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War of the Spanish Succession: Battle of Blenheim

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War of the Spanish Succession: Battle of Blenheim

Duke of Marlborough signing the Despatch at Blenheim by Robert Alexander Hillingford

Photograph Source: Public Domain

Battle of Blenheim - Conflict & Date:

The Battle of Blenheim was fought August 13, 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714).

Commanders & Armies:

Grand Alliance

France & Bavaria

  • Duc de Tallard
  • Maximilian II Emanuel
  • Ferdinand de Marsin
  • 56,000 men, 90 guns

Battle of Blenheim - Background:

In 1704, King Louis XIV of France sought to knock the Holy Roman Empire out of the War of Spanish Succession by capturing its capital, Vienna. Eager to keep the Empire in the Grand Alliance (England, Habsburg Empire, Dutch Republic, Portugal, Spain, & the Duchy of Savoy), the Duke of Marlborough made plans to intercept the French and Bavarian forces before they could reach Vienna. Executing a brilliant campaign of disinformation and movement, Marlborough was able to shift his army from the Low Countries to the Danube in only five weeks, placing himself between the enemy and the Imperial capital.

Reinforced by Prince Eugène of Savoy, Marlborough encountered the combined French and Bavarian army of Marshall Tallard along the banks of the Danube near the village of Blenheim. Separated from the Allies by a small stream and marsh known as the Nebel, Tallard arrayed his forces in a four mile-long line from the Danube north towards the hills and woods of the Swabian Jura. Anchoring the line were the villages of Lutzingen (left), Oberglau (center), and Blenheim (right). On the Allied side, Marlborough and Eugène had decided to attack Tallard on August 13.

Battle of Blenheim - Marlborough Attacks:

Assigning Prince Eugène to take Lutzingen, Marlborough ordered Lord John Cutts to attack Blenheim at 1:00 PM. Cutts repeatedly assaulted the village, but was unable to secure it. Though the attacks were not successful, they caused the French commander, Clérambault, to panic and order the reserves into the village. This mistake robbed Tallard of his reserve force and negated the slight numerical advantage he possessed over Marlborough. Seeing this error, Marlborough altered his orders to Cutts, instructing him to simply contain the French in the village.

At the opposite end of the line, Prince Eugène was having little success against the Bavarian forces defending Lutzingen, despite having launched multiple assaults. With Tallard's forces pinned down on the flanks, Marlborough pushed forward an attack on the French center. After heavy initial fighting, Marlborough was able to defeat Tallard's cavalry and routed the remaining French infantry. With no reserves, Tallard's line broke and his troops began fleeing towards Höchstädt. They were joined in their flight by the Bavarians from Lutzingen.

Trapped in Blenheim, Clérambault's men continued the fight until 9:00 PM when over 10,000 of them surrendered. As the French fled southwest, a group of Hessian troops managed to capture Marshall Tallard, who was to spend the next seven years in captivity in England.

Battle of Blenheim - Aftermath & Impact:

In the fighting at Blenheim, the Allies lost 4,542 killed and 7,942 wounded, while the French and Bavarians suffered approximately 20,000 killed and wounded as well as 14,190 captured. The Duke of Marlborough's victory at Blenheim ended the French threat to Vienna and removed the aura of invincibility that surrounded the armies of Louis XIV. The battle was a turning point in the War of Spanish Succession, ultimately leading to the Grand Alliance's victory and an end of French hegemony over Europe.

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