Site Search

Like and Share Us!

Click Yellow Button below to Bookmark this Page!




TurreneMarshall Turenne was the greatest of the French generals of the seventeenth century, and his campaigns are still models for the student of the art of war. Henry de la Tour, Viscount of Turenne, was the second son of Henry de la Tour d' Auvergne, Duke of Bouillon, and of Elizabeth, daughter of William I., Prince of Orange. He was born at Sedan, France, on the 16th of September, 1611, and from childhood presaged his destination to the military profession. He was carefully educated in the Reformed religion, and at the age of fifteen he went to Holland, where he studied the art or war under his maternal uncles, Prince Maurice, of Nassau, and Prince Frederic Henry.


In 1630 Turenne was called to France, and received the command of a French regiment. He gained brilliant distinction in several campaigns in Lorraine, Germany and Flanders. Cardinal Richelien offered him one of his nieces in marriage but his attachment to the Reformed religion caused him to decline the proposal. In 1639 he commanded with success in Italy, and firmly established his fame as a general. In 1642 he conquered Roussillon, and was appointed by Richelien to the command of the army in Italy, though his brother, the Duke of Bouillon, had just been arrested for conspiracy against the cardinal. Two years later, when Mazarin had succeeded to Richelieu's place, he removed Turenne from Italy, but gave him the title of Marshal of France, and the command of the French armies in Germany. Turenne had the misfortune to be surprised and defeated by General Mercy at Marindal, in May 1645; but, after a skillful retreat, he was able to avenge this, three months later, at Nordlingen, where Mercy was killed. In 1646 Turenne made a junction with the Swedish army under Wrangel, after a march of one hundred and fifty leagues, and obliged the Duke of Bavarin to solicit peace. When that prince afterwards broke his treaty, Turenne gave him a defeat and drove him entirely out of his dominions.


The civil war of the Fronde against the ministry of Mazarin broke out in J649- Turenne was first engaged against the Court, being influenced by the Duchess of Longueville, with whom he was violently in love. He was obliged to fly to Flanders, where he took a command in the Spanish army, and in 1652 defeated Conde at Gien and St. Antoine. When the troubles of the Fronde were over, Turenne returned and became chief commander of the royal armies. In 1654 and 1655 he commanded against the Spaniards and the Low Countries, gained the battle of the Dunes, and conquered the greater part of Flanders. The Peace of the Pyrenees, in 1660, closed this war.


Turenne, in 1653. had married the daughter of the Marshal Duke de la Force, a Protestant. Louis XIV., having taken the reins of government into his own hands, made Turenne Marshal-General of the armies of France. When hostilities with Spain were renewed in 1667, Turenne ran through another rapid career of victories in Flanders, the King being, however, in nominal command. The Spaniards were obliged to beg for peace again in the next year. In 1668 Turenne abjured Calvinism, and was reconciled to the Church of Rome. The Catholics represent this change as the result of real conviction, while the Protestants attribute it to ambitious views. When Louis XIV., in 1672, resolved upon the conquest of Holland, Turenne commanded the army to which the King attached himself. The campaign was one of conquest almost without resistance. In the following year he marched with inferior forces against Montecuculi, the Imperialist general, in Westphalia. He also pursued to the gates of Berlin the Elector of Brandenburg, who had come to the relief of the Dutch, and obliged him to sue for peace. While the King was conquering Franche-Conde, Turenne was employed in defending the frontiers, in which office he displayed every resource of a consummate warrior. He passed the Rhine at Philipsburg, in June, 1674 forced the town of Sintzheim, and attacked the Imperial army commanded by Caprara and the Duke of Lorraine, which he defeated, and pushed to the Main. He then turned to the Prince of Bountonville, who was advancing with fresh troops, defeated him, and prevented his junction with the other army. The Emperor assembled 70,000 men, entered Alsace, and blockaded Brisac and Philipsburg. Turenne had only 20,000 effective, but received a supply of cavalry from Conde. With these he marched over snow-clad mountains, and was in the midst of the enemy's quarters in Upper Alsace, when they thought him in Lorraine. He succeeded in dispersing the great force opposed to him without any considerable engagement, saved Alsace, and forced the Germans to repass the Rhine.


Turenne was enabled to effect these astonishing results by the unbounded confidence reposed in him by his soldiers. The glory acquired by him in the campaign was the more solid, as he had acted chiefly from his own suggestions, in contradiction to the repeated orders of Louvois, Louis' minister of war. It was, however, tarnished by the cruel devastation of the Palatinate, in which, however, he merely obeyed the injunctions of the minister. The action is thus mentioned by Voltaire, who certainly has not exaggerated its horrors: "After the battle of Sintzheim, Turenne carried fire and sword through the Palatinate, a level and fertile country, covered with opulent towns and villages. The Elector-Palatine saw from his castle of Mancheim two towns and twenty-five villages on fire. In despair, he challenged Turenne to single combat, by a letter filled with reproaches. The marshal, having sent the letter to the King, who forbade his acceptance of the challenge, replied with a vague compliment, which signified nothing. It was his usual manner to express himself with moderation and ambiguity. With the same coolness he burnt the mills and part of the com-fields of Alsace, to cut off the supply of the enemy. He afterwards permitted his cavalry to ravage Lorraine. He rather chose to be called the father of the soldiers who were intrusted to him, than of the people, who, according to the laws of war, are always made the sacrifice.


The extraordinary success of Turrene caused the Imperial Court to call its best general to oppose him, and Montecuculi was summoned for that purpose. These two masters of war, after a variety of skillful movements, were about to come to an engagement, when Turenne, reconnoitering for a place to fix a battery, on July 27, 1675, was struck by a cannon-ball, and killed on the spot, in the sixty-fourth year of his age. The highest honors were paid by the King to his remains, which were interred at St. Denis, the burial-place of the kings of France. Then in the madness of the French Revolution, the bodies of those sovereigns were torn from their tombs, the remains of Turenne were respected by the mob. In 1800 they were removed, by the order of Napoleon, to the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, where they still rest.


Turenne concealed a great soul under a rude and vulgar appearance. His temper was cool his manners were modest and simple. He was not always successful ill war, and, as he himself acknowledged frankly, committed faults but by always repairing them, and doing much with small means, he was deservedly considered the ablest general in Europe, when the art of war was more studied than ever before. His character and career had much resemblance to that of the Duke of Marlborough in the next century.




The terms of the treaty that Cromwell had made with Mazarin stipulated distinctly for the siege of Dunkirk; and that it should be delivered up, when taken, to England. The delay of the performance of this agreement excited the anger of the Protector, and he urged its fulfillment. With great exertions Turenne's army was increased to 16,000 men but it was the mouth of May before he took the field, and before the enemy had left their winter quarters. In considering the enterprise, he saw the great risk of undertaking a siege of Dunkirk without first having possession of Furnes, Bergues, and Gravelines besides the difficulty of procuring provisions, and especially forage for the cavalry, so early in the season.


Considerable expectations, however, had been raised in Brussels as to the intentions of the French Marcehal and it was rumored that he contemplated some siege of importance. The doubts on this subject very much disquieted the Spaniards, who had no infantry to spare for garrisons, and who did not know which to strengthen. Dunkirk they considered to be perfectly out of danger, although the engagement made for its capture by Cromwell was well known to their diplomacy. In consequence some outworks, which had been commenced to strengthen the trace of that town betwixt the Canal of Bergues and the town, were left unfinished. The whole country, however, was reconnoitered by the Lieutenant-General de Bellefonds, and it was reported to be difficult even to discover the means of approach. Information at length arrived that the enemy had abandoned a redoubt near Bergues and Turenne immediately rode forth to inspect for himself whether the anuy could march by that way. He found 3,000 English, and about the same number of French, under M. de Castelnau, upon the dyke and the Spaniards, unprepared for the appearance of an enemy from behind them, had begun visibly to abandon their forts on the side of Mardyk so that the Viscount, knowing the desire of the King to act with good will for the attainment of Dunkirk, sent a man to swim the canal and communicate orders of march to M. de Casteman which brought up the whole of his army the next morning on the side of the dunes.


As soon as the garrison of Dunkirk heard of this march, they opened all the sluices, so that a wide-spread inundation completely washed the walls. All the detachments of troops that were within call were drawn within them, so that 2,200 foot, and 700 or 800 horse were collected by the Marquis de Lede, who, as an officer of considerable reputation for the defense of fortified places, had been named commander. He had only just returned from Brussels, whither he had gone to represent that he was in-garrisoned and in-supplied with every kind of munition. The news that Turenne had actually invested the place took Don John by surprise and as the British navy commanded the sea-board, it was felt that the only available succor to be sent was by immediately carrying down the army to interrupt the siege: but it was the 12th of June before this resolve could be carried into effect.


The Marechal pitched his tent on the sandy shore above high tide. The King came up as soon as he was apprised of the march of the army, and took up his quarters in Mardyk. The principal part of the French army was encamped in the sand-hills, divided from the English line by the Canal de Bergues. It was difficult to establish bridges of communication, because of the interruptions from the garrison. The English ships brought from Calais all the siege materials and supplies and as soon as these were landed, the Viscount threw up his lines of circumvallation and contravallation, which he united to the sea on either side by strong stockades, fixed by strong iron chains which the English sailors prepared against the highest tides, and which effectually closed the flanks from being turned by the besieged. Nevertheless, after these works were completed, the sorties from the garrison so impeded the trenches that the entire body of English troops, 6,000 strong, under Major-General Morgan, who were experienced in forming field-works, were concentrated to act against these sorties. About the fifth or sixth night they had repulsed one from the garrison, and were led to make a dashing attempt to follow the besieged into the town, and even succeeded in getting past the palisades; but they failed to make any lodgement. By the eighth or ninth day, when the besiegers had already reached the glacis of the counterscarp, the report came in that the Spanish army was advancing by way of the estrang from the side of Nienport.


It was June 12th, and the Marechal immediately carried forth a body of cavalry to reconnoiter, and found the enemy marking a camp at Zudcote. He engaged the troops of the advance; and askirmish commenced, during which the Prince de Conde and the Marechal d' Hocquincourt came to the front. Don John, Caracena, Gumarre, De Boutteville, the Duke of York, and many superior officers, were got together, when, like all renegades, D' Hocquincourt was the most urgent to charge the enemy; and, notwithstanding that it sented to him that there was no object to be obtain by it, he would not be restrained, but carried forward the advanced guard against the advanced picket, when he received a gunshot in the stomach that killed him all the spot. Conde, seeing him fall dead, went forward forthwith to save such papers as he might have had in his pocket, even if he could not recover the body. But all the general officers, at great risk to themselves, joined in the effort to succeed in this object, and the Marechal's body was recovered, and carried away to be buried at Fumes.


Turrene, feeling convinced that he wasabout to be exposed to au attempt all the part of the Spanish army to force his lines, resolved to be beforehand with them. He ordered his army to be prepared for marching and the commanders were summoned to headquarters to learn the reasons of the movement. On receiving this notice, Lockhart, with true AngloSaxon frankness, returned for answer, "That he would obey the Marchal's orders, and learn his reasons after the battle." The Spanish army, on the other hand, encamped with their right to the shore and their left resting on the Canal of Fumes. Their infantry were fanned up in front, and their cavalry in the second line. Don John commanded the right wing and Coud6 the left. There were several enclosures on this flunk, between the canal and the sand-hills, having copse and ditches, which last were full of water. Prince Conde, with his experience, immediately set his men to work to make temporary bridges across them to liberate his communications; this attracted the attention of Turenne, convinced him of Condes whereabouts, and directed the point of attack.


At an hour before daybreak a portion of French and English were marched into the defenses to prevent a sally from the garrison and at the same time ten French and six English battalions, with fifty-four squadrons of light cavalry, and four of gendarmes, in all, 9,000 foot and 5,000 or 6,000 horse, with ten guns, which were divided five to either flank, marched towards the Spanish camp. The Spanish army had 9,000 or 10,000 horse and 5,000 foot, but no artillery, as M. de Turenne had previously been advised, and the infantry was in one single line. Don Gaspard Bonifacio, in command of the post, stood on the highest sand·hill, with Don Francisco de Menesez en potence facing the shore. The Duke of York, at the first alarm of the advance of the King's army, repaired to the out· posts, and distinctly recognized the intention of making the attack; and, from his knowledge of the French troops, pointed out to Don John the Gardes Francaises, and the Swiss, and the regiments of Picardy, etc., from their standards, and his own countrymen from their scarlet uniforms.


The English, commanded by Lockhart and Morgan, marched first into action to assail the high sand-hill and M. de Castelnau, with some horse, flanked them on the shore while several light shipsof the English fleet plied cannonshot upon the Spanish regiments of Bonifacio and Menesez. Lieutenant-Colonel Fenwick, commanding Lockhart's regiment, halted a moment at the fool of the hill, to allow his men to take breath, when Morgan relates that the opposing soldiers began" chaffing each other; all which the 'MajorGeneral told them to cease, for that in a minute or two they would be cutting each other's throats, when his men threw up their caps in the air, saying, "We will obtain better caps before night," and then followed the German up the slope against the Spaniards. Fenwick fell dead before they reached the top, when Major Hinton led the men forward with much boldness and courage, so that Bonifacio was precipitated from the top to the bottom, with the loss of seven out of the eleven captains who served under him, besides man men. Don John called on the Duke of York to go to the assistance of his men, thus severely assailed by the English, who met them descending the sand-hill at the head of the Spanish cavalry guard. Nevertheless the musketry fire of the English was so well poured in that they proved unassailable, and the Spaniards were a second time overthrown, with the single loss of Captain Berkley, wounded, on the side of the English.


In the meanwhile Castelnau, with the French horse, charged the right Rank of the Spaniards so vigorously as to overthrow two Spanish battalions, and penetrated between the two Spanish tines. The Marquis de Crequi, with the Guards, and Swiss, and the regiments of Picardy, and of Turenne, now assailed the flank of Conde, and succeeded at the first impulse in driving it back. The Prince seeing that he was in-supported, rallied his foot and made head with his cavalry, and in the charge had a horse killed under him. However, at the critical moment, the Viscount, who had seen the check that happened to De Creqlli, brought up several battalions, with which he almost enveloped the entire wing where Conde commanded, and opened against them so deadly a fire that the whole body got into confusion, and were glad to escape by way of the bridged enclosures which his providence had prepared. But 3,000 or 4,000 laid down their arms, including the Conut de Meilles, who died of his wounds, De Coligni, De Boutteville, and De Romanville, who all sacrificed themselves to protect the Prince. Don John, Caracena, and the Dukes of York and Gloucester, escaped by the way of the shore.


Turenne, however, was not very careful to follow the fugitives, as he was more solicitous to save the works of the siege; and he dispatched immediately the whole of his reserve, under the Marquis de Richelieu, sending orders that no pursuit should he made beyond Fumes thus he was enabled on the morning of the 15th of June to renew the siege from the very point at which he had left it. His greatest personal loss in the battle was that of the Marquis de Castelnan, who was killed before he had been able to receive the information that the King bad made him a Marechal of France. Ten days after the battle on the 24th Dunkirk surrendered upon terms and the garrison, who had lost their Governor, the Marquis de Lede, the day previous, was marched away to St. Omer. Louis XIV. and his whole Court entered the town in triumph at the head of the English troops, to whom he made over the place according to treaty.-SIR E. CUST.



Would you like Affordable Service Repair Manuals as PDF download?

Starting from Only $1 to $9.95

Affordable PDF Download Shop Manuals Here!

Render time: 0.02 seconds
169,737 unique visits