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The Battle of Landen (or Neerwinden), in the current Belgianmarker province of Flemish Brabantmarker, was a battle in the Nine Years' War, fought in the Netherlandsmarker on 29 July 1693 between the Frenchmarker army of Marshal Luxembourg and the Allied army of King William III of England. The French assaulted the allied position three times before the French cavalry finally penetrated the allied defenses and drove William's army from the field in a rout. The battle was, however, quite costly for both sides, the French losing 9,000 men to the Allies' 19,000, and the French failed to follow up on their victory, allowing William to escape.

Details of the battle

Marshal Luxembourg, having by feints induced William to detach portions of his army, rapidly drew together superior numbers in face of the Allied camps, which lay in a rough semicircle from Elissem on the right to Neerlanden, and thence along the Landen brook on the left (18 July-28 July 1693). William had no mind to retire over the Gete Rivermarker, and entrenched a strong line from Laer through Neerwinden to Neerlanden.

On the right section of this line (Laer to Neerwinden) the ground was much intersected and gave plenty of cover for both sides, and this section, being regarded as the key of the position, was strongly garrisoned; in the centre the open ground between Neerwinden and Neerlanden was solidly entrenched, and in front of it Rumsdorp was held as an advanced post. The left at Neerlanden rested upon the Landen brook and was difficult of access.

William's right, as his line of retreat lay over the Gete, was his dangerous flank, and Marshal Luxembourg was aware that the front of the Allies being somewhat long for the numbers defending it, the intervention of troops drawn from one wing to reinforce the other would almost certainly be too late. Under these conditions Luxemburg's general plan was to throw the weight of his attack on the Laer-Neerwinden section, and specially on Neerwinden itself, and to economize his forces, as 'economy of force' was understood before Napoleon's time, elsewhere, delivering holding attacks or demonstrations, as might be necessary, and thus preventing the Allied centre and left from assisting the right.

Marshal Luxembourg had about 80,000 men to William's 50,000. Opposite the entrenchments of the centre he drew up nearly the whole of his cavalry in six lines, with two lines of infantry intercalated. A corps of infantry and dragoons was told off for the attack of Neerlanden and Rumsdorp, and the troops destined for the main attack, 28,000 of all arms, formed up in heavy masses opposite Neerwinden. This proportion of about one-third of the whole force to be employed in the decisive attack in the event proved insufficient. The troops opposite the Allied centre and left had to act with the greatest energy to fulfill their containing mission, and at Laer-Neerwinden the eventual success of the attack was bought only at the price of the utter exhaustion of the troops.

After a long cannonade the French columns moved to the attack, converging on Neerwinden; a smaller force assaulted Laer. The edge of the villages was carried, but in the interior a murderous struggle began, every foot of ground being contested, and after a time William himself, leading a heavy counter-attack, expelled the assailants from both villages. A second attack, pushed with the same energy, was met with the same determination, and meanwhile the French in other parts of the field had pressed their demonstrations home. Even the six lines of cavalry in the centre, after enduring the fire of the Allies for many hours, trotted over the open and up to the entrenchments to meet with certain defeat, and at Neerlanden and Rumsdorp there was severe hand-to-hand fighting. But, meantime, the two intact lines of infantry in the French centre had been moved to their left and formed the nucleus for the last great assault on Neerwinden, which proved too much for the exhausted defenders.

They fell back slowly and steadily, defying pursuit, and the Britishmarker Coldstream Guards even captured a color. But at this crisis the initiative of a subordinate general, the famous military writer Feuquières, converted the hard-won local success into a brilliant victory. William had begun to move troops from his centre and left to the right in order to meet the great assault on Neerwinden, and Feuquières, observing this, led the cavalry of the French centre once again straight at the entrenchments. This time the French squadrons, surprising the Allies in the act of maneuvering, rode over every body of troops they met, and nothing remained for the Allies but a hurried retreat over the Gete. Hundreds died crossing the river.

A stubborn rearguard of British troops led by William himself alone saved the Allied army, of which all but the left wing was fought out and in disorder.

Aftermath

It is during this battle that seeing the French determination to gain the high ground in spite of the murderous Allies volleys, that William exclaimed "Oh! That insolent nation!"

Marshal Luxembourg had won his greatest victory, thanks in measure to Feuquières' exploit; but had the assaults on Neerwinden been made as Napoleon would have done, with one-half or two-thirds of his forces instead of one-third, the victory would have been decisive and Feuquières would have won his laurels not in forcing the decision at the cost of using up his cavalry, but in annihilating the remnants of the Allied army in the pursuit.

The material results of the battle were nineteen thousand Allies (as against nine thousand French) killed, wounded and prisoners, and eighty guns and a great number of standards and colors taken by the French.

Among the casualties on the French side were

Among the casualties on the allied side were
  • Count Solms, who was killed.
  • The Duke of Ormonde, who was saved by the large diamond on his finger. On seeing this jewel , the French soldier who was at the point of killing the Duke, changed his mind and decided that this man could be worth more alive than dead.
  • The Earl of Galway was wounded and taken prisoner. But using the fact that he was French, he managed to escape in the confusion.


William followed with a silver medal struck to commemorate his "victory". It was designed by Jan Boskem and featured a Roman bust of William crowned with laurel and an aerial battle between a falcon and a stork.

The French commander, Luxembourg, captured so many flags that he could make a "tapestry" with them inside the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. For this reason he was nicknamed le Tapissier de Notre-Dame.

British Order of Battle

Cavalry

  1. Royal Horse Guards
  2. 1st King's Dragoon Guards
  3. Prince of Wales's Dragoon Guards
  4. 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards
  5. The King's Carabineers
  6. 4th Queen's Own Hussars


Infantry

  1. 1st Battalion, 1st Foot Guards
  2. 2nd Battalion, 1st Foot Guards
  3. 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards
  4. 1st Battalion, Scots Guards
  5. 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards
  6. 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment of Foot
  7. 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment of Foot
  8. 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment of Foot
  9. 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment of Foot
  10. 1st Battalion, 4th Regiment of Foot
  11. 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment of Foot
  12. 1st Battalion, 14th Regiment of Foot
  13. 1st Battalion, 16th Regiment of Foot
  14. 1st Battalion, 19th Regiment of Foot
  15. 1st Battalion, 21st Regiment of Foot
  16. 1st Battalion, 25th Regiment of Foot
  17. 1st Battalion, 26th Regiment of Foot


Scotch Brigade (Dutch mercenaries)

Further reading



Footnotes




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