Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A contemporary newspaper account of the Battle of Roucoux

Another slugfest in Flanders: the Battle of Roucoux (Oct. 11, 1746)

I think those of you out there interested in the Battle of Roucoux will find this a very special anniversary treat!

My "google-fu" has been extraordinarily good these days. While searching for information on the Army of the Pragmatic Sanction, I came across this account from a contemporary English newspaper reporting on the battle.

This extract was found in Richard Heaton's Family History Homepage,
a collection of articles intended to assist in genealogical research.

Mr. Heaton has been kind enough to grant me permission to reproduce the article below. I very much appreciate his generosity, and his hard work in making a huge amount of fascinating material available to a general readership.

Anyone wishing to copy the article for anything other than their own private use should contact Mr. Heaton directly.

I have taken the liberty of adding a few more paragraph breaks to make it a little more user-friendly for online reading. Otherwise, I have left it as is; bold type, spelling warts 'n all.

This is a quite fascinating account with a real period "feel" to it. Read on!


The London Gazette Extraordinary

Thursday, October 9th, 1746.

At the Camp of Grondza, October 9, N.S.

THE Passage of the Jaar was effected the 7th Instant. The Army marched at Four in the Morning in eight Columns, the Artillery making the ninth. This March was made so near the Enemy, that we gave them a fair Opportunity of attacking what Part of the Army they pleased, and Measures were taken to give them a good Reception. Sir John Ligonier led the Left Wing of the Horse, and after they were passed, he remained with the Prince of Lorrain and the Marshal at the Head of the Defile, till the Rear Guard and every Thing was passed without seeing an Enemy, tho' they heard the Alarm, and the General Beat in their Camp.

This being done, they went towards the Left to see the Position of our new Camp. During which Time, the Enemy having posted Batteries where our Left was before, and also on the rising Grounds on this Side of the Jaar over against the
Prince of Waldeck's old Camp, seven Brigades of their Foot appear'd on the rising Grounds, as also about 50 or 60 Squadrons of Horse, and all their Light Troops. The Cannonade then began, and was very hot on both Sides. The French were beginning to pass the River, and to form upon the rising Ground where the Dutch were incamped in the Morning. The Prince and Marshal Bathiani being come up with eight Battalions and eight Squadrons commanded by Lieutenant General Drukleben, made such a Disposition, and gave such Orders, that, tho' our Irregulars were a little roughly handled, being but few in Number, what has passed of the French was immediately attacked, broken, and beaten back into the Ravine. In the mean Time our Army was order'd to be under Arms, and lay so all Night; the Enemy retired about Midnight, and Yesterday Morning we encamped.

This Affair has cost us about 350 Men, and the Enemy, who were repulsed, double the Number. The Hannoverian Troops have lost some few Officers, the Hessians more Men in Proportion, and the English very few.
Johnson's Regiment petition'd to attack the Enemy, and did it with so good a Countenance, that they got great Reputation. There is not yet any List of the killed and wounded. Count Clermont join'd Marshal Saxe Yesterday, so that they are now in their full Force, and are reckoned to amount 198 Battalions. The three English Battalions, under the Command of Brigadier General Houghton, are to be this Day at Maestricht. Two Bavarian Battalions arrived Yesterday.

From the Camp at Ambie, near Maestricht, October 12, N.S.

Count Clermont having joined the grand Army under Marshal Saxe upon the 9th, the Enemy made a Motion upon the 10th, and passed the Jaar that Afternoon with their whole Force. This Motion having convinced us that their Intention was to attack us, our heavy Baggage was that Night sent to Maestricht; Orders were given for the Foot to lie with their Accoutrements on, the Horse to be saddled, and the whole Army to be under Arms an Hour before Day. The Dispositions were made at Prince Charles's Quarters for receiving the Enemy, by the Prince and Marshal Bathiani, with great Skill and Judgment, and every Person being at his Post, early the next Morning we perceived the Enemy in the Plain, marching towards us, their Foot being formed into three Columns, with a large Train of Artillery at the Head of each Column.

Our Right was extended upon a Plain half a Mile beyond Grondza, having the Villages of Endist, Sling, and Fexhe in their Front, which they occupied with 12 Battalions. Betwixt the last Village and Liers was a Plain, and this was in Front of the Hannoverian Infantry: In Front of the British and Hessian Foot was the Village of Liers : In Front of the Hanoverian Cavalry was that of Warem; and betwixt the Scotch Grays and the Left of the Dutch Line was the Village of Roucoux.

Major General Zastrow, with two British, four Hannoverian, and two Hessian Battalions, having Brigadier Douglas under him, was ordered to defend there three last Villages, Prince Waldeck, who was to have defended that of Roucoux, having been obliged to post a great Detachment in the Suburbs of Liege, upon Intelligence that the French designed to take Post there that Night. The Prince of Hesse and General Howard, with the Foot that remained, were to endeavour to support these three Villages, and the Cavalry to fall upon any of the French Horse, that might attempt to pass betwixt them, or as much as possible to protect our Flank to the Dutch.

The Enemy in three Columns was by this Time advanced so near, that three Batteries, which we had erected, began to play upon them. They immediately attacked
Prince Waldeck's Left with great Fury, but were repulsed several Times with extraordinary Bravery by that Prince and the Troops under him. The Scotch Brigade particularly behaved extremely well: They were however overpowered by Numbers, and forced to give Way after a very gallant Defence.

Our three Villages were at the same Time attacked by 55 Battalions, in Columns, by Brigades; and as soon as one Brigade was repulsed, another came on : And our eight Battalions under
Major General Zastrow, after having done wonderfully well, were at last obliged to abandon the Villages of Warem and Roucoux, the Major General supporting himself still at Liers, with the Battalions under Prince Frederick and Major General Howard.

Sir John Ligonier rallied the Battalions, which had suffered so much, the Hannoverian Regiment of Maidell, and the Hessian Regiment of Manspach, having stood their Ground to the Iast, and refused Quarter, so that few of them escaped. The Battalions of Boetslayer and Donop suffered likewise extremely, notwithstanding which they rallied, and drove the Enemy, who were advancing into the Plain, back again to the Village. The Battalions of Graham and Howard, which were in Roucoux, lost also a great many Men, but to the last maintained a Hollow Way, where they were posted by Sir John Ligonier, and were of great Use, Brigadier Douglas, who commanded them, having done every Thing that a good and gallant Officer could do.

As soon as
Prince Waldeck, whose Troops had begun to give Way, was informed that the Villages were lost, he retreated in good Order, and taking behind our Left, marched towards the Meuse, by St. Peter's Berg.

In these Circumstances our Retreat was resolved, and executed in the following Manner.

The three Battalions, which
Sir John Ligonier had sent for in the Night from Maestricht, and who arrived with Brigadier General Houghton as the Action was beginning, were placed in a right Angle with the Scotch Greys facing the Flank which the Dutch had before, when this came even with the Prince of Hesse, he had Orders to join that. General Somerfelt had formed another Flank a little farther to receive us, and the Prince and Marshal another under Prince Dourlach; and when we came there, we found by the Prince's and Marshal's Disposition, a Rear Guard of 20 Squadrons, 12 Battalions, and 12 Companies of Grenadiers; so that in Spight of perhaps 100 Pieces of Cannon, and all the Musket Shot they could bring to bear, the Retreat was made with great Regularity and Order ; the Rear Guard consisted of the Imperialists, the Marshal insisting upon it, as they had not suffered in the Action.

We have certainly quitted the Field with as little Disadvantage as could be in a Battle, if that can be called a Battle, where two Thirds of our Army were not engaged, the Action having been wholly upon the Left. The Enemy did not think fit to pursue us; but not being able, for Want of Wood in this advanced Season, to stay on the other Side of the Meuse, we passed that River this Morning. We have not yet the List of the Killed and Wounded; the French cannot have lost less than 10,000 Men, and our Loss, in the Gross, is not more than 5000. The Cannonading was terrible on both Sides.

Count la Lippe and Lieutenant Smissart [?] are wounded, Major General Veldtman killed, Lieutenant Colonel Montague is killed, Major Sowle wounded and taken, Major Kendall has lost a Leg, Sir Harry Nisbet is killed, and many others, who are not yet known. Monspach's Regiment has six Captains killed, and Maidell's has not one Officer left. The Enemy had not less than 170 Battalions upon the Field of Battle. Our Cavalry shewed the greatest Desire to fall upon that of the Enemy, but they kept themselves constantly under the Protection of their Foot and Cannon; and when the French Infantry came out upon the Plain, they gallop'd up with great Spirit to charge them, Lord Rothes being at the Head of the first Line, and Lord Craufurd at the Second of the English, and drove them back Sword in Hand into the Hedges much faster than they came on.

What contributed greatly to our ill Success in this Action, was, that the People of Liege had the Night before introduced the French into the Town, and put them into Possession of it, just in
Prince Waldeck's Back, whose Disposition was excellently made before that Accident, having a Flank upon his Left of Eight Battalions with a great Ravine, and very difficult Ground before them, and his Left Wing of Horse to support it.

Prince Charles of Lorraine, and Marshal Bathiani, gave their Orders in all Parts through the whole Action with the greatest Judgment and Intrepidity.

Printed by E. Owen, in Warwick-lane.


Bluebear Jeff said...

Thank you. That was interesting . . . but lacking an "orbat" it is difficult to know where the various officers the writer refers to were.

Hmmm, I notice from the Wikipedia article that, while the Allied losses are correct, this account seriously overestimates the French losses (10,000 to the actual 3500).

-- Jeff

Robert said...

"...this account seriously overestimates the French losses (10,000 to the actual 3500)."

Yes a case of wishful thinking it seems to me!

I've been trying to put together an orbat for this one myself- The Dutch units in particular are hard to pin down as they tend not to be identified by individual regiments, but the article does give some clues. I hope to post something on that in a day or two- if time permits.