Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Further adventures of British troops in the Franco-Dutch War

Following on from the posting on the Holland regiment this excerpt from the Historical Records of the British Army (Infantry) continues from the death of Vane at Seneffe illustrating the various actions and formations of the later part of the war as fought by British troops. Apologies if you find it boring...there's only one more part to come on the battle of St-Denis but I think it's useful to chart the history of British involvement in this conflict - particularly as for a good part of the war Brits were fighting on both sides!

1674 The interests of the United Provinces and those of the reformed religion being intimately connected, their cause was popular in England; and when the king disbanded a great part of his army on the settlement of the peace in 1674, many officers and men voluntarily entered the Dutch service, particularly from the old Holland Regiment, which was reduced on that occasion from eighteen to ten companies. Among the most zealous in his service were Captains Sir Henry Bellasis, Thomas Monk, John Morgan, Philip Savage, Roger M'Eligott, Alexander Cannon, and four others, who arrived at the Uriel during the summer of 1674 with a number of men, who were formed into ten companies.
After the death of Sir Walter Vane at Seneffe Sir William Ballandyne was next appointed to command the British division, and the ten companies marched from the Briel to Bois-le-duc ; from whence they were suddenly called to join the army and take part in the siege of Grave. They were commanded, while on this service, by Captain Hugh Mackay (afterwards lieutenant-general and commandant of the Scots brigade), who had transferred his services a few weeks previously from the French to the Dutch army; and was appointed major-commandant of the ten companies pro tempore. On the second day after their arrival before Grave, the ten companies were on duty in the trenches; and such was the fervour and eagerness of some of the officers and soldiers to signalize themselves, that Captain Savage and a few men stormed the counterscarp in the night without orders: they evinced great bravery, and gained some advantage, but were eventually repulsed, and Captain Savage was put in arrest, and reprimanded for his over-heated valour.
After the surrender of Grave on the 28th of October, the ten companies returned to Bois-le-duc, where four British regiments were formed during the winter;— two English, commanded by Colonels Lillingston and Disney;—one Scots, commanded by Colonel Graham ;—and one Irish, of which the Viscount of Clare was colonel. Two old Scots regiments in the Dutch service were purged of foreigners and added to the above four: the six regiments formed as fine a body of troops as any in Europe, and they soon had opportunities of proving that they possessed the same heroic spirit and contempt of danger as their predecessors in the war of independence, and as the valiant English and Scots who so highly distinguished themselves under the great Gustavus Adolphus. Its commanding officer was Colonel Luke Lillingston, whose appointment was dated in August, 1674.

1675 The campaign of 1675 was passed in marching, manoeuvring, and watching the operations of the enemy. During the winter the regiment was in garrison in Holland, and the colonelcy was conferred on Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Ashley ; the command of the second English regiment was conferred on Colonel Ralph Widdrington ; and the Irish regiment having previously been given to Colonel John Fenwick, it lost its designation of Irish, and the three were accounted English regiments.

1676 In the summer of 1676 the regiment marched to Bois-le-duc, where, in the early part of July it was suddenly aroused about midnight by the drums beating to arms; and assembling on its parade ground, it immediately proceeded towards the province of Limburg. After several days' march it arrived in the vicinity of Maestricht, and, the Prince of Orange having joined the army, the siege of this celebrated city was commenced.
The three English regiments were commanded by Brigadier-General John Fenwick. Being proud of their national character, and jealous of their fame, they obtained permission to act separately, and to have a particular point of attack allotted them ; " and they made " it appear, by their fierce attacks, that they deserved " this distinction." They signalized themselves by the spirit with which they beat back the sallies of the garrison ; and on the 30th of July they furnished two hundred men, in equal proportions from each regiment, to storm the Dauphin Bastion. A lodgment was effected; but the troops afterwards lost their ground, and they had one hundred and fifty men killed and wounded out of the two hundred. Colonel Widdrington was killed, and the command of his regiment was given to Lieut.-Colonel Dolman. The brigade was again on duty in the trenches on the 2nd of August, when Brigadier-General Fenwick was wounded.
At three o'clock on the morning of the 4th of August, a storming party of one hundred and eighty-three officers and men, with a support of sixty men, furnished in equal proportions from each of the three regiments, paraded at the head of the brigade; a similar detachment of the blue Dutch foot-guards was also in readiness, and at five this little band rushed forward in the face of a storm of fire, and made a second attack on the Dauphin Bastion with signal gallantry. The English, being emulous of fame, gained the lead of the Dutch, and throwing forward a shower of hand-grenades, assaulted the breach sword in hand, and effected a lodgment. Suddenly the ground under the soldiers' feet was agitated, a tremendous explosion blew a number of men into the air, and the bursting of the mine being succeeded by a fierce attack of the enemy, the storming party was driven back. Instantly rallying, and being exasperated by this repulse, the English and Dutch returned to the charge breathing vengeance and slaughter, by a powerful effort drove back their antagonists, and re-established themselves on the bastion, but with the loss of more than half their numbers killed and wounded. English valour shone conspicuously on this occasion, and the Dutch authorities acknowledged the superior gallantry of the brigade. In the Hague Gazette it was stated " the English gained very great " honour;" and in the Brussels Gazette it was stated, " the Prince of Orange having resolved to retake the " Dauphin Bastion, appointed two hundred English, " and as many of his guards, to make the attack, which " they did with great courage and resolution, and with " very great honour to the English, who first entered " the breach." Sir William Temple, Harris, Boyer, Carleton, Bernardi, and other authors, bore ample testimony to the native valour of the English soldiers. A Scots regiment, commanded by Sir Alexander Colyear, also distinguished itself at this siege.
A desperate sally was made from the town, on the morning of the 6th of August, by three hundred Swiss infantry, who, owing to the neglect of a sentry, surprised and made prisoners the English guard on the bastion ; but a reinforcement coming forward, the Swiss were overpowered and destroyed, except about twenty men, who escaped into the town. The Prince of Orange complimented the English on their bravery : and being desirous of conferring on merit a special mark of his approbation, and of inciting other corps to emulate the English brigade, he made each of the three regiments a present of a fat ox and six sheep, which, however, occasioned some murmuring among the Dutch.
A strong horn-work was afterwards captured by the Dutch, and preparations were made for a general storm of the main breach ; but Marshal de Schomberg advancing at the head of a powerful French army to relieve the town, the siege was raised, and the three English regiments, having sustained a severe loss, were sent into quarters in Holland.
The French monarch commenced the campaign of 1677 with great vigour; and the advantage derived from an army being under the sole direction of, and conducted by immediate orders from one head, over a confederate force, which meets with delays and obstructions from different interests, councils, negligences, and tempers, was very conspicuous,—the feeble preparations of the Dutch, and the apathy of the Spaniards, having left the Prince of Orange without a force capable of contending with the immense army of the enemy. Colonel Ashley's regiment, after replacing its losses with recruits from England, quitted Holland, and advanced with the remainder of the brigade to West Flanders. It formed part of the army, under the Prince of Orange, employed in the attempt to relieve the town of St. Omer ; and was engaged on the 11th of April at the battle of Mont-Cassel, which was fought under great disadvantages in numbers and the nature of the ground. Two newly-raised regiments of Dutch marines, posted between the Prince's foot-guards and the English brigade, gave way at the first onset, and, confusion ensuing, the Prince retreated with the loss of his baggage and artillery.

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