Battle of Valenciennes (1656)

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Battle of Valenciennes
Part of the Franco-Spanish War
Siege de Valenciennes.jpg
The siege of Valenciennes
Date16 July 1656
Location
Result Spanish victory [1]
Belligerents
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg  France Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Spain
Commanders and leaders
Vicomte de Turenne
Maréchal La Ferté   (POW)
Juan José de Austria
Prince of Condé
Strength
25,000–30,000 [2] [3] [4] 20,000 [5] [6]
Casualties and losses
2,000–7,000 killed or wounded [7]
1,277–4,400 captured [3] [8] [9]
500 killed or wounded [10]
Don Juan Jose de Austria as commander of the Spanish army. Juanjosedeaustriaribera.jpg
Don Juan José de Austria as commander of the Spanish army.

The Battle of Valenciennes (16 July 1656) was fought between the Spanish troops commanded by Don Juan José de Austria against the French troops under Marshal Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne, in the outskirts of the town in the Spanish Netherlands, during the Franco-Spanish War. It was the worst of only a few defeats that the French Marshal Vicomte de Turenne suffered in his long career campaigning and is regarded as Spain's last great victory of the 17th century. [11]

John of Austria the Younger Spanish general

John of Austria or John Joseph of Austria was a Spanish general and political figure. He was the only bastard son of Philip IV of Spain to be acknowledged by the King and trained for military command and political administration. Don John advanced the causes of the Spanish Crown militarily and diplomatically at Naples, Sicily, Catalonia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Dunkirk and other fronts. He was the governor of the Southern Netherlands from 1656 to 1659. He remained a popular hero even as the fortunes of Imperial Spain began to decline. His feuds with his father's widow, Queen Mariana, led to a 1677 palace coup through which he exiled Mariana and took control of the monarchy of his half-brother Charles II of Spain. However, he proved far from the savior Spain had hoped he would be. He remained in power until his death in 1679.

Spanish Netherlands Historical region of the Low Countries (1581-1714)

Spanish Netherlands was the collective name of States of the Holy Roman Empire in the Low Countries, held in personal union by the Spanish Crown from 1556 to 1714. This region comprised most of the modern states of Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of northern France, southern Netherlands, and western Germany with the capital being Brussels.

Contents

Prelude

On 18 May 1656 the French troops, commanded by Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne began to close in and surround the fortified town of Valenciennes which was defended by a Spanish garrison under the command of Francisco de Meneses. [5] The well organised siege began to exhaust the defenders. Towards the end of June, Don Juan José de Austria, the governor of the Spanish Netherlands, took the decision to come to the aid of Valenciennes as its situation was becoming unsustainable. [10]

Valenciennes Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

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

The French army, consisting of 115 cavalry divisions and 31 of infantry, was divided into a further 2 divisions on each side of the river Scheldt, one of which was under the command of Turenne and the other, under Henri de La Ferté-Senneterre, with the communication problems that this caused. [10]

Henri II de La Ferté-Senneterre was a marshal of France and governor of Lorraine.

The battle

On the night of 15 July just as the fortress was about to surrender, the Spanish army arrived consisting of 81 squadrons of cavalry and 27 of infantry. Don Juan's army dug in about a league from the enemy, preparing to launch an offensive. Four attacks were organised: [10]

Flight of the Wild Geese

The Flight of the Wild Geese was the departure of an Irish Jacobite army under the command of Patrick Sarsfield from Ireland to France, as agreed in the Treaty of Limerick on 3 October 1691, following the end of the Williamite War in Ireland. More broadly, the term Wild Geese is used in Irish history to refer to Irish soldiers who left to serve in continental European armies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Luis de Benavides Carrillo, Marquis of Caracena Spanish general

Luis Francisco de Benavides Carrillo de Toledo, Marquis of Caracena, Marquis of Fromista was a Spanish general and political figure. He served as Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands between 1659 and 1664.

Prince of Ligne title of Belgian nobility

Prince of Ligne is a title of Belgian nobility that belongs to the House of Ligne, which goes back to the eleventh century. It owes its name to the village in which it originated, between Ath and Tournai. The lords of Ligne belonged to the entourage of the Count of Hainaut at the time of the Crusades.

"The Battle of Valenciennes" Painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau La batalla de Valenciennes.jpg
"The Battle of Valenciennes" Painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau

Condé came down on Marshal's section with such vigour it surprised and destroyed the French resistance. [10] Don Juan José de Austria stood out due to his brave action, unleashing his might on the French quarters. [10] Turenne then repelled a false attack from the Spanish on his quarters, and went to the aid of Maréchal La Ferté but it was in vain, so he felt obliged to retreat as far as Quesnoy, where he reorganised his forces. [10]

Le Quesnoy Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Le Quesnoy is a commune and small town in the east of the Nord department of northern France; accordingly its historic province is French Hainaut. It had a keynote industry in shoemaking before the late 1940s, followed by a chemical factory and dairy, giving way to its weekly market, tourism, local commuting to elsewhere such as Valenciennes and local shops.

The Spanish captured 400 French officers including Maréchal La Ferté, lieutenant of Turenne and a further 4,000 soldiers (while French sources reduce these figures to 77 officers and 1,200 soldiers) [9] including their belongings and provisions, including an assault train consisting of 50 cannons and all the correspondence of the French command with their court, which allowed the extent of their forces to be known. [10] As for La Ferté's division only 2,000 managed to escape after tossing their arms and making a run for it in total disarray. [12]

Aftermath

The victory at Valenciennes lifted the French siege and contributed greatly to lifting the morale of the Spanish tercios, producing "one of those thunderous achievements that Spain came up with in better days."

However, Turenne had the presence of mind not to allow the French forces to be intimidated by the defeat. His rapid regrouping and redeployment of his forces prevented the Spanish from gaining a decisive advantage on the front.

Philip IV of Spain ordered a gold medal to be printed to commemorate the victory and he had it sent to Condé together with a saber, also made of gold.

For the Spanish, the great victory at Valenciennes proved counterproductive. Emboldened by the success, the Habsburg court at Madrid refused to compromise with French demands but Spanish forces were stretched to their limit despite the great victory. [9] The war dragged on until 1659, when the Spanish government finally signed the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which, with the loss of Dunkirk and nearby areas, was less favourable than would have been possible after the battle of Valenciennes.

See also

Notes

  1. Stradling p.26
  2. Bodart 1916, p. 87.
  3. 1 2 Hume p.276
  4. Rodríguez p.190
  5. 1 2 Rodríguez p.191
  6. Clodfelter p.41
  7. Bodart 1916, p. 88.
  8. Israel p.140
  9. 1 2 3 Martín Sanz p.210
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Rodríguez p.192
  11. Alcalá-Zamora p.59
  12. Stanhope p.251

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References

Coordinates: 50°21′29″N3°31′24″E / 50.3581°N 3.5233°E / 50.3581; 3.5233