Siege of Lille (1792)

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Siege of Lille (1792)
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
Siege de Lille 1792.JPG
Siege of Lille by Louis Joseph Watteau
Date25 September – 8 October 1792
Result French victory
Flag of France.svg Republican France
Flag of the Brabantine Revolution.svg Belgian exiles
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Habsburg Monarchy
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Jean-Baptiste Ruault Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Albert of Teschen
10,000–25,000 13,800, 52 siege guns
Casualties and losses

43 dead, 161 wounded

20 siege guns
France relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Location within France

The Siege of Lille (25 September – 8 October 1792) saw a Republican French garrison under Jean-Baptiste André Ruault de La Bonnerie hold Lille against an assault by a Habsburg army commanded by Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen. Though the city was fiercely bombarded, the French successfully withstood the Austrian attack in the War of the First Coalition action. Because the Austrians were unable to completely encircle the city, the French were able to continuously send in reinforcements. After news of the French victory over the Prussians at Valmy, Albert withdrew his troops and siege cannons. The next battle was at Jemappes in November. The Column of the Goddess monument was completed in 1845 to commemorate the siege.

Jean-Baptiste André Isidore Ruault de La Bonnerie became a French general officer early in the War of the First Coalition and later emigrated to Habsburg Austria under which he also was a general. He joined the French Royal Army in 1760 and became a general of brigade in 1792. He commanded the French defenders during the 1792 Siege of Lille. After fighting at Maastricht and Neerwinden he followed Charles François Dumouriez and other generals in defecting to Austria. He entered Habsburg service as a colonel and became a General-major in 1804. He died in 1817 at Graz.

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.

Habsburg Monarchy former Central European country (1526–1804)

Habsburg Monarchy is an umbrella term used by historians for the lands and kingdoms of the House of Habsburg, especially for those of the Austrian branch. Although from 1438 until 1806 the head of the House of Habsburg was also Holy Roman Emperor, the empire itself is not considered a part of the Habsburg Monarchy.


Historic defenses

After the Kingdom of France captured Lille in 1668, the famous military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban was ordered to improve its defenses. The five-sided citadel was constructed between 1668 and 1672 at a cost of 1,500,000 florins and the result was announced by Vauban to be the "Queen of Citadels". The citadel was surrounded by marshes, except where it adjoined the city, and was protected by two flooded ditches and two covered ways. In 1670, parts of the old walls were torn down to make room for new fortifications. When the work was done, Lille was protected by 16 bastions and four hornworks. Vauban estimated that 12,000 soldiers were required to defend the huge fortifications, including 1,000 manning the citadel. The four-month 1708 Siege of Lille ended in the city's surrender to Prince Eugene of Savoy and John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough when the garrison of Louis François, duc de Boufflers ran out of gunpowder. [1]

Kingdom of France kingdom in Western Europe from 843 to 1791

The Kingdom of France was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was among the most powerful states in Europe and a great power since the Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War. It was also an early colonial power, with possessions around the world.

Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban French military engineer

Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, Seigneur de Vauban, later Marquis de Vauban commonly referred to as Vauban, was a French military engineer, who participated in each of the wars fought by France during the reign of Louis XIV.

Citadel type of fortress protecting a town and naval term for a safe room

A citadel is the core fortified area of a town or city. It may be a castle, fortress, or fortified center. The term is a diminutive of "city" and thus means "little city", so called because it is a smaller part of the city of which it is the defensive core. Ancient Sparta had a citadel, as did many other Greek cities and towns.


On 19 August, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette left his command at the Army of the North and entered Coalition territory with 22 members of his staff. On 17 August, the increasingly radicalized French Legislative Assembly had demanded that La Fayette report to Paris for questioning and on the 19th he was charged with treason. Not understanding that his domestic enemies wanted to guillotine him, the Prussians and Austrians imprisoned La Fayette until 1797. [2] His replacement in army command was the more astute Charles François Dumouriez. [3] Dumouriez dreamed of an immediate invasion of the Austrian Netherlands, but events soon forced him to hold off on that plan. On 24 August, the politically-connected François Joseph Westermann arrived at headquarters with the news that Longwy had fallen to the Coalition the day before after a feeble defense. After calling Anne François Augustin de La Bourdonnaye from the command of Lille to lead the northern wing of the Army of the North, Dumouriez headed south with Westermann and his aide-de-camp Jacques MacDonald. [4]

Army of the North (France)

The Army of the North or Armée du Nord is a name given to several historical units of the French Army. The first was one of the French Revolutionary Armies that fought with distinction against the First Coalition from 1792 to 1795. Others existed during the Peninsular War, the Hundred Days and the Franco-Prussian War.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

Guillotine Apparatus designed for carrying out executions by beheading

A guillotine was an apparatus designed for efficiently carrying out executions by beheading. The device consists of a tall, upright frame in which a weighted and angled blade is raised to the top and suspended. The condemned person is secured with stocks at the bottom of the frame, positioning the neck directly below the blade. The blade is then released, to quickly fall and forcefully decapitate the victim with a single, clean pass so that the head falls into a basket below.

Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel at the head of 42,000 Prussians was supported on his right by François Sébastien Charles Joseph de Croix, Count of Clerfayt with 15,000 Austrians and on his left by Friedrich Wilhelm, Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Kirchberg with 14,000 Austrians. The Coalition forces bombarded Longwy into submission then gained a quick triumph in the Battle of Verdun on 2 September. At last Dumouriez realized that Brunswick might be headed to Paris and marched his available troops to Grandpré in the Prussian's path. He also ordered Pierre de Ruel, marquis de Beurnonville to join him with 10,000 soldiers from the Army of the North and Blaise Duval to bring 3,050 more. [5] The Battle of Valmy occurred on 20 September, after which Brunswick withdrew from France. [6]

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.

Friedrich Wilhelm, Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Kirchberg Austrian military officer

Friedrich William, Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Kirchberg was born in Kirchberg, Hohenlohe, on 2 December 1732. He was a member of an old comital and, subsequently, princely (Fürstlich) family of Hohenlohe, with extensive properties on the plateau south of the Main river, between the Imperial City of Schwäbisch Hall and the old Franconian city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Battle of Verdun (1792) battle

The first Battle of Verdun was fought on 29 August 1792 between French Revolutionary forces and a Prussian army during the opening months of the War of the First Coalition. The Prussians were victorious, gaining a clear westward path to Paris.

With Dumouriez absent, the French only had 6,000 troops under René Joseph Lanoue to defend Maubeuge. There were 4,000 soldiers led by Jacques Henri Moreton Chabrillant spread between Bruille-Saint-Amand, Saint-Amand-les-Eaux and Orchies as well as 4,000–5,000 men in the Camp of Maulde. Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen decided to divert French strength away from Brunswick's invasion by launching attacks on the enemies before him. Saxe-Teschen counted 51 infantry battalions and 40 cavalry squadrons of which 14 battalions were in garrisons. On 3 September [7] Anton Sztáray threatened Philippeville while Johann Peter Beaulieu menaced Quiévrain. When Maximilian Anton Karl, Count Baillet de Latour advanced from Tournai toward Lille on 5 September, Moreton abandoned the Camp of Maulde and fell back behind the Scarpe River. Latour pursued and pounced on the French at Mortagne-du-Nord, routing them. The defeated soldiers tried to lynch Moreton but he managed to talk them out of it. [8] Moreton later complained that many of his troops were uncontrollable and became drunk or looted houses in Saint-Amand. Radical journalist Louis-Marie Prudhomme accused Moreton of either incompetence or treason. [9]

Maubeuge Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

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

Bruille-Saint-Amand Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Bruille-Saint-Amand is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.

Saint-Amand-les-Eaux Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Saint-Amand-les-Eaux is a commune in the Nord department in northern France on the Scarpe river. The town people are named Amandinois (men), Amandinoise (Women).


Seeing the panic that his attacks had caused, Saxe-Teschen decided to besiege Lille. On 16 September, he added troops from Beaulieu's division at Mons to Latour's division from Tournai, bringing up the total to approximately 15,000 men and 50 guns. Saxe-Teschen set out from Tournai to join the besiegers on 25 September. Lille was one of the most powerful of the barrier fortresses, with a well-supplied garrison of 3,000 regular infantry under Jean-Baptiste André Ruault de La Bonnerie. The defenders were quickly reinforced to a strength of 10,000 men. The Austrian effort was handicapped by the fact that their siege train was too small and their army was too weak to entirely surround Lille. Consequently, the French were able to bring in reinforcements without hindrance. [8]

Mons Municipality in French Community, Belgium

Mons is a Walloon city and municipality, and the capital of the Belgian province of Hainaut. The Mons municipality includes the former communes of Cuesmes, Flénu, Ghlin, Hyon, Nimy, Obourg, Jemappes, Ciply, Harmignies, Harveng, Havré, Maisières, Mesvin, Nouvelles, Saint-Denis, Saint-Symphorien, Spiennes and Villers-Saint-Ghislain.

The citizen bucket brigades during the bombardment. BombardementLille1792RP.jpg
The citizen bucket brigades during the bombardment.

On 24 September, the Austrians pushed back the French outposts and commenced digging trenches that night. The first parallel was laid out across the main highway to Tournai and five batteries with a total of 30 artillery pieces were spaced 200 paces apart. After rejecting Saxe-Teschen's summons to surrender, the energetic Ruault mounted sorties every night but was unable to halt progress on the siege works. On 29 September, the Austrian batteries opened a devastating bombardment upon the buildings of Lille with shot, shell and hot-shot. Fires were set in the city but citizen bucket brigades kept the damage in check. The cannons of the defenders returned a heavy volume of fire. [8]

Ruault was soon reinforced to 25,000 men, a force considerably outnumbering the besiegers. By 3 October the Austrian bombardment began to noticeably taper off. On 3 October, the citizen captain Charlemagne Ovigneur continued to serve his gun even though he knew his house was burning and his wife was going to give birth. On 4 October, Saxe-Teschen's wife, Maria Christina, Duchess of Teschen [8] appeared in the Austrian camp and the bombardment was redoubled. By this time, Saxe-Teschen became aware of Brunswick's retreat as well as the increasing numbers of French troops opposing him. On 6 October the Habsburg commander directed that the heavy siege guns be removed from the batteries. By this time 60,000 shot and shell had been fired into Lille. The Austrians evacuated the trenches on 8 October and withdrew almost unmolested in the face of a weak pursuit led by Félix Marie Pierre Chesnon de Champmorin. The inhabitants of Lille emerged from their town and, in their rage at the destruction, leveled the Austrian siege works. The victory was celebrated throughout France and caused many men to enlist in the armies. [10]


Duke of Saxe-Teschen Anonym Albert von Sachsen-Teschen.jpg
Duke of Saxe-Teschen

Ruault's 10,000-man garrison consisted of two battalions of the 85th Line Infantry Regiment, one battalion each of the 15th, 86th and 100th Line, the depots of battalions of the 24th, 44th, 56th and 90th Line, one National Guard battalion and the depots of three National Guard battalions and depot squadrons of the 3rd and 6th Cavalry Regiments. Other reinforcements came into the city during the siege. [11] Since the summer of 1792, Charles François Duhoux was the commander of Lille but he was ordered to take charge of the Camp of Soissons, just before the start of the siege. Even so, he returned to Lille on 23 September to assume command but a few days later he was suspended and ordered to report to Paris. Instead, he remained in Lille during the siege, not arriving in Paris until 10 October. He was attacked in newspaper articles but defended himself by arguing that leaving Lille during the siege would have been cowardly. [9]

The Austrians besieged Lille with 13,800 troops in 10 12 battalions, six companies and 18 squadrons. The siege train included 52 cannons, howitzers and mortars. Saxe-Teschen organized his army into three divisions under Latour, Duke Ferdinand Frederick Augustus of Württemberg and Beaulieu, each with one brigade. Latour's division had the brigade of Franz Xaver von Wenckheim, which included the Leeuven and Rousseau Grenadier Battalions and two battalions of Sztáray Nr. 33 Infantry Regiment. Württemberg's division controlled Sztáray's brigade which was composed of the 1st Battalion of the Clerfayt Nr. 9 and 2nd Battalion of the Alton Nr. 15 Infantry Regiments and the Pückler Grenadier Battalion. Beaulieu's division directed the brigade of Karl von Biela which had the 1st Battalions of the Ligne Nr. 30 and Murray Nr. 55 Infantry Regiments, the 2nd Battalion of the Josef Colloredo Nr. 57 Infantry Regiment and four companies of the O'Donell Freikorps. Louis-François, Count of Civalart d'Happoncourt led a cavalry brigade with two squadrons of the Blankenstein Hussars Nr. 16 and seven squadrons of the Latour Chevau-légers Nr. 31. Charles Eugene, Prince of Lambesc led a second cavalry brigade which included two squadrons of the Wurmser Hussars Nr. 30 and six squadrons of Degelmann Freikorps Uhlans. Karl Friedrich von Lindenau commanded one company each of sappers and pontonniers. One squadron and one-half battalion are not accounted for in the list. [11]


Column of the Goddess Lille colonne deesse.jpg
Column of the Goddess

One source estimated French military losses as 100–200 dead and wounded. The Austrians reported 43 dead and 161 wounded and 20 siege cannons either burst or became unusable from continuous firing. The Austrians really had no chance of capturing such a strong fortress. [11] Ruault reported to the government that one-fourth of the houses in Lille were burnt. The political commissioners asserted that 500 houses were destroyed and another 2,000 damaged; the Church of Saint-Étienne was wrecked. One writer suggested that the damage was exaggerated for political purposes. Prudhomme attacked Duhoux in print for disobeying orders and Bourdonnaye for not relieving Lille sooner. [9]

With Brunswick in full retreat, Dumouriez noticed that the large forces assembled to defend Lille could now be used for his pet project to invade Belgium. He secured permission from the French government to undertake his offensive and soon massed 80,000–100,000 troops for the purpose. Saxe-Teschen faced a very dangerous situation. [10] The next major action was the Battle of Jemappes on 6 November 1792. [12]


  1. Goode 2004.
  2. Phipps 2011, pp. 106–107.
  3. Phipps 2011, p. 109.
  4. Phipps 2011, p. 111.
  5. Phipps 2011, p. 117–119.
  6. Smith 1998, pp. 26–27.
  7. Cust 1859, p. 103.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Cust 1859, p. 104.
  9. 1 2 3 Germani 1994.
  10. 1 2 Cust 1859, p. 105.
  11. 1 2 3 Smith 1998, pp. 27–28.
  12. Smith 1998, pp. 30–31.

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Coordinates: 50°37′40″N3°3′30″E / 50.62778°N 3.05833°E / 50.62778; 3.05833