The Battle of Val 1747


Account from an Officer of the Artillery of the battle in Brabant
From the Gentlemen's Magazine Vol. XVII 1747 page 308.

On the 16th, apprehending from the motions of the French that they designed to invest Maestricht, it was judged necessary to move from behind the Demer, to prevent that design. We decamped in the evening, marched all night, and next day encamped at Zonork. On the 19th, by day light, we marched towards Hasselt, where we pitched our tents for a few hours. About 12 at night we marched off in 3 columns, the infantry and cavalry making two, and the artillery and baggage a third. At 9 in the morning we saw Maestricht 4 or 5 miles distant. We proceeded towards Tongres, and in a little time halted in the village of Remsh, where were several French safeguards, which was an indication that their army was not far off. Soon after we were informed that the allies were drawn up in line of battle. Our baggage was immediately sent off for Maestricht, and our cannon and ammunition wagons were drawn up on an eminence, to be in readiness for orders. At 4 in the afternoon we advanced with the heavy artillery up an ascent, thro' the lines of the allies, and form'd a battery to play upon the French infantry, which were advancing upon us. The Hussars and Pandours were engaged at this time very warmly. We began immediately to play upon the enemy's infantry, and galled them so prodigiously that they were obliged to retire. Then we fired on a village, where we supposed the French shelter'd themselves, and with two haubitzers threw several bombs into it. In a few minutes they opened a battery upon us, and we cannonaded each other very smartly for about an hour, at which time one of their magazines blew up by a bomb; so that after 3 or 4 discharges more they desisted firing, and drew off their cannon. Col. Belford, of the train, received orders from his royal highness the duke, to retire behind the lines of infantry that night; which accordingly we did. The British, Hanoverians, and Hessians, lay upon their arms all night; but, as it was very cold wet weather, the Austrians and Dutch thought it more agreeable to pitch their tents; and the next morning, when we began to prepare ourselves to receive the enemy, they lay in their tents unconcern'd.

We observed the French advancing invast numbers towards the left, where the British, Hanoverian, and Hessian troops were posted. About 9 o'clock we began to cannonade each other, and considerable execution was done on both sides. No troops ever advanced more boldly than the French in this action; and, notwithstanding the violence of the grape and round shot, &c. from the British artillery, which laid both their cavalry and infantry in heaps, they carried on their attack with the utmost vigour. By this time they were engaged with small arms, the battalions which composed their front line were soon repulsed, and lost several stand of colours; but others advanced in their places, which were soon repulsed likewise, and were in like mannor succeeded by fresh battalions, and so on during the whole conflict: but we suffered an incessant fire, without any relief, except a little from the second line. In the mean time the Austrians and Dutch look'd on, and never fired a shot. The Scots Greys, the Duke's, Rothes's, and Sir Robert Rich's dragoons, with a body of Hussars, gave the French cavalry a prodigious stroke, and took several standards, but the enemy, by superiority of numbers, obliged them to retreat, tho' they afterwards made several rallies with success. When we found ourselves overpowered, and obliged to draw off the cannon, we spiked up 15 field pieces which we could not get off for the gens d'arms, &c. crowding in among us, and for want of horses, many of them being killed. This day's action is look'd on as most glorious on the part of the allies that were engaged; who consisted of no more than 36 battalions, and the above squadrons, and who withstood the chief body of the French army, and the best troops it afforded, for above five hours, without losing a yard of ground, and afterwards made a regular retreat: and tis concluded, that if the other allies had exerted themselves half so much, we should have gain'd a compleat victory. By the time we got to Maestricht, two pontoon bridges were thrown over the river, and while the baggage was passing over into the dutchy of Limbourg, the Austrians to cover their own retreat, were very warmly engaged with the French, both with cannon and small arms, and found an opportunity to take the royal white standard from the gens d'arms, their kettle drums, 12 other standards, and 80 prisoners. Tis the general opinion, that the allies had between 5 and 6000 men killed, and as many wounded; and the French own the loss of three times that number.

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