OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of William and Mary. - (Continued.) page 10

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 <10> 11 12 13 14

It appeared clearly that Coningsby had shown himself a most greedy and unprincipled man; that he had embezzled stores, sold exemptions to numbers whose estates were forfeited, and extorted enormous sums under threats of confiscation. These proceedings were bad enough, but, in the eyes of the embittered protestants, they were intolerable, because they operated in favour of the Irish, towards whom they felt only vengeance.

William had listened to these complaints against Coningsby, and had removed him, and sent Sidney in his stead. But Sidney was too mild for the fiery protestants, who could not bear to see any clemency shown to the native Irish. He called together the Irish parliament to endeavour to reduce the disordered affairs of the country to some more tolerable condition; but he found it occupy itself chiefly with complaints of the too easy treatment of the natives, and he dismissed it. This, however, only increased the resentment of the protestant party, and William recalled Sidney, and intrusted the government of Ireland to lords-justices, at the head of whom was Sir Henry Copal, a strict whig, and not likely to be too indulgent to papists. But William took no pains to inquire into the peculations of his friend Ginckell, and, therefore, both himself and Coningsby escaped.

William now prorogued parliament on the 14th of March, and prepared to set out for the continental campaign. Before departing, however, he made some considerable changes in his ministry. He appointed Sidney master of the ordnance he removed Russell from the chief command at sea, and gave him a lucrative post in the household. In his place he gave the principal naval command to Delaval and Killigrew - appointments of very doubtful wisdom, for both, though brave officers, were certainly in league with king James. Sir George Rooke, the gallant hero of La Hogue, was made vice-admiral of the red, and Sir Cloudesley Shovel, an honest man, was placed at the head of the admiralty. Equally extraordinary was his appointment of Sir John Trenchard as assistant secretary of state, Nottingham retaining the principal secretaryship. Trenchard had all his life been an extreme whig and agitator. He had voted for the exclusion bill, had turned out with Monmouth in his rebellion, and had fled to France. It now looked as if these were the rewards for his hostility to James; and what was more marked was, that Trenchard was brother-in-law to the unprincipled agitator Hugh Speke, who, by his trumped-up lies, had occasioned the Irish night, and other horrors; and was a close friend of Aaron Smith, the solicitor of the treasury, who was notorious for dirty practices. A very different choice was that of the eloquent and honourable Sir John Somers as lord keeper.

Before going, too, William gave orders that a Scotch parliament should be summoned; but, as it proved a most obsequious one, and distinguished itself by nothing but professions of loyalty and obedience, we may here take all notice of it that it deserves. No mention whatever was made of the massacre of Glencoe. The Macdonalds were, with the highland clans in general, too little accustomed to see justice from southern parliaments to bring their grievances there, and the lowland Scotch were too much accustomed to look on the highlanders as wild caterans and cattle-stealers to trouble themselves about the extermination of a horde of them. In this parliament the noisy Sir Patrick Hume, who had ruined the expedition of Argyll by his wrong-headed pugnacity, now figured as lord Polwarth. The general assembly, before dispersing, showed more spirit than the parliament; declared themselves, as representatives of the church, independent of all secular powers, and appointed their own time for meeting again.

William left instructions with the admirals for their conduct of the coming naval campaign against France. He visited the fleet himself, and examined the new fortifications at Portsmouth; and then, leaving all domestic affairs in the hands of the queen and the ministers, he embarked near Gravesend on the last day of March, and landed in Holland on the 3rd of April. By all parties the most stupendous exertions were made for this so ruinous contest. Exhausted as was France, Louis displayed a strength of preparation such as he had never yet put forth. No one, seeing the amount and equipment of his army, the number of new ships of war, and the muster and fitting out of the old, would have deemed that agriculture, trade, everything in the domestic condition of France, were in the last condition of misery, stagnation, and exhaustion. But the signal defeat which his fleet had suffered at La Hogue, and the liberal manner in which the English parliament had supplied William with money, convinced him that he had not only to wipe out his maritime disgrace, but to encounter as formidable a force in the Netherlands as ever. He seems to have resolved to strain every nerve, and, if possible, to bear down the enemy by absolute weight of numbers. At sea he beheld again, under D'Estrees and Tourville, seventy-one first-rate men-of-war, besides bomb-ketches, fire-ships, and tenders. His army in Flanders alone amounted to a hundred and twenty thousand men.

William, on his part, had more than his usual difficulty in bringing his allies into the field. As usual, they were far more occupied in their petty feuds than thinking of presenting a sufficient front to the great enemy who, if successful, would tread them all down in their own territories as Buonaparte has since trodden their posterity. The courts of Baden and Saxony, of Saxony and Austria, and of the lesser powers, were all quarrelling amongst themselves. The northern powers were still trying to weaken the allies, and so form a third party; and on the side of Italy, Savoy was menaced by numerous forces of France, and ill-supported by Austria. The prince of Hesse had neglected to furnish his quota, and yet wanted a chief command. The prince of Baden and the elector of Saxony were at strife for the command of the army of the Rhine. When William had brought all these wretched and provoking alhes into some degree of order, he mustered seventy thousand men in the field, and Louis came against him with a hundred and twenty thousand.

Louis marched himself with his army with all the pomp and splendour that he could assume. He brought all his court with him, as if his officers should be stimulated to the utmost by having to fight under the very eyes of their king and all the courtiers and ladies, madame Maintenon amongst them. Louis's plan of action was precisely what it had been in the two previous campaigns. As he had suddenly invested Mons and Namur by overwhelming forces, before his enemy could approach, he now proposed to surprise and take Brussels or Liege, and so carry off the glory of the exploit both from the allies and his own general, Luxembourg. This was a cheap and easy way of securing fame without danger; but this time William was too quick for him. Louis arrived at the commencement of June at Namur, where his ladies held a brilliant court. But William had taken up a strong position at Parke, near Louvain, and thrown reinforcements into Maestricht, Huy, and Charleroi. Louis perceived that he was checkmated, and his desire of stealing a new accession of martial honour suddenly evaporated. Nothing but hard fighting could make an impression on his stubborn antagonist, and for that Louis had no fancy. He determined, therefore, to return to Versailles with his ladies and his court, and leave Luxembourg to fight it out. The alarm at this proposal in the camp was intense. Luxembourg represented to Louis that it would have the certain effect of damping the spirits of the soldiers, and raise those of the enemy. He reminded him that now he had nothing to do but to bear down upon the allies with, all his powers, and sweep them away by mere momentum, and put an end to the war. But all his representations and entreaties were lost on the Grand Monarque, who had rather steal a victory than win one. He not only persisted in going, but he weakened the forces of Luxembourg by dispatching the division of Boufflers, amounting to twenty thousand men, which he had taken under his own especial command, under Boufflers and the dauphin, to join marshal de Lorges, who had orders again to ravage the palatinate. Having done this, this monarch, who was the admiration of the age in which he lived, but who was as cowardly as he was vain, and as vain as he was cruel, hastened back again in a week towards France, with all his tinsel courtiers and women, and cooks and parasites.

But, in reality, Luxembourg was better without the pompous and voluptuous king. He had no one now to come betwixt himself and his real military genius, in which he infinitely excelled William; and he immediately brought his skill into play. Before attacking the allies he resolved to divide them on the true Machiavellian principle, "divide et impera." He therefore made a feint of marching upon Liege. Liege was one of the places that it was expected that the French would aim at securing this campaign, and the inhabitants had very cavalierly declined to take any measures for defending themselves, saying it was the business of the allies. William, therefore, put his forces in motion to prevent this catastrophe. He had advanced as far as Neer-Hespen; there, however, he heard that Luxembourg had obtained possession of Huy, which had been defended by a body of troops from Liege and Count Tilly, but which, though supported by another division under the duke of Wurtemberg, had been compelled to return to Liege.

William now dispatched twenty thousand men to reinforce Liege, and thus accomplished the very thing at which Luxembourg was aiming. The moment he learnt that William had reduced his force by this detachment, he marched from Huy on the 28th of July, and passed the Jaar near its source with an army exceeding that of the allies by thirty-five thousand men. William, now aware of Luxembourg's design, committed one of those blunders in strategy, which, except for his indomitable tenacity of purpose, would long ago have ruined him. He could have put the deep river Gerte betwixt him and the enemy; it was just in the rear. His generals strongly urged him to do this, where he might have maintained his position till he had recalled his forces from Liege. But he would not listen to them. He was afraid of having to retreat before Luxembourg, and discouraging his men. He set about, therefore, instantly to strengthen his then position. It was naturally strong; on his right hand lay the village of Neer-Winden amongst a network of hedges and deep lanes, with a small stream winding through it; on his right lay the village of Romsdorff, on a brook named the Landen, whence the battle took its name. William ordered an entrenchment to be thrown up from one village to the other, and mounted with a formidable clievaux- de-frise of stakes. Batteries were raised along this breastwork, and the two villages, which had their walls and moats, were also made as strong as the time would allow.

This done, the king posted his troops. Brigadier Ramsay, with the regiments of O'Farrel, Mackay, Leven, and Monroe, lined the hedges and lanes on the right beyond Neer-Winden, near the village of Lare; betwixt Lare and Neer-Winden six battalions of Brandenburgers were posted; and general Dumont, with Hanoverians, occupied Neer-Winden itself. Six battalions of English, Danes, and Dutch covered Romsdorff, and a strong body of infantry extended along the breastwork from one village to the other. Behind, right and left were posted the cavalry and dragoons, one body of which covered the village Dormal, on a brook called the Beck. All these arrangements were made on the 28th of July, and the next morning at sunrise the French were seen advancing in order of battle. When Luxembourg saw the position which William occupied, with the deep river in the rear, making his situation in case of retreat most perilous, he is said to have exclaimed, "Now, indeed, I see that Waldeck is really dead" - Waldeck being noted for his skill in choosing his ground. When he drew near, however, he was surprised at the formidable defences which the allies had raised in so short a time.

The allies commenced immediately a cannonade with a hundred pieces of cannon on the ramparts, which did great execution; but the French soon returned the compliment, and about eight o'clock made a furious attack on the villages of Lare and Neer-Winden. These places were several times lost and regained. In one of the assaults the duke of Berwick was taken prisoner. Perceiving himself surrounded by the English, he plucked off his white cockade, and endeavoured to pass himself off as an English officer. His English tongue might have served him, but he had fallen under the eye of his uncle, brigadier Churchill, who received him affectionately and conducted him to William, who addressed him with courtesy, but never saw him again, as he was immediately after the battle exchanged for the duke of Ormond, who was wounded and taken prisoner in the action.

Meantime the battle was raging fiercely all along the line. The French repeatedly rushed up to the breastworks, and were as often driven back by the slaughtering fire of the infantry. A fresh attack was made on Neer-Winden, supported by the division under the duke of Bourbon, but which was repulsed with terrible carnage, Then Luxembourg called together his staff to consult, and it was determined to try yet one more assault on Neer-Winden with the famous household troops, which had carried the day at Mons and Namur. William met the guards at the head of several English regiments, which charged the guards with such impetuosity that, for the first time, they were compelled to give back. But whilst William was exerting himself on the right with a desperation and exposure of his person which astonished every one, the centre had become much weakened, and a murderous fight was going on at Romsdorff, or Neer-Landen, on the left. There the prince of Conti renewed the flagging contest by bringing up some of the finest regiments of the French infantry, whilst Villeroi there encountered the Bavarian cavalry under count D'Arco. In this melee the duke of Chartres narrowly escaped being taken.

Whilst the battle was thus obstinately disputed, the marquis D'Harcourt brought up two-and-twenty fresh squadrons from Huy, which, falling on the English, Dutch, and Hanoverians struggling against the united onslaught of Luxembourg, Marsin, and marshal de Joyeuse, bore them down by actual numbers. The whole line gave way; and now was seen the folly of William leaving the river in his rear, instead of having it in front. The confusion became terrible to escape over the bridge, and a frightful carnage must have followed had not William, with the regiments of Wyndham, Lumley, and Galway, borne the brunt of the pursuing host till the rest of his army got over the bridge of Neer-Hespen. As it was, the rout and disorder were dreadful; numbers flung themselves into the river, but found it too deep, and were drowned. The duke of Ormond was here severely wounded, and Solmes mortally, and was seized by the enemy. Over his loss some of "the English bulldogs" grinned. If William by his want of judgment had led his troops into this trap, he did his best to get them out of it. He repeatedly dismounted to encourage his men, inciting them by voice and example to stand up to the enemy. He had two led horses shot close behind him; one bullet passed through his hat, another through his sleeve, and a third carried away the knot of his sash. At length he got his army over the bridge, and encamped on the other bank of the river. The French did not attempt to pursue; they were worn out with their violent exertion, and passed the night on the field of battle amongst the heaps of slain and wounded. The next morning presented the most appalling scene of butchery which has been witnessed in latter times, except those of Malplaquet and Waterloo. Twenty thousand men are said to have perished in this bloody struggle, about an equal number on each side. On the French side fell count Montchevreuil and the duke D'Uzes, the premier peer of France.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 <10> 11 12 13 14

Pictures for Reign of William and Mary. - (Continued.) page 10

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About