Among British Army historians the reputation of Sir John Fortescue stands virtually without equal. His comprehensive fourteen volume history is a work of unparalleled achievement in its field. Fortescue combines thorough source material research with insightful academic observation of the conduct of the campaigns he describes and of the decisions, errors and strategic and tactical options of their principal protagonists. The Leonaur editors have carefully selected passages from Fortescue’s magnum opus to create a series of books, each focusing on a specific war or campaign.
Louis XIV—the Sun King—had long fostered grand designs for the conquest and domination of continental Europe. The French invaded Flanders bringing the Dutch and their allies the British to the field of conflict. Among the officers of the British stood John Churchill, destined to be one of the outstanding military commanders of the modern age. This book follows the British at war from the time of William of Orange’s accession to the throne and the closing decades of the 17th century into the early 18th century. The War of Spanish Succession included battles which have become iconic honours of the British Army including, of course, Marlborough’s outstanding victory at Blenheim. After years of protracted and bitter fighting Louis’ ambitions were foiled and the ‘lion surmounted the sun.’
For the first time Fortescue’s incisive history of Marlborough and his wars is available in a single volume and no library of the period will be complete without his direct analysis and critically observed view of the events and personalities of this epic period in European military history. This Leonaur exclusive volume has never been available before, and Fortescue’s original text has here been enhanced by the inclusion of maps and diagrams.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
About half past one the guns of both armies opened fire, and shortly afterwards four Dutch battalions were ordered forward to carry Franquinay and Taviers, and twelve more to attack Ramillies, while Overkirk advanced slowly on the left with the cavalry. Franquinay was soon cleared; Taviers resisted stoutly for a time but was carried, and a strong reinforcement on its way to the village was intercepted and cut to pieces. Then Overkirk, his left flank being now cleared, pushed forward his horse and charged. The Dutch routed the first French line, but were driven back in confusion by the second; and the victorious French were only checked by the advance of fresh squadrons under Marlborough himself. Even so the Allies were at a decided disadvantage; and Marlborough, after despatching messengers to bring up every squadron, except the British, to the left, plunged into the thick of the melee to rally the broken horse.
He was recognised by some French dragoons, who left their ranks to surround him, and in the general confusion he was borne to the ground and in imminent danger of capture. His aide-de-camp, Captain Molesworth, dismounted at once, and giving him his own horse enabled him to escape. The cavalry, however, encouraged by the duke’s example, recovered themselves, and Marlborough took the opportunity to shift from Molesworth’s horse to his own. Colonel Bringfield, his equerry, held the stirrup while he mounted, but Marlborough was hardly in the saddle before the hand that held the stirrup relaxed its hold, and the equerry fell to the ground, his head carried away by a round shot.
Meanwhile the attack of the infantry on Ramillies was fully developed, and relieved the horse from the fire of the village. Twenty fresh squadrons came galloping up at the top of their speed and ranged themselves in rear of the reforming lines. But before they could come into action the Duke of Würtemberg pushed his Danish horse along the Mehaigne upon the right flank of the French, and the Dutch guards advancing still further fell upon their rear. These now emerged upon the table-land by the tomb of Ottomond, and the rest of the Allied horse dashed themselves once against the French front. The famous Maison du Roi after a hard fight was cut to pieces, and the whole of the French horse, despite Villeroy’s efforts to stay them, were driven in headlong flight across the rear of their line of battle, leaving the battalions of infantry helpless and alone to be ridden over and trampled out of existence.
Villeroy made frantic efforts to bring forward the cavalry of his left to cover their retreat, but the ground was encumbered by his baggage, which he had carelessly posted too close in his rear. The French troops in Ramillies now gave way, and Marlborough ordered the whole of the infantry that was massed before the village to advance across the morass upon Offus, with the Third and Sixth Dragoon Guards in support. The French broke and fled at their approach; and meanwhile the Buffs and Twenty-First, which had so far remained inactive on the right, forced their way through the swamps before them, and taking Autréglise in rear swept away the last vestige of the French line on the left.
Five British squadrons followed them up and captured the entire King’s Regiment (Regiment du Roi). The Third and Sixth Dragoon Guards also pressed on, and coming upon the Spanish and Bavarian horse-guards, who were striving to cover the retreat of the French artillery, charged them and swept them away, only narrowly missing the capture of the Elector himself, who was at their head. (See order of battle on following page). On this the whole French Army, which so far had struggled to effect an orderly retreat, broke up in panic and fled in all directions.