01 Highlanders repulsed
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.
“CUMBERLAND HAD MADE A COSTLY MISTAKE ATTACKING THE FRENCH ARMY IN SUCH A STRONG POSITION”
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.
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.
“THE FRENCH TROOPS WHO WATCHED THE SUICIDAL CHARGE OF THE IRISH TOOK COURAGE FROM THEIR BRAVERY”
“PRÉVOT MADE THE GAZETTE DES ARDENNES AN EFFICIENT WEAPON OF PROPAGANDA. ITS READERSHIP WENT FROM UNDER 20,000 COPIES IN 1914 TO 180,000 IN 1918”
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