Saturday, 3 July 2010

Marlborough and the Field Deputies

In 1702, the first year of the War of the Spanish Succession, Allied and French forces were maneuvering in the modern day province of North Brabant in the Netherlands during July and August. The Allies under Marlborough, and the French under Boufflers. Mid July the Allied army was encamped near Nijmegen, the French were lying near Gennep on the Maas. The Allies crossed the Maas river at Grave, in an attempt to block the lines of communications for the French army. As a consequence, the French broke up and headed south via Goch, Cevelaer, Venlo, and reaching Roermond in the last days of July. The Allies had marched via de line Zeeland, Lieshout, Mierlo-Geldrop, and were at Achel - Lille St Hubert on 31 July.

On 2 August, the Allied and French armies passed each other so closely the Marlborough was tempted to engage the French. The Allied army was a bit larger than the French. However, the earl of Athlone (and probably several subordinate generals) was against this plan, and hence a chance to defeat the French was lost.

In his book Marlborough as military commander, David Chandler, the propagandist of Marlborough, states that it was the fault of the Field Deputies of the States-General that frustrated the attempted battle. This, however, it not correct (see for example van Nimwegen in his De subsistentie van het leger p. 108, or Wijn in Het Staatsche Leger, deel VIII p. 125). Only the Duke of Berwick wrote in his memoirs that the field deputies did not allow Marlborough to start the battle, but he has to be misinformed (Wijn).

However, because Chandler is accusing the field deputies of obstructing Marlborough, they have got a very bad treatment in English literature on the War of the Spanish Succession. In reality the contrary was ofter the case (see also the blog Rampjaar), and these field deputies were capable men well versed in the art of war, and how to run an army.

No comments: