The Battle of Fontenoy 1745
of the action between the Allied army and that of France, near Tournay,
11th May, N. S. 1745 (Published by authority.)
Whitehall, May 11 1745.
The enemy opened their trenches before Tournay the 30th of April at night, and as they employed a very great and unusual number of workmen, the siege advanced so fast, that there was no time to be lost; but, whatever was to be done towards obliging the enemy to raise it, was necessarily to be put in execution immediately.
The generals of the Allied army looked upon the raising this siege as a point of the highest concern; and his royal highness, the Marshal Konigsegg, and the prince of Waldeck, resolved therefore to attempt it, though the enemy was advantageously posted, as well as superior in number. With this view the army marched the 9th from Maulbay, and encamped that evening with the right at Bougnies, and the left at Monbray within a little more than musket shot the advanced posts of the enemy.
The generals went in the evening to observe them, and could discern easily several of their squadrons, which were separated from our army by a country divided by a little rivulet on our left, and by underwood, copses, and hedges, which they had filled with their pandours and grassins, and supported them by several little squadrons drawn up on a plain, which rose by an easy ascent to within a little distance of their camp, which was situated at the top of that rising, beginning at Antoin, leaving the village of Fontenoy in their front, and extending itself towards their left near a large wood, which was beyond the village of Vezon towards the centre of our right. This village was also possessed by the enemy, and covered by small squadrons, placed at little distances from each other.
As we could not get into the plain, which was between their camp and the defiles on our side, without first driving them from all their little posts; and as it was then late, it was resolved to put off this attempt till next morning. Accordingly on the 10th, six battalions and twelve squadrons, with 500 pioneers, six pieces of cannon, and two howitzers, were commanded from each wing for this service, which was performed with great ease, the enemy having been driven to the very top of the rising near their camp where they stood drawn up, as well to observe us, as to cover the dispositions they were making behind that line; his royal highness, the marshal and prince Waldeck, went upon the plain, and having examined the ground, we returned in the evening to our camp, after we had seen the enemy burn a little village somewhat short of Fontenoy, which they had fortified. We left the detachments at the posts they had taken, and the order was given for attacking the enemy in the morning.
His royal highness ordered that the army should march at two in the morning; and as he had been informed that there was in front of the village of Vezon, near the wood, a fort mounted with cannon, where five or six hundred men might be lodged, he ordered Brigadier Ingoldsby, with four good battalions, and three 6 pounders, to attack this village sword in hand, whilst the prince of Waldeck should attack the village of Fontenoy, which he had undertaken to do. Lieutenant general Campbell was ordered to cover the infantry of the right wing, which was commanded by Lieutenant general Ligonier, whilst it should be forming, with 15 squadrons, by extending himself along the plain from the wood, towards the village of Fontenoy. But general Campbell having lost his leg by a cannon shot, this disposition, which had been trusted to him, did not take effect. However, general Ligonier formed the two lines of infantry, quite exposed, without any other interruption from the enemy than a brisk cannonade, which did great execution, till by order of his royal highness, he caused seven pieces of cannon to advance at the head of the brigade of guards, which soon silenced the moving batteries of the enemy.
The army was now in order of battle, and general Ligonier acquainted his royal highness by an aide de camp, that he was ready, and if he approved it, would march to attack the enemy, as soon as prince Waldeck should march to the village of Fontenoy, as had been before agreed between them.
The fort near the wood should now have been attacked, and if that had been done, as his royal highness ordered, it would, in all probability, have been carried, which would have greatly contributed to our further success. But by some frailty brigadier Ingoldsby did not attack the fort, not withstanding the repeated orders sent to him by his royal highness and general Ligonier.
When our two lines were drawn up in a very good order, with the cavalry behind them, his royal highness put himself at their head, and gave orders to march directly to the enemy, prince Waldeck moved at the same time to attack Fontenoy, which the left wing did; but without effect, and during this march there was a most terrible fire of cannon. Then things had a very good appearance, and there was a fair prospect of a complete victory, for our infantry bore down all before it, and the enemy were driven three hundred paces beyond the fort and the village, and we were masters of the field of battle as far as to their camp. But the left-wing, though favoured by the fire of our batteries, and supported by two English battalions which his royal highness sent to favour the attack of Fontenoy, not having succeeded in that attack, and the fort as has been said before, not having been attacked at all, we found ourselves between cross fires of small-arms and cannon, and were likewise exposed to that of their front, so that we found it necessary to retire to the height of Fontenoy and the fort near the wood, from whence also there was a continued fire, which occasioned some confusion. But by the attention of his royal highness and the marshal, it was soon stopped, and the troops again put in order.
It was then resolved to make a second trial, and our men, encouraged by the generals, made the enemy give way once more, and they were driven to their camp with great loss; but we also began to feel very sensibly the diminution of our numbers, and the left-wing having remained where they were during this second trial, we were again obliged to retire to the ground between the village and the point of the wood.
The enemy's cavalry attempted to break us as we retired, but that they were so well received by our guards, and Major-General Zastrow, of the Hanoverian troops, that the Regiment of Noailles was in good measure destroyed, and the carabineers, by the report of deserters, had 32 officers killed.
It was then resolved by his royal highness, the marshal and the prince of Waldeck, that the whole army should retire, and the commanding officers of lieutenant general Howard's Regiment, and of the Highlanders, were ordered to post themselves the first in the churchyard of Vezon, and the others in the hedges where they had been posted the day before. The cavalry was likewise drawn up to secure our retreat, which was made in so good order, the battalions fronting the enemy every hundred paces, that there was not the least attempt made by the enemy to disturb us, which seems an argument that they had suffered very much.
The baggage belonging to his royal highness received orders about two to take the way to Ath. It remained during the action at his headquarters at Brassoel, and marched about three. The marshal Konigsegg had been hurt by a fall from his horse, and was a good deal fatigued, so after the army was out of the defiles, he went to Ath, where he arrived in the evening; but his royal highness kept constantly with the right of the army did not reach Ath till past three in the morning.
The infantry of the right wing has behaved very well, and suffered terribly upon this occasion. The Hanover troops, as well cavalry as infantry, have had their share with us in the dangers, fatigues and loss. It is impossible to regret sufficiently the great number of officers, as well as private men, who are missing. Most of them we know our dead. Lieutenant general Campbell had his leg shot off, and is since dead. Major general Ponsonby was killed upon the spot. Lord Albemarle and major-general Howard, and the brigadiers Churchill and Ingoldsby are wounded, general Howard in four places.
Prince Waldeck on the left behaved with his usual bravery. Brigadier Salis and colonel Boetslaer are killed.
The behaviour of the blue guards is highly to be commended. The lieutenant colonel was wounded, and the major distinguished himself particularly upon this occasion by his conduct and care. The first battalion of guards remained the whole day without being once put into confusion, though they lost many brave officers as well as private men. The highlanders regiment, the regiment late Handaside's, Duroure's, and many others also distinguished themselves. The honour gained by the infantry is in a great measure owing to the conduct and bravery of lieutenant general Ligonier. Major-general Zastrow and lord Albemarle did all that could be expected from brave and experienced officers.
There are hardly any prisoners but the wounded, and they were left at the Duke's quarters at Brussoel, upon the confidence of the cartel and the usual behaviour upon such occasions. We have not lost any colours, standards or kettledrums, but have taken one standard. And the cannon lost was left behind for want of horses, the contractors with the artillery having run off with them so early, that they reached Brussels that day. The army of the allies was the next day encamped in the neighbourhood of Ath.
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