“With such skill and science,” says Coxe, “had this enterprise been concerted that at the very moment when it assumed a specific direction the enemy was no longer enabled to render it abortive.”
The Battle of Blenheim, featuring a series of excerpts selected from Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World by Sir Edward Creasy published in 1851. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Battle of Blenheim.
Place: Blenheim, Bavaria, Germany
Marlborough commenced his celebrated march on May 10th. The army which he was to lead had been assembled by his brother, General Churchill, at Bedburg, not far from Maestricht, on the Meuse; it included sixteen thousand English troops, and consisted of fifty-one battalions of foot, and ninety-two squadrons of horse. Marlborough was to collect and join with him on his march the troops of Prussia, Luneburg, and Hesse, quartered on the Rhine, and eleven Dutch battalions that were stationed at Rothweil. He had only marched a single day when the series of interruptions, complaints, and requisitions from the other leaders of the allies began, to which he seemed subjected throughout his enterprise, and which would have caused its failure in the hands of anyone not gifted with the firmness and the exquisite temper of Marlborough.
One specimen of these annoyances and of Marlborough’s mode of dealing with them may suffice. On his encamping at Kupen on the 20th, he received an express from Auverquerque pressing him to halt, because Villeroy, who commanded the French army in Flanders, had quitted the lines which he had been occupying, and crossed the Meuse at Namur with thirty-six battalions and forty-five squadrons, and was threatening the town of Huy. At the same time Marlborough received letters from the Margrave of Baden and Count Wratislaw, who commanded the Imperialist forces at Stollhoffen, near the left bank of the Rhine, stating that Tallard had made a movement, as if intending to cross the Rhine, and urging him to hasten his march toward the lines of Stollhoffen. Marlborough was not diverted by these applications from the prosecution of his grand design.
Conscious that the army of Villeroy would be too much reduced to undertake offensive operations, by the detachments which had already been made toward the Rhine, and those which must follow his own march, he halted only a day to quiet the alarms of Auverquerque. To satisfy also the Margrave, he ordered the troops of Hompesch and Buelow to draw toward Philippsburg, though with private injunctions not to proceed beyond a certain distance. He even exacted a promise to the same effect from Count Wratislaw, who at this juncture arrived at the camp to attend him during the whole campaign.
Marlborough reached the Rhine at Coblenz, where he crossed that river, and then marched along its left bank to Broubach and Mainz. His march, though rapid, was admirably conducted, so as to save the troops from all unnecessary fatigue; ample supplies of provisions were ready, and the most perfect discipline was maintained. By degrees Marlborough obtained more reinforcements from the Dutch and the other confederates, and he also was left more at liberty by them to follow his own course. Indeed, before even a blow was struck, his enterprise had paralyzed the enemy and had materially relieved Austria from the pressure of the war. Villeroy, with his detachments from the French Flemish army, was completely bewildered by Marlborough’s movements, and, unable to divine where it was that the English general meant to strike his blow, wasted away the early part of the summer between Flanders and the Moselle without effecting anything. *
[* “Marshal Villeroy,” says Voltaire, “who had wished to follow Marlborough on his first marches, suddenly lost sight of him altogether, and only learned where he really was on hearing of his victory at Donawert.”]
Marshal Tallard, who commanded forty-five thousand French at Strasburg, and who had been destined by Louis to march early in the year into Bavaria, thought that Marlborough’s march along the Rhine was preliminary to an attack upon Alsace; and the marshal therefore kept his forty-five thousand men back in order to protect France in that quarter. Marlborough skilfully encouraged his apprehensions by causing a bridge to be constructed across the Rhine at Philippsburg, and by making the Landgrave of Hesse advance his artillery at Mannheim, as if for a siege of Landau.
Meanwhile the Elector of Bavaria and Marshal Marsin, suspecting that Marlborough’s design might be what it really proved to be, forbore to press upon the Austrians opposed to them or to send troops into Hungary; and they kept back so as to secure their communications with France. Thus, when Marlborough, at the beginning of June, left the Rhine and marched for the Danube, the numerous hostile armies were uncombined and unable to check him.
“With such skill and science,” says Coxe, “had this enterprise been concerted that at the very moment when it assumed a specific direction the enemy was no longer enabled to render it abortive. As the march was now to be bent toward the Danube, notice was given for the Prussians, Palatines, and Hessians, who were stationed on the Rhine, to order their march so as to join the main body in its progress. At the same time directions were sent to accelerate the advance of the Danish auxiliaries, who were marching from the Netherlands.”
Crossing the river Neckar, Marlborough marched in a southeastern direction to Mundelshene, where he had his first personal interview with Prince Eugene, who was destined to be his colleague on so many glorious fields. Thence, through a difficult and dangerous country, Marlborough continued his march against the Bavarians, whom he encountered on July 2d on the heights of the Schullenberg, near Donauwoerth. Marlborough stormed their entrenched camp, crossed the Danube, took several strong places in Bavaria, and made himself completely master of the Elector’s dominions except the fortified cities of Munich and Augsburg. But the Elector’s army, though defeated at Donauwoerth, was still numerous and strong; and at last Marshal Tallard, when thoroughly apprised of the real nature of Marlborough’s movements, crossed the Rhine; and being suffered, through the supineness of the German general at Stollhoffen, to march without loss through the Black Forest, he united his powerful army at Biberach, near Augsburg, with that of the Elector and the French troops under Marshal Marsin, who had previously been cooperating with the Bavarians.