Battle of Femern, 24 April 1715

Battle of Femern, 24 April 1715

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Battle of Femern, 24 April 1715

The battle of Femern was a naval victory for the Danes in the later phase of the Great Northern War (1700-1721). In April 1715 a Swedish fleet under Schoutbynacht Wachtmeister had been sent into the western Baltic, where it had raided Femern and captured a Danish frigate. Wachtmeister had a fleet of six ships – four battleships and two frigates and was expecting reinforcements.

The Danes responded by dispatching a larger fleet under Schoutbynacht Gabel to find and defeat the Swedes. Gabel had eleven warships, including eight battleships with fifty guns or more. The two fleets came together early on 24 April, east of the island of Femern. The Swedes were about seven miles north of the Danes.

Despite being outnumbered by two to one, Wachtmeister was willing to risk a battle. During the morning of 24 April there was little or no wind, but a breeze came up at about noon, and the battle began at four in the afternoon. The Swedes made two attempts to break the Danish line, failing both times. During the second attempt the Swedish ship Södermanland was badly damaged, loosing her captain and pulled out of the battle.

The battle had been inconclusive, but the aftermath handed the victory to the Danes. Overnight the two fleets were anchored between the islands of Femern and Langeland. During the night the Swedish fleet slipped away, and attempted to escape into the Great Belt, but was forced instead to turn south and run towards Kiel. At the mouth of the Kiel Fjord the Swedish fleet ran aground, possibly deliberately. Efforts began to make the ships unusable.

Before they could complete the job they were discovered by two of the Danish ships and forced to surrender. All but one of the Swedish ships were repaired and entered Danish service. Close to 2,000 Swedish sailors were taken prisoner. The total destruction of the Swedish fleet in the western Baltic allowed Gabel to disperse his fleet. The repaired Swedish ships were sent to Copenhagen. Three of his battleships were sent to support the main allied fleet in the Baltic, under Admiral Raben. Finally, Gabel with the rest of his fleet sailed north to blockage the important Swedish port of Gothenburg, from where Swedish fleets had been able to disrupt communications between Denmark and Norway.

What really happened

On Culloden Moor on April 16 1746 arguably the last Scottish army sought to restore Prince Charles’ father James to a multi-kingdom monarchy more aligned to European politics than colonial struggle.

Forget any idea of Highland clans against British regiments. The Jacobites were heavily armed with muskets and formed into conventional regiments. They were drilled according to French conventions and some British army practice and fought next to Franco-Irish and Scoto-French allies. They possessed numerous artillery pieces and fired more balls per man than the British.

On the other hand, they had no more than 200 mounted men the British had almost four times as many. Once the Jacobite frontline failed to break the British front at more than one point, their reinforcements were readily disrupted by British cavalry and dragoons on the wings, and the ensuing disorder led to collapse. The British benefited from using their cavalry late, having learned from the battles of Prestonpans and Falkirk.

The Jacobite army also only numbered about 5,000, barely a third its maximum strength in the rising of 1745-46 and several thousand fewer than the British. It fought Culloden in spite of these numbers partly because it was a regular army and unsuited to a guerrilla campaign. Culloden was always going to be difficult for the Jacobites to win, but this manpower shortage – combined with the lack of cavalry – was critical. That was what made it possible for the British dragoon blades to cut down the Jacobite musketeers.

Charles Stuart: the Young Pretender. Wikimedia

The Jacobites are also usually accused of choosing the wrong battlefield. The Irish quartermaster and Jacobite adjutant general John Sullivan gets blamed for persuading Prince Charles to choose boggy, flat terrain, which did not play to the army’s strengths.

Some historians argue that the error was not listening to an alternative suggestion by the prince’s lieutenant-general, Lord George Murray. But while it is true that Sullivan vetoed several other sites, one of which at least was Murray’s choice, neither made sense.

The best site was chosen by Sullivan 1km east of the final battle line. Its only disadvantage was that it was very visible to the Royal Navy in the Moray Firth. This delayed the Jacobites’ night attack on April 15 and in the subsequent confusion they ended up deployed further west than intended. In that sense, no-one “chose” the final battlefield.

Navi coinvolte

Danimarca (Gabel)

Prinds Christian 76
Prinds Carl 54
Prinds Wilhelm 54
Delmenhorst 50
Fyen 50
Island 50
Laaland 50
Højenhald 30
Raae 34
Løvendals Gallej 20
3 piccola
1 nave del fuoco

Svezia (Wachtmeister)

Nordstjerna 76 - Incagliato , catturato il giorno successivo
Princessa Hedvig Sophia 76 - Incagliato, catturato il giorno successivo e successivamente affondato
Södermanland 56 - Incagliato, catturato il giorno successivo
Göteborg 50 - Incagliato, catturato il giorno successivo
Hvita Örn 30 - Catturato
Falk 26 - Incagliato, catturato il giorno successivo

American Revolution begins at Battle of Lexington

At about 5 a.m., 700 British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, march into Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, a shot was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun.

By 1775, tensions between the American colonies and the British government approached the breaking point, especially in Massachusetts, where Patriot leaders formed a shadow revolutionary government and trained militias to prepare for armed conflict with the British troops occupying Boston. In the spring of 1775, General Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, received instructions from England to seize all stores of weapons and gunpowder accessible to the American insurgents. On April 18, he ordered British troops to march against the Patriot arsenal at Concord and capture Patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock, known to be hiding at Lexington.

The Boston Patriots had been preparing for such a military action by the British for some time, and upon learning of the British plan, Patriots Paul Revere and William Dawes were ordered to set out to rouse the militiamen and warn Adams and Hancock. When the British troops arrived at Lexington, a group of militiamen were waiting. The Patriots were routed within minutes, but warfare had begun, leading to calls to arms across the Massachusetts countryside.

When the British troops reached Concord at about 7 a.m., they found themselves encircled by hundreds of armed Patriots. They managed to destroy the military supplies the Americans had collected but were soon advanced against by a gang of minutemen, who inflicted numerous casualties. Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, the overall commander of the British force, ordered his men to return to Boston without directly engaging the Americans. As the British retraced their 16-mile journey, their lines were constantly beset by Patriot marksmen firing at them from behind trees, rocks, and stone walls. At Lexington, Captain Parker’s militia had its revenge, killing several British soldiers as the Red Coats hastily marched through his town. By the time the British finally reached the safety of Boston, nearly 300 British soldiers had been killed, wounded, or were missing in action. The Patriots suffered fewer than 100 casualties.

The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first battles of the American Revolution, a conflict that would escalate from a colonial uprising into a world war that, seven years later, would give birth to the independent United States of America.

The Midnight Ride of William Dawes

While every schoolchild knows of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, Dawes made an even more daring gallop out of Boston that same April night in 1775. Unlike his silversmith counterpart, he managed to evade capture by the British. Yet it’s Revere’s immortal name that has graced a famous ode, a line of copper cookware and even a kitschy 1960s rock band. Dawes, meanwhile, is the Rodney Dangerfield of the American Revolution, getting no respect at all.

On April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren learned through Boston’s revolutionary underground that British troops were preparing to cross the Charles River and march to Lexington, presumably to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Fearing an intercept by the British, Warren had devised a redundancy plan to warn Hancock and Adams. He would send one rider by land and one by sea.

Boston in 1775 was nearly an island, only connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land guarded by British sentries. Warren knew that the rider who had to take the longer land route and pass through the British checkpoint had the riskier mission, but he had the perfect man for the job: Dawes. The 30-year-old was a militiaman and a loyal patriot. Unlike Revere, however, Dawes wasn’t a known rabble-rouser, and his work as a tanner frequently took him out of Boston, so his would be a familiar face to the British manning the checkpoint.

Dawes set off around 9 p.m., about an hour before Warren dispatched Revere on his mission. Within minutes, he was at the British guardhouse on Boston Neck, which was on high alert. According to some accounts, Dawes eluded the guards by slipping through with some British soldiers or attaching himself to another party. Other accounts say he pretended to be a bumbling drunken farmer. The simplest explanation is that he was already friendly with the sentries, who let him pass. However Dawes did it, he made it in the nick of time. Shortly after he passed through the guardhouse, the British halted all travel out of Boston.

Dawes sped west and then north through Roxbury, Brookline, Brighton, Cambridge and Menotomy. Unlike Revere, who awoke town leaders and militia commanders along the way to share his news, Dawes apparently let them sleep, either because he was singularly focused on getting to Lexington as quickly as possible or because he wasn’t as well-connected with the patriots in the countryside.

Dawes arrived at his destination, Lexington’s Hancock-Clarke House, at 12:30 a.m., about half an hour after Revere, who had traveled a shorter distance on a faster horse. Thirty minutes later, the dynamic duo mounted their weary steeds again to warn the residents of Concord, and Dr. Samuel Prescott soon joined them.

Before they could reach Concord, however, the three riders encountered a British patrol around 1:30 a.m. Revere was captured. Prescott and his horse hurtled over a stone wall and managed to make it to Concord. According to family lore, the quick-witted Dawes, knowing his horse was too tired to outrun the two British officers tailing him, cleverly staged a ruse. He pulled up in front of a vacant farmhouse and shouted as if there were patriots inside: “Halloo, boys, I’ve got two of 𠆎m!” Fearing an ambush, the two Redcoats galloped away, while Dawes reared so quickly he was bucked off his horse. Forced to limp into the moonlit night, he receded into obscurity.

Little is known about what happened to Dawes after his midnight ride. He went into the provisions business and was a commissary to the Continental Army. According to some reports, he fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Dawes had seven children, compared to Revere’s 16. Dawes died at age 53 in 1799 Revere lived until he was 83.

Both men were relatively unheralded when they died, but the silversmith got the PR boost of a lifetime when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned “Paul Revere’s Ride” in 1861. Longfellow’s historically inaccurate verses not only venerated Revere, but they wrote Dawes out of the storyline altogether.

How did Revere land Longfellow’s leading role while Dawes couldn’t even warrant a walk-on cameo? Revere was certainly more prominent in Boston’s political underground and business circles, but more important, he had written detailed first-person accounts of his mission, while very few records of Dawes and his ride exist.

Contemporaries couldn’t even recall his name. William Munroe, who had stood guard at the Hancock-Clarke House, later reported that Revere arrived along with a “Mr. Lincoln.” In a centennial commemoration, Harper’s Magazine called Dawes �nezer Dorr.”

Even in recent years, the hits keep coming. While Malcolm Gladwell lauded Revere’s social network in “The Tipping Point,” he called Dawes “just an ordinary man.” And in perhaps the final indignity, it was discovered in 2007 that Dawes is most likely not buried in Boston’s King’s Chapel Burying Ground, where his grave has been marked, but probably five miles away in his wife’s family plot in Forest Hills Cemetery. Even in death, Dawes still can’t get any respect.

Prelude to Massacre

The Glencoe MacDonalds were a Jacobite clan supporting the deposed King James VII/II and had fought for him at the battles of Killiecrankie and Dunkeld. The Massacre was ordered by Sir John Dalrymple, Secretary of State of Scotland, as punishment for the MacDonald’s chief, MacIain, not swearing the oath of loyalty to William and Mary, before the deadline of 31st December 1691. This was because MacIain, leaving it to the last minute, had travelled to Fort William instead of Inveraray to swear the oath.

Dalrymple was keen to impress King William and to show that he was the man that could effectively deal with the troublesome highlands. The Macdonalds of Glencoe were a small and unpopular clan notorious for raiding and stealing cattle from their neighbours and presented the perfected target for Dalrymple.

When MacIain arrived at Fort William on the 31st, the governor, an old Cromwellian and friend of the Glencoe MacDonalds, Englishman Colonel John Hill, explained that he could not administer the oath and that only the appointed magistrate in Inveraray, Sir Colin Campbell, could do so. Hill wrote a letter for MacIain to give to the magistrate, explaining that he had come in time, only to the wrong place.

MacIain left Fort William with Colonel Hill’s letter and made the arduous journey south to Inveraray in horrendous winter conditions, his progress would have been slow. MacIain would have passed through Glencoe and his own house but probably had no time to stop. At some point along his route, he was detained by a group of government soldiers which delayed him further. It is understood that the soldiers were under the command of Captain Thomas Drummond of Argyll’s regiment. Captain Drummond would later be the one that delivered the orders for the massacre to Glenlyon.

MacIain arrived at Inveraray and Sir Colin Campbell administered the oath on 6th of January. Campbell wrote back to Colonel Hill:

I endeavoured to receive the great lost sheep, Glencoe, and he has undertaken to bring in all his friends and followers as the Privy Council shall order. I am sending to Edinburgh that Glencoe, though he was mistaken in coming to you to take the oath of allegiance, might yet be welcome. Take care that he and his followers do not suffer till the King and Council’s pleasure be known.

When the news reached the Scottish Privy Council in Edinburgh that MacIain had taken the oath after the deadline had passed they took the Macdonalds of Glencoe off of the indemnity list.

In the months leading up to the Massacre, large numbers of Scottish government troops were sent to Fort William as army commanders prepared for operations against the Jacobite clans.

The orders for dealing with the MacDonalds were passed to Sir Thomas Livingstone, the commander-in-chief of the Scots Army, and then on to Colonel John Hill at Fort William. Colonel Hill was deeply troubled by the orders and it appears that he was by-passed at some stage. His subordinates, Lieutenant-Colonel James Hamilton and Major Robert Duncanson, do not appear to have had the same reservations.

I am glad Glencoe did not come within the time prescribed. I hope what’s done there may be done in earnest, since the rest of them are in no condition to draw together to help. I think to plunder their cattle and burn their houses would only make them desperate men, who would live outside the law and rob their neighbours but I know you will agree that it will be a great advantage to the nation, when that thieving tribe is rooted out and cut off.

“When it comes the time to deal with Glencoe, let it be secret and sudden. It is better not to meddle with them at all, if it cannot be done to purpose, and better to cut off that nest of robbers who have fallen foul of the law, now, when we have both the power and the opportunity. When the full force of the King’s Justice is seen to come down upon them, that example will be as conspicuous and useful as is his clemency to others. I understand the weather is so bad that you will be unable to move f or some time but I know you will be in action as soon as possible, for these false people will not hesitate to attack you if they come to suspect you might be a threat to them.

Third Battle of Ypres begins in Flanders

On July 31, 1917, the Allies launch a renewed assault on German lines in the Flanders region of Belgium, in the much-contested region near Ypres, during World War I. The attack begins more than three months of brutal fighting, known as the Third Battle of Ypres.

While the first and second battles at Ypres were attacks by the Germans against the Allied-controlled salient around Ypres—which crucially blocked any German advance to the English Channel—the third was spearheaded by the British commander in chief, Sir Douglas Haig. After the resounding failure of the Nivelle Offensive–named for its mastermind, the French commander Robert Nivelle–the previous May, followed by widespread mutinies within the French army, Haig insisted that the British should press ahead with another major offensive that summer. The aggressive and meticulously planned offensive, ostensibly aimed at destroying German submarine bases located on the north coast of Belgium, was in fact driven by Haig’s (mistaken) belief that the German army was on the verge of collapse, and would be broken completely by a major Allied victory.

After an opening barrage of some 3,000 guns, Haig ordered nine British divisions, led by Sir Hubert Gough’s 5th Army, to advance on the German lines near the Belgian village of Passchendaele on July 31 they were joined by six French divisions. In the first two days of the attacks, while suffering heavy casualties, the Allies made significant advances—in some sectors pushing the Germans back more than a mile and taking more than 5,000 German prisoners—if not as significant as Haig had envisioned. The offensive was renewed in mid-August, though heavy rains and thickening mud severely hampered the effectiveness of Allied infantry and artillery and prevented substantial gains over the majority of the summer and early fall.

Dissatisfied with his army’s gains by the end of August, Haig had replaced Gough with Herbert Plumer at the head of the attack after several small gains in September, the British were able to establish control over the ridge of land east of Ypres. Encouraged, Haig pushed Plumer to continue the attacks towards the Passchendaele ridge, some 10 kilometers from Ypres.

Thus the Third Battle of Ypres𠄺lso known as Passchendaele, for the village, and the ridge surrounding it, that saw the heaviest fighting𠄼ontinued into its third month, as the Allied attackers reached near-exhaustion, with few notable gains, and the Germans reinforced their positions in the region with reserve troops released from the Eastern Front, where Russia’s army was foundering amid internal turmoil. Unwilling to give up, Haig ordered a final three attacks on Passchendaele in late October. The eventual capture of the village, by Canadian and British troops, on November 6, 1917, allowed Haig to finally call off the offensive, claiming victory, despite some 310,000 British casualties, as opposed to 260,000 on the German side, and a failure to create any substantial breakthrough, or change of momentum, on the Western Front. Given its outcome, the Third Battle of Ypres remains one of the most costly and controversial offensives of World War I, representing𠄺t least for the British–the epitome of the wasteful and futile nature of trench warfare.

Today we mark the anniversary of another key battle within the Wars of the Roses: the battle of Tewkesbury. As Edward IV’s forces sought to build on their earlier victory at the battle of Barnet, attention turned to Margaret of Anjou, as Dr Simon Payling from our Commons 1461-1504 project explains…

The most striking facet of the campaign that saw Edward IV win victories at Barnet and Tewkesbury was the remarkable run of fortune he enjoyed. That fortune was, in part, hard won by his own efforts: at every turn he acted quickly and decisively and showed himself the most accomplished English general of his day. Yet much that went his way was the result of factors beyond his control. The opening phase of the campaign that ended with the battle of Tewkesbury provides the clearest example.

Queen Margaret had intended to sail from Honfleur on about 24 March, but, as it transpired, adverse winds detained her for some three weeks, and it was not until 14 April, the day on which her supposed ally, the earl of Warwick, was defeated at Barnet, that she landed at Weymouth. Had she arrived on schedule, what followed would probably have taken a profoundly different course. With the forces raised in the west county by two of the leading Lancastrian lords, Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset, and John Courtenay, earl of Devon, she would have had the opportunity to rendezvous with Warwick’s army before it joined in battle with Edward. Failing that, she would have had ample time to march north from Weymouth to meet with the forces being raised in Wales by Jasper Tudor, duke of Bedford, and then had the leisure to view Warwick’s defeat as a blessing, removing her unnatural ally and putting herself once more at the head of the Lancastrian cause. As it transpired, however, her delay turned the campaign into one of desperate pursuit.

Queen Margaret of Anjou c. 1445 from British Library, Royal 15 E VI, f. 2v (presented to her by John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, on her betrothal to Henry VI) via Wikimedia Commons

Fresh from victory at Barnet, Edward quickly regathered and renewed his forces, and marched west to cut Margaret off before she could cross the Severn and effect a junction with the Jasper’s Welsh army. For all his dispatch he came near to failing in that aim. The Lancastrians would have crossed the Severn at Gloucester, but for the refusal of Richard Beauchamp, to allow them entry into the town and make the crossing there. Here Edward reaped a significant return on the trust he had placed on Beauchamp, whom he had named as constable of the royal castle of Gloucester in February 1470. Beauchamp’s dutiful resistance, carried through despite the enthusiasm of some of the town’s populace for Margaret’s cause, enabled Edward to intercept the Lancastrians at the next crossing at Tewkesbury and force them to battle on terms favourable to himself.

The armies that faced each other at Tewkesbury on the morning of 4 May were probably of roughly equal size, perhaps about 6,000 each. The Lancastrians had the advantage of a strongly defensible position: in the words of the ‘Arrivall’, the official Yorkist account of the campaign, ‘a right evill place to approche … full difficult to be assayled’. Yet their failure to give battle until they had to implies a lack of confidence in their chances of victory. The Yorkists were better led with a higher proportion of well-trained troops drawn from baronial retinues and a lower proportion of footmen. Further, since Barnet, they had been significantly refreshed by a powerful contingent from the marches of Wales (it is noteworthy here how many leading gentry from Shropshire were knighted by Edward after the field was won). The course of the battle, as far as it can be discerned in the surviving sources, can also be interpreted as indicating a fear on the Lancastrian side that they were overmatched, and that they could hope for victory only through the success of some desperate resort. This, at least, would explain why Beaufort, Margaret’s principal general and an experienced commander, chose to break their defensive position and lead the army’s vanguard in a head-long assault on the Yorkist vanguard, commanded by Edward IV’s brother, the duke of Gloucester (later Richard III). Even the author of the ‘Arrivall’ noted, with apparent approval, the ‘great harte and corage’ of this attack, but it was repulsed, and the Lancastrians were unable to regather. Victory followed for the Yorkists.

That victory meant that the Lancastrian cause, at least in the incarnation represented by Henry VI and Margaret, was effectively destroyed, above all else because of the death of their son, the seventeen-year-old prince of Wales. There are conflicting accounts of how he met his end. The Tudor chronicler, Robert Fabyan, says he was captured and brought before Edward, who, enraged by the prince’s proud countenance, struck him and permitted his attendants to kill him. More contemporary accounts, however, claim he was killed in battle or fleeing from the field. Whatever the case, his death suited Edward IV admirably.

Other of the Lancastrian leaders, among them Beaufort and Courtenay, fled to the sanctuary of Tewkesbury abbey. If Edward can be acquitted of ruthless conduct in the matter of the prince’s death, the same cannot be said of his treatment of these fugitives. One chronicler claims that he violently entered the abbey and only the intervention of a priest prevented him and his followers from cutting Beaufort and others down on the spot. What is not in doubt is that he had the leading Lancastrians taken from the abbey, tried before the constable, his brother, Gloucester, and the marshal, John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, and then beheaded. Given that the abbey had no franchise as a sanctuary for those suspected of treason, his actions could be justified in legal terms. In moral and political terms, the justification is harder to see. Although those executed had showed themselves implacable enemies, the death of the prince might have served for them as the moment to reconcile themselves to Yorkist rule. In other respects, however, Edward showed greater restraint and mercy. Queen Margaret, captured soon after the battle in a nearby religious house, was treated respectfully and later sent back to France, and some of her partisans, most notably the former chief justice of the King’s bench, Sir John Fortescue, were pardoned.

The deaths of so many high-ranking Lancastrians, whether in battle or by execution, meant that, in the words of one modern observer, the abbey became ‘the mausoleum of Henry VI’s lost cause’ [A. Goodman, The Wars of the Roses the Soldiers’ Experience (Stroud, 2005), p. 217]. A contemporary chronicler noted the burial of some 36 high-ranking Lancastrians in the abbey, with pride of place given to the young prince who was buried in the midst of the monastic choir. These victims have no surviving contemporary memorials with one exception (I exclude here the doubtful example of Sir William Feldyng, to whom a tomb in the Leicestershire church of Lutterworth has been attributed).

The picture shows the fine tomb to Sir Robert Whittingham, keeper of Margaret’s great wardrobe and receiver-general to her son in the late 1450s, and his wife, Katherine Gatewyne, lady-in-waiting to Margaret, now in the church of Aldbury in Hertfordshire. Originally in the Bonhommes college at nearby Ashridge, it was removed to the church by Whittingham’s descendant, Edmund Verney, in 1575.

Further reading

Biographies of Sir Robert Whittingham, Sir William Feldyng and other casualties of the battle are to be found in The Commons, 1422-61, ed. L. Clark

The Battle of Lake Trasimene. April 24, 217 BC.

The Battle of Lake Trasimene (24 April 217 BC, on the Julian calendar) was a major battle in the Second Punic War. The Carthaginians under Hannibal defeated the Romans under the consul Gaius Flaminius. Hannibal’s victory over the Roman army at Lake Trasimene remains, in terms of the number of men involved, the largest ambush in military history. In the prelude to the battle, Hannibal also achieved the earliest known example of a strategic turning movement.

The Carthaginian cavalry and infantry swept down from their concealed positions in the surrounding hills, blocked the road and engaged the unsuspecting Romans from three sides.

Surprised and outmanoeuvred, the Romans did not have time to draw up in battle array, and were forced to fight a desperate hand-to-hand battle in open order. The Romans were quickly split into three parts. The westernmost was attacked by the Carthaginian cavalry and forced into the lake, leaving the other two groups with no way to retreat. The centre, including Flaminius, stood its ground, but was cut down by Hannibal’s Gauls after three hours of heavy combat.

As described by Livy:

“For almost three hours the fighting went on everywhere a desperate struggle was kept up, but it raged with greater fierceness round the consul. He was followed by the pick of his army, and wherever he saw his men hard pressed and in difficulties he at once went to their help. Distinguished by his armour he was the object of the enemy’s fiercest attacks, which his comrades did their utmost to repel, until an Insubrian horseman who knew the consul by sight – his name was Ducarius – cried out to his countrymen, “Here is the man who slew our legions and laid waste our city and our lands! I will offer him in sacrifice to the shades of my foully murdered countrymen.” Digging spurs into his horse he charged into the dense masses of the enemy, and slew an armour-bearer who threw himself in the way as he galloped up lance in rest, and then plunged his lance into the consul (Livy 22.6)”

In less than four hours, most of the Roman troops were killed. The Roman advance guard saw little combat and, once the disaster to their rear became obvious, fought their way through the skirmishers and out of the forest. Of the initial Roman force of about 30,000, about 15,000 were either killed in battle or drowned while trying to escape into the lake — including Flaminius himself, who was slain by the Gaul Ducarius. Another 10,000 are reported to have made their way back to Rome by various means, and the rest were captured.

The disaster for Rome did not end there. Within a day or two, a reinforcement force of 4,000 under the propraetor Gaius Centenius was intercepted and destroyed.

One thought on &ldquo The Battle of Blenheim and British Politics &rdquo

Blenheim was of course, only the first of a series of Marlborough’s victories against the French during the “Wars of the Spanish Succession”. Later came Ramillies (1706), Oudenaarde (1708) and Malplaquet (1709). It was the first battle which was one of the contributory factors to the failure of the French seige of Turin (April-September 1706), one of the turning points of the War. The major contributor to this was undoubtedly Ramillies, seeing the defeat of the Duke of Villeroi. The Duke of Vendome (Louis XIV’s illegittimate cousin), and undoubtedly one of the finest of the French Generals of the period had been detached from his task of subduing the Duchy of Savoy, with the capture of Turin almost taken for granted. He relinquished command to Louis d’Aubusson, Duke De La Feuillade, whose main claim to the position was that he was the son-in-law of Chamillart, the Minister for War. La Feuillade’s decision to proceed with the seige against the heavily defended citadel, contrary to the advice being offered by Vauban himself (who publicly offered to have his throat cut of La Feuillade succeeded in capturing the citadel) provided the necessay time for Prince Eugene of Savoy to bring an Imperial army all the way across the North of Italy to aid his cousin, Victor Amadeus II. The actual battle took place on the 7th of September 1706. When news of the unexpected victory at Turin reached Marlborough, he wrote: It is impossible to express the joy it has given me for I not only esteem, but I really love that Prince [Eugene]. This glorious action must bring France so low, that if our friends could but be persuaded to carry on the war with vigour one year longer, we cannot fail, with the blessing of God, to have such a peace as will give us quiet for all our days. And despite Vendome’s fame as a General, he also was defeated by Marlborough at Oudenaarde (July 1708). While acknowledging Marlborough’s tactical superiority, it is also fair to say that once again, interference by Louis XIV in the battle strategy and the presence of the Duke of Burgundy (the King’s grandson) were significant contributors to Vendome’s defeat.

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