The Battle of Val 1747


Letter from a Gentleman in Flanders, who saw the late action.
From the Gentlemen's Magazine Vol. XVII 1747 page 345.

Last Sunday 7-Night, the 2d N.S. we had an engagement with the French. The armies were drawn up within sight of each other at about 3 miles distance. On Saturday, they formed a kind of grand amphitheatre, and the Hussars began their ridiculous skirmishes in the interval between them about 7 in the morning. That day was employed in gaining advantageous situations. The armies lay on their arms that night, and every thing was ready for the engagement which began on Sunday morning about nine. The point aim'd at, and at which the French made their whole push, was the possession of a very inconsiderable village, called La Valt, or some such name, about a league distant from Maestricht a little to the south of the road from that place to Tongres. The French attacked in a grand column, of about 65 battalions. By this means whenever any regiment was weakened there was a fresh one to succeed immediately. The dispute was maintained on our side by twelve battalions, 8 English and 4 Hanoverian. There were besides several squadrons of horse on both sides to support the foot. The place was taken and retaken four or five times. Most of the English went to this duty a third time. Now suppose we reckon the repeated service of the English regiments as so many fresh battalions, (which is not fair) succeeding in course to this duty, we cannot be said to have had more than 26 or 27 battalions, to resist upwards of 65 French Let me give you one instance of the resolution of our men, which I know to be true. Wolfe's regiment carried into the field 24 rounds a man. This they made use of. Afterwards they had a supply of 8 rounds a man more. After this was spent, they made use of all the ammunition amongst the dead and wounded, both of their own men and the enemies. When no farther supply could be had, they formed themselves immediately to receive their enemy upon their bayonets, and being ordered to retreat did it with the utmost regularity. The horse were not behind hand with the foot in spirit and resolution, particularly the Scotch Greys and the Duke's regiment of dragoons. In short, we had manifestly and very greatly the advantage in both. Every body will naturally ask, how then happens it we had not the victory ? I'll tell you: This attack was made upon the infantry of our left wing; part of this wing was composed of some Dutch horse; these (according to custom) galloped away full speed two hundred yards before they came to their enemy; in their headlong flight they fell upon a body of Hessians, and one squadron of Scotch Greys, who were borne away in this monstrous tide of Dutch cowardice, and all together fell in confusion upon two of our regiments of foot (the Scotch and Welch fuziliers) and trampled them to the ground. The Scotch fuzileers indeed fired upon that party of Dutch which were falling upon them, and saved themselves a little, but the Welch were very much hurt. This occasioned such disorder, that the regiments engaged in the village could not be properly supported, so a retreat was necessary. If we retreated from the field of battle, the French did not remain upon it. We were obliged to leave behind us 10 pieces of cannon, [spiked] and I think 2 standards. We took from them (which I have seen) 5 standards, and 7 pair of colours; I believe we have taken more. The number of our killed, wounded and missing, three days after the action, was 4200, including one Dutchman, who it is positively said was a little bruised in his flight. But this list must differ every day, because stragglers are continually coming in, and wounded healed. Sir John Ligonier, who was taken prisoner says, from Marshal Saxe immediately, that the French lost a thousand horse, near nine thousand foot, and full a thousand officers. The number of officers seems disproportionate, but they are double officer'd. I wish them such a victory every week. What I have said, I believe makes it pretty plain, why we could not pursue our advantage on the left. But the most unaccountable part of the story, is the inactivity of  the Austrians upon the right of our army, which was their post as they were imperial troops. The French to form that grand column with which they attacked the infantry of our left wing, had drawn together all the infantry of their rear line; so that there was but one line of French opposed to the whole Austrian force upon the right of our army. Why the Austrians did not attack (for they never discharged a single shot at) the left wing, when they knew there was but half their power to oppose them, and when they knew besides this, that the English were victorious over their right, to me is utterly inconceivable, except the Austrians are acting upon Dutch principles, and are determined to save themselves by sacrificing the English. The night after the action and the next morning we passed the Maes at Maestricht, and encamped about 2 miles from that place. We now cover the ground from Maestricht to Viset. At the moment I am writing this letter, I am eye-witness, at the distance of little more than a mile, to a very smart engagement between our own and the French Hussars. There seems to me to be about 3 or 400 of a side; I see them thro' the door of my tent every moment I take my eyes from my paper. I saw the duke in very great danger, and behave with great gallantry.

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