disputed.

Contents

Fighting was concentrated around the nearby villages of Saint-Denis and Casteau. A French army of 40,000 under Marshal Luxembourg was attacked by an Allied Dutch-Spanish army of 45,000 led by William of Orange. A series of Allied assaults were successfully repulsed by the French and William ordered a retreat after six hours of fighting. However, Luxembourg abandoned the siege the next day and Spain retained Mons in the treaty agreed with France on 17 September.

Background

Belgium relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Mons
Red pog.svg
Maastricht
Red pog.svg
Ypres
Red pog.svg
Cateau-Cambrésis
Red pog.svg
Ghent
Red pog.svg
Brussels
Red pog.svg
Charleroi
Red pog.svg
Valenciennes
Red pog.svg
Cassel
Red pog.svg
Maubeuge
The Spanish Netherlands and Northern France in 1678; key locations

France viewed possession of the Spanish Netherlands as essential for its security and trade and occupied much of it in the 1667 to 1668 War of Devolution. Having won their independence in 1648, the Dutch Republic preferred a weakened Spain as a neighbour, rather than an aggressive and expansionist France. As a result, the Dutch-led Triple Alliance forced Louis XIV of France to return most of his gains in the 1668 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. [1] Thereafter, Louis decided the best way to force concessions from the Dutch was by first defeating them. [2]

Initially supported by England, the Franco-Dutch War began in May 1672; French troops quickly overran much of the Netherlands, but by July the Dutch position had stabilised. Success encouraged Louis to make excessive demands, while concern at French advances brought the Dutch support from Brandenburg-Prussia, Emperor Leopold, and Charles II of Spain. In August 1673, an Imperial army entered the Rhineland; facing war on multiple fronts, the French abandoned most of their Dutch gains to focus elsewhere, retaining only Grave and Maastricht. [3] In January 1674, Denmark joined the anti-French coalition, while in February England left the war via the Treaty of Westminster. [4]

In the first part of 1674, Louis focused on recapturing Franche-Comté, which was completed by the end of June and French troops transferred to Condé's army in the Spanish Netherlands. Both sides suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Seneffe on 11 August, which confirmed Louis' preference for positional warfare, with siege and manoeuvre dominating in this theatre thereafter. [5] The peace talks that began at Nijmegen in 1676 were given a greater sense of urgency in November 1677 when William of Orange married his cousin Mary, Charles II of England's niece. An Anglo-Dutch defensive alliance followed in March 1678, although English troops did not arrive in significant numbers until late May. This allowed Louis to improve his negotiating position by capturing Ypres and Ghent in early March, before signing a peace treaty with the Dutch on 10 August. [6]

Battle

Vauban's pre carre line of fortresses; green = first line, blue = second line Low Countries 1700 and entrenched lines.png
Vauban's pré carré line of fortresses; green = first line, blue = second line

French strategy was driven by Vauban's pré carré plan, a double-line of fortresses to protect their northern borders (See Map). Mons was the most significant position still held by the Spanish; although the Dutch had agreed terms with France, Spain had not yet done so, and the delay provided an opportunity to capture it. [6]

During the March offensive that secured Ypres and Ghent, a French force under the Comte de Montal was based at Saint-Ghislain and Marville to blockade Mons. After England's entry into the war, Marshal Luxembourg was ordered to stay on the defensive but prevent any attempt to relieve it. On 12 August, his army of 40,000 was camped in the nearby villages of Saint-Denis and Casteau, with a Dutch and Spanish force of 45,000 based at Soignies, about three hours march away. [7]

William and Villahermosa were aware the Dutch were close to agreeing terms with France, but decided to attack anyway. The war with Spain continued regardless, and preventing the loss of Mons benefitted both the Spanish and Dutch. [8] Luxembourg, who was based in the Abbey de St Denis, an exposed position in front of the French right wing, reportedly learned of the Treaty on the morning of 14 August. [9]

Early in the afternoon, Villeroy reported the Allies were advancing on the abbey; assuming this to be a feint, Luxembourg ordered his artillery and baggage train to withdraw towards de Montal's positions at Saint-Ghislain. About 15:00, German mercenaries under Count Waldeck captured the Abbey, while Spanish and Dutch infantry, including the Anglo-Scots Brigade, attacked Villeroy's troops around Casteau. Concentrating on a narrow front allowed the Allies to take most of the village, but they failed to break Villeroy's front line. [10]

Ruins of the Abbey St Denis, Luxembourg's headquarters, taken by the Dutch in the first assault Ruins of the Abbey St Denis, Mons, Hainut.jpg
Ruins of the Abbey St Denis, Luxembourg's headquarters, taken by the Dutch in the first assault

Once Luxembourg realised this was not a feint, he brought up his reserves; the battle for Casteau lasted over five hours, with church, mill and chateau changing hands several times. Both sides suffered heavy casualties in fierce hand-to-hand fighting; Luxembourg suffered minor wounds, while William was reportedly saved by future Marshal Hendrik Overkirk, who killed a French dragoon with his pistol against the Prince's chest. [11]

The Allies began to withdraw around 19:00, leaving troops in Casteau to cover their retreat, which then pulled back, with the exception of a regiment of French Huguenots exiles holding the chateau. Commanded by a former French regular officer, M de La Roque-Servière, they continued fighting until over-run just after 21:00, when the battle ended. [12]

French casualties were around 4,000 killed or wounded, including 689 in the elite Gardes Francaises, those of the Allies between 4,500 and 5,000. [13] The only British troops involved were the six regiments of the Anglo-Scots Brigade in Dutch service, commanded by the Earl of Ossory; while Monmouth was present and reportedly took part in a number of cavalry charges, the English Brigade which he commanded had not yet joined the main army. [14]

Aftermath

The French incurred fewer casualties and remained in possession of the battlefield, allowing them to claim victory under the usage of the period, but the Allies achieved their strategic objective of ensuring Mons remained in Spanish hands. As a consequence, the result is disputed; it has been described as a French victory, [15] [16] a narrow Dutch defeat, [17] or Dutch victory. [18]

Spain and France agreed an armistice on 19 August, with a formal peace treaty signed on 17 September. France returned Charleroi, Ghent and other towns in the Spanish Netherlands, but Spain ceded Ypres, Maubeuge, Câteau-Cambrésis, Valenciennes, Saint-Omer and Cassel; with the exception of Ypres, all of these remain part of modern France. [19]

Related Research Articles

Battle of Fleurus (1690) Battle in the Nine Years War between France and the Grand Alliance (1690)

The Battle of Fleurus, fought on 1 July 1690, was a major engagement of the Nine Years' War. In a bold and masterful envelopment, Marshal Luxembourg, commanding a French army of some 35,000 men, inflicted a severe defeat on Prince Waldeck’s Allied force of approximately 38,000 men. Waldeck lost 50% of his army and Luxembourg moved ahead to control Flanders.

Battle of Seneffe 1674 battle during the Franco-Dutch War

The Battle of Seneffe took place on 11 August 1674 near Seneffe in present-day Belgium and was one of the most notable engagements of the Franco-Dutch War. It was fought between a French army commanded by Condé and a combined Dutch, Imperial, and Spanish force under William of Orange.

Peace of Ryswick Series of treaties signed in late 1697 ending the Nine Years War between France and the Grand Alliance

The Peace of Ryswick, or Rijswijk, was a series of treaties signed in the Dutch city of Rijswijk between 20 September and 30 October 1697. They ended the 1688 to 1697 Nine Years' War between France, and the Grand Alliance, which included England, Spain, Austria, and the Dutch Republic.

Nine Years War War (1688–97) between France and a European coalition

The Nine Years' War (1688–1697), often called the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg, was a conflict between France and a European coalition which mainly included the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, England, Spain, Savoy and Portugal. It was fought in Europe and the surrounding seas, in North America, and in India. It is sometimes considered the first global war. The conflict encompassed the Williamite war in Ireland and Jacobite risings in Scotland, where William III and James II struggled for control of England and Ireland, and a campaign in colonial North America between French and English settlers and their respective Indigenous allies.

Battle of Landen

The Battle of Landen or Neerwinden took place on 29 July 1693, during the Nine Years' War. It was fought around the village of Neerwinden in the Spanish Netherlands, now part of the municipality of Landen, Belgium.

War of Devolution War between France and Spain for the Spanish Netherlands (1667–1668)

In the 1667 to 1668 War of Devolution, France occupied large parts of the Spanish Netherlands, and Franche-Comté, both then provinces of Spain. The name derives from an obscure law known as the Jus Devolutionis, used by Louis XIV of France to claim that these territories had "devolved" to him by right of marriage to Maria Theresa of Spain.

Franco-Dutch War Conflict between the Dutch Republic and France and their respective allies (1672–1678)

The 1672 to 1678 Franco-Dutch War, also known as the Dutch War,, was fought primarily between France and the Dutch Republic, supported by the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Brandenburg-Prussia and Denmark-Norway. French allies included Münster and Cologne until 1673, as well as England which left the conflict in 1674, then re-entered it in February 1678 on the side of the Dutch.

Triple Alliance (1668) Defensive treaty between England, the Dutch Republic and Sweden

The 1668 Triple Alliance was signed by the Kingdom of England, the Swedish Empire and the Dutch Republic in May 1668. It was created in response to the occupation of the Spanish Netherlands and Franche-Comté by France. Although Spain and Emperor Leopold were not signatories, they were closely involved in the negotiations.

War of the Reunions

The War of the Reunions (1683–84) was a conflict involving France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and their allies. It can be seen as a continuation of the 1667–1668 War of Devolution and 1672–1678 Franco–Dutch War, which were driven by Louis XIV's determination to establish defensible boundaries along France's northern and eastern borders.

Battle of Cassel (1677) Battle (1677) during the Franco-Dutch War in which a French army defeated a combined Dutch-Spanish force

The Battle of Cassel, sometimes called the Battle of Peene, took place during the Franco-Dutch War, near Cassel, 15 km (9 mi) west of Saint-Omer. A French army commanded by the duc de Luxembourg defeated a combined Dutch–Spanish force under William of Orange.

Battle of Rocoux

The Battle of Rocoux took place on 11 October 1746 during the War of the Austrian Succession, at Rocourt, near Liège in the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. It featured a French army under Marshal Saxe and a combined British, Dutch, German and Austrian force led by Charles of Lorraine, John Ligonier and Prince Waldeck. The battle ended the 1746 campaign and the two armies went into winter quarters.

François de Créquy

François de Blanchefort de Créquy, later Marquis de Marines, 2 October 1629 to 3 February 1687, was a 17th-century French noble and soldier, who served in the wars of Louis XIV of France.

Louis de Crevant, Duke of Humières

Louis de Crévant, Marquis then later duc d'Humières (1628–1694) was a French nobleman of the 17th century, who became a Marshal of France in 1668 and Grand Master of Artillery in 1685.

Siege of Valenciennes (1676–1677) Siege in 1677

The Siege of Valenciennes took place from 28 February to 17 March 1677, during the Franco-Dutch War, when Valenciennes, then in the Spanish Netherlands, was attacked by a French army under the duc de Luxembourg.

Siege of Cambrai (1677) 1677 battle of the Franco-Dutch War

The Siege of Cambrai took place from 20 March to 19 April 1677 during the 1672-1678 Franco-Dutch War; then part of the Spanish Netherlands, it was invested by a French army under the duc de Luxembourg. Siege operations were supervised by the military engineer Vauban; Louis XIV was nominally in command but played little part in operations.

Siege of Besançon

The Siege of Besançon took place from 25 April to 22 May 1674 during the Franco-Dutch War, when French forces nominally led by Louis XIV of France invaded Franche-Comté, then part of the Spanish Empire.

Battle of Entzheim Battle on 4 October 1674 near Entzheim during the Franco-Dutch War

The Battle of Entzheim, also called Enzheim, or Ensheim, took place on 4 October 1674, during the 1672 to 1678 Franco-Dutch War. It was fought near the town of Entzheim, south of Strasbourg in Alsace, between a French army under Turenne, and an Imperial force commanded by Alexander von Bournonville.

France–Netherlands relations Diplomatic relations between the French Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands

The French–Dutch relations refer to the interstate and bilateral relations between France and the Netherlands. The two countries notably share a border division in the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, to which the northern part of the island is a French overseas collectivity known as the Collectivity of Saint Martin, while the southern part of the island is a Dutch constituent country known as Sint Maarten. Relations between the two countries date back to the 17th and 18th centuries when a conflict led to the transformation of the Dutch Republic to the Batavian Republic and eventually the Kingdom of Holland. The two countries currently enjoy close cultural and economic relations. Both nations are members of the OECD, as well as founding members of the European Union, NATO, and the United Nations.

Battle of Altenheim

The Battle of Altenheim took place on 1 August 1675 during the 1672-1678 Franco-Dutch War near Altenheim, in modern Baden-Württemberg. It was fought by a French army of 20,000, jointly commanded by the Marquis de Vaubrun and the Comte de Lorges, and an Imperial Army of 30,000 under Raimondo Montecuccoli.

The Battle of Ortenbach, also known as the Battle of Gengenbach, took place on 23 July 1678 during the closing stages of the 1672-1678 Franco-Dutch War, in the modern German state of Baden-Württemberg. It featured a French army commanded by François de Créquy and an Imperial force under Charles V, Duke of Lorraine.

References

  1. Macintosh 1973, p. 165.
  2. Lynn 1996, pp. 109-110.
  3. Lynn 1996, pp. 123-124.
  4. Hutton 1989, p. 317.
  5. Lynn 1996, p. 125.
  6. 1 2 Lesaffer.
  7. De Périni 1896, pp. 224–225.
  8. Lynn 1996, p. 152.
  9. De Périni 1896, p. 227.
  10. De Périni 1896, pp. 228-229.
  11. Frey & Frey 1995, p. 306.
  12. De Périni 1896, pp. 230-232.
  13. De Périni 1896, pp. 234-235.
  14. Ede-Borrett 2003, pp. 278–281.
  15. Sandler 2002, p. 514.
  16. Dupuy & Dupuy 1993, p. 566.
  17. Kossmann 1975, p. 296.
  18. Nimwegen 2010, p. 510.
  19. Nolan 2008, p. 128.

Sources