Sunday, 17 September 2017

The War of the Spanish Succession: The Battle of Oudenarde July 11th 1708 (Part 4) The Ground was Soaked in Blood

As fire and fury erupted in the infantry conflict for the village a more stately procession of squadron after squadron of horse arrayed themselves to the north of Groenenwald, In fact the French had so many horse they sent away a full two regiments to their left flank where the Dragoons of John Churchill were making so much mischief. A decision they bitterly regretted later (see below):

The French were quite happy to play the defensive and form a front to await the outcome of the infantry assault. The Prussian General in turn deployed his cavalry within charge range of the French ti tempt them forwards. Still the French did not come so a  unit of Prussian Dragoons were sent north of the windmill to outflank the French wing. As it stood the Prussians had a tactical advantage of the "charge" bonus and of the attached leadership of a General. Sensing the hour of need was at hand, with his orders to support the Hanoverian infantry to his right and seeing the intent French on pressing their infantry attack in the centre the Prussian General attached himself to the lead cavalry unit and committed unto a desperate charge (see below, yes the French commander at this moment was regretting sending those "extra" horse away to the other flank):

The cavalry line was engulfed with furious hand to hand fighting. After the charge the results seemed to be swinging towards the Allied side as the French were more disordered. As a means using them rather than losing them, the French committed to a cavalry charge against the Hanoverian line infantry to support the final heave of their infantry against the village of Groenewald. With both flanks secured they Hanoverian landsers held fast (see below):  

Meanwhile after more hand-to-hand combat the French cavalry were bested, either being routed or left in disorder. The battle was not over by a long margin but the immediate danger of a central collapse of the Allied line was averted. Eyes turned back to the French Infantry battling in the town to see that they too had been repulsed in their final attack and were reforming, unlike their cavalry who had been scattered (see below):

The Allied line looked much more ordered than the French who were bunched in a compressed salient, hindering each others effective deployment. The danger being that a simple reverse would ripple disorder through the ranks as retreating troops fell back on fresh. The French commander had a worried air about himself at this point. The Allied infantry were ponderously trying to close the door between the central village (Groenewald) and the "windmill" (which unhelpfully had lost its sails) [middle left in the photo] to twist their disadvantaged dangerous "L" into a battle winning position (see below):

The two French regiments of horse reappear from their futile traverse of the French lines to face off the enthused and victorious Prussians who are screening the advancing Allied infantry. The French infantry (now two brigades) although not disordered and are still "packed together" (see below):

With the "crisis" of defence passed, Marlborough now pondered the point of his attack. Additional French reinforcements can be seen moving up in the background. Now was teh time to press the Allied advantage.


Ian Robinson said...

Fabulous account - you get a sense of the sea saw nature of the battle.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

And the best is yet to come ;)