01 High­landers re­pulsed

History of War - - FONTENOY -

Bri­gadier Gen­eral James In­goldsby leads his High­land Bri­gade in a bay­o­net at­tack against the French line, but heavy fire from the Arque­bus­iers de Grassin con­cealed in the

Bois de Barry and French guns in the Cham­bonas Re­doubt pin the Scots­men to the ground.

02 ar­tillery Hell

The ini­tial at­tack by the Dutch is shat­tered by a com­bi­na­tion of frontal fire from en­trenched in­fantry and ar­tillery, as well as en­fi­lad­ing fire from French can­non in three for­ward-lo­cated re­doubts that rake the Dutch at­tack­ers as they try to close with the main de­fen­sive line. The Dutch fall back, hav­ing gained noth­ing.

03 Melee in THE Trenches

Two brigades, one Bri­tish and one Hanove­rian, rush the French field­works en­com­pass­ing the north end of Fon­tenoy. The troops fight their way into the first trench, where they brawl with the French us­ing clubbed mus­kets, bay­o­nets and broadswords. How­ever, the se­cond wall proves too high to climb and they with­draw.

04 coun­ter­bat­tery Fire

As the An­glo-hanove­rian grand col­umn en­ters the ravine be­tween Fon­tenoy and the Bois de Barry, they fall prey to con­verg­ing fire from French guns. Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Sir John Ligo­nier or­ders 6-pounder guns brought for­ward to sup­press the French ar­tillery fire. One of the Bri­tish shells kills the duc de Gra­mont.

05 de­lay­ing Tac­tic

After the Bri­tish Guards shat­ter the Gardes Fran­caises, the Bri­onne and Noailles cav­alry brigades launch re­peated charges at the Bri­tish line in an at­tempt to buy time for a coun­ter­at­tack by the French in­fantry. The lead squadron of the Noailles bri­gade pierces the Bri­tish line but is sur­rounded and de­stroyed.

06 bri­tish Spoil­ing at­tack

Cum­ber­land or­ders the 2nd

Foot Guards to launch a coun­ter­at­tack against the Royal des Vais­seauxs march­ing south past the Bois de Barry to strike the Bri­tish square. Mean­while, the Onslow Bri­gade fac­ing south re­pulses a con­cen­trated at­tack by the Royal, Couronne and Au­beterre brigades.

07 French Fury

Mounted on black steeds, the Reg­i­ment Royal de Cara­biniers charge the bay­o­net-wield­ing Royal Scots. The horse­men fire their car­bines at point-blank range in an un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to breach the line.

08 Or­derly re­treat

Bri­gadier Gen­eral John Lind­say, Earl of Craw­ford, the com­man­der of the 4th Troop of Horse Guards, leads a force of Bri­tish cav­alry west to cover the with­drawal of the An­glo-hanove­rian in­fantry. Cum­ber­land per­son­ally di­rects the fight­ing re­treat to Ve­zon.

Guards, halted his troops atop the ridge 80 paces from the en­emy to ad­dress them. He doffed his hat at the French and then took a flask from his hip pocket with which he toasted them. After chid­ing them for flee­ing at Det­tin­gen, he of­fered them the ad­van­tage of fir­ing the first vol­ley. Comte Philippe of d'an­ter­roches, a grenadier lieu­tenant of the Gardes Fran­caises, is said to have de­clined the of­fer and en­cour­aged the Bri­tish to fire the first vol­ley them­selves. A French sol­dier in­ad­ver­tently fired his mus­ket, which com­pelled the French to fire the first vol­ley. The Bri­tish re­sponded with sev­eral vol­leys that left 760 French sol­diers and 50 of­fi­cers dead on the field.

The grand col­umn then formed a gi­ant square to more ef­fec­tively en­gage the French flank­ing units. The Guards Bri­gade oc­cu­pied the north­ern face (right), the Royal Bri­gade the west (front) and Onslow’s Bri­gade the south­ern face (left). When the col­umn ad­vanced deeper into the French po­si­tion, Sowle’s Bri­gade tied into the left flank of Onslow’s Bri­gade and Howard’s Bri­gade tied into the right of the Guards Bri­gade. Zas­trow’s Bri­gade formed a re­serve in­side the gi­ant square. Rather than re­main in the rear to di­rect the two wings, Cum­ber­land rode into the square to over­see the at­tack. The Bri­tish cav­alry re­mained in po­si­tion around a kilo­me­tre to the rear, un­able to ad­vance through the tightly packed in­fantry.

With the sit­u­a­tion get­ting des­per­ate for the French, Saxe de­cided to mount his horse, even though it was ag­o­nis­ingly painful given his in­fir­mity, in or­der to quickly and ef­fec­tively di­rect the coun­ter­at­tack.


While French in­fantry brigades moved into po­si­tion to com­bat the north­ern and south­ern sides of the square, the Royal Bri­gade faced the two lines of French cav­alry that con­sti­tuted Saxe’s re­serve. The cav­alry squadrons in the first line did not wait for or­ders but im­me­di­ately be­gan mak­ing re­peated charges at 12.30pm against the en­emy foot sol­diers, in an ef­fort to buy time for the French in­fantry to re­or­gan­ise. Although the squadrons suf­fered heavy losses, they suc­ceeded in halt­ing the ad­vance of Ligo­nier’s grand col­umn.

charge of the Wild geese

One of the most gal­lant episodes in the en­tire bat­tle was the spir­ited charge of the Ir­ish Bri­gade, the 'Wild Geese', against Car­pen­ter’s Guards Bri­gade on the right side of the square. Led by Vis­count Clare and Count Thomond, the wild-eyed Ir­ish rushed the en­emy in a head­long charge with fixed bay­o­nets. The steady guards­men cut them down with pow­er­ful vol­leys.

Although they lost one-third of their num­bers, the Wild Geese bought time for Saxe to or­gan­ise a co­he­sive coun­ter­at­tack. The French troops who watched the sui­ci­dal charge of the Ir­ish took courage from their brav­ery.

Be­cause they had to face at­tacks by French cav­alry and in­fantry, the ca­su­al­ties in the Bri­tish Guards, Royal and Onslow brigades mounted as the fight­ing grew in in­ten­sity in the early af­ter­noon. It be­came ev­i­dent that Cum­ber­land had made a key blun­der. In­stead of mov­ing his cav­alry for­ward to ex­ploit the pen­e­tra­tion of the French in­fantry line, it re­mained in the rear. If Saxe or­gan­ised an ef­fec­tive coun­ter­at­tack, it would be too late to use the al­lied force's cav­alry to fully de­velop the breach.

With the Dutch no longer threat­en­ing his right wing, Saxe was able to pull in­fantry units out of line and send them against the western side of the square. In ad­di­tion, he be­gan per­son­ally di­rect­ing a coun­ter­at­tack against the flanks of the An­glo-hanove­rian front­line units on the plateau. As wave after wave of horse and re­or­gan­ised foot reg­i­ments struck the square, its for­ward-most units be­gan to fall back.

See­ing his at­tack un­ravel, Cum­ber­land con­ferred with his se­nior com­man­ders. All were in agree­ment – the at­tack had been thwarted. When the or­der to re­treat was given at 1.30pm to the brigades in the square, they be­gan an or­derly with­drawal from the plateau down the slope, towards the vil­lage of Ve­zon.

On the left wing, Waldeck de­ployed his cav­alry to cover the with­drawal of the Dutch in­fantry.

The French chose to harry the Bri­tish, but they left the Dutch alone. When it was clear the French had won the day, King Louis XV sought out Saxe to con­grat­u­late him on his vic­tory. The losses were nearly equal, with each side los­ing ap­prox­i­mately 7,500 men.

Me­thod­i­cal con­quest

The town of Tournai sur­ren­dered quickly, although the Dutch gar­ri­son held out in the citadel un­til 19 June. Given that the two armies were evenly matched in num­bers, Cum­ber­land had made a costly mis­take at­tack­ing the French army in such a strong po­si­tion. More­over, he had mi­cro­man­aged the bat­tle and acted more like a bri­gade com­man­der than an army com­man­der when he be­gan di­rect­ing front­line troops. As for Saxe, he had suc­cess­fully ral­lied his troops and made ef­fec­tive use of his re­serve to repulse the Bri­tish at­tack. His one mis­take was that he chose not to pur­sue the re­treat­ing Prag­matic Army.

After the fall of Tournai, Saxe em­barked on a cam­paign of con­quest in the Aus­trian Nether­lands. Given that the re­gion was crammed full of fortresses, it was a time-con­sum­ing process. On the three-year an­niver­sary of the Bat­tle of Fon­tenoy, the Aus­trian Nether­lands fi­nally sur­ren­dered to the French. Saxe’s con­quest of the re­gion gave France ad­di­tional lever­age in the ne­go­ti­a­tions at Aix-la-chapelle in Oc­to­ber 1748 that brought the war to a close.



Lord Charles Hay of­fered Comte Joseph Charles Alexan­dre d’an­ter­roches the first vol­ley, an of­fer that the comte po­litely de­clined

A boy hold­ing a copy of the Ger­man-made Gazette des Ardennes in 1915

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