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The Battle of Dettingen ( ) took place on 27 June 1743 at Dettingenmarker in Bavariamarker during the War of the Austrian Succession. It was the last time that a British monarch, George II, personally led his troops into battle. The British forces, in alliance with those of Hanovermarker and Hessemarker, defeated a French army under the duc de Noailles although France and Britain had not yet declared war.

Prelude

The allied army was known as the Pragmatic Army because it was a confederation of states that supported the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 agreements to recognize Maria-Theresa as Archduchess of Austriamarker.The British force of 16,000 men under John Dalrymple, 2nd Earl of Stair had landed at Ostendmarker in the Austrian Netherlands on 10 July 1742. Here it formed the Pragmatic Army, some 44,000 strong at the start of the campaign, also containing 16,000 Hanoverians with the balance made up of Austrians, Hessians and Dutch.

The army remained here inactive until January 1743, when King George II ordered Dalrymple to march into Germany, leaving the Hessians and some Austrian troops to protect the Netherlands.The internal divisions in the Dutch Republic delayed their army of 20,000 so that it came too late to participate in the campaign.



The Austrian commander, the Duke of Arenberg, proposed to follow the Neckarmarker and march towards Bavariamarker, but King George feared a Prussian attack on Hanover and decided to march along the north bank of the Mainmarker, keeping all options open.

On 17 June the army set up camp between Kleinostheimmarker and Aschaffenburgmarker. King George II, accompanied by 25 squadrons of British and Hanoverian cavalry, arrived there on 19 June and took up overall command.

By 27 June, the French had cut the allies' line of supply and the Pragmatic Army had suffered severely from a lack of supplies and, in a reduced state, decided to fall back on Hanaumarker, just what the French wanted. This was the result of skillfull maneuvering and harassment by a French army of some 45,000 led by Noailles.

The battle

Adrien-Maurice, Duc de Noailles.
John Dalrymple, Lord Stair
On 27 June, the Pragmatic Army marched west from the town of Aschaffenburgmarker, along the line of the north bank of the Mainmarker river, right into the famous 'mousetrap' set by Noailles at the village of Dettingen cutting the allies line of retreat to Hanau. There, behind the Forbach stream running into the Main, Noailles had stationed the Duc of Gramont with a blocking force of some 23,000 troops in a line that ran from Dettingen to the Spessart Heights behind the marshy stream and had lined the south bank of the Main with artillery that could fire without interference on the Pragmatic army's left flank while about 12,000 French troops marched south on Aschaffenburgmarker crossing the Main behind the allied army. Thickly wooded hills to the Pragmatic Army's right flank prevented the allies from turning Gramont's position.

Some six hours passed with the British, Austrians and Hannoverians trying to form an advance in this confined position. At one point, George II's horse ran off with him; it was halted by Ensign Cyrus Trapaud, who received a promotion as a reward. James Wolfe wrote that the Pragmatic first line of infantry consisted of 9 regiments of English foot, 4 or 5 Austrian regiments and some Hanoverian regiments. About noon, against orders, Gramont impatiently attacked the allies with the Maison du Roi cavalry, initially with some success breaking through the English front lines throwing the British cavalry into their infantry and capturing a number of standards. The French infantry followed and they too had initial success throwing back several British regiments of foot. However, the charge forced the French artillery to stop firing and with the attack spent and the French out of their defenses, the allies counter-attacked. An Austrian brigade of three regiments advanced into a gap made by the British retiring and charged the French infantry in the flank while a large Hannoverian artillery battery cannonaded the French line. The French line collapsed with the Allies driving Gramont's force across and into the river with the English foot quick off the step for their earlier hardships. As a consequence the road to Hanau was opened which allowed the Allies to continue their retreat and re-supply.

Aftermath

With the French defeat at Dettingen, the Duc du Noailles missed the best opportunity to win the war at a stroke for the French. Had the French prevailed the Pragmatic Army would have had to surrender or starve and the King of England, George II, would have fallen prisoner to Louis XV.

Quotations

Royal Scots Fusilier
During the battle, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw warned his Regiment The Royal Scots Fusiliers not to fire until they could “see the whites of their e’en.” A noted wit, Sir Andrew is also quoted as addressing his regiment thus: "Lads, you see they loons (young men) on yon' hill. Better kill them afore they kill you." And to George II after the battle, who had (humorously) chided him for letting a French cavalry charge break into his Regiment's position: "An' it please Your Majesty, but they didna' gang oot again."

Legacy

In memory of this victory, Handel composed his Dettingen Te Deum and Dettingen Anthem.

The two parties had agreed before the battle that the sick and wounded who fell into the hands of the enemy would be cared for and not considered prisoners of War. When the allies retreated, they left behind most of their wounded and the French respected the agreement, a precursor of the Geneva Convention.

Dettingen has since 1947 been the name of one of the training companies at the British Army's officer training academymarker. In recent years it has been the training unit for short courses (for example the Territorial Army Officers' Commissioning Courses) run at the Academy. Additionally, it is the name of 4 (Dettingen) Troop at Army Training Regiment Winchester.

Notes

References

  • Chandler, David. The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough. Spellmount Limited, (1990): ISBN 0-946771-42-1
  • Browning, Reed.The War of the Austrian Succession, St. Martin's Press, New York, (1993): ISBN 0-312-12561-5
  • Hamilton, Lieutenant-General F.W..Origin and History of the First or Grenadier Guards, London, 1874, Vol. II.
  • Mackinnon, Daniel. Origin and services of the Coldstream Guards, London 1883, Vol.1.
  • Morris, Edward Ellis.The Early Hanoverians, London, 1886.
  • Wright, Robert, The Life of Major-General James Wolfe, London 1864.


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