The viewpoint of Marlborough

 

 
It was high time that this seasonable reinforcement should come in ; for the country people brought numerous reports that the enemy were in motion ; and his own scouts assured Marlborough that they were already across the Great Gheet,( Grande Gète ) and advancing towards Judoigne ( Jodoigne ). Not a moment was lost in turning the information to account.
Hoping to come up with them in a country which afforded no decided advantages to either party, Marlborough ordered the line of march to be formed at an early hour on the following morning ; and at dawn the whole army set forward in eight columns, in the direction of the sources of the little Gheet ( Petite Gète ).
A heavy and incessant rain, which fell during the night, had so much injured the roads, that the advance of the several columns proved both slow and irregular.
 

 
 
Frequent halts, for the purpose of closing up the rear, were necessary ; and, in some places, the guns and ammunition wagons were carried forward only by dint of extraordinary exertions.
 
A thick fog, likewise, by rendering remote objects indistinct, served not a little to perplex the general ; for his patrols were incapacitated by it from doing their duty, and during several hours he received no reports. At last, however, colonel Cadogan, who,with 500 cavalry preceded the columns, beheld, from the high grounds above Mierdorp ( Merdorp ), several masses, both of horse and foot, on the plain of St. Andre ( Mont-Saint-André ): he despatched an officer in all haste to communicate the fact to Marlborough, and a halt being ordered, the general rode forward to reconnoitre.
The fog, though gradually clearing away, still hung in the sky, and so impeded the vision, that Marlborough was unable to determine whether the squadrons in question constituted the rear of the enemy in retreat, or were thrown out to cover some formation ; he accordingly commanded the march of his own columns to be resumed : but the latter had barely crossed the demolished lines between Wasseige and Orp-le-Petit, where the whole mystery received its solution.
 
The enemy were now seen ranged in order of battle along a position of no ordinary strength ; indeed they were in possession of the very ground which it had been one great object of Marlborough's advance to occupy with his own troops.
 
 
Of the nature of this post, and of the dispositions assumed to maintain it, a few words will suffice to convey a sufficiently accurate idea.
The tract of country which lies between the sources of the two Gheets, the Mehaigne, and the Dyle, forms the most elevated point in the great plain of Brabant.( Tombe d'Hottomont-Hottomont's tomb )
These streams, finding at first but little descent, render the ground marshy towards their rise, partially swampy along their whole course, and in some places impassable.
They are all surmounted by steep banks, though  those of the Great Gheet are most abrupt; while the ground rising suddenly above them, forms a sort of table-land, the surface of which is varied with gentle undulations, and dotted with clumps and coppices. The particular portion of this tableland, which formed the scene of the present conflict, is intersected, almost in the middle, by the Little Gheet ; towards the east it is known as the plain of Jandrinouil ( Jandrenouille ) ; towards the west it is called the position of Mont St. Andre ; an appellation which it borrows from the name of a village on the Gheet, which forms nearly an equilateral triangle with Autreglise and the tomb of Ottomond ( Tombe d'Hottomont ) .
 
From this tomb or barrow, again, which crowns the highest point in the plain, and overlooks the marshes bordering the Mehaigne, the position extends as far as Ramilies, near the head of the Little Gheet ; and then, following the course of the rivulet, is continued to the rising ground on which the village of Offuz ( Offus )stands : from Offuz it bends forward on the left bank of the stream, stretching along the verge of the eminence to Autreglise, where, or rather in the fork produced by the confluence of the Jauche and Little Gheet, it terminates.
 
Several excellent roads penetrate this position, both on its flanks and by its centre, of which the principal are, that which leads from Wassiege ( Wasseige ) by Branson ( Branchon ), Boneffe, and Franquinay ( Franquenée ) to Tavieres ( Taviers ) , the shady avenue or Chemin Brunehault ( RoChaussée romaine - the Roman way ), and the road from Foulz ( Folx-les-Caves ) to Autreglise, as well as to Offuz.
  
When the heads of Marlborough's columns, clearing the village of Mierdorp, debouched into the plain of Jandrinouil, the enemy were discovered in two lines, the first of which occupied the ground just described, while the second supported it a little in the rear.
The left, which consisted entirely of infantry, extended between the Jauche and the little Gheet, from Autreglise to Offuz ; the centre, likewise composed of infantry, took post from Offuz to Ramilies ; while the right, which was made up of 100 squadrons of cavalry, occupied the open space in front of the tomb of Ottomond, between Ramilies and the Mehaigne.
 
 
Each of the villages of which we have spoken was, moreover, strongly garrisoned ; into Ramilies alone twenty battalions were thrown ; while a brigade was detached to Tavieres in order to secure the extreme right, and clouds of skirmishers lined all the hedges from Franquinay to that point, Marlborough scanned these dispositions with a rapid but skilful glance ; and seeing the great defect which attached to them, he made baste to take advantage of it.
 

The left of the enemy, being planted in the rear of a morass, though safe from all direct attacks upon itself, was necessarily immovable, at least for offensive purposes. The right, again, if the brigade posted at Tavieres be considered, was too much detached either to give or receive support ; while the whole line, being formed upon the arc of a semicircle, was liable at all points to be assaulted in superior numbers, by a force manoeuvring along the chord. It was perfectly evident, too, that the heights on which the tomb of Ottomond stands formed the master-key of the position; for, were these once carried, the assailants would not only uncover the flank of the cavalry, but be able to enfilade all the posts to the left . To this great object, therefore, Marlborough directed his attention ; and the measures which he adopted for the purpose of effecting it, proved as successful as they were admirably conceived.
As the columns came up, he formed them into two lines, with the left on Boneffe and the right on Foulz ( Folx-les-Caves ). The enemy's light troops retiring as these came on, impeded not the advance for a moment, and at one o'clock in the day the artillery on both sides began to open. In the midst of this cannonade,
the British, Dutch, and German infantry, composing the right of the line, broke suddenly into column, and pushed rapidly forward as if to carry Autreglise by assault.
 
Villeroi became jealous of his left, and hastily withdrawing from his centre, sent several brigades to support the menaced point. This was precisely the movement which Marlborough intended him to make. In a moment orders were despatched to the right, by which its farther advance was arrested. The leading battalions alone kept their ground in extended order along the brow of the heights, which they had just ascended ; while those behind, Bling quickly to the left, passed under the screen of the same heights, to the point of real attack. Here they gave a preponderating superiority to the allies ; and tho attack began in earnest. A corps of infantry, after dislodging the skirmishers about Franquinay, invested Tavieres on every side. A mass of cavalry, under Overkirk, passing by their rear, bore directly upon the enemy's horse ; while twelve battalions, in columns of companies, supported by twice as many in line, assaulted Ramilies with indescribable fury. Villeroi now became aware that he had been out-manoeuvred in the beginning of the action. He saw that his right, not his left, was in danger; and he exerted himself to the utmost, in the hope that he might yet repair an error of which the consequences threatened to be fatal.
One of his measures was to dismount twenty squadrons of dragoons, and to send them to the support of the brigade in Tavieres.
With these Overkirk unexpectedly fell in, and cut them to I pieces.
The first line of French cavalry next advanced ; it was charged, broken, and overthrown ;  but the second, coming up while Overkirk's corps was disordered by the pursuit, succeeded, for an instant, in restoring the battle.
At this critical juncture Marlborough himself appeared, leading on seventeen squadrons: these dashed among the enemy's cuirassiers, and a desperate contest ensued.
Still the enemy, though their schemes were manifestly deranged, fought bravely.
The batteries too, from Ramilies and the heights beyond, played fatally among the assailants ; and the slaughter on both sides was great.
 
 
 
 
It was at this moment that Marlborough, after ordering up every disposable man from the right, led on a charge in person, in which he had well-nigh lost his life.
Being recognized by some French troopers, they rushed furiously upon him, and, cutting down all before them, placed him in the midst of a throng.
He fought his way out sword in hand ; drove his horse at a ditch, and was thrown heavily in the leap ; but he soon mounted another, though his secretary, who held the stirrup, was struck dead at his side by a cannon ball.
The allied cavalry having rallied, and again advancing to the attack, were again boldly met by the Bavarian cuirassiers, when twenty fresh squadrons from the right suddenly appeared coming at speed over the plain.
These, drawing up in line on the right of the allied force, with a steadiness which furnished no doubtful evidence of their valour, struck such a panic into the enemy that they would not ahide the shock.
 
They turned their horses' heads and fled ; and the height of Ottomond, the great object of the struggle, wan crowned.
 
Meanwhile Ramilies was bravely assailed, and as bravely defended.
General Schultz, who commanded the attacking corps, forced back some Swiss battalions, and gained the skirts of the houses.
He then rushed upon the troop which occupied the enclosures, drove them with precipitation into the village ; and, following close upon their heels, made himself, in the end, master of the place.
It was to no purpose that the marquis de Maffei rallied two regiments of Cologne guards, and maintained, for awhile, with singular obstinacy, a hollow road hard by. Borne down by superior numbers, as well as token in flank, he was, after a desperate struggle, dislodged, and his troops, charged by cavalry while broken in their flight, were almost to a man destroyed. On their right and centre the enemy were now completely defeated ; yet the effort made to obtain this success had been gigantic, and the confusion in the ranks of the victors themselves was consequently great. To remedy this, Marlborough made a halt, of which Villeroi endeavoured to take advantage, by forming a second line out of the remains of his shattered squadrons in the rear. But the ground on which he strove to effect this formation was cumbered with baggage ; carts, ammunition wagons, and whole strings of bathone blocked it up, and all his exertions proved
effectual either to clear them away or to form apart from them.
 
 
Marlborougb was not blind to the advantages which such a state of things afforded him. The cavalry were again ordered to charge ; they obeyed the order with infinite good will, and in five minutes the plain was covered with dead bodies, horses riderless, and fugitives fleeing for their lives. Nor were the troops farther
to the right inattentive observers of what passed. One column perceiving the enemy to diminish from before them, made good the passage of the swamp, and charged, and took with little loss the village of Autreglise.
Another rushed upon Offuz, which they found evacuated ; then, pursuing their success, fell headlong upon the enemy's rear-guard, and utterly destroyed it : in a word, the battle, which had lasted with scarcely any intermission during a space of five hours, was won.
The enemy were in full flight, broken and disorganised ; for of the few who halted to fight at all, by far the greater number fought only for quarter, and were made prisoners.
The pursuit being continued by the whole army as far as Meldert, a halt was commanded, of which both men and horses stood sorely in need.
Besides the march previous to the commencement of the action, and the fatigues which they had undergone in fighting, they had now advanced full five leagues from the field of battle ; and hence the day's journey could not be computed, at a moderate calculation, to fall short of five and twenty miles. The state of the wounded, likewise, and the attention due to the prisoners, required this step to be taken ; yet were the light cavalry instructed to press on, nor did they once draw bridle till they reached the vicinity of Louvain at two o'clock in the morning. As might be expected from the fury and duration of the strife, the loss on both sides was tremendous.
 

 

 

 
 
 
Of the allies there fell 1066 killed, and 2567 wounded ; in the former of which lists were included 31, and in the latter 283, officers ; yet was this a trifle when compared with the amount of casualties on the other side, where 13,000 men died or were taken. Among these were many officers of rank, such as the prince of Soubise and Rohan, a son of marshal Tallard, and a nephew of lord Clare, who was shot dead early in the action ; while 80 standards, the whole park of artillery, with baggage, tents, and other equipments, became the spoil of the conquerors.
The immediate consequences of this great victory were the surrender of Louvain, Brussels, Mechlin ( Malines ), Alost, Lierre, and almost all the chief towns and cities of Brabant.
In Flanders, likewise, the tide ran strongly in the same channel, for Ghent and Bruges both opened their gates, and Daun ( ?) and Oudenarde ( Audenaerde ) following the example, the country in general professed allegiance to the house of Austria.
Antwerp, Ostend, Nieuport, and Dunkirk, however, still held out ; and to the reduction of these Marlborough lost no time is addressing himself.
 
 
 

 

 
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