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Reign of Queen Anne page 10

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Eugene had now taken his departure, and on the 15th of June was at Philipsburg, on the Rhine, and Marlborough felt it time to press on, for the States-General were now continually sending to him alarming accounts of the French, and entreating him to send back part of his army for their defence. Accordingly, on the 20th, he set forward, and passed successfully the narrow, dangerous, and troublesome pass of Geislingen, lying amongst the mountains which separated him from the plains of the Danube. This pass was two miles long, heavy with the deepest mud, and abounding with torrents swollen by the rains. Once through, he came into contact with the forces of the prince of Baden, which were posted at Wertersteppen. On the 24th the united armies reached Elchingen, near the Danube. The elector of Bavaria, who was posted at Ulm, retired, at his approach, along the banks of the Danube to a former encampment of himself and his French allies, in a low and swampy place betwixt Lawingen and Dillingen. Marlborough advanced to the little river Brenz, and encamped within two leagues of the enemy, with his right at Amerdighem and his left at Onderingen. There he waited till the 27th, when his brother, general Churchill, came up with the artillery and part of the infantry. The army now amounted to ninety-six battalions, two hundred and two squadrons, with forty-eight pieces of artillery, pontoons, &c. He still, however, judged it prudent to wait for the Danish horse under the duke of Wurtemberg, which were daily expected.

During this delay the elector forestalled the allies in securing the fortress of the Schellenberg, situated on a lofty hill overhanging the town of Donauwerth. Marlborough saw the immense advantage thus gained, and determined, cost what it might, to drive them from this stronghold. It was held by the general count D'Arco, with twelve thousand men, and it was clear that it could not be forced without great loss. But there was no time to delay. So long as the elector held Schellenberg he kept them in check, and was enabled to wait for the arrival of French forces sent to relieve him. The prince of Baden was confounded at the daring of such an undertaking, and strongly opposed it; but Marlborough told him that every day's delay only enabled the enemy to strengthen himself by fresh entrenchments both there and in their swampy camp. On the 1st of July Marlborough, having the command for the flay' ordered the assault of the Schellenberg.

The roads were deep and miry. The horses sunk often to their girths, and the artillery and heavy baggage wagons stuck fast, and it was the most terrible labour to get them along. They had defiled along the very front of the elector's camp, and it would have been thought a fine opportunity to attack them in the midst of their arduous passage; but the enemy lay still, and after a struggle, which nothing but the most dogged perseverance could have brought them through, towards evening they came out on fair ground at the foot of the hill on which the Schellenberg stood. Marlborough was quite satisfied, as he contemplated the difficulties of the ascent, that the encounter would be a bloody one, and he made preparations for immediate surgical attention to the wounded, which was rarely done to this time. He selected one hundred and thirty picked men from each regiment, amounting altogether to about six thousand foot and thirty squadrons of horse, and these, with three regiments of Austrian grenadiers, he put in front of the attacking column. At three o'clock in the morning this hardy attempt began. The picked troops advanced to the front of the Schellenberg, crossing, on bridges prepared for the occasion, the deep and rapid stream' called the Wernitz, about noon. The Austrian grenadiers were far in the rear, and it was five in the afternoon before the order was given for the column to ascend. It was a murderous prospect for the assailants. The hill was steep and rugged; the ascent was rendered additionally difficult by a wood, a rivulet, and a deep ravine, whilst the summit of the hill was covered with soldiers ready to pour down the most destructive storm of shot, and that with the prospect of an unlimited supply of soldiers and ammunition from Donauwerth and the camp on the other side of the Danube, which was connected with this side by a bridge. Lord Mordaunt, with fifty English grenadiers, led the way as a forlorn hope. Then followed the main column under the command of the Dutch general Goor, but the first line was led on by brigadier Ferguson. Before Marlborough had delivered his last orders, the balls were flying about his ears, and as soon as the column came into range, they were swept down awfully by grape-shot. General Goor and a number of other officers were almost instantly killed, and their men staggered and paused as if ready to give back. But they were encouraged by other officers, and the column continued its ascent till it came to the ravine, where, whilst endeavouring to cross it, the ranks were mowed down by a general discharge of the whole artillery. This was followed by an impetuous charge of French and Bavarian infantry with the bayonet. The officers of the attacking column were nearly all killed, and it appeared likely to be swept down the hill, but a battalion of English guards stood its ground firmly, and restored the courage of the rest, and once more they advanced. D'Arco then gathered in his flanks and threw the whole weight of his soldiery upon them to annihilate them, still pouring murderous discharges of grape into them. It appeared impossible that any body of men could exist under such disadvantages, and the whole column seemed giving way, when general Lumley rushed forward at the head of a body of horse, rallied the failing ranks, and led them again to the charge. During this terrible conflict the assailants had not been sacrificed unavenged. They had exterminated their enemies almost as fast as they came, and at this moment a powder magazine exploding in the camp of the Bavarians, spread such consternation, that the allies, taking advantage of the panic, rushed forward, burst into the entrenchments, and threw the whole force into confusion. This confusion was put to the climax by the Bavarians observing the margrave of Baden ascending the hill from the side of Donauwerth, at the head of the imperial troops. The panic was complete; the French and Bavarians broke in every direction, and made the best of their way down the hill to secure the passage of the bridge over the Danube. The allies gave chase, and made a fearful carnage amongst the fugitives. By the time they reached the bridge, such was the rush and crush to cross it that it gave way. Numbers were plunged into the stream and perished; numbers were driven by the force behind over the banks; numbers were massacred on the spot. Of the twelve thousand troops who had ascended the Schellenberg, only three thousand ever rejoined the elector of Bavaria, but numbers came in as stragglers and joined the allies. There were seven or eight thousand destroyed on that bloody evening. On the part of the allies one thousand five hundred were killed and four thousand were wounded. But the murderous nature of this fearful struggle was, perhaps, more strikingly shown by the number of officers who perished, namely, eight generals, eleven colonels, six- and-twenty captains, amongst whom were the generals Goor and Beinheim, the prince of Bevern, and count Styrum. Amongst the spoils were sixteen pieces of cannon, thirteen pairs of colours, and all the tents and baggage. The conquering force remained in the camp all night, but the sufferings of their wounded were very great, for the night set in wet and stormy. Marlborough, having taken a necessary care for the dressing and comfort of the wounded, himself returned to his camp up the Wernitz.

What was to be expected, from the particular spirit which the prince of Baden had shown, took place. Though he deprecated the attack of the Schellenberg at all, and though he allowed the English to bear the terrible brunt of the ascent, and came up in the rear of the engagement, because he reached the entrenchments before Marlborough himself came up, he claimed the honour of the victory. Had he headed the attacking column, he would have had no other claim but that of a brave officer, for the whole plan of the campaign and the whole plan of the attack of the Schellenberg were Marlborough's. Had the prince had his way there would have been no battle at all. Marlborough repelled the mean attempt to steal his victory with contempt, and spoke some homely truths to the prince. It served the Louvestein faction in the Netherlands, however, with a pretext to injure Marlborough, by casting a medal bearing the portrait of the margrave, and on the reverse the lines of Schellenberg. But all over the world, not excepting Germany, justice was done to Marlborough, and from that moment his name became famous, celebrated in songs even by the French, dreaded by French children, whose mothers' stilled them with the terrible word Malbrouk.

But the French were hastening to prevent the destruction of their Bavarian ally. Marlborough received the news that they had promised to send to the elector, under Tallard, fifty battalions of foot and sixty squadrons of horse of the best troops in France, which should make him stronger than the confederates. These troops had already crossed the Rhine, and were making their way through the Black Forest. At the same time Eugene, though obliged to divide his forces, at once to watch Villeroi on the Rhine and to check the march of Tallard, promised Marlborough that he would do his uttermost to retard the junction. Meantime the elector, in too dangerous a proximity to the victorious army, abandoned Donauwerth, broke up his camp, and retreated towards Augsburg, leaving his own dominions open to the incursions of the allies. Marlborough lost no time in availing himself of the chance. He prepared to cross the deep and rapid river Lech, which was effected on the 7th of July at Gunderkingen.

Marlborough was now in Bavaria, and the garrison at Neuburg retreating to Ingoldstadt, he had the whole of the country at his mercy. He posted his camp at Mittelstetten on the 10th, and sent word to the elector that if he did not choose to come to terms he would do his best to ruin his country; but the elector, strongly encamped under the walls of Augsburg, and promised early succour by the French, made no sign of treating. Marlborough suffered his troops to levy contributions on the country round, and his army lived luxuriously at the expense of the unfortunate Bavarians. The true policy of the allies was to march on the elector, and dispose of him before the French could come up; but for this the margrave of Baden was in too ill a humour. In fact, the two generals were in the worst possible humour with each other, and the consequence was, the obvious interests of the campaign were sacrificed to the feud and jealousy of the generals. Marlborough proposed to march on Munich, the capital, and take it, but the margrave would not furnish the necessary artillery, and the thing was impossible. Marlborough spent five days in taking Rain, a fortress of little consequence. He also dispatched thirty squadrons to assist Eugene in obstructing the march of the French to join the elector. He contrived also to open negotiations with the elector of Bavaria. The envoy of the emperor offered to the elector to restore all his dominions, and pay him a subsidy of two hundred thousand crowns, on condition of his breaking with the French and assisting the emperor with twelve thousand men. But the negotiation came to nothing, for Tallard was now rapidly advancing with his army, and the elector, instead of keeping an appointment with the emperor's envoy, sent him word that since the king of France had made such powerful exertions to support him, he thought himself in honour obliged to remain firm to his alliance.

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