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Battle of Boxtel

 

Battle of Boxtel

The Battle of Boxtel (Bostkel) was fought in the Dutch province of North Brabant on 15 September 1794, during the War of the First Coalition. It was part of the Flanders Campaign of 1793-94 in which British, Dutch and Austrian troops had attempted to launch an invasion of France through Flanders. It is often remembered as being the debut action of Lt Col Arthur Wesley, who later became Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington.

Contents

  • Background 1
  • The Battle 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • In popular culture 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • External links 7

Background

For almost two years the combined Coalition army under the overall command of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg had struggled against the Republican French armies in attempts to invade France from the north through Flanders. The Coalition had initially been successful but following rebuffs at Tourcoing and Fleurus, by the summer of 1794 the balance had turned and the allies began to retreat northwards, pursued by an increasingly resurgent French army led by Jean-Charles Pichegru. By 24 July the Allies had separated, with the Austrian forces under Clerfayt withdrawing with ever greater haste towards Liége, obliging the now independent Anglo-Hanoverian contingent under the Duke of York to pull back across the Dutch frontier. On 29 July York's forces took up a new position defending the line of the River Aa, from Bois le Duc (modern day 's-Hertogenbosch) south eastwards towards the Peel morass. Outposts were placed eight miles in advance on the River Dommel, the chief of these being at the small town of Boxtel (Bostkel).

The Battle

On 14 September Pichegru, wishing to secure the line of the Dommel as he besieged Breda, sent a French force variously described as a Division [1] or "a strong party of observation" [2] - perhaps 10,000 men - to occupy Boxtel. This force fell in with two battalions of Hessian defenders, some 1,500 men, who surrendered almost without resistance.[3] The following day the Duke of York ordered Lieutenant General Sir Ralph Abercromby to recover the town with a sizable force. The task was given to the Guards Brigade and the 3rd Brigade, 12th (Suffolk), 33rd Regiment of Foot, 42nd (Black Watch) and the 44th (Essex) - ten battalions supported by ten squadrons of cavalry. Abercromby advanced boldly through the night, but on approaching the town at dawn came up against what he believed to be superior opposition, the attack was halted while he referred back to York for further instructions. The Duke reiterated that he persist in the assault, but at this point Abercromby learned of possible enemy movements to his left flank, and despite specific orders to attack he instead decided to withdraw. This controversial action on the part of Abercromby has been criticised in detail by Burne.[4] Abercromby had very poor eyesight, before any serious engagement had started he appears to have withdrawn on the basis of rumour, in fact the ragtag French force, far from being superior could not have been any greater in number than his own command, which included the cream of the British Army.

Then followed some disorder as the retreating infantry became mixed up with the cavalry squadrons. Seeing this, French cavalry deployed for a charge but were driven off by the muskets of the 33rd, commanded by Sir John Sherbrooke, which enabled the rest of the force to withdraw.

The following account was dictated to Sherbrooke's daughter-in-law in 1830, the year of his death. This stated that Wesley commanded the 33rd at Boxtel, Wesley had in fact been given command of the 3rd Brigade.[5] On 19 September 1793 Wesley had written to his older brother Richard The Earl of Mornington, telling him Abercromby had conveyed on him the thanks of the Duke of York "to the 33rd for their good conduct on the 15th".[6]

When he (Sherbrooke) had obtained the rank of Lt-Col., he served under the Duke of York in Flanders, and during this unfortunate and memorable retreat, the 33rd was appointed to cover it... Two regiments of French Cavalry were seen coming down with the intention of charging the 33rd ... Col. Sherbrooke faced his Regt to the rear and gave the word 33rd 'Steady'. In this awful crisis not a man moved, but with determined fortitude they awaited the attack. When the first French Regt. was within 50 yards the command was given to Fire!'- the steady coolness of the men gave it full effect... men and horses were precipitated to the ground - those who were neither unhorsed nor wounded, halted and attempted to retreat, but before they had gained a very short distance a second volley completed the work of destruction and the whole Regt. lay stretched on the ground. The second Regt witnessing the dreadful over-throw faced about and were seen no more. This brilliant action Sir John (Sherbrooke) always declared was more satisfactory to him, and he took more pride in it, than any affair in which he was ever engaged.[7]

Aftermath

On his return to camp Abercromby gave his report. A council-of-war was held and the fateful decision was made to abandon the strong defensive position of the Aa and fall back beyond the Meuse, effectively abandoning the fortresses of Bergen, Breda and Bois-le-Duc to their fate.

For the French, the unexpected windfall of Boxtel was a complete surprise, however Pichegu made no attempt to capitalise on it, instead turning aside to besiege Breda. Boxtel can therefore be seen as a crucial turning point for the British Army in this campaign - until this stage all the withdrawals could be and were blamed on the overall strategy of the Austrian high command, morale remained high within the British ranks. However the mistake at Boxtel and unnecessary abandonment of the strong defensive line of the Aa was entirely the responsibility of British paid troops and British commanders. From this point on despondency set in, and faith in the command of the Duke of York was eroded.[8] On 23 November he was recalled by Pitt.

The British were able to continue their retreat northwards under the command of William Harcourt and eventually after much hardship reached the North Sea coast successfully, where they were withdrawn to Britain in 1795. The French pressed on to Amsterdam and overthrew the Dutch Republic, replacing it with a satellite state, the Batavian Republic.

In popular culture

The battle of Boxtel was the first battle of Richard Sharpe, protagonist of the Sharpe novels. The battle is cited in Sharpe's Tiger when Sharpe is a private in Wesley's Regiment and also in Sharpe's Eagle.

References


-- Module:Hatnote -- -- -- -- This module produces hatnote links and links to related articles. It -- -- implements the and meta-templates and includes -- -- helper functions for other Lua hatnote modules. --


local libraryUtil = require('libraryUtil') local checkType = libraryUtil.checkType local mArguments -- lazily initialise Module:Arguments local yesno -- lazily initialise Module:Yesno

local p = {}


-- Helper functions


local function getArgs(frame) -- Fetches the arguments from the parent frame. Whitespace is trimmed and -- blanks are removed. mArguments = require('Module:Arguments') return mArguments.getArgs(frame, {parentOnly = true}) end

local function removeInitialColon(s) -- Removes the initial colon from a string, if present. return s:match('^:?(.*)') end

function p.findNamespaceId(link, removeColon) -- Finds the namespace id (namespace number) of a link or a pagename. This -- function will not work if the link is enclosed in double brackets. Colons -- are trimmed from the start of the link by default. To skip colon -- trimming, set the removeColon parameter to true. checkType('findNamespaceId', 1, link, 'string') checkType('findNamespaceId', 2, removeColon, 'boolean', true) if removeColon ~= false then link = removeInitialColon(link) end local namespace = link:match('^(.-):') if namespace then local nsTable = mw.site.namespaces[namespace] if nsTable then return nsTable.id end end return 0 end

function p.formatPages(...) -- Formats a list of pages using formatLink and returns it as an array. Nil -- values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local ret = {} for i, page in ipairs(pages) do ret[i] = p._formatLink(page) end return ret end

function p.formatPageTables(...) -- Takes a list of page/display tables and returns it as a list of -- formatted links. Nil values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local links = {} for i, t in ipairs(pages) do checkType('formatPageTables', i, t, 'table') local link = t[1] local display = t[2] links[i] = p._formatLink(link, display) end return links end

function p.makeWikitextError(msg, helpLink, addTrackingCategory) -- Formats an error message to be returned to wikitext. If -- addTrackingCategory is not false after being returned from -- Module:Yesno, and if we are not on a talk page, a tracking category -- is added. checkType('makeWikitextError', 1, msg, 'string') checkType('makeWikitextError', 2, helpLink, 'string', true) yesno = require('Module:Yesno') local title = mw.title.getCurrentTitle() -- Make the help link text. local helpText if helpLink then helpText = ' (help)' else helpText = end -- Make the category text. local category if not title.isTalkPage and yesno(addTrackingCategory) ~= false then category = 'Hatnote templates with errors' category = string.format( '%s:%s', mw.site.namespaces[14].name, category ) else category = end return string.format( '%s', msg, helpText, category ) end


-- Format link -- -- Makes a wikilink from the given link and display values. Links are escaped -- with colons if necessary, and links to sections are detected and displayed -- with " § " as a separator rather than the standard MediaWiki "#". Used in -- the template.


function p.formatLink(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local link = args[1] local display = args[2] if not link then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no link specified', 'Template:Format hatnote link#Errors', args.category ) end return p._formatLink(link, display) end

function p._formatLink(link, display) -- Find whether we need to use the colon trick or not. We need to use the -- colon trick for categories and files, as otherwise category links -- categorise the page and file links display the file. checkType('_formatLink', 1, link, 'string') checkType('_formatLink', 2, display, 'string', true) link = removeInitialColon(link) local namespace = p.findNamespaceId(link, false) local colon if namespace == 6 or namespace == 14 then colon = ':' else colon = end -- Find whether a faux display value has been added with the | magic -- word. if not display then local prePipe, postPipe = link:match('^(.-)|(.*)$') link = prePipe or link display = postPipe end -- Find the display value. if not display then local page, section = link:match('^(.-)#(.*)$') if page then display = page .. ' § ' .. section end end -- Assemble the link. if display then return string.format('%s', colon, link, display) else return string.format('%s%s', colon, link) end end


-- Hatnote -- -- Produces standard hatnote text. Implements the template.


function p.hatnote(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local s = args[1] local options = {} if not s then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no text specified', 'Template:Hatnote#Errors', args.category ) end options.extraclasses = args.extraclasses options.selfref = args.selfref return p._hatnote(s, options) end

function p._hatnote(s, options) checkType('_hatnote', 1, s, 'string') checkType('_hatnote', 2, options, 'table', true) local classes = {'hatnote'} local extraclasses = options.extraclasses local selfref = options.selfref if type(extraclasses) == 'string' then classes[#classes + 1] = extraclasses end if selfref then classes[#classes + 1] = 'selfref' end return string.format( '
%s
', table.concat(classes, ' '), s )

end

return p-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -- Module:Hatnote -- -- -- -- This module produces hatnote links and links to related articles. It -- -- implements the and meta-templates and includes -- -- helper functions for other Lua hatnote modules. --


local libraryUtil = require('libraryUtil') local checkType = libraryUtil.checkType local mArguments -- lazily initialise Module:Arguments local yesno -- lazily initialise Module:Yesno

local p = {}


-- Helper functions


local function getArgs(frame) -- Fetches the arguments from the parent frame. Whitespace is trimmed and -- blanks are removed. mArguments = require('Module:Arguments') return mArguments.getArgs(frame, {parentOnly = true}) end

local function removeInitialColon(s) -- Removes the initial colon from a string, if present. return s:match('^:?(.*)') end

function p.findNamespaceId(link, removeColon) -- Finds the namespace id (namespace number) of a link or a pagename. This -- function will not work if the link is enclosed in double brackets. Colons -- are trimmed from the start of the link by default. To skip colon -- trimming, set the removeColon parameter to true. checkType('findNamespaceId', 1, link, 'string') checkType('findNamespaceId', 2, removeColon, 'boolean', true) if removeColon ~= false then link = removeInitialColon(link) end local namespace = link:match('^(.-):') if namespace then local nsTable = mw.site.namespaces[namespace] if nsTable then return nsTable.id end end return 0 end

function p.formatPages(...) -- Formats a list of pages using formatLink and returns it as an array. Nil -- values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local ret = {} for i, page in ipairs(pages) do ret[i] = p._formatLink(page) end return ret end

function p.formatPageTables(...) -- Takes a list of page/display tables and returns it as a list of -- formatted links. Nil values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local links = {} for i, t in ipairs(pages) do checkType('formatPageTables', i, t, 'table') local link = t[1] local display = t[2] links[i] = p._formatLink(link, display) end return links end

function p.makeWikitextError(msg, helpLink, addTrackingCategory) -- Formats an error message to be returned to wikitext. If -- addTrackingCategory is not false after being returned from -- Module:Yesno, and if we are not on a talk page, a tracking category -- is added. checkType('makeWikitextError', 1, msg, 'string') checkType('makeWikitextError', 2, helpLink, 'string', true) yesno = require('Module:Yesno') local title = mw.title.getCurrentTitle() -- Make the help link text. local helpText if helpLink then helpText = ' (help)' else helpText = end -- Make the category text. local category if not title.isTalkPage and yesno(addTrackingCategory) ~= false then category = 'Hatnote templates with errors' category = string.format( '%s:%s', mw.site.namespaces[14].name, category ) else category = end return string.format( '%s', msg, helpText, category ) end


-- Format link -- -- Makes a wikilink from the given link and display values. Links are escaped -- with colons if necessary, and links to sections are detected and displayed -- with " § " as a separator rather than the standard MediaWiki "#". Used in -- the template.


function p.formatLink(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local link = args[1] local display = args[2] if not link then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no link specified', 'Template:Format hatnote link#Errors', args.category ) end return p._formatLink(link, display) end

function p._formatLink(link, display) -- Find whether we need to use the colon trick or not. We need to use the -- colon trick for categories and files, as otherwise category links -- categorise the page and file links display the file. checkType('_formatLink', 1, link, 'string') checkType('_formatLink', 2, display, 'string', true) link = removeInitialColon(link) local namespace = p.findNamespaceId(link, false) local colon if namespace == 6 or namespace == 14 then colon = ':' else colon = end -- Find whether a faux display value has been added with the | magic -- word. if not display then local prePipe, postPipe = link:match('^(.-)|(.*)$') link = prePipe or link display = postPipe end -- Find the display value. if not display then local page, section = link:match('^(.-)#(.*)$') if page then display = page .. ' § ' .. section end end -- Assemble the link. if display then return string.format('%s', colon, link, display) else return string.format('%s%s', colon, link) end end


-- Hatnote -- -- Produces standard hatnote text. Implements the template.


function p.hatnote(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local s = args[1] local options = {} if not s then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no text specified', 'Template:Hatnote#Errors', args.category ) end options.extraclasses = args.extraclasses options.selfref = args.selfref return p._hatnote(s, options) end

function p._hatnote(s, options) checkType('_hatnote', 1, s, 'string') checkType('_hatnote', 2, options, 'table', true) local classes = {'hatnote'} local extraclasses = options.extraclasses local selfref = options.selfref if type(extraclasses) == 'string' then classes[#classes + 1] = extraclasses end if selfref then classes[#classes + 1] = 'selfref' end return string.format( '
%s
', table.concat(classes, ' '), s )

end

return p
  1. ^ Victoires, p.161
  2. ^ David, p.80
  3. ^ Alfred H. Burne "The Noble Duke of York", Staples Press, London.1949, p.178
  4. ^ Burne p.179-182
  5. ^ The History of The Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) 1702-1992, page 93, by J.M. Brereton and A.C.S. Savoury, ISBN 0-9521552-0-6, Published by The Duke of Wellington's Regiment Regimental Headquarters
  6. ^ The History of The Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) 1702-1992, page 94, by J.M. Brereton and A.C.S. Savoury, ISBN 0-9521552-0-6, Published by The Duke of Wellington's Regiment Regimental Headquarters
  7. ^ The History of The Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) 1702-1992, page 93, by J.M. Brereton and A.C.S. Savoury, ISBN 0-9521552-0-6, Published by The Duke of Wellington's Regiment Regimental Headquarters
  8. ^ Burne p.181-184

Bibliography

  • Urban, Mark, Generals: Ten British Commanders Who Shaped the World. Faber and Faber, 2005
  • Wills, Garry David, Wellington's First Battle, 2011
  • Burne, Alfred H. "The Noble Duke of York", Staples Press, London, 1949

External links

  • Incident at Boxtel
  • The Duke of Wellington's first campaign by Garry David Wills

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