Battle of Tourcoing

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Battle of Tourcoing
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
Bataille de Tourcoing 1794.jpg
Battle of Tourcoing
Date18 May 1794
Location
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg Republican France Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Habsburg Austria
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg  Great Britain
Flag of Hanover (1692).svg Hanover
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg Joseph Souham
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg Jean Moreau
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Prince of Coburg
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg Duke of York
Units involved
Army of the North Coalition Army
Strength
70,000 74,000
Casualties and losses
3,000, 7 guns 5,500, 60 guns

The Battle of Tourcoing (18 May 1794) [1] saw a Republican French army directed by General Joseph Souham defend against an attack by an Austrian, British, and Hanoverian Coalition army under Austrian Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. The French army was temporarily led by Souham in the absence of its normal commander Jean-Charles Pichegru. Threatened with encirclement, Souham and division commanders Jean Victor Marie Moreau and Jacques Philippe Bonnaud improvised a counterattack which defeated the Coalition's widely separated and badly coordinated columns. The War of the First Coalition action was fought near the town of Tourcoing, just north of Lille in northeastern France.

Joseph Souham French army commander

Joseph Souham was a French general who fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was born at Lubersac and died at Versailles. After long service in the French Royal Army, he was elected to lead a volunteer battalion in 1792 during the French Revolution. He was promoted to general of division in September 1793 after playing a prominent role in the defense of Dunkirk. In May 1794 with his commander absent, he took temporary command of the Army of the North and defeated the Coalition army at Tourcoing. He led the covering forces at the Siege of Ypres and participated in the successful invasion of the Dutch Republic. He spent many years in occupation duties in Holland and then his career suffered because of his association with Pichegru and Moreau. Starting in 1809 he was employed in Spain during the Peninsular War, winning the Battle of Vich where he was wounded. In army command again, he forced Wellington's army to retreat at Tordesillas in 1812. The following year he led a division at Lützen and a corps at Leipzig. He remained loyal to the Bourbons during the Hundred Days.

Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld austrian general

Prince Frederick Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was a general in the Austrian service.

Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany British prince

Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany was the second son of George III, King of the United Kingdom and Hanover, and his consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. A soldier by profession, from 1764 to 1803 he was Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück in the Holy Roman Empire. From the death of his father in 1820 until his own death in 1827 he was the heir presumptive to his elder brother, George IV, in both the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Kingdom of Hanover.

Contents

The Coalition battle plan drawn up by Karl Mack von Leiberich launched six columns that attempted to envelop a part of the French army holding an awkward bulge at Menen (Menin) and Kortrijk (Courtrai). The French were able to hold off François Sébastien Charles Joseph de Croix, Count of Clerfayt's northern column as the southern columns of Franz Joseph, Count Kinsky and Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen made slow progress. Meanwhile, Souham concentrated his main strength on the three center columns against the overall command of Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany and inflicted a costly setback on the Coalition's Habsburg Austrian, British and Hanoverian troops. The action is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Turcoine, a gesture towards the English pronunciation of the town.

Karl Mack von Leiberich Austrian general

Karl Freiherr Mack von Leiberich was an Austrian soldier. He is best remembered as the commander of the Austrian forces that capitulated to Napoleon's Grande Armée in the Battle of Ulm in 1805. Mack makes a brief appearance as a character in book two of Volume I of Tolstoy's War and Peace.

Menen Municipality in Flemish Community, Belgium

Menen is a municipality located in the Belgian province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Menen proper and the towns of Lauwe and Rekkem. The city is situated on the French/Belgian border. On January 1, 2006, Menen had a total population of 32,413. The total area is 33.07 km² which gives a population density of 980 inhabitants per km².

Kortrijk Municipality in Flemish Community, Belgium

Kortrijk is a Belgian city and municipality in the Flemish province of West Flanders.

Summary

Under the temporary leadership of Souham, Maj-Gen Charles Pichegru's Army of the North (Armée du Nord) encountered an Austro-British-German force at Tourcoing. Despite a slight advantage in numbers, the 74,000 Allied troops under Saxe-Coburg were out-led and out-fought by Souham's 70,000 French troops. (However, one authority gives the French total as 82,000.) [2]

Souham devised a strategic pincer movement consisting of his division attacking southwards from Kortrijk (Courtrai) and Maj-Gen Bonnaud's division northeastwards from Lille, thus catching the separated allied columns of Georg Wilhelm von dem Bussche, Rudolf Ritter von Otto and the Duke of York between them. Meanwhile, part of Moreau's command held off the assault of the Count of Clerfayt from the north. It was a sprawling engagement fought out over many square miles of countryside just west of the Scheldt River in Flanders. Together with Maj-Gen Jean-Baptiste Jourdan's victory at the Battle of Fleurus on 16 June, Tourcoing marked the start of the evacuation of the allied forces from Flanders and French supremacy in Western Europe.

Pincer movement military tactic

The pincer movement, or double envelopment, is a military maneuver in which forces simultaneously attack both flanks (sides) of an enemy formation.

Lille Prefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Lille is a city at the northern tip of France, in French Flanders. On the Deûle River, near France's border with Belgium, it is the capital of the Hauts-de-France region, the prefecture of the Nord department, and the main city of the European Metropolis of Lille.

Georg Wilhelm von dem Bussche was a general officer of Hanoverian soldiers during the War of the First Coalition who famously led one of the Coalition columns at the Battle of Tourcoing. He was born into a noble family in the Kingdom of Prussia but later became a page to King George II of Great Britain who was also Elector of Hanover. In 1743 he joined the Hanoverian military service and fought in the War of the Austrian Succession and Seven Years' War, fighting at Minden and Lutterberg. He led a battalion at Gibraltar in the American Revolutionary War. In the War of the First Coalition he led his soldiers at Valenciennes, Hondschoote, Mouscron, Tourcoing and Tournai. On 11 December 1794 while defending the Bommelerwaard in the Dutch Republic, his hand was taken off by a cannonball and he died shortly afterward.

Forces

The Army of the North included the divisions of Souham (28,000), Moreau (22,000), Jacques Philippe Bonnaud (20,000) and Osten (10,000). Saxe-Coburg's army consisted of three Austrian columns commanded by Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen (18½ battalions, 6 squadrons), the François Sébastien Charles Joseph de Croix, Count of Clerfayt and Franz Joseph, Count Kinsky. Von dem Bussche commanded the Hanoverians (5 bns, 8 sqdns). The Duke of York led the British (8 bns, 6 sqdns), Hessen-Darmstadt (3 bns, 4 sqdns) and Hessen-Kassel (4 bns, 8 sqdns) contingents. [2]

Jacques Philippe Bonnaud or Bonneau commanded a French combat division in a number of actions during the French Revolutionary Wars. He enlisted in the French Royal Army as cavalryman in 1776 and was a non-commissioned officer in 1789. He became a captain in the 12th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment in 1792. The unit fought at Valmy, Jemappes, Aldenhoven, Neerwinden, Raismes, Caesar's Camp and Wattignies, and he was wounded twice. In January 1794 he was promoted to general officer. In April 1794, he reluctantly accepted command of a division that had been cut to pieces at Villers-en-Cauchies and Troisvilles, and this at a time when failed generals often were sent to the guillotine. He led his troops at Courtrai, Tourcoing and in the invasion of the Dutch Republic. He fought in the War in the Vendée the following year, briefly leading the Army of the Coasts of Cherbourg. In the Rhine Campaign of 1796 he led a cavalry division in combat at Amberg, Würzburg and Limburg. He was badly wounded in the latter action and never recovered, dying at Bonn six months later. BONNEAU is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 6.

Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen Archduke of Austria

Archduke Charles Louis John Joseph Laurentius of Austria, Duke of Teschen was an Austrian field-marshal, the third son of Emperor Leopold II and his wife, Maria Luisa of Spain. He was also the younger brother of Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor. Despite being epileptic, Charles achieved respect both as a commander and as a reformer of the Austrian army. He was considered one of Napoleon's more formidable opponents.

François Sébastien Charles Joseph de Croix, Count of Clerfayt Austrian marshal

François Sébastien Charles Joseph de Croix, Count of Clerfayt, a Walloon, joined the army of the Habsburg Monarchy and soon fought in the Seven Years' War. Later in his military career, he led Austrian troops in the war against Ottoman Turkey. During the French Revolutionary Wars he saw extensive fighting and rose to the rank of Field Marshal.

Background

The Army of the North had thrust eastward so that the divisions of Souham and Moreau, which formed the left (north) flank, stood on the south bank of the Lys River between Courtrai and Aalbeke. Bonnaud held the center with units at Lannoy, Tressin and Sainghin. In addition, Compère's brigade held Tourcoing and Thierry's brigade held Mouscron. Osten's division defended Pont-à-Marcq on the right (south) flank. These dispositions straddle the current French-Belgian border.

Aalbeke Place in West Flanders, Belgium

Aalbeke is a village in the Belgian province of West Flanders and since 1977 a district of Kortrijk. Aalbeke has postal code 8511 and covers an area of 717 ha. The district had 2,953 inhabitants on December 31, 2007. Aalbeke is located 6 km southwest of Kortrijk and is surrounded by Rollegem, Mouscron, Lauwe and Marke. Near the village of Aalbeke the interchange of the E17 and E403.

Lannoy, Nord Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Lannoy is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.

Tressin Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Tressin is a commune of the Nord department in northern France.

Saxe-Coburg's chief-of-staff, General Karl Mack von Leiberich proposed enveloping and annihilating the 50,000-strong mass formed by Souham and Moreau. Clerfayt's detached corps was to march along the north bank of the Lys from Tielt through Menin. At Werwick, Clerfayt would force a crossing to the south bank, placing him well behind the French left flank. The Duke of York's three columns would advance to the northwest from Tournai toward Tourcoing. This force would pin the divisions of Souham and Moreau against the Lys. To the south, Archduke Charles and Kinsky would brush Osten and Bonnaud aside and wheel northwest, linking with Clerfayt and trapping the French left flank. The movement began on 16 May.

Battle

On 17 May, Clerfayt found his crossing resisted by Brig-Gen Dominique Vandamme, who had a brigade of Moreau's division. The Duke of York's right column under Bussche captured Mouscron, but it was driven out again and mauled by a French brigade. The center column led by Otto seized Tourcoing. With the British Guards brigade under Henry Fox leading the attack, the Duke of York's left column under Ralph Abercromby, stormed into Lannoy, Willems and Mouvaux. Kinsky's column crossed the Marque River at Bouvines but made little progress beyond there. Archduke Charles' column got a late start and barely made it to Pont-à-Marcq. Only the columns of Abercromby and Otto had reached their assigned positions by evening.

On 18 May, Souham determined to hurl 40,000 men at the Duke of York's three columns, while holding Kinsky, Charles and Clerfayt off with secondary forces. During the night, Clerfayt managed to cross to the south bank of the Lys. His 21,000 men drove back Vandamme's 12,000, but he was unable to advance south beyond Linselles. Shaken by his defeat the day before, Bussche retreated to the Scheldt River. In the south, Charles and Kinsky remained almost completely inert, despite Mack's frantic orders for them to march to Lannoy. Instead, Charles became obsessed with protecting his left flank and rear from French incursions.

The Duke of York narrowly escapes across a brook 'Peril at Sea'.jpg
The Duke of York narrowly escapes across a brook

At dawn, Brig-Gen Étienne MacDonald's brigade of Souham's division rushed and recaptured Tourcoing from Otto. Malbrancq's brigade Posted between Roncq and Blanc-four, just south of roncq [3] attacked Mouvaux from the north while Bonnaud applied pressure from the west . At first, Otto held firm on a line south of Tourcoing, but he was slowly driven back. At 11:30 am, the command of Abercromby, now isolated and under very heavy attack, nevertheless extricated itself and retreated from Mouvaux toward the southeast, Fox's Guards brigade distinguishing itself during the withdrawal. This ended the battle. The Duke of York, separated from his command, narrowly avoided capture and was obliged to wade a deep brook to escape. Souham immediately faced his tired troops about and prepared to attack Clerfayt. That general, realizing he was now alone, recrossed to the north bank of the Lys and retreated to the northeast.

Results

The French suffered 3,000 casualties and lost 7 cannon. There was no pursuit of the defeated Allied main body. The Allies lost 4,000 killed and wounded, with 1,500 men and 60 guns captured. The 1st Hanoverian Infantry Regiment was nearly destroyed. The reasons for the Allied defeat were simple. There was poor staff work, very little cooperation and a failure to bring all their troops into action. Of his 74,000 Allied soldiers, Saxe-Coburg only committed 48,000 to battle. [4]

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References

Footnotes

  1. Tucker, Spencer C. (2009-12-23). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East [6 volumes]: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO. ISBN   978-1-85109-672-5.
  2. 1 2 Smith, Digby George (2003). Charge!: Great Cavalry Charges of the Napoleonic Wars. Greenhill. ISBN   978-1-85367-541-6.p.79
  3. Fortescue, Hon Sir John William (2014-06-13). A History Of The British Army – Vol. IV – Part One (1789-1801). Pickle Partners Publishing. ISBN   978-1-78289-130-7.
  4. Smith, p 80

Coordinates: 50°43′56.46″N3°9′17.28″E / 50.7323500°N 3.1548000°E / 50.7323500; 3.1548000