Siege of Breda (1624)

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Siege of Breda
Part of the Eighty Years' War, Anglo-Spanish War and the Thirty Years' War
Velazquez - de Breda o Las Lanzas (Museo del Prado, 1634-35).jpg
The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez. Oil on canvas, 1635.
Date28 August 1624 – 5 June 1625
Location
Breda (present-day the Netherlands)
Result Spanish victory [1] [2]
Belligerents
Statenvlag.svg United Provinces
Flag of England.svg England
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Spanish Empire
Commanders and leaders
Statenvlag.svg Maurice of Nassau
Statenvlag.svg Justin of Nassau
Flag of England.svg Horace Vere [3]
Flag of England.svg Ernst von Mansfeld [4]
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Ambrogio Spinola
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Carlos Coloma
Strength
7000 (Dutch garrison)
7000 (Dutch relief force)
7000 (English relief force)
18,000
Casualties and losses
10,000 dead, wounded or captured [1] [2] 3,000 dead, wounded or captured
Map of the siege of Breda by Spinola. J.Blaeu. Siege of Breda 1624 - Obsidio Bredaem per Ambriosium Spinolam (anno 1624).jpg
Map of the siege of Breda by Spinola. J.Blaeu .

The siege of Breda of 1624–25 occurred during the Eighty Years' War. The siege resulted in Breda, a Dutch fortified city, falling into the control of the Army of Flanders.

Eighty Years War 16th and 17th-century Dutch revolt against the Habsburgs

The Eighty Years' War or Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648) was a revolt of the Seventeen Provinces of what are today the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg against Philip II of Spain, the sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands. After the initial stages, Philip II deployed his armies and regained control over most of the rebelling provinces. Under the leadership of the exiled William the Silent, the northern provinces continued their resistance. They eventually were able to oust the Habsburg armies, and in 1581 they established the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The war continued in other areas, although the heartland of the republic was no longer threatened. This included the origins of the Dutch colonial empire, which began with Dutch attacks on Portugal's overseas territories, which at the time was conceived as carrying overseas the war with Spain due to Portugal being in a dynastic union with Spain. The Dutch Republic was recognized by Spain and the major European powers in 1609 at the start of the Twelve Years' Truce. Hostilities broke out again around 1619, as part of the broader Thirty Years' War. An end was reached in 1648 with the Peace of Münster, when the Dutch Republic was definitively recognised as an independent country no longer part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Peace of Münster is sometimes considered the beginning of the Dutch Golden Age.

Breda City and municipality in North Brabant, Netherlands

Breda is a city and municipality in the southern part of the Netherlands, located in the province of North Brabant. The name derived from brede Aa and refers to the confluence of the rivers Mark and Aa.

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or simply United Provinces, and commonly referred to historiographically as the Dutch Republic, was a confederal republic formally established from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first fully independent Dutch nation state.

Contents

Following the orders of Ambrogio Spinola, Philip IV's army laid siege to Breda in August 1624. The siege was contrary to the wishes of Philip IV's government because of the already excessive burdens of the concurrent Eighty and Thirty Years' wars. The strategically located city was heavily fortified and strongly defended by a large and well prepared garrison of 7,000 men, that the Dutch were confident would hold out long enough to wear down besiegers while awaiting a relief force to disrupt the siege. Yet despite the Spanish government's opposition to major sieges in the Low Countries and the obstacles confronting any attack on such a strongly fortified and defended city, Spinola launched his Breda campaign, rapidly blocking the city's defences and driving off a Dutch relief army under the leadership of Maurice of Nassau that had attempted to cut off the Spanish army's access to supplies. In February 1625, a second relief force, consisting of 7,000 English troops under the leadership of Horace Vere and Ernst von Mansfeld, was also driven off by Spinola. After a costly eleven-month siege, Justin of Nassau surrendered Breda on 2 June 1625. Only 3,500 Dutchmen [1] and fewer than 600 Englishmen had survived the siege. [2]

Philip IV of Spain King of Spain and Portugal

Philip IV was King of Spain and Portugal. He ascended the thrones in 1621 and reigned in Portugal until 1640. Philip is remembered for his patronage of the arts, including such artists as Diego Velázquez, and his rule over Spain during the Thirty Years' War.

Maurice, Prince of Orange sovereign Prince of Orange from 1618

Maurice of Orange was stadtholder of all the provinces of the Dutch Republic except for Friesland from 1585 at earliest until his death in 1625. Before he became Prince of Orange upon the death of his eldest half-brother Philip William in 1618, he was known as Maurice of Nassau.

Ernst von Mansfeld German noble and military commander

Peter Ernst, count of Mansfeld, or simply Ernst von Mansfeld, was a German military commander who, despite being a Catholic, fought for the Protestants during the early years of the Thirty Years' War.

The siege of Breda is considered Spinola's greatest success and one of Spain's last major victories in the Eighty Years' War. The siege was part of a plan to isolate the Republic from its hinterland, and co-ordinated with Olivare's naval war spearheaded by the Dunkirkers, to economically choke the Dutch Republic. Although political infighting hindered Spinola's freedom of movement, Spain's efforts in the Netherlands continued thereafter. The siege of 1624 captured the attention of European princes and, along with other battles like White Mountain (1620), played a part in the Spanish army regaining the formidable reputation it had held throughout the previous century.

Hinterland is a German word meaning "the land behind". The term's use in English was first documented by geographer George Chisholm in his Handbook of Commercial Geography (1888).

Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares Spanish royal favourite of Philip IV and minister

Gaspar de Guzmán y Pimentel, 1st Duke of Sanlúcar, 3d Count of Olivares, GE, KOA, known as the Count-Duke of Olivares, was a Spanish royal favourite of Philip IV and minister. As prime minister from 1621 to 1643, he over-exerted Spain in foreign affairs and unsuccessfully attempted domestic reform. His policy of committing Spain to recapture Holland led to a renewal of the Eighty Years' War while Spain was also embroiled in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). In addition, his attempts to centralise power and increase wartime taxation led to revolts in Catalonia and in Portugal, which brought about his downfall.

During the Dutch Revolt (1568–1648), the Dunkirkers or Dunkirk Privateers were commerce raiders in the service of the Spanish monarchy. They were also part of the Dunkirk fleet, which consequently was a part of the Spanish monarchy's Flemish fleet(Armada de Flandes). The Dunkirkers operated from the ports of the Flemish coast: Nieuwpoort, Ostend, and Dunkirk. Throughout the Eighty Years' War, the fleet of the Dutch Republic repeatedly tried to destroy the Dunkirkers. The first Dunkirkers sailed a group of warships outfitted by the Spanish government, but non-government investment in privateering soon led to a more numerous fleet of privately owned and outfitted warships.

In the latter stages of the combined Eighty and Thirty Years' wars that had greatly strained Spanish resources, Breda was lost to the Dutch under Frederick Henry after a four-month siege. In the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia that ended the Thirty and Eighty Years' wars, it was ceded to the Dutch Republic.

Siege of Breda (1637) siege in 1637, part of the Eighty Years War

The fifth siege of Breda was an important siege in the Eighty Years' War in which stadtholder Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange retook the city of Breda, which had last changed hands in 1625 when the Spanish general Ambrogio Spinola conquered it for the Spanish Habsburgs. Hereafter, the city would remain in the hands of the Dutch Republic until the end of the war.

Reasons

There were several motives for Spinola's siege of Breda. Because the Dutch regularly used the town as a base for raiding Spanish Brabant, the parts of Brabant under royal rule would be better protected if the city were conquered. In addition, neighbouring towns occupied by the States, such as Bergen op Zoom, would be easier to conquer with a foothold in Breda. [5]

In 1590, Breda was captured from the Spanish using the stratagem with the peat boat. [6] The conquest of a well-defended city like Breda would erase this disgrace. More importantly, Spinola personally felt that the failure of the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom (1622) was a blot on his reputation.[ citation needed ]

Siege of Bergen-op-Zoom (1622)

The Siege of Bergen-op-Zoom (1622) was a battle during the Eighty Years' War.

Furthermore, Spain wanted to have a strong position in potential peace negotiations. The conquest of Breda would enable Spain to put forward stronger demands concerning religious freedom for Catholics in the Republic and lifting the blockade of the Scheldt.[ citation needed ]

Location

Vesting Breda

Breda was one of the strongest cities in the defence of the Republic between the States of Holland and royal Brabant. The city was strategically located on a navigable river, Mark, and near several roads. [7] [8]

Henry III of Nassau, Lord of Breda from 1509 to 1538, had been commissioned by Charles V to travel through Europe. In Italy, he came into contact with modern defences. Thus, in 1531 he inspired the construction of the late medieval style walls of Breda. These were later replaced by modern fortifications. [9] In 1587 and 1622, the defences were further expanded and updated.

The Breda fortress consisted of a very high earthen thoroughfare with 15 bastions and a moat. The 55-to-117-metre-wide (180 to 384 ft) canal [10] was five feet deep and was provided with water from Mark. [11] Access to the city was made possible by four brick gates. Crescent ravelins were applied in the ditches. Hornwork was placed on the gates and at the monastery. Stakewall were built to complicate assault by horsemen and foot soldiers and simultaneously prevent desertion. [12] The fortifications were in excellent condition and served as a state of the art example of fortification. [10]

Painting of the siege of Breda La infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia en el sitio de Breda (Museo del Prado).jpg
Painting of the siege of Breda

Around Breda, forests formed an obstacle for the cavalry and artillery of any besieging army and the high water level of the Mark posed challenges to attacking infantry. The rivers Mark and Aa and other streams also hampered besiegers. By using an inundation sluice near the Ginnekense gate, the area south of Breda could be put underwater if opened. The north side had a lock near Terheijden that functioned. [13]

Because the States of Holland and West Friesland knew that the Spanish army might attempt to conquer Breda, they left the city with enough food, supplies, and weapons for an eight-month siege. The city council refused to store more food than was necessary for a nine-month siege. Nobody knew what tactics the Spanish army would apply. Therefore, the possibility of a direct assault was also considered. To prevent this, a State army was stationed near Breda with the aim of disrupting any direct assault on the city. [14]

Garrison in Breda

The garrison in Breda consisted of 17 companies in peacetime, each of which consisted of 65 men and 5 cavalry squadrons of 70 riders each. When it was probable that the city would become besieged, the squadrons were supplemented by another 30 riders each; the infantry was supplemented with 28 companies of 135 men. To save food, three squadrons were sent to Geertruidenberg shortly before a siege. The castle held approximately 100 civilians out of the 5,200 soldiers. The male inhabitants of Breda between 20 and 70 years, about 1,800 men, were armed to support the soldiers. [15]

The governor of the city was Justin of Nassau, an illegitimate son of William I, Prince of Orange. His deputy was Dyrcx Cornelis van Oosterhout, but his role was insignificant during the siege. [16]

In addition to the soldiers, others stayed in the city. Ordinary citizens, farmers, spouses and children of soldiers, came to the town to seek protection against the Spanish army. The soldiers' wives were responsible for cooking and washing for the soldiers and caring for the sick and wounded. The total number of inhabitants in the city is estimated at 13,111. They are believed to have been housed in about 1,200 homes. [17]

Spanish Army

Conflicting and incomplete data does not allow for an accurate calculation of the size of the Spanish army. On 30 September the number was probably around 40,000 soldiers and on about 2 May 1625, approximately 80,000 soldiers. 25,000 were encamped along the supply corridor, another 25,000 men were used for the containment of the city, and 30,000 served as general reserves. [18]

According to the text on the map by Blaeu, “[This was] so large an army, as had not been seen in the Netherlands in living memory.”

PercentNationalityFunction
38%South DutchInfantry
24%GermanInfantry
10%ItalianInfantry
9%SpanishRiders
9%SpanishInfantry
5%FrenchInfantry
5%British and IrishInfantry

The composition of the Spanish army was diverse, as shown in the table above. The army consisted primarily of infantry, with a small number of riders. Members of the infantry were equipped with either a rapier and a five-metre-long (16 ft) pike, or a rapier with a musket; members of the cavalry were equipped with either a lances and two pistols, or a musket and two pistols. [19] [20]

The infantry was mainly used for the lines to raise and to guard and defend against an army and State terror against sorties from the city. In the supply corridor, the foot soldiers deployed to protect the convoys. The cavalry was more mobile than the infantry and was therefore mainly used to inspect the area and to protect convoys. [20]

The cannons could fire 10 shots per hour and were operated by gunners. The exact number of the Spanish guns is not precisely known, but there were certainly more than 30. [21] Sappers engaged in building bridges, maintaining roads, and other activities.

The commander of the Spanish army was Ambrogio Spinola, 1st Marquis of the Balbases, a known military strategist from Italy. His deputies were the regimental commanders Hendrik, count van den Bergh, who was also commander of the supply corridor, and John VIII, Count of Nassau-Siegen. Spinola was the commander of the reserve forces until 31 October when he was succeeded by Carlos Coloma.

Because of the vastness of Breda, Spinola had his troops divided into four compartments. The four subjects with commanders were:

  1. Ginneken in the south under the command of the Spaniard Francisco Medina
  2. Teteringen in the east under the command of the Burgundian Claude Rye, baron of Balacon
  3. Carthage in the west under the command of the German Ernst, Count of Isenburg
  4. Terheijden in the north, divided into two sectors: Hartel Bergen under the command of Paolo Baglione and Terheijden village under the command of Carlo Roma, both Italians.

In modern literature

The siege of 1624–1625 is the subject of the 1998 novel El sol de Breda (The Sun Over Breda) by the Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte, as part of the Captain Alatriste series. The events of the siege – including both the gruelling fighting with the Dutch and the infighting among the Spanish, including a major mutiny by unpaid Spanish troops – are depicted from the point of view of a boy serving with the Spanish forces. The realistic depiction of war and soldiers' daily life seems influenced by the writer's own long experience as a war correspondent.

The siege appears in the film Alatriste adapted from the novel series.

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 Duffy, p. 101
  2. 1 2 3 Manning, p. 107
  3. Vere, Horace
  4. Gualdo Priorato, Galeazzo: Vite, et azzioni di personaggi militari, e politici . Vienna: Thurnmayer, 1674, p. 367
  5. Rooze and Eimermann, p. B4
  6. 80 jaar oorlog (documentary) (by NPO2, (Hans Goedkoop)): https://ntr.nl/80-Jaar-Oorlog/288
  7. Israel, p. 539
  8. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A17
  9. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A20
  10. 1 2 G. G. van der Hoeven: Geschiedenis der vesting Breda, op Google books Uitgever: Schiedam : Interbook International, [1974]
  11. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A21
  12. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A28
  13. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A29
  14. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A67
  15. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A41
  16. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A40
  17. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A43
  18. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A54
  19. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A46
  20. 1 2 Rooze and Eimermann, p. A47
  21. Rooze and Eimermann, p. A48

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References